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Ventura, lawmakers break stalemate
By Michael Khoo, Minnesota Public Radio
June 22, 2001
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House Republicans say they want to keep some options open in considering a budget compromise offered by Gov. Jesse Ventura. The governor offered a budget deal, which he says split the difference between the House and Senate on major unresolved tax and spending issues. Senate Democrats say they'll sign off on the proposal, but GOP leaders made it clear they still have concerns.
In announcing the deal, Gov. Ventura warned lawmakers not to send him any legislation that would impede the ability of women to obtain abortions. Listen to his news conference.

WITH JUST OVER A WEEK until the state government faces a potential shutdown of non-critical services, Ventura laid out a compromise plan which he says meets both the House and the Senate halfway. The hallmark of the proposal is a property-tax reform piece that offers double-digit tax reductions and major reforms of the system.

"I want both houses to either vote it up or vote it down. But I want a floor vote on the bill in both houses. Every member of our Legislature given the opportunity to record a 'yes' or 'no' vote on a floor vote," Ventura said.

House and Senate leaders both agreed to do at least that. House Speaker Steve Sviggum says the governor's tax compromise offers an opportunity for historic tax relief. It eliminates the state-mandated general education levy and reduces the disparities in how different types of property are taxed. Sviggum says Minnesotans should embrace the bill.

"For the first time in a long time in Minnesota, we will have double-digit tax reductions for Minnesotans and single-digit increases in spending. That's very, very important," Sviggum said. Sviggum committed to a floor vote on the proposal by the middle of next week.

Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe says the Senate will also schedule a floor vote on the measure. Moe says he's still concerned the property-tax reforms will eventually shift a larger burden of taxes onto low- and mid-valued homes. But he says the compromise does provide some cushion against such a shift.

"Is it exactly the way we would like it? No. Are there things we are concerned about? Yes. We felt we offered a more balanced plan when we advanced our budget in the Senate, but in keeping with my committment to everybody in this state, we will not participate in shutting down the government," said Moe.

Sen. Majority Leader Roger Moe said if the House doesn't accept the plan, it'll show who's in control of the Republican caucus. "People with a social agenda that's out of the mainstream with Minnesota," he said. Listen to his comments.
Moe says the Senate accepts the governor's global budget plan "lock, stock, and barrel." But House Republicans were slightly less enthusiastic. Even on the tax side, Sviggum dangled the possibility of the House voting on the governor's plan alongside another, unspecified House proposal - a move which some Democrats say could undermine the deal. And on the spending side, Sviggum says there are many details yet to be resolved. He says it's still too early to cancel preparations for a government shutdown.

"Til the bills be passed and signed by the governor, preparation is important. We will accept the parameters of this deal, but understand there's still enough details left that you can through the football hole with a Mack truck," he said.

Sticking points include extensions of welfare benefits to recipients who will soon exhaust their five-year limits. The Senate and governor favor more permissive extensions than the House. And Sviggum says it will be difficult to pass a health and human services bill that doesn't include some changes in abortion policy; either a 24-hour waiting period or a ban on family planning grants to organizations that offer abortions or abortion counseling.

Senator Moe says if abortion politics hold the final deal up, the blame will lie with the House. "It shows what this is all about. If the House doesn't accept this, it's fairly obvious who's in control of that caucus. It is people who have a social agenda that's out of the mainstream of Minnesota," Moe said.

Ventura, too, opposes the the abortion measures and has twice vetoed the waiting-period provision. In his comments he urged lawmakers to set aside such issues. "It is time to move forward with resolve to get bills produced and voted on," Ventura said. "Failure to take advantage of this opportunity will risk a government shutdown. And that, ladies and gentlemen, would be a tragedy."

But Ventura says shutdown preparations will continue until a budget is passed and signed into law.