ST. PAUL -- Seemingly unfazed by a $4.56 billion deficit, Gov. Tim Pawlenty used his first State-of-the-State speech to lay out the primary challenges facing the state and how he plans to tackle them.
"Our state is awesome," he said Thursday. "It remains one of the best in the country. But, as Bob Dylan wrote, 'The times they are a changin'."'
Pawlenty acknowledged that solving the budget crisis without tax increases -- a campaign pledge he has vowed to keep -- will be tough. But he said the shortfall is an opportunity to remake government, in some cases dramatically.
"Perhaps we've all become too comfortable, too entitled, too quick to rely on government and too slow to take responsibility for ourselves," he said.
In his address, delivered in the House chamber before an audience of lawmakers, friends and family members, Pawlenty said the budget crisis stems from spending too much, not taxing too little.
He asked for help from teachers, nurses and doctors, social workers, tutors and public employees.
"We need your help to help solve this challenge," he said. "For now, the answer can't be more money."
He said he wasn't interested in managing government but in changing it. Specifically, he mentioned getting education back to the basics, helping create jobs in greater Minnesota and protecting the state against terrorism. He also said the state's transportation department needed a shakeup and that his newly appointed commissioner -- Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau -- would do just that.
"She'll find money to save and reinvest it," he said. "We will move our transportation system forward."
The address marked the beginning of a whirlwind few days for Pawlenty. He has said he'll begin cutting money to state programs Friday unless lawmakers reach agreement before then on solving the first part of the budget problem, a $356 million deficit for the fiscal year that ends June 30.
And next week, Pawlenty will release detailed budget recommendations for the next two-year budget period, during which the bulk of the deficit is projected.
His address, originally scheduled for Tuesday, was postponed two days to honor the astronauts who died last weekend in the space shuttle disaster.
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