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With Legislature adjourned, it's Ventura's turn
By Tom Scheck
Minnesota Public Radio
May 21, 2002


Gov. Ventura says he will make a quick decision on which projects he'll cut from the Legislature's $979 million bonding bill. Ventura said the bill is too large, especially after lawmakers overrode his veto of the budget-balancing bill. The governor also says he has concerns about stadium legislation and a proposed requirement that would require students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Gov. Jesse Ventura appeared on MPR's Midmorning program on May 20, 2002 to discuss the legislative session. Listen to the broadcast.
(MPR file photo)

Gov. Ventura says he hasn't made any firm decisions on which projects he'd cut from the bonding bill, but said cuts are inevitable. Over the weekend, he gave lawmakers a list of possible cuts that included 72 projects totaling $250 million. He said the recent budget-balancing bill leaves the state in a vulnerable financial position. He says the state doesn't have enough money to cover the debt of the bonding bill, which is the second largest bonding bill in state history.

"Did you watch Saturday Night Live in years past? Remember John Belushi, when he was the samurai guy in the bakery or wherever it was? He would always slice up those sandwiches in the deli and all of that... I'm going to be Samurai governor," Ventura said.

Ventura hinted that $24 million dollars in funding for the new Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis would likely face a line-item veto. He said he visited the existing Guthrie Theater less than a year ago and didn't find anything wrong with it.

He also questioned why lawmakers could fund the Guthrie, but were reluctant to fund money for the Northstar commuter rail line that would run from St. Cloud to Minneapolis. Many House Republicans say Northstar is a waste of money and object to funding it.

Ventura has total control over all of the projects in the bill since lawmakers didn't get him the bill in time to override his veto.

"Are we having a problem right now with patriotism? I don't think so."

- Gov. Jesse Ventura

DFL Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe says he hopes the governor is conservative with his veto pen. He says DFL senators should be commended for trying to get Northstar funding into the bill. Moe says there are a number of important projects in the bill.

"I would hope that they would be very judicious in his use of the veto pen. Again, the bill had two main areas of focus - investments in higher education, which are good long term investments in this state, and investments in the natural resource base," Moe said.

Ventura has two weeks to consider the bonding bill, but says his decision will be made quickly.

He also hinted that he would veto a bill that would require students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at least once a week. Lawmakers say it will help teach patriotism, but Ventura says politicians are doing it to help themselves politically. He says the country's patriotism is doing fine, especially since the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Saying the pledge should be totally voluntarily. Imagine children, if for some reason or another a child doesn't want to say it. Imagine pressure that they'll be put under. And let me finish with this, is there a problem? Are we having a problem right now with patriotism? I don't think so," Ventura said on MPR's Midmorning Monday.

Ventura also says he'll probably sign an anti-terrorism package, even though he says it's weaker than he'd like. The bill primarily allocates equipment and training funding for local law enforcement and would raise the 911 surcharge six cents.

Sen. Roger Moe, shown Monday with other DFL leaders, says he hopes the governor is conservative with his veto pen. He says DFL senators should be commended for trying to get Northstar funding into the bill.
(MPR Photo/Laura McCallum)

While Ventura is pondering what he'll do with a variety of bills, lawmakers are discussing their accomplishments and failures. Sen. Moe, who has the DFL endorsement for governor, says transportation will be a top issue in the upcoming election. He blames House Republicans for failing to pass a transportation package that included a gas tax increase.

Republican House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty says voters should applaud them for defeating a variety of tax proposals. Pawlenty, who's seeking the Republican endorsement for governor, says they balanced a $2.4 billion projected budget deficit without raising taxes. He says lawmakers should consider cutting government next year when they face a projected budget shortfall of about $2 billion.

"Do you want a party that's prepared to say 'no' to groups that demand more and more and more government and at the same time preserving essential services like education and nursing homes like we did this year? We are prepared in the interest of preserving the essential services the state provides like education and nursing to start chopping some of the rest of government," Pawlenty said.

Gov. Ventura also says he's expecting the state worker unions to sign the same contract that they agreed to in October. Several lawmakers didn't want to vote to ratify the contract since it includes language that would give benefits to same sex couples.

More from MPR
  • Session 2002: It's a wrap
  • Vikings, Twins pick apart stadium bill
  • Audio: Midday discusses stadium bill
  • Legislature overrides Ventura veto of budget-balancing bill
  • Ventura set to slash bonding bill
  • Session 2002 coverage