Pawlenty, Martin weigh in on state budget impasse

On his way back from meeting with Florida lawmakers Thursday, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty weighed in on the state’s budget impasse just hours before the government shut down.

“Both in Washington, D.C., and in St. Paul, the Democrats continue their thirst for more spending and more taxes, and that’s not the right direction for Minnesota and that’s not the right direction for our country,” he said during an eleventh hour press conference at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport.

“The Democrats are the ones that are driving the finances toward the cliff,” he said adding that he supports the state’s GOP legislators in pushing back on Dayton’s proposed income tax increases on the wealthiest Minnesotans.

In fact, the state’s $5 billion budget gap is the result of decisions made during Pawlenty’s administration, including about $2 billion in one-time federal stimulus dollars and a $1.9 billion delay in school payments that effectively allowed the state to support more programming in the last biennium than it had in cash.

Those shifts allow Pawlenty to claim he left the state with a $399 million surplus.

Pawlenty deflected questions about his role in the current budget crisis, saying that it’s based on massive spending increases proposed by the current administration.

“If this state government would simply live within the revenues it has available, it wouldn’t have any deficit at all,” he said.

Not to be outdone, DFL party chair Ken Martin showed up at the airport for his own press conference.

Here’s what he had to say in response to Pawlenty’s comments:

“The last thing Minnesotans and the last thing Americans need at this point is fiscal policy and budget advice from Tim Pawlenty. He left this state with a record budget deficit of $6.2 billion, and here we are a few short hours away from a potential government shutdown that Tim Pawlenty created.”

Since Pawlenty left office, the state’s projected deficit has been scaled back to $5 billion over the next two years.