Tim Pawlenty’s Budget Problem

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If this recent flattering Michael Gerson column is a preview of the case for Pawlenty in 2012’s GOP presidential primary, there may be a hitch. Gerson:

If the problem is deficits, Pawlenty believes he is the solution. From 1960 to 2002, state spending in Minnesota increased by an average of 21 percent every two years. As governor, Pawlenty has held the growth of spending to just over 2 percent annually. Last year, he cut state spending in real terms — the first time that has happened in 150 years. “We cut everything except public safety and K through 12 education,” he says. “We changed the entitlement structure.” All while moving Minnesota off the list of the top 10 most heavily taxed states.

The Minnesota Supreme Court struck down Pawlenty’s unilateral budget cuts this week, and now the Strib reports he’s bracing for “a possible government shutdown or major cutbacks in government services” as challenges to his cuts threaten to leave a $3 billion state budget deficit.

Not that he can’t score some points for trying, but it makes the purse string-tightening angle harder to pull off.