The legislature failed to deal with a $4 billion dollar budget deficit, and increased spending for the new budget, and increased or added taxes across the board.
Governor Pawlenty was having none of it.
Using a little known and little used Minnesota law, Pawlenty slashed through the budget with aplomb.
Upon receiving the last spending bill, he announced that he would exercise the power of "unallotment," which has been on the books since 1939 and which has been used four times. Under it, the governor is allowed to "unallot" (take away) any state spending for which there is no money to pay.
Of course the legislature responded with a last minute tax hikes, but Pawlenty didn't let them get away with it and vetoed the tax bills.
Mr. Pawlenty is now free to strip $2.7 billion from state spending to balance the budget. Tax hikes are dead.
These cuts, he says, will position Minnesota to take advantage of the recovery when it comes.
Of course the Minnesota Democrats have gone ballistic, spreading words of doom and gloom and trying to make sure Minnesota voters will know to blame the governor when 'vital' services are cut. ( My definition of 'vital' differs greatly from theirs.) Fortunately the voters aren't buying it.
Voters elsewhere might wish for a little more such show. Mr. Pawlenty's hardball has earned him glowing praise from the state's job creators, in particular small businesses, who are relieved to be spared additional tax burdens in today's economy. The governor's message -- that it is simply "inappropriate" for state legislators to keep spending like lunatics and raise taxes in a recession -- has resonated with cash-strapped voters.
That sort of tax-and-spend governance is precisely what has now pushed California to the brink of insolvency. California voters revolted this week, defeating five budget ballot initiatives. "The sky isn't going to fall," Mr. Pawlenty told reporters on Tuesday, just because Minnesota has to trim 3% to 4% from a $34 billion budget. Oh, to hear such words from a California pol.
I wish my home state of New Hampshire had such a law or something akin to it, like a line-item veto. Goodness knows we could use it now considering our Democrat-majority legislature is ready to spend us into the poor house with yet another unbalanced budget (which is unconstitutional in this state) and a broad slate of tax and fee hikes. Of course our present wishy-washy governor would be unlikely to use it, except to cut out a few minor spending issues for appearances sake. The upcoming biennial budget needs about a $1.5 billion reduction in order to keep spending in check. But that's not likely to happen this time around.