Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s supplemental budget proposal, released on Monday morning, includes large cuts to state-sponsored health coverage for low income Minnesotans, reductions in local government aid and tax breaks and incentives for businesses and corporations. The plan pleased few, drawing criticism from urban and rural cities, the health care industry, the courts, and, predictably, Democrats.
A sample of the press releases that hit media inboxes on Monday:
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman:
If the Governor’s budget proposal becomes law, the quality of life that Minnesotans have come to expect will cease to exist. The Governor’s proposed cuts will touch every Minnesotan in a very visible way – from snow plowing to parks to police and fire. It is now time for legislators from both parties to stand up and block the dangerous path to the bottom that the Governor’s budget proposal represents. Nothing short of Minnesota’s future is at stake.
Bruce Ahlgren, Mayor of Cloquet and spokesman for the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities:
The governor’s proposal will be devastating to Minnesota communities. If this is passed, Minnesotans need to brace for deep reductions in snowplowing and pothole repair, fewer police and firefighters, closed libraries, closed parks and closed community swimming pools. This is a reckless proposal that doesn’t acknowledge the disrepair our state and communities are in, and will drive Minnesota into a deeper recession. Legislators from across the state and across the aisle need to stand up for their local communities and stop this proposal immediately.
Minneapolis Mayor RT Rybak (a press release from the city, not the campaign for governor):
In tough times everyone has to do their share – but local communities have already done more than their share. As just one example, during the time the governor and I have been in office, state spending on his watch has risen 12 percent while city spending on my watch has risen one percent. We have cut costs, reformed government and forged new partnerships to create jobs, nurture our youth and keep people safe.
The governor should take responsibility for his inability to do the same and stop passing the buck onto homeowners.
In the long term, we should work in partnership with mayors, elected officials and community leaders around our state to restructure local government in Minnesota – but Governor Pawlenty’s budget today doesn’t do that. Instead, the governor has chosen to lob a political grenade while passing off his longstanding problems onto local communities and taxpayers.
I am disappointed in this recommended cut at a time when our base budgets are already insufficient to fund the level of judicial services that Minnesotans expect and deserve.
Minnesota Senate Minority Leader David Senjem, R-Rochester:
I applaud Gov. Pawlenty for recommending this course of action. My desire would be for the members of the legislature to follow-up with the additional tax cuts proposed by Governor Pawlenty and to reduce the expenditures that the government can no longer afford. Families all over the state are feeling the effects of the economy. As leaders in the legislature we must also act to slow the unsustainable growth by implementing budget cuts and reducing the overall cost of government.
Republican Party of Minnesota Chairman Tony Sutton:
Governor Pawlenty’s budget sets the right priorities for Minnesota and ensures that state government will live within its means. Governor Pawlenty’s budget protects funding for K-12 education and military, veterans and public safety programs. To compete in today’s global economy, Governor Pawlenty and Republican legislators are committed to creating a more business friendly climate through tax relief which spurs job creation, while continuing to stand strong against Democrat tax increases which kill jobs.
Democratic National Committee:
Just a few months ago, Governor Pawlenty was bashing the recovery act package as ‘misdirected’, and is now using it as a way to help balance the state’s budget. But this hypocrisy shouldn’t be a surprise. With every day, with every political gimmick or pander to the right, Tim Pawlenty is proving that standing on principle is not something he does.
After years of borrowing and one-time budget fixes, Gov Pawlenty’s claim that his new budget will ‘eliminate’ the state’s $12 billion deficit by creating ever more tax cuts should be seen for what it is – a political calculation to make himself look good to the primary voters in 2012. With decisions like these, it’s clear that Pawlenty no longer cares about the people of Minnesota, but the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Minnesota Medical Association President Dr. Ben Whitten, M.D.:
“The governor should stop balancing the budget on the backs of the sick,” Whitten said. “Health care has already done its share. Lawmakers should look to other parts of the budget and raise broad-based taxes in order to protect Minnesota’s unraveling health care safety-net.”
Whitten was also shocked that Pawlenty chose to cut MinnesotaCare, since it was originally passed as a bipartisan effort designed to help people move from welfare to work.
“This runs counter to Minnesota’s long-term goal of helping to get people off of welfare by allowing them to get a job and keep their health care coverage,” Whitten said. “Now, a single adult considering a minimum wage job will have to choose between taking that job or keeping their health care.”
Lawrence Massa, CEO and President, Minnesota Hospital Association:
In addition to cutting $347 million from Health and Human Services, his budget increases the number of people in Minnesota without health insurance by kicking an estimated 21,500 people out of MinnesotaCare. As more and more Minnesotans become unemployed, the need for these programs is increasing.
Without insurance, these people are likely to rely on hospitals’ emergency rooms as their sole source of health care, thereby increasing hospitals’ growing uncompensated care costs and further straining our fragile health care system’s ability to deliver quality, timely care. Cutting health care coverage is the worse thing you can do in the middle of a recession. People will still get sick and will be forced to access care in the ER, which is the most expensive place to get care.
Matt Entenza, DFL candidate:
There’s a saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Since Tim Pawlenty took office in 2003, Minnesota has endured cut after cut – yet our economy is in the tank. At this point, the results are indisputable, but Gov. Pawlenty hasn’t learned. When we disinvest in things like higher education, which helps our state innovate, attract and create jobs, it is a failure of vision. It also brings to mind another saying: penny wise, pound foolish. We need more than a change of names in the governor’s office; we need a new vision of how to face our challenges and create opportunities for Minnesota to thrive in the future.
State Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis:
Minnesotans don’t want a state where we are leaving our most vulnerable neighbors behind, but that is just what Governor Pawlenty is doing. Middle class families are feeling the deep squeeze of the current economy. The governor’s proposals to eliminate affordable health care for working Minnesotans, to cut quality child care for working parents, to make college less affordable just tightens that squeeze. Minnesotans have a more generous vision of the responsibilities we owe each other as citizens. As public leaders, we should enact a budget that reflects that value and that gives Minnesotans hope for a brighter, more secure future. Unfortunately, the governor’s budget does not do that. His political blinders continue to keep him from seeing that there are other alternatives to the cuts he is proposing. It’s time Minnesotans stand up and stand together for a better vision of our state.