Reaction to Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s Tuesday press conference announcing his proposed unallotment of nearly $2.7 billion from the state budget has been swift and, at times, scathing. DFL gubernatorial candidates as well as city officials and union leaders have been weighing in on the plan to cut funding to education, law enforcement, local government aid, health care and government staffing. The DFL party, surprising no one, decried Pawlenty’s plan, calling it an “arrogant, reckless, and potentially illegal,” while Sen. John Marty likened the Republican governor’s actions to those of a schoolyard bully who picks on “the sickest, most vulnerable people in our state.”
Here are excerpts from statements issue Tuesday afternoon, mainly by DFLers.
Associate DFL Party Chair Donna Cassutt:
…Governor Pawlenty and the Republicans failed Minnesota — and today, Minnesota’s working families are paying the price of their failure. In slavish adherence to the same failed philosophy that drove America into recession — not to mention his own ambition — Pawlenty and the Republicans have embarked on the arrogant, reckless, and potentially illegal path of unallotment that will hurt hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans — and drive Minnesota’s economy even further into a hole. In the middle of the deepest recession in three decades, it is unconscionable that Governor Pawlenty and the Republicans would cut Minnesotans’ police and fire protection, damage our hospitals, kick Minnesotans off healthcare, and further dim our children’s future rather than do their jobs and negotiate in good faith with the legislative majority.
The governor admits his cuts and deferrals were ‘targeted’—sadly, those targeted clearly include our most vulnerable: those living in poverty, the disabled, children, and seniors. And Pawlenty knows it.
State Senate Assistant Majority Leader Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud:
The governor is cutting jobs and increasing taxes for renters and property tax payers. For the first time this year, Minnesotans are paying more in property taxes than income taxes, and it is going to get worse. We offered a fair and balanced solution and the governor decided he didn’t want to do his job and negotiate a common-sense budget, so now he’s continuing his attack on the things that make our state great.
The governor made a decision to raise property taxes, cut local public safety, and put our schools at risk because he wasn’t willing to do his job. Instead of working with the Legislature, he and his Republican legislator enablers have chosen to put more Minnesotans out of work. The governor has continued to attack the things that make our state great and put his own political ambitions ahead of the needs of Minnesotans.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman:
Minnesota communities were critically hurt today by the governor’s action, and nearly every Minnesotan will personally be affected. It could be in the form of no cop in their kid’s school, higher property taxes, or a local library that is no longer open. Many Minnesotans will think in the coming year that this is not the state they knew, or the state they want it to be.
Over the past six years, Minnesota cities have lost $750 million in local government aid, and as a result property taxes have increased over 65% statewide. This increase in property taxes, however, has fallen short of replacing the lost aid, so essential city services have also been cut back.
Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner:
Today’s action by Governor Pawlenty … is clearly a seminal moment in our state’s history. Indeed, it is a sad day when Minnesota’s representative government cannot work together to solve one of the most pressing economic and fiscal disasters our state has ever faced. For anyone to call the governor’s action “strong leadership” would belie the essential meaning of good government and principled service to its constituents.
Clearly, these are difficult times that require difficult decisions, but those decisions are best made after a meaningful debate and within a spirit of compromise. The process we have witnessed was neither.
Today, I call on Governor Pawlenty to remain open to a truly democratic process and call for a special session…
Minneapolis City Council President Barb Johnson:
It is important for everyone to understand that cuts made by the Governor are massive and will be felt by every Minnesotan, and unfortunately those cuts still will not solve the State’s budget problem. Since 2003 the Governor has cut more than $50 million from the fund Minneapolis uses to pay for police officers and firefighters. The people of Minneapolis contribute much more to the state in taxes than we get back, and once again, the Governor has chosen to take the State’s financial problems and pass them on to cities across Minnesota. As local governments, we provide direct services to our residents and visitors—unlike the State, we can’t pass those cuts on to someone else. That’s means we’ll have to continue to make tough choices.
State Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville:
The governor’s action is in line with his recent veto of the anti-bullying bill. Tim Pawlenty has become the schoolyard bully; he is picking on the sickest, most vulnerable people in our state.
While the governor tried to minimize the impact of his cuts on cities, schools and hospitals, those cuts will cause real harm to real people. But the unallotments where the governor showed the least compassion were in the cuts to health and human services. He used a long string of adjectives to decry the rapid growth of General Assistance Medical Care — even though this growth is caused by more adults losing their jobs and their health care, and in desperation are turning to GAMC.
As his own HHS Commissioner acknowledged, the people Pawlenty hits hardest are the ’sickest of the sick and the poorest of the poor’.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak:
Today Governor Pawlenty has made his choices about how to cut the state budget. I deeply disagree with the governor because his choices will hurt many people. The governor has offered no plan for putting people to work, only for cutting jobs during a tough economy, and has offered no strategy for fixing a broken state budget that continues to lurch from deficit to deficit.
House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall:
Governor Pawlenty today did what Minnesota Democrats cannot: He made government live within its means. Unallotment is not anyone’s ideal solution, but it’s what the session came to when the other side proved they could not set priorities or embrace reform.
Democrats who condemn the governor’s actions seem to forget they had more than five months to find a solution. Had they spent more time working with us on reforms and efficiencies, and less time in committees that produced no results, this day would have been avoided.
Government employees’ unions also weighed in. Here’s what Eliot Seide, director of AFSCME Council 5, had to say:
Governor Pawlenty is wearing unallotment like a badge of honor. It’s a badge of shame that should be worn by every legislator who refused to make taxes fair. They’re willing to wreck Minnesota to protect the wealthy.
We’re the blue-collar workers who take care of South St. Paul, while Pawlenty cuts his hometown. We feed grandma, while they force her nursing home to close. We staff the emergency rooms, while they cut hospitals to the bone. We help minds soar, while they crowd classrooms and hike tuition. We need the Legislature to come back, get the job done, and help us protect strong communities where everyone can thrive.
Jim Monroe of MAPE, the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees:
Governor Pawlenty’s unallotment priorities speak volumes to the fact he has turned his back on Minnesotans while turning his attention to the national spotlight. While he cuts local government aid to communities which will delay hiring police and firefighters, or lay them off, Governor Pawlenty would rather threaten the safety of Minnesotans than lay off members of his full-time security detail who travel all over the country with him.
When it comes to education, Governor Pawlenty turns his back on the public school system and the University of Minnesota which educated him and helped him pull himself up by his bootstraps. Pawlenty’s cuts to state colleges and universities coupled with payment delays to school districts will shred the bootstraps of every high school and potential college student in this state who desires a brighter future.
How can Governor Pawlenty call himself a Sam’s Club Governor when he increases the number of uninsured in this state by 30,000 people knowing full well that every Sam’s Club member and every other Minnesotan will end up paying for our uninsured citizens?
We’ll continue to add reactions here as they come in.
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