ST. PAUL (AP) -- Gov. Jesse Ventura revealed an anti-terrorism spending package Thursday that is far leaner than plans proposed by Senate Democrats and House Republicans.
Ventura would spend $6.8 million by 2003 and another $10 million by 2005, with about half the money going to the health department for better planning, training and equipment to detect biological weapons.
The House and Senate plans would each spend up to $25 million -- most of it in the first year. Their plans both lean heavily toward training and purchasing equipment for so-called first responders, the firefighters, police and ambulance drivers who would show up on the scene of any major disaster.
Public Safety Commissioner Charlie Weaver said the federal government has already pledged to spend $13 million in the state, mostly on those efforts. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says it plans to send another $18 million to the state, and Ventura said he expects President Bush will deliver still more.
Ventura said he developed his plan mostly based on the recommendations of his commissioners of agriculture, health, public safety, pollution control and military affairs.
Ventura, however, said he personally worked to reach a balance between protecting civil liberties and giving law enforcement agencies enough power to track terrorism.
He said he considers the additional powers -- among them, plans to extend police wiretapping authority to cell phones and changes to allow state agencies to communicate terrorist-related concerns to police in private -- temporary.
"One must remember that we're at war and the rules change somewhat when we're at war," he said.
He said he would consider a sunset provision in some of the policies, although that is not now part of his plan.
The spending plan piggybacks on policy initiatives Ventura already proposed. Those changes would give the state more power to quarantine people, and control the distribution of medicine and food.
Ventura's spending plan would:
--Install more security cameras and fund more guards at the Capitol.
--Beef up the state's automatic health alert network to communicate emergencies to hospitals and clinics.
--Pay for weapons training for state troopers.
--Train hazardous materials workers in how to respond to weapons of mass destruction.
Sen. Jane Ranum, the Minneapolis Democrat who heads the Senate Crime Prevention Committee, said she was surprised at the size of Ventura's plan, which she described as too small.
She criticized his decision to depend on the federal government to pay for equipment and training for local police and emergency workers.
"I'm wondering if the governor isn't a little unrealistic about what actually is going to come down from the federal government," she said.
On Wednesday, her House counterpart, Republican Rep. Rich Stanek of Maple Grove, expressed similar concerns.
The Democratic and Republican proposals would both restore three hazardous-materials teams that were eliminated in the last session of the Legislature. The teams, based in Duluth, Moorhead and Rochester, were downgraded to a lower response level. Now, the only top-level team is in St. Paul.
Ventura's plan seeks middle ground. He would add one person to each of the lower-level teams, and increase their authority to act in emergencies.
Also on the Democrats' list is a plan to upgrade the radio systems for police and emergency workers across the Twin Cities area. They would all be able to communicate on frequencies in the 800 megahertz bandwidth. It would be paid for with an additional phone tax that would raise $5 million per year.
Ventura's plan has no such provision.
Patrick Howe can be reached at phowe(at)ap.org
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