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Tension Increases as Capitol Clock Ticks
By Laura McCallum, Minnesota Public Radio
June 6, 2001
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Gov. Ventura says state agencies are preparing for a government shutdown, as the budget standoff worsens. Ventura wanted to call a special session this week, but legislative leaders are nowhere near agreement on a new two-year budget and no conference committees are meeting. Unless a deal is reached, funding for state government ends July 1.
On MPR's Midday, legislative leaders Steve Swiggum and Roger Moe debated the reasons for the stalemate. Listen to the debate.

ON THE DAY THAT GOV. VENTURA had planned to call lawmakers back to the Capitol to finish their work, he still wasn't ruling out a special session. "I can call it when I want to. I still might call it today, how do you know?" Ventura said.

But without agreement on major budget issues, legislative leaders say a special session could be chaos. Unless the Legislature can agree on a new two-year budget, Ventura says the threat of a government shutdown is very real, and his administration is preparing for the possibility.

"It's going to begin costing the state money very shortly. All this preparation for a government shutdown, which we have to do, because we'd be neglect if we didn't do it," he said.

Ventura has chosen not to publicly side with either the House or the Senate in the budget debate, but his commissioners have indicated that he's more closely aligned with House Republicans on one of the biggest sticking points - the level of business property-tax relief. The governor told legislative leaders he wants a 10-percent cut for commercial-industrial property.

House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, says businesses deserve a tax break, because they pay one of the highest property-tax rates in the country. "It would take that minimum of a 10-percent reduction to get us out of the top 10 rates, and we think that's fair," Sviggum says.

Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, DFL-Erskine says a 10-percent cut for businesses will shift the property tax burden to low-to-mid-valued homes.
(MPR Photo/Laura McCallum)
Sviggum says House Republicans' proposal would cut property taxes for homes, apartments and farms by between 20- and 27-percent - more than double the cut for businesses. But Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, DFL-Erskine says a 10-percent cut for businesses will shift the property tax burden to low-to-mid-valued homes.

"I've seen printouts that indicate that not all property will get tax cuts next year. So these are questions that are still being raised, and I think it's important that we know all of the details on this before we kind of move ahead on all of it. No question about it, we have a difference of opinion as to how much the commercial and industrial tax reductions should be," Moe said during a debate on Minnesota Public Radio's Midday program.

Senate Democrats are proposing a four-percent cut for businesses, prompting House Republicans to accuse them of violating the spirit of a budget deal reached a week and a half ago. Moe says the deal lists a number of open issues, including the amount to be raised by a new statewide business and cabin property tax.

"And that's what we're trying to do, is to negotiate within the framework of the plan, and for the speaker to say that we're violating that plan is wrong, it's just flat wrong," according to Moe.

The Midday broadcast may have been the only event to bring the two together in the same room. The two left the Capitol by mid-afternoon and had no negotiations planned. Conference committees are on hold while the stalemate continues, and the clock ticks toward a potential government shutdown on July 1.

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