On a conference call yesterday, Governor Tim Pawlenty said that the federal stimulus money (which is shaping the state budget) will be a big help in the state by "bring[ing] relief to Minnesotans who are unemployed."
"Minnesota continues to experience concerns about unemployment these additional funds will help bring relief to Minnesotans who are unemployed, have entered the unemployment ranks we want to do all that we can to help them and this money will be a great step in that direction,"Pawlenty said.
It would seem as though Governor Pawlenty has changed his tune. In the past, Pawlenty called President Obama’s economic recovery efforts a "Ponzi scheme" that wouldn’t do a good job of investing in infrastructure and putting people to work.
Here’s some of what the Governor has said:
– "a meandering spending buffet," but said his state is "going to accept the money. This is a bill that missed the mark in terms of being focused and targeted." [Washington Post, 02/21/2009]
– "It is a house of cards and it is eventually going to collapse, I will predict to you, sooner rather than later." [WCCO Reality Check, 12/10/2008]
– Pawlenty said such spending "doesn’t do anything" for the looming budget deficit in Minnesota. [Star Tribune, 12/02/2008]
ED SCHULTZ: Governor, do you think Minnesotans are with you on this? I mean, in your state, a bridge collapsed and killed 13 people. And there are other bridges in Minnesota that need support. There are bridges all over the country that need some infrastructure work. What‘s wrong with investing in that and getting people to work?
TIM PAWLENTY: Well, the bill didn’t do that to a very good degree. [The Ed Shultz Show, 04/14/2009]
While I’m encouraged by the Governor’s apparent change of heart regarding the efficacy of President Obama’s efforts to stimulate the economy and create long-term economic recovery, his budget proposal doesn’t exactly use all of the federal stimulus dollars to help struggling Minnesotans:
The Governor’s revised budget also includes a few new recommendations in direct response to the federal stimulus package. The federal stimulus bill makes additional resources available for short-term, one-time assistance for low-income families. As a result, the Governor’s revised budget includes million for counties to provide emergency assistance (such as rental assistance, damage deposits, utility expenses and other financial issues) to families in crisis.
The Governor’s revised budget, however, would cut state funding for community action agencies in half for the next two years, about million for the biennium. This means funds intended to get into the hands of low-income people would be used instead to fill the state’s budget deficit. This reduction is offset by approximately million in federal stimulus funding for community action agencies in Minnesota. State funding is supposed to return to original levels in FY 2012-13 – approximately million for the biennium – once the temporary federal stimulus dollars expire.
Unemployed Minnesotans may get a bit of a helping hand from the state this year, but as soon as the federal stimulus dollars run out, the agencies which provide assistance to the unemployed will find themselves underfunded or even eliminated.
The Governor revised budget still reduces or eliminates a variety of grants and programs serving for vulnerable populations, including:
* Reducing general fund support for the Minnesota Jobs Skills Partnership by one-third. This program partners with businesses and educational institutions to develop training programs that meet businesses’ current needs for employees.
* Reducing funding for services helping people with disabilities get job training and find work, including employment and interpreter services for the deaf.
* Reducing pass-through grants to nonprofits providing low-income, minority and other vulnerable populations with employment services, including Opportunities Industrialization Centers, WomenVenture, Metropolitan Economic Development Association and Lifetrack Resources.
* Significantly decreasing funding to several youth programs that help with job training and placement. For example, the St. Paul and Minneapolis Summer Youth programs, which support job placement and mentoring for youth, would be cut 17 percent and 25 percent, respectively. Youthbuild, a program for low-income young people to work toward their GEDs or high school diplomas, learn job skills and serve their communities by building affordable housing, would be cut $ 150,000.
* Eliminating grants to the Minnesota Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs, Rural Policy and Development Center, and Entrepreneurs and Small Business Grants.
Governor Pawlenty’s proposals to play accounting games with the federal stimulus dollars and balance the budget on the back’s of Minnesotans struggling to make ends meet fly in the face of President Obama’s plan for long-term economic recovery and endanger the future economic health of the state.