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Ventura objects to budget cuts
By Michael Khoo
Minnesota Public Radio
March 1, 2002

Gov. Jesse Ventura says a bipartisan deficit reduction plan enacted over his objections could force the closure of the Governor's Residence in St. Paul. Ventura has criticized the budget-balancing bill for hitting state agencies particularly hard, and he says cuts to the governor's security budget could mean lights out for the Summit Avenue residence. But lawmakers say the cuts they enacted shouldn't require closing the mansion.

The day after the Legislature overrode Gov. Jesse Ventura's veto of a plan to solve $1.95 billion of the state's $2.3 billion budget shortfall, the governor issued a warning. "You don't do the job and stop halfway," Ventura told a group of first-graders Friday at a Roseville elementary school. "You do the job until it's finished."

Lawmakers have acknowledged that getting rid of the last part of the deficit will be difficult, but Ventura alluded to a special session if the budget isn't balanced by the end of this year's session.

"I'll promise you this, kids," Ventura said on his weekly radio show. "If the Legislature doesn't finish its work, I'm going to call them right back in and they're going to have to work after school to do it." - Associated Press

(MPR Photo/Michael Khoo)

Ventura has spent the last few days running down the list of service cutbacks that he says are a direct consequence of the Legislature's budget-trimming. The governor vetoed the bill earlier this week, but lawmakers overturned him just days later.

Among other reductions in state programs, the plan cuts executive protection by $175,000 annually. Ventura says he'll need to make the necessary adjustments, and that could mean closing the official governor's residence.

"Everything's on the table. And that's one place where executive security is. And that could lead - if that's the only place I can cut it - then that's where the cut could very well take place," he said.

Ventura also remarked - in response to a reporter's question on the subject - that lawmakers may force him to carry a weapon of his own if his security detail shrinks too much. Ventura has a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Dan Creed, director of the Governor's Residence, says the facility is used just about every day of the year for official meetings, entertaining dignitaries, and for use by non-profits.

Creed says the house is known as "the state's living room," and he says it would be a shame to see the residence close its doors "because all of us here, I think, have a real passion for what this house represents and the history of it, and the importance of it to the state, he said.

Ventura joked that if he is forced to close the residence, he'd have to invite official visitors to the state Capitol and order take-out food. But lawmakers say there's no reason to lock the doors on the governor's mansion.

Sen. Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, who chairs the Transportation and Public Safety Budget Committee, which oversees funding for the governor's security staff, says the cuts to the governor's security are meant to reduce state assistance for the governor's extracurricular activities.

"We will provide executive protection to he and his family in Minnesota or when he's on official business out of the state. But for private enterprise, he ought to provide that protection," Johnson said.

Ventura notes, however, that whenever he travels out of state for private business, he - or the sponsoring organization or business - always foot his bill. The single exception, he says, was during a national tour to promote his first book. That incident led to closer scrutiny of the Ventura's security budget, a topic that has flared between the governor and lawmakers several times during his administration.