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Take our lieutenant governor, please

Like Rodney Dangerfield, lieutenant governors just don’t get much respect. Often relegated to ribbon-cutting ceremonies (and for a while, in Minnesota, transportation commissioner, but we saw how that worked out), the No. 2 official in state government seems to spend lots of time waiting in the wings in case something happens to No. 1.

State Rep. Phyllis Kahn, a feisty DFLer from Minneapolis, saw an opportunity there and proposed to kill the position. It would save the $78,000 salary each year, as well as some support costs, and she suggested making the secretary of state the go-to guy or gal if the governor is unable to serve.

But Kahn’s idea didn’t fly. It was killed in committee Thursday on a  9-7 vote, reports the House Public Information Services:

“I think this is an easy choice … to eliminate, compared to the very hard choices that we’re going to have to make,” [Kahn said in support of her plan].

David Schultz, a professor at the Hamline University School of Business, said 42 states have lieutenant governors. “There seems to be no discernible pattern that states without a lieutenant governor are better or worse governed that those with lieutenant governors,” he said.

Rep. Steve Gottwalt (R-St. Cloud) said the positions of secretary of state and lieutenant governor are separate, and voters elect them based on different reasons.

Rep. Paul Marquart (DFL-Dilworth) said when voters go to the polls, they are voting for a political philosophy. There should be a continuation of the voters’ intentions and it shouldn’t be changed unless through an election, he said.

A companion, SF98, sponsored by Sen. Ann Rest (DFL-New Hope), awaits action by the Senate State and Local Government Operations and Oversight Committee.

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Tim Bonham on 02/20/2010 - 10:27 pm.

    ‘killed in committee by a 9-7 vote…’

    Wouldn’t it be some useful information if you told us who the 9 votes were?

  2. Submitted by Steve Rose on 02/22/2010 - 08:10 am.

    I don’t really care whether or not the state has a lieutenant governor. However, let’s not discuss the issue as a way to balance the budget. The $78,000 salary is 3 thousandths of 1% (0.003%) with respect to the 2010 budget deficit of $2.6 billion.

    If we were serious about reducing the size and cost of government, we would consider a unicameral legislature, like that of Nebraska.

  3. Submitted by Dick Novack on 02/22/2010 - 08:13 am.

    Betcha we could fill 1000 potholes for that $78,000 – likely 10,000 if we count “support costs.”

    But Reps. Marquardt and Gottwalt are wrong if they think political philosophy and continuity meet in Gov. & Lt. Gov. The current Gov Pawlenty and (now invisible) Lt. Carol Molneau are very very different people, as were the two officials in nearly every administration since we started electing them as a team ala the national government. Running mates are chosen for numerous reasons, the least of which is identical philosophy. Usually just the opposite so they can draw a wider voter base.

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