The tone of next year’s legislative session could be set on Tuesday as Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller and other legislative leaders sit down for breakfast with Governor Tim Pawlenty.
During this year’s budget battle which ended with the Governor purposely unbalancing the budget so he could unallot spending, Governor Pawlenty and Senator Pogemiller exchanged snarky comments through the media.
On Monday, Senator Pogemiller appeared to be ready to continue that tone, telling the Governor’s representative at a budget hearing “Your choice is going to either offer something or come up here and drag it out of you. I think it would be better for all of us if you would offer something as the sitting administration.”
Senator Pogemiller is still visibly upset that Governor Pawlenty has left the state budget in a shambles, but the consequences will not show up until the Governor leaves office in 2011. Pogemiller noted that only Alaska has used the budget gimmick of “shifts” more times than Minnesota.
According to the Governor’s Budget and Management Commissioner Tom Hanson, money that by law must be sent to school districts has been deferred until 2012.
“So when you’re not in office, someone is going to pay it back?” asked Pogemiller with a wide grin.
Senator Pogemiller pointed out that since the Governor deferred the funds by unalloting them, there is no mechanism to pay back that money.
Commissioner Hanson nodded in agreement. “I understand what you’re saying.”
Despite that terse exchange, Senator Pogemiller has struck a very conciliatory tone since the legislature held a Minnesota Leadership Summit on the ongoing structural budget problem. Senator Pogemiller has stated that revenue increases or spending cuts alone can not solve the state’s 5-to-7 billion dollar gap.
Spending cuts and tax cuts have been a favorite strategy of Governor Pawlenty. Pogemiller says that is a unsustainable strategy, but he doesn’t want to spend time looking back and pointing fingers at and casting blame.
Governor Pawlenty so far has been absent when it comes to working on fixing Minnesota’s long-term structural budget problem. He refused to attend the leadership summit, even though former Governors and legislative leaders of both parties were part of it. The Governor snarked that Minnesota had a “leadership summit” and it is called the legislative session. Instead, the Governor held his own summit the same day with with a handpicked group of business executives.