Progress Without Pawlenty
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By Christopher Truscott
When Tim Pawlenty started his first term in 2003 with a solid Republican majority in the Legislature behind him, the message from the governor’s office was simple: My way or the highway.
Four years later, with the governor now in the first year of his second term, the political terrain has changed. DFLers now have firm control in both houses of the Legislature, but Pawlenty’s message remains basically the same.
Just as he did when he had a Republican-controlled House of Representatives to protect him, Pawlenty has maintained he’ll veto any responsible attempts by the Legislature to deliver much-needed property tax relief, increased education funding and transportation improvements.
Like a parrot, the governor has repeatedly signaled at every opportunity his intention to stand with the richest 1 percent of Minnesotans at the expense of everyone else. It’s a matter of “principle,” he told the Star Tribune.
There’s a touch of irony in the governor’s bluster this year. Four years ago an exacerbated Pawlenty lashed out at the DFL-controlled Senate for not doing enough.
“(The) bottom line is it’s easy for them to vote ‘no’ or criticize what we’re doing, but they’ve got an obligation to put together something that they can pass,” the governor said then.
The shoe is certainly on the other foot today, isn’t it? Even a casual observer can’t help but see the incredible hypocrisy in the situation.
While it’d be nice if Pawlenty was interested in governing for the entire state, rather than the minority who elected him in 2002 and 2006, that’s not going to happen. But at least we know where he stands – a small victory to be sure.
Fortunately, however, the governor’s office isn’t a necessary component in the fight for Minnesota’s future. The DFL is five votes short of the 90 required to override a veto in the House and just one vote short in the Senate.
In 2003, Marty Seifert, then a lesser-known member of the House, used a “Survivor” metaphor to help advance the Republican agenda.
“(The DFL was) voted off the island (in 2002),” he said. “The tribe has spoken.”
Fair enough. But by the same logic, the GOP was shown the door last year. In the name of consistency and intellectual honesty, shouldn’t the new House minority leader stand aside and allow the will of the voters to be carried out this year? After all, Senate DFLers did give Republicans the votes needed to pass a disastrous budget four years ago.
Just as we did in 2003, Minnesota faces serious challenges today. Fortunately we have quality solutions on the table.
A small income tax increase on the wealthiest Minnesotans – families making more than $400,000 a year and individuals taking in more than $220,000 annually – would generate hundreds of millions of dollars for property tax relief and increased education funding.
A 10-cent gas tax increase would bring in millions for improving our dilapidated transportation system. Nobody wants to pay more for gas, but anyone who has been stuck in Twin Cities-area traffic in recent years knows the bad policies of past legislative sessions haven’t produced the results we need.
Pawlenty opposes progress. He’s proud of it. It’s sad, but it’s not going to change. It’s now up to the Legislature to deliver for Minnesotans. One party can’t do it all, either. DFLers need six Republicans willing to break with their party and move Minnesota forward.
The political posturing of the last four years has produced record-high property taxes, millions and millions of dollars in school budget cuts statewide and increasingly snarled traffic in the Twin Cities and population centers throughout Minnesota.
During the 2003 debate Pawlenty’s finance commissioner said crisis is an “opportunity to innovate.” We gave their way a chance and it has failed.
Isn’t it time we try something new?
Christopher Truscott can be reached at email@example.com. He thinks Seifert’s quips have improved since becoming minority leader.