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Ventura Proposes Rebate; Defends Commissioner
by Laura McCallum
February 4, 2000
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The checks aren't in the mail yet, but it seems certain that Minnesota lawmakers will pass another sales tax rebate this year. Governor Ventura used his weekly radio show to propose his rebate plan, and to rail against lawmakers who voted against confirming one of his top agency heads. Although legislators are showing their willingness to challenge Ventura this session, everyone appears to be on board with his idea of giving taxpayers another one-time rebate.

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THE GOVERNOR SAYS his $470 million rebate plan is money that's already in the bank from the last fiscal year, and he would oppose adding any more money to the rebate pot, even if the February forecast shows another huge budget surplus projection. His proposal would send an average check of $280 to married couples this summer, and $139 to single filers. Ventura wants to expand the rebate to include seniors and people with disabilities who weren't included in last year's $1.3 billion.
Ventura: Last year was the first time a rebate had ever been given, so it was new territory; we gave the largest rebate in the history of the United States of America, and we did it to the best of our ability. This rebate, we can probably do it a little better than we did the first one, or cover more people.
But Ventura didn't offer an opinion on sending retroactive checks to the Minnesotans who missed out on last year's rebate, an idea supported by both House and Senate DFLers. They want to split this year's money into two chunks, a new sales tax rebate and a retroactive one. House Republicans are open to the idea of a retroactive rebate. Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty of Eagan says his caucus generally supports the governor's rebate plan, although Republicans may want to make it even bigger.
Pawlenty: The rebate is for sure, I mean, the Senate favors that, we favor that, the governor favors that, we're going to wrangle a little bit about the details, but a rebate in the neighborhood of $500 million plus whatever comes forward as one-time money in the February forecast, that's going to.
Pawlenty says the bigger debate will be over permanent tax cuts. The governor says he won't support permanent cuts this session except for reductions in vehicle license-tab fees.

"They're unhappy with me, they're unhappy with a decision I made to combine two agencies. I find that amazing, I mean the public is out there telling us, 'cut taxes, streamline and make government more efficient, do a better job with government.'"

- Governor Ventura
The governor used his weekly radio show to tout his rebate plan, and he also took on lawmakers who voted not to confirm one of his commissioners this week. A Senate committee rejected Steve Minn's appointment as commissioner of a merged Commerce and Public Service Department, a move Ventura made without asking legislators.
Ventura: They're unhappy with me, they're unhappy with a decision I made to combine two agencies. I find that amazing, I mean the public is out there telling us, "cut taxes, streamline and make government more efficient, do a better job with government." I try to do that and they're unhappy because I did it without consulting them.
A caller suggested that it was hypocritical for legislators to whine about being left out of the process. He noted that many lawmakers don't support putting a unicameral legislature on the ballot, essentially leaving voters out of the decision.

Ventura said he hadn't thought of that argument, and later repeated it to reporters. Ventura was asked whether it was appropriate for Commissioner Minn to ask two top officials with utilities which his office regulates to contact legislators to push his confirmation. Minn says he simply asked the officials to tell Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe how the merger was going, and Ventura defended his commissioner.
Ventura: I see nothing wrong with that. Why wouldn't you want people that are a part of the merger, to come forward and say, "this merger's working fine," when it seems the merger's the big issue?
Ventura says he won't ask Minn to resign. He also lashed out at DFLer Steve Novak, who chairs the Senate committee that rejected Minn's confirmation. Ventura accused Novak of making cat-calls from the audience when the governor talked about a one-house legislature at a Chamber of Commerce event earlier this week. Ventura says even if Novak doesn't like him, he should show respect for the office of governor. Novak wasn't available for comment.