Sometimes it seems as though there is nothing that we all agree upon. Liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans seem to be at odds over most every major political issue. But there is one concern that should be shared by all: government spending is out of control.
I took part in a rally at the State Capitol to do something about out-of-control government spending. I joined with other Minnesotans in support of Gov. Tim Pawlenty's spending accountability amendment which would limit the state general fund budget to the level of revenue received during the previous budget period.
Allow me to briefly recap how we arrived at this point.
Leading up to the 2008 election, Democrats assailed President Bush and congressional Republicans for running huge budget deficits. But after only 10 months in power, President Obama and Democratic leadership in Congress have charted a course of spending that was incomprehensible just one year ago. The projected $1.4 trillion deficit in fiscal 2009 is more three times the 2008 deficit.
Amazingly, President Obama's own forecasters and the Congressional Budget Office admit the deficits will continue to grow for the foreseeable future. By 2011, total national debt will equal gross domestic product. In other words, government debt will be approximately equal to the entire economic output of the country for a full year! When did this last happen in America? It never has.
Unfortunately, Minnesota Democrats have the same view of spending as their congressional colleagues: spend recklessly now, worry about the consequences later. This approach resulted in fiscal crises in Gov. Pawlenty's first budgeting year (2003) and again in 2009.
Fortunately for hard-working Minnesotans, Gov. Pawlenty rejected tax increases in 2003, and instead demanded fiscal restraint from the Legislature. Earlier this year, the governor balanced the state budget through a combination "unallotment" and use of the line-item veto. Every hard-working, taxpaying Minnesotan owes the governor a debt of gratitude.
In both 2003 and this year Democrats have sounded the alarm, telling us that citizens will be starving to death and dying in the streets. Their predictions were wrong. But that fact has not squelched their appetite for unnecessary spending. On Nov. 16, House Democrats voted to submit a brief in support of six Minnesotans who filed a lawsuit against the governor, alleging that the he acted in violation of the Minnesota Constitution when he used his unallotment power to balance the budget. This, despite the fact that the Minnesota Constitution requires a balanced budget.
Gov. Pawlenty will leave office in just over a year. He recognizes the tendency of legislators and governors to overspend, despite harm to the citizens of the state. In response to this concern, the Governor has proposed an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution that would cap state spending at the level of revenue collected in the previous two-year period.
This would force politicians to do what every responsible family must do: get spending in line with revenue. If politicians desire a higher level of future spending, let them collect the taxes up front. The cycle of irresponsible spending followed by a predictable "fiscal crisis" must be stopped.
All Minnesotans who fund government should demand accountability and support the governor's proposal by contacting your local representative or senator and telling them you want to see the spending accountability amendment on the ballot in 2010.
If you are concerned about the explosion in government spending, I ask you to join me in support of Gov. Pawlenty's amendment. If your representative or senator opposes this common sense solution, please ask yourself why.
Tony Sutton is chairman of the Minnesota Republican Party.