This article was written by Jason Lewis, local talk radio host that fills in for Rush. Pawlenty has definitely turned to the left. He and McCain have alot in common.
But in 2005, signs of his progressive instincts emerged. In a quest for new revenue, Mr. Pawlenty supported a 75 cents per-pack cigarette tax. He called it a health impact fee. No one was fooled. User fees are generally charged to ensure that those who use a government service pay for the cost of providing that service. In this case, however, it was obvious that smokers were just being tapped to fund health-care entitlement programs.
Following the tax hike, the governor pushed through a state-wide smoking ban in workplaces, restaurants and bars. Aggressive, Nanny-state government seems to be big with Republican governors these days although policies such as smoking bans do little to stem the costly tide of state-run health care.
In 2006, liberal Democrats (there is no other kind here) proposed a universal health-care behemoth to cover all residents. Mr. Pawlenty responded with a more limited proposal to expand the states child health-care program, Minnesota Care, to cover all children. More recently, the governors Health Care Transformation Task Force recommended imposing a mandate à la Massachusetts on residents to buy health insurance.
On prescription drugs, Mr. Pawlenty set up the states RX Connect Program to import price-controlled Canadian drugs. The South St. Paul populist also advocated a temporary ban on ads paid for by pharmaceutical companies. Not exactly the stuff of which markets are made.
Not everything has been bleak for the right during Mr. Pawlentys tenure. Last session he vetoed several major spending bills pushed by the Democratic Farmer Labor Party; they were so profligate that his vetoes elicited barely a whimper from Minnesotas reliably liberal media. Nevertheless, Mr. Pawlenty has presided over back-to-back biennial budget increases of 12.4% and 9.8% respectively. Last year the governors proposed budget survived essentially intact but still spent the states $2 billion surplus, with half the general fund increase going to education. Minnesota, with five million people, now has a biennial budget of nearly $35 billion.
Mr. Pawlentys proactive government stance extends to support for mass transit and sport stadium subsidies, as well as for hiking the states minimum wage, which is now $6.15 an hour for large employers (the federal minimum wage is $5.85). But it is education and the environment where Mr. Pawlenty hopes to establish his progressive bona fides.
He calls for accountability in education, but does little to buck the most powerful lobby in state politics, Education Minnesota. Indeed, Mr. Pawlenty has courted the unions, telling the Minnesota Business Partnership that I cant have the Republican governor talk about changing the school system without having the support and help of the teachers union and my friends on the other side of the aisle. It just wont work.
On the environment, Mr. Pawlenty imposed some of the most aggressive renewable energy mandates in the country. Other states will be requiring, in coming years, that energy producers get 20% of their electricity from renewable sources such as wind, solar or animal manure. In Mr. Pawlentys Minnesota, the states largest utility will be required to generate 30% of its power from renewable sources by 2020.
Mr. Pawlenty is using his influence through the National Governors Association to export his ideas across state lines. The NGA meets in Washington, D.C. next week. Look for Mr. Pawlenty to be on hand and stumping for renewable mandates.
In April, Mr. Pawlenty delivered the remarks that probably best reveal his views on the environment. It looks like we should have listened to President Carter, he told the Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group. He called us to action, and we should have listened. . . . Climate change is real. Human behavior is partly and may be a lot responsible. Those who dont think so are simply not right. We should not spend time on voices that say its not real.
At times it seems that Mr. Pawlentys first political instinct is to placate liberal critics, as he did following the collapse of the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis last August. When Rep. James Oberstar, a Democrat, tried to exploit the tragedy that killed 13 people and injured 100 others by blaming it on a lack of federal gas tax revenue Mr. Pawlenty responded by calling for a state gas tax increase. Thankfully, the governor started backpedaling on that idea almost immediately after proposing it. He now promises to veto any tax increase to come out of the legislature this year (handing down one such veto yesterday).
Thats good. But it doesnt mean that hell be able to deliver the state for Mr. McCain. In the run-up to Super Tuesday earlier this month, Mr. Pawlenty stumped hard for Mr. McCain only to watch as Republican voters delivered Minnesota overwhelmingly to Mitt Romney.
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Ahhh... the ol' "a fee is not a tax" game. I expect this kind of cr@p from liberals.
Sounds like a northern version of Huckabee
Fabulous — another big government republican.
No fecal matter, Holmes. Pity that more can't see that here.