ST. PAUL -- Gov. Jesse Ventura doesn't want to close his official residence and he told lawmakers Wednesday that if they find more money, he won't shutter it as planned April 30.
Ventura said in March he'd have to close the mansion because of cuts lawmakers made to his security and general office budgets. His aides say closing the residence will save about $375,000 this budget period, but lawmakers and administration aides said it might not take as much money to keep it open.
"It's with a heavy heart that I had to make that decision," Ventura said during a surprise visit to a conference committee considering whether or not to try to force him to keep the building open for public events. "If there's proper security there, I will be occupying the residence."
After the visit, the committee voted against the plan to require him to keep the 20-room Tudor style mansion open. They didn't vote on whether to give Ventura more money.
Rep. Bill Kuisle, R-Rochester, wouldn't pronounce the issue dead, however. He said legislators may scrounge together mansion-saving money as part of a bigger budget deal.
Though he wants to keep the mansion open, Ventura told lawmakers he rarely stays there overnight and wouldn't change that practice if it does stay open.
He said he stays most nights at his Maple Grove ranch. But he said the official residence serves a meaningful purpose nonetheless as a place for receiving dignitaries. Vice President Al Gore, for example, stayed there during a 2000 campaign visit.
Workers have been actively readying the building for closure in recent weeks, preparing antique furniture and paintings for trips to the museums that loaned them to the state.
Mansion staff are "hoping for a miracle," according to the manager of the residence.
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