Governing Like A Conservative

Here in Minnesota, Governor Tim Pawlenty is the only person standing between us and rapacious Democratic majorities in the state legislature. A friend who knows the governor well likes to say that whereas Ronald Reagan talked like a conservative but governed like a moderate, Tim Pawlenty talks like a moderate but governs like a conservative.
There is a lot of truth to that. Pawlenty is a gutsy administrator, as demonstrated most recently by his line item veto of $381 million for a health care program for low-income adults. This, of course, was part of his overall effort to balance the state’s budget, as is constitutionally required. But the Democrats reacted predictably; they tried to stir up hysteria in the press and made a strong effort to override the governor’s veto.
Governor Pawlenty stuck to his guns:

Governor Tim Pawlenty followed through on his pledge to rein in state spending with or without the legislature. He used a line-item veto to surgically remove $381 million from a health plan for low income adults without children.
The cuts to General Assistance Medical Care, or G.A.M.C., will take effect in July of 2010, according to Human Services Commissioner Cal Ludeman, and strip eligibility from 30,000 persons. He told lawmakers Friday those persons must earn less than $7,800 per year to qualify for the program….

Along with the Democrats and various demonstrators, both the Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis and the Saint Paul Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America protested the governor’s line item veto of GAMC. But Pawlenty was unfazed:

Pawlenty said up to 15,000 of those clients may qualify for the Minnesota Care program, which is fee-based and subsidized by a tax on health care providers instead of the state’s general fund dollars.
“We’re the only state in the nation that has a program like this,” he said, “We have the most generous social service, welfare and publicly subsidized health care in the country. But they’re growing out of control and we can’t wait until they bankrupt us.”

Indeed, the GAMC program would have mushroomed from $550 million in the 2008-2009 budget cycle to $748 million in the next biennium, absent Pawlenty’s veto.
The Democrats, cynically believing that they had a winning, tear-jerking issue, tried to override the governor’s veto. Today that effort failed:

The Minnesota House has fallen four votes short of overriding Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto of a health care bill.
The 86-47 vote Monday means Pawlenty’s veto stands. …
Democrats who control the House failed to get three Republican crossover votes they needed to overrule the governor.

So the House Republicans, a small minority at the moment, stood firm. There is a good chance that Republicans will win enough seats in November to take control of the Minnesota House. If that happens, it will be on account of such courageous and responsible votes.
Meanwhile, on the national scene, Pawlenty sometimes gets a bad rap from activists who judge him by his demeanor and conclude he isn’t a “real conservative.” In fact, where it counts–results, not image–it would be hard to find a politician in America who has a more successful record as a fiscal conservative than Tim Pawlenty.

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