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Stop the whining about Pawlenty's unallotment decisions

Last week Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced his proposed spending reductions via the unallotment process of $2.7 billion to help balance Minnesota's 2010-2011 state budget. The governor made his intentions clear in May that if the Legislature failed to balance the budget without tax increases, he would use his line-item veto and unallotment authority to resolve the state's budget problem unilaterally.

As soon as the governor finished his press conference, the official whining started. First out of the gate was potential gubernatorial candidate Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. He is the same guy who supported millions to put a sod roof on the Target Center arena and $10 million to move a dilapidated theater building three blocks, complaining about a 3.3 percent reduction in Local Government Aid (LGA) payments, at the same time his bankrupt city pension plans receive tens of millions each year in state bailout dollars.

'Not a czar, not an emperor'
Next up was the chief whiner for the Senate DFL Majority Caucus, Senator Tarryl Clark, who said, referring to the governor: "He's not a czar, he's not an emperor, he's not a grand pooh-bah." This after the Legislature spent five months in St. Paul and couldn't produce a balanced budget without a tax increase. 


But not to be outdone, the House had its own attack dog; Iron Ranger Representative Tom Rukavina from Virginia accused Pawlenty of "lying through his teeth about the effects of his budget reductions."

So what is all the whining really about? 

1. The $1.77 billion K-12 education shift: This accounting gimmick has been around since the state ran into budget problems in the early 1980s. Instead of making payments to school districts in June, payments are delayed until August. The payment delay has been used several times in the past and was even included in the DFL's legislation passed this session. Let's stop whining about this! It's become an accepted practice in the halls of the Capitol.

2. The $300 million reduction in Local Government Aid (LGA): This issue is like the boy who cried wolf: Local mayors threaten cuts to police and fire units while many of them sit on large budget reserves. Statements like those came from St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, who said, "It's an erosion of things our community has come to depend on," like libraries, recreation centers and tennis courts. The debate regarding the fairness and equity of the LGA program is nothing new.  The facts are quite simple: Some cities receive more in aid than they levy and half of the state's population lives in a community that receives no aid payments. This question should be asked:  Why should the state increase taxes so some cities won't have to consider increasing their local property taxes?

3. $236 million in cuts from the $9 billion health and human services budget: Small reductions in some provider payments, reduced service hours in a program that the legislative auditor said was in desperate need of reform and oversight, and delaying scheduled increases for other programs can hardly be considered draconian. Even with these reductions Minnesota still has one of the most generous benefit sets in the country. With our broad program eligibility Minnesota continues to have one of the lowest rates of uninsured. If Minnesota wants to become more competitive, reining in our spiraling health and human services costs has to be part of the mix.  The solution to this challenge cannot always be, "Let's increase taxes."

4. $100 million in higher-education cuts: University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks announced a plan just two weeks ago to reduce tuition based on receiving new monies included in the federal stimulus package. Perhaps he was premature with that announcement and the University of Minnesota needs to keep tuition costs at their current levels. Or better yet, perhaps the University of Minnesota could keep its proposed tuition reduction and reduce some of its  costs. Maybe professors could spend more time in the classroom and less time writing academic papers.

5. $33 million from state agencies: It seems only reasonable to call for additional cuts in the state's bureaucracy at a time when the private sector is shedding jobs in the tens of thousands.  The state should not be immune to providing services more efficiently. The State of Minnesota has never had a problem with increasing the number of individuals working directly for the state during good economic times, so shouldn't a small reduction in the state's workforce during tough economic times be considered fair? Of course the union representatives for these state employees, who derive their salaries from membership dues, are whining. But shouldn't they too be part of the state's belt tightening?

Stop the whining. After five months of the Legislature's failure to balance the budget without a tax increase, the governor signed the budget bills that had been passed by the DFL-controlled Legislature and stepped up to the plate saying he would take care of the remaining budget shortfall. Legislators will be back in St. Paul again in February and they will certainly have another chance to see if they can do it any better.  My guess is that they will continue their whining rather than working toward spending reform.  

Phil Krinkie is a former Republican state representative from Lino Lakes and the president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota.The eight-term lawmaker chaired the House Tax Committee and two other House panels. This article originally appeared in the St. Paul Legal Ledger Capitol Report.

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Comments (20)

Mr. Krinkie. Stop whining about the possibility of having those with the highest incomes here in Minnesota paying the same percentage of the proceeds of each hour of their daily work as the rest of the residents of the state pay.

Once those who profit most from the infrastructure the rest of us pay a higher percentage of the fruits of our labors to support than those at the top pay, and the question is then raised about having those at the top pay a GREATER percentage than the rest of us, I will start listening to you.

But until the Minnesota tax system is equalized so that those at the top pay at least as high a percentage of total taxes/fees/etc. as the rest of us, YOU'RE the ones who are WHINING about the very possibility you might be required to pay your fair share. (And the rest of us are growing a bit tired of how pathetic you've been sounding for the past couple of decades).

Phil,

Pawlenty's very own spokesmen said his cuts would cost at least 3100 jobs. Should those 3100 people all stop whining? Is protecting you and me from a tiny sacrifice worth 3100+ people losing their entire income and benefits?

3100 job loses because of a stubbornness and outright refusal to compromise somewhere between $0 and $1 billion in revenue tax increases? Anyway, those mayors and officials were elected to advocate for their cities or areas. Are you suggesting they just quit?

The taxpayer league is doing its very best to destroy everything that made this state great and turn us into the next Mississippi. Phil, if you could personally or through tax payer league funds, send postcards to all 3100+ people who will lose their jobs and tell them that they should stop whining that would be great. Just tell those unemployed that their sacrifice was worth it because it saved you a couple hundred bucks. I am sure they will be happy then.

Sigh. The headline grabbed me, but then I saw that the author was Phil Krinkie. It was hard to read on from there.

But let's make sure it gets said again: Pawlenty created the crisis when he simultaneously vetoed the revenue bill and signed the budget. An honest politician who respected constitutional balance of power would have either vetoed both, or signed both.

An honest politician also would not have run from accountability before creating the crisis.

Krinkie can call it whining. I call it a demand for integrity.

Nice piece Phil.

Do you think this might also be a good opportunity for Governor Pawlenty to unallot the "billions and billions in wasted state spending" that he claimed since his days as majority leader in the legislature?

As governor, Pawlenty is now in a leadership position and as such this is his opportunity to put some action to all that political rhetoric that he has been claiming over the years.

Or is it a fact that all those "billions and billions in wasted state spending" is not as easily found as he has claimed over the years.

Here's why politics are broken in Minnesota: I saw the byline on this article and knew immediately that I did not have to read it in order to know what was being said.

Krinkie is the worst of the worst. If it's a Republican idea, it's brilliant. If it's a Democrat idea, it's garbage.

And if someone is saying something bad about one of those brilliant Republican ideas, it must be whining.

Well, this type of rhetoric got us into this mess, and it probably won't get us out of it.

MinnPost, I appreciate the forum for all voices. But, come on. You can do better than this partisan hack.

Just want to add a few corrections to your piece, Phil.

First you wrote,

"As soon as the governor finished his press conference, the official whining started."

I think you meant, "As soon as the governor started his press conference, the official whining started."

and second, you wrote,

"The payment delay has been used several times in the past and was even included in the DFL's legislation passed this session."

The truth is that the DFL legislature only included the school payment shift as an attempt to meet Pawlenty half-way. It's stupid policy that screws up the cash flow for school systems across the state. Pass-the-buck Pawlenty was unwilling to bend even an inch (despite being narrowly elected twice, in a state that overwhelmingly voted Democrat last year).

I disagree with the phrasing, but agree with your sentiment. Minnesota is 5th or 6th highest in per capita tax percentages. I don't think raising taxes when we're already so high is a good idea.

I do think the legislature has no excuse for complaining. They had their opportunity to pass a balanced budget and failed.

The cuts aren't fair, but life isn't fair. It's not fair for the 10% of people who are currently unemployed. We just can't afford those 3100 people.

Greg - workers pay more as a percentage than the wealthy because we will get more back as a percentage than the wealthy when we retire.

Alec - who are you to force me to make that tiny sacrifice?

I'll stop whining about Governor Pawlenty's unallotments if you stop whining about President Obama's health care reform.

There was a recent report that 'liberal' is not the dirty word it once was among the electorate. It seems that nationwide the GOP is making efforts to tarnish the Dems as 'whiners' now.

In short, rather than defending their policies as being appropriate, the goal is to insted instill in voters' minds that Dems are just a bunch of whiners unwilling to make tough decisions. Left unsaid, of course, is that Republicans like Governor Pawlenty are similarly reluctant to make tough decisions - so rather than living up to his promise of cutting his way to a balanced budget, he instead shifted spending around - leaving the same enormous deficit for the next Governor that he's failed to fix for six years running.

The Repubs still like to disparage 'tax and spend' liberals, while applauding their own 'borrow and spend' policies. If they really believed in small government, Gov Pawlenty would have cut much more aggressively than he has. Instead, they're admitting that the voters actually want government services; but the GOP is unwilling to tell us it will cost us money to get those services. Dems may be whiners, but Repubs are wimps who won't give it to us straight.

Dr. No is the biggest whiner in Minnesota and has been since he was elected as the "No New Taxes" and "No Old Taxes" candidate in the 1990s. Never mind that he works for a group that would essentially do away with all taxes and let everybody fend for themselves.

This is a just a rehash of the basically discredited line from the Governor's office except he isn't even taking responsibility for the job losses the governor has acknowledged will happen.

I remember a few years ago that he was on Minnesota Public Radio saying that an increase in his personal taxes would hurt his business, even though the two taxes are essentially separate. If he spent more on his business he wouldn't have to pay taxes on the money. He brings to the Taxpayers League of Minnesota the same kind of understanding of Minnesota tax structure that got us into this mess in the first places.

The article is (according to Microsoft) 867 words in length.

May I suggest that the essence of this article could have been more eloquently captured in four words:

"Let them eat cake."

The solution can't always be "Let's not raise taxes," either.

"This accounting gimmick has been around since the state ran into budget problems in the early 1980s. Instead of making payments to school districts in June, payments are delayed until August. The payment delay has been used several times in the past and was even included in the DFL's legislation passed this session. Let's stop whining about this! It's become an accepted practice in the halls of the Capitol."

The education shift was a governor's proposal, that the DFL accepted. Whether or not shifts have been around since the 1980's they are dishonest politics and bad policy. Basically, they are an exercise in deception for which the public is later presented a bill.

Nope, looks like the whining will continue awhile longer Phil. The Democrat party faithful have been stockpiling crocodile tears against a smackdown like this for years.

Inchoate, hypocritical babbling is best left to stew in it's own juices, but this is one I'll take on any day:

"3100 job loses because of a stubbornness and outright refusal to compromise somewhere between $0 and $1 billion in revenue tax increases?"

How about let's try 3100 job losses because of an unquenchable greed that drives public employee unions to outright refuse to acknowledge the financial hardships the rest of the country is dealing with, or to have enough compassion for their own ilk to pitch in and help keep them employed.

If AFSCME and MAPE, and EdMN showed up in the Governor's office today and said they'd be willing to accept pay and benefit cuts (like so many of us have done in the real world), they could save thousands of their co-workers from layoffs.

Yeah, and pigs will fly.

Personally, I prefer they stay the course of greed. Too many so-called fiscally conservative politicians have shown a lack of intestinal fortitude when it comes to reducing the size of Government, Inc.

By drawing their cynical line in the sand, the public unions are handing them a once in a life time gift.

In the mean time, by all means; cry us a river.

"Leadership" means having an objective and working with all parties to achieve a common goal. Pawlenty drawing a line in the sand in January and refusing to budge is hardly leadership. Given the constitutionality of the "un-allotment" process is in question, his "backup plan" is hardly outside the reaches of criticism. Government is out of control, but making cuts that are directly passed on to the taxpayer in a time of financial hardship is hardly the answer. Yeah, so what if people get dropped from public health care, it's their problem after all, right? Until they show up at the emergency room and we end up paying the bill anyway through our health insurance premiums. The bills compiled under these scenarios are often preventable and total costs could be reduced. But instead, we have "hero" politicians like Pawlenty who pass the buck in hopes people are dumb enough to swallow the "no new taxes" mantra the right so self-righteously promotes to further their political careers and keep the campaign contributions flowing in. Mr. Krinkie, you and the GOP party need a major overhaul whereby "limited government" is not just a cute catch phrase. Corporatism is hardly 'small government.' I'd also like to invite you to step away from the keyboard and tell struggling Minnesotans to their FACE that they are "whiners." You'd need an ER visit yourself. Your party, and all politicians, are wildly out of touch with everyday people. If your little opinion piece does anything well, it showcases this disconnect.

Many Minnesotans are struggling.

Some have determined to do whatever it takes to get through these tough times, others are squirting tears all over the rug and stamping their little feet.

We call the first group "adults", the second group can accurately be described as whining children.

Here's a clue for the latter: The only thing screaming "You're mean, and I hate you" earned you as a six year old was an early bedtime with no dinner.

It won't work any better now that you're a 30 something child either.

There are so many things wrong wit Krinkies assertions that it takes an entire blog post to go through them point by point.
http://www.mnpact.org/sblog/blog.php?id=1786

Krinkie,

You're cuts are and have been killing Minnesotans and inflicting suffering on the weakest and most defenseless people in our state. When you guys knock tens of thousands of people out of health care, you kill someone. Obviously you're twisted moral compass directs you to inflict pain and death on people instead of raising their taxes, so be it. But to demand that we suffer your assault without compliant or protest? I remind you sir that this is the United States of America, not a fascist dictatorship. If you don't want to hear from the people, then please please please do us all a favor and don't pretend to work for the people.

It'll all get resolved when the "whining" gets expressed in the voting box. I think people like Krinkie and Pawlenty seriously underestimate the disgust many of us, including some of us former republicans, have toward the mean spirited, "I've got mine, to hell with everyone else." attitude of today's GOP.

Why must politicians “spin” the facts when they try to make an argument? Wouldn’t it be great if politicians and political think-tank writers could be truthful and objective?

In this, Phil Krinkie’s latest missive, he states: “The $1.77 billion K-12 education shift: This accounting gimmick has been around since the state ran into budget problems in the early 1980s. Instead of making payments to school districts in June, payments are delayed until August. The payment delay has been used several times in the past and was even included in the DFL’s legislation passed this session. Let’s stop whining about this. It’s become an accepted practice in the halls of the Capitol.”

Not true!

Phil, here is a corrected statement: The $1.77 billion K-12 education shift: This accounting gimmick has been around since the state ran into budget problems in the early 1980s. Monthly payments to school districts are reduced by the percentage of the shift throughout the year. The withheld amount is then paid to the districts during September and October of the following school year.

That’s quite a bit different from the “reality” you tried to paint, and it will have a big impact on school districts. Why should I stop whining about it? What other “spins” have you introduced into your arguments?

I fault both the Democratic legislature and the governor for failing to work collaboratively. It seems real compromise on the part of both liberals and conservatives is not a part of the political toolkit anymore.

But when you politicians and media types write to make a point, could you at least please be truthful?