DFLers say Pawlenty's call for budget ideas too lateby Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio
Gov. Tim Pawlenty has told legislators he wants to hear their latest budget-cutting suggestions by Friday. The Republican governor says he'll consider the advice when he starts using his emergency authority on July 1 to balance the state books. But a key DFL leader says he doesn't plan to weigh in, and he's not alone.
St. Paul, Minn. — Three days after the end of the legislative session, Gov. Pawlenty sent a letter to every member of the Minnesota House and Senate.
The governor had already signed the major budget bills and vetoed the $1 billion tax bill that Democrats needed to balance the budget.
But before using his unallotment authority, Pawlenty told legislators he wanted their views considered.
"Each legislator or committee chair has experience and insight into these issues. We want to make sure we take into account their perspective and their input," said Pawlenty. "And so we hope that we'll get some good ideas from them and that they'll participate in that process."
So far, no legislators have written back. The majority leader in the Minnesota Senate, DFLer Larry Pogemiller of Minneapolis, says he won't be offering any suggestions, at least not formally.
Pogemiller says the House and Senate just spent five months doing that, and he's not sure the governor was listening.
Democrats have said city budgets, hospitals, nursing homes and schools will suffer the most under deeper spending cuts. And when those subjects are raised, Pogemiller offers some informal advice.
"I hope that he would consider the seriousness of his actions," said Pogemiller, "and consider the repercussions for people who might lose health care, or whose property taxes will go up, or who will have larger class sizes for their children and who get laid off from their job. I hope he considers that as he makes these decisions."
Pogemiller also claims the pending budget pain could have been avoided, if Gov. Pawlenty had agreed to a tax increase.
Instead, Pawlenty vetoed two DFL-backed tax bills, and then said he would use his unallotment authority to go solo on a budget fix.
Pogemiller says he wasn't surprised by Pawlenty's choice, an approach he says may be legally sound but ethically questionable. Pogemiller says he was more surprised by the governor's inflexibility on tax increases.
"We provided nine budget bills that had deeper budget reductions than the governor had recommended in his budget. And so I think we accomplished that task of making the tough choices with regards to spending," said Pogemiller. "And then on the 10th bill, the governor decided not to allow permanent revenue into the system, which I believe will prove to be a mistake for the long-term interest of the state."
That's not the way Pawlenty sees it. His opposition to tax increases was never a secret, and he blames the Legislature for opening the door to unallotment. "The only reason we find ourselves in this circumstance is because the Legislature chose this path, in terms of sending the bills and spending more money than we have available. They didn't have to make that choice. They chose it," said the governor.
Pawlenty is also seeking budget recommendations from the general public, and his spokesman says that effort is bearing some fruit. Spokesman Brian McClung says 1,500 people have responded in just one week.
"The state of Minnesota is looking at a budget reduction of about 4 percent. And so citizens seem to believe that if the state government has to live on 96 percent of what it lived on before, they should be able to get by," he said.
McClung says the governor is still hoping to hear from some legislators by the end of the week.
House and Senate leaders who sit on a panel known as the Legislative Advisory Commission are required to formally review the governor's unallotment plan before the cuts take effect.
- Morning Edition, 05/28/2009, 7:20 a.m.