Pawlenty outboxes DFL on deficit plan

For some reason, Tim Pawlenty has a reputation outside of Minnesota as too friendly and nice to fight for conservative causes.  Late last night, he demonstrated once again why Minnesotans know better — and why taxpayers in this state will miss him once his term ends in December:

The Minnesota Legislature adjorned [sic] its regular session only to begin a special session in the early morning hours Monday at the Capitol to take final action on a proposed budget balancing deal.

The special session is expected to last only a few hours and be limited to ratifying or rejecting the budget deal cut by DFL and GOP leaders and Gov. Tim Pawlenty just minutes before midnight Sunday.

“”We were able to resolve a $3 billion budget deficit without raising taxes,” Pawlenty told reporters outside his office. “That’s really important.”

Pawlenty stood firm on most of his budget demands and the DFL acquiesced to a large degree.

A three-billion-dollar gap may not sound as dramatic as the huge gaps faced by California and other states, but with a population of six million people, it was dramatic enough.  The DFL — our version of the Democratic Party — had demanded tax hikes as part of any budget deal.  They had passed a $400 million tax hike last week, which Pawlenty vetoed.  On Saturday, when we were supposed to interview Pawlenty for the NARN show, he had to cancel and fly back to the capital when it looked as though the DFL might try pushing through yet another tax hike.

Instead, Pawlenty insisted on cutting government spending.  The final version of those cuts won’t be fully known until after the vote today, but it appears that they mainly avoid hitting health services and schools.  Pawlenty also managed to keep the DFL from passing “surcharges” — the latest Democratic nomenclature for taxes — on hospitals, clinics, and health insurers in the state.

State spending had exploded in Minnesota over the last twenty years, thanks to the profligate nature of both parties during that time.  While Democrats want to continue that profligacy, the state’s Republicans have finally rediscovered their fiscal conservatism, pressed by Tea Party activists and led by a Governor who has kept his promise to stop increasing the burden on Minnesota families.  He may come across as Minnesota Nice, but Pawlenty didn’t win battle after battle with a DFL-led legislature over the last four years by being Mr. Nice Guy.