Democrats in Minnesota lost their latest battle with Governor Tim Pawlenty last night when they failed to get enough Republican votes to override a veto on a key budget battle.  Pawlenty had struck almost $400 million for the General Assistance Medical Care program using a line-item veto, one of several programs providing medical coverage to low-income families in the state.  The DFL — Minnesota’s version of the Democratic Party — howled that Pawlenty had balanced the budget by stripping the poor of health care, but GAMC recipients will get transferred instead to another existing program:

Despite intense lobbying from religious leaders and community activists, the Minnesota House on Monday failed to override a veto of legislation that would have restored a state health care program for some of the state’s poorest and sickest residents.

The DFL-controlled House lurched toward the vote even after Republicans vowed to uphold Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto of a plan that would have resurrected General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) before it expires April 1.

Well, that sounds just awful, right?  It does — until readers get to the next paragraph (emphasis mine):

The state now will forge ahead with plans to transfer 32,000 people from the program to MinnesotaCare, a subsidized insurance program that requires participants to jump through more hoops and offers less coverage. Pawlenty and legislators are scheduled to return to the bargaining table Tuesday morning to see if there’s a better option for GAMC, whose enrollees include many who are homeless, veterans or who suffer from addiction and mental illness.

Well, we can’t see the editorial bias of the Strib in that paragraph, can we?  “Jump through more hoops”?  Is that meant literally, or is that a common journalistic shorthand for “I didn’t bother to research what actually takes place, but I’ll bet it sucks”?

In fact, as John Hinderaker points out at Power Line, GAMC would have expanded rapidly in the next two years had Pawlenty kept the current funding in place.  In this year’s budget, remaining GAMC costs amounted to $381 million from a $500 million outlay in the biennial budget, but by the next biennial that cost would have grown to $748 million — an increase of almost 50%.  Given that the state also has MinnesotaCare for low-income families, Pawlenty’s decision to cut costs in the face of a budget crisis without eliminating the safety net makes plenty of fiscal sense.

However, Democrats plan to sue Pawlenty again, apparently as an attempt to get the judicial branch to exercise a political veto:

The fight could enter the courtroom as House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher and other DFL leaders hinted that a legal challenge from groups representing the poor was imminent.

Kelliher did not identify who would mount the fight but said, “I would not be surprised if someone in the next 24 hours files something to create an injunction to stop the ‘auto enrollment’ from going forward.” MinnesotaCare was designed as a program for lower-income working families, sustained by paid premiums and a tax paid on provider visits.

Welcome to the entitlement mentality.  Suddenly Minnesotans had a right to GAMC as opposed to a different government program.  Most people I know in Minnesota want to have some sort of safety net for the poor, but funding duplicate programs and watching their budgeting shoot up 50% from one budget to the next is unacceptable — especially with Minnesotans struggling to make ends meet in a recession.  MinnCare works perfectly well, and we’re not required to offer a smorgasbord of safety-net programs.  Furthermore, if the Democrats that controlled both chambers of the legislature hadn’t overspent in the first place, the vetoes and “unallotments” would not have been necessary.

In order to fight that, the DFL wants to dismantle the political system and put judges in charge of executive vetoes, a breathtaking challenge to the separation of powers and the entire idea of representative, accountable government.  This demonstrates the power of entitlement thinking, and the difficulty any Republican will have in attempting to dismantle it, or even reform it.  We saw the same thing when George Bush proposed reforming Social Security in 2005; suddenly, Republicans wanted Grandma to starve, rather than tried to save the system from utter collapse.  Minnesota’s DFL is running the same playbook, and apparently so is the Star Tribune.

John concludes:

Meanwhile, on the national scene, Pawlenty sometimes gets a bad rap from activists who judge him by his demeanor and conclude he isn’t a “real conservative.” In fact, where it counts–results, not image–it would be hard to find a politician in America who has a more successful record as a fiscal conservative than Tim Pawlenty.

There are a few; Mitch Daniels comes to mind, and perhaps Haley Barbour and Rick Perry, but all three of those ran states that are considerably more conservative or center-right than Minnesota.

Update: I had to recall 1.3 million instances of using GMAC instead of GAMC.  Sorry for the confusion!