Current People: Tim Penny

November 15, 2011

Currents Magazine

During his six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, Tim Penny ’74 wrestled with many of the same problems confronting our nation today. A struggling economy. High unemployment. Growing debt. Questions about the size of government and how far it should reach into our lives.

Penny arrived in Washington in 1983, midway in Ronald Reagan’s two terms as president and following a deep recession when unemployment was at 10.8 percent. Known as a fiscal watchdog, he was determined to talk about the size of government and increased spending in an effort to stimulate the economy.

Although he left Congress in 1995, fiscal integrity has remained central to good government for Penny. He says that we should only get the government that we’re willing to pay for, and that deficit spending shifts to future generations the need to examine what we’re doing, set priorities, and make choices. To describe his philosophy, he quotes John F. Kennedy, “’To govern is to choose.’”

And Penny’s voice continues to be heard inside and outside Washington. He is co-chair of both the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and the Concord Coalition, two bi-partisan organizations advocating fiscal responsibility.

While Penny is advocating for many of the same deficit solutions as others – a credible plan for reining in spending, fair and reasonable tax reform, restructuring and strengthening entitlement programs – he thinks that making the choice for good government is much harder than when he was in Congress.

“The fiscal problems have grown worse than they were then, while the politics have become much more difficult. We’re in a much more partisan environment, and that makes it hard to compromise.”

Penny has hope that the bipartisan Congressional “Super Committee,” charged with reducing the deficit by $1.5 trillion by the end of the year, is a first step towards a long-term budget solution. He recalls, however, his days in Washington when the inability to make decisions has left us with the hard choices of today.

In addition to his work on the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and the Concord Coalition, Penny is also president of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. Two awards available to Minnesota State Colleges and Universities students, the Penny Fellowship and the Barbara J. Penny Scholarship, reward public and community service and leadership.

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About Winona State University

Founded in 1858, Winona State University is a comprehensive public university with more than 8,500 students. The oldest member of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, Winona State offers 80 undergraduate, pre-professional, licensure, graduate, and doctorate programs on its three campuses: the original Main Campus in Winona, the West Campus in Winona, and Winona State University-Rochester.

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