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Lawmakers prepare response to Ventura plan
By Michael Khoo
Minnesota Public Radio
January 11, 2002
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Gov. Jesse Ventura is challenging critics of his budget proposals to offer alternatives of their own. Ventura unveiled plans to cut spending and raise taxes to cover a projected $2 billion shortfall in the state budget Thursday. Legislators and interest groups all found aspects of the plan to attack, but the governor insists he's spreading the fiscal pain as evenly as possible.

THE GOVERNOR'S PLAN State Finance Commissioner Pam Wheelock, shown with Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, appeared on the 1/11/01 edition of MPR's Midday to explain the governor's budget proposals. Listen to the broadcast. For complete details, see our extensive coverage of on the proposals.
(MPR Photo/ Laura McCallum)

Since the size of the state's revenue shortfall became known late last year, Ventura has been warning making ends meet would require sacrifice from all parts of the state budget. In announcing his proposals, he said if everyone complained, he'd know he was successful in distributing the fiscal burden to all parties.

It appears he was successful.

House Republicans attacked his plans to hike the gas and cigarette taxes as well as a proposal to broaden the sales tax. And Senate DFLers objected to cuts in education and local government aid. On his weekly radio show, Ventura defended his recommendations and asked detractors to provide a better solution.

"And that's something people should ask out there. It's easy to criticize what I've done. But show me a solution. Show me what you're going to do. And then put yourself out there to be criticized," he said.

House Republicans say a plan is in the works, although they have so far offered few details. Speaker Steve Sviggum repeated his pledge, however, to keep certain tax and spending items off the table.

"We can solve this budget deficit without raising tax burdens. We're not going to raise taxes. We're not going to cut local schools. And we're not going to cut nursing homes. And we can do it with protecting those three priority areas. Those are the three priority areas the House and the House Republicans are going to do," Sviggum said.

So far, Sviggum has suggested a hiring freeze for state employees and elimination of several relatively small state programs. He also hints at tapping part of the state's tobacco endowments, but not, he says, the portion that funds medical research and training at the University of Minnesota.

"We can solve this budget deficit without raising tax burdens."

- Rep. Steve Sviggum, Speaker of the House

Senate Democrats have been more vague about how they'd like to balance the budget. Assistant Senate Majority Leader John Hottinger says he considers all options on the table. But he notes some will merit higher priority than others. He says he'd prefer to raise taxes before cutting education - a battle that nearly brought state government to a standstill last summer.

"We just went through a fight at the end of the last session to try and get the House and the governor to spend more money on K-12 education. We got them part of the way. But to reverse that battle seems not the direction to go for our schools. Nor is it a fair way to find a compromise," Hottinger said.

Ventura is warning that the package lawmakers deliver must by balance revenues and expenditures in the long-term. He say short-term solutions will only create headaches for future budget debates.

"If being honest and doing the right thing costs me re-election, then so be it. I will go back in the private sector and not participate any more," Ventura said.

Ventura has not said whether he'll seek re-election, although he hinted he's leaning in that direction.

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  • Issue: State finances