MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Gov. Jesse Ventura visited a homeless shelter Tuesday and urged the Legislature to approve his plan for using surplus federal money to develop affordable housing.
The governor criticized a House proposal that he says would divert most of the state's $175 million welfare surplus for other uses. He said it's the wrong way to use the money and would put the state at risk for losing future federal dollars.
''This is the only way that families on welfare will become self-sufficient,'' Ventura said at People Serving People, a shelter that houses nearly 400 people each night. ''How well can you do a job if you are forced to move? There is no stability there.''
The sponsor of the House bill, Rep. Kevin Goodno, R-Moorhead, said his legislation follows the letter and spirit of the law. The House bill would fund nursing homes, K-12 education and other programs that help out low-income Minnesotans, he said.
The Senate bill is similar to Ventura's proposal.
Minnesota has a surplus of the funds the federal government sends to states to help them overhaul their welfare programs under reforms passed in 1996. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds are designed to help welfare recipients find jobs.
Housing advocates said they are seeing an increase in homelessness. Over the last 19 months, People Serving People has been full nearly every night, said Dan Goodermant, the shelter's client support services manager.
''We're grateful for the leadership the governor has shown on this,'' Goodermant said.
Ventura's appeal came a day after the release of a federal report that shows a record number of working-poor families nationwide -- at least 5.4 million -- were paying more than half their income for housing or living in substandard conditions in 1997. That's an increase of 12 percent since 1991.
The governor met with several women who have been through the state's welfare-to-work program, saying his conversation with them reinforced his position.
Angela Soular, 27, who lives with her three sons in Coon Rapids, received welfare payments while attending Anoka-Hennepin Technical College. She no longer receives welfare and makes about $12 an hour working for an insurance company, but she continues to look for housing that won't consume as much of her monthly income.
''It's hard for me to spend time with my kids because of so many other things to think about,'' she said.
Ventura said he feared some lawmakers might go against his plan simply out of spite. He has been in a name-calling war with lawmakers recently, calling some of them ''gutless cowards'' for not backing his unicameral proposal. Earlier this year, Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, called the governor ''a moron.''
The governor said he'd gladly step aside and let someone else argue his position if that would help.
''It's a power game of who gets the credit and who doesn't,'' he said.
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