Pawlenty at the Bridge

Republicans are out of power in Washington and many other places around the country. They’re out of power here in Minnesota, too, except for Governor Tim Pawlenty. But in this case, one man has been enough–Pawlenty has faced down the Democrats and beaten them.

The Democrats tried to ramp up Minnesota’s already out of control spending and pay for it with a $1 billion tax increase. But Governor Pawlenty, who recognizes that Minnesota’s booming public sector can only come at the expense of private sector growth, vetoed the tax increase. His veto was upheld in the Minnesota House, with all Republicans and two Democrats voting to sustain it. The Democrats in the legislature then refused to pass a responsible, balanced budget as required by state law.

That left Pawlenty, like Horatius at the bridge, standing alone but victorious. He announced that he would use his power of “unallotment” to decide where the state’s revenues will be spent over the next two years. He announced his budget in a press conference today:

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Gov. Tim Pawlenty today announced plans to cut $300 million from aid to local governments, $236 million from health and human services programs, $100 million from higher education and to defer nearly $1.8 billion in payments to K-12 schools as he made good his promise to unilaterally slash spending to balance the state’s budget.

Pawlenty’s plans would eliminate the $2.7 billion shortfall left after the legislative session that ended last month.

Those cuts are real, too: in the coming biennium, for the first time since Minnesota became a state in 1858 spending by the state government will decline, in real terms.

Local Democrats mutter darkly that Pawlenty is trying to boost his national prospects by taking a hard line on the budget. Well, I certainly hope so. We Republicans need a candidate who is not only willing to fight the Democrats, but smart enough to beat them. With his triumph on the budget, Pawlenty has laid down a marker that other candidates in 2012 will be hard pressed to match.

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