Pawlenty Instructs Minnesota Agencies To Snub Health Law's Discretionary Funds

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, issued an executive order Tuesday instructing state agencies to reject discretionary federal funds that stem from the health overhaul, The Wall Street Journal reports. That makes "Minnesota the first state to formally restrict itself from taking some federal dollars under the law" and carries "political overtones for a possible presidential candidate." The order bars agencies from applying for money for demonstration projects and grants without explicit approval from the governor, but "isn't likely to significantly affect how the law is applied in Minnesota" aside from those narrow programs. Broader programs, like an expansion of Medicaid, would still go into effect (Adamy and Merrick, 9/1).

Why order the agencies to refuse federal money? "Fast forward to Iowa next year, when Pawlenty may be seeking the White House," The Associated Press advises. "He will be able to tell the conservative activists about his executive order that sought to limit the reach of Obama's signature achievement. And he'll be able to attack potential rival [former Massachusetts government Mitt] Romney in the same breath." Though Pawlenty has not yet announced whether he will run for president, he is not seeking another term as governor. A spoof of the executive order circulated by national Democrats begins, "Whereas, my presidential ambitions are of paramount importance" (Elliot, 9/1).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: The move could cost Minnesota $1 billion. And not just Democrats are irritated about it. "In a rare and unusually sharp statement, heads of Minnesota's most influential medical associations said Pawlenty's step contradicts his earlier embrace of state health care legislation. 'The governor's decision just doesn't make sense for Minnesotans,' the Minnesota Council of Health Plans, the Minnesota Hospital Association and the Minnesota Medical Association said in a joint statement late Tuesday." State Republicans backed the order, though. One GOP lawmaker said "He is with the vast majority of Minnesotans" (Marcotty and Stassen-Berger, 9/1).

ABC: "Pawlenty said he has identified some 15 categories where he believes the new law would conflict with Minnesota policies, including a new sex education program, where the governor rejected an $850,000 grant yesterday. ... The move is sure to put pressure on other Republican governors who are considering presidential runs to demonstrate their opposition to the law. Other Republican presidential contenders who now serve as governor include Indiana's Mitch Daniels, Mississippi's Haley Barbour, and Louisiana's Bobby Jindal" (Klein, 8/31).

The Associated Press/Bloomberg Businessweek: "The governor said he won't pull grant applications that have already been submitted or turn down federal cash in categories that fit with the direction that Minnesota has taken in health care policy. He added that his successor could go after some of the rejected money "if that's consistent with what they think is wise" (Lohn, 8/31).

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