On Saturday Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, speaking to Republicans attending the Arapahoe and Denver county Republican Lincoln Day Dinner fundraiser, proposed cutting the federal budget by removing government employee benefits. He pitched the move as a way to re-secure the culture of American liberty.
“What is going on is that Government is taking away more and more of the choices we have and the freedom that we have, and when you do that long enough, you begin to suffocate and stifle the human spirit.”
He said he feared the majority of Americans would soon stop “pulling the wagon” and start “riding the wagon.”
Pawlenty said cutting spending was the key to a renewed American prosperity. He said the United States took in $2.2 trillion but spent $3.7 trillion last year. “They missed the mark by $1.5 trillion.”
He said that lawmakers in Washington could learn by the example he has set in Minnesota. From 1960 until he became governor in 2002, he said, the state’s average two-year increase to spending was 21 percent. He said he had cut spending increases in the state to about 4 percent per two year interval.
According to Minnesota 20/20, however, Pawlenty’s figures only consider state general fund spending, which amounts to only about 55 percent of the total spending for the state.
Also, the cuts made by Pawlenty mirror cuts made in the recession by governors from coast to coast, including Colorado Democrat Bill Ritter. In Minnesota job loss has deeply effected revenue. Cuts to K-12 education and to city and county aid have reached between 46 percent and 30 percent and have spurred cities there to raise property taxes and cut local government.
Pawlenty said the U.S. should attach raises for teachers and other government employees to performance and eliminate time spent on the job as a factor.
“How many people here have gotten a raise for just being there?” Pawlenty asked. No one in the room raised their hand.
He said additional savings could be made by eliminating retirement benefits. After government employees retire, he said, “it’s time to turn some of those benefits off.” Pawlenty said he eliminated health care benefits from the standard package offered to Minnesota bus drivers.
Indeed, Pawlenty said he broke a 44 day transit strike by talking to people and asking them if they would consider dropping retirement health benefits for new employees, the kind of benefits he said the transit workers enjoyed for decades but that were unavailable to many American workers.
“By the end, the bus drivers were begging us to get back to work under the new terms and conditions.”
Pawlenty said America has been more prosperous than other nations primarily because of the greater freedoms enjoyed by U.S. citizens.
“We have people taking that away [that freedom] little by little…. We are going to take back this country and get it back to the conservative principals and values that made this country great.”