Gov. Tim Pawlenty and House Minority Leader Rep. Kurt Zellers gave one of their “black is white” press briefings after Pawlenty agreed to a budget deal Sunday night. They claimed the principle they followed in the budget deal was “do no harm.”
That must mean no harm to Pawlenty’s hope of gaining the Republican nomination for president. Most Minnesotans, however, will find tough times just got tougher — for vulnerable people, for businesses, for hospitals, for cities, for schoolchildren, for jobs and for taxpayers.
By rejecting the Medicaid option, Pawlenty blocked efforts to do right by the tens of thousands of Minnesotans he had placed in health-care limbo. He rejected a plan that would have returned financial stability to health care and hospital services. He rejected the 20,000 private sector jobs that the plan the DFL sought would have provided. He turned his back on $1.4 billion of desperately needed federal dollars. He seems to think federal aid is tainted money. He’s right. It’s money that taint coming here.
The budget cuts will take thousands of paychecks off of Main Street. Small businesses need many more customers to keep their head above water. Now they will have fewer. Minnesota has 10 jobseekers for every job opening. That ratio just got worse. Cutting jobs is the last thing one should do in tough times, but that is what Pawlenty insisted on — again. Minnesota has fewer jobs today than when Pawlenty became governor. He has been the job-killingest governor in recent history.
A state-sponsored brain drain
To Pawlenty, there is nothing about a bad economy that fewer police officers, teachers, and university professors can’t cure. In the last two years, the University of Minnesota has had to cut 1,200 positions. Pawlenty has instituted a state-sponsored brain drain.
Tim Pawlenty doesn’t want to be Ronald Reagan. He wants to be Herbert Hoover.
The Pawlenty-imposed budget deal added another $200 million to the amount of state payments to schools that will be postponed. Yet Pawlenty would not agree with the DFL plan on providing a plan for repayment. That is a job Pawlenty said he will leave for the next governor — along with a massive projected deficit and countless IOUs.
When the new governor first enters the governor’s office, it will be like entering a hoarder’s home — crammed to the gills with unpaid bills, warning notices from bond rating agencies, and crumpled up Supreme Court rulings. The new governor’s first job won’t be measuring the drapes. It will be figuring out how to head off a sheriff’s sale.
Pawlenty said the deal means no new taxes. No new taxes, that is, unless one owns a home or rents an apartment. Under Pawlenty, property taxes have gone up 68 percent. Rather than removing the income tax cuts at the top that after 10 years still have produced no jobs, he slashed the renters credit. The $350 million in cuts to local government aid means property tax increases — again.
Unemployment is the highest in Greater Minnesota. Yet Pawlenty rejected the advice of Republican mayors and local Chambers of Commerce around the state to keep the jobs they have and instead Pawlenty made the job-killing cuts to local aid. Thanks to the backing Pawlenty got from Minority Leader Kurt Zellers and House Republicans, the cuts stuck.
Zellers said his caucus’s approach was “do no harm.” Republicans certainly did no harm to those at the top. Everyone else pretty much got creamed.
Wayne Cox is executive director of Minnesota Citizens for Tax Justice.