Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s vetoes are critical

Seventy million dollars is a lot of money to shell out for a light-rail line from Minneapolis to St. Paul that is not entirely planned and only benefits a certain few Minnesotans. At least that’s what Gov. Tim Pawlenty considered when he recently removed a portion of a bonding bill passed along to him by state Democrats that would borrow almost $1 billion to fund pork project spending around the state.

The governor deserves our applause for this veto and others that added up to around $200 million in cuts. Pawlenty, like most Minnesotans, believes the government should live within a budget, like we all have to on a daily basis, instead of spending on a government credit card with no limit for projects intended to help Democrats get re-elected.

After announcing that he would still consider the Central Corridor line connecting Minneapolis and St. Paul if House and Senate leaders took more fiscal responsibility, the governor cited the fact that this line alone could destroy 1,000 parking spots along University Avenue and cost nearly $1 billion annually to keep it operating. On top of that, the portion that could potentially run through the University could cost an additional $100 million and create years of frustrating and chaotic construction.

This veto puts Pawlenty in a good negotiating position, which will hopefully force the Democrats to control their urge to drive up debt.

New transportation solutions are necessary to Minnesota’s continued growth and competitive edge among states. This progress and innovation is being stalled by wasteful and partisan efforts to please special interests and far left-wing stakeholders. This was demonstrated by Democrats’ relentless efforts to remove Transportation Commissioner Carol Molnau after the Interstate 35W bridge collapse. Despite a report from federal safety and transportation officials that the collapse was caused by a flawed 1960s design and not by oversight failure in the short term, Senate leaders did not approve her as the acting Commissioner.

If left-wing office holders continue to flood the agenda with politically motivated hearings, bills regarding marijuana, allowing high school seniors to drink at bars, and building Bell museums, the people of Minnesota will never get the attention they deserve on issues like education, transportation, health care and the environment. By the way, Pawlenty also vetoed that Bell museum. Good for him.

There is an even bigger story at play here, though. The banks that provide the state of Minnesota with bonds when it borrows money each year charge a certain rate based on past spending and fiscal activity. The spending patterns of DFL legislators threaten to destroy the government’s long history as a recognized “AAA Bond Rating” borrower. Think of this rating as a credit score for the government, which can fluctuate with out-of-control spending and high debt. This rating for Minnesota has not been affected for decades, by neither Republicans nor Democrats. A loss of our AAA rating means it will cost more for future generations to take out bonds and conduct the basic operation functions of a state government. This is a dangerous line to walk, but when lawmakers don’t have common sense in mind, it becomes a reality.

At the end of the day, LRT is a potential step forward in alleviating a horrible traffic and transportation nightmare that has resulted from extreme sprawl outside the metro area over the past two decades. Democrats are convinced their $6 billion tax increase last month on gas and license fees (among other things) is the solution, but the funny part about this new tax on middle-class families is that most of the money collected will not be used for roads and bridges. Instead, much of the money will go to more mass transit that serves a small fraction of the people that pay the tax. It will also go to light rail in the future to connect a city to a city, instead of a city to an outside group of suburbs that are screaming for an alternative to three hours in traffic each day. These suburbs are not home to nearly as many democratically leaning voters, however, so it makes sense to ignore their needs until after the election. After all, if they aren’t going to help keep these guys in office, what good are they?

With only a few weeks left in the legislative session, it will be critical for both parties to compromise on solutions for all Minnesotans, which includes more than the metro centers of the Twin Cities. No matter how much we wish to become a green society overnight, it won’t happen. Roads are still the most used form of transportation, supporting our multi-billion dollar system of commerce every day. Pretending they don’t need more attention is like the city selling off all snow plows because they are dangerous to other drivers, and then crossing our fingers that people will never need to drive on roads when it snows again.

Andy Post welcomes comments at [email protected]