I guess, by the standards of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s right-wing agit-prop editorials, yesterday’s screed by Kevin Ferris suggesting that a potential New Jersey Repug Governor Chris Christie (gulp) would govern like Minnesota’s Tim Pawlenty was comparatively tame.
I mean, no human being on earth knows at this moment whether or not Christie would take his cue from the guy who was once the co-chair of John McCain’s VP selection committee (so Pawlenty shares part of the blame for the Sarah Palin selection, dontcha know), but I suppose this is the Repug talking point du jour, so Ferris must dutifully oblige (I wish I could recall where I read that all he does is change to point size on the type of RNC press releases and pass them off as his own columns – funny).
In the interest of fairness, I’ll present the following from Ferris’ column…
Lawmakers in St. Paul, like their counterparts across the country, have been wrestling with a deficit, in this case about $4.6 billion over two years. To fill the hole, Democrats who control the Legislature wanted to raise taxes – income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, alcohol taxes, cigarette taxes.
(Pawlenty) said no, not in this recession. Period. He meant it.
When the Legislature sent him a plan for $1 billion in new taxes May 8, Pawlenty vetoed it.
Democrats hoped to override with the help of a few Republican lawmakers, as had happened last year with Pawlenty’s veto of a gasoline-tax increase. But this year the GOP backed the governor.
At midnight on May 18, as the regular session was ending, Democrats rammed a similar bill through the legislature, prompting Veto No. 2.
All right, some Democrats thought, let the term end and the governor will call a special session to deal with the budget crisis. We’ll give a little on spending, he’ll give a little on taxes. Business as usual.
Nope. Here’s what Pawlenty said on Fox & Friends on May 21: “The legislature went home for the year, thank goodness. And instead of calling them back to have a summer-long fight about the budget, I’m going to take the steps, as conditions warrant, to shave down the budget to get it back in balance.”
OK, now you get the idea.
In response, here is Wayne Cox of Minnesota Citizens for Tax Justice…
Estimates are that between 20,000 and 30,000 mainly private-sector jobs will be lost as a result of Governor Pawlenty’s succeeding in forcing through his all-cuts/no-new taxes approach.
The job losses will be a surprise to many. Blame that on Stockholm Syndrome.
The Capitol press gave the public a daily diet of Pawlenty and Rep. Marty Seifert railing that taxes kill jobs. Unreported went the testimony of State Economist Tom Stinson that state budget cuts would cost more jobs than a similar dollar amount of tax increases.
Pawlenty had it exactly wrong. The public had it right. Pawlenty vetoed the tax increases on high income and alcohol that a Star Tribune poll showed two-thirds of Minnesotans viewed as preferable to his level of budget cuts.
In past years whenever Pawlenty forced Republican legislators to walk the plank with him like this, many were defeated by Democrats the following year. Expect the same next year. When Pawlenty was first elected governor, 60 percent of the seats in the Minnesota House were Republicans. They now hold only slightly more than a third.
Republicans used to talk about big tent and small tent. Because of Pawlenty, they have added a special category: pup tent.
The editorial by Cox does point out, though, that Pawlenty has enhanced his national reputation among the Grover Norquist tax ideologues, for whatever that’s worth (not enough by itself to win a trip to the White House), so the Minnesota governor can now consider himself as a member of the same club of no-tax, cut-spending, budget-be-damned Repug automatons as Mark Sanford and Governor Ahh-nold (with the latter being a particularly egregious example, as noted here, though in fairness I should note that I’m not sure that anyone could successfully govern The Golden State).
And anybody who thinks Christie wouldn’t try to elevate his national profile as Pawlenty has, given the chance, must think that Flush Limbore actually isn’t the head of the party (though I’ll admit that political egomania is definitely a bipartisan affliction – and all of this assumes Christie will defeat fellow Repug Steve Lonegan in the primary tomorrow; Christie is leading, but we’ll see).
And as noted here, Pawlenty vetoed at least 34 bills sponsored by the Democratic state legislature, including a gasoline tax increase to pay for bridge repairs after the I-35W collapse (that veto was overridden, fortunately).
Finally, on the matter of the fiscal well being of his state, let’s not forget that the ongoing battle between winner Al Franken and sore loser Norm Coleman has thus far cost $50 million dollars (here). Now I’ll conceded that both individuals have accepted funds from outside of Minnesota in the process, I’m sure, and I’ll admit that I don’t know whether or not Pawlenty could legally certify the election while court actions are ongoing (this New York Times story says that Pawlenty could be directed to do that by the state supreme court).
However, in an era where Pawlenty’s state as well as many others are facing fiscal hardship, it’s way beyond scandalous for him to say nothing while Coleman’s costly antics continue (kind of anachronistic for a “fiscal conservative,” wouldn’t you say?).
Update 6/2/09: To get ready for a 2012 White House run, I’m sure (here)…