Ah...bonding bill years are always my favorite! I was fortunate to have been working with our student association over a couple of different sessions. Our budget year battles were always interesting. In those years, higher education was always been gutted by the Governor and the Swiggum led House majority.
I was the chair of our association during a bonding year, they told me it would be a boring year at the capitol.
They were wrong! The textbook bill, academic freedom issues, and other higher education initiatives made for some pretty interesting testimony before the House and Senate committees.
So we were anxiously awaiting Governor Pawlenty's announcement today of his capitol investment priorities for the 2008 session.
Needless to say, I am not surprised nor am I impressed.
Governor Pawlenty wants us to believe that he is now serious about Transportation as nearly 40% of his proposal is geared around roads and bridges across Minnesota. The Governor touts that the Transportation initiatives in his capitol investment proposal are more than 4 times the amount in any bonding bill in the state's history.
Recall the the Governor vetoed the Transportation bill last Spring (with Rep Dean Urdahl's support). When Pawlenty vetoed the Transportation bill last Spring, he left more than $270 million on the table for the state's trunk highway system, $162 million in County State aid, and $35 million in Municipal State aid for roads and bridges.
Keep in mind, the governor also vetoed $30 million in money for local bridges last Spring as well.
Fundamentally, I oppose bonding for our roads and bridges. Let's be clear, the funding of these roads and bridges are very important, as evidenced by the 35W bridge collapse.
Governor Pawlenty called the proposal "fiscally responsible and it sets key priorities such as replacing more than 600 local bridges."
Fiscally responsible? Putting this on the "state's credit card" is far from fiscally responsible.
Also, by using bridges as the example, is he not politicizing the 35W bridge collapse for leverage on his bonding proposal? What Minnesota really needs is a permanent commitment to transportation funding, especially when we consider that our state falls $2 million behind on transportation funding every year.
The Governor's proposal is far from a balanced approach. Look at the decrease in funding for the MnSCU system, $13.5 million less than what Pawlenty proposed in 2006.
I am anxiously awaiting the response of both the House and the Senate. Surely they will propose a more balanced approach that will not only spark a lagging economy, but create jobs in Greater Minnesota.
*Update* Larry Schumacher at the SC Times reports that the St Cloud Civic Center and the National Hockey Center expansion were left off the Governor's list.
Anyone remember that under Governor Pawlenty's leadership, Moody's downgraded Minnesota's bond rating from AAA to AA1?
A friend of mine told me Senator Langseth, Chair of the Senate Capitol Investment Committee, called the Governor's proposal for $255 million for bridges "political not practical" and that it was nearly 3 times what local governments asked for! And Pawlenty calls this "fiscally responsible"?
For a perspective on the 2008 bonding proposal, take a look at the 2006 initiatives the Governor proposed.