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St. Paul, Minn. — On Feb. 19, 2003, Gov. Pawlenty proposed a two-year state budget that, although increasing in size, cuts a number of programs and services. "I don't think it is unreasonable in times of war, in times of recession, in times of thousands and thousands of Minnesotans losing their jobs, in times of an enormous state budget deficit, to ask state government to live within a nearly seven-percent growth in revenues," said Pawlenty, who was swept into office largely on the strength of a no-new-taxes pledge. During a recent legislative debate on short-term cuts to close a budget deficit, one lawmaker defended his actions by saying "this is what the people of Minnesota elected us to do." Is it?
In the wake of 2002 election, each party had its own interpretation of what message the voters were delivering, and subsequent polls have been unclear about a precise vision for Minnesota's future.
Anyone can balance a budget; just cut from the expenditure side until it matches the revenue side. Easy, right?
But budget-balancing requires more than math skills. It requires a vision. We could just make the budget scales balance and then see what the state looks like five years from now. Or we can think about what we value about Minnesota, what our priorities are, and what we want to be standing when this "pain" -- as the governor describes it -- is over.
HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE?
The budget deficit wasn't built in a day. It's a complicated beast and while we don't pretend that this simulation takes every component into account, it will require you to think about the choices you want the state to make. So, give the future of Minnesota 10-15 minutes.