Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Pawlenty Impressive- To Himself


Herewith, a one-question multiple-choice test.

Tim Pawlenty's economic message (transcript here) delivered yesterday:

a) radical
b) dishonest
c) irresponsible
d) all of the above

It's no surprise that the answer is d- all of the above. The former Minnesota governor is running for the Repub nomination for President and unless he has changed his first name to Willard, it was a good bet that his remarks would be radical, dishonest, and irresponsible.

Consider Pawlenty's claim to responsible economic stewardship:

I know government can cut spending. Because I did it in Minnesota. I cut state spending in real terms for the first time in our state’s history. We did it with priority-based budgeting. We did it by setting a record for vetoes. It took a government shutdown. And a long government union strike. But we got it done.

We didn’t close our schools. Or empty out our prisons. We cut spending where it needed to be cut. We can do the same thing in Washington.

Tom Scheck of Minnesota Public Radio
presents a different picture, noting that upon leaving office a few months ago, Pawlenty was

leaving Democratic Gov.-elect Mark Dayton and the Republicans ready to take control of the Legislature with a $6.2 billion budget deficit in the coming biennium.

Pawlenty called the massive budget hole a work of "fiction." That's a dramatic departure from 2003 -- when Pawlenty characterized the $4.5 billion budget deficit he was inheriting as "the Incredible Hulk of budget deficits."

Pawlenty has wrestled with budget problems since he first took office. It's partly due to a sputtering economy, but it's also due to the failure to enact permanent spending cuts or tax increases that would have balanced the budget over the long-term. That failure meant a budget roller coaster that went mostly downhill over the past eight years.


Although- or because- Pawlenty eschewed increases in broad-based taxes, he continually increased fees, including (but not limited to) on cigarettes, parking tickets, marriage licenses, building permits, court cases, college tuition. While fees doubled during his tenure, property taxes increased by 65% and state and local taxes increased for all but the wealthiest 10% of Minnesotans. The tax burden on residents of his state did not decline but was shifted, onto the middle class and especially onto local property taxpayers.

Nevertheless, the state cuts in spending forced some districts into 4-day school weeks. Health care, also cut by Governor Pawlenty, took a direct hit, with the number of state residents lacking health insurance increasing from 6.1% in 2001 to 9.1% in 2009, according to Scheck.

Cuts to government-subsidized health insurance and public education were not sufficient to close Governor Pawlenty's recent budgets, admittedly established during the recent recession. But instead of raising taxes in a responsible if limited fashion, Pawlenty relied on one-time fixes. In his next-to-last budget, 41% of the budget gap was filled by such gimmicks- second only to that in Alaska. (Gee, who might have been the governor there?).

Tim Pawlenty asserts "I did it in Minnesota." That is not a promise. That is a threat.




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