Pawlenty orders state to avoid money from fedsGov. Tim Pawlenty, saying the federal government is trying to take over states’ rights, has ordered Minnesota officials to not apply for federal health-care money approved earlier this year, a decision Democrats claim will cost the state billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.
By: Don Davis , State Capitol Bureau
ST. PAUL — Gov. Tim Pawlenty, saying the federal government is trying to take over states’ rights, has ordered Minnesota officials to not apply for federal health-care money approved earlier this year, a decision Democrats claim will cost the state billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.
Pawlenty issued an executive order Tuesday directing Minnesota state agencies to decline “discretionary” involvement with the federal law President Obama signed in March “unless otherwise required by law or approved by the Governor’s office.” He said his office will determine whether federal money would support state initiatives or create “new encroachments by the federal government.”
“Anything that I can do to slow down, limit or negate Obamacare, I’m going to try to do it within reason,” Pawlenty said.
In the order, Pawlenty said the federal act was passed “with massive new spending commitments at a time when the growing federal government debt threatens private-sector economic growth.” He said money needed to pay for the act would come from higher taxes.
The governor’s order said the action was needed “to protect Minnesota’s sovereign interests.” Also, he added, the federal law amounts to “unprecedented federal intrusions into individual liberty,” including ordering every American to buy health
The issue is a hot-button topic this election year, with Republicans across the country speaking out against the law.
Democratic-Farmer-Labor legislative health-care leaders on Tuesday said Pawlenty took the action only because he is seeking conservatives’ support for a 2012 presidential bid.
“(Pawlenty) wants to be Minnesota’s next Harold Stassen and spend the rest of his life running for president unsuccessfully,” said Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, referring to the one-time Minnesota governor who failed in nine attempts to become president.
Pawlenty appears to be considering a presidential campaign in 2012, although he says he will not make that decision until early next year.
“This is a very sad day in the history of Minnesota,” Huntley added.
It was not clear how many opportunities for federal health money will come up in Pawlenty’s final four months in office, and Democrats admitted that the governor who takes office in January still may be able to apply for some of the funds.
Also, state law specifically orders Pawlenty to apply for some of the federal programs, although Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis, wondered if Pawlenty would follow that law. If he does not, she said, DFL lawmakers could consider suing him.
The state has no control over several federal provisions, including a tax credit offered to small businesses that provide health insurance and one that requiring insurers to keep dependent children on insurance policies longer.
The order came a day after Pawlenty quashed a state Health Department application for an $850,000 federal sex-education grant. He did sign off on a separate application for $505,000 for abstinence-only programs, which would require the state to put up $379,000 in matching money if it comes through. The sex education grant requires no state match.
Sarah Stoesz, president of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, said the money Pawlenty rejected would have taught teenagers how to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
“Minnesota’s young people are in the midst of an epidemic of sexually transmitted infections, with rates rising to historic levels,” Stoesz said
The biggest pot of money Pawlenty is turning down is $1.4 billion to allow 80,000 Minnesotans to get into the federal Medicaid program.
Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, said the state would have to spend more than $400 million to take part in that program, and some estimates go up to $700 million. Huntley said the program would cost the state $188 million. That disparity was common Tuesday, as the two sides debated the effect of Pawlenty’s executive order.
More than 100 programs are included in the health-care overhaul measure, many of which require states to compete for the money.
Democrats said some states suing the federal government over the health-care law are taking money from Washington. But Dean said some states, such as Indiana, are fighting the law much like Pawlenty.
“We want to not do it if we don’t have to,” he said.
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co., which owns the News Tribune. The Associated Press contributed to this report.