Had a friend tease me earlier this week about focusing a bit too much on the recount. “What about the state budget deficit?” he whined. “That will be the big local political story in 2009!”
He’s right, of course, though our excuse is the budget forecast won’t be out until Dec. 4. Anyway, MPR reports this afternoon that Gov. Tim Pawlenty (who should know) talked of a “substantial” multi-billion deficit.
Considering Wisconsin just announced a $5 billion deficit, how bad could Minnesota’s be? Informally, I’ve heard numbers ranging from $3 billion to $5 billion, clustered around $4 billion.
How big is that? Six years ago, Pawlenty erased a $4.23 billion deficit through shifts, cuts and fees. (As MPR noted then, “Senate Majority Leader John Hottinger said Democrats became convinced Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, was prepared to shut down the government rather than break his pledge not to raise taxes.”)
Local governments saw their state aid cut by 25 percent (which especially nailed poorer and more urban communities), and basic per-pupil aid stayed flat, though overall K-12 spending fell 2 percent.
This time around, we don’t have a billion-dollar tobacco fund to drain, and we’ve already exploited a lot of the wait-til-next-year funding shifts. Tax hikes? DFLers have all but ruled them out, and Pawlenty isn’t looking any more moderate about raising them.
In other words, it’ll be ugly, and we’ll look back at this recount with nostalgia.