The theme for John Bodette’s weekly column is filled with flimsy arguments. Bodette is the SC Times Executive Editor. Here’s part of what he wrote that I fiercely object to:
The legislative session ended at midnight Monday without achieving the one thing lawmakers were sent down to accomplish: pass a balanced-budget bill and deal with the stateâ€™s projected $6.4 billion deficit for the biennium. That means 201 lawmakers and one governor couldnâ€™t agree on a plan after more than 4 1/2 months of the session.
The implication throughout Bodette’s column is that both sides should be blamed. In fact, here’s the title for his column:
Shame on lawmakers, governor
I rejected that theory because the DFL didn’t send Gov. Pawlenty a budget that balanced. In fact, there’s a $2,700,000,000 deficit. Had Gov. Pawlenty signed the DFL’s tax increase bill into law, that deficit still would’ve been close to $2,000,000,000.
Considering the fact that governors can’t appropriate money or increase or cut taxes on their own, why should Gov. Pawlenty get blamed because the DFL was irresponsible? Why should GOP legislators, who submitted dozens of reforms, get blamed because the DFL refused to set budget priorities? Why should the GOP get blamed because the DFL wouldn’t say no to their political allies?
That line of thinking is intellectually bankrupt and indefensible. Here’s another portion of Mr. Bodette’s column that I object to:
Who is to blame? Everyone. Both parties. The lawmakers and the governor. The â€œworker beeâ€ lawmakers and their leadership. Isnâ€™t it time for both parties to look at new leaders?
Voters need to ask some very tough questions before re-electing any of these people.
Politicians put their own interests ahead of the common good. Statesmen and true leaders seek out a compromise and realize that everyone wonâ€™t get everything they want. Tough choices in tough economic times means pain. But where were the priorities? Where was the reform and innovation?
Why should Republicans “look at new leaders”? Conservatives offered lots of common sense reforms. Conservatives put a balanced budget plan. Conservatives pledged to live within their means, then followed through on that pledge. I thought it was a good thing when politicians said what they meant, then kept their promises.
To be fair, Bodette did whack the DFL pretty good. Here’s the best example of that:
Why are we paying for a Legislature to spend more than four months to accomplish a big task and not get it done? Usually, there is a penalty for not meeting a deadline or not completing work. Donâ€™t count the last-minute budget plan that was forced on the House and Senate as a cloak to protect the embattled DFL leadership so it could claim the governor had a balanced budget he could have signed.
Until the DFL-dominated legislature actually submitted a balanced budget, everything else is moot. Let’s remember that maverick DFL legislator Rep. Pelowski refused to vote for the DFL’s tax increases. Rep. Pelowski also said this about the DFL’s priorities:
â€œI would hope we would not have resorted to something like this,â€ Pelowski said. â€œIf itâ€™s serious, then it should have been done months ago. If it isnâ€™t, then itâ€™s just gamesmanship.â€
The DFL’s Cherrypicked Testimony Tour was their attempt to gin up support for their tax increase proposals. The DFL just didn’t want to propose their tax increases early because they knew that most families would’ve complained about them.
Here’s the dirty little truth that the DFL doesn’t want people to focus on: The DFL leadership doesn’t like making decisions because that requires leadership and the ability to say no to their special interest allies. The DFL leadership is nothing of the sort. They aren’t leaders. They’re political cowards who won’t set priorities or make decisions.
During this session, this set of DFL leadership refused to seriously consider reforms to health care, education and other big budget items. They’ve pandered to Chris Coleman, who refuses to control St. Paul’s spending. Mayor Coleman doesn’t hesitate to threaten cutting St. Paul’s police and fire departments while overspending on street projects.
I’m told that Wadena’s mayor is complaining about LGA cuts while his city sits on a $1,000,000 rainy fund. What’s with that? It’s a rainy day. Why aren’t they using that money for what it’s supposed to be used for? Why hasn’t Wadena established a priorities list like St. Cloud’s? Here’s an example of how St. Cloud set priorities:
Current Financial Policies/Practices
As noted above, a number of actions were taken by the City of St. Cloud in early 2008 to address the projected 2009 budget limitations and potential revenue reductions through the remainder of 2008. These practices resulted in a nearly $1 million savings during the 2008 budget year that assisted the City in meeting the $1.4 million budget unallocation of LGA in December of 2008. These practices will in all likelihood be continued into 2009 to face an equivalent or greater reduction in revenues from the State of Minnesota.
Cutting of supplies and services budget by 5%
Capital Outlay limited
Reserve levels maintained
2009 Budget balanced using same tax rate per financial policies
When I hear Chris Coleman start talking about deep cuts in the fire and police departments, I got upset. Gov. Pawlenty bristled when he heard it, too:
The governor laid out his recipe for the belt-tightening: Use your rainy day fund, if you have one. Freeze public employee salaries for two years, streamline operations for greater efficiency and prioritize your spending.
Wagging a fiscal finger at Minneapolis, Pawlenty asked: “Were those expensive artistic water fountains really necessary? Did they need to have their own civil rights department that overlaps substantially with the Minnesota Human Rights Department?“
Minnesota’s taxpayers shouldn’t have their taxes increased just because Chris Coleman and the St. Paul City Council decided to spend money on their own civil rights department, especially considering the fact that it appears that it wasn’t needed. Minnesota’s taxpayers shouldn’t get hit with a tax increase just because St. Paul won’t freeze salaries or reform their government or eliminate spending money on “artistic water fountains.”
Gov. Pawlenty took all these things into account when the DFL leadership brought forth their tax increase legislation. In drawing a bright line in the sand on tax increases and wasteful spending, Gov. Pawlenty told Minnesota’s taxpayers that they had a powerful friend on their side.
Gov. Pawlenty refused to let the DFL’s status quo policies go unquestioned. Thus far, the DFL leadership has whined about the cuts and talked about the reforms they allegedly implemented. Thus far, though, there’s little proof of the DFL’s reform agenda.
By eliminating the deficit without tax increases, special sessions or government shutdowns, Gov. Pawlenty did what was right for Minnesota. He showed how irresponsible the DFL was.
That’s why it’s right to criticize the DFL but it isn’t intellectually honest to lump the GOP in with th DFL’s children.