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Published February 25, 2010, 12:00 AM

Pawlenty meets with key state lawmakers

No deals reached on bonding bill, health care program
ST. PAUL – The governor and legislators are meeting over two sticky issues that had appeared ready to implode.

By: By Andrew Tellijohn and Don Davis State Capitol Bureau, INFORUM

ST. PAUL – The governor and legislators are meeting over two sticky issues that had appeared ready to implode.

Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty met with key lawmakers Wednesday on a public works funding bill and a health care program for some of Minnesota’s poorest residents. While no deals were reached, both sides said they made progress and were optimistic they could reach a compromise.

Ten legislators working on a public works finance bill met with Pawlenty late Wednesday afternoon, emerging saying they thought an agreement would come by next week.

“I think we have opened the door and we can start working on the process,” said Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker.

Even one of Pawlenty’s harshest critics, Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said he is optimistic a new bill could pass next week.

The House and Senate passed a public works bill, funded by the state selling bonds, much larger than Pawlenty wants. They didn’t include some items Pawlenty feels are important, such as making more room for sex offender treatment.

Pawlenty put flood control at the top of his bonding priority list, Langseth said.

Key Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party lawmakers left their own meeting with Pawlenty on Wednesday afternoon hopeful there is still a chance to save the General Assistance Medical Care program.

Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis, said she is uncertain whether the meeting and another one later would stave off a Senate attempt to override Pawlenty’s veto from last week, but believed he was sincere in meeting with the DFL leaders.

The governor’s veto came swiftly after the House and Senate passed pared down versions of the GAMC program. An override would extend the program, which serves more than 30,000 low-income adults, for 16 months.

The program that provides health care to single adults earning less than $8,000 annually is scheduled to end April 1.

Tellijohn and Davis report for Forum Communications Co.