Last week, Gov. Ventura experienced the most significant defeat in his tenure as his nominee for commerce and public service commissioner was rejected, partially because of Ventura’s attitude toward the Senate. However, after contentious disputes with the Senate about the nomination — and a year in which he has engaged in diatribes rather than dialogues — he continues to address the body with an often abusive temperament. His recent proposal to the Legislature to reserve nearly half of the budget surplus for his tax-reform agenda has been similarly disrespectful, in addition to being a poorly conceived plan.
Ventura had nominated Steve Minn to become the commissioner of the departments of Public Service and Commerce. Minn’s nomination was rejected by the House and ultimately the Senate partially because of the manner in which he received Ventura’s initial appointment. Ventura combined the two dissimilar departments with little consultation with the Legislature and treated its nomination process as merely a formality for his edicts. This attitude continues — despite Minn’s rejection — as Ventura requested that the Legislature reserve nearly half of the projected $1.6 billion budget surplus for an installment of his “Big Plan” due next year.
Ventura proposes to allocate nearly $800 million to reform Minnesota’s current property tax appropriation methods. This proposal would not be discussed in the Legislature until next year’s session, and Ventura is not releasing any details of his plan, if any exist. He expects the Legislature to reserve this money for a year, rather than spend or return it according to the House’s and Senate’s own priorities. While governmental reform is often necessary and beneficial, it is important for Minnesotans, legislators and especially the governor to know that the $800 million will be worthwhile. And it seems ironic that Ventura is proposing to spend such a large amount of tax revenue to reduce the amount of tax revenue citizens must pay. Certainly there are more immediate concerns for Minnesotans, like improving education or mass transit, rather than an expensive reform of the property-tax system.
Ventura continues to address the Legislature with disrespect as he proposes the reform. This weekend he threatened the body with consequences unless “they give me my initiatives and I come out very positive on all of them.” This attitude cannot exist with proper legislative procedure, as a governor does not solely determine a state’s policies. His attitude is also reflected in his language, as he refers to a conflict with the Senate as a “fight.” And Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe’s opposition to Minn’s nomination was met with additional hostility and misunderstanding. Ventura referred to the placard on the door of the governor’s office: “That says, ‘Jesse Ventura, Governor.’ It doesn’t say ‘Roger Moe, Governor.’ As I recall, he finished third” (in the election for governor).
Nearly a year and a half into Ventura’s term, he has apparently not realized there are more proper — and successful — ways to relate to fellow policy-makers, and he doesn’t express any desire to do so. If he continues to operate independently of the House and Senate, unfortunately each will begin to operate independently of him.