Tim Pawlenty: Governor No

Tim Pawlenty racked up more vetoes this year than any governor in Minnesota's history. Is this the man we want to be vice president?

This March, Pawlenty sent a letter to President Bush pointing out that the federal government has appropriated only a tiny fraction of the estimated $4 billion that REAL I.D., as the massive undertaking is known, will cost states to implement over the next decade.

A few weeks later, the state Legislature seconded Pawlenty's emotion, including in its transportation policy bill a demand that the feds shell out 95 percent of the cash needed to pay for REAL I.D. upfront and offer proof that the sensitive data will be securely stored before the state begins implementing it.

Mindful not to anger his friends running the national Republican party—Homeland Security honcho Michael Chertoff was a recent guest on his weekly radio show—Pawlenty vetoed the bill. State leaders shouldn't "unduly restrict our ability to at least begin implementing preparations for REAL I.D.," the governor wrote in his veto letter.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty
Jim Mone
Gov. Tim Pawlenty


Aware that his handiwork faced a likely override, Pawlenty one day later issued an executive order authorizing the Legislature to keep REAL I.D. preparations on the shelf for another year.

8. Pawlenty to cities and charities: Go to your respective corners!

Say a city or county wants to give a $500 grant to a local battered women's shelter or food shelf. There's no law stopping them, but neither is there anything on the books explicitly granting this authority.

"We were hearing reports from different organizations and governments around the state where there wasn't clarity if they had the authority or not," says Jeannie Fox, deputy public policy director for the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits.

Fox's organization championed a three-sentence bill codifying that power. It breezed through both houses with strong bipartisan support. Then came Governor No.

Rather than teaming up with local nonprofits to provide services, Pawlenty wrote in his veto letter, cities and counties "should be focusing on ways to lower property taxes."

9. Civil commitment of sex offenders: a snafu

Waiting patiently for a nice, uncontroversial veto? Here goes: The sponsors of a bill on civil commitment hearings for sex offenders accidentally included a loophole allowing judges to unduly delay these hearings. After recognizing their error, they asked the governor to veto the bill. Pawlenty, it hardly needs saying, didn't take much convincing. A corrected version of the bill was later signed into law.

10. Defending every inch—or cubic foot—on gas taxes

Don't ever let anyone tell you Tim Pawlenty's not petty. Remember the dramatic transportation funding battle? The bill Pawlenty vetoed would have, among many other things, raised the tax on compressed natural gas by 10 percent, to $1.913 per thousand cubic feet. The veto override bill, however, contained a typo: $1.913 became $1.1913.

After the Legislature passed a bill to fix the error, Pawlenty issued a terse, three-sentence veto letter decrying higher taxes. And so the typo became law.

Instead of a 10 percent hike, as of October 1, the tax on compressed natural gas will drop—by 46 percent.

"It was a technical error," says Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing), chair of the Senate Transportation Finance Committee. "We always go back and clean those up. There's never been a problem on those before this guy took over."

11. We don't want your stinking unions!

Under federal law, when the majority of a workforce votes to unionize, an employer can either accept the will of its workers or drag the process out into a second, oftentimes hotly contested, round of voting. Not so under the Employee Free Choice Act, which would grant the unionizing wishes of a majority of workers outright—whether management likes it or not.

"It would completely change nonunion organizing," says Iris Bordayo, political director for SEIU Local 26, which represents area janitors, window cleaners, and security guards. "Now, we have to jump through so many hoops."

The Legislature passed a non-binding resolution urging the bill forward in Congress, where Senate Republicans filibustered it into submission last year.

But Pawlenty has never been one to support workers over their bosses, and he's not about to start now. Parroting a misleading but widely disseminated industry line that the act would deprive workers of a secret ballot, Pawlenty's veto letter went on to decry the act as "one-sided legislation" that could "encourage more employers to transfer jobs, particularly manufacturing jobs, overseas."

12. Introducing the medical credit score

A company called Healthcare Analytics is spending tens of millions of dollars to create a medical credit score for patients like you that it plans to sell to health care providers and private insurers. It insists its customers will only use it after care has been rendered, to see how likely it is that a patient will pay her bills.

Attorney General Lori Swanson, fulfilling her role as consumer advocate and watchdog, wrote legislation to bar hospitals and insurers from using a medical credit score to determine whether and how a patient gets treated.

In vetoing the bill, Pawlenty explained that "my deep affection for health care industry leaders precludes me from signing this otherwise excellent piece of legislation."

Not really. In actuality, he vetoed it on the sole grounds that it didn't explicitly define the terms "medically necessary" and "financial information."

« Previous Page
Next Page »