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?

He vetoed the bill, which he said "decreases competition among managed care plans."

A week after Pawlenty's veto, county leaders—worried that Stedfast wouldn't find its sea legs without the push provided by the bill—killed the program. Says Sen. Ann Lynch (DFL-Rochester), who sponsored the bill in the Senate: "The voice of the big insurance plans prevailed."

30. A proper use of the Taxpayer Protection Pen

Last Summer, when the state's human services department announced it was closing a program for troubled youth in Brainerd, Sen. Paul Koering (R-Fort Ripley) was blindsided by the news.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty
Jim Mone
Gov. Tim Pawlenty


"There was no notification to the local legislators of any kind, and we're the ones that are answerable to the people," he says.

The program in question was run by the state but responsible for earning its keep without tax money.

Koering sponsored a bill in the Senate that would have kept the human services department from closing or moving any such "enterprise activity" program without first getting permission from the Legislature.

In vetoing the bill, Pawlenty noted—4with good reason—that the change could cost the state north of $3 million next year alone, thereby placing "unnecessary financial risk" on other state programs at risk of being crowded out.

31. Keep your sunshine out of my office!

Remember that sick leave bill that Pawlenty vetoed? When a similar bill died in committee last year, a major rationale was its projected cost, estimated by the state's Employee Relations Department to be $10 million.

If you think that figure sounds absurdly high, you're not alone. Rep. Neva Walker suspects the number may have been inflated to block sick leave reform from becoming law.

Problem is, there's no way to prove it. Fiscal notes prepared by state agencies—which serve the governor—aren't open to review by the Legislature.

Under a bill that quietly made its way to Pawlenty's desk, the executive branch would have been required to account for how such calculations are prepared, as well as be more open about funding requests from agencies.

Accusing its authors of "creating more process," Pawlenty encouraged them to get back to work balancing the budget.

32. Your mistakes are growing tiresome

When perusing the multimillion-dollar supplemental budget bill, Pawlenty came across $134,000 set aside for establishing vehicle emission standards. He hadn't been consulted about this expenditure, and he wasn't pleased to find out about it this way.

Breaking out his pen, Pawlenty line-itemed the cash.

Legislators had "inadvertently" included the money in the final bill, Pawlenty wrote in his veto letter, adding that they'd "acknowledged this oversight, and they do not object to this line-item veto."

Not quite.

The Senate bill's author, Sen. Dick Cohen (DFL-St. Paul), confirms that the governor wasn't consulted before the money was added during an 11th-hour conference committee meeting. But he denies its inclusion was an error.

"When doing a bill like that, there's a thousand moving pieces," he says. "We thought the appropriation was fine."

33. My head shall remain in the sand

Sometime in the next few decades—and perhaps sooner rather than later—the world will reach its maximum level of oil production, after which the wells will begin to run dry.

It doesn't take an expert to identify Peak Oil, as this phenomenon is known, as an epochal problem.

This spring, Sen. Jim Carlson (DFL-Eagan) introduced a bill that offered the beginnings, however humble, of a solution. His resolution, which passed 89-5 in the Senate, mandated that the governor set up a statewide energy study with an eye toward creating a full-bore "plan of action and response" to Peak Oil.

Pawlenty's response: Nothing doing.

"Using a legislative resolution to direct state executive branch action is an inappropriate use of the legislative resolution process," he responded.

While Carlson wasn't expecting the governor to transform overnight into a responsible steward of the environment, he was still disappointed. "He has the responsibility to take action," Carlson insists. "This problem isn't going away."

34. Rewarding banks for illegal and immoral lending

Minnesota, like the rest of the country, is reeling from a housing crisis brought about by unscrupulous mortgage lending. A bill that made it to the governor's desk would have given a one-year grace period to thousands of foreclosed homeowners stuck with either a subprime or a "negative amortization" loan, in which the interest exceeds the monthly payment.

In vetoing it, Pawlenty insisted that a law stopping banks from evicting victims of their predatory lending practices would poison the credit market, thereby "increasing interest rates for Minnesotans who are trying to refinance or purchase a new home."

Responds Prentiss Cox, the U of M law professor who wrote the bill: "It's the worst sort of divisive politics, pitting those in need against the majority who are doing fine."

It's also a complete fiction: You can't raise the price of credit that doesn't exist. Negative amortization loans are now illegal, and just try finding a lender willing to issue a subprime loan.

"The banks didn't want it," Cox summarizes. "Pawlenty came up with a line, it sounded good, and everyone let him get away with it."

And several thousand homeowners now face certain eviction, thanks to Pawlenty's veto pen.

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