In the state of Minnesota the political process usually works like this:
1. The legislature convenes and passes few mundane laws. They put off the budget issues as long as possible.
2. Time passes and the legislators are not able to balance the state budget. Democrats don’t want to make budget cuts and Republicans don’t want to raise taxes.
3. In the last 24 hours before the official end of the legislative session, when legislators are tired and frustrated, most of the issues are banged out…rather badly, but the legislature still can’t balance the budget. Government shutdowns are threatened. Screaming is heard from frustrated politicians.
4. The legislature goes into special session for 3 to 10 extra days, deciding to increase government spending even more. Finally they balance the budget (which, by the way, is mandated).
This year it was different. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty shocked gopher state politics by announcing that the session would end on time, he would veto any tax increases, there would be no shutdown of state government, and if the legislators couldn’t come up with enough spending cuts to balance the budget, he would use his line item veto to make the cuts himself.
The Democrats screamed that babies and the elderly would die due to health care cuts. School administrators and teachers union officials said that children would suffer due to education cuts. Social workers would have to be laid off. University Chancellors told lawmakers that the quality of research and teaching would decline. Mayors and county government administrators testified that reductions in local government revenues coming from St. Paul would be catastrophic, as they would have to slash city and county spending. The shrill screams of government officials, government worker unions, and everyone who might be affected by revenue cuts could be heard all over Minnesota. While the democrats claimed that Pawlenty will be cutting $3 billion worth of spending, this is a ruse. The $3 billion is the difference between the state’s revenue and the amount that democrats wanted to spend.
In reality, after Pawlenty makes his cuts, the state of Minnesota will spend just 3% less than it spent last year. Apparently, democrats don’t think that government can afford to live on 97% of what it had last year. In this recession, many Minnesotans would be happy to have 97% of what they had last year. How dare we ask the state of Minnesota to make such a large 3% sacrifice!
Because the legislature was unable or unwilling to do what was right, Pawlenty will roll up his sleeves, get out his line item veto pen and make the cuts. For once, the Minnesota legislature ended its business on time, with no special session. The state of Minnesota remains open for business. Pawlenty knows that the state of Minnesota doesn’t have a revenue problem, but a spending problem. This year he will balance the Minnesota budget with spending cuts. Game over. How refreshing.
There is a government spending epidemic in the United States. Rather than relying on individual responsibility and hard work, we have decided that government entitlement programs are the answer to nearly every social and economic problem. Our politicians have responded accordingly by spending every nickel that they collect from individuals and businesses. As the economy grows and tax revenues increase, government spending at the local, state, and federal level increases predictably; there is seemingly no constraint on government spending. When a recession occurs and those “evil capitalists” lose money, they lay off employees. Both corporate tax revenues and personal income taxes shrink, leaving government short; but only because spending was so high in the first place. Despite the recession, politicians find it hard to break it’s addiction to spending.
This year the Federal Government will borrow 46 cents out of every dollar it spends, but the Father, Son and Holy Ghost (Obama, Pelosi and Reid) continue to spend, nationalize industries, and regulate this economy into the dirt. Unfortunately the “Spending Flu” wasn’t quarantined in Washington D.C. California is virtually bankrupt and will ask for Obama bailout money. Chicago’s city government is a fiscal nightmare, with the highest sales taxes and gasoline taxes in the country. Despite their cataclysmic fiscal problems, Chicago politicians still suffer from the delusion that they can afford to host the 2016 Olympic Games!
This week in one state, one politician had the guts to at least temporarily put an end to the madness. Regardless of his political aspirations, Pawlenty got this one right. He’s realized that there is only one rational and sustainable way for governments at all levels to balance their budgets…CUT SPENDING!