This news shouldn’t be a surprise, but here it is: In its 10th biennial fiscal report on the nation’s governors, the Cato Institute gives Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty an “A” for his approach to the state’s finances. The report ranks the 50 governors, using seven variables to measure the chief executive’s approach. Governors who score the best on a 0-100 scale were given an “A.”
Pawlenty’s record merited a 66, which put him third on the institute’s ranking. Chris Edwards, author of the report, wrote that in the last session, Pawlenty has been a “relatively frugal budgeter.”
The section on Minnesota is brief enough to reprint in its entirety:
In his first few years in office, Governor Pawlenty backed tax increases on corporations and cigarette consumers. However, the governor has changed course in recent years, consistently supporting tax cuts and opposing tax increases. In 2008, he vetoed a large gasoline tax increase. In 2009, he twice vetoed giant tax packages passed by the legislature,which included increases in the top personal income tax rate and increased taxes on gasoline, beer, wine, and liquor. In 2010, he again vetoed an income tax rate increase. Pawlenty has also proposed substantial business tax cuts to make the state more competitive, and he wants the corporate tax rate reduced from 9.9 percent to 4.8 percent. Under Pawlenty,state general fund spending rose 22 percent between FY03 and FY08, which was less than the average state increase. The governor’s proposed spending for FY11 is down 10 percent from the FY08 peak. Pawlenty has proposed a constitutional amendment to limit annual growth in the state’s general fund spending over the long term.
While governors do vary in the amount of power they have, they all have the power to propose the outline of a budget, and thus merit consideration of anyone interested in fiscal policy.
Not all is well in Minnesota, despite the “A.” It faces some significant challenges in its pension plans for public employees as well as a substantial deficit that the next Legislature and governor must address.