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Reducing Spending and Living to Tell About It

Recorded on May 4, 2004

Location: The Heritage Foundation's Lehrman Auditorium

Conventional wisdom has long held that voters punish politicians who cut government spending. If this were ever the case, it is no longer. In the face of increasing government obligations to fund priority programs, reductions in nonessential spending are not only necessary, feasible, and responsible, but also popular. Governors -- of both
parties -- have made deep cuts in usually sacrosanct programs and have seen their popularity skyrocket, while those who increased taxes have received a much chillier reception. There is a definite lesson in this for federal lawmakers.

The Heritage Foundation is pleased to welcome two heroes of the battle for state-level fiscal responsibility. Freshman Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee has been ahead of the curve on this issue. As a state senator, Blackburn proposed a five-percent, across-the-board spending cut to close the budget shortfall. Last year, the new governor adopted her plan, enacted it and watched his approval ratings rise. Representative Blackburn has brought her budget-cutting message with her to Washington. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty faced a $4.2 billion deficit when he took office and felt pressure from all sides to abandon his pledge against raising taxes. Governor Pawlenty stood firm, cut spending to balance the budget, and has enjoyed booming popularity. He too, will relate how his experience demonstrates that the electorate is willing to support politicians who hold the line on spending.