Blazing Star falls

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 23, 2002

Gov. Jesse Ventura slashed $357 million from the $979.1 million bonding proposal the legislature passed Wednesday. The long list of vetoed items includes a $600,000 provision for the Blazing Star bike trail.

Ventura attributed the drastic cut to the legislature’s failure to come up with a budget-balancing prescription to cope with a $2.5 billion deficit in a way he thinks proper.

“Had the legislature balanced our operating budget into future budget cycles when the debt service for these projects will come due, I may not have made as many vetoes,” he said in a statement. “My message to advocates of the vetoed bills is that in many cases I did not reject projects based on their value, but rather delayed them until the legislature does its job and passes a budget that guarantees that we can afford the projects’ debt service.”

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The veto would be a major setback for a new joint-power body the City of Albert Lea, Austin and Hayward established.

Board Chair Dave McPherson said the decision was disappointing but that construction would continue between Myre-Big Island State Park and Hayward with a previous bonding.

Jerry Hickman, the president of the Freeborn County Trail Association, said the $600,000 was to be used for conducting land acquisition and buying easements between Hayward and Austin.

“We were hopeful to move forward,” he said. “But we will continue our efforts to find other funding sources and extend public support.”

Sen. Grace Schwab, R-Albert Lea, criticized the governor’s decision, pointing out it affects rural Minnesota disproportionately. Ventura’s remark that a bonding project needs to have statewide significance does not make sense to Schwab when she saw her proposal to equip a 800 mhz communication system for public safety authorities and vehicles in the southeast Minnesota vetoed.

The same provision is in the anti-terrorism bill the governor signed, and Schwab wonders how this discrepancy will be resolved.