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Commentary: Pawlenty launches book tour by slamming fellow public workers

By Jim Monroe

Minnesota's lame duck Gov. Tim Pawlenty is running. He's running for president and just as importantly he's running from his record as governor of Minnesota.

Want evidence of that? Check out the Dec. 13 issue of the Wall Street Journal, (and the Dec. 15 issue of the Star Tribune) where Mr. Pawlenty stomps on his blue collar roots and his own history as a legislator, public prosecutor and city councilman to launch an attack on folks who work for cities, states and the federal government.

No need to repeat the false assertions and fractured facts that Pawlenty got from the Chamber of Commerce and mixed into his article. Instead, just look at the record of the guy who is happily sucking up to the Chamber's check writers.

When Pawlenty took his oath of office eight years ago, Minnesota had a budget surplus.

As Pawlenty leaves office, Minnesota's legislators and DFL Governor-elect Mark Dayton, have to fill a $6.2 billion hole that Pawlenty left in the $39 billion state budget.

Pawlenty, who disparages public service and public sector workers, even as he seeks yet another public sector job, bills himself as a fiscal conservative. A fiscal conservative who rejected a balanced approach to resolving his state's budget problems. A fiscal conservative who dismissed the value of public employees and the work they do for their fellow-citizens. A fiscal conservative who figured he could save a few bucks by asking his Lt. Governor, who knew a lot about farming but not so much about highway engineering, to serve as highway commissioner.

A fiscal conservative who didn't really see the need for costly bridge inspections and repairs.

And that's how some of us will remember him: The fiscal conservative whose low tax pledge that benefited a few trumped his oath to all Minnesotans-and led to the deadly collapse of a highway bridge over the Mississippi River. The collapse killed 13 and injured 111 more.

Still, Gov. Pawlenty's commitment to cheap government lives on. He'll be touting that commitment and the shiny side of his record as he travels the country promoting the book he's written "Courage to Stand: An American Story."

You've got to give Tim Pawlenty credit for the title, if nothing else.

He had the courage to stand with the Chamber of Commerce for eight years. He had the raw courage to veto bill after bill that would have raised the revenue needed to balance Minnesota's budget.

And he has found the courage to write opinion articles built on facts bravely furnished by the government-averse U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its affiliates.

We want our friends in Iowa, New Hampshire and the other early primary states to be prepared when Pawlenty brings his courageous fiscal conservatism to their states. In closing, the Pawlenty's "American Story" has already earned a "Pants on Fire" rating from PolitiFact's Truth-O-Meter, a Pulitzer Prize winning service of the The St. Petersburg (FL) Times.

Sidebar 1--Profile of a Courageous Public Employee

The Pawlenty biography posted on the Minnesota Governor's website says that his public service career includes service as a criminal prosecutor, Eagan City Councilmember, and ten-year member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, including four years as House Majority Leader. During all his years of leadership, there is no evidence that Gov. Pawlenty turned his salary back to the state treasury. There is also no evidence that Gov. Pawlenty rejected the health care benefits and pensions included in his employment agreements--benefits that he would readily deny to other public workers.

Jim Monroe is Executive Director, Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE).