Monday, May 11, 2009

The cost of "get Pawlenty" (UPDATE: Pawlenty compromise spurned) 

Speed Gibson makes good points about the DFL legislature's failures of the current session, and pins the tails on the right donkeys: Kelliher and Pogemiller.
Both of these leaders are incompetent. So are their lieutenants, Taryl Clark and Tony Sertich. They've had two years to learn their jobs, but the events this past week show no tangible improvement. Again, forget the policies and proposals for the moment. Look at the process and the resulting lack of progress. When even the normally undemanding media is openly complaining, even the DFL must admit they have a problem.

Look at this $ 992 million tax bill, just announced. Gone, suddenly gone, are the "thoughtful" Senate and House bills that made their way through weeks of deliberation. All that work for nothing, replaced by something hurriedly cobbled together, a bill they could have written in January. It needn't have waiting for the February forecast, but OK, they could have written it March. Instead, we see it in May, with two weeks left in the session. I have to believe even a few in the DFL were surprised and disappointed by this. ...

To my untrained mind, this session has only one real purpose for the DFL: get Pawlenty. That's what the "listening" tours were about. That's what all this posturing the past two months has been about. And now it's May, crunch time. As this new tax bill concedes, operation "Get Pawlenty" is headed for the rocks.

What Pogemiller and Kelliher don't understand is that they're no match for Pawlenty in a political duel. They have only their strength in numbers, and those numbers should seriously think about who they're following and why.
Gary Gross is calling it "seat of the pants taxation":

As a result of the DFL�s infighting, they were forced to take the step of rewriting the Tax Increase Bill from scratch, passing it through the House and Senate, then have Gov. Pawlenty veto it before he headed out for the Annual Governor�s Walleye Opener on White Bear Lake.

What�s worse is that the DFL hasn�t shown any inclination towards finding cost savings. There�s no denying that they�ve figured out cuts but that�s a different story. Cutting budgets just means that you�re cutting spending and services. Finding cost savings means that you�re cutting spending but keeping service levels the same.

The tactic of "get Pawlenty" has focused on his proposal to pull future tobacco settlement revenues forward to cover some current spending that the governor has decided cannot be reformed in the way Gary describes. What the governor does is say "look, I can't cut a billion more here in this biennium: too much, too fast, and unwise in a recession. What I can do is pull money into this biennium and get you to spend less later when the economy improves." A smaller reform, details TBA, starting two years from now. It's not a great plan in my opinion, but it's not bad. (Better would be to identify what you're cutting later, rather than letting the Legislature figure it out for you.)

But the only other options are to find current cuts without cutting services, as Gary describes it, or raise taxes. When Sen. Bakk defeated Rep. Lenczewski in conference and got this tax bill -- which the governor declared DOA before they even passed it -- the leadership put itself in a box: It has said it won't accept the tobacco bonds while agreeing with Pawlenty that the last billion can't be cut. It therefore must act contrary to wishes of its own national leadership either to raise taxes or cut spending in E-12. If it thinks it can do that and also "get Pawlenty", they have yet to show how.

UPDATE AND BUMP: Just before I left I checked the comments email box and got this at the bottom of a statement from Marty Seifert (I assume this is a summary by House GOP caucus staff -- I haven't seen an official letter):
Also today, Governor Pawlenty made the first significant offer to bring the session to an on-time close. In a letter to the Legislature, the governor said he would accept the Senate DFL's position of not funding the budget reserve, accept the House's desire for a larger K-12 education shift, and halve his proposal for appropriation bonds. Democrats responded by calling the offer "not responsible" even though two of the three parts are DFL initiatives. By rejecting their own proposals, Democrats are making it awfully difficult to bring this session to a close by May 18.
We might need a corollary to the rule of holes: when you've painted yourself into a corner, stop painting! Because the DFL is still working that brush.

And they might still want to remedy this year's deficit.

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