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MN spending: What’s ‘appropriate and responsible’?

“While the rest of country is trying to live within their means, the economy is growing slowly and folks’ household paychecks aren’t growing very fast, Democrats in the state of Minnesota feel bent on raising taxes and growing spending way beyond the economy. That’s not appropriate or responsible, and I’m not going to stand for it.” – Gov. Tim Pawlenty

Since Gov. Tim Pawlenty took office, he has certainly put the lid on taxes – and has most definitely cut back on government spending. But he never talks about the real cost of all that to real people:

Health care: In Minnesota, the number of uninsured increased from 7.9 percent in 2005 to 9.2 percent in 2006.

Food stamps: The number of people on food stamps has increased 33.5 percent under Pawlenty.

Special education: Prior to Pawlenty’s cuts, the state was paying about 65 percent of special education costs – an inadequate number to begin with. But under Pawlenty, the state share had dropped to 60 percent by 2007, putting further burdens on school districts.

Local government aid: A large part of Pawlenty’s budget balancing act, without tax increases, has been to cut state payments to local governments. They, in turn, have had to cut services or raise property taxes to meet shortfalls. And, of course, they get the criticism of our governor for their efforts.

Legislature stepped up
Transportation: The governor has known about the transportation problem for years, yet he refused to make the hard decisions about getting desperately needed new revenue. His plan to borrow billions of dollars from future revenues is ironic. The Pawlenty quotation cited above was in regard to the bonding bill he considered excessive (and subjected to line-item vetoes on Monday).

Economy: Under Pawlenty, the economy has fallen behind the national average – as if the average weren’t bad enough. Thousands of jobs have been lost, and the governor still contends that his JOBZ program is working – even though the Legislative Auditor’s assessment found its success overstated. And the Chamber of Commerce was so concerned about business being affected by the transportation crisis that it supported the veto override of the 2008 transportation bill.

We all try to live within our means, but we also have to make repairs. We have to deal with increasing costs — and, most important, we have to plan ahead. The governor has neglected all of that, and Minnesota is paying a high price for it.

Instead of criticizing the Legislature, he should be thanking lawmakers for making the hard decisions. It all drips with irony: The political career of Pawlenty will move up because legislators had the audacity to fix what the governor could not.
David Mindeman is a blogger for mnpACT!, a south metro political committee promoting progressive politics and candidates.

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