THE BODY BOWS OUT: John Fund says American politics will be duller without Jesse Ventura. That’s a given. But Fund also adds:
A genuine American success story, Mr. Ventura was swept into the governor’s mansion when, four years ago 37% of state voters decided they’d had enough of blow-dried politicians who produced little beyond platitudes. Voters laughed when Mr. Ventura ran campy ads portraying a Jesse action figure battling “Evil Special Interest Man.” They cheered when he proclaimed “I’ll fight to get those Democrats and Republicans to return the $4 billion in excess taxes they took from you. That’s $1,000 for every person in Minnesota.”
At first the bond between Mr. Ventura and Minnesota voters grew stronger when he appointed talented managers and succeeded in pushing through modest tax rebates. But three years later, Mr. Ventura sounded more like a traditional tax-and-spend politician. In January he called for $2 billion in tax increases to close a budget gap. The proposed hikes included increases in gasoline and cigarette taxes along with an extension of the sales tax to more items. The Legislature eventually plugged the budget gap with a combination of spending cuts and accounting gimmicks but, to Mr. Ventura’s embarrassment, no tax increases.
For all his anti-big-government rhetoric, Mr. Ventura was never willing to make truly tough budget decisions. The state budget has grown by 33% during his years in office, easily outstripping inflation. The Tax Foundation reports that despite his modest tax cuts, state revenue is still growing faster than personal income in Minnesota. In other words, government is still gaining ground at the expense of taxpayers.