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House overrides Ventura veto of budget plan
By Michael Khoo
Minnesota Public Radio
February 28, 2002
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After a false start earlier this week, 11 House Democrats switched their votes Wednesday to provide the necessary two-thirds majority required for an override in the House. Lawmakers say they'll now turn their attention to tackling the next piece of the shortfall, but differences on how to proceed are already emerging.

Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, right, and Commissioner of Finance Pam Wheelock, left, told a news conference Wednesday that raiding the state's tobacco endowment will result in more smokers' deaths.
(MPR Photo/Laura McCallum)

After an intense lobbying campaign, enough House Democrats had a change of heart to push the bill into law despite the governor's objections. The ultimate vote was 99-33 in favor of an override - nine more than needed.

House Democrats had orginally opposed the deal, citing cuts to education spending, but Minority Leader Tom Pugh says members switched their votes after discussions with DFL Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe.

"He assured them that educational funding would be a high concern of the Senate in the second phase. He assured them that he'd make every effort to restore the cuts to education that were made in phase one. And, frankly, House Democrats chose their ally in education. And that ally was going to be Sen. Moe over Gov. Ventura," he said.

Supporters of the override argued upholding the veto would allow Ventura unilateral authority to slash state spending, including the education budgets that Democrats hoped to protect.

House Republicans, who negotiated the deal with Senate Democrats, declared victory and pledged to take up the next phase of the budget discussions.

Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty says that means wiping out a new, larger deficit revealed in an economic forecast earlier this week.

"The most likely source of the funds for next time, there's going to be some further reductions. We'll be looking at some one-time reductions. But we will solve the remaining problem without raising taxes," Pawlenty said.

Sen. Roger Moe, who helped bring House DFLers on board for the override, says there aren't enough resources to tackle the next phase if Republicans insist on taking tax increases off the table.
(MPR Photo/Laura McCallum)

The Republican plan could be debated yet this week, and it's expected to tap into the state's tobacco endowments to patch the new hole. But that could create cracks in the so-far-united front shown between GOP and DFL leaders.

Sen. Moe, who helped bring House DFLers on board for the override, says there aren't enough resources to tackle the next phase if Republicans insist on taking tax increases off the table.

"There's not enough one-time money, not to mention that that won't do it. And you can't cut the budget that much. So you have to have some revenue raisers. That's a given," he said.

Moe says a Senate plan should be available by early next week. Ventura spokesman John Wodele says the governor wasn't surprised that the House succeeded in its override effort. Wodele says, however, significant problems remain. In addition to fixing the newly-revealed budget shortfall, Wodele says lawmakers must find a way to replenish reserve funds that they've used to prop up the budget temporarily. And he says an estimated $3.2 billion deficit in the next budget cycle has hardly been touched. Wodele says he's encouraged to hear Moe support new tax revenues.

"Sen. Moe was very adept at getting Speaker Sviggum - the Republican - to come together for the first phase. I hope to God he has the same success in the second phase of bringing his friend - Republican Steve Sviggum, the Speaker - into the fold," Wodele said.

But so far, lawmakers have only pledged their "best efforts" to resolve those problems. They've not committed to a compromise this year.

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