Ventura brings dim hopes for future U funds

By now it’s safe to say that Minnesota voters — led by a surge among young voters — decided to “Retaliate in ’98.” It’s also safe to say that Jesse “The Body” Ventura’s quick ascent into Minnesota’s key political post will be accompanied by an aura of uncertainty. What the electoral revolution means is anyone’s guess.
At least one thing is certain, the University was one of the biggest losers on Election Day. To steal a tool from business, the cost-benefit analysis doesn’t look good. It was one thing for University President Mark Yudof to lose a key supporter in the governor’s mansion like Arne Carlson; it’s another for him to see the Minnesota House fall into Republican hands. Remember, the House is where spending bills are derived and Yudof and the Board of Regents have made it no secret that they will head to the Legislature in January with their hands out for more goodies. It worked in 1998 when a Democratically controlled Legislature and a lame-duck governor looking to make a legacy in education anted up to the tune of $206.8 million for construction and renovations of the school’s aging buildings. This session, Yudof and crew are hoping to pull in $1.2 billion. Good luck!!
In 1998, a strong economy and burgeoning surplus perfected the conditions for Yudof to work his lobbying magic. A repeat performance with Ventura in office is highly improbable. One of the things Ventura didn’t skirt around on the campaign was his views about University funding. He has made it clear that the system’s chief competitor — Minnesota State Colleges and Universities — serves more students. MnSCU Chancellor Morrie Anderson must have had a grin on his face when he picked up Wednesday morning’s papers. Thanks to voters, he might have inherited Yudof’s Midas touch.
That’s not to say the check for MnSCU is already written. State spending will take on a whole new look under Ventura. The surplus, from which the University found last spring’s bounty in the form of a monumental bonding bill, would have headed back to taxpayers if Ventura was in office at the time. That, after all, was his key campaign issue.
Or was it?
In his first news conference following his election, Ventura shrouded his comments about his tax plans. I believe his comment was something like “oh sheesh” when Ventura was asked Wednesday what his tax proposal would look like. Minnesotans will have to cross their fingers for future surpluses if they hope to cash in on tax relief. In all fairness, it would be wrong to hold our state’s duly elected leader to specifics, right?
Then again, voters on Tuesday weren’t casting their ballots based on specifics anyway. If they had, I would have been surprised to have been in the back of a 20-minute line for registration at my polling place. In front of me were throngs of first-time voters drawn in by the charisma of a viable third party candidate. Every other word was “Ventura.” The former pro wrestler took a page out of Paul Wellstone’s book, using grass-roots politics to mobilize voters to turn out. Oddly enough, it was just 24 hours before when Wellstone visited campus to get out the vote — for Hubert H. “Skip” Humphrey III.
Throughout the final weeks of the campaign Ventura was able to appeal to younger voters with his catchy ads and anti-politician message. It’s no wonder that students heard him speak, but didn’t hear what he was saying. He made it plain as day that he expected those smart enough to get a secondary education should be smart enough to find ways to pay for it other than financial aid.
From a journalist’s perspective, the election and the impending four years couldn’t have produced a better story line. With the shake-up of the state political scene, there’s surely more people than just Mark Yudof scratching his head and wondering what the future holds. The only thing we can do is buckle up and enjoy the ride.
Brian Bakst is a senior in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He formerly covered the University’s administration for The Minnesota Daily. Send comments to [email protected]