Tuesday, May 19, 2009

End Game: Debt and Deconstruction?

by Scott Hall

Governor Pawlenty is about to show America how to make government smaller. Until now, Republican leaders since Reagan have said government was the problem, not the solution. But once in power, they haven’t been able to follow through even though they had majorities in both houses of Congress. Now, big debt and a bad economy may get them to the promised land. It won’t be pretty, but politics really is a messy grind, like making sausage.

In the days and weeks ahead, Pawlenty will cut three billion or more in state spending. He’s betting that county and city governments, schools and hospital districts, have just about exhausted their capacity to tax property or raise other taxes and fees, and they will have to innovate – merge, dissolve, combine services – in short, be more efficient. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It may make us think harder and clearer, not only about what we expect from government, but whether we want to pay for it and, if so, how. Not necessarily a bad thing either. Again, it won’t be neat and clean, but many Republicans think that’s the kind of tough love we need to get back to what made America great. This will make Pawlenty popular with the kingmakers in his Party. It looks like a good strategy for the Governor. Not sure about the rest of us...

What do you think?


Gord said...

Since I am not a GOP Kingmaker or Tim Pawlenty, I think what has just happened this past week in St. Paul is a failure of state government and leadership of both political parties, DFL and Republican.

The struggles to become "more efficient," to innovate, to reform, to cut unnecessary services, have been going on since the Governor's first deficit in his first term, the legislative session of 2003.
All sorts of ideas have been floated. DNR regions were consolidated and regional headquarters were closed. The Agricultural Extension Service of the University was sharply reduced. County Agents, renamed extension educators, were relocated, demoted. County Fairs lost support.

There has been a lot of talk of more school mergers, in educator language "consolidation" of neighboring school districts. Class sizes are rising, although the evidence is clear that this is a factor in diminished learning.
The Governor fights with the MEA, renamed Education Minnesota for PR.
Pay for Performance means extra money for superior teachers, and tenure is on the chopping block. Charter Schools and Vouchers are favored by the Administration. How many choices does a family in a backwoods district have? There is always Home Schooling.

After two terms of "reformation" of state government, very little of substance has been changed.

Unallotments, Tax-shifting, and Line-Item Vetoes are the tools by which the quality of life in the North Star State will be lowered for the next two years.

Bottom Line: this session was a failure for all Minnesota citizens.

- Gord Prickett, The Golden Gopher in Aitkin County

Anonymous said...

Tom from Grand Rapids writes:

The Governor's shifting school funding into the next budget cycle means some education funding will go to bankers to pay interest on short term loans school districts will need to pay operating expenses until the state money comes through.