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Rebate at Heart of Senate-Ventura Showdown
By Michael Khoo, Minnesota Public Radio
April 17, 2001
Part of MPR's online coverage of Session 2001.
Click for audio RealAudio

Gov. Jesse Ventura is criticizing Senate Democrats for not passing a tax-rebate bill this year, despite an April 15th deadline for taking action. Appearing on MPR's Midday program, Ventura said the failure to act means the Senate will have to accept his proposal, shared by the House, which returns the entire current year surplus. But Senate leaders say they plan to remain at the bargaining table.

Gov. Ventura criticized Senate leaders for failing to act on a tax rebate plan. Watch a slideshowfeaturing excerpts of the governor's appearance on MPR's Midday.
AS PART OF THE FIRST SALES-TAX REBATE, approved in 1999, the Legislature passed an "automatic settle-up" provision. The law directs the governor to propose a rebate for any surplus on-hand when the state closes its biennial budget. Current estimates project a $796 million surplus by mid-summer. Ventura wants to return the entire amount to taxpayers. In early February, the House concurred. But despite the law's April 15th deadline, the Senate has taken no formal action, prompting the governor to cry "foul."

"Earlier this year, as the law required, I presented a rebate plan to the entire Legislature. The House complied with the law earlier this year and enacted a rebate plan. So the House did their job. April 15th has come and gone and the Senate has not acted. They've ignored their own law," Ventura said.

Ventura says it's irresponsible for lawmakers to flout a statute they approved themselves. And he says as far as he's concerned, rebate negotiations ended when the deadline passed. He says the Senate will have no choice but to accept the plan he advanced and the House supported. But Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe has a different opinion.

"Have him take it to court if that's what he wants to do."

- Sen. Roger Moe
"Have him take it to court if that's what he wants to do," Moe said.

Moe and Senate DFLers want to split the current year surplus down the middle, with half going to rebate checks and the rest funding transportation, housing, and higher education. Moe says those suggestions constitute a modification of the governor's proposal, and satisfy the statutory deadline.

"We will continue to advance the budget as we've framed it for you. The specifics, obviously, will be put together over the next few weeks as we get the budget bills out," he said.

House Republicans have also expressed frustration with the Senate's lack of decisive action. House Speaker Steve Sviggum says DFL leaders are thumbing their noses at the law, but he acknowledges the statute doesn't contain any provision to force strict compliance.

"Now, admittedly, that doesn't say that all the Democratic Senators will be sent to jail or anything like that. But it still, I think, is a direct violation which is very serious," Sviggum said.

Sviggum says only the Senate stands between taxpayers and yet another rebate check. But there may be no need to rush. Even the governor's proposal would postpone any checks until the summer, when revenue officials will determine precisely how much surplus has accumulated, which could be less than current projections.