Pawlenty's faith-based math

Accountability is one of Governor Tim Pawlenty's favorite themes--except, of course, when it comes to being truthful with his constituents about the actual cost of government services. The best example of this is the way Pawlenty cooks the books when it comes to the impact of inflation on the state's budget. The Gov is perfectly willing to count the dollars inflation adds to revenues coming into the state's coffers (and use them to brag about our growing economy) while discounting those same inflation-added dollars from the cost of education, transportation, and other state-supported services.

This little accounting trick makes a big difference. During last February's revenue forecast, for example, the Minnesota Department of Revenue estimated that the deficit would be $700 million for the coming biennium if we pretended inflation didn't exist--and double that, at $1.4 billion, if we factored in an inflation rate of 1.8 percent.

Remember that discrepancy the next time you hear Pawlenty crow about the robust health of the Minnesota economy. Because, due primarily to rising oil prices, inflation is running at a much higher rate than most people expected. The latest consumer price index puts it at 3.1 percent. The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis has it pegged at 3.4 percent.

Ignoring the impact of inflation either underfunds the actual cost of state services or unpleasantly surprises us with large budget deficits the following year. It's a nice way to hide the holes in your economy as you buff up your no-tax rhetoric for the power-brokers considering your credentials for national office. But it ain't accountable to the people who pay the state's bills--including the salary of Tim Pawlenty.  

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