Hats off to spending cap

Gov. Pawlenty’s proposed spending cap is welcome relief.

Thursday morning, Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced a proposed amendment to the Minnesota state constitution which would limit spending in the stateâÄôs budget to what it collected in revenues over the previous biennium. The governor has announced he will not be seeking another term in 2010, but his Freedom First PAC âÄî a suspected launching pad for a 2012 presidential run âÄî took in thousands Wednesday, in a major fundraising event in Minneapolis. State Democrats were quick to pounce on the proposal and its timing. Steve Kelley a DFL gubernatorial candidate alleged the amendment âÄúis about [PawlentyâÄôs] political future, not whatâÄôs best for Minnesotans.âÄù He went on to argue that the âÄútiming of this proposalâĦcould not be more politically cynical.âÄù The measure could become a 2010 referendum if lawmakers allow, a situation that, unfortunately for voters, looks unlikely with a legislature so heavily Democratic. If the proposal is being made in earnest, the governor may have struck political gold. âÄúThe concept is new, as far as we can tell,âÄù Pawlenty said Thursday. The governor is more or less right. Laws such as TABOR, or a TaxpayersâÄô Bill of Rights, have been floated by several states. Coloradoans approved one such measure in 1992, which pegged state spending to inflation and population growth. In 2005, voters temporarily suspended TABOR, and it is currently being restructured. Once earned, voters were leery to abandon the limits outright, despite the fact that since passing in the early 90s, they had dragged the state comparatively downward in health and education spending statistics. ColoradoâÄôs Democrats have now made painfully clear to the taxpayers just how much spending statistics matter; they are going after the spending cap. Representative Randy Fischer recently remarked, âÄúWe are a chronically revenue-short state, even in the good times, to provide all the services we want.” But thatâÄôs the point. Governments should provide only those services the public needs, not every service the government wants. It seems the only way to instill such scrutiny into the practice of governance is to implement a spending cap. Government officials tend to see more value in government services than the taxpayers do, and spendthrift lawmakers will predict doom for public welfare long before theyâÄôd admit it. Minnesotans are ready to cast a vote on fiscal conservatism next year. John Brown welcomes comments at [email protected]