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Ventura Releases Spending Plan
by Martin Kaste
January 14, 2000
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Governor Ventura says he wants to "get control" of the amount of money the state borrows by selling bonds for capital projects. Ventura has announced his bonding recommendations for the coming legislative session, and the $468 million package is smaller than what Democrats were hoping for. Republicans in the Legislature are more pleased with his relatively small bonding proposal, but they say they disagree with some of his spending priorities.

At A Glance
Highlights of the Bonding Bill

$30 million for repairs at Minnesota state colleges and universities.

$9 million for the University of Minnesota.

$65 million for a variety of code compliance and repair projects at state offices.

$30 million for local bridges repair and replacement, a provision he vetoed from the 1999 bill.

$10.6 million to repair storm water drains and sewers at the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Faribault. The upgrade is sought to avoid polluting the Straight River.

$3.3 million for updates to the Capitol building.

$7.7 million for land acquisition and design to replace state-owned facilities for major agencies, which may include the departments of Health, Agriculture and Human Services.

$35 million to complete the molecular and cellular biology building at the University of Minnesota.

$10 million to build a microbial implant genomics building at the university.

$34.3 million for improvements at Normandale Community College, North Hennepin Community College and the Minneapolis Community and Human Services and Natural Resources.

$20 million in Rural Finance Authority loans to farmers for mortgage assistance.

Documents relating to the bonding request can be found on MPR's Session 2000 page.
has adopted something of a purist attitude to state bonding.
Ventura: Read the law; it's very clear: bonding pays for projects of statewide or regional importance, not local.
In a pre-recorded video played for reporters and state officials, Ventura outlined his $462 million capital investments budget, and he started by stating his intention to change what he sees as the pork-barrel mentality of past bonding bills.
Ventura: I know that when I was mayor of Brooklyn Park and there were things we wanted to do within our city, the first thing everyone wanted to do was, "Well let's talk to state legislator and get the state to pay for it."
Local projects do not fare well in Ventura's bonding package. He says no to everything from Ada's $69,000 request for an outdoor recreation complex, right down to Willernie's request for $74,000 to renovate its city hall.

Jim Miller, executive director of the League of Minnesota Cities, says the governor is wrong to dismiss projects like these as merely "local."
Miller: The quality of life that we have in Minnesota is the result of the accumulation of all of these projects, and everything has an impact, I think, on the state in one way or another. And I suppose regardless what you do in a capital nature, it's local, because it's being built somewhere, at a local level.
Arts organizations and groups that do social work also get very little in the governor's bonding plan. Marcia Avener, public policy director for the Minnesota Council of Non-Profits, says she's especially disappointed by the lack of money for things like low-income housing.
Avner: A proposal in the year 2000 that ignores housing, children, immigrants, minorities, is so lean, that it is mean.
The governor's definition of projects of statewide significance seems to favor buildings for state agencies, such as his $58 million plan to build new offices and a modern crime lab for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and $65 million for repairs on other state buildings, as well as $5 million for the Minnesota Zoo. He also favors large-scale environmental projects, such as $29 million to clean up the Minnesota River, and money for nature trails and other Department of Natural Resources projects.

"A proposal in the year 2000 that ignores housing, children, immigrants, minorities, is so lean, that it is mean."

-Marcia Avener, public policy director for the Minnesota Council of Non-Profits
What the Governor does not do is fund higher education - at least, not to the levels expected by legislators in both parties. The University of Minnesota gets less than half of its $134 million request; the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system gets only about one quarter of the $230 million it asked for.

Richard Cohen, chairman of the Senate Government Finance Committee, says increasing funding for higher education will be the first of many changes to the governor's bonding bill in the DFL-controlled Senate, and he says he thinks the governor's capital budget should grow by about $150 million.

House Republicans, on the other hand, say they will not increase the governor's total; House Capital Investment Chairman Jim Knoblach says the House bill might even come in at slightly less than the governor's, and he says he generally appreciates the governor's effort to take the pork out of the bonding process.
Knoblach: I do think the governor is going a little bit too far when he says that everything has to have an absolute statewide interest. I think there is a place for regional projects, but I do think that we can pass the bill, we're just going to have to change people's mindset a little bit.
That may take some doing. Bonding bills require a two-thirds super-majority vote to pass the House and Senate, and the traditional method for creating that sort of a bipartisan coalition has been to spread bonding projects around as many legislative districts as possible. Without that incentive, state legislators may find themselves less eager than usual to let the state borrow money.