Pawlenty's gamble

By Chuck Kajer

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has taken the biggest gamble of his political career in announcing that he would use his line item veto and unallotment powers to balance the state's budget, rather than calling the legislature back for a special session.

To many of his supporters, he comes off as a hero. He is leading the charge against new taxes and unchecked government spending.

That all sounds great now, but the budget cuts, which will be deep and affect virtually every area of state government, will have a profound effect on many Minnesotans.

Start with the loss of a number of state, county and city services as budgets are slashed to levels not seen in years. The need for these programs won't go away - and in this economy, the need may grow. And because the cuts are coming not from a negotiated settlement, all the credit-or blame-will go to the governor.

But even if the governor is forced to make major cuts in spending, the blame should not be his alone. It should be shared by the DFL majority who could not come to an agreement with the governor on the budget. DFLers were proposing a number of budget cuts as part of their budget-balancing plan as well. Many of the cuts Pawlenty will make would have been made anyway.

When a family sets its budget, it takes a look at how much money is available and makes spending decisions based on what they have. Gov. Pawlenty and Republicans in the legislature have pointed out that the DFL majority passed major spending bills without having the money in the budget to pay for them.

The governor's refusal to consider any new revenues (taxes) in developing the budget played a role in the inability to come to an agreement. Now, with the legislature adjourned, we shall see where his strategy leads. For local governments, chances are it won't be pretty.

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