ST. PAUL (AP) -- Gov. Jesse Ventura may find support at the Legislature if he asks for money to cover cost overruns for his security, despite the hard line he has taken against additional spending during the 2000 session.
Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, DFL-Erskine, said Tuesday that Ventura has probably increased security costs by making so many public appearances unrelated to state business. ''But if we err, we should err on the side of caution in protecting the governor,'' Moe said.
Said House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty, R-Eagan: ''Security for the governor is not an area where we want to be penny-wise and pound-foolish.''
There's no question that as an international celebrity Ventura is a ''target,'' said Rep. Dennis Ozment, R-Rosemount. ''You never know where the kooks are going to come from.'' By underfunding security, Ozment said, ''you not only put the governor and his family at risk but also the public servants who put themselves between the governor and danger.''
Ventura said Tuesday that he hasn't ruled out asking the Legislature for money to cover the overruns as he responded to a published report that his security is expected to cost the state about $367,000 more than the amount budgeted for this year, a 35 percent overrun. When asked whether he would ask for money for security, Ventura turned the question on the reporter.
''I don't know, you think I should just cut them out?'' the governor asked. ''I mean, we spend an average of $800,000 less than the median average of all the other states, and yet we have the highest-profile governor in the world.''
Public Safety Commissioner Charlie Weaver said he will cover the overrun through savings in other public safety programs instead of asking the Legislature to cover the shortfall.
''We will not compromise the governor's security, and we will find a way within the total Public Safety Department to balance the budget,'' Weaver said.
Weaver said Ventura attracts large crowds everywhere he goes and frequently receives crank calls, many of them at least vaguely threatening.
The governor originally sought in the 1999 legislative session to increase his security budget by $576,000, but the Legislature gave him only about half that.
State Patrol Chief Anne Beers said the increased costs are almost entirely for overtime expenses.
David Strom, lobbyist for the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, a conservative group with Republican ties, said Ventura is ignoring the law he signed.
''The governor has set a horrible example for government bureaucrats to follow. He is essentially saying that if you don't like the budget set by the state Legislature, then ignore it,'' Strom said in a written news release.
Security costs for the former pro wrestler have been a sore point almost from the day he took office a year ago as the first Reform Party governor.
Ventura insisted that his celebrity status warranted tighter security and more personnel. He chose not to reimburse the state for the cost of security on his private book tours and other personal trips.
Critics have argued that Ventura should at least pick up the cost of travel and lodging for bodyguards on his money-making enterprises. But state Attorney General Mike Hatch, a DFLer, rendered the opinion that Ventura is legally entitled to full protection at public expense, and Ventura has stuck to that policy.
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