The American Spectator gets Minnesota’s budget battle wrong

I’m not sure if this qualifies for our new “Pawlenty Watch” tag, since it was said about our governor, not by him, but the American Specator stumbles in its recent TPaw ode.

Writes Spectator contributor Nicole Russell:

At the end of this last legislative session, Pawlenty demanded his Democrat-controlled legislature balance the budget or he would. Not only had Democrats passed budget bills that left a $3 billion gap in income and expenditures, but they wanted to increase taxes on their fellow Minnesotans on everything from alcohol and music downloads, including income taxes for every bracket.

That’s not true. Russell asserts that DFLers sent Pawlenty an unbalanced budget that also raised taxes. While the DFL’s tax bill came together like the Keystone Cops, the tax increases were there so revenues and spending balanced.

The governor then vetoed the tax hikes, unbalancing the budget and opening the door to unallotment. (I can’t argue with Russell’s evaluation that Pawlenty outwitted his opponents.)

To give Russell the benefit of the doubt, one could argue that the DFL’s budget didn’t balance because it also shifted $1.7 billion in K-12 spending to the next biennium. But Pawlenty ultimately employed the same shift, so you’d have to say he didn’t balance his budget, either.

The Spectator is a very conservative publication, reflexively opposed to all things tax hike. Russell could’ve simply lauded Pawlenty for holding the line on state rates (despite the local property tax implications and the $7 billion structural imbalance a successor faces in 2011-12). She didn’t have to gild this particular rightwing lily.

There other eyebrow-raisers in the piece, such as Russell’s assertion that Minnesotans are flocking to the GOP because they’re finally seeing the value of TPaw’s conservative principles. Still, such a guess is fair comment, beyond the purview of a fact-check.

Although it’s early, this is the time in a presidential race when myths are made, and often prove hard to eradicate later. For example, Time’s Real Clear Politics blog unquestioningly linked to Russell’s take; hopefully they’ll probe further.

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Henry Wolff on 08/13/2009 - 04:30 pm.

    Neither MAK nor LP nor the American Spectator can keep up with him.

  2. Submitted by Pat Garofalo on 08/14/2009 - 10:34 am.

    David –
    Thank you for the column. As a legislator, I’m usually hesitant to post a comment on these matters. However, your article contains a factual inaccuracy. The legislature absolutely, positively did not send the Governor a balanced budget.

    If you add up the cost of the bills the legislature sent the Governor and then compare it to the tax increases sent to the Governor, they do not balance. Not even close. Even if the Governor signed the tax increases the Democrats sent him, it still would not have paid for all the spending sent to him by the legislature.

    I’d be happy to provide the spending amounts of each bill if you’d like. But hell, it’s Friday. We should all be on the golf course. 🙂

    Everyone – have a great weekend!

  3. Submitted by Reggie McGurt on 08/18/2009 - 11:26 am.

    David,

    Did Rep. Garofalo ever get back to you with his data showing that the legislature submitted an unbalanced budget? Presumably he’s back from the golf course by now.

    I noticed that Rep. Garofalo’s comment seems very carefully worded, stating that the increases in the tax bill did not equal the increases in the spending bills. That’s not the same as submitting an unbalanced budget. I wonder if Rep. Garofalo is not counting the school payment shift.

    More information would be helpful, since all sides are putting their spin on this issue. What is clear is that the next governor will have to clean up the mess created this session.

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