There was pomp. There was ceremony. There were soldiers and patrol officers and Boy Scouts.
The Senate came into the House chamber to applause.
The constitutional officers came in to applause.
The Supreme Court justices came in to applause.
And even the seldom-seen Lt. Gov, Carol Molnau, drew a little applause when she was introduced.
But, as often has been the case, after Gov. Tim Pawlenty was introduced — to applause, of course — he ended up delivering a flat State of the State address.
Only Sen. Dave Senjem, the Senate minority leader, seemed impressed. And the Minnesota Republican Party, which issued a statement praising the governor’s “bold and innovative proposals.”
“Exciting speech,” Senjem said. “These are challenging times. He offered challenging solutions. If we do the same old things in the same old ways, we’ll end up with the same old results.”
But, in fact, the governor was offering the same old things in the same old ways, and the end result — heavy partisan bickering and a budget mess — are almost assured.
Even most Republicans seemed somewhat surprised by the lack of passion in Pawlenty’s speech, which was read from teleprompters.
“I saw him look up to his wife,” said Rep. Tom Emmer, one of many candidates hoping to succeed the governor. “Maybe, you know, it [the flatness] was something to do with that farewell tour business.”
There was one new element to this cut-taxes, cut-government speech.
After spending a few minutes attacking the ability of government to accomplish anything, the governor suggested that public schools in each city be turned over to the respective mayors Minneapolis and St. Paul.
“I support giving mayors the accountability and full control,” Pawlenty said, “and I mean full control, of the Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts. Short of that, however, I’ve directed the Department of Education to use existing authority to create an Office of Turnaround Schools …”
This idea had everyone in the chamber scratching their heads: Where’d that come from?
DFLers suspect nothing will come of this effort, which seemingly would politicize education issues even more than they are.
Typically, the governor tosses out ideas in his State of the State speech and then they’re never heard from again, said House Majority Leader Tony Sertich. “He’s not emotionally invested, I think, in his own ideas.,” he said.
Certainly, the governor didn’t seem emotionally invested in his final State of the State speech.
“A rehash of his first speech,” said Sertich.
Hockey humor and exchanges
Oh, there was some humor.
Pawlenty had a little advice for whoever will replace him: “Schedule a monthly haircut to manage your mullet,” he said, to chuckles.
And this: “Before you take the microphone at a Minnesota Wild game, carefully practice pronouncing the word ‘puck,’ ” Pawlenty said. (He muffed that one once, to hilarious results.)
Afterward, House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, also a gubernatorial candidate, noted that as a hockey mom, she has “no trouble pronouncing ‘puck.’ ”
Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, too, used the hockey reference to get in a nifty little dig at the hockey-loving governor, noting that Pawlenty had played “on the junior varsity”while growing up in South St. Paul.
But other than these little asides, there was little in the speech for anybody to talk about. The serious conversation is expected to come Monday, when Pawlenty presents his proposal for dealing with the $1.2 billion budget deficit in the current biennium.
The governor did make it clear that he wants the Legislature to support his unallotments from the end of last session. (That’s not going to happen.) He also made it clear that he plans to balance the budget through cuts.
“On Monday, you’ll see my plan to solve the additional budget deficit identified in the November budget forecast,” the governor said. “It will include very dramatic and painful spending reductions. While programs for the military, veterans, core public safety functions and K-12 classrooms will be protected, nearly all other areas will be proposed for reductions.”
Oh, and by the way, despite the deficit, Pawlenty wants to cut a variety of business and investment taxes.
It should be noted that many DFLers, including Sen. Tom Bakk, yet another candidate for governor and head of the Senate Tax Committee, supports many of those business tax cuts as a way of spurring job growth.
“The governor and I talked about that last year,” said Bakk. “We’ll continue to talk. But what he never says is how he’ll pay for those cuts? He never talks about a way to bring in new revenue.”
There was none of that talk in today’s speech, either.
Rather, there were lines he now uses in his stump speeches in his travels across the country, particularly that government needs to get out of the way so private enterprise can create jobs.
But, like everything else in his speech, he didn’t even summon up passion for those thoughts.
The biggest thing missing on this day of pomp and ceremony, it turned out, was emotion.
Pogemiller’s summary: “Boilerplate Tim Pawlenty.”
Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.