Playing chicken

Gov. Tim Pawlenty took a chainsaw to the bonding bill today, delivering a particularly hefty whomp to projects in Minneapolis and St. Paul, home to some of the DFL leaders who tried to play chicken with him.

Politics aside, there’s a certain truism in Minnesota: Pawlenty doesn’t lose many of these public battles. If you were to count on your hand the number of victories the DFL has amassed against Pawlenty since 2003, you would need one finger — the gas tax override. Most of the time, he gets his way.

Still, lawmakers, probably anticipating some sort of veto and punishing him in advance, gutted a couple of Pawlenty’s favorite projects from the bill: a new nursing facility at the Minneapolis Veterans Home and a new park in northern Minnesota, while keeping money in the budget for a music lending library.

In the end it turns out to be a win-win (or lose-lose depending on your perspective) for everyone. The lawmakers get to blame Pawlenty for cutting projects, some of which they may not have liked. The governor gets to look like the last line of defense between DFLers and runaway spending (or he can even look like a hero in some communities for not vetoing a project) .

Last week, Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem said of the DFL, “What’s in play here is the VP possibility… They’re trying to paint Pawlenty as an ineffective governor.”

So far, it’s not working.