ST. PAUL -- The lid comes off Gov. Jesse Ventura's budget this week, putting the meat behind his "Big Plan" and giving lawmakers the guidance they need to dig into the session's most difficult issues.
By all indications, Ventura will release a go-for-broke budget that seeks to restructure the property tax system, slash income tax rates and tighten the belt of state government.
Whatever winds up on paper Tuesday, the document will reveal a lot about a governor the world already seems to know so much about. And it could be his best chance to stamp a lasting imprint on Minnesota.
Proposals likely to be in budget
Some proposals likely to be included in Gov. Jesse Ventura's budget:
-- Cut income taxes half a percentage point in all three brackets.
-- Reduce state sales taxes to 6 percent, from 6.5 percent. Broaden sales tax to include services but continue to exempt food, clothing and heating fuels.
-- Limit car registration fees to $75 a year.
-- Eliminate most school property taxes, with the state taking over the full costs of the K-12 general education formula and eliminating the state-mandated general education levy by school districts.
-- Increase Working Family Credit for low-income families.
-- Reduce corporate income taxes and expand sales tax exemptions for business materials and equipment.
-- Eliminate wholesale prescription drug tax and HMO premium tax, permanently set health care provider tax at 1.5 percent.
-- Hold new spending to inflation.
-- Propose another sales tax rebate.
"It's his defining moment," said Morrie Anderson, a former chief of staff and revenue commissioner under Gov. Arne Carlson. "This budget is really his first time to fully express what he wants to achieve in his administration."
Until now, Ventura's four-category Big Plan contained big question marks. It consisted mostly of broad policy goals -- like "a tax system that makes sense" or "reforming politics as usual."
"The Big Plan is a bunch of vapor to a large extent," said House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty, who is anxious to see how Ventura will fit all of the tax cuts he's proposed and the inflation-only spending increases into a neat package.
Pawlenty, R-Eagan, said the budget will mark a "watershed" event in Ventura's first, and possibly final, term. Ventura has not revealed his future political plans.
When Ventura released his two-year budget in 1999, he said it shouldn't be construed as his handiwork because he inherited the bulk from Carlson.
"No more excuses," Pawlenty said. "He's been here two years, the on-the-job training period has ended."
In previewing the budget Friday, Ventura told his radio show listeners that they should expect his plan to leave them with a lighter tax load that he said would be "structured in a more fair equitable manner for all Minnesotans."
The vision will be built around a projected $3.01 billion surplus through 2003, although that number may fall a little after the February revenue forecast is released.
He's made no secret of his desire to drive down property tax rates by requiring the state to pick up the entire cost of basic K-12 education. Right now, local levies chip in 30 percent.
To pay for that, Ventura has said he will try to extend the sales tax to services, like legal work and car repairs. But he also wants to lower the rate from 6.5 percent to 6 percent.
All of the items are closely linked.
"You have to look at the budget like a knitted sweater," Ventura said, borrowing an analogy a legislator shared with him. "If you sit and pull out a piece of yarn here and a piece of yarn there, then an arm can fall off and the sweater's no good."
More than the public, Ventura needs lawmakers to weigh it in total, not piece by piece. The budget sets the tone of debate over the next four months, although legislators are not bound by it.
But Anderson said Ventura has at least one thing going for him: "You can't underestimate the power of the governor's office -- particularly when that office has an approval rating of 71 percent."
On the Net:
Governor's office http://www.mainserver.state.mn.us/governor/budget--planning.html
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