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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

State of the State thoughts

So Pawlenty gave his State of the State address today. I was wondering whether he would call for bipartisanship and have the guts to go back on his no new taxes pledge. There wasn't too much on the first subject, and he certainly failed to be honest on the second.

He put forward ideas, of course. A university in Rochester is a great idea, although it will probably take more than $3 million to get it going. No word on how to pay for its operation, no word on where the money would come from.

He wants to link student financial aid to students, not to higher education institutions. Great for private colleges and universities, bad for MnSCU and the U of M. The U of M is going to wane in importance under Pawlenty's watch if this goes forward, and that puts the economic health of the state at risk. Tuition has gone up more than 50% in a few short years. Any more of this, and the U of M will lose both top-notch faculty and students. That's a very bad idea.

He's pushing Health Savings Accounts again, which do nothing to actually make health care cheaper. He is also pushing for bulk purchasing. Say, how about leveraging the entire state as a buying pool? Or the entire nation? Naw, these kinds of "bulk purchases" are evil. It's much better to have small pools that don't include patients who consume more health care. These people will be left out in the cold even more so if he ends Minnesota Care, insurance for poor single childless adults. Of course, these people would still get sick, bankrupting public hospitals and driving up property taxes, but Pawlenty doesn't seem to care much about that.

His education proposals would also raise property taxes, but I've already gone over that.

Ethanol? I'm indifferent. I don't like many subsidies, and the environmental advantages of ethanol are not exactly fantastic.

He brought up something call "Turbocharged Truth-In-Taxation". This would allow people to have a kind of reverse referendum on levy increases. Gee, governor, how convenient: push programs that result in higher property taxes, then allow people to say no to those taxes so the programs are starved. You get all the credit for proposing them and don't pay any price for not funding them! I'm sorry, but I don't believe in these kinds of reverse referendums. If the public doesn't like property tax increases, they can vote out the school board, city council, or county commissioners at the next election. I have the same negative feelings towards any kind of initiative and referendum proposals.

Those crickets you hear represent Pawlenty's comments on transportation. Nothing there at all. Considering that the lack of transportation funding is one of the most important issues facing the state, that's one big oversight.

All in all, this was a disappointing speech. He puts forward some ideas but doesn't say how he will pay for them, and harps on some old conservative standbys (HSAs, reverse referenda) that will do nothing to actually solve problems in our schools, on our roads, in our criminal justice system, and in our health care system. He had a chance to be visionary, and he chose not to go that route. These don't sound like the policy ideas of somebody who is serious about working towards a common good.


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