Gov. Jesse Ventura exercised a more gentle veto pen following the 2001 session, but his message still was clear: Lawmakers need to send better bills to his desk. Legislation carrying lots of pork-barrel baggage isn't likely to muster his support.
Ventura rejected 16 projects encompassing $4 million. That's in contrast to 1999 when the governor blind-sided legislators by disposing of 40 projects from various bills for a total of $160 million.
In truth, the vetoes have minimal impact on the overall size of the budget. The $4 million this year represents a minuscule percentage of the $27.3 billion budget.
But the line-item veto is important for the mindset it instills among legislators -- something that needs to be adhered to by lawmakers from the local to national level.
One needs to look no further than the federal government to realize the proliferation of pork. In President Clinton's last budget, Congress added 6,454 pet projects for $16 billion in extra spending.
The budget of his successor, President Bush, is on track to surpass that figure. By mid-May, House appropriators had been asked to approve 18,898 pet projects worth an extra $279 billion.
Only a small fraction of these projects will likely survive, but it's a concrete illustration of lawmakers' lackadaisical attitude toward spending -- especially when it comes to projects for their home districts.
The pattern continues year after year, regardless of which party is in power. Absent the exercise of self-discipline by lawmakers, the executive branch -- whether it be a governor or president -- has few avenues to reduce the insatiable appetite for political pork.
No doubt, certain projects warrant state, or even federal, funding. But they should be judged on their individual merits, and not be passed along as part of a huge, omnibus appropriations bill.
The line-item veto gives the chief executive the opportunity to weed out individual projects without putting an entire agency's budget at peril.
-- Red Wing Republican Eagle
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