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DFLers want MnDOT commissioner out

ST. PAUL - Democratic lawmakers today called for Transportation Commissioner Carol Molnau to resign. Many of them long have been critical of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, but this was the first time Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party tra...

ST. PAUL - Democratic lawmakers today called for Transportation Commissioner Carol Molnau to resign.

Many of them long have been critical of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, but this was the first time Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party transportation leaders ratcheted up their criticism to the point of seeking Molnau's resignation. She also is Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty's lieutenant governor.

At a news conference near a busy St. Paul bridge with structural problems, Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Steve Murphy and five other DFL lawmakers said Molnau has done a poor job of managing her agency. The Red Wing Democrat cited cash-flow problems, delayed road and bridge projects, lack of staffing in some key areas, lack of a chief engineer and Molnau's desire to allow heavier trucks on the state's roads.

"We're here today with the backdrop of a rusted, worn-out bridge - much like the leadership at MnDOT - to call for Carol Molnau's resignation," Murphy said. "The public has completely lost confidence in the leadership at MnDOT and so has the Legislature."

Sen. Kathy Saltzman, DFL-Woodbury, said the transportation department requires leadership, competence and experience, which Saltzman and her colleagues said appear to be lacking.

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If Molnau leaves, "this is the first step in restoring the public's trust in one of our most important state departments," Saltzman said.

House Transportation Chairman Rep. Bernie Lieder, DFL-Crookston, was not among those calling for Molnau's resignation.

Even if Molnau doesn't resign, Murphy said that he will bring her appointment up to a full Senate vote next year. He said there are enough votes to kick her out of the commissioner's job.

The full Senate did not take up her confirmation this year. If the Senate rejects her appointment, she would have to give up the commissioner's job, to which Pawlenty appointed her. That would not affect her elected job as lieutenant governor.

The call for Molnau's resignation came a day after Pawlenty and DFL legislators traded shots over the governor's request for his administration to spend more transportation money than what is budgeted for reconstruction of the Minneapolis Interstate 35W bridge that collapsed Aug. 1.

Pawlenty says his is a routine budget request and that if a legislative commission denies it, other transportation projects will be delayed. Murphy and others say authorizing the request to spend an additional $250 million - while the state waits for federal funds -- may be illegal. A Monday legislative hearing is scheduled.

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