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Pioneer Editorial: Pawlenty wins battle, loses war

Gov. Tim Pawlenty came out the winner of the 2010 session, but it will be short-lived.

The Legislature went into extra innings as lawmakers and Gov. Pawlenty could not agree on a final budget-balancing bill. At the heart of the matter was negotiations over a health care bill which places former General Assistance Medical Care patients into a federal Enhanced Medicaid program. With a match needed, the state would need to put up $188 million but would get in return $1.4 billion in federal funding.

The governor refused to give in, and nearly caused an impasse. Failure to balance the budget would have caused severe cash flow problems by fall, and put Minnesota in a situation that involve dire consequences for state-funding programming and bond ratings.

Why didn't the governor give in?

DFLers don't know, but they 're quick to point out the political advantages for a potential presidential candidate who opposes anything to do with Obamacare.

The DFL Legislature caved in and gave the governor what he wanted, even to the point of rubber-stamping last year's unallotments, making them legal this time.

As to the health care question, the governor did accept a provision allowing him to make the decision for Enhanced Medicaid or to his predecessor. It's a decision the current governor most likely won't make.

But the next governor ...

That's what the DFL finally settled on in the end -- give the current governor what he wants and close the book on an eight-year run that Democrats say saw the state slip lower in education innovation, in tax fairness, in infrastructure spending and in access to health care. Republican Gov. Pawlenty held an usual hold over state government, despite both chambers of the Legislature controlled by Democrats.

Starting with the 2010 elections, the DFL will try to change from the Pawlenty era to something else - with whomever assumes the governorship.

In the end, as Gov. Pawlenty moves on to a possible presidential bid, he may have won the battle but eventually will lose the war.