And his name is Tim Pawlenty. At least I hope it will be.
As Saint Paul's post of yesterday alluded to, the talk of the town here in Minnesota is squarely focused on the looming state budget deficit ("Looming" is definitely the adjective of choice in the media when describing the deficit especially if you want to scare people. It always reminds me of the WWI propaganda poster Beat Back the Hun as if the deficit is about to come charging across and start bayoneting women and children.) now projected to be somewhere around $4.5 billion (give or take a couple hundred thou here or there depending on whether the new light rail cars are outfitted with bullet proof glass or not).
Since Republican Governor elect Tim Pawlenty vowed not to raise taxes during the campaign the DFL can now hardly contain their delight as they speculate about which programs he will have to cut and snarkliy comment on the impossibility of balancing the budget without tax increases. All the usual terrifying talk of grandmas being thrown into the streets, kids eating ketchup in the school cafeterias, legions of homeless freezing to death in the streets, (Perhaps a new promotion for Minneapolis? Instead of Peanuts statutes or painted cows we have a solidly frozen hobo on every corner. Get your picture taken next to 'em kids.) that was first trotted out during the Reagan Years is being regurgitated again. It's as if the Democrats have a glass case with instructions "Break Open In Event of Budget Deficit Under Republican Administration" which contains an audio tape filled with these scare mongering clichés.
Of course what's not often mentioned is that during the last five budget bienniums the smallest spending increase was 11.3% (the smallest!) and on average spending has increased 12.8% over the last eleven budget bienniums according to State of Minnesota Budgets Home Page. And the notion that "the budget will be balanced on the backs of the poor" is absurd since 43% of the general fund comes from personal income taxes which I don't believe the poor pay a whole heck of a lot of.
The modest tax cuts enacted in the last few years were hard fought and many years in coming. If Pawlenty were to go back on his pledge not to raise taxes it would a disastrous mistake for Republicans and the future of conservatism in Minnesota. Tax cuts aren't a luxury that we can enjoy when times are good but then have to surrender when we hit an economic bump in the road. They're a part of a long term approach that includes more personal freedom (and responsibility) and less government.
I've been a long time Pawlenty supporter and am optimistic that the long hours I spent at the state Republican convention this year were not in vain and that he will be the man of the hour. If he is able to stick to his guns and weather the inevitable storm of criticism this could be a chance for him to establish his place as one of the bright up and coming GOP stars as Governor Bill Owens has done by cutting taxes and restraining spending to balance the state budget in Colorado. This is a time of great risk for the new governor but also of great opportunity.
By the way if I was governor (and the citizens of the state are likely fortunate that I am not as they may not share my dreams of using the National Guard to secure lebensraum for Minnesota-I've had my eye on Wisconsin for some time-Our future lies in the east!) my solution to the budget dilemma would be a simple across the board cut for everything including what has become the third rail of Minnesota politics; education. Or is it the 900 lb gorilla?