Editorial: Pawlenty’s pay plan could go even further

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 11, 2005

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty took a road trip to tout his latest proposal to bring common sense back to the legislative and budgetary processes. Pawlenty &045; whose reputation as a fiscal conservative and a friend to taxpayers took a beating this year following the two-month special session and the eight-day government shutdown that was resolved only with a 75-cent-per-pack tax increase on cigarettes &045; toured the state to pitch what he is calling a &uot;Performance Pay for Politicians&uot; proposal. Under the proposal, legislators and the governor would forfeit paychecks if they failed to meet critical budget deadlines. If the May deadline is missed, they won’t get paid for June. If the June 30 deadline is missed and the government shuts down again, the politicians lose their checks for July and August.

The theory, one supposes, is that politicians, who have been squeezing taxpayers for years, should be squeezed as well, and that if they feel the pinch, the politicians might work to get things accomplished in a more timely fashion. No matter what the merits of the proposal may be &045; and it does have some merit &045; it seems but another political gimmick in a year that has been filled with political gimmicks. Still, it’s no worse than the gimmicks used and being used by the DFL to milk the recent governmental shutdown for all its worth politically.

But if the governor is serious about using monetary inducements to keep the Legislature in line, then why not go a little further and really hit the politicians where it hurts. Here is a modest proposal for a few more ways of keeping our political leaders in line by tapping their pocketbooks. New charges would include:

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&045; A &uot;75-cent a quip user fee&uot; charged to any politician, no matter which party, who blames someone from the other party for problems in state government. Though the 75-cent-per quip charge may seem light, with as much finger pointing and buck passing as went on this past session, the state probably not only would balance its budget regularly, but would end up with a budget surplus year after year.

&045; An &uot;abuser fee&uot; for any politician who abuses the English language by slipping into euphemism to mask what he or she is really saying. Examples of such abuse of the language would be referring to casino gambling as &uot;gaming&uot; or calling a tax on cigarettes a &uot;fee.&uot; Politicians also would be charged the abuser fee for using overworked hot-button political verbiage. Words such as &uot;gridlock&uot; would be strictly forbidden.

And while we are at it, why not have true performance pay for politicians. If teachers should be paid on the basis of how well their students perform on standardized tests, why not pay politicians on how well they perform for the districts they were elected to represent? Such a radical proposal would keep the politicians focused on their constituencies and not on party politics.

&045; Owatonna People’s Press