In a not-so-subtle dig at Minnesota's current governor, former Gov. Arne Carlson today criticized proposed cuts to a fetal alcohol syndrome prevention program that Carlson's wife founded, and he said that too many officeholders had become obsessed with "every little zing" and "chess game."
Speaking before a Senate committee, Carlson said the program's funding had decreased from $7 million when he left as governor in the late 1990s and would stand at $1.2 million if cuts recommended by Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty were adopted. Pawlenty has recommended eliminating a planned funding increase for the program, and has proposed $187 million in overall cuts to health and human service programs this year.
A former Republican governor, Carlson has previously been critical of Pawlenty's fiscal decisions.
Carlson did not specifically mention Pawlenty today, but his remarks -- particularly criticisms that the fetal alcohol program was absorbing larger cuts than other areas -- seemed aimed at the administration. "If in the current budget this crisis is being met with an average 4 percent cut, why then is one program singled out for a 30 percent cut?" he said.
The former governor, who said he was appearing today as his wife's surrogate, said government was ultimately spending more money by cutting prevention programs and then being forced to build more jails. "All we keep doing is shouting for more and more people to go into the system," he said.
Brian McClung, Pawlenty's spokesman, responded in an email: "We do have to do some belt tightening, but we are looking for ways to restore some funding for this worthwhile program," he said.
Carlson also was critical of what some characterize as short-term budget fixes.
"This nonsense of bandaids and bandaids and prayer does not work," he said. "Far too much is focused on, 'Oh Lord, how do I get through the next election?', as opposed to doing that which is right.
"Maybe the time has come for us to get into the business of taking a few days off from passing bills and start discussing some topics that transcend party lines," he added.
"Former Gov. Carlson apparently continues to support tax increases in an already highly-taxed state and we disagree with that approach," wrote McClung. "In fact, Gov. Pawlenty has proposed tax cuts as part of our budget balancing plan."
After his testimony, Carlson declined to comment directly on Pawlenty's budget cuts, or whether cuts to the fetal alcohol program were politically directed at him.
"I haven't talked to anybody from the governor's office, so I don't know what's behind it. But the point is, it's not appropriate," Carlson said.
Mike Kaszuba • 612-673-4388