The state of the state

Neglected problems

Gov. Tim Pawlenty gave a nuanced, interesting speech that reminded me that even though I do not agree with Republicans on many things, a Minnesota Republican is a lot better to have in charge than the average national Republican. Still, this does not absolve Pawlenty for ignoring some of our state’s key problems.

I think Pawlenty is honestly committed to the pragmatism and openness expressed in his quotation of Franklin Roosevelt:

“The country needs Ö the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and move on. But above all, try something.”

I could not agree more. I just believe the targets of Pawlenty’s particular experiments are ill-judged. Now is the time to be thinking about jobs, health care and higher education – not about reinstating the death penalty or limiting state spending growth.

Pawlenty had many good things to offer in his address, from the proposed Northstar commuter line and a high-speed bus lane for the southern suburbs to last year’s legislation that cleaned up coal plants.

But even Pawlenty’s most interesting proposals do little to address the serious problems Minnesota faces. Unemployment is one of them, and despite talk of jobs programs, Minnesota’s unemployment rate hit 4.7 percent in December, the highest unemployment rate our state has faced in the last decade. President George W. Bush’s tax cuts have done little to address this state’s unemployment problem, and it is time for our state government to step up.

Furthermore, while Pawlenty gushes about “balancing the budget without raising taxes,” he conveniently forgets that budget cuts and “fixes” caused “$340 million in local property tax increases and $400 million in new fees,” according to the Star Tribune. Meanwhile, tuition and fees at the University increased 14.7 percent last year in large part because of the governor’s inability to meet the school’s funding requests. For a full-time student, that is an $842 tax increase that does not concern Pawlenty, who considers this school his alma mater.

In his speech, Pawlenty also called for a voter referendum on reinstating the death penalty in Minnesota. The death penalty is an idea that appeals to the worst emotion in humans: revenge. If it deterred violent crime, I would endorse it whole-heartedly. It does not. Studies consistently show this, and the only argument left in its favor is it might make you “feel better.” However, governmental decision making is better off relying on scientific study than on pure emotions.

Despite the governor’s smooth voice and excellent bipartisanship in some key instances, I have these strong caveats, which I cannot put aside. Minnesotans need jobs, a strong commitment to affordable higher education and health care for the 400,000 residents in this state who have none. Until these issues are addressed more effectively, the state of the state remains far darker than Pawlenty wants us to believe.

Mitch Mosvick, a guest columnist, is a Carlson School of Management student. He welcomes comments at [email protected]