All that talk of civility between the governor and the Minnesota legislature a few days ago?
Forget it. The undertone of growing frustration and anger was evident this afternoon.
First, Gov. Tim Pawlenty vowed that he will use the power of line-item vetoes and the funding unallotment process to make sure that there is “no special session [and] no government shutdown.”
Pawlenty said he’s still looking for ways “to find common ground’’ with the Legislature but failing that, he’ll use his executive powers to balance the budget: He’ll sign the spending bills approved by the DFL-controlled Legislature that cross his desk and then go to work on balancing the budget.
He zeroed in on Local Government Aid and the Health and Human Services budgets as areas for major cuts in the omnibus bills that cross his desk. He also said that higher education and K-12 education will take hits. He also predicted that his plan would lead “to significant layoffs” of public employees.
Pawlenty said this has been “a contingency plan” he’s been contemplating for some time, but had hoped there would be a way to find “compromise” with the Legislature. As he has all week, Pawlenty pointed to a letter he gave to legislative leaders that he says was filled with compromise. That letter was quickly rejected by DFLers, who said it showed no real compromise at all.
It was the rejection of that letter — in which he proposed that he’d cut the size of the revenue bond he’s proposed and give up on the idea of creating a budget reserve — that led him to this new position.
“I want to be clear as to where this is headed,” he said. “No special sessions. No shutdowns. This session will be over at midnight [Monday]. It’s time for politics as usual to come to an end.”
House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher reacted calmly to the governor’s strong threats with a letter to Pawlenty.
“I would like to take this opportunity to once again invite you to come before the Legislative Commission on Planning and Fiscal Policy this evening to discuss your latest budget offer,” she wrote.
“According to your press availability this afternoon, your latest offer to solve our budget deficit implies that you will sign the budget bills sent to you by the House and Senate, and then proceed to unilaterally unallot portions of the state budget.
“As you clearly have been planning this course of action for some time. Minnesotans have a right to know how you plan to proceed with your unallotment strategy. It is best if this offer can be fully vetted in a public forum. … I await your reply and look forward to continuing our budget negotiations in a manner that is transparent to the public.”