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Jesse Ventura: Economic Development
By Laura McCallum
August 24, 1998

Click for audio RealAudio 2.0 14.4
Part of Election '98

MANY POLITICIANS TALK ABOUT ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT in terms of business retention and job creation. But Jesse Ventura has only one idea for spurring economic growth - lower taxes for businesses and individuals.

Ventura: You know, economic development is not giving money to the government, it's keeping it in the private sector. You will then have great economic development. If we all have more money to spend, guess what we're gonna do? We're gonna invest it and spend it! Which is going to do what? Create a better economy!

Ventura's economic theory borders on Reaganomics - cut taxes, and everything else will take care of itself. In fact, his campaign is adopting a near-singular theme: lower taxes, less government. He manages to turn a discussion of economic development into a pitch for a national sales tax.

Ventura: By going to a national sales tax, you would get the gross of your check, and you would decide what you're taxed on by what you bought. Now, what else does that do? It gets everyone - drug dealers, illegal aliens, tourists. Everyone would pay to the economy. And what it also does - it puts the government then on a direct budget with the economy. If the economy struggles, so would government. So it would be in government's best interest then to keep the economy good. Right now the government doesn't suffer, private citizens do if the economy goes bad.

Ventura sees little role for government in direct investment in businesses. And just as he touts a leaner, more efficient government, he doesn't want tax dollars paying for new sports facilities. As a former pro wrestler, Ventura is an avid sports fan with season tickets to the Minnesota Timberwolves. He says he'd consider other ways to keep professional sports teams in Minnesota, including an expansion of gambling.

Ventura: I would have no problem with slots at Canterbury if they put a big sign on them saying "Every nickel of profit from this goes to stadiums." Because that way the people are then volunteer paying. They can't complain! If there's a big sign there, they know when they put a buck in that slot and lose where it's going! Why haven't they simply gone to the public and say, "Who wants to volunteer to help pay for a stadium?" Heck, I might throw in a hundred bucks!

The stadium issue is one that divides Ventura and his Republican opponent, St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman. Although the two have similar views on taxes and spending, Ventura has attacked Coleman for the deal to build a new St. Paul hockey arena, saying proceeds will go to an out-of-state owner, unlike the Target Center in Minneapolis where entertainers pay rent to the government.

Ventura's sparse views on economic development may cost him votes outside of the Twin Cities. While spurring economic development clearly isn't Ventura's top priority a new survey by the Blandin Foundation finds in outstate Minnesota - it's the most important issue to voters.