Governor Ventura says lawmakers with re-election on their minds need not fear if
they side with him and put off any major permanent tax cut until next year. The
governor is still at loggerheads with the Republican majority in the House and
DFL majority in the Senate over what to do with the $1.8 billion
projected budget surplus. While some at the Capitol say the impasse could delay
the end of the legislative session, there are at least some signs that all sides
are willing to deal.
returned from three days of meetings in Washington
saying nothing much changed while he was gone. Even though the projected surplus
grew by $229 million, Ventura says his priorities for the legislative
session remain the same: a $470 million sales-tax rebate, a cut in
license-tab fees, and spending more money on transportation and transit. He says
it's a year for the Legislature to concentrate on the bonding bill, not on big
tax cuts and major spending initiatives.
"I don't want to see any other significant
legislation on my desk until they've adopted a responsible capital budget
focused clearly on the state's priorities."
- Governor Ventura
Never mind that both Republicans and Democrats have complained Ventura's bonding
plan shortchanges rural Minnesota. House and Senate Republicans say tax cuts
should be the focus of the session. They say the entire $1.8 billion
surplus should be given back to taxpayers. At a rally outside the governor's
office Tuesday, House Speaker Steve Sviggum said Ventura isn't going nearly far
Governor Ventura called the demand for tax cuts "election year politics." He
says there's plenty of political cover for lawmakers who accept his plan to
squirrel away more than a billion dollars of the projected surplus with the
promise of a major property tax cut next year.
House Republicans have proposed an $800 million income-tax rate cut that
the governor's office says can't be sustained in future years, and that DFLers
say is unfair to low- and moderate-income Minnesotans.
Senate DFLers have
proposed a smaller income tax cut that increases the personal and dependent
exemption as well as a smaller license-tab fee cut than Ventura's. Republicans
say the Democrat's tax cut is far too small. There's been some talk of the
Democrats and the Republicans trying reaching a separate deal on taxes and
freeze the governor out at the end of the session by overriding a veto, but
DFL Majority Leader Roger Moe says he doesn't want to do that.
"We want that. We intend to work with the administration
to get a balanced approach," Moe said.
Even Steve Sviggum, away from the rally, says he wants to work with the
governor. He says he's willing to compromise on the details of a tax
cut, although he says he won't compromise on sending the entire surplus back to
the taxpayers. And although the governor is no longer a member of the Reform
Party, all sides at the Capitol are still trying to figure out how three-party
GOP House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty says there's no
rule book to play by. "It is a shifting game of two-on-one," says Pawlenty, "You know we've got some contrasts with the governor, but I think the lesson that we've learned is that if you've got the governor on your side, you've got a bit of an advantage."
Pawlenty says it may be harder to reach a deal with Senator Moe and other DFLers
than with the governor. But right now Ventura wants to sit on $1 billion - money he insists is nothing more than a projection.