When Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed $25 million in the state bonding bill for the Reinvest in Minnesota Reserve program, conservation leaders and other supporters were disappointed. The program, which pays landowners for permanent easements requiring them to restore and maintain wetlands and wildlife habitat, would have been matched by $35 million in federal dollars.

But Pawlenty had proposed spending $4 million, so he vetoed the item. Up to 24,000 acres of wetlands and grasslands would have been restored.

Now there's talk at the State Capitol of possibly a second bonding bill that would include RIM funding. Nine Republican representatives sent Pawlenty a letter last week supporting the RIM funding at 2.5 percent of the total bonding bill, which would be around $17 million. But they don't want the money earmarked for specific projects and instead want it distributed on a statewide priority basis.

Pawlenty has signaled that he might be receptive.

"Gov. Pawlenty has been supportive of RIM, but unfortunately the DFL included more than six times the governor's recommended amount and it wasn't affordable,'' Brian McClung, deputy chief of staff, said Tuesday. "The governor is willing to consider RIM if legislators want to come back with a limited second bill, but RIM dollars should not be earmarked and the size should be reasonable.''

Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, was among those signing the letter to Pawlenty. "For every $1 million in state dollars, we get $1.4 million in federal dollars,'' he said. "It's huge.''

It's uncertain what the chances are that a second bill will be drafted and passed by the Legislature. Legislators are on Easter break until April 6.

DOUG SMITH