Pawlenty’s asinine amendment

Governor’s proposal politically-motivated, ill-considered, and undemocratic.

Governor Tim Pawlenty has proposed an amendment to the state constitution to cap spending for each budget period at the amount of money collected during the previous period. The proposal would not consider inflation, population, or economic growth in the intervening years. In the presentation of his proposed amendment, the Governor used charts showing the six-fold increase in the cost of government since 1962. Yet he conveniently forgot to include the 49% increase in population or the more dramatic 2,450% increase in the size of the economy. Overall, the cost of state and local government has fallen from 17% to 15.5% of personal income since 1994, hardly the case of runaway spending that the Governor alleges. Furthermore, none of Gov. PawlentyâÄôs budgets would have met this requirement. Any amendment would have to be approved by the DFL-controlled legislature before heading to voters, an event as likely as a snowballâÄôs chance down below. This is largely a ploy to gain political traction among the vocal minority of conservative voters aligned with the âÄòTea PartyâÄô movement that the Governor hopes will power his burgeoning Presidential ambitions. We elect state legislators to make spending and taxing decisions for the state, allowing them to react to changing conditions as they happen. Handcuffing them to a rear-view mirror prevents adjusting in real-time to revenue and cost fluctuations. If constituents are upset by those decisions, it is the responsibility of those constituents alone to choose new legislators next go around. In the Minnesota House, these elections take place every two years, providing sufficiently frequent opportunities for voters to pick a trusted representative who will represent their interests. The rapid economic decline over the past years is testament to how quickly revenue forecasts can drop, leaving lawmakers in the lurch even with such an amendment. Conversely, throughout the late 1990s, revenues were growing significantly faster than forecasted; any spending plan based on two years prior would be less than the revenue received. This would undoubtedly encourage tax cuts, serving to further restrict lawmakers when economic troubles inevitably returned, despite the stateâÄôs need to maintain the infrastructure and peopleâÄîthe stateâÄôs economic enginesâÄîin which it has already invested. Spending decisions should be left in the hands of elected officials who have been entrusted by their constituents to make tough choices rather than a politically-motivated Governor on his way out the door and looking nowhere but up. Kyle Weimann welcomes comments at [email protected]