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The State of the State and the Nature of Man: Poor, Nasty, Brutish…

Today GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty delivers his state of the state speech. As the Star Tribune‘s Pat Lopez notes, Pawlenty is expected to “call for cuts in every corner.”

And, so it begins: The biggest budget battle of our lifetimes. Pawlenty’s and the GOP’s “no new taxes” v. House Speaker Margaret Kelliher‘s (DFL-Minneapolis) and the DFL’s “we need all the tools in the tool box (including tax increases).

How best to characterize the battlefield? Veteran lobbyist Andy Kozak said it best last week, “think of this session as nasty, brutish and long.”

Kozak, of course, is channeling 17th century English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes who premised his political theories on the idea that, in the state of nature, “the life of man, [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”

The last few weeks we’ve been talking to legislators, staff, lobbyists and media
types about the $426 million budget shortfall in the current biennium
and the whopping $4.8 billion deficit prediction for 2010-2011 (which
will likely grow at least another billion in the February budget
forecast).

No one, we mean no one, has a clue about what the major budget deal
that has to be struck will look like. This cluelessness stands in stark
contrast to 2003, when super-attenuated Capitol insiders had that
biennium’s then-historic $4.3 billion budget deficit resolution fairly
accurately predicted even at the start of session that year in January.
Raid the tobacco settlement fund, raise fees, shuffle funds and raise
taxes (although Democrats lost on that front that year).

In 2009? Nasty. Brutal. Long (everyone expects special sessions). Add clueless.


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