As House Republicans prepare to repeal the health-care law this week as a prelude to their deficit-cutting agenda, two Republican budget hawks offered tips from the state house. Speaking on Fox News Sunday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty offered up the tough medicine they had prescribed to rein in budget deficits in their states. Both also provided glimpses of the strengths that budget hawks with governor credentials may bring to the presidential race in 2012.
“What I would suggest is that Republicans in Washington do what we did in New Jersey: Very clearly articulate why your proposals are important for the future of the country, or the future of New Jersey, and go out and make that case,” said Christie. In poll after poll, he said, the public in New Jersey favored cutting the state budget and opposed raising taxes. “So I think Republicans in Congress have to go out to the public and make that case. They won the election on those arguments. Now articulate them and have the guts to put up or shut up.”
“Putting up” in the case of New Jersey and Minnesota, however included tough measures such as freezing pay for government workers; raising the retirement age and cutting cost-of-living adjustments in state pensions; increasing government employee contributions to state-funded health care plans; increased cigarette taxes; and rejection of federal stimulus money that required state matching funds. In the case of Minnesota, it also meant shutting down the government for nine days in 2005 in a showdown with a Democratic legislature over taxes and spending.
“What I’ve learned after eight years in a very liberal state in terms of spending and government is that you have to draw some lines in the sand,” said Pawlenty. “It doesn’t mean you always have to have ultimate battle, but you’ve got to be willing to stand up against a culture and a history of spending that is on autopilot. You’ve got to say we’re not going to do that anymore. And I’m glad we had that showdown in Minnesota.”
Pawlenty believes the Republican House should refuse to raise the federal debt ceiling when it comes to a vote later this year, albeit with legislation that sequences the paying of government bills as a way to avoid a federal default. “I don’t think we should raise the debt ceiling of the federal government,” said Pawlenty, who also spoke out against the Troubled Asset Relief Fund (TARP) and federal bailouts in general. “I don’t think the government should bailout Wall Street, General Motors, the mortgage industry, or any other industry for that matter.”
While both Christie and Pawlenty back the House’s proposed repeal of the new health care law, an Associated Press-GfK poll released today finds that opposition to the health care overhaul is softening. The poll found that 40 percent of those surveyed support the law, while 41 percent oppose. After the November congressional elections, support stood at 38 percent while opposition was at 47 percent.