MINNEAPOLIS -- Tim Pawlenty wants to scrap the state's graduation standards, farm out some state services to nonprofits, declare a series of tax-free zones and balance the budget without raising taxes.
The Republican gubernatorial candidate is running toward November with an ambitious agenda based on traditional Republican themes, convinced he can achieve results through efficiency.
"We shouldn't put things on autopilot. ... We need to manage the growth," he said during a wide-ranging interview Wednesday with The Associated Press.
Agencies, boards and commissions in a Pawlenty administration should expect to be asked why they exist and how they measure success. If they fall short, they shouldn't expect much sympathy -- or additional funding -- from the state, he said.
"I don't think Minnesota has a spending problem," he said. "It has a results problem."
But money will be the overarching issue at the Capitol in the upcoming session, no matter who is in the governor's office.
Earlier this week, Gov. Jesse Ventura said he expects the budget deficit to reach $3.2 billion next year. Pawlenty is the only one of the four major-party candidates who has pledged not to raise any state taxes, leaving spending cuts as his major option for balancing the budget.
He, like his opponents, says it's too early to fill in many details -- that he'll wait until after the election for that.
But every program is on the table to receive less money than it's hoping for, he said, though he singled out education as the one area where he would try to increase funding if it's feasible.
For that increase, he'd expect big changes in education, starting with eliminating the Profile of Learning in favor of "more focused, more rigorous" statewide standards that measure what a student knows -- not how the teacher taught it.
He also wants to slowly shift some state services toward nonprofits, with the long-term goal of reducing government.
To accomplish that, the state would offer charity tax credits. For instance, $30 million that might have gone to affordable housing would be converted into tax credits that allow nonprofits that deal with such issues to take over some aspects of what the state had been doing.
"Markets change, demographics change, service delivery changes," he said. "And we have state workers who are retiring faster than we can replace them anyhow, so much of this can be done through attrition. Government should not be exempt from change and reform and innovation."
He acknowledges, however, that he won't be able to accomplish everything at once.
"I'm not stupid and I realize that if you're governor, you can push the ball down the field maybe on two or three issues a year, so you've got to take your shots," he said.
His three top priorities would be to balance the budget, to change the way the school system works and to improve transportation.
Pawlenty sees his ideas as mainstream and puts himself just right of center on the political spectrum.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.