Pawlenty’s health funds turn-down critiqued

Policy- and budget-watchers were swift to criticize Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s decision earlier today to issue an executive order directing state agencies to turn down all discretionary money connected to what he called the “misguided” U.S. health-care reform. 

Vowing to “slow down, limit or negate Obamacare” in Minnesota, the governor said state agencies should refrain from applying for federal grants in 15 arenas.

“It’s hard to see how in the budget situation we have now turning down funds is beneficial,” said Nan Madden, director of the Minnesota Budget Project. The funding in question is not earmarked directly for services; it’s intended to help states comply with the changes called for under the much-debated health-care reform passed by Congress earlier this year. In addition to establishing a state insurance exchange, the funding would pay for things like insurance reform and structural changes to state programs.

“The money that is on the table right now is about making the transition to a new health-care marketplace,” said Madden.

“This is where, whether or not you like the reform, we as a state have the obligation to implement these changes,” she added. “The administration’s job is to implement this in the way that gets the best results for Minnesota.”

On Monday, Pawlenty turned down $850,000 earmarked for sex education but accepted $500,000 for funding controversial abstinence-only programming. The federal government would have provided 100 percent of the sex-ed funding, but Minnesota must put up nearly $380,000 to get the abstinence-only grant.  

Minnesota stopped funding abstinence promotion three years ago after health officials concluded that it wasn’t effective. Pawlenty has been a consistent supporter of the approach.

In his executive order, Pawlenty called the health-care reform “a dramatic attempt to assert federal command and control over this country’s health care system” and a bad idea in the face of the mounting U.S. deficit.

The governor, who has four months left in office, acknowledged that his successor might choose to ask for the money.

National pundits, such as ABC News’ Rick Klein and Time’s Kate Pickert, suggested that one possible motive could be to differentiate Pawlenty from the rest of the already crowded pack of possible 2012 Republican presidential candidates. A reform package pushed by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney served as model for the national reform.

Madden, too, accused Pawlenty of putting politics ahead of sound policy. “The federal health care reform has passed and it is what is happening,” she said. “He may wish it didn’t, but it’s done.”

Comments (9)

  1. Submitted by dan buechler on 08/31/2010 - 06:29 pm.

    What is the penalty for disobeying the governor?

  2. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 08/31/2010 - 08:50 pm.

    The governor is a relic of another era regarding sex education.

  3. Submitted by Cecil North on 09/01/2010 - 10:41 am.

    Too bad the Governor insists on playing political games to garner cheap points with the Tea Party for his upcoming presidential run, all the while turning his back on the needs of Minnesotans. Even worse that his cynical approach to sex ed will not only cost Minnesotans more, but will predictably lead to more unwanted pregnancies and abortions.

  4. Submitted by Craig Westover on 09/01/2010 - 11:40 am.

    “On Monday, Pawlenty turned down $850,000 earmarked for sex education but accepted $500,000 for funding controversial abstinence-only programming. The federal government would have provided 100 percent of the sex-ed funding, but Minnesota must put up nearly $380,000 to get the abstinence-only grant.”

    Have to be consistent. This move will not be popular with Tea Party people who recognize the problem is the expanded scope of the federal government — funding programs without any constitutional authority. There is no constitutional authority for federal involvement in education, let alone micromanagement of sex education.

    Values are not principles. Pawlenty’s principles are progressive; his values are conveniently conservative.

  5. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 09/01/2010 - 02:06 pm.

    I hope those who are complaining about the Obama Administration funding broadly-based sex education were complaining as bitterly when the Bush Regime defunded such education and refused to fund anything BUT the abstinence only approach (now proved to be a failure nationwide). THAT was micromanaging sex education.

    The real injury to Minnesota, here, is that the funds King Timmy is demanding his department heads not apply for are being made available to assist the state with changes MANDATED by the Health Care Act.

    In doing so, he is turning these changes into what EVERY government hates, UNFUNDED mandates. These changes will have to be made. They will cost the citizens of the state money.

    That expense of making these changes will now serve to increase the state deficit rather than being covered by the federal government and therefore deficit neutral.

    THANKS KING TIMMY! I always love it when you steal money out of my bank account and the bank accounts of my fellow citizens for no purpose but to further your own already-hopeless, completely useless political ambitions.

  6. Submitted by Swanson Painter on 09/01/2010 - 02:15 pm.

    This is more than unfortunate. It is an outrage. The Gov. is attempting to use his position to harm Minnesotan’s needing health care to further his own political gains.
    He will NOT be successful as a candidate for President. He has not been able to raise the money or name recognition necessary to attract voters.
    He will easily be outspent by Mitt Romney who is laying the groundwork right now to become the next Republican nominee. Pawlenty won’t even be considered for the Vice President. He has nothing to offer the Republican Party except his “no taxes”.
    This state has voted consistently for Democrats, has a Democratic House and Senate, and even managed to put Sen. Al Franken in office.
    This political move shows us where his loyalties lie, and it is not with the welfare of the people of Minnesota.

  7. Submitted by Ginny Martin on 09/01/2010 - 03:13 pm.

    He is a loser, in the memorable words of a friend. He is costing the state money while he refuses to do what’s good for Minnesota.
    Why would anyone think he would do what’s good
    for Americans in the unlikely event he is president.

  8. Submitted by Lyn Crosby on 09/01/2010 - 06:53 pm.

    We have,what, over 200,000 unemployed Minnesotans; and our governor turns down millions in health care funds?? Oh, but he puts out $380m to get a (net) $120,000 for “abstinence only” programs. Does anyone think this
    MIGHT be related to some office he’s running for?

    He also calls it “intrusion by the federal government”. Well let’s do away with laws that say who/when/where can have an abortion or who/when/where can marry!!

    I hope if he ever becomes the nominee his home state votes for the other/another candidate!!

  9. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 09/01/2010 - 06:54 pm.

    Article XIII of our state constitution needs some review by the legislature.

    One person should not be allowed to declare himself The Decider and carry out policies that harm people, most often people who are poor and/or homeless and/or chronically ill, but in the case of the federal health care bill small business owners, unemployed children under age 26 of insured parents, seniors who fall into the doughnut hole, and no doubt others.

    At present, the governor can be impeached only for the commission of a crime. Perhaps policies that everyone knows WILL harm Minnesotans should be recognized as sufficient cause for impeachment.

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