ST. PAUL -- Watching the State of the State speech from seats in the rear alcove of the crowded House chamber, Democratic Sens. John Marty and Steve Murphy listened as Gov. Tim Pawlenty praised Northfield's Phyllis Bakke for mailing him a dollar to help with the deficit.
Both men promptly took bills from their own wallets and passed around a wire basket to collect more.
It was a joke, but their actions symbolized the central theme of Pawlenty's first major address: Everybody's going to have to give -- or give up -- a little to solve the budget shortfall.
Over and over, Pawlenty called for courage, sacrifice and resolve to battle a "terrible" budget.
He quoted biblical references, calling the problem a Goliath and quoting a hopeful passage from Isaiah.
He popped pop culture metaphors, warning that "The times, they are a changin"' because the state faces "the Incredible Hulk of budget deficits."
He also marshaled war metaphors, talking about the bravery of the Minnesota 1st Voluntary Infantry Division, which was decimated at Gettysburg in a strategic move to buy Union generals more time to position forces. "Courage and sacrifice is not limited to those in uniform," the young governor said.
After the speech, Democrats worried aloud whether the programs primarily used by their urban or northern voters are destined to play the sacrificial role of the Minnesota 1st in Pawlenty's main budget fix, which he will unveil Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader John Hottinger questioned why Pawlenty seemed willing to ask for voluntary donations, but has forsworn any tax increases to solve the deficit.
"I think Minnesotans, we're willing to help you and he's not willing to at least look at that option," he said.
If Pawlenty's metaphors were stretched a bit, they weren't far off. Indeed, if every citizen were to pitch in a dollar as Bakke did, the state would still need another $999 from every man woman and child to balance a total deficit of $4.56 billion.
"Perhaps we've all become too comfortable, too entitled, too quick to rely on government and too slow to take responsibility ourselves," Pawlenty said.
The Republican quoted Bob Dylan, Sonny and Cher and John F. Kennedy. He talked about "sucker-punching cowards" and employed pithy one-liners like: "This isn't brain surgery, folks" and "Minnesota needs you -- now" and "the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing."
He never mentioned agriculture and gave only passing mention to transportation needs, which annoyed even one of his strongest supporters in Senate: Republican Minority Leader Dick Day of Owatonna.
Pawlenty kept the gory details of who exactly is going to get hurt worst in his budget plans out of his speech.
But he did draw reactions from teacher and labor organizations when he made "a special call to the citizenship of those who have chosen the serving professions." He said he needs the specific help of public employees, teachers and social workers. He said he can't offer more money, but he wants to hear ideas for improvement.
"I'm a realist," said Ray Waldron, president of Minnesota AFL-CIO. "I learned long ago that speeches are fine, but the truth is in the budget. I want to see the governor's budget."
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