Editorial: Pawlenty has legacy of deficit

Published 8:40 am Friday, May 7, 2010

During the past eight years, Tim Pawlenty has held his promise of no new state taxes.

As a result, property taxes have gone up. There are more fees and surcharges on everything to do with government. School districts have had to pass community-dividing referendum levies to afford taken-for-granted expenses like busing kids.

Meanwhile, the state Legislature has had to bend over backward to meet the governor’s no-taxes pledge. He was willing to exercise a questionable power called unallotment — stripping funding away after he had approved it.

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The Minnesota Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled Pawlenty exceeded his authority in using unallotment. The power was intended only in an emergency.

Democrats argued Pawlenty created the emergency by approving the funding while striking down the tax bill to pay for it.

Now Minnesota, a deficit-ridden state, finds itself facing an even greater deficit.

Is this the legacy Pawlenty wishes to leave — all to maintain a no-taxes pledge? So he can run for president?

Critics could try to blame the Democrats. But if you look at it even-handed, the conclusion is this: While Democrats indeed controlled the Legislature, it is Pawlenty’s signature on the spending bills. He even had line-item veto power as a means to cut spending.

The old rule applies: If you approve the spending of money, you need the means to pay for it.

And with this Pawlenty’s last year in office, he is leaving the state in financial shambles.

Surprisingly, there are people who still want to be governor of Minnesota.

Perhaps at this point some of the candidates might see the wisdom in reducing the powers of the governor. Get rid of unallotment. Get rid of line-item veto. Still require balanced budgets. Make it so the Legislature and governor are more balanced in power.

It’s really simple. And it’s something Democrats and Republicans should be able to agree on.