ST. PAUL -- Minnesota legislators return to work today with jobs at the top of their minds.
With a noon start, Democrats who control 2010 Legislature said they are ready to take advantage of a sale to get more Minnesotans to work. That sale, according to the senator in charge of public works projects, is low construction cost.
"There's a sale going on out there," said Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon. "This is the time to bond and build. ... The time to bond and build is during the down time when you get your best deals. You put people to work who aren't normally working. We are moving early."
As the prepared to go into session, Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party leaders announced their intention to pass a nearly $1 billion bonding bill this month.
Leaders cited discussions with engineering, architectural, construction and other firms that hope to see action taken to spur projects that will keep them in business and create jobs in the process.
Langseth said bids are coming in at 15 percent to 20 percent below normal and interest rates are low. He planned to have the bill passed through the Senate Capital Investment Committee this afternoon.
Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, said the bill will include investment in projects across the state in several areas, including higher education and wastewater infrastructure.
"I would focus on one reason we are moving quickly," she said. "The one bright spot in a bad economy is that interest rates are low and bids are coming in low."
Leaders said both Republicans and Democrats are on board with passing bonding bills this session.
GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty has proposed $685 million in borrowing to fund bridge improvements, preservation of state university buildings and other projects.
Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, and others say discussions with the governor's office have been amicable. Pawlenty has encouraged leaders to get a bill to him early and, Pogemiller said, if the governor felt the bill was too big he'd use the line item veto.
"I think we've got to do that and move on," he said.
However, in public Pawlenty has threatened to veto a large public works bill, to be funded by the state selling bonds. Pogemiller said that in private the governor told DFL leaders that he would just veto specific items. Pogemiller said he can accept the individual vetoes, but Hausman said she strongly opposes that idea.
Bonding was the major topic today, but the main job lawmakers face this year is balancing the state budget.
The current two-year budget is $30 billion, down $4 billion from the last budget. And Pawlenty and lawmakers have another $1.2 billion hole to plug before the Legislature adjourns May 17. An even bigger deficit is expected in the next couple of years.
Tellijohn and Davis report for the Woodbury Bulletin and other Forum Communications Co. newspapers.