Wednesday, June 17, 2009 By Aaron Brown
Yesterday, in a fiery press conference Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced his unilateral solution to the budget debate he was unwilling to negotiate during the legislative session. Yay, executive power! Good luck in '12, bub. But the outcome is devastating and the governor and his allies are unwilling to admit the role they've played in trying to turn Minnesota into a cold weather Mississippi.
“In just one day, Governor Pawlenty has done more damage to Minnesota than he has throughout his entire career,” said [House Speaker Margaret] Kelliher, a possible candidate for governor. “The deep cuts he proposes are one more rejection of the balanced approach of both cuts and revenue preferred by Minnesotans and passed by the Legislature.” (From MinnPost)The governor is a pleasant fellow. I've met him and, on paper, I can follow his policy goals from point A to point B. But his perspective on the role of government is from another universe, a closed universe that doesn't reflect the Minnesota than most voters have supported over the last several decades.
Yes, since Gov. Pawlenty took office his policies have been rejected in three consecutive legislative elections. He got back into office with a slim plurality in 2006, but that's hardly a ringing endorsement of a strict interpretation of ultra-conservative fiscal policy when you balance it with the dozens of House seats lost by Republicans during the same period.
What Minnesotans seemed to be suggesting in their last three electoral choices is balance. Needed services funded. Efficiencies and budget cuts sought. Taxes made as fair as possible for all Minnesotans. What have we got? A governor unwilling to compromise with a democratically elected legislature, seemingly to advance his own narrow definition of the role of government. He's entitled to his opinion. I know some people who agree with him. I know more who don't. The governor is responsible for all Minnesotans -- including that majority that didn't vote for him or his policies in any of the last three elections.
Tuesday, friends of mine rallied on the Iron Range for the theater program at Hibbing Community College. (Photo: Hibbing Daily Tribune). The program's full time director is leaving and the college, because of unallotment cuts that are worse than the cuts they had already planned for, is not replacing him. This theater program might sound like a throw-away thing to many who live where there are plenty of theater options, but for the Iron Range HCC's theater represented a flagship of quality artistic expression. And it -- like advanced courses in most of our schools, care for our elderly and more -- are out the door not through negotiation, but through a decree.
For me and the many others who are trying to promote a better quality of life for the people of the Iron Range (or the people of any other forgotten corner of the diverse geography of Minnesota) these cuts aren't just bean counting, they seem personal. They will damage our communities for decades and possibly longer. They will retard our growth and prosperity while the wealthy parts of the state get another pass, again.
Minnesota is one state, where the shared fate of all our people unite us for a common, universal good. Or at least it was, and could be again.