Pawlenty calls state spending skewed

  • Article by: JOY POWELL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 24, 2008 - 10:16 PM

Minnesota must rein in burgeoning social service and welfare programs, the governor told business people.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty

Gov. Tim Pawlenty

Photo: David Brewster, Star Tribune

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Gov. Tim Pawlenty would like to divert some of the growth in Minnesota's social service and welfare spending to other priorities.

In an address Thursday to the Burnsville Chamber of Commerce, the governor said the spending growth in welfare and social service is outpacing funding for other key areas.

"The state is overemphasizing social services and welfare at the expense of some other key priorities, like K-12 education, like higher education and like transportation," he said.

"If we don't get a handle on this at both the federal and at the state level, and at county, school district and city level, these programs are growing so fast and so out of proportion with the rate of the private economy, that within 15 years it will consume a vast majority of the state's budget."

Jim Carlson, owner of Carlson Financial Strategies in Burnsville, said he was glad to hear Pawlenty talk of containing such costs.

Carlson told the governor of one of the unintended consequences he's seen when it comes to the high cost of health care and the state's generosity. He said one of his clients, who works in the construction industry, had been trying to earn less than $50,000 a year so his 11 children could qualify for public assistance for health care.

Later in the day, DFL Chair Brian Melendez responded to Pawlenty's comments:

"The governor's suggestion today that our state must choose between important health care programs, and adequate funding for education and transportation, is yet another attempt to shift the blame for his failure of leadership and his lack of vision."

Joe Brummel, a consultant with Financial Concepts, asked Pawlenty about transportation needs, including traffic bottlenecks, which he called an important issue for business. He asked if funding formulas could be changed so the most heavily used roads in the metro receive more funding, compared to less-used outstate roads.

Pawlenty said the formula is based on lineal miles of road, rather than number of lanes. The Legislature is split evenly geographically, he said, and lawmakers are at an impasse over the funding formula.

"If we could only get people to do what's right for our state," Brummel said later. "And what's right is tying the funding to where the dollars are coming from -- the taxpayers -- as well as where the funding is needed most."

Joy Powell • 612-673-7750

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Gov. Tim Pawlenty