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Highway 60 provision could sway vote on package

ST. PAUL - The road to more transportation funding may be Highway 60 in southwest Minnesota. A small provision tucked into a big highway and transit funding package would benefit that rural stretch of highway - and it could sway at least one vote...

ST. PAUL - The road to more transportation funding may be Highway 60 in southwest Minnesota.

A small provision tucked into a big highway and transit funding package would benefit that rural stretch of highway - and it could sway at least one vote when the Minnesota House and Senate take up the $7.7 billion package today.

"It is part of discussion I have been having with the (transportation committee) chair and the speaker and others in order to get the No. 1 priority in our district," Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, said Wednesday.

Democrats proposed the transportation package that includes gasoline, motor vehicle registration and sales tax increases. Most Republicans say they oppose the bill, but several, including Hamilton, could support the bill today or next week when lawmakers may be asked to override an expected Gov. Tim Pawlenty veto.

"Democrats need my vote, and I need Highway 60," Hamilton said.

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Hamilton, a second-term lawmaker, said he has not decided whether he will vote for today's bill, or the expected override. And he said he could vote against the bill today, but still vote to override a Pawlenty veto.

"This bill is changing minute by minute," Hamilton said. "I am going to reserve that decision until I have had a chance to read the bill in its entirety."

On Wednesday, House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, offered an alternative to the Democrats' spending plan. Seifert said his proposal, which relied on borrowing funds and cutting money to human services programs, also generates $7.6 billion for transportation but does so without tax increases. The House rejected the plan.

As today's floor vote neared, Seifert accused Democrats of threatening to pull Republicans' unrelated bills from consideration if they did not support the transportation package.

"It's a no-holds-barred lobbying effort," he said. "I don't think it will work."

Davis and Wente work for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum. They can be reached at (651) 290-0707 or ddavis@forumcomm.com and swente@forumcomm.com

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