Budget override fails to materialize

Maggie Hessel-Mial

Three votes made all the difference in the fight for answers to the $2.3 billion budget deficit.

House members were three votes shy of a two-thirds majority necessary to override Gov. Jesse Ventura’s veto of a House and Senate compromise budget bill.

Many legislators now feel frustrated and unsure of where important issues, such as education and health care, will stand.

Ninety nods were necessary to override the veto. Eighty-seven members voted for it, 44 against.

While senators anticipated an override in their chamber – had it made it through the House – many DFL representatives had problems with the bill and its cuts to education.

“The issue here is education, education, education,” said Rep. Lyndon Carlson, R-Crystal. “Our concern in higher education was the tuition increase factor even before the cuts under the bill were implemented.”

The bill was slated to cut $23.6 million from the University, $10 million less than Ventura’s proposed $33 million slice.

Policy-makers, such as Rep. Peggy Leppik, R-Golden Valley, who voted for the override, fear the legislation’s cuts are the best education can get in a time when solutions to the $2.3 billion deficit are hard to come by.

“We made a tremendous effort to minimize the impact on students because of allocation cuts,” Leppik said. “If we don’t override this veto, the governor may cut $70 million, which would certainly drive up tuition and compromise the quality education we have on each campus in this state.”

House members have the opportunity to call another motion to override the veto within 48 hours. Should the motion be voted down again, an override is out of the question, and legislators must start the process again.

Ventura can also use the power of unallotment and stop state funds from being distributed if the Legislature does not come to a decision.

This could mean major problems for programs and groups expecting funding.

John Wodele, the governor’s spokesman, said he didn’t think Ventura wanted to do so at this time.

“Unallotment is always an option for the governor, but he prefers the legislators take action to solve this,” Wodele said.

Taking away these funds is not something legislators said they want to see.

In the early 1980s, Gov. Al Quie came under fire for the unallottment of nearly $100 million dollars from state education and local aid, said Paul Watson, a member of the Senate Counsel.

“I think that the current governor is in somewhat of the same situation when it comes right down to it,” Watson said. “(Ventura) would rather have the heat taken by the Legislature.”

Should legislators vote again and still not override the veto, House members said they would have to go back and start over to balance the budget.

Carlson said he hopes education could be cut less, if at all, in the next bill.

“Constitutionally, we have to resolve this,” Carlson said. “Maybe it could get worse or maybe it could get better. We’re advocating that this could get better.”