In the Spotlight

News & Features

Lawmakers agree on transit bill; Senate passes K-12
By Laura McCallum, Minnesota Public Radio
June 29, 2001
Click for audio RealAudio

Negotiators have reached an agreement on a transportation bill at the Capitol and are putting the finishing touches on the state government operations bill. The House and Senate must still pass both bills, along with the health and human services bill.

Judge to order state to keep operating 'core services'
Senate President Don Samuelson, DFL-Brainerd, mimics House Speaker Steve Sviggum, who ran Thursday's House session while holding the infant daughter of a state representative. In Samuelson's case, however, he held a doll while directing Friday's Senate debate.
(MPR Photo/Laura McCallum)
GOV. VENTURA SIGNED THE ENVIRONMENT AND AGRICULTURE BILL Friday afternoon, which will ensure that state parks remain open this weekend. He plans to publicly sign the $757 million tax bill Saturday, along with the rest of the spending bills, assuming they're all completed. On his weekly radio show, the governor was clearly frustrated with the prospect of spending his Saturday signing budget bills.

"The Legislature's already wrecked my weekend; they've wrecked a couple of weekends," he said.

Ventura spent the afternoon reviewing the spending bills already on his desk, which fund natural resources, higher education, early childhood education and jobs and economic development programs. The latest bill on its way to the governor is an $8.7 billion K-12 education bill, which the Senate passed by a 41-17 vote. Many Democrats called the bill inadequate.

Sen. Jane Krenz, DFL-May Township, says the Legislature should have done more with a multi-billion dollar surplus. "The kids in Forest Lake and St. Francis and Centennial and Anoka-Hennepin are going to have missed opportunities, because we valued rebates more than kids," she said.

Several Minneapolis legislators say the bill shortchanges Minneapolis schools, but Republican Senate Minority Leader Dick Day of Owatonna described Minneapolis as "a funnel that continues to get more education funding than other districts. You can sit here now and say after we go up $381 million over the current level, that we're not doing anything for education; that $8.7 billion is not enough. When is enough?" Day asked.

"We have taken very good care of the top needs of the top-level bureaucrats in the state of Minnesota, and we've excluded some significant issues of importance to the entirety of Minnesota."

- Sen. Dick Cohen

Lawmakers are likely to work through the night to pass the remaining spending bills, including the massive 600-plus page health and human services bill, still being printed, and the transportation bill, which negotiators finished around noon. The bill includes incentives for collecting racial profiling data, a study of the so-called sane lanes on Highways 394 and 35W, and a one-year moratorium on the reconstruction of the 62 Crosstown. It does not include an increase in the gas tax or a constitutional dedication of the motor-vehicle sales tax for transportation.

The final spending bill to be resolved is the state government funding bill, which, ironically, has probably gotten the least media coverage, according to the chief House negotiator, Republican Phil Krinkie of Shoreview. "We don't get any glitz or glamour, we're just toiling behind the scenes in order to make sure that the process does continue to work and work as effectively as possible with the dollars available," he said.

Krinkie says he's disappointed that the $710 million bill doesn't include some election reform measures Republicans were pushing, such as a proposal to require a photo ID to register to vote on election day. It also doesn't include a Republican proposal to ban the state from extending benefits to same-sex domestic partners, or any of the campaign finance measures Gov. Ventura and Senate Democrats were advocating.

Chief Senate negotiator Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, says it's a truly bad bill. "We have taken very good care of the top needs of the top-level bureaucrats in the state of Minnesota, and we've excluded some significant issues of importance to the entirety of Minnesota. In this bill, something like digital television. Smaller public television stations are now going to look at the possibility of simply shutting down. The station in Bemidji is quite possibly going to simply go dark," Cohen said.

The bill includes a three-percent pay increase for state workers in each of the next two years. Lawmakers have also agreed on the details of a $118 million bonding bill, whose biggest project is $51 million to purchase and restore land along the Minnesota River to curb runoff pollution.