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House fails to override Ventura budget veto
By Laura McCallum
Minnesota Public Radio
February 26, 2002
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The Minnesota House Tuesday failed to override Gov. Ventura's veto of a budget-balancing bill. The override attempt fell three votes shy of the necessary two-thirds majority. Legislators who voted against overriding the veto say the plan to deal with the state's deficit is fiscally irresponsible. Many said they specifically object to the proposal's cuts in education spending. When Gov. Ventura vetoed the bill Monday.

Lobbying was intense as voting took place. Rep. Mary Ellen Otremba, DFL-Long Prairie (center) was undecided. She was lobbied by (left to right) Rep. Sharon Marko, DFL-Cottage Grove, Rep. Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, and Rep. Bob Milbert, DFL-South St. Paul. Otremba eventually voted against overriding Gov. Ventura.
(MPR Photo/Tom Scheck)

House Democrats held the cards in the latest budget development, as the only caucus that didn't sign on to the budget bill in the first place. The bill would use one-time money and spending cuts to address a deficit that, until this week, was estimated at nearly $2 billion. Now the projected shortfall has grown to nearly $2.3 billion.

Rep. Betty Folliard, DFL-Hopkins, who voted against the override, says the plan ignores inflation, which will hurt schools and nursing homes in the coming years.

"The gimmicks are still in place, the fairy dust is still being sprinkled around, we still don't have a real reaction to a real problem," Folliard said.

Most of Folliard's DFL colleagues also voted no, as did two Republicans. It takes two-thirds of the Legislature - 90 members in the House - to override a gubernatorial veto.

An override was considered a sure bet in the Senate, which voted overwhelmingly for the budget bill, but its prospects were more uncertain in the House. The decision was clearly a difficult one for many House Democrats.

At one point, DFLer Mary Ellen Otremba of Long Prairie was surrounded by colleagues trying to influence her decision. After about 45 minutes of seemingly heavy lobbying, Otremba voted no.

"I would say the women around me just told me to vote my heart. Do what's right for you and your district. There were other people that were screaming at me, saying, 'You gotta do this! You gotta vote green!' And I kept thinking, what do I represent? I represent rural America," Otremba said.

Otremba says the only way she'd change her vote is to get an assurance from House Republicans that they'll fix what she considers a problem with last year's tax bill. She says a glitch in the bill increased property taxes for most of the farmers in her district.

Ventura was not part of the negotiations that led to the budget deal. He says the bill puts Minnesota's credit rating in jeopardy by depleting the state's budget reserves without a plan for replenishing them. Listen to Ventura's interview with MPR's Michael Khoo.
(MPR Photo/Michael Khoo)

House Republicans need to persuade a couple of Democrats to switch their votes to take up the override motion again. House Speaker Steve Sviggum of Kenyon says his caucus won't make any deals to get the needed votes.

"Once I open that door to one member, the second, the fourth, the 15th and the 25th member will be there. You can't open that deal. This is an honor vote on a bill that's before that ought be passed and ought be overridden. But it's not going to be a scratch my back, I'll scratch yours deal there. There will be no deals," Sviggum said.

Sviggum blasted House Democrats for voting against the override. He says their action gives Gov. Ventura the authority to cut education and other government spending on his own. It also could put budget-balancing efforts, which appeared to be cruising along at record speed, back to square one.

For his part, Gov. Ventura wasn't gloating over the failed override attempt. "I don't offer any pleased or not pleased. I really and can honestly say that I'm prepared either way. This is their job, not mine. I did my job. And if they choose to override me, then it's my job to implement the law they put in place. If they choose to hold up my veto, well, then we go back, and hopefully they'll let me participate," Ventura said.

Ventura was not part of the negotiations that led to the budget deal. He says the bill puts Minnesota's credit rating in jeopardy by depleting the state's budget reserves without a plan for replenishing them.

Ventura is the most veto-overriden governor in Minnesota history. The Legislature has overriden six of his vetoes.

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