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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

C'Mon Pawlenty, Health Care is Not a Budgetary Slush Fund

Category: Tim Pawlenty
Posted: 04/23/08 05:16

by Dave Mindeman

The Governor's office and the Legislature are starting their budget negotiations and the general idea to the art of compromise is to be honest about those negotiations.

Governor Pawlenty starts the process off with a broken promise. As the NewsCut MPR blog noted on March 7th (quoting information on the Minnesota Medical Association web site), Governor Pawlenty gave the physicians of Minnesota this assurance:

...on January 6, when Pawlenty held a campaign fundraiser and was asked about the (Health Care Access) fund, the Minnesota Medical Association took notice of the answer, posting it on the organization's Web site.

?We were pleased to hear him commit to not using the surplus to balance the budget,? said Dave Renner, MMA director of state and federal legislation, who attended the fund raiser as a representative of MEDPAC, the MMA?s political arm.

The persistent problem with Governor Pawlenty's budget fixes is that he continues to shift money around -- taking it away from its intended use and shuffling it around to plug budget holes.

The Health Care Access Fund and the provider tax that was used to fund it, had the intended purpose to bring down the number of Minnesota's uninsured. It has provided a surplus in the past...and the Governor resorted to raiding it once before, causing a number of people to be bounced off MinnesotaCare.

Using this fund to fix a general budget shortfall is not a long term solution. Doesn't anybody get it? We need to get consistent revenue sources, not shuffle and band-aid money around.

During Governor Pawlenty's tenure we have had budget projections that are all over the board. Our overall budget is disproportionately affected by economic swings..... and these temporary fixes close one hole, while opening up another. This isn't sound fiscal management... it is credit card shuffling.

Pawlenty has put the Health Care Access Fund in play from the beginning of budget talks. He is going to tout his willingness to compromise by putting his current budget out there with only half the fund being used.

The problem is that it should never have been a negotiable commodity. It was set up for a specific purpose. It's funding was carefully crafted and designed to work toward the goal of insuring all Minnesotans.

Our Governor only sees another method of temporarily patching one more budget together. I guess he is counting on it being someone else's problem next year, while he tries to head East for bigger budgets he can mess up.
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McCain Disadvantage? His Own Campaign Finance Law

Category: Presidential Politics
Posted: 04/22/08 02:02

by Dave Mindeman

This decision by McCain has huge repercussions.

As reported by Politico:

John McCain is abandoning any hope of catching the Democrats in fundraising. Based on new financial disclosure reports released Sunday, and interviews with his finance team, the Republican Party?s presumptive nominee will instead accept taxpayer money to finance his general election and share other costs with the Republican National Committee.

Now, if the Democrats can get this crazy primary thing settled, the Democratic nominee could gain a big tactical advantage going into the summer. Ironically, McCain will be tied up by his own campaign finance system. This would be a similar advantage that Clinton had over Bob Dole in 1996 -- only this one could be even larger given the sizable revenue generated by Obama and Clinton.

Even bigger -- this will be bad news for the Republican Senate and Congressional campaigns:

With the RNC focused now almost exclusively on protecting the party?s nominee, House and Senate candidates who don?t happen to be competing in presidential battleground states may be on their own.

Norm Coleman gets lucky, because the RNC will focus on Minnesota as a battleground state -- but Gordon Smith in Oregon and Susan Collins in Maine?... well, they can forget outside help.

For McCain, here are the ramifications:

On March 31, McCain officially ceded the fundraising title. According to the new reports, the McCain campaign on that day refunded more than $3.2 million in individual donations that were earmarked for the general election campaign.

and this:

Under the program, McCain will be eligible to receive $84.1 million from the national treasury to run his campaign between his official nomination at the September Republican convention in Minnesota and Election Day.

But he is under strict limits for the entire summer and because the Republicans don't have their convention till Labor Day, they will have just 9 weeks to "catch up".

As in 1996, the RNC will have to be the fund raising arm for the McCain Presidential campaign. Fortunately for the Republicans, the RNC is the only place where they have a financial advantage over their Democratic counterparts. But virtually all of their resources will have to go to prop up McCain... leaving Senate and Congressional candidates twisting in the wind.

McCain probably had little choice because his success at internet fundraising has been somewhat limited. But going into the long campaign summer, this is the decision that could decide the election.

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Pawlenty's Commissioner Strategy

Category: Tim Pawlenty
Posted: 04/21/08 19:38, Edited: 04/22/08 01:23

by Dave Mindeman

Rachel Stassen-Burger does the Political Animal blog for the Pioneer Press. And she brings up an interesting pattern with Pawlenty's Commissioner choices.

During Pawlenty's tenure, he has had 4 commissioners either resign or be ousted by the Senate. The original choices and their successors tell us a lot about Governor Pawlenty's way of doing political business.

In 2004, Rich Stanek resigned amid controversy over racial epithets. Stanek was a former police chief and Republican legislator and brought a laundry list of political agendas to his job. Pawlenty knew what he was getting but when Stanek got too controversial and resigned, he appointed a quiet, but very competent law enforcement veteran. That position ceased to be controversial.

Also in 2004, Cheri Pierson Yecke made the Education Dept a virtual war zone with a belligerent attitude and a religious zeal. She seemed to relish the controversy and dared the Democratic Senate to vote her out -- and they obliged. Pawlenty followed her with Alice Seagren. A former Republican legislator who was a partisan in her own right but had a reputation for working across the aisle and finding consensus. She has worked well with the legislature on the whole.

In 2007, Diane Mandernach created a firestorm by hiding pertinent cancer data regarding the mining industry. She had also been a lighting rod for abortion politics earlier in her appointment. She was pressured to resign and her successor was the mild mannered but highly competent physician, Dr. Sanne Magnan. The department is operating smoothly....now.

And of course, in 2008, the mother of all lightning rods, Carol Molnau, became the storm front on transportation. During the bridge controversy and the transportation vetos, she became a very partisan spokesperson for her department -- outspoken and unapologetic. Today, her replacement, Tom Sorel, shows all the virtues of technical expertise with virtually no political acumen. He will blend into the woodwork.

But notice the pattern here. The original appointments were always controversial....favorites of the GOP's conservative wing. Pawlenty set the policies and the commissioners became the targets for controversy. In this manner, Pawlenty could push the agenda forward and yet stay insulated from the critics. When the department's policies became too controversial, Pawlenty let the commissioner twist in the wind until they had to leave, then he would bring in the better appointment -- the smooth things over appointments -- that would quiet things down.

In this manner, Pawlenty gets to keep his protective cocoon. The Republican base are appeased by the original appointments but understand the need for the more competent, non-controversial replacements. And the critics of his policies confront his commissioners as the front line -- while the replacements look like a reasonable compromise.

Yet, through it all, we have a Governor who still has his policies in place while remaining politically unscathed. Pawlenty is quite the political trickster -- and laughing all the way to the RNC Convention.

Update: Minnesota Monitor poses similar questions.
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