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?

Pawlenty gave it a quick death. Labeling it "an unfunded mandate" on local government, he said it would be a drain on the state's already-tapped resources.

18. Smother the earth

Earlier this year, the nation's leading paint manufacturers teamed with local governments from across the country to unveil a bold new initiative half a decade in the making: a fee tacked on to each and every can of paint to offset recycling costs.

Pawlenty vetoed the pilot project, which was to start in Minnesota beginning in August.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty
Jim Mone
Gov. Tim Pawlenty

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"It was an incredible opportunity," says Leslie Wilson, coordinator of the Minnesota Paint Stewardship Demonstration Project. "Everybody was on board."

As Pawlenty saw it, the initiative would have created a second tax on paint-buying consumers, who already pay for paint recycling through state and local taxes.

"That's not accurate," responds Wilson, who doubles as an environmental specialist for Carver County. "We would never as government have worked on a project like that. In a perfect world, he would have understood that our intent was to relieve our taxpayers and not to tax them twice."

19. Pawlenty is a cheap tipper

According to a recent study, the living wage for a Minnesota family of four is $12.24 an hour per parent. The state's minimum wage, meanwhile, is a paltry $6.15 an hour. This spring, the legislature approved raising it to $7.75 by the middle of next year.

Pawlenty wasn't having it. His main sticking point? Tips.

Quoting his veto letter: "The tip credit"—a euphemism for restaurants paying servers below minimum wage—"is essential for the continued viability of many employers."

Alexandra Fitzsimmons, policy director for the Minnesota Catholic Conference, has a different take.

"A tip penalty isn't fair," she says. "The minimum wage is meant to be a floor, not a ceiling."

20. REAL I.D., take two

After Pawlenty vetoed the transportation policy bill over the REAL I.D. revolt, the Legislature sent him back a second, standalone REAL I.D. bill. He vetoed it again. A national database of Americans' key identifying information will be essential in "enhancing homeland security, combating illegal immigration, and reducing identity fraud," he reasoned.

To understand just how empty this rhetoric is, we humbly hand the mic to Bruce Schneier, chief of security technology for BT, and one of the world's leading thinkers on security issues ("Everything We Know About Security Is Wrong," CP 8/22/07). Take it away, Bruce:

"First, as you centralize these systems, they become bigger, more attractive, and more profitable targets. You think it's no fun when someone impersonates you using your credit card? Wait until someone impersonates you with the TSA. It'll make identity theft now look like piker stuff.

"Second, it does nothing to stop terrorism or illegal immigration. The 9/11 terrorists had I.D.s they got by bribing a DMV clerk in New Jersey. REAL I.D. wouldn't have affected that. Proponents also never actually explain the magicness by which REAL I.D. will make illegal immigrants return to their native countries."

21. Defending the rights of guest fetuses

Each year, there are an estimated 100 surrogate births in Minnesota. Seeking to establish basic ground rules for surrogacy, the Legislature passed an American Bar Association-sponsored bill that would have, as City Pages' Beth Walton explains, "forced gestational carriers and intended parents to go through a more formal and binding contract process, requiring them to think through and agree on what would happen in almost every possible outcome, including if one or more of the parties had a change of heart." ("Pregnant Pause," 6/18/08)

In vetoing the bill, Pawlenty alluded to the fetus-sized elephant in the room: The bill "fails in any manner to recognize or protect the life and rights of the unborn child," he wrote in his veto letter.

22. Minding his P's and Q's on education

Like any politician worth his salt, Pawlenty has his pet projects. High on the governor's list is Q Comp, a program that pays cash bonuses to good teachers. Only one problem: a mere 39 of 241 school districts were signed up as of last year, leaving tens of millions in Q Comp cash unspent.

When the Legislature sent Pawlenty an education finance bill raising per-pupil spending by raiding Q Comp's coffers, he reacted predictably: He vetoed it.

In closed-door, end-of-session negotiations, the two sides reached a compromise: Per-pupil spending would go up by a paltry 1 percent, Q Comp would stay solvent—and the state's airport fund, of all things, would take a $15 million hit to balance the ledger.

"The governor wanted to stand pat on education this year," says Rep. Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville) chair of the K-12 finance division. "The fact we ended up with even the 1 percent increase was a major victory."

23. Old adoptions shall stay shrouded in secrecy!

For those adopted in Minnesota before the closed adoption era ended in 1977, trying to find a birth parent can prove costly, time-consuming, and often futile. A bill that came to the governor's desk would have opened old adoption records to these now-adult adoptees.

Emotions on both sides of the issue run high, with opponents insisting that the proposed advertising campaign attached to the bill, designed to make birth parents aware that they'd need to contact the state to remain anonymous, wouldn't do enough to protect privacy.

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