HB V

is older than it's ever been and now it's even older

1/26/2001

The Jesse Ventura Primer


Part II, or, What kind of governor is he, anyway?

People not from Minnesota often ask what Jesse has done as governor. Short answer: not that much. Long answer: It depends on what you view as effective government. It's important to note that Jesse has an interesting view of government, and the separation of powers especially. Basically, because he feels that the legislative branch ought to be the one doing the law writing, he thinks that he Governor should stay out of the legislative process nearly entirely, except in those areas where the law mandates an executive stance; such as releasing a proposed budget (which he just did, more on this in a bit) or in announcing his priorities for bonding bills. One area where Jesse has gotten a lot of credit is in how he handled the executive appointments of his administration when he took power. Instead of appointing a bunch of Reform party wackos that no one had heard of, Jesse assembled a mostly non-partisan group of wonks and technocrats that could handle the load of government and be in control over the departments that they headed. This would become a recurring theme of The Body Politic, the delegation of control to free up his own time. What he would do with that time would also be a recurring theme. I will examine his ongoing administration here in a tripartite fashion, looking briefly at each of three factors that will determine how we Minnesotans think of Jesse now and in years to come.

I. Jesse the public figure
Shortly after becoming governor, Jesse granted an interview to Playboy magazine. In this interview, he made some now infamous statements, including that "Religion is a crutch for the weak minded," the fact he'd want to be reincarnated as a 38DDD bra, and some other questionable comments, including a statement of non-sympathy towards suicidal people. In other words, something to irritate almost everyone. The outrage began soon after excerpts were leaked. The Republican party chair of Minnesota, Ron Ebensteiner, even went so far as to say perhaps Jesse "should consider stepping down as Governor." As ridiculous as the rhetoric was, it was pretty clear that it had an impact on Jesse's public statements in the future. Never again would Jesse make a knee jerk comment to piss off massive numbers of people. On the other hand, Minnesotans have remarkably thick skins, and even though polls showed most people didn't agree with Jesse saying the things he did, he was forgiven very quickly. Not only that, but Minnesotans like having a bit of extra attention. We didn't mind so much that he embarassed us, as long as he kept us in the news.

II. Jesse the Executive
Jesse does not like to shepherd bills through the legislature. This has led to a dearth of legislative accomplishments, that does not seem to faze the Ventura administration. He did get a car licensing bill through that cut taxes on automobile license tabs, and he did by the force of his will make the tax rebate for 1999 a unique Sales Tax rebate, instead of an income or property tax refund. This had the desirable effect of giving back the most regressive of the tax revenues, and he is to be commended for it. Jesse also showed some strong character last year when he repudiated promises made by staffers in his office to the Republican caucus regarding an abortion "notification" bill and vetoed it. On the other hand, Jesse's funding priorities in his budgeting requests are alarmingly small. He seems more interested in maintaining massive refundable surpluses than in even fulfilling his campaign promises, such as where he promised in his campaign to fully fund children's health insurance, yet has scaled back his efforts to do so in his recently released budget so as not to exceed 5% growth for any department. Basically, he's an extremely fiscally conservative libertarian, and that has frustrated those who would want excess government monies to flesh out underfunded programs. One of the biggest whiners right now is the University of Minnesota, whose president, Mark Yudof, is now mobilizing a huge lobbying program to get the legislature to increase their share of the budgeting pie far beyond what Ventura has proposed.

"The scenarios are quite bleak," Yudof told lawmakers. "Every year you hear from agencies that the sky is falling, the sky is falling. You are smart people. But the sky is going to fall."


Jesse's budgeting priorities do seem to indicate a bit of antipathy towards higher education. Nonetheless, I'm not necessarily against his general slant of suppressing cost increases in the budget, although I think his priorities are a bit out of whack.

III. Jesse the Greedy
This has been hashed and re-hashed in the national press, so I don't feel the need to go to much into depth. Basically, Jesse has done the following for money or notoriety since taking office: "Written" two books (quotes due to use of ghost writer); "Refereed" a wrestling event (quotes due to fixed nature of pro wrestling); and now, taken a job as an XFL "commentator" (probably more as official smack talker). There's now a bill pending before the Minnesota legislature to prohibit moonlighting by the governor and other state officials. It ought to pass; Jesse's money grubbing is making himself and the state look bad. Any reasonable reading of this will tell that I don't write that because I'm a Jesse hater; I voted for him and probably will again, despite his weird legislative priorities and his avarice.

Back to normal

I'm a huge fan of the guerrilla journalism possibilities of the web. Although this Jesse focus is not exactly Pulitzer prize stuff, it is an example of what blogs could be if we use them to do some real writing and not just screw around. That being said, I'm tired of being serious and think I'll screw around for a few days. Jeff sent me a Jake the Snake link written about his performance at an aging wrestler reunion. This is hilarious. I recommend it highly. This comes from Wrestlecrap, which is a sort of Mystery Science Theater 3K for the wrestling world. Extra cool if you're a fan (I'm not), still funny if you're not.

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