Saturday, December 31, 2005

2005 in review: Pawlenty, the future of the party

"These are times that try men's souls." - Thomas Payne, The Crisis, December 17, 1776

Gov. Pawlenty had quite a year. As I have highlighted in a few posts this week, Gov. Pawlenty has shown to be a conservative reformer by taking on education spending, proposed tax increases, legislative performance and illegal immigration just to name a few.


Education

In 2005, Gov. Pawlenty took on one of the DFL's biggest issues: Education. Ever since he named Dr. Yecke to be his education secretary, Pawlenty has shown himself to be an education reformer. His first action on education was Q Comp, paying effective teachers what they deserve to be paid.

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The Q-Comp initiative, championed by Pawlenty, requires participating districts to come up with criteria for assessing teacher performance, using student achievement as one measurement. At least 60 percent of their raises would be tied to merit, a departure from the current practice of awarding pay increases on seniority and college credits earned.

(Source: “For schools, qualified relief over money increase,” Star Tribune, July 13, 2005)

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We all know that teaching is one of the most underpaid professions. Gov. Pawlenty's proposal, which is now a reality, pays teachers based on preformance, not union tenure.

This past session, Pawlenty's budget included one of the largest, if not the largest ever, increases in public education spending.

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More important politically, [Pawlenty] and the Legislature passed the largest school-aid bill in years. (Source: Pioneer Press, July 17, 2005)
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His actions on education will show to have a great benefit to Minnesota, also making Pawlenty hard to beat in this issue in 2006.

Budgeting, Tax Increases and the HIF

Of course I couldn't do a 2005 review without talking about the Health Impact Fee (HIF) and Pawlenty's veto of a gas tax hike.

Personally, I find it odd that Republicans got so upset with the Healh Impact Fee since it was not a tax increase, and yet did not care about a number of Republican legisators support of a gas tax increase. Gov. Pawlenty gladly vetoed this bill.

As I said in my first-ever post:

The best part about the cigarette fee is that it is actually a fee. All the money goes into a fund to pay for state subsidized health care, and roughly covers the cost of smoking related medical costs incurred by the state. And if that doesn’t work for you, here’s some advice from classic rocker Stephen Stills:

And if you can't be, with the pledge you love,
Love the fee you're with. (Link)

Months after the HIF went into effect, Pawlenty's press secretary put it best:

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Since being elected, McClung said, Pawlenty has taken on "Big Pharma," through his relentless push for importation of cheaper Canadian drugs; "Big Oil," through his biodiesel and ethanol initiatives, and "Big Tobacco," by boosting cigarette prices to a level that lowers smoking rates.

"Most governors would be reluctant to take on one of those cartels, let alone all three," McClung said. "He's a maverick. This is a governor who doesn't shy away from a big battle with powerful opponents when he's doing something he thinks is right." (Source: Star Tribune, Dec. 25, 2005)
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Illegal Immigration

The last big initiative Pawlenty is pushing this year is illegal immigration. He began talking about illegal immigration a few weeks back in Worthington, MN.

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Pawlenty called the current immigration system "chaotic," and he criticized the federal government for failing to curb illegal immigration.

"Up until recently, at the federal level, these issues have been allowed to get out of hand," the governor said. "As a nation in general, we've been looking the other way when it comes to illegal immigration. I feel our federal policy-makers have been lax." (Source: AP, Nov. 30, 2005)
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Some days later, the Pawlenty's office released a report on the cost of illegal immigration on the state of Minnesota. The report shows that the state pays $175 million a year in services to its 80,000-85,000 illegal immigrants.

Some fo the costs are as follows:

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- Illegal immigrants cost Minnesota health care assistance programs about $35 million a year, with the federal government paying about half that figure.

- The state pays about $14 million a year to imprison illegal immigrants convicted of crimes in Minnesota. (Source: Pioneer Press, Dec. 9, 2005)
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2005 was a great year for Gov. Pawlenty and many other Minnesota Republicans. 2006 will prove to be an even better year.

1 Comments:

At 1:56 PM, Blogger R-Five said...

I can understand your enthusiasm. I'll agree that Pawlenty is probably the best choice of the known field for 2006. But these talking points don't answer the one big question he must answer seeking re-election: why should we believe him?

He sounds tough on illegal immigration now, for example, but if re-elected, will he change his mind ("grow in office") like he did on light rail, stadiums, and taxes?

The HIF fisaco was troubling on several levels, including the veracity of the Governor himself.

This curious strategy of only annoying his base on issue after issue is the one thing that could truly cost him re-election.

 

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