Pawlenty says fundamental changes needed

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 13, 2002

For Tim Pawlenty, quality of life is not necessarily guaranteed by a large government &045; the two could even be opposing forces. So the Republican governor-elect takes the state’s potentially dismaying budget deficit as an opportunity to change the government’s function fundamentally to help it furnish more efficient and effective services, he said Thursday.

In a brief visit to the Albert Lea Business Development Center, part of a tour of southeastern Minnesota, Pawlenty exhibited his ideas for curbing government spending, while attracting business that would eventually contribute the government revenue and using the private and non-profit sectors to provide better social services.

&uot;For the first time in modern history, the legislature and governor will be forced to change the way we do business in the government,&uot; Pawlenty said, referring to the $4.56 billion budget deficit forecast. &uot;Staying the same is no longer an option. Whether the legislators or I like it, the size of the budget deficit alone will require and demand reform and change.&uot;

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Pawlenty admitted the change would be tough and scary, but he stressed it is necessary not only to fix the budget but also regain the state’s economic competitiveness.

&uot;Usually when people say, ‘send us local-government aid,’ it’s a reflection of the fact that they don’t have enough tax base locally to provide local services,&uot; Pawlenty said.

Instead of temporary solutions, Pawlenty said he hopes to create an environment that would attract businesses. His prescription includes tax credits for startup businesses and research and development. He also stressed the possibility of designating some rural areas as tax-free zones, citing success in Pennsylvania where 5,500 new jobs, $350 million in private-sector investment were accomplished in 18 months, he said.

Pawlenty believes Minnesota’s tax rates, higher than most of the states in the nation, alienates business. According to him, average Minnesotans pay 30 to 40 percent more taxes than average Americans.

&uot;We don’t have to match some of the other states exactly in terms of the tax and regulatory environment. But, we at least have to make them close enough,&uot; he said.

&uot;We’ve got to be very serious about how big and how serious this challenge is,&uot; he said. &uot;We’re going to need a structural long-term change in Minnesota.&uot;

In Red Wing, manufacturers told Pawlenty of their dire straits &045; the industry sector has lost more than 35,000 Minnesota jobs in the past four years, about 80 percent of the gains realized in the 1990s.

&uot;That’s a very troubling statistic,&uot; Pawlenty said. &uot;We must stop the hemorrhaging.&uot;

Manufacturing jobs represent &uot;good in-between jobs with modest wages,&uot; he said, filling the gap between jobs in the high-tech and retail sectors.