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What’s Pawlenty’s legacy? Some surprising answers

Former state Rep. Phil Krinkie: "I would describe Governor Pawlenty as a caretaker governor. I don't know of any great highlights."
REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Former state Rep. Phil Krinkie: “I would describe Governor Pawlenty as a caretaker governor. I don’t know of any great highlights.”

Instant analysis is always dangerous, and moreso when it seeks to be in historical context. But as we begin to focus on the transition from Tim Pawlenty to Mark Dayton (Jan. 3, just as MinnPost returns from vacation), I intrepidly (translation: foolishly) called up a historian of Minnesota, a scholar who is studying the history of the Minnesota economy and a strong  anti-tax advocate with legislative experience and asked: From what we know now, how will the eight-year tenure of Gov. Tim Pawlenty fit into the longer story of Minnesota?

All three surprised me, and I must say none of the surprises were flattering to the Pawlenty record.

Hy Berman, the usually avuncular U of M emeritus professor whom every journalist turns to with Minnesota history questions, surprised me by how angry he seemed over Pawlenty. It’s just not the tone you expect from Professor Berman. In answer to the simple question of how Minnesota history will view Pawlenty, Berman said:

“Very simply, one of the few, if not the only governor that got us into the biggest deficit that the state has ever  known  by refusing to follow what most people call fiscal responsibility, which is to raise revenue when needed.”

It turns out to be more complicated than that. More from Berman later.

Louis Johnston, an economist at College of Saint Benedict/St. John’s University in St. Joseph/Collegeville who is writing a book about the evolution of the Minnesota economy since 1850, surprised me with the seeming precision of his judgment that Pawlentyism had not worked, at least not if working was supposed to be about enhancing prosperity for Minnesotans over the past eight years.

In short, Minnesota prosperity lost ground during the Pawlenty years, not just because of the brutal national and global economy since 2007 but overall when measured relative to the other 49 states that had to deal with the same Great Recession. More from Johnson below.

The most surprising to me was former state Rep. Phil Krinkie, now president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota. Let’s face it, after hearing such negative reviews of Pawlenty from Berman and Johnston, I called Krinkie as an act of journalistic balance, assuming he would offer a glowing review of Pawlenty, with whom he has in common both Republican credentials and the anti-tax religion. But Krinkie, or someone pretending to be Krinkie, damned TPaw with the faintest praise you’ve ever heard. Take a listen to Krinkie’s answer to my overall how-will history view the Pawlenty governorship question:

“I would describe Governor Pawlenty  as a caretaker governor. I don’t know of any great highlights. I don’t know of anything that I would categorize as a big accomplishment that has changed the state one way or the other. A good caretaker.”

The view from Pawlentyland
I did try to get Gov. Pawlenty’s spokester into the loop when I started on this piece, but he was too swamped until after the piece was written to send me the document that TPaw’s staff has prepared describing his accomplishments. I did finally receive it and you can read it here.

When I was still reporting, I turned to the “About Tim Pawlenty” section of “Freedom First,” the PAC that Pawlenty used during 2010 as part of his preparations for a presidential run. It says:

“During his two terms as Governor of Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty has used innovative and conservative leadership to balance the state’s budget, cut spending, reform health care and improve schools without raising taxes. Under his leadership, Minnesota has nation-leading health care, the highest school test scores, and a leading economy.”

Back to Berman
Hy Berman was unabashed in his grim review of the Pawlenty years. He has no sympathy for what has become the conventional Republican view that holding the line against tax increases is the number one key to good governance.

He slammed Pawlenty for using bookkeeping tricks (like the school funding “shift”) to make an unbalanced budget look technically balanced. He accused Pawlenty, as DFLers have done for years, of shifting burdens to local governments so their fingerprints, not his, will be on tax increases. “It’s come to the end of the gimmick time,” Berman said. “Now someone has to be responsible for what was done in the past.”

Berman eventually said that, although Pawlenty didn’t start out that way, he evolved into a transformational figure in the history of Minnesota Republicanism.

From Harold Stassen (governor: 1939-1943) to Arne Carlson (1991-99), Minnesota’s Republican governors have been moderates and at times progressives. Stassen came into office after Farmer-Labor governors (Floyd B. Olson and Elmer Benson) had introduced the state income tax to Minnesota (1934).  

“Stassen was a transforming Republican” in Minnesota history,” Berman said. “He didn’t try to get rid of the income tax. He accepted aspects of the New Deal. He saw the role of government as a regulator. He set a tone for Minnesota Republicanism that lasted decades.”

Al Quie (1979-83) seemed pretty conservative at the time, compared to what Minnesota was used to, but he was an old-fashioned fiscal conservative who used all the tools — including tax increases — to deal with a serious deficit, Berman said.

Carlson, the last pre-TPaw Repub guv, was also the last of Stassen’s heirs.

Pawlenty was the first of the new breed Republicans to serve as MN Guv.These new-style Republicans are “supercapitalist anarchists” who believe that all government spending is wasteful and whose goal is to have no taxes and no government, Berman said, hyperbolically.

That analysis at least overstates the suddenness of the transition from Carlson to Pawlenty. Carlson, after all, was elected on a fluke in 1990, when the more conservative, strongly pro-business Repub nominee Jon Grunseth was taken down by scandal. In 1994, the Repubs rejected Carlson, their own incumbent guv for endorsement, in favor of the much more conservative Allen Quist. Carlson came back in the primary and then won reelection by a huge margin. But these events of 1990 and 1994 show that the MNGOP party base had moved away from the Stassen tradition long before Pawlenty.

And then don’t forget that Pawlenty had not risen to statewide prominence as a hard-right conservative, but as an eclectic middle-range conservative and a protégé of then-Speaker Steve Sviggum.

In 2002, when Pawlenty barely won the endorsement in his first race for governor, he was considered the more slightly more moderate alternative to the real darling of the surging Republican right, businessman Brian Sullivan.

Even during his first term, Pawlenty flirted with a more nuanced eclectic brand of the new conservatism. He signed the thinly disguised cigarette tax, supported some mass transit (North Star Rail Line), talked about wanting to end homelessness in Minnesota, staked out a serious green agenda, criticized big oil and big pharma.

I made this case to Berman, and he replied: “You’re right. At that time, Pawlenty was considered somewhat to the right of the old progressive Republicans, but not transformational. He turned out to be that.”

The theory is that as TPaw developed presidential ambitions and as he learned from bloody personal experience that national Republicans demand total devotion to the party line, especially on taxes, Pawlenty stifled his inner moderate. If Pawlenty is the transformational figure Berman calls him, it is based on the second term.

Back to Johnston the economic historian
St. John’s Economist Louis Johnston’s analysis starts from the premise that the best gross measure of the overall economy of a state is the state GDP per capita. And the best way to rate the relative prosperity across state lines is to compare each state’s GDP per capita to the national average, since all the states are operating with the same larger national economy.

It turns out — and this was a surprise to me personally, I’ve only lived here since 1977 — that Minnesota hasn’t been an above-average state, prosperity-wise, nearly as long as I had assumed. It was below average for most of its history. During the World War II era, Minnesota’s GDP lagged the national average by about 15 percent, Johnston says. Our Minnesota’s GDP didn’t poke above the national average until the first half of the 1970s. But once it broke through, Minnesota continued to gain relative to the national average.

This is hard to do — to keep rising after you have broken above the average, Johnston said. Of course, the reasons for it are endlessly debatable, and in our conversations, Johnson made several references to the nature of arguments over economic causes and effects. The conventional liberal interpretation of Minnesota’s rise is that it was at least helped along by public sector investments in areas such as education and infrastructure.

At least this much is unarguably true and is a serious problem for the Republican lower-taxes-less-spending religion: Minnesota rose in prosperity, relative to other states, during a period when it was above average in tax burden and in government spending.

At its peak, which was just about the time Pawlenty took office, Minnesota’s GDP per capita was about 10 percent greater than the national average. Minnesota’s GDP grew, relative to the national average, during the tenure of the three governors who preceded Pawlenty: Jobs-Jobs-Jobs-crazed DFLer Rudy Perpich, moderate Republican Arne Carlson and your-choice-of-adjective-here IP Gov. Jesse Ventura.

But — and you’ve seen this coming for the two fat paragraphs preceding this one — while Minnesota remains above the national average, it has lost ground relative to the national average during the Pawlenty years.

Any Pawlenty dislikers reading this are thinking this is a devastating indictment of the whole Pawlenty record. The point of all of the anti-tax, less government-ism is supposed to be to free up the private sector to produce that famous trickle-down effect.

But, without wanting to rain overmuch on the Pawlenty-bashing parade, this is economic cause and effect we’re talking about here. In other words, nothing is finally proven, and certainly not in the kind of time frame we’re evaluating here. Johnston acknowledges that it will be years or decades before Pawlenty’s impact on the Minnesota economy can be fully analyzed. But the early returns are not good.

Johnston describes the tax-cut-your-way-to-prosperity movement as “faith-based economics.” The general research is pretty clear, he said, that states with lower taxes are not more prosperous than states with higher taxes.

He gave the JobZ program as an example of a Pawlenty stimulus initiative that wasted tax incentives on jobs that would have stayed in Minnesota without the incentives. That money, he said, would’ve been better spent on education, health care and other areas that economists consider “human capital” investments.

Back to Krinkie
Phil Krinkie doesn’t agree with Johnston’s conclusions about the importance of keeping taxes down and he praises Pawlenty, but surprisingly faintly, for his efforts in avoiding tax increases. But, to my surprise, he said that the constant effort of anti-tax conservatives to makes tax cuts the key to efforts to attract business to the state were “pure political rhetoric.”

In his experience, he said, the tax climate is one of many factors in a company’s decision of where to build or expand. He broke into a side anecdote about a CEO who decided to expand in Minnesota. In a candid moment, the CEO told Krinkie that the biggest factor in his decision was that his kids were in high school and he didn’t want to move the family.

Unbidden by me, Krinkie launched into praise of a governor like Rudy Perpich, whom he described as a tireless promoter of Minnesota who would go anywhere and do anything to bring favorable attention to Minnesota and especially to bring jobs. He mentioned the Gorbachev visit, the launching of the Mall of America. He didn’t come up with anything similar to say about Pawlenty.

“The state faced a big shortfall. By challenging and standing up, [Pawlenty] was able to achieve a balanced budget without raising taxes,” Krinkie said. Then he caught himself in the overstatement and went over the various ways that state taxes had increased during the Pawlenty era, although only Pawlenty signed into law only one of them — the sales tax on cigarettes that Pawlenty famously tried to categorize as a “health impact fee” in order to mask the fact that he had signed a tax hike.

The other Pawlenty-era state tax increases were the “Legacy Amendment,” a sales tax hike approved directly by voters for environmental and arts spendings and the famous Legislative override of Pawlenty’s veto on a sales tax hike for transportation projects. By that point, in the second term, Pawlenty was deep into anti-taxism that he vetoed the transportation tax bill even though it was supported by business lobby, (easily the most important Republican interest group). And the few Republican legislators who made the override possible would probably never have done so without business interests arguing that the need for transportation infrastructure improvements was so clear. 

When I said that somehow or other, Pawlenty had managed to get Minnesota out of its long-standing membership in the 10 highest tax states club, Krinkie said: “No he didn’t.”  The big tax cuts that brought about Minnesota’s decline on those rankings were signed by Gov. Ventura.

I read Krinkie the short summary, listed in full above as “the view from Pawlentyland,” of Pawlenty’s record as governor, featuring the fact that he had the balanced budget each biennium.

Krinkie said that’s what he means about political rhetoric — a governor claiming as an accomplishment that he balanced the budget when he is required by the state Constitution to balance the budget.

Likewise, Krinkie said, with Pawlenty’s claim that he left Minnesota among the national leaders in health care, education and prosperity. Seems like he should have mentioned Minnesota had all those things when Pawlenty took over.

Comments (33)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 12/23/2010 - 08:50 am.

    Interesting views and tidbits. As a relative newbie to the state and Twin Cities, the only things I’d heard of Governor Pawlenty before I moved here was that he’d somehow arranged for senior citizens to go to Canada to get prescription drugs at lower prices, and that my son thought him “knee-jerk conservative,” which didn’t fit very well with the image of helping senior citizens get their meds for less money.

    Now it begins to make sense. To mangle a psychological metaphor, it seems like a case of bipolar terms in office, with the first term sort of moderate, and the second term morphing into the inflexible ideologue.

    The economic history part was interesting to an old, broken-down history teacher, as well. States dominated by agriculture don’t typically outperform more industrial states in terms of GDP per capita, so, while it perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise that Minnesota’s relative prosperity is a fairly new development, the surprise was there, nonetheless.

    Good stuff, Eric. The temptation to either glorify or demonize political leadership is pretty powerful, and hard to resist, but it takes years for the actual, genuine legacy to become apparent, and sometimes we don’t live long enough to see what it all meant.

  2. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 12/23/2010 - 09:05 am.

    King Timmy may have been a “caretaker” governor, but he did have some major accomplishments: His rich friends, such as Uncle Billy Cooper made out like the robber barons they are and saw their incomes grow massively from money gouged out of the wallets of their poor and middle class customers, but our state income tax rates protected them from paying (by % of income) taxes as high as all the skinnier cats in the state.

    Meanwhile, the poorest of the poor and a fair number of middle class folks, as well, saw their wages and benefits stagnate if they were not actually reduced.

    Many well-paying jobs evaporated, as well, even as our once-adequate social safety net was allowed to grow frayed and tattered because large amounts of the money from the health care access fund, money designed and promised to underwrite Minnesota Comprehensive and Minnesota Care was sucked into the General Fund to save King Timmy’s wealthy friends from paying taxes.

    At the same time, management of those programs was given – under no-bid, no-reporting, “sky’s the limit when it comes to profits and executive compensation contracts – to King Timmy’s wealthy friends, pricing Minnesota Comprehensive out of the financial reach of many folks who needed it and wiping out General Assistance Medical Care (until a few hospitals agreed to risk bankruptcy by attempting to provide as least minimal care for those single people most in need).

    Since their funding mechanism automatically rises with the increasing medical needs of the aging baby boomers, Minnesota Comprehensive, Minnesota Care and General Assistance Medical care all could have been protected and even expanded had the money for them not been sucked into the general fund.

    They would have been far more financially efficient had their management been handled by a moderately-paid state bureaucracy rather than by high-profit companies headed by VERY highly-paid executives (i.e. our tax money being used to make King Timmy’s friends – the same ones who think they’re too important to pay taxes like the rest of us – fabulously wealthy).

    So yes, King Timmy leaves a legacy: A state in outrageously severe budget distress and standing permission for the richest of the rich, who have done so fabulously well (and their sycophants), to whine like spoiled children refusing to share their toys (or their money) with those who are dying for lack of available jobs, and the lack of housing, food, and medical care that result.

    I can only rejoice that he’s going on to the national obscurity he so richly deserves and hope and pray that, eight years hence we will have recovered from the extensive (and often invisible except to its victims) damage his reign has wrought, although I fear it may take a good deal longer considering the rule that repairing and rebuilding that which has been allowed to fall apart due to neglect is always far more expensive than routine maintenance would have been.

  3. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/23/2010 - 09:05 am.

    Pawlenty’s mediocrity has always been a hallmark of his term. He actually told state workers in a meeting once that “average” was good enough. He can be viewed as caretaker, but he was a really bad one. As Republicans like to say: “In the private sector he’d have been fired after the second year.”

    I have to say, none of these people are saying anything new. And they’re not saying anything that couldn’t have been said six years ago, or at least five years ago. These are uncontroversial statements of fact. So where has the media been? How does a guy like Pawlenty get away with claiming to have balanced the budget for 8 years?

  4. Submitted by Harris Goldstein on 12/23/2010 - 09:47 am.

    While I think Gov Pawlenty has been a poor governor and has “clocked out” the last 2 years to focus on running for national office, a couple of points need to be made:

    First, if you take a very politically conservative view, the less government does the better. So I suppose, paradoxically, the fewer accomplishments the better. Your role is to a) starve the “beast”, b) cut ribbons, and c) call out the National Guard if needed.

    Second, with respect to GDP, it’s my guess that there’s a reasonable lag between cause and effect. So any increase or decrease in the early part of Pawlenty’s term can arguably be attributed to Ventura. And any actions Pawlenty took that affected GDP will extend into Dayton’s term. This assumes, of course, that any governor’s actions have an impact on GDP.

    I remember listening to the Sullivan and Pawlenty speeches when they were running. For better or worse, we pretty much got what they were promising. I’d say the only real difference is the last 2-3 years where he joined the “I can be more conservative than you” club and decided that being confrontational is a good way to burnish his conservative credentials.

  5. Submitted by Sheila Ehrich on 12/23/2010 - 10:06 am.

    Very good article, Eric. I especially like Hy Berman’s comments and Krinkie’s non-enthusiasm. My question – couldn’t you find any women to interview?

  6. Submitted by Roger Iverson on 12/23/2010 - 10:17 am.

    Two things stick for me. “Faith-based economics” of the GOP and Pawlenty, and Berman’s characterization: “new-style Republicans are ‘supercapitalist anarchists’ who believe that all government spending is wasteful and whose goal is to have no taxes and no government”.
    These ideas explain Minnesota’s decline from its leading economic position compared to the nation. Nothing nauseates me more than listening to ubiquitous small government, lower taxes, let our corporations run free mantras which fly in the face of reality.
    Will any conservatives finally catch on? Anyone? Anyone?

  7. Submitted by Brian Simon on 12/23/2010 - 10:33 am.

    Ray Schoch writes
    “the only things I’d heard of Governor Pawlenty before I moved here was that he’d somehow arranged for senior citizens to go to Canada to get prescription drugs at lower prices”

    Ray, I’m fairly certain that was then-Senator (now Gov-elect) Dayton, not Gov Pawlenty.


  8. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 12/23/2010 - 11:07 am.

    When all you want to do is use the governorship of Minnesota to foster your political career you aren’t going to make any bold moves. So, we have the concept of “no new anything.”

    Pawlenty’s two legacies are: 1) budget disaster; 2) politicizing every state department.

    Both will take years to undo.

  9. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/23/2010 - 11:50 am.

    Well, don’t forget, he got the Twins stadium built. The other tax plan he signed off on.

  10. Submitted by scott cantor on 12/23/2010 - 12:14 pm.

    I can think of no image better than the 35W bridge collapse to describe Pawlenty’s term, and it’s fitting that history books of the future will probably show a panoramic view of the disaster below his portrait. Caption: “Pawlenty managed the state Department of Transportation as a political arm through appointing his Lt. Governor as commissioner. This heralded further degradation of state infrastructure, culminating in the collapse of the 35W interstate highway bridge over the Mississippi river in Minneapolis on August 1, 2007, killing 13 and gravely injuring 145. Undeterred, Pawlenty vetoed a bipartisan transportation infrastructure bill the following February, only to be overridden by the state legislature the first and only time during his terms in office.”

  11. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 12/23/2010 - 12:25 pm.

    1) In a June 22, 2009 Taxpayers League of Minnesota press release, Phil Krinkie wrote:

    “We applaud Governor Pawlenty for his commitment not to add to the tax burden of working Minnesotans; the Governor held firm on his promise to veto any tax increase,” added Krinkie. “We are also grateful to House Republicans who voted to uphold the Governor’s vetoes. The taxpayers of Minnesota came out the winner this year.”

    So was he speaking what he considers “truth” then or now? He may not have signed “The Pledge,” but voted according to it and now heads the Minnesota branch of Americans for Tax Reform, founded by the most extreme anti-tax proponent ever, Grover Norquist, and fights for the continuation of Pawlenty’s policies.

    Cost of Pawlenty’s tax cuts for the rich: One billion dollars per year for eight years. This was a man-made shortall created by him and his supporters in the legislature.

    2) Brian Simon (#7) – Yes, indeed. Governor-elect Dayton donated his entire Senate salary each year to the Minnesota Senior Federation to fund the trips to Canada, where lower-priced prescription drugs were made available to a number of low-income seniors.

  12. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 12/23/2010 - 01:17 pm.

    Thanks for the correction, Brian and Bernice, regarding the trips to Canada for prescriptions. I was living in the land of Tom Tancredo, and not really paying close attention to Minnesota.

    I like Bernice’s line of thought regarding the state deficit – if it’s true. I don’t know how to verify the cost of tax cuts for the wealthy in Minnesota, but if the cuts cost the state a billion per year, as Bernice asserts, then Pawlenty’s portrayal of himself as a fiscal conservative is genuinely laughable – or would be, if the consequences to the rest of the state weren’t so painful.

    I’m looking forward, not without some trepidation, but looking forward, nonetheless, to seeing how the newly-Republican legislature deals with this massive shortfall, as well as how the state’s big business lobby (C of C, especially) responds.

  13. Submitted by Steve Marchese on 12/23/2010 - 02:09 pm.

    Once he leaves office, Governor Pawlenty will no longer be able to control the message on his 2 terms of service. My suspicion is that he will look far less appealing in the rear view mirror once the realities and costs of his tenure become clearer.

    I have often wondered about Pawlenty’s appeal. He’s appealing enough in a bland sort of way — neither overpowering in intellect or personality. He typifies the kind of mediocrity that might sell to a particular constituency — those that want their political leaders to be just like them. The “have a beer with the guy” crowd.

    The problem is that the state faced and continues to face major systemic issues — financial, infrastructure, education, you name it. On all of these, the Governor’s leadership has been non-existent — not that he had nothing to say, but that you have a hard time finding anything of significance in any of it. The Calvin Coolidge of Minnesota governors.

  14. Submitted by Charlie Quimby on 12/23/2010 - 02:11 pm.

    This is a good summary, but nothing new except that it’s being reported instead of shown by progressive organizations like Growth & Justice and the Minnesota Budget Project.

    And it hardly touches on the other “fees” like highest college tuition in the nation that occurred during Pawlenty’s watch.

  15. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/23/2010 - 02:46 pm.

    Actually I think Pawlenty did set up some kind of cross border internet purchase thing that allowed MN’s on medicare or medicaid to buy meds in Canada. I think the Bush administration eventually shut that down as part of their drug over-hall welfare program for for big pharma. Someone around here has to remember the details of this thing.

  16. Submitted by antony cliffton on 12/23/2010 - 03:14 pm.

    Let’s not forget TPaw was also reelected on a fluke. His victory in 06′ arguably could have been a gift from Judy Dutcher’s E-85 brain fart the night before the election. TPaw’s mandate was barely 20,000 votes if I remember correctly.

  17. Submitted by Lance Groth on 12/23/2010 - 03:30 pm.

    I have to admit I’m surprised at Krinkie’s candor. I would have expected a full-throated endorsement of Pawlenty’s time in office, coming from the president of the Taxpayer’s League and the man known as Dr. No during his time in the legislature.

    Krinkie’s comments should provide some good fodder for Pawlenty’s opponents (repub and dem) in his quest for the White House. “Fellow conservative and close political ally Phil Krinkie said Gov. Pawlenty was at best a caretaker governor with few significant accomplishments and a habit of exaggerating his record.” Yipes,
    I’ll bet Pawlenty has a few choice words for Krinkie – I’d love to be able to listen in on that conversation!

  18. Submitted by Rosalie O'Brien on 12/23/2010 - 04:49 pm.

    Scott Cantor, you’re so right. The unfortunate thing–strike that, the tragedy–of having a “caretaker” governor who is satisfied with mediocrity is that state government needs leadership. Anyone can say “no new taxes.” The challenge is to address, in a principled way, the fact that there are almost always too few resources to be applied to all possible needs. That requires real LEADERSHIP, not just, e.g., brushing aside the many reports of outside engineers and the people within MNDOT and crossing your fingers that nothing will happen on your watch, so the next person will need to address the problem. That isn’t even to say, necessarily, that taxes must be raised, but government is supposed to provide certain public goods, one of which is a safe infrastructure. Of course it’s not cheap, and of course it’s not easy. But the word is “governor,” not “caretaker,” or worse. Contrast Mr. P. with the earlier governor–was it Gov. Quie?–who closed the High Bridge until it could be replaced. The bridge collapse was a tragedy. While it could, I suppose, be described as an “act of God,” there is too much evidence that state leadership should have been aware that collapse was a definite possibility. If he couldn’t handle it on the state level, any idea that Mr. P. could possibly be elected to “accomplish” the same thing on a national scale is truly frightening.

  19. Submitted by Jim Roth on 12/23/2010 - 05:29 pm.

    We’ve been living here during his entire tenure and long before and I’m surprised that anyone’s surprised about this.

  20. Submitted by Jean Schiebel on 12/23/2010 - 07:30 pm.

    I think Hy Berman was overly kind to the Grinch Pawlenty.
    Not only are cities struggling because of his
    poor understanding of are schools and Health care centers.
    So are many who have been dumped of of medical assistance.
    It was a sad day when he became Governor.

    Thanks goes to the Independence party.

  21. Submitted by scott gibson on 12/23/2010 - 11:21 pm.

    For me, Pawlenty’s legacy will be one of insincerity and ‘meanness’. He holds grudges and refers to those he feels are his enemies through clenched teeth and a false smile. As an example, in an outgoing interview on MPR this morning, Timmy felt it necessary to single out the teachers’ union as one of his most evil adversaries. Minnesota is regarded as having one of the best public school systems in the nation. You’d never know that by listening to anything Pawlenty has said during his tenure. You can’t have contempt for the union without showing contempt for the folks that make up that union. He also blames others (almost without exception) for anything that he failed to accomplish. He lives in a complete, political, rhetorical state of denial.

  22. Submitted by Mike Downing on 12/24/2010 - 08:31 am.

    Thank you Gov Pawlenty for educating every MN that the increases in our state budget was unsustainable. Some heard & understood this message and some left their head in the sand.

    What the media, including MN2020, ignores is the fact that the revenue forecast is for a 5% increase and all our legislature needs to do is the limit the spending to a 5% increase and the next budget is balanced.

    It really is simple math that my granddaughter easily understands.

  23. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/24/2010 - 08:52 am.

    //For me, Pawlenty’s legacy will be one of insincerity and ‘meanness’.

    That reminds me, I have to point out that the media was quite complicit regarding the damage Pawlenty was doing as well as his mediocre nature. Remember when for some inexplicable reason the local media en masse decided that Pawlenty was a “likable” guy? For some reason this bizarre adjective got attached and pretty much blurred the reality of the guys actions for quite some time.

    Eric’s article does raise an interesting point. We cannot be surprised by the assessments of Pawlenty’s terms, we lived through them and this was all obvious at the time. So we’re surprised by the candor of academics and politicians when they render honest assessments? It’s surprising to us that people acknowledge reality? Seriously think about this. What would be the point of even talking to these people if you don’t expect them to acknowledge reality?

    I understand Eric’s point is that these guys don’t usually talk like this, and that’s fine. But there are times when you can only talk like this, there are times when the situations demand frank and even harsh comment and condemnation. What’s the point of free speech if you only speak frankly AFTER a politician leaves office?

  24. Submitted by Gerald Abrahamson on 12/24/2010 - 11:51 am.

    Paul: “I think Pawlenty did set up some kind of cross border internet purchase thing that allowed MN’s on medicare or medicaid to buy meds in Canada.”

    Correct–but it was “killed off” by Medicare Part D. Purchases from Canada did NOT count. And there are (and will be) modifications made to consumer drug pricing so the cost of drugs goes down once you hit (or go past) the “donut hole”.

  25. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 12/24/2010 - 02:20 pm.

    Missing in the “simple math:” the Billions of dollars that state government (under King Timmy’s demands) borrowed from the future by delaying payments that should have been paid in the previous biennium into the NEXT biennium.

    These will all need to be paid back and will likely take a good deal longer than Little Timmy purposefully lied about when he promised those paybacks, knowing it wouldn’t be HIS problem.

    What your “simple math” seems to assume is that those paybacks will NEVER happen – that the state will DEFAULT on paying back those from who it has borrowed (your local school system, for instance).

    Then of course if you can convince the rapidly-aging Baby Boomers to limit the increase in their health care needs to 5% (considering their age, a statistical impossibility), your “simple math” will add up.


  26. Submitted by Jean Schiebel on 12/25/2010 - 05:59 pm.

    Yes Paul, the media can do a job on someone who is running for office..They made Mike Hatch look mean and did everything to get him to lose it,
    He is far from mean and angry..he cares about people, but”likable” Pawlenty didn’t
    I’d rather have a cup of Tea with Mike Hatch and Mark Dayton then a beer with Pawlenty or Emmer..

  27. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 12/26/2010 - 01:38 pm.

    One shouldn’t give Pawlenty too much credit for his green initiatives either. He bought in to corn ethanol big time that was huge mistake in many ways. It’s not a sustainable process.

  28. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 12/26/2010 - 02:46 pm.

    Roy Schoch (#12) — Re: Amount of revenue lost by Pawlenty tax cuts.

    I know the $1 billion figure came from an article or report I read last year, but couldn’t find. I DID find, however, an earlier analysis from The Minnesota Budget Project, in which they note:

    “Policymakers may wish to reconsider some of the tax reductions made in previous sessions. Permanent tax cuts were made in each of the five surplus years from 1997 – 2001. Property tax cuts were made in 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2001, income tax cuts in 1999 and 2000.

    “The total impact of permanent tax changes in the 2004-05 biennium is $5.5 billion — in other words, if Minnesota had in place the same tax system that existed in 1997, the state would have an additional $5.5 billion in revenues.”

    Jesse Ventura, as governor in 1999-2000, lowered income taxes and some miscellaneous taxes and gave the state’s surplus to “the people” in the form of small checks to each household. Pawlenty kept the cuts in place and did nothing to restore the surplus that should always be on hand.

    According to the article I can’t find, the lost revenues amounted to $8 billion, $1 billion per year.

    The article I quote above is “Revenue Raising Options to Address Minnesota’s Budget Deficit,” at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits web site (

    Much info at that site or those of the Minnesota Budget Project, Growth and Justice, Minnesota2020 and MinnPost.

  29. Submitted by Paul Landskroener on 12/28/2010 - 04:17 pm.

    Mr Downing writes: “What the media, including MN2020, ignores is the fact that the revenue forecast is for a 5% increase and all our legislature needs to do is the limit the spending to a 5% increase and the next budget is balanced.

    It really is simple math that my granddaughter easily understands.”

    But what if your granddaughter is taking care of her dear old grandpa whose medical condition requires 10% more money than last year. She’s already pulled the kids out of private school, learned to cook with beans, buys clothes at the thrift shop, eliminated her tithe to her church, and has otherwise reduced her expenses as much as she can. Even if she gets a 5% raise, won’t she see that the math requires her to increase her income even more in order to pay for your care?

  30. Submitted by Dick Novack on 12/29/2010 - 11:55 pm.

    Re: Phil Krinkie incongruities

    To add to #11, we should note that in 2008, non-Edinan Phil Krinkie took position in the back of the hall where District 41 Republicans were endorsing candidates for house districts 41a &41b. From there he continued to manage the non-endorsement for two successful republican representatives – Neil Peterson and Ron Erhardt (the leader) of the “Override 6.”

    Krinkie takes full credit in many venues including here: despite the fact that he then caused the election of a democrat.

    Listening to Krinkie now-a-days on KSTP’s “At Issue” I detect a far more moderate tone than he ever exhibited before, especially when holding title before Emmer as the meanest conservative legislator. There was a reason he was called “Kranky Phil” in the legislature.

    Could it be that Krinkie realizes the truth of what appears in the article above? Could it be that businessmen supporters of the Taxpayer’s League facing the decline of Minnesota have reined him in because overly conservative policies are hurting, not helping business and state growth?

  31. Submitted by Bruce Johnson on 12/30/2010 - 02:46 am.

    For a politician there is nothing shallower than personal ambition.

  32. Submitted by Bruce Johnson on 12/30/2010 - 08:50 am.

    An assessment of Pawlenty’s no new taxes practice should also include mention of the ‘Legacy Amendment’. In spite of Pawlenty, Minnesota voters supported a tax increase to support the arts and environment by a large majority.

  33. Submitted by Bruce Johnson on 01/03/2011 - 10:36 am.

    Note, I’m a different Bruce Johnson than in #31 and #32.

    Two things not observed in the article and comments so far:

    1) Tim Penny’s crowning career achievement was to give Minnesota Tim Pawlenty as Governor.

    2) Pawlenty had a practice of announcing early each year a big, splashy initiative that had little chance of being enacted. Several years it was a scheme to pit Native tribes against other Minnesotans or each other. Always, after sucking up some attention, it was never heard from again, including from Pawlenty.

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