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Ventura looks at all budget options
By Mark Zdechlik
Minnesota Public Radio
December 26, 2001
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Gov. Jesse Ventura says Minnesotans will likely be more open to major governmental reform with the state facing a projected budget deficit of nearly $2 billion. On MPR's Midday program Wednesday, Ventura says he'll use his State of the State speech on Jan. 3 to help Minnesotans learn how state taxes are spent.

Gov. Jesse Ventura
Gov. Jesse Ventura talked about the state's nearly $2 billion budget shortfall during an appearance on MPR's Midday program Wednesday. He says all options are on the table when it comes to closing that gap. Listen to the program.
(MPR Photo/Melanie Sommer)

Gov. Ventura says as he looks for ways to shore up the budget, virtually everything is under consideration from tax increases to program cuts. He says funding for anything that's not directly related to public safety is open to question. Ventura says now that tax collections are declining, he thinks Minnesotans will be open to considering a new role for their state government.

"I look at the budget shortfall as an opportunity. Because you can't reform things in government when you have surpluses," Ventura says. "When everyone's fat and sassy and sitting on a big pile of money, nobody wants reform, nobody wants to change how government does business. But when there's a deficit and there's a budget shortfall, that's an opportunity to really get in and reform and change how government does business."

Ventura says he'll continue to push for a single-body Legislature. But beyond that, he did not offer specific reform proposals.

With the looming budget shortfall, Ventura says every option is on the table including tax increases. But the Ventura also made it clear raising taxes would be his last choice.

"When you look at government, it's doubled in the last decade. The budget in the early '90s was about $13 billion dollars biennially. Now it's $28 billion," says Ventura. "We've seen a huge expansion on government in the last 10 years, probably as much or more so than the private sector. Philosophically, I don't feel that's necessarily the way it should go."

Ventura is preparing for his State of the State speech, which he'll deliver from the governor's residence Jan. 3. He says he'll use the opportunity to give Minnesotans an introduction to state spending, as part of an effort to launch a debate about what state government should be doing.

"Government should do what's necessary...not necessarily what's nice. "

- Gov. Jesse Ventura

"What this shortfall means to us is refocusing what is the role of government. Government should do what's necessary...not necessarily what's nice."

Looking back over the year, Ventura says he's proud of his push for property tax reform, which shifted 100 percent of the funding for schools to the state. He says the change makes local governments more accountable to taxpayers. He insists the sales tax rebate was the right thing to do. Critics complain had there been no rebate, the state would not be facing such an enormous budget shortfall.

Gov. Ventura once again declined to say whether he'll ask voters for a second term. The governor did say he'll make a decision possibly at the end of the legislative session next spring. He also said, contrary to previous statements, he will spend money on campaign radio and television ads if he runs again.

"I will probably run two weeks of ads right before the election on radio and television and participate in debates, but I would limit it to that pretty much," Ventura says. "To me, these elections are far too long. People start years ahead of time now...they become excessively expensive. I again am not going to spend a lot of money."

In a departure from numerous visits to Minnesota Public Radio over the past three years, Ventura took part in the Midday program this time only on the condition no newspaper or television photographers would be allowed to take pictures outside the studio.

During a Midday appearance in November, Ventura got into a spat with a caller who questioned his leadership skills. The scene of the governor angrily removing his headphones was repeatedly broadcast on local television reports.

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