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.”