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Ventura Wants Agreement By Friday
By Laura McCallum , Minnesota Public Radio
June 14, 2001

Gov. Jesse Ventura on Thursday told legislative leaders to reach agreement on tax and spending bills by tomorrow. On day four of the special session, the House and Senate remained deadlocked on major budget issues. Some lawmakers have suggested both bodies simply pass their own versions of tax and spending bills, send them to the governor and let him decide. But in an interview with MPR, Ventura said that scenerio means the Legislature is shirking its responsibility to agree on a new two-year budget.

In an interview with Minnesota Public Radio, Ventura said both House Republicans and Senate Democrats are digging in their heels and refusing to compromise. Listen to the interview.
UNDER SENATE DEMOCRATS' LATEST OFFER, the Senate would pass tax and spending bills, the House would do the same, and both versions would land on the governor's desk. The lead House tax negotiator made a similar suggestion with the tax bill. Ventura says the idea isn't acceptable, because he expects lawmakers to negotiate tax and spending bills.

"Their job is to agree, their bicameral system that they work under, requires them to go to conference committee and then requires them to come out of that conference committee with a bill that they take back to both of their houses and subsequently pass. Why are they changing the rules to their own bicameral system? They're the ones that want to work in this system. The old saying goes - they made their bed, now they're sleeping in it," Ventura told MPR.

In an afternoon meeting, Ventura told legislative leaders to negotiate until they craft compromise tax and spending bills. Legislative leaders have said their preference is to agree on a new budget to avoid a government shutdown, and both sides have been publicly trading offers in the tax working group. But the offers haven't been accepted, and in the absence of an agreement, Senate tax chair Larry Pogemiller says Senate DFL leaders are willing to consider sending the governor a budget from each body. "There'd be one omnibus budget bill, and one omnibus tax bill, and on the tax side, we would each pass our best offer," he said.

House Republican leaders say the idea isn't an appropriate response to their Wednesday offer. The House had offered to concede to the Senate's request to add $415-per-student to the general education formula to help property-poor school districts catch up to richer districts. Republican House Speaker Steve Sviggum - who had stormed out of the tax working group Wednesday when the Senate didn't immediately embrace his offer - seemed equally angry with Thursday's discussions...

"I do not believe that you are negotiating in an honorable fashion," Sviggum told Senate negotiators. "If you do not have a response for the House today, in response to the give and the give and the give that we gave you yesterday, including your marquee issue."

Legislative leaders planned to meet into Thursday evening with the governor's staff to try to reach agreement. Ventura blames the House and Senate for the stalemate - he says both are digging in their heels and refusing to compromise. He says the gridlock demonstrates the need for a one-house Legislature.

"If they can't come out of this with a bill, then obviously we - that enhances my support for looking to change the system that the Legislature operates under. I don't think you'd have this problem with unicameral," Ventura said.

Ventura rejects the idea that the stalemate is a symptom of tri-partisan government. He says his administration will continue to prepare for a government shutdown on July 1, which will occur if lawmakers don't pass a new budget. The House and Senate aren't scheduled to meet again until Monday - when the two bodies met briefly in required floor sessions Thursday, some lawmakers expressed frustration with being called back to the Capitol with no resolution in sight.