Ventura’s

Brian Close

With a dark blue suit and a prepared speech, Gov. Jesse Ventura never looked more gubernatorial than he did at the State of the State address on Tuesday.
In front of state senators and representatives and a full gallery, Ventura spoke for 50 minutes, beginning with an outline of his principles, which he said includes self-sufficiency, smaller government and citizen involvement.
Legislators frequently laughed at Ventura’s comments and he stopped 38 times for applause from the crowd.
“I stand before you as governor, willing to say what too many politicians at all levels of government have been scared to say: The free ride is over,” he said. “It’s hard to say no, but we elected leaders must learn how.”
Sam Tuttle, University senior and legislative affairs chairwoman for the Minnesota Student Association, said she appreciated Ventura’s emphasis on self-sufficiency, but said he must remember that people’s situations differ.
Ventura’s self-sufficiency extends to higher education, he doesn’t support increases in financial aid beyond keeping current programs stable with inflation rates.
Students from around the state have protested what they perceive as a lack of support for student financial aid. The issue began after Ventura made his now infamous “smart enough” statement.
“The governor sees himself as having pulled himself up from the bootstraps but ignores the fact that maybe he had advantages that some people don’t have,” Tuttle said.
Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, agreed and said while she supports self-sufficiency, sometimes people “need a little wedge or prop” to begin helping themselves.
But Kahn said she is hopeful about Ventura’s stated goal — to review legislation, updating and removing old laws.
“If he is serious about a total evaluation of every program we do, it’s going to be a great administration,” she said.
Ventura said he is more in touch with state government than any other governor after a month of service. He said he visited all the state agencies and met with employees “who had worked 30 years for the state and never met a governor.”
Ventura also proposed several programs designed to help Minnesotans in need, including farm relief money. He also proposed that the tobacco money be put into several endowments to fund medical research and tobacco-prevention programs.
Several of these endowments could channel money to the University Medical School. Dr. Charles Moldow, associate dean for research programs at the school, praised Ventura’s proposed endowment plan.
“The endowment that Ventura proposed initially closely follows suggestions that other medical groups had made,” he said. “It would support the advancement of knowledge so people can continue to benefit in the future.”
In addition to thanking young people and first-time voters, Ventura acknowledged recipients of his Governor’s Awards for a Better Minnesota. One award was given to Dr. Dorothy Hatsukami, a researcher in the University’s Cancer Center, but she was not present in the crowd.
“Maybe she’s doing research,” Ventura joked.
The governor took the opportunity to push his budget, light rail, a sales tax rebate and improvements in public education.
Ventura said he worked hard to develop his budget, and passed out cards outlining his budget principles, which stressed fiscal prudence and program accountability.
In comments directed at the “incredibly large elephant” in the room, Ventura said, “As soon as you are ready to send me a sales tax rebate bill, I’m ready to sign it,” as the Democrats stood and clapped. “And get on to permanent income tax cuts,” he added to bipartisan applause.
Ventura also said he supports light rail transit around the Twin Cities, as well as commuter rail to St. Cloud.
“I want to ride a train by the year 2002,” he said.
The governor said he wants to support public schools, make Minnesota’s public schools the strongest in the world and remove the word “voucher” from Minnesotans’ vocabularies.
“It’s not my job to make people feel comfortable,” Ventura said. “I’m here to provoke people out of their apathy.”