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Gov. Pawlenty's office budget total? It's hidden all over the place

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If you're interested in knowing how much it costs for Gov. Tim Pawlenty to run his office and pay his staff members, you won't find those totals in one place. Pawlenty's office has been doing a nifty little government trick to make his office budget look surprisingly reduced when in fact they are just using money from other agencies.

At least five employees from Pawlenty's office have their salaries partly paid by state agencies, reducing his office budget, says the Star Tribune.

The Strib uses Josh Gackle as their "Where's Waldo" example in Pawlenty's administration. He works as a senior policy adviser for Pawlenty, but his office only pays $30,000 of Gackle's $72,000-a-year salary. The remaining is covered by seven state agencies he monitors.

Lee Buckley, Pawlenty's special adviser on Faith and Community Services, has half of his $92,000 yearly salary paid by Corrections and Veterans Affairs.

In state government, the governor's office can move costs for some of their staff to other parts of the state budget. The practice is questioned by legislators who see it as a way to hide actual costs.

The irony of this: Pawlenty wants a state government hiring freeze and wants state agencies to cut their budgets 5 percent. He touts his plan to run his office with 38 full-time equivalent positions compared to 55 in other administrations.

More from the Strib:

The arrangements that pay for Gackle and the other staffers will continue to help make this apparent frugality possible. So-called interagency agreements reduced the governor's office budget by more than $700,000 last year, about 19 percent.

Since Pawlenty took office in 2003, more than $1 million has been absorbed by other state departments for Pawlenty's senior policy advisers, none of whom has a desk, a chair or even a nameplate in the buildings of the agencies paying their salaries.

Pawlenty spokesman McClung defended interagency agreements, saying they allow agencies to share work and resources and improve communication with the governor's office.

"When a large portion of an employee's time is spent on activities directly related to agency issues and initiatives, we charge the agency for a portion of that employee's salary and fringe benefits," McClung said. He said that the agreements are reassessed at least once each fiscal year and that no agencies have raised objections about being asked to participate.