After months of linking Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer to the policies of Gov. Tim Pawlenty, DFL chairman Brian Melendez this morning noted the differences between the two political leaders and wondered, “Where does the Republican Party stand?”
At a Capitol news conference, Melendez noted that Emmer has been saying that there’s fundamentally not a state budget deficit even as Pawlenty’s administration is working to plug holes in the budget and solve potential cash flow problems by borrowing and delaying various payments.
In Emmer’s view, as stated along the campaign trail, there will be enough revenues coming into the state coffers to cover the necessary expenses. In his view, government spending is excessive. He has said a “deficit does not exist if you live within your means.”
He also has said that state revenues are growing at more than 7 percent, but spending is growing at about 17 percent. In Emmer’s view, the deficit — projected now at nearly $6 billion — can be tackled by “living within our means.”
He hasn’t detailed specific spending cuts but has said he will not increase taxes on anyone or anything. The first part of his budget plan was a “jobs agenda” that actually would cost the state about $600 million, but he said those tax incentives to businesses would eventually generate more jobs and thus more tax revenues.
(Most experts dispute Emmer’s no-deficit claim and note that the Legislature has already established spending going forward that requires about $6 billion more in payouts than the expected amount of tax revenues. That means either a boost or broadening of taxes, or massive cuts to programs, most experts say.)
Melendez said that in a debate in Duluth earlier this week Emmer vowed to release his budget plan by this Friday. The deal, proposed by Dayton, was supposedly this: Dayton would have his budget plan vetted by the State Revenue Department and Emmer would release a full budget plan by Friday.
An examination of the video of the debate does show a handshake between the men, but Emmer never says, “Yes,” to the Dayton deal. He shakes his head but then rails into Dayton.
Squishy is the best way to describe what was promised by Emmer.
Later, in a question to the candidates from the audience, Emmer was pressed if he was making a commitment to releasing a plan by Friday. He dodged the question, saying only his total plan would be out in the next couple of weeks.
In any event, Melendez’s key point this morning was that Gov. Pawlenty has acknowledged the existence of a real and pending state budget deficit while Emmer hasn’t.
“For the past week, the Republican Party has been trying to have their cake and eat it, too,” Chair Melendez said. “Where does the Republican Party stand?”
In response to a question about the Emmer-Pawlenty relationship, Melendez said that Emmer and Pawlenty had been “peas in a pod up to this point, and now they’ve split.”
In recent debates and news conferences, Emmer has clearly distanced himself from Gov. Pawlenty, noting that Emmer’s plans and ideas are his and not the governor’s.
“Tom Emmer and Gov. Pawlenty don’t see eye-to-eye on everything,” Emmer communications director Carl Kuhl told MinnPost today. “They’re two different people, and that’s going to continue.”
Meanwhile, Minnesota Republican Party spokesman Mark Drake told MinnPost in an email: “The Emmer campaign has said they will release their budget by the middle of next week. It will be the only balanced budget presented.”