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Reaction to Ventura Budget
By Laura McCallum
January 29, 1999
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Part of MPR's budget series

Governor Ventura's budget is getting higher marks from Democratic lawmakers than from Republicans. Senate DFLers generally like Ventura's stance on taxes and tobacco money, while House Republicans question whether the Governor is living up to his fiscally-conservative campaign rhetoric.

THE LEGISLATIVE LEADER with the most to crow about in Ventura's budget is Roger Moe. The DFL Senate Majority Leader likes Ventura's $1 billion sales tax rebate, his plan to permanently cut the income tax rate for the lowest tax bracket, and his push for smaller class sizes. Moe also agrees with Ventura on setting aside $1.3 billion in one-time tobacco settlement money, although he's quibbling with Ventura about how the interest from the money should be spent. But the consumate negotiator predicts Ventura will get much of what he wants.

Moe: This is a moderate budget and it reflects where I think most Minnesotans are. I think it reflects a significant degree where our caucus is at and what priorities we have. Will there be some playing on the margins? Yes, there always has been, there always will be, but the Governor will get most of his budget
Moe hopes the Governor doesn't get one proposal: his plan to borrow $400 million in building projects, instead of paying cash, as the last legislature approved. On that issue, Republicans are backing the Governor, although they didn't have enough votes to pass it on the House floor yesterday. But on taxes and tobacco, House Republicans have grave concerns about Ventura's budget. Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty calls the permanent tax cuts "timid", while Ventura wants to expand the lowest tax bracket and cut its rate from 6 percent to 5 3/4 percent, Republicans want to cut all three tax brackets by a half-percent.
Pawlenty: In some respects, we feel like maybe we bought a ticket to an over-hyped, pay-per-view event. During the campaign, we saw the bold speeches, we saw the laser light shows, and we saw the fireworks. But now that the match has started, we realize we're not getting "The Crusher" of tax cuts, we're getting "Sodbuster Kenny Jay" . So we are a little disappointed.
But Ventura warned Republicans not to count out the perennial wrestling loser.
Ventura: As I recollect, one time Kenny Jay did pin the "Crusher".
While Republicans don't want to wrestle with the Governor, they may be willing to go two-out-of-three falls over the tobacco settlement. House Speaker Steve Sviggum says that money should go back to taxpayers.
Sviggum: Folks, I see that as spending. That is spending, that's taking money out of the General Fund that should be there for the taxpayers of the State of Minnesota to put in an endowment to spend on programs.
Sviggum tried to be more diplomatic, saying Republicans do like Ventura's plan to eliminate the marriage-tax penalty. They also support the Governor's education initiatives, including smaller class sizes and an increase in the K-12 funding formula. But there's not much else Republicans can sign on to - they think the budget's ten-percent overall increase is too high and they'd rather have an income tax rebate instead of sales. And both parties are united in their dislike for Ventura's farm relief proposal. Ventura wants to give $10 million to counties to distribute for farm-property tax relief, but no one at the Capitol seems to think that's enough. DFL Representative Doug Peterson of Madison says it won't have any real impact on the farm crisis.
Peterson: Ten million dollars, when we've got roughly 80,000 farmers or there about, if you divide that out, he's even $70 million under the Republican proposal.
Ventura says if lawmakers don't think $10 million is enough, they can be more generous. He dismissed some of the legislative criticism of his budget as "politics." And one legislative leader thinks it's actually a good sign that neither party is completely satisfied with Ventura's budget. Republican Senate Minority Leader Dick Day says a Reform Governor should keep both parties on their toes.
Day: I think he's right about where he ran. It seems like the middle. There's going to be a lot of things in here that Democrats don't like, and then there's things that us Republicans don't like. And I think that's to his credit.
Day may be right that both parties find things to object to in Ventura's budget, but at this point, it's the Republicans who are complaining the loudest.

Laura McCallum covers the Minnesota Legislature for Minnesota Public Radio. You can reach her at