The longest legislative session in Minnesota history is nearly over. Lawmakers
barely made their self-imposed deadline to pass major tax and
spending bills. That means they'll have time to meet once more to re-pass any bills Governor Ventura may veto and wrap up a few other
last-minute details. Legislative leaders say they want to be judged on the
results of their work rather than the admittedly messy process they used to get them. The results include tax cuts and another rebate, higher spending for education, and about $600 million for building projects around the state.
IN A PROCESS THAT MADE sausage-making look like good clean fun, the Legislature staggered to its self-imposed deadline by passing a bonding bill on the Senate floor with two minutes to spare.
The "morning of the living dead" resulted from all-night negotiations over
changes to the Profile of Learning graduation standards, closed-door
negotiations between legislative leaders that left the rest of the House and
Senate with nothing to do most of the night until a last half hour dash to pass
the remaining budget bills.
DFL Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe wasn't making any apologies. "The bottom line is what people ought to be concerned about - the taxpayers of Minnesota - have been well served by this session," Moe said.
The tax bill on its way to the governor's desk features a permanent income-tax
cut that will mean a savings of about $71 for households with annual
incomes of $50,000 to $75,000. The bill would also give Minnesotans
another sales-tax rebate late this summer averaging about $300. And it
caps auto license-tab fees at $99 after a car is three years old.
the public should also approve of the spending increases passed by lawmakers. "We passed some very important investments in education and health care
and the environment. And we passed a transportation package and a bonding bill
that reflect statewide needs."
Moe and Senate DFLers had pushed for increased permanent education spending
throughout the session; finally getting their way when Governor Ventura agreed
to Moe's idea to split the permanent surplus money three ways.
Speaker Steve Sviggum is also praising the balance of the final product of the
session, even though he says the deal would have been even better if the
Legislature would have cut Ventura out of a final agreement. "We actually would have provided based upon the November forecast some
more money in addition to education spending and actually substantially more
tax cuts somewhat based on the November forecast," said Sviggum.
House Republicans were at odds with Governor Ventura for most of the
session, over Ventura's veto of the bill requiring a 24-hour abortion waiting
period, over Ventura's control over a third of the surplus, which many thought
subverted the constitution, and over the governor's insistence in the closing
hours of the session that $44 million be set aside for mass-transit
projects in the bonding bill.
Ventura didn't mend any fences by going to
Washington to meet with President Clinton and other dignitaries while lawmakers
were working all nighters. And his response to KARE-TV when told about
Speaker Sviggum's concerns certainly won't help his relations with the
Legislature. "Well maybe if the speaker was ever personally invited by the president,
he might have a somewhere to talk from, then," said Ventura. "When the president calls you on a
national policy, you go. But, then again, when you're only involved in local
politics maybe you don't know anymore than that."
While House Republicans lost in their effort to get bigger income-tax cuts this
year, Ventura didn't get everything he wanted either. His proposal to put the unicameral legislature issue on the ballot this fall went nowhere. He failed in his push for permanent transportation funding, and lawmakers rejected his plan to save much of the projected surplus for a major property-tax overhaul next year.
The Legislature isn't done with Ventura yet. They'll meet again next Wednesday for
a final day to override any of the governor's possible vetoes, and approve
changes to the Profile of Learning graduation standard.