Pawlenty proposes constitutional amendment to cap spending

The amendment would cap government spending at the amount of revenue made in the previous budget period.


Image by Jules Ameel


by Danielle Nordine

Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposed an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution on Thursday that would put a ceiling on government spending. The amendment would limit government spending to the amount of revenue the state made in the previous budget cycle. Exceptions to the cap could be made for public safety and in the event of national emergencies that happen in the state. âÄúBasing legally binding spending commitments on guesses about revenue is like building a house on shifting sand. It is unwise,âÄù Pawlenty, a Republican, said at a press conference Thursday morning. âÄúThis proposal is a better way to budget.âÄù The amendment would have to be approved by legislators before it could be put on the ballot and then approved by a majority of the voters in order to take effect. Pawlenty said he would like to see the amendment on the November 2010 ballot. A cap on spending would ease the pressures on taxpayers and cut back on government while forcing lawmakers to prioritize spending, Pawlenty said. House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher said the plan is “a formula for disaster in Minnesota.âÄù âÄúIt will cripple our schools and hospitals, not to mention the businesses that rely on a vital economy to survive,âÄù she said in a statement. At the conference, Pawlenty said that during his time in office state spending has increased by only two percent, as opposed to more than 10 percent a year in the previous 40 years. However, PawlentyâÄôs proposed budgets from 2004-2005 up through the 2010-2011 proposal have bounced between $1 billion and almost $3 billion more than the revenue made the previous cycle, meaning his own proposals would have to be scaled back to meet the requirements of the cap. ItâÄôs impossible to speculate at this point how the University of Minnesota would be affected by the amendment, Chief Finance Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said, but he said the University will continue to push for funding even if spending is capped. âÄúOur interest is in convincing the Legislature and the governor to fund the University with whatever resources they do have,âÄù Pfutzenreuter said. âÄúWeâÄôre certainly going to fight and make the case for our piece of the pie.âÄù Washington State and Maine had similar proposals on their ballots this week, but both were defeated. This is the third time in the past five years Maine voters have defeated a government spending cap proposal. The proposed amendment, which plays on the traditional conservative value of small government, comes at a time when many suspect Pawlenty is planning to make a run for the White House in 2012. -The Associated Press contributed to this story.