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Senate overrides Ventura's veto
By Laura McCallum
Minnesota Public Radio
February 28, 2002

The Minnesota Legislature today handed Gov. Ventura what many observers consider the most significant legislative defeat of his term. The Senate joined the House in overriding Ventura's veto of a budget-balancing bill. Legislative leaders say they'll now begin the job of solving the rest of Minnesota's budget deficit.

House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, said he would oppose tax increases. Sviggum said, however, that he may try to tap the state's tobacco endowments.
(MPR Photo/Laura McCallum)

With no debate, the Senate voted 60-7 to override the governor's veto. The chamber was completely silent as DFL Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe of Erskine - a 31-year legislative veteran - told his colleagues about the seriousness of the vote they were about to cast.

"I can only say that from my time here - and I guess I've been here longer than anyone - there has never been an issue as significant on a veto override as this issue," he said.

Moe says the last time the Legislature overrode a gubernatorial veto on an issue this weighty was in the late '60s, when Minnesota enacted the state's first sales tax.

The bill this time uses one-time money and spending cuts to erase nearly $2 billion of the state's projected $2.3 billion deficit. Moe, who is also a candidate for governor, says the veto override wasn't about the Legislature ganging up on Gov. Ventura. He says lawmakers simply had a different approach to solving the budget problem.

"This is not in any way any kind of partisan attack, it's not any kind of getting even. This is kind of the, one of the great glories of this system, that the Legislature disagreed with the administration," he said.

Ventura wants to balance the budget with a mix of tax increases, spending cuts and use of the budget reserves. The governor says the legislative plan he vetoed is irresponsible because it draws down the budget reserves without a plan for replenishing them. Ventura says legislators seem to be leading the state down a path of fiscal chaos. But he says since legislative leaders bypassed him with their budget plan, it's up to them to come up with a way to deal with the rest of the deficit.

"They've made their bed, they'll sleep in it, and their fix is not complete and I want to see their phase two and I'll let them craft it. Mine, I did. I've already done mine. Mine covers the whole gamut. And I stand by my budget, and will continue to stand by it, so I'll see what their phase two comes the same way, we will digest it, and then I'll judge what we do with phase two," Ventura said.

"They've made their bed, they'll sleep in it."

- Gov. Jesse Ventura

Phase two is an additional nearly $450 million gap in the current two-year budget cycle, and a $3.2 billion projected deficit for the next biennium. Legislative leaders have started talking about ways to solve the problem.

Moe says given the magnitude of the problem, the solution will have to include tax increases. Republicans disagree.

"We're sitting with $1.2 billion of tobacco money. My goodness, he could write out a check for $336 million this afternoon and we could go home," said Senate Minority Leader Dick Day of Owatonna, who says his caucus will oppose tax increases to balance the budget.

Republican House Speaker Steve Sviggum of Kenyon agrees there's no need for a tax hike to address the current deficit. And he says it's unlikely legislators can agree on a solution for the '04-'05 budget cycle. Sviggum says some of those decisions can wait until next year - after another couple of budget forecasts.

"The governor right now wants to use inexact, inappropriate information to make a decision three and a half years from now. That's wrong," he said.

Sviggum says House Republicans' plan for phase two will be finished next week. Both Sviggum and Moe say the next round of budget talks will be much more difficult than the first phase. Both leaders say they plan to work with the Ventura administration to try to come up with a tri-partisan budget agreement. But Sviggum admits the House and Senate may circumvent the governor again.

"The House and Senate went to the dance together, and we'll probably go home together," he said.

Sviggum says if Ventura wants to discount the legislative budget plan, he should consider the wide vote margins it took to override his veto. The vote was 99-33 in the House on the second override attempt. It is the seventh Ventura veto to be overridden.

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