Republicans cross aisle to undo veto

Monday’s veto override marks the first of Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s term – only the 14th successful override since 1939.

The Minnesota Legislature voted to override Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto of the $6.7 billion transportation bill Monday afternoon.

The vote marks the first override of Pawlenty’s term and is only the 14th successful override in 447 vetoes since 1939. Historically, 97 percent of vetoes have stood.

In a 91-41 vote, the House garnered the 90 votes needed, and the Senate voted 47-20 to override.

Six House and two Senate Republicans broke party lines to support the override and send the bill into law.

The transportation bill includes a gas tax increase which will be the state’s first in 20 years.

The initial two cents go into effect in 30 days, and another three cents will be added Oct. 1.

“This is a save roads and bridges bill,” said Rep. Bernard Lieder, DFL- Crookston, the bill’s author. “It does a lot of things that we as a Legislature have not done before.”

Despite bipartisan support for the bill in the House, Rep. Dan Severson, R-Sauk Rapids, disputed its helpfulness to the majority of the state’s population.

“This is probably one of the most important bills we can pass, but this bill is not that bill,” he said. “There is a bunch of pork in this bill.”

Sen. Dick Day, R-Owatonna, echoed his colleague Severson’s sentiment, pointing to unnamed members in the House who stand to benefit from the bill.

“This is a terrible boondoggle,” he said. “Once you can start voting on bills because you get a little chunk of something in a bill is sad.”

However, Sen. Thomas Bakk, DFL-Cook, brought up the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce’s endorsement of the bill, which was a turning point in debate late last week.

“Members, I don’t think this is that hard of a vote,” he said. “The Chamber of Commerce thinks you should do it, and I think you should.”

Pawlenty’s office did not return request for comment.

The bill authorizes counties in the metropolitan area to impose a 0.25 percent transportation sales tax without referendum.

The bill dedicates $1.8 billion for highway projects and $600 million to replace critically fractured bridges around the state.