Fact-checking Pawlenty

With his new book out, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty is making the national media circuit, and providing ample opportunity for the people back home to fact check him.

In an interview on FoxNews, for example, the former governor discusses the state government shutdown in 2005, saying it should’ve been longer to further his agenda:

The former governor leaves the impression that the governor was primarily interested in cutting spending, and to a degree that’s certainly true. What he doesn’t say, however, is that to the extent the shutdown continued as long as it did, it was because the former governor was holding out for a tax increase on cigarettes and an expansion of state gambling:

Gambling – The governor wanted a racino as a way to fund the budget. Slot machines, for example. The Senate offered to expand the number of card tables at Canterbury. In the end, the governor gave up on his insistence that slots be allowed there, too. He did so partly because of a revolt by Republicans over his proposal.

A cigarette tax or fee – A 75 cents-a-pack fee on cigarettes was part of the solution to the budget shutdown, but Pawlenty was privately pushing for it earlier in the session, according to MPR reporters at the time, and apparently willing to “give” on his attempt to cut the state’s health care program:

“I was riding with him,” (Senate Majority Leader Dean) Johnson said. “He looked me in my brown, Norwegian eyeballs and said, ‘Have you considered a health care fee?’ ‘Health care fee?’ I said. ‘What is that?’ He said, ‘You know what it is,’ he said. I said, ‘No, I want to hear YOU say what it is.’ And he said, ‘Well, it has to do with cigarettes at the wholesale level.'”

The governor’s FoxNews appearance also created the illusion that it was Pawlenty who was holding out. But then House Speaker Steve Sviggum acknowledged at the time, that it was Pawlenty who wanted to get a deal done quickly:

“We probably look more eager, and some have criticized us from a strategy standpoint for looking too eager,” Sviggum said. “I have a note right now at my desk that says, ‘It looks like you and the governor are trying to push a deal as quickly as you can, just to get this over with. You look too eager from a negotiations standpoint.’ It’s probably true.”

Sviggum also acknowledged that it was the Democrats, not Gov. Pawlenty, who forced the shutdown, and much of the consideration over ending it had less to do with ideology, and more to do with how it would look politically:

“What it’s done is it’s really created additional resolve among Governor Pawlenty,” said Sviggum. “When I met with him today, he basically said, ‘Well, they’ve gotten what they wanted, they’ve labeled me with the red letter A, the scarlet letter. But now it’s there, and I’m going to get something for it. I’m going to get some reform.'”

At the end of the shutdown, Pawlenty was also saying good things about the role of government, that might not now square with the rhetoric of a likely presidential candidate:

“Government is going to grow. Government does important things. We just want it to grow within reason and grow at a rate that’s sustainable,” said Pawlenty. “We had in the November forecast, revenues that were increasing about 8 percent for the upcoming biennium, and we wanted the state to live within about that level of spending increase. This budget package does just that.”

  • Jamie

    How about fact-checking Pawlenty’s claims (I think it was on he View, but I’m not sure) that in Minnesota we have an apparently widely practiced way of billing for health care that is based on outcomes rather than charging “for each Q-Tip” or something like that. He, of course, was making it sound like he could take credit for this. I don’t remember ever hearing about this.

  • Bob Collins

    He said the same thing on NPR yesterday morning. It was unclear whether he was talking about a plan for state workers at that time or whether he was talking about MinnesotaCare. I’m unaware of any changes along this line in MinnesotaCare.

    He sounded like he was citing a lot of what the Mayo Clinic has emphasized in the health care debate, and apparently that’s the way Mayo pays his docs.

    Other organizations — my friend at Allina tells me — do things differently: the more tests, the more money for the docs.

  • Craig

    What alternate Universe did this Mr. Pawlenty just slide in from? He really should take his altered history back to wherever he came from.

  • Karen Riesett

    Thank you for this article.

    In addition, would you please do the same on

    the statements made by Michele Bachman, when ever or where ever you can capture any of her speeches. What she says is just as outrageous as Pawlenty’s book and interview misrepresentations. Much of what she says is often outlandishly wrong, off the deep end, in my opinion. And, people are believing her. Where do Pawlenty and Bachman come from? Minnesota, I’m ashamed.