Pawlenty outboxes the DFL on tax hikes, spending

posted at 2:00 pm on May 24, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

See what happens when I leave Minnesota for a vacation?  Republicans start acting like … well, Republicans, and the legislature gets its ears pinned back for trying to raise taxes in a recession.  Kimberly Strassel profiled Governor Tim Pawlenty’s political victory this week, and his gamble that Minnesotans have had enough of free-spending legislatures when families have to watch their own spending (via Power Line):

Like most states, Minnesota has been facing a huge budget shortfall — an estimated $4.6 billion over two years. These dire financial straits didn’t deter the DFL-controlled legislature (the DFL is Minnesota’s chapter of the Democratic Party), which got to work on big new spending bills. Included were not just the usual increases in appropriations but gems like $1.2 million in grants for TV and film producers and $200,000 for a youth environmental education program. Recession? What recession?

To fill in the hole they’d blown in the upcoming fiscal budget the DFL then proceeded to float every tax hike known to Garrison Keillor. A short list: A new top income tax rate of 9% (the fourth highest in the nation); across-the-board income tax increases; sales taxes on Internet downloads; the end of the local property tax cap (enacted only last year); alcohol taxes; cigarette taxes; eliminating the deduction for an organ donation (no joke); and killing the home mortgage interest deduction.

Throughout this spectacle, Mr. Pawlenty kept voicing three simple principles. “Number one, we must have [because of the constitution] and should have a balanced budget,” he told me. “Number two, the state government needs to live within its means, just like everybody else. Number three, we shouldn’t raise taxes in the worst recession in 60 years.” Minnesota already has one of the highest tax burdens in the nation.

The DFL wasn’t listening. As the clock wound down (the session ended at midnight this past Monday), the legislature sent Mr. Pawlenty one large spending bill after another. The assumption was he’d veto them, be forced to call a special session, and then be negotiated into tax hikes. That’s when the governor got Minnesota nice.

Upon receiving the last spending bill, he announced that he would exercise the power of “unallotment,” which has been on the books since 1939 and which has been used four times. Under it, the governor is allowed to “unallot” (take away) any state spending for which there is no money to pay. Panicked, the DFL passed tax legislation to cover its blowout spending bills, 10 minutes before the session’s end. Too late. The governor said he’d veto the bill and would not be calling back the legislature to do any more mischief.

Pawlenty plans to stop $2.7 billion in state spending this year alone through “unallotment”, which will actually shrink government.  Unallotment is similar to a line-item veto in that the governor can choose which spending to end.  The DFL’s short-sighted thinking — and the end of the legislative session — allowed Pawlenty to play this trump card, and while the DFL is screaming foul over it, they have no options left.  Unless Pawlenty calls a special session of the legislature, they cannot do anything until they return.

Contrast this with California.  Instead of sensing the rising tide of disgust from the electorate, Sacramento passed more tax hikes and demanded more spending while the recession drove business and jobs from the market.  They refused to cut government and paid a huge price at the ballot box last week, and now they have no choice but to start trimming.  Unfortunately, their governor and most of the legislature have no real desire to do so, except for scare tactics to panic voters into allowing them to continue their free-spending ways.

Minnesota DFL leaders want to instill that same sense of panic here, but as Pawlenty points out, $2.7 billion from a $36 billion budget isn’t a terribly deep cut.  In a deep recession, government should look for opportunities to cut spending rather than throw money at new programs like “environmental education” and cash grants for Hollywood productions.  Pawlenty called fiscal responsibility a “fundamental tenet” of the GOP, but unfortunately that has only rarely been true over the last decade.  Pawlenty deserves cheers for reminding Republicans of that core value, and of once again confounding nearly veto-proof majorities of the legislature to return to fiscal sanity.


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Comments

If this is an indication that T-Paw is moving right, that’s a good sign. I suppose he concluded that there’s no moderate route to victory in primaries for him.

promachus on May 24, 2009 at 2:05 PM

This really was a brilliant move by Pawlenty. I think it’s just the ticket to increase his national profile & strengthen his credentials among influential Republicans. Until this I was generally unimpressed with him due largely to his subdued persona.

Stickeehands on May 24, 2009 at 2:06 PM

Me likey!

p0s3r on May 24, 2009 at 2:08 PM

The MN GOP House members also stood together, and didn’t let the DFL peel off any votes to override the veto.

Cantor held his troops together on Porkulus and denied Granny Botox the “bipartisan” meme.

Now if only the California GOP had such political backbone. Or the sense to see that screwing over Dems on spending is fun.

Wethal on May 24, 2009 at 2:13 PM

Stickeehands on May 24, 2009 at 2:06 PM

Subdued persona eh? He’s started cracking sex jokes too. Something’s gotten into him.

promachus on May 24, 2009 at 2:13 PM

Pawlenty 2012: “Socking it to the Statists!”

Glenn Jericho on May 24, 2009 at 2:14 PM

I really….REALLY wish we had leaders with nads like that here in Michigan. Instead we have a house full of RINOs and a socialist chippie for gov.

Spiritk9 on May 24, 2009 at 2:15 PM

Sweet. Beat them at their own game.

Hat tip to ya, T-Paw.

Dr.Cwac.Cwac on May 24, 2009 at 2:15 PM

Well played! I was always skeptical of T-Paw, as he always had this bush-esque undertones, this changes things. I’m impressed.

CollegeRep08 on May 24, 2009 at 2:20 PM

Good for Pawlenty, and for Minnesotans.

Most politicians will raise taxes every time.

Until they can’t.

Greg Toombs on May 24, 2009 at 2:20 PM

$2.7 billion from a $36 billion budget isn’t a terribly deep cut

Actually, if my calculator doesn’t deceive me, it’s three quarters of ONE per cent. My household budget has been subjected to a far more severe reduction. Perhaps the governor’s wall calendar is displaying the year 2012.

As a PS, my wife recently retired and decided to work at Busch Gardens this summer to pick up some change. Her boss commented the other day that people are attending the park, but they’re not spending for the trinkets as they have in the past. The economy, you know…

oldleprechaun on May 24, 2009 at 2:22 PM

In the last six years, the general budget has grown from 25 billion to now 36 billion. Somewhat under 50% While these “cuts” are good, Pawlenty is not a fiscal conservative. He has increased spending at a rate similar to W. Also, property taxes have skyrocketed under him b/c he cut local government aid, instead of entitlements like K12 and health care.

IR-MN on May 24, 2009 at 2:22 PM

Minnesotans live traditional and conservative lives. How they can consistently seek confiscatory commies in their government makes an interesting context. Maybe the republicans could look at this and figure out a way to speak to New England.

billypaintbrush on May 24, 2009 at 2:24 PM

Wow, a real feel good story for a Sunday morning. Good for you Governor. I hope my Governor Schwarzenneger reads this and learns something about fiscal leadership.

FireBlogger on May 24, 2009 at 2:25 PM

Still the Minnesota voters want Coleman to concede and give Dems vote 60 so we can replay the same scenario on a federal level with no one to stop it.

msmveritas on May 24, 2009 at 2:26 PM

What? Did someone say Pawlenty/Palin 2012?

T-Paw and the Hockey-Ma!

DaBird on May 24, 2009 at 2:27 PM

Wow. Minnesota says no to tax hikes. California says no to tax hikes.

Here in Texas, there’s a budget shortfall of about $1B, due primarily to increased claims on Medicaid and CHIP (whaddayaknow, government health care breaks the budget). I was pleased that the discussion in the legislature was about what spending to cut and/or whether or not it was time to tap into the rainy day fund. To my knowledge, at no point was the idea of raising taxes given consideration.

When people in states like California and Minnesota that are experiencing much more serious shortfalls and do not have rainy day funds start demanding serious cuts in spending, then I’ll be really impressed and start to have a little hope that this kind of awakening might affect the federal government’s suicidal spending spree as well.

aero on May 24, 2009 at 2:28 PM

RIGHT-ON GOVERNOR ‘P’!!!!!!!!!!!! We must ALL learn to live within our means.

rtsidedragon on May 24, 2009 at 2:28 PM

I hope he inspires other Repubs to be true to their principles.

PattyJ on May 24, 2009 at 2:32 PM

Outstanding political play, Guv!!

Is it too much to hope that the savior of the GOP is arising out of the land of Mondale and Humphrey?

JohnGalt23 on May 24, 2009 at 2:32 PM

Governor Pawlenty is showing the vision, will, and strategy that Governor Schwarzenegger so obviously lacked. What a difference a good governor can make. Please continue to show us, Governor Pawlenty. More power to you.

Loxodonta on May 24, 2009 at 2:35 PM

Good job, Governor. I’ve also been less than impressed at times, but something like this causes me to look a little closer.

Keep it up, please.

cs89 on May 24, 2009 at 2:35 PM

Welcome back Ed!

Content was VERY light while you were gone.

SeniorD on May 24, 2009 at 2:37 PM

Pawlenty’s cool, but I could never see him as a presidential contender.

therightwinger on May 24, 2009 at 2:38 PM

Nicely done, Guv. P!

deidre on May 24, 2009 at 2:38 PM

Palin/Pawlenty 2012 The “aww shucks” ticket!

ThePrez on May 24, 2009 at 2:39 PM

Finally !!!!!!!!!!

It is not difficult. It takes basically two things, core beliefs and being comfortable with being out of politics if the electorate can’t handle fiscal restraint and smaller government.

Arnie has neither and he’ll still be out of office and his political career is over. His just reward.

patrick neid on May 24, 2009 at 2:43 PM

All governments from the local to the national need to do this. Enough IS enough as far as I’m concerned. This tax, and spend as if it’s their own money, is absurd, dangerous, and destroying the country far faster than we could ever have imagined.

capejasmine on May 24, 2009 at 3:04 PM

Actually, if my calculator doesn’t deceive me, it’s three quarters of ONE per cent. My household budget has been subjected to a far more severe reduction. Perhaps the governor’s wall calendar is displaying the year 2012.

oldleprechaun on May 24, 2009 at 2:22 PM

You’re calculator does deceive you. 2.7 billion out of 36 billion is 7.5%, not less than one percent. I think you must have put 270 million into your calculator instead of 2.7 billion.

Athanasius on May 24, 2009 at 3:12 PM

While I applaud Pawlenty for his work here, he will gladly spend ten times this amount on his and Al Gore’s “Cap & Trade” which would be much better named “Ration & Tax”.

RJL on May 24, 2009 at 3:20 PM

We are gong to see more and more of the citizens of the country rising up to thwart the beast’s spending habits. Bet his polling goes up.

jukin on May 24, 2009 at 3:20 PM

Actually, 2.7 billion out of 36 billion is a pretty deep cut — 7.5%.

So good for Pawlenty.

tigerinexile on May 24, 2009 at 3:21 PM

Checkmate!

LASue on May 24, 2009 at 3:24 PM

$1.2 million in grants for TV and film producers and $200,000 for a youth environmental education program. Recession? What recession?

Training programs for emergent Demo voters.

bloggless on May 24, 2009 at 3:29 PM

Nicely done. Good to see a Republican that can actually play some hardball for a change.

Midas on May 24, 2009 at 3:53 PM

I wrote here about the DFL’s unhinged leadership team of Speaker Maggie Kelliher & Sen. Majority Leader Pogemiller, who consistently plays the role of Gov. Pawlenty’s whipping boy. (Simply put, Pogemiller plays the role of dunce to TPaw’s valedictorian.

I also wrote here about the DFL’s lying about sending TPaw a balanced budget. They passed $34 billion in spending. They knew that this biennium’s revenues would be approximately $31 billion.

The last time I looked, that’s alot like a deficit.

LFRGary on May 24, 2009 at 4:03 PM

Good on ya, Gov!

Mason on May 24, 2009 at 4:04 PM

This is exactly the way Republicans should play hardball, and it is the problem with the last 8 years. Democrats have no qualms about playing hardball, and that is why they continually make progress on their agenda even above what their election success allows, and why Republicans never make as much their elections successes allow.

Bush would never do anything that was not stand-up and bending over backwards to make sure the process was fair. Sure, he would push for what he wanted, but he wouldn’t do anything like this that was a political run around. I guess you might be able to point to stuff like signing statements, but overall, Bush was very bi-partisan on process.

That is why he was so reluctant to veto a bill. He would make clear up front what he would and wouldn’t sign and then leave it up to Congress to pass something, and half the time he would go ahead and sign it anyway. The people had made their voice heard through their representatives and it wasn’t too far away from what he said he would sign, so he wasn’t going to go out of his way to be partisan. Look how far that got him in avoiding a partisan label and holding spending in check.

When lyin’ Joe Wilson says his wife was outed, Bush bends over and allows a special witch-hunter appointed, even though it was obvious their was no crime to investigate, because Bush can’t do anything that could be seen as dis-honorable. In the process, an honorable man’s life is ruined when he is convicted by a partisan jury of not being able to remember specific details correctly 4-8 months after they actually occurred.

When Bush’s poll ratings drop into the 30’s and on into the 20’s, does Bush fight back hard? No, he’s already in his 2nd term and history will judge him correct — no need to be overly political — just need to focus on governing now. Never mind that his unpopularity drags down his party in the next 2 elections and that history is written by liberal education professors who are almost unanimous that he’s the worst president we’ve ever had, and even the few that might tend to be sympathetic to him can’t argue with his low approval ratings.

We don’t need to be petty like the Democrats often are, but we do need to play hardball when it counts.

willamettevalley on May 24, 2009 at 4:33 PM

Fiscal responsibility and family vaues are being attacked by every leftwing nutjob in the country. Their values, if they can be called values, do not represent those of the majority. Until the majority of Americans decide enough is enough, the leftwing lemmings are going to force their will on the majority. T-Paw has taken a step in that direction. A long journey begins with the first step.

volsense on May 24, 2009 at 4:49 PM

One man stands up in MN. woo hoo. This is the land giving us Frankin and not Coleman, which gave themselves the legislators responsible for the mess narrowly averted THIS time, and which gave us the first muslim congress person. No? Until the majority of people change enough to swap out the legislators for a majority that will also stand up, all we are doing is occasionaly tapping the brakes while continuing to gun the gas. And even then those majorities must stand against loud special interest and a lib leaning media. I don’t see enough spines on the horizon to stand, much less to do the heavy lifting required for recovery. And the recovery that is needed is not from the hole we are in now, it will be from the shambles left in 2 and 4 years.

AnotherOpinion on May 24, 2009 at 5:12 PM

Git ‘er dun Pawlenty! My respect of you just went up a few notches.

Chaz706 on May 24, 2009 at 5:14 PM

If this is an indication that T-Paw is moving right, that’s a good sign. I suppose he concluded that there’s no moderate route to victory in primaries for him.

promachus on May 24, 2009 at 2:05 PM

Speaking as one of MN’s neighbors to the east, I’ve always had a sneaky suspicion that Pawlenty was more of a conservative than he let on. Might not have been more than a hunch, but he never seemed to be all that much of a friend to the DFL.

What’s happened now, at any rate, is that he’s grown a pair. I don’t care why; I just want my politicians to do the right thing.

gryphon202 on May 24, 2009 at 6:00 PM

Erm, sorry. That’s to the west. I’m from South Dakota.

gryphon202 on May 24, 2009 at 6:00 PM

Finally, Govner Timmy grows a pair. Then leaders of the dfl (that f tworques me off to no end) jump on a plane to do their ‘Big Bad Gov Timmy Didn’t Give Us a Chance Tour’ around Minnesota to make sure their lies get to everyone in the state.
If you didn’t know it, both houses are dfl (that f tworques me off to no end) controlled and had plenty time to put a budger together. What did they do? They gave Govner Timmy a budget that prescribed an open signed check. Ya, that’s gonna happen. (sarc)

oakpack on May 24, 2009 at 6:03 PM

Not that I’m not pleased, but how did Minnesota ever elect a conservative as governor? Isn’t that the same Minnesota that elected an insane, left-wing comedian to the Senate? Are they alternating people with double digit IQs voting every other election? Anybody?

orlandocajun on May 24, 2009 at 6:09 PM

Shocking.

SouthernGent on May 24, 2009 at 6:14 PM

Pawlenty gobsmacked MN DFL!

ladyingray on May 24, 2009 at 6:25 PM

Lets see,no tax hikes,make government smaller!

Now there is some commom sense,and sheer guts!

Sounds like a call for a Tea Party,and the
theme,is for government cutbacks and staff
in this Catostrophic Crisis,as portrayed by
the Liberal Party!!!!

canopfor on May 24, 2009 at 6:42 PM

Why did Pawlenty go for only $2.7 billion in reductions with unallotment?

Right_of_Attila on May 24, 2009 at 6:57 PM

Why did Pawlenty go for only $2.7 billion in reductions with unallotment?

Right_of_Attila on May 24, 2009 at 6:57 PM

So it will balance, I think.

Maybe he’s not allowed to put any excess away in a rainy day fund? Or if he did, the DFL would say, “Oooh, look there’s money. Let’s spend it. It’s not raining now.”

Wethal on May 24, 2009 at 6:59 PM

Comic book heroes go through similar, inner turmoil before finally looking in the mirror and embracing their new identity.

I agree there’s something very sexy about dorks throwing of their quiet mien and channeling their inner comic hero. I think T-Paw just got a whole lot sexier. Cool guy!

promachus on May 24, 2009 at 8:01 PM

Finally, Govner Timmy grows a pair. Then leaders of the dfl (that f tworques me off to no end) jump on a plane to do their ‘Big Bad Gov Timmy Didn’t Give Us a Chance Tour’ around Minnesota to make sure their lies get to everyone in the state.
If you didn’t know it, both houses are dfl (that f tworques me off to no end) controlled and had plenty time to put a budger together. What did they do? They gave Govner Timmy a budget that prescribed an open signed check. Ya, that’s gonna happen. (sarc)

oakpack on May 24, 2009 at 6:03 PM

How did the tea parties do in MN. I suspect they didn’t do too badly, and come the next series of elections every fat azz donkey that tried this will get there genitalia handed to them.

This move was brilliant, strategically and tactically. Strategically because he hit on the core conservative values that are resonating with voters; and tactically because the donkeys only path to squirm is that they didn’t do their job right the first time around. He’s forcing them to argue that they screwed up the first time and deserve a “second chance”.

Fighton03 on May 24, 2009 at 8:20 PM

This is very encouraging. Now, I’m wondering why didn’t previous governors pull this gun out of the holster before. Its only been used 4 times before.

I’m glad T-Paw found this law and is using it, but how long before the DFL (the F torques me off, too) wipes this law off the books.

cjs1943 on May 24, 2009 at 9:07 PM

Good to see this by Pawlenty. But the comparison is not valid. I worked for a Dem legislator while in college in CA. The legislature is much more powerful than the governor in the state and the makes it nearly impossible for Ahhnold to do what Pawlenty just pulled off.

The Opinionator on May 24, 2009 at 9:23 PM

Now that’s what I call hope and change. A Republican that stands up for Republican principles! Wonder what the “titular head of the Republican Party” (Colin Powell) thinks of that?

Christian Conservative on May 24, 2009 at 9:51 PM

For all their talk about Bush’s dreadful economic policies that brought us to depression oblivion the jack-asses in charge sure aren’t acting like we are on the brink of an economic meltdown.

jdkchem on May 24, 2009 at 10:30 PM

The only thing that would impress me is not just stopping more/increased spending, but fighting to roll back the Great Society junk and handout mentality of the Socialists…but at this point anything is better than nothing.

Dr. ZhivBlago on May 24, 2009 at 10:39 PM

Welcome back, Ed.

I’ll be watching for the Palin budget thread as she certainly has done well in Alaska.

DannoJyd on May 24, 2009 at 11:12 PM

Welcome back, Ed.

I’ll be watching for the Palin budget thread as she certainly has done well in Alaska.

DannoJyd on May 24, 2009 at 11:12 PM

I was wondering the same thing. The budget Palin signed the other day was 30% smaller than last year. Why does this go unreported?

BTW, T-Paw is mt governor…he is not fiscal conservative. Ethanol subsidies, cap & trade, green job initiatives, considering milage tax…need I say more?

takeamericabackin10 on May 25, 2009 at 12:07 AM

Way to be governor P !

tbear44 on May 25, 2009 at 2:39 AM

Just when you get disgusted with your own state, you hear about those poor folks in Minnesota and realize that you’rs not so bad off. Why do people keep electing these? Don’t they read? don’t they know how to add and subtract? And..most importantly, why is it so often governors who see the problems? I thought, or used to think, that the Legislature was supposed to be ‘for the people’. Or has the definition of for the people changed and I failed to notice?

jeanie on May 25, 2009 at 8:52 AM

Another Republican NOT LISTENING to Colin Powell! Doesn’t this nit-wit Pawlenty know the American people want more and bigger government and pay more taxes. Remember what Uncle Joe said “It’s patriotic to pay taxes”.

Herb on May 25, 2009 at 9:08 AM

Pawlenty plans to stop $2.7 billion in state spending this year alone through “unallotment”, which will actually shrink government.

GO PAWLENTY!!! My governor just went way up in my books.

Aronne on May 25, 2009 at 12:42 PM

I was wondering the same thing. The budget Palin signed the other day was 30% smaller than last year. Why does this go unreported?

BTW, T-Paw is mt governor…he is not fiscal conservative. Ethanol subsidies, cap & trade, green job initiatives, considering milage tax…need I say more?

takeamericabackin10 on May 25, 2009 at 12:07 AM

Whew! I wondered if I had missed the thread on the magnificient job that Palin did with the budget. I guess all of Hot Air sans us 2 missed that story entirely.

Ethanol causes smog. I just learned that. Did anyone else know?

DannoJyd on May 25, 2009 at 2:23 PM

“How did the tea parties do in MN. I suspect they didn’t do too badly”

Fighton03
They did very well with a great turn out. A couple of the local network channels did a pretty good job of covering it but the others, only what they had to say about it.

oakpack on May 25, 2009 at 5:23 PM

To all of you who say this is not a big deal, or that it is a drop in the bucket – blow it out your a$$. Every step in the right direction must be celebrated, highlighted, and advertised. If we wait for the sunami of legislation, or acts of Conservative courage, we will wait too long. Take each step and run with it!!!

InTheBellyoftheBeast on May 25, 2009 at 8:57 PM

Obama is a maniac on spending. The states and their legislatures actually are moving right and not carnering national media.

Obama is committing some of the biggest financial crimes this planet has ever seen.

States need more than ever to be carefull.

I smell inflation comming with the new Obama 3 dollar bills. Obama will structure healthcare with Washington having the authority and the states getting the bills.

Some states will have to have demonstrated courage to be able to withstand him in their pockets.

seven on May 25, 2009 at 9:55 PM

Nice.

2Tru2Tru on May 26, 2009 at 3:19 PM