Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Republican leader Rep. Kurt Zellers gave one of their "black is white" press briefings after Pawlenty agreed to a budget deal Sunday night. They claimed the principle they followed in the budget deal was "do no harm."
That must mean no harm to Gov. Pawlenty's hope of gaining the Republican nomination for president. Most Minnesotans, however, will find that tough times just got tougher -- for vulnerable people, for businesses, for hospitals, for cities, for schoolchildren, for jobs and for taxpayers.
By rejecting the Medicaid option, Pawlenty blocked efforts to do right by the tens of thousands of Minnesotans he had placed in health care limbo. He rejected a plan that would have returned financial stability to health care and hospital services. He rejected the 20,000 private sector jobs that the DFL plan would have provided. He turned his back on $1.4 billion of desperately needed federal money.
The budget cuts will take thousands of paychecks off Main Street. Small businesses need many more customers if they are to stay above water. Now they will have fewer.
Minnesota has 10 jobseekers for every job opening. That ratio just got worse. Cutting jobs is the last thing one should do in tough times, but that is what Pawlenty insisted on -- again. Minnesota has fewer jobs today than when Pawlenty became governor.
Pawlenty behaves as though the solution to a bad economy is fewer police officers, teachers and university professors. In the last two years, the University of Minnesota has had to cut 1,200 positions. Pawlenty has instituted a state-sponsored brain drain.
The Pawlenty-imposed budget deal added $200 million to the amount of state payments to schools that will be postponed.
Yet Pawlenty would not agree with the DFL on a plan for repayment. Pawlenty said he will leave that task for the next governor -- along with a massive projected deficit and countless IOUs.
When the new governor first enters the office, it will be like entering a hoarder's home -- crammed with unpaid bills, warning notices from bond rating agencies and crumpled-up Supreme Court rulings. The new governor's first job won't be measuring the drapes. It will be figuring out how to head off a sheriff's sale. Pawlenty said the deal means there will be no new taxes. No new taxes, that is, unless one owns a home or rents an apartment. Under Pawlenty, property taxes have gone up 68 percent while he has been governor.
Rather than removing the income tax cuts at the top that after 10 years still have produced no jobs, he slashed the renter's credit. The $350 million in cuts to local government aid means property tax increases -- again.
Unemployment is highest in greater Minnesota. Yet Pawlenty rejected the advice of Republican mayors and local Chambers of Commerce around the state and made the job-killing cuts to local aid. Thanks to the backing the governor got from Minority Leader Kurt Zellers and House Republicans, the cuts stuck.
The stated goal was to do no harm, and they did none to those at the top. Everyone else pretty much got creamed.
Wayne Cox is executive director of Minnesota Citizens for Tax Justice.