In the Spotlight

News & Features
Public Safety Services Seen as Winner in Ventura's Proposals
By Elizabeth Stawicki
January 23, 2001
Part of MPR's online coverage of Gov. Ventura's budget proposal.
Click for audio RealAudio

Minnesota's judiciary fared better than many other departments in Gov. Jesse Ventura's budget plan. Still, the budget doesn't fully fund the state court system's major initiative for this legislative session. CriMNet is an integrated computer system that would allow law enforcement and courts from different jurisdictions to easily share information on criminals.


The Department of Public Safety

The governor's funding recommendations for the Department of Public Safety include:

  • $7.5 million to match federal disaster assistance, and $4.4 million for a deficiency to match disaster assistance received in the current biennium.
  • $3.4 million to replace funding for BCA lab analysis in DWI cases that was removed from the budget in the 2000 session.
  • Eliminates the auto theft surcharge on automobile insurance, which will save car owners nearly $4.6 million over the next biennium.
    -Budget executive summary

    See a more detailed explanation of budget proposals for public safety.
    CRIMNET WOULD LINK Minnesota's 87 counties so that police, probation officers, and judges could access updated criminal histories in a flash. Officials say the histories they get now are often dangerously incomplete because counties use different computer systems to store data.

    CriMNet would also update electronic fingerprints and mugshots. Lawmakers asked for $41 million to fund the project's second phase and the Governor responded with $27 million.

    "While this project is an important example of how an investment in technology can result in better justice and public safety, I want to assure taxpayers tha the cost of the project will not get out of hand and exceed its benefit," Ventura said.

    The entire CriMNet project is expected to cost about $250 million over six years. Sen. Jane Ranum, DFL-Minneapolis, who heads the Judiciary Finance Committee says she was disappointed that the governor fell short in funding CriMNet. Ranum says she believes the Legislature will appropriate more than the governor budgeted. But if that doesn't happen, she says, the project will likely end up costing more in the long-run because it will take longer to complete.

    "When you cut back to $27 million in this biennium, you are slowing down the process. So instead of this being fully done in 5 to 6 years, I think now it'll be more like 8 or 9," she said.

    Still, the governor's funding allocation for the court system overall is far more than of many other departments. Gov. Ventura said he believes the court system is a core public responsibility and he recommended funding it at a higher rate than many other parts of the state budget.

    The judiciary got an increase of $36 million. That's $50 million less than what Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz asked to pay for more judges and staff to meet rising caseloads, more court interpreters and more advocates for abused children. Blatz says, however, that she is very appreciative that the governor carved out special funding for the judiciary.

    "We were not treated like any other agency, it was a considerably greater increase than the agencies got in the executive branch and it takes us a big step toward our goals. Does it get us there? No," Blatz said.

    Case filings in Minnesota have soared 40 percent in the past 10 years and the governor's allocation for new funding for the courts is partially in response to heavier caseloads.

    Elizabeth Stawicki covers legal issues for Minnesota Public Radio. Reach her via e-mail at

    Top | The Budget | Health Care | Higher Education
    K-12 Education | Public Safety | Transportation| Home