Gov. Tim Pawlenty has ordered all state agencies not to participate in the federal health care overhaul.
Pawlenty issued an executive order Tuesday after pledging to -- whenever possible during his final months in office -- block what he views as an intrusive federal mandate.
Democrats accused the Republican governor of putting his own presidential ambitions ahead of Minnesota.
Pawlenty's latest snub of federal health care money was this week's rejection of an $850,000 grant for teen pregnancy prevention that his own health commissioner had wanted to apply for. Pawlenty called it one small piece of his broader effort to keep Minnesota from participating in the new federal law.
The law is called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but Pawlenty and other critics use the partisan term "Obamacare."
"Obamacare is a misguided piece of legislation," the governor said. "It puts Minnesota and other states on the wrong path toward health care reform. It's going to drive up, not decrease, our health care costs. So, anything that I can do to slow down, limit or negate Obamacare I'm going to do within reason."
Pawlenty is directing all executive branch departments and agencies to not apply for grants or other funding connected to the federal law unless approved by his office or required by law. His executive order described the federal law as "a dramatic attempt to assert federal command and control" of the county's health care system. He also wrote that the law "includes unprecedented intrusions into individual liberty."
Despite those strong objections, Pawlenty has only four months left in office to try to slow changes that are set in federal law.
"Much of it doesn't actually kick in until 2013 or 2014," he said. "So, if the law doesn't change, there are parts of it that we will eventually be forced to comply with. But we're not going to go to that point easily and without protest and without trying to change it."
Pawlenty made clear his objections to the federal health care law earlier this year when he vetoed a bill that would have taken advantage of an early enrollment option to expand Medicaid. He said then that the state couldn't afford the spending required to get those federal funds.
DFL legislators were angry then with Pawlenty for passing up $1.4 billion from Washington. They were angry again later when he rejected $68 million for a temporary high risk insurance pool and a $1 million grant to help prevent excessive health insurance premium increases.
State Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, said he's concerned Pawlenty will next ignore another $1 million grant to begin implementing a health insurance exchange. Huntley said the governor is refusing billions of dollars that could be helping Minnesota improve its health care system.
"I think this is a very sad day in the history of Minnesota when we have a governor that says Minnesota taxpayers that send money to Washington shouldn't get that money back and have it spent in Minnesota," Huntley said.
Huntley and other DFLers claim Pawlenty is putting his personal political ambitions ahead of the state. Pawlenty is widely viewed as a likely GOP presidential candidate in 2012.
State Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said the effect of the governor's executive order is unclear, because state law passed earlier this year requires Minnesota officials to apply for several specific federal health care grants. Thissen said the order looks to him like political theater.
"To some extent, it's what he's done over and over again throughout his administration, which is to make a big public splash about doing something, but there's no meat behind it," Thissen said. "And I think that may be the case in this situation as well. But, it's to advance his presidential ambitions and to play to the folks who arguably put him in the place of being the Republican candidate for president in 2012."
Thissen said the next governor could still have time to apply for the federal money that Pawlenty wants to ignore. Republican nominee Tom Emmer is the only major party candidate with an aversion similar to Pawlenty's.
DFLers also suggested they might consider legal action if Pawlenty refuses to follow the grant application requirements that are spelled out in state statute.