Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Is You Is, Or Is You Ain't?
(Dead, that is...)

The Pioneer Planet nicely outlines the possibilities in line with the governor's recent line item veto of the light rail funding in the current Minnesota state bonding bill.

From the PP:

It's not dead yet.

On the day Democrats bashed Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto of state funding for the Central Corridor light-rail line linking St. Paul and Minneapolis — with several lawmakers even alleging he "killed" the plan — another picture emerged.

"It's not dead," Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, told the Pioneer Press.

The plea from St. Paul City Hall was essentially: "We want the train, whatever it takes."

For now, Pawlenty controls the train's fate. The Republican governor can use it as a bargaining chip to get something he wants from the Democratic-controlled Legislature, or he can scrap it for this year.

"The governor said he's pulling the train into the maintenance shed. He is the chief engineer, so whenever he wants to pull it right back out and put it back on the tracks, he can do so," said Assistant Senate Majority Leader Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud.

"The governor is hard to negotiate with because he doesn't want anything," said Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul.

Democrats suspect he wants one thing they can't give him: the Republican vice presidential nomination. He denies that he wants to be Sen. John McCain's running mate, but most political pundits have him on their "veepstakes" list.

So far, Pawlenty has told lawmakers he wants them to hold down taxes and spending in balancing the budget, but he hasn't offered details on what he would accept.

"If Democrats are interested in discussing Central Corridor or other projects, we would be willing to listen," Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said.

Some issues in play at the Capitol could be trade bait for the train. Here are some examples suggested by Ramsey County commissioners, lobbyists and legislators:

A balanced budget. Pawlenty could offer to fund the train in exchange for the Legislature's approval of his plans for erasing a projected $935 million deficit in the state budget.

Land and a building. Pawlenty wants up to $40 million to buy 2,500 acres on Lake Vermilion for a new state park, plus $26 million for a new Minneapolis veterans' home. That's close to the $70 million price tag for the Central Corridor, but policymakers would have to find a way to circumvent the state's $825 million debt management limit to finance all three projects.

Health care funds. Pawlenty wants to use $298 million of a surplus in a Health Care Access Fund to help balance the budget. DFL legislators have refused to release that money.

JOBZ and teacher pay. To plug the hole in the budget, DFLers have proposed scrapping JOBZ, Pawlenty's pet rural economic development program, and taking a $20 million surplus from his Q Comp program that provides merit pay for teachers. They could drop those proposals to appease the governor. But he doesn't need to trade anything for those two programs because he could veto any bill that would take their money.

If Pawlenty remains true to form, he won't tip his hand on what he wants until late in the budget negotiations next month.

1 comment:

momo said...

I despise that man.