Have you ever idly turned on the TV, catching an episode of a long-running program, thinking, hey, I’ve never seen this one? Then, 20 minutes in, you realize that, oh, this is the one where the kindly truck driver’s son did it. But, you stay with the show because it’s a well-plotted drama, sprinkled with compelling characters and, after all, it will be over in 10 minutes.
This is exactly how I feel about this year’s state budget deficit battle. I’ve seen it before, I know the cast, the plot is predictable, and the outcome will be identical to that of legislative sessions past. In short, Governor Pawlenty’s conservative policy dominance will be sustained.
State House and Senate majority caucuses will offer a series of compromises, doing the heavy budget balancing lifting. They’ll continually edge closer to Pawlenty’s unallotment budget framework, cutting programs and compromising economy stimulus measures. Pawlenty, the drama’s antagonist or, if this were all-star wrestling, we’d call him the “heel,” will continuously insist that he’s open to all ideas except for raising revenue.
Pawlenty is enforcing a conservative public policy vision that compromises Minnesota’s future. His tax policy’s benefits disproportionately benefit Minnesota’s wealthiest citizens. Minnesota will be less prosperous today and tomorrow if we stay on the Pawlenty policy path.
What should progressives do?
First, we make the case for change. We stop talking only to State Capitol insiders and we talk to Minnesotans. We amplify their voices and share their concerns. The progressive vision for Minnesota is a shared vision. It’s rooted in strong schools, affordable healthcare, robust transportation infrastructure and smart economic development.
Second, make Governor Pawlenty own his problems. I’m willing to hold legislators accountable for many things, but the Governor owns a much greater share of the state public policy crisis and persistent budget deficits than state representatives and state senators shoulder. Any process producing poor policy is a poor process; it should be identified as such and rejected.
Lastly, win or lose this week’s battle, understand that tomorrow, we’ll wake up and return to the work of advocating for a progressive Minnesota vision. Education, healthcare, transportation and economic development create opportunity. It’s a simple, powerful guiding message that bears and requires repeating.