Penny says budget problems should be central to campaign

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 26, 2002

Responding to Gov. Jesse Ventura’s prediction of a $100 million budget shortfall over the next nine months, Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Tim Penny said the public must be ready to discuss options for dealing with it, possibly including tax increases.

The Ventura administration revealed Monday the $100 million short-term deficit and $3.2 billion budget shortfall projection between 2003 and 2005.

“It’s disappointing but not surprising that our budget problem continues,&uot; Penny said. &uot;It has been the central focus of my campaign to remind people this budget mess needs to be fixed. I have said consistently to solve this problem, everything has to be on a table. And in that way no single part of the budget has to share an unfair part of the burden.&uot;

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In the last session, the legislators balanced the budget by using budget reserves, deferring payments to school districts and borrowing, while keeping tax increases and spending cuts nominal. Ventura vetoed the deal, but the lawmakers overrode it.

Penny ran for governor partly to object to the account-shifting approach by the Republicans and Democrats, and has been stressing that he would enforce &uot;honest budgeting.&uot;

But the details about his budget prescription are still not so clear. While Penny mentioned some spending cuts, he noted no specific areas to be cut. For tax increases, he expressed support for a higher cigarette tax, which the Senate Democrats proposed in the last session, and vaguely suggested his inclination to sales tax increases. One of his opponents, House Majority leader Tim Pawlenty, R-Eagan, is explicit about his no-tax increase pledge.

Recent opinion polls depict a fierce three-way gubernatorial race among Penny, Pawlenty and Senate Majority leader Roger Moe, D-Erskine. Penny’s opponents, especially the Republicans, have been voicing their criticism against the former Democrat more loudly, calling him &uot;waffle man&uot; because, they say, he has waffled on many of his positions.

&uot;It’s a standard operating procedure for the two political parties to run attack ads,&uot; Penny said. &uot;I have never done that, and I never will. That’s a part of the differences you’re going to see in this campaign.&uot;

Referring to Ventura’s visit to the Food and Agribusiness Exhibition in Cuba, Penny said he supports the governor’s effort to open up the market for Minnesota farm products.

&uot;40 years of embargo did not do a lot,&uot; Penny said. Penny believes that engaging a regime in the world economy through trades will effectively change the nature of government better than isolating it, which he said is proven by U.S. relations with China and some other nations.