ST. PAUL (AP) -- Sold.
That's what Gov. Jesse Ventura said Tuesday about a plan to divide the state's budget surplus into three equal parts -- one for the Senate, one for the House and one for Ventura.
Senate Democrats came up with the idea last week as a possible way to break a budget stalemate that has separated the House and Senate since the session began.
''A third, third, third will work for me. If it doesn't work for them, that's their concern,'' Ventura said. ''I'm no longer intrigued by this proposal, I like it.''
House Republicans say they aren't convinced yet that giving $175 million to each side for tax cuts or spending is the best way to go, but late Tuesday afternoon House Speaker Steve Sviggum seemed to accept the inevitability of two against one.
''We are considering it, we are thinking about it, we are looking at the options,'' said Sviggum, R-Kenyon.
House Republicans oppose nonemergency spending in this nonbudget year. So has Ventura, but he said that he would have no choice but to swallow some new permanent spending if the split option is adopted.
Sviggum said the package would give everyone something and that about two-thirds of the money would likely go to tax cuts.
The House would cut income and property taxes and Ventura has said he would use his third to cut license tab fees. The Senate likely would invest its third in education, the environment and other programs.
Although Sviggum said the proposal wasn't his first choice and that he would make another offer to the Senate and governor Wednesday, he acknowledged that he might have to accept significantly less in income and property tax cuts than what he wanted.
''We do have mixed government, as you know, and we end up with mixed results,'' Sviggum said.
The available money is a result of a budget surplus, which should be sent back to taxpayers -- not spent, Sviggum said.
''I just don't think the politicians ought to sit in judgment of those dollars,'' he said.
Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe said it is the Legislature's responsibility to determine how the money should be used.
Earlier in the day, Sviggum and Moe had exchanged more traditional offers that both sides said looked promising.
''We're making progress,'' said Moe, DFL-Erskine.
The optimism from both sides was a far cry from recent weeks when House and Senate leaders publicly criticized each other's overall budget proposals and stood firm by their own.
The House wants more money for income tax cuts, while the Senate wants to spend more on education and other programs. Tuesday's proposals offered more of each for both sides and stayed within a $549 million cap backed by Ventura and the Senate.
Both leaders declined to release details about the proposals.
The license tab fee cuts were not included in the House or Senate offers, although both sides said the cuts still were an option.
If the third-third-third plan goes through, it would make those tab fee cuts a certainty.
Ventura has said he would ''without hesitation'' use his whole portion to cut license tabs.
Moe said the proposal just might bring an end to the session.
''I believe we can work this out now and in the final analysis, everybody can claim a victory,'' he said.
Only five session days remain in the legislative session, four of which can be used to pass bills. The House and Senate are in recess until Thursday to give leaders more time to work out an overall budget agreement.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.