Bi-partisan summit challenges gubernatorial candidates

A bi-partisan summit with former Governors Arnie Carlson, Al Quie and Wendell Anderson and several former legislative majority and minority leaders talked about different proposals to tackle next year’s largest-ever budget deficit — but Governor Pawlenty boycotted the meeting. MPR reports:

“All of the governors here, and I think just about all of the leadership here, have gone through processes where you’ve had to deal with budget deficits,” Carlson said. “But nothing that we dealt with will be as large as the one that is coming. That’s the point.”

Carlson is proposing the current governor, as well as the majority and minority caucuses of the Minnesota House and Senate, come up with individual plans for solving the pending deficit. He said those plans, which would certainly include spending cuts and possibly some tax increases, could then be presented to the public next year as part of the gubernatorial campaign.

<!–more–>Pawlenty isn’t running for governor next year, so he doesn’t have to worry about the deficit, right? Pawlenty and a few Republican lawmakers skipped the summit in favor of a meeting with business leaders in Eden Prairie, with T-Paw saying it makes more sense to talk about jobs than about the budget deficit. Not so, according to the St. Paul Legal Ledger analysis, which points to Minnesota’s first-ever revenue decline from one two-year budget period to the next and to a lagging economy that won’t see state revenues beginning to recover for at least 18 months. While the official state estimate is for a $4.4 billion deficit in the next biennium, the actual figure is likely to be more than $7 billion, cut costs for delivery of public services


In February 2009, as the Democratic-controlled Minnesota Legislature was wrangling with Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty over the budget crisis, five of Minnesota’s largest foundations contracted with the St. Paul-based Public Strategies Group to develop ideas for transforming Minnesota’s “financing and delivery of public services.”

The result was a report issued in March that suggested nine ideas…. The suggestions include focusing state spending on health outcomes rather than services, developing a regional approach to county human service delivery, and providing choice and competition in local governments to improve quality and costs.

The two-page executive summary of the PSG report and the 70-page Collection of Ideas offer a lot of food for thought. The 2010 gubernatorial election campaign is already underway, with many legislative leaders actively engaged. Pawlenty seems set on maintaining his slogan-based non-leadership on budget and deficit issues. The 2010 legislative session seems doomed before it begins. But the political summit and the foundation brain trust offer some hope for 2011. If the bi-partisan political leadership group can force an actual debate on the issues, the 2010 election could produce a much more rational, solution-oriented legislative session in 2011.

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