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.

  • Alison

    The part that I don’t understand is Pawlenty’s opposition (and funding cut) to the light rail line between Mpls and St. Paul. Isn’t this the governor who just a month or two ago was Mr. Environment, pledging to be a leader in cutting CO2 emissions? Light rail in this state is almost exclusively talked about as a transportation solution by politicians on both sides in this state. Why is this not an environmental issue as well and why is Pawlenty so opposed to rail?

  • It’s absurdly, unfortunately simple.

    Pawlenty is running for the VP slot on McCain’s ticket. This cutting of items from the bonding bill shows his credentials as a “fiscal conservative.”

  • GregS

    What in the world does Light Rail have to do with CO2 emissions? Our Light Rail Systems are powered mostly by COAL.

    The Saint Paul Light Rail System will only provide a substitute for one bus line, the 16 route. The 94B, 94E, 94D and 94F will still be running because the light rail line will be both too slow and (to be perfectly honest) too dangerous for commuters to use.

  • brian

    I would think that the DFL would want him to be the VP candidate so they could get rid of him. I guess that would leave us with Carol Molnau though. I can’t imagine she and the legislature would work well together considering they just fired her are transportation commissioner.

  • Alison

    I would like to see the CO2 emissions comparison. I would suspect that they would be less with light rail because you are moving less vehicle weight than all of those individual cars and SUVs. But good point Greg. It is a point worth considering.

    How will the light rail be too dangerous? I don’t understand that at all.

    As for the Dems wanting Pawlenty for VP candidate, don’t forget that our legislative session should end shortly. Pawlenty could pretty reasonably do a full campaign schedule and if they lose still be back in time for next year. So, no, Pawlenty on the ticket does not take him out of the governor seat.

  • GregS

    The LRT must move more weight when empty than a bus. When traffic decreases, the bus schedule adjusts…LRT keeps running.

    As for dangerous…..ride the 16A for a couple of nights then report back what you find. Keep in mind, the screamers, the drunks, the crack-heads and meth freaks are not what I consider when I employ the word – dangerous.

  • GregS

    See MPR: Crime Rides The Bus

    The proposed LRT route in Saint Paul is, in a word, lethal.

    The only explaination I can think of for routing the LRT along University is that some very powerful and very wealthy DFL investors plan to “buy low, sell high” along the route.

    Of course, we all know why the Hiawatha Line was planned along a route that could not support a single bus line……think all that vacant land, all those tax breaks tied to the route and the largest land-owner being The StarTrib.

    As I remind people, LRT NEVER was about moving people. It has ALWAY, even from the 1880’s, been about land speculation.

  • So if you were to route an LRT from Minneapolis to St. Paul, Greg, where would you run it?

  • Alison

    So, Greg, if you’re not talking about the criminals, what do you mean about the LRT being dangerous? Maybe I’m not reading correctly, but I’m still confused. I’ve ridden the Hiawatha plenty of times and have never felt endangered.

  • bsimon

    Bob writes, of Pawlenty:

    “Most of the time, he gets his way.”

    And that’s the problem, isn’t it. He doesn’t act as a leader & develop consensus, he out-politics them. Yes, it can be said that he ‘won’, but its hardly what I would call admirable leadership.

  • Bob Collins

    It depends on perception. The “base” will point out that preventing “runaway spending” in the face of an overwhelming majority constitutes leadership.

  • JtB

    I believe highways and roads are too use by developers for land speculation.

  • GregS

    but I’m still confused. I’ve ridden the Hiawatha plenty of times and have never felt endangered

    Ride the Univeristy Avenue route on a regular basis and you will feel threatened – freguently.

    A better route would be to run non-stop between the downtowns and replace the 94A-B-C-D-E-F-G buses with a route down the short-line (Ayn-Mill Road).

    I believe highways and roads are too use by developers for land speculation.

    Let’s compare apples with apples. No one has attached a law to a freeway giving speculators a tax break for developing on either side of the road. This is the case with the Hiawatha LRT.

    100 years ago, most of our trolley systems were built by speculators who made money by buying cheap land, buiding an LRT to it, then dropping their subsidy for the line when the land was sold. The LRT’s then collapsed upon the taxpayers at a huge annual loss.

    LRT is not a sustainable system, It never was, it never will be – because LRT must finance the road-bed, the most expenise cost of transportation. Buses ride free on the roadbed provided by gasoline taxes.

    Regardless of the urban myths of Brad Snelling and Noam Chomsky, that is why we have buses and not LRT.

  • JtB

    I believe I said ‘highways and roads are too use by developers for land speculation.’ I did not indicate anything about a ‘law to a freeway giving speculators a tax break for developing’. I am not aware of any of this, but I am aware of developers asking for city/county/state money to build/improve roads for their specific development (i.e. Target development in Brooklyn Park). I am also aware of individual Congress people getting in hot water for land speculation of their own land and selling it after the highway project is past through Congress.

    Also, the ‘trolleys’ 100 years ago were not LRT; they were street cars. There is a difference in cost of construction of LRT to street cars which is a less intensive rail bed and most rails following existing roadways meaning less costs in r/w acquisitions. I also believe that the trolleys 100 years ago were run by a private company called Twin Cities Rapid Transit, which means they built the lines and speculated the land.

    If you want to talk about land speculations and rails, you can go back to the start of the private railroads getting land subsidies from the government. Developers speculated the land which the railroads went through and started developing which some developments turned into cities. I do believe that because of this system, people believe we are the country we came to be because of this…