'Plate gate' controversy ends abruptly with DFL Sen. Steve Murphy's mea culpa
When it was revealed last week that Gov. Tim Pawlenty had siphoned $30,000 from the 'Support Our Troops' license plate fund to pay the salary of one of his staff, state DFLers were in an uproar. State statute dictates that the money be split between the departments of Veterans and Military Affairs, and this, it seemed, was a clear violation of that law. And so they quickly hashed out some legislation to right this alleged wrong and score a few political points in the process.
Turns out, the chunk of money made its way to the appropriate, legally decreed destination. Shortly after the controversy broke, Michael Pugliese, deputy commissioner of the Department of Veterans Affairs, adamantly made this case to City Pages. He said his department had indeed benefited from the cash as per state statute before accusing DFLers of making "political football" out of what he characterized as a non-issue.
What DFLers might have brushed aside as a specious explain-away, was granted more credibility when a senator, after having cross-checked the budget, confirmed Pugliese's explanation and effectively punted said "political football."
Speaking to his colleagues during a finance committee hearing yesterday, Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing) offered a mea culpa.
"I'm the one that squawked the loudest about this when it first came out," he said. "And I'll tell you what. If I could grab those words and shove them back down my throat I most certainly would... any time the governor's office has been involved in negotiations I've been involved with, it hasn't come out very good. And that's why I questioned this program. I was wrong."
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