Monday, May 14, 2007

Ping-pong gas 

Larry got this right:

[The DFL Legislature] sent parts of the state budget that didn't need tax increases to Pawlenty first, even stripping them of the more controversial items he'd promised to veto.

They hoped he'd sign them, narrowing down the end-of-session budget debate to the tax bill and education budget to frame Pawlenty's choice as protecting millionaires or helping the kids.

But Pawlenty wouldn't play along, and his veto pen began smoking. Sending back the budget bills gave him a "global" budget negotiation endgame that keeps all his options open.

And so far it's not looking bad. But now comes the latest volley: the nickel 7.5 cent gas tax.
After a two-hour debate, the House voted 90-43, sending the package on to the Senate for an expected endorsement later today. The vote was what will be needed to help override an expected veto from Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who has said he opposes any bill containing a gas-tax increase.
My guess is that will sit at the governor's office to the last moment -- he has only three days to veto it, which is why they are in a hurry to send it to him. Now the question will be, does Pawlenty bet he can veto this and uphold it, or does he hold it to make a deal at the end of the week? Every day that passes makes it likely either a) he wants to deal or b) he's working to buy those two Republican votes that will sustain the veto. If he vetoes it quick, then someone was posturing on their yes vote and will vote to sustain the veto.

I don't have a roll call or copy of the final bill yet; I have some guesses who the two votes are.

Note that this bill also raises registration tabs by killing off the Ventura-era limits on license fees.

UPDATE: (h/t Gary): I think we have the culprits:

One Republican who voted yes - Rep. Jim Abeler of Anoka - said the bill would raise only about half what the state needs to catch up on a backlog of road projects. He said he was leaning toward voting to override a veto, but wasn't firmly committed.

"If you're worried about it's too expensive - it's not even enough," he said.

Abeler predicted that he and other GOP supporters of the bill would be lobbied heavily by both sides.

Rep. Dennis Ozment, R-Rosemount, said he would vote to sustain a veto. Rep. Kathy Tingelstad, R-Andover, said she was leaning toward voting to override, and Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, said it was unlikely he would support an override.

Republican Reps. Ron Erhardt of Edina and Neil Peterson of Bloomington were expected to support an override attempt.

DFL Rep. Mary Ellen Otremba of Long Prairie also was considering how she'd go on a veto override, even though she voted against the transportation bill. The other Democrat to vote no was Rep. Tom Rukavina of Virginia.

This will make for an interesting week, and it appears some GOPers are determined to paint a target on themselves while others are willing to sell to the highest bidders. (Bold face added to help your aim.)

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