Local projects vetoed
Hennepin Paper cleanup bill was $1 million; Camp Ripley terrorism facility was $1/2 million

Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura lived up to his self-proclaimed nickname of “the Samurai governor” as he hacked $357 million from the $979.1 million state bonding bill last week.

One-million dollars for the clean-up of the Hennepin Paper Mill in Little Falls and $500,000 for an anti-terrorism facility at Camp Ripley were included in these cuts.

Needless to say, people both locally and statewide were upset about the extent of the Ventura budget cuts. Representative Greg Blaine, Little Falls, chief author of both the Hennepin Paper Mill bill and the Camp Ripley bill, also voiced his displeasure.

“I was very surprised to see the governor cut these projects,” Blaine said. “I had to call the Capitol twice to get clarification because I couldn’t believe it. I was dumbfounded.”

Little Falls Mayor Ron Hinnenkamp echoed Blaine’s sentiments. “It bothers me primarily from a standpoint that greater Minnesota got hit the hardest,” he said.

The $500,000 that was earmarked for Camp Ripley would have got the ball rolling on an anti-terrorism facility to be built within the 53,000 acre compound. Once built, it was believed that the facility would not only provide valuable training for law enforcement officials on how to deal with a terrorist attack in Minnesota, but also boost the local economy as a result of increased visitors to Camp Ripley.

“During session we had a group of firefighters and peace officers come in and talk to us about the importance of such a facility,” Blaine said. “They said that if there’s a terroristic threat in Minnesota they’re going in whether they have training or not. For the state not to back these people up is ridiculous.”

Back in March Blaine announced that as part of the House bonding bill, one million dollars was to be appropriated to the City of Little Falls for use in removing pollutants from the Hennepin Paper Mill. However, the clean-up project will now have to be put on hold.

“The potential for an environmental hazard is huge there (at the paper mill),” Blaine said. “I can’t understand the governor’s thinking. No one really has.”

“Hennepin Paper is a real problem that needs to be dealt with,” Hinnenkamp added. “The legislature tried but the governor, who has never been out here to see it, did not.”

In a press release, Ventura explained the reasons why he cut nearly $400 million from the bonding bill.

“I am sure that every project in the bonding bill was extremely important to its advocates,” Ventura explained. “However, no matter how valuable a vetoed project was deemed to be, the legislature spent too much money on capitol projects and therefore I felt compelled to bring the total cost of the bill down to a reasonable level.”

Ventura continued by saying that just because he may have vetoed a project, it does not necessarily mean that the project is dead.

“In many cases I did not reject proposals based on their value,” he said. “But rather delayed them until the legislature does its job and passes a budget that guarantees that we can afford the projects debt service.”

In what Blaine described as a “blow to agriculture advancement,” Ventura also vetoed a Blaine sponsored project that would have allocated $1.58 million for a Johne’s Disease testing facility at the University of Minnesota. Johne’s Disease effects 40 percent of Minnesota Dairy herds and can cost dairy farmers up to $200 per cow, per year.

Blaine may now look into funding the Hennepin Paper Mill clean-up with federal dollars and stressed that he will continue to push for an anti-terrorism facility at Camp Ripley and the Johne’s Disease testing facility.

“People can bank on the fact that I’ll keep working for these projects,” he said. “Because one guy pulled the pin out does not mean that I will give up.”

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