Legislators dogged into reconsidering funding proposals

Amy Olson

Gov. Jesse Ventura’s pet bulldog might be responsible for breaking the Legislature’s impasse in budget negotiations and potentially saving an endowment for the University’s Academic Health Center.
In a surprise move, the tripartisan group of officials reached the agreement late Tuesday just hours after Ventura threatened to sequester lawmakers with his flatulent dog at his Summit Avenue residence for all-night negotiation sessions. On Monday, House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, had said representatives would not agree to include endowments.
“If they get locked in the room with (Franklin) and you feed him some hamburger, I’d say we’d have a deal within 45 minutes,” Ventura said.
The deal includes creating three endowments using $960 million in funds from the state’s tobacco settlement. The agreement also includes a half-percent, across-the-board income tax cut, $100 million in additional funding for K-12 education and $60 million for light-rail transit.
“We feel good about being able to reach this agreement,” said Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, DFL-Erskine. “I think we’ve both shown some flexibility.”
No definite amount of funding has been set for the Academic Health Center yet, said Donna Peterson, director of state relations.
Although legislators agreed to the $960 million in total spending to create three endowments, the details will be left up to the legislators’ negotiations during the remaining six days of the session. The endowments will likely include substantial funding for the Academic Health Center’s education and research initiatives, as well as the state’s programs aimed at preventing smoking.
“We would hope that those two things (tobacco prevention efforts and Academic Health Center funding) would be included in the final bill,” said David Skilbred, Moe’s leadership assistant. Fellow leadership assistant Jim McGreevy said he expects legislators will reach an agreement on health center funding today.
“It’s full steam ahead,” said House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty, R-Eagan. “We’re going to put the pedal to the metal and get this thing done by next Monday.”
–The Associated Press contributed to this report.