The federal stimulus package that is still being shaped in Washington is already approvingly awaited in the thirsty coffers of St. Paul.
I cannot repress two questions: Is the federal government's intention to increase state borrowing and debt? And do the states intend on their part to use the stimulus package, in whole or significant part, to avoid facing up to their standing debt and actually taking on increased future debt?
If this proves to be the intent or simply a consequence of the stimulus package, it will prove injurious to both parties, and the nation at large. It will in all likelihood corrupt Washington and the new government as the inventor and distributor of spoils. In turn, the unreserved acceptance of the stimulus package will lead state politicians to surrender state autonomy and their responsibility, while relinquishing state governments' role as constitutional critics and guardians of national well being.
Surely federal funds given and accepted in advance of and not in proportion to state's reduction of their standing debt will economically and politically undermine states' rights and federalism.
In the specific case of Minnesota, the stimulus will deny the wake up call given by state debt. And it will constitute a second, or third, mortgage on the house of Minnesota.
Unfortunately, Governor Pawlenty has already welcomed in advance the unfinished stimulus into his budget. He has declared, beyond word, phrase, or principle, that he is betting on gambling, fed spoils, lower taxes, and debt to put off the present financial crisis until tomorrow.
The fashion of the day is the habit of the last two, three, and four decades, while no warning seems sufficient to the hour.