Penny says time will prove him right

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 30, 2003

MANKATO, Minn. (AP) &045; Since losing the governor’s race last fall, Tim Penny has been keeping a low profile.

But the Legislature’s solutions for a $4.5 billion budget deficit have forced Penny to speak out.

&uot;It’s a budget solution that’s built on a shaky foundation,&uot; said Penny in an interview with The Free Press of Mankato. &uot;If the economy performs robustly, we might luck out. If the economy continues to stumble along, if growth in the economy is stagnant or meager, we could find that we’re right back in deficit.&uot;

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Penny said he’s especially irked by three methods used to erase the budget’s red ink. They are using accounting gimmicks, depleting the state’s tobacco endowment fund, and borrowing money for the first time to build roads.

A year ago, Tim Penny was preparing to jump into the gubernatorial race as the Independence Party candidate. He was convinced that a state facing a fiscal crisis needed a centrist alternative to the Democratic and Republican candidates.

Penny, of Waseca, thought that then-Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe and then-House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty were responsible for the budget mess. In Penny’s eyes, the new governor would have a big problem to fix, and those guys weren’t up to the job.

&uot;It was a situation where you were being asked to elect one of the arsonists as the fire chief,&uot; Penny said.

Penny was in the thick of the race for much of the 2002 campaign before fading in the final two weeks. Pawlenty won, Moe retired from the Senate, and Penny mainly has kept his thoughts to himself, continually declining media requests to comment on the Legislative session. It was the first time he’s ever lost an election.

Penny portrayed himself during the campaign and since as the only candidate telling Minnesotans the whole truth &045; the deficit was too large to solve with spending cuts alone and that everyone would have to be willing to share in the pain. Pawlenty has continually said that the problem was one of too much spending, not too little tax revenue.

Penny said he thinks the results of the session prove he was right and Pawlenty was wrong.

&uot;If this was a spending problem instead of a revenue problem, why was half of the solution one-time money and shifts?&uot; Penny asked. &uot;If it’s a spending problem, where are the rest of the cuts?&uot;