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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Pawlenty--the Candidate for Roads

--posted by Tony Garcia on 7/05/2006

There were some promises on the campaign trail that caused me to support Tim Pawlenty 4 years ago. No public financing of any sports stadium. No taxes. Roads over rail/transit and more money for roads. Fighting the expansion of government.

Those were the main 4. And all four of them went by the wayside.

Stadium...some apologists will say that Pawlenty did not allow STATE money. Sadly, that was not the distinction made four years ago. It was "no public money" not "no state money". Additionally there was a Gophers stadium that WILL be paid for with state money.

No taxes...this was quite the joke. "Health impact fee" was not a violation of the "Taxpayer Pledge". WRONG Tim "George H.W. Bush part 2" Pawlenty. Cut the spending and stop playing word games.

Fighting the expansion of government...I did not blog the whole "state will pay for tuition for the top 25% of high school grads" idea because it just was too easy to rip Pawlenty. His apologists would have been more vitriolic for being backed into a more firm corner. Besides, I was waiting to wake up ala "Bobby Ewing's still alive" and find that it was just a ludicrous dream/nightmare. (You know something is amiss in the fiscal "conservative" Governor's plan when the Minnesota Daily lauds the plan on its front page.)

Well, at least there will be the roads over transit, right? W-r-o-n-g. Remember the Transportation Constitutional Amendment that Pawlenty signed which CAPPED spending on roads from a dedicated revenue source at 60%. This is the same Governor that went to Elk River's Park & Ride to sign a spending bill which funds RAIL.

Now we come to find out that MNDoT is having cash issues.
Since Gov. Tim Pawlenty took office promising a highway construction boom, Minnesota drivers are rolling on wider interchanges, new thoroughfares and shiny bridges.

But the state's decision to build with borrowed money and expected federal money has had other consequences.

Existing roads have deteriorated and are now in their worst condition in decades, according to the state Department of Transportation. The agency's cash balance dwindled from a $155 million surplus in 2002 to a deficit of $60 million before officials were legally required to get back in the black.

Tight finances are starting to delay highway construction, even on projects already underway.

The cash crunch at MnDOT became more evident last month when the state's unusual $250 million contract proposal for work on the crosstown Highway 62/Interstate Highway 35W interchange attracted no bids -- largely because of a requirement that contractors front about $90 million to the state.
Now that puts his pro-transit pals in a better position to incorrectly blame Pawlenty's veto of the gas tax increase.
The failure to begin reconstructing the metro area's biggest bottleneck renewed bipartisan calls to raise revenue for transportation.

"The basic problem is that they need more real money," said House Transportation Policy Committee Chairman Ron Erhardt, R-Edina, sponsor of a gasoline tax increase proposal that Pawlenty vetoed last year. "Not borrowing, because that just paves the way for spending without any way of paying it back."
The true problems are the overspending on transit while underspending (and capping) spending on roads. Even more freightening is a Republican calling for the government to raise MORE government money with MORE taxes.

Oh, and one other problem which Pawlenty should take full responsibility for: Relying on the Federal Government for money (tax money).
Minnesota's share of the [aggregate national transportation] shortfall [within the states] is $700 million to $1.8 billion a year. Pawlenty's answer when he took office in 2003 was a four-year infusion of $900 million, derived mostly from borrowing and early receipt of federal money.

But as Congress took two extra years to pass a transportation bill, the cash didn't arrive from Washington as fast as Pawlenty hoped. Meanwhile, paying off the loans cut into highway maintenance, making roads bumpier than they've been in decades.

With the four-year plan running out, Pawlenty this year proposed $2.5 billion in new highway bonding, but the Legislature turned a cold shoulder.
If Pawlenty were true to his campaign promises 4 years ago this would not be an issue. He would NOT have allowed a cap on road funding, he would not have relied on bigger government to fund his projects, he would not have allowed other government spending to increase and there would not be a discussion right now about these shortfalls.

Executives (Presidents, Governors, Mayors) seem oblivious to the lesson that if you hold to the platform you ran on you are more likely to please the people that put you in office. Changing in midstream is dangerous.

Regardless of his approval ratings now there is little to show why he deserves support again. He has broken the campaign promises that were his themes (smaller government, fiscal conservativism, etc) and there is not any reason to believe that upcoming promises will be held.

The roads he promised may end up doing him in and only because he failed on other campaign promises.


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