Pawlenty Talks About Leaving Office, His One Regret

By Pat Kessler, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It seems longer than eight years ago that a little known legislator from Eagan, Minn. took the governor’s office.

As Gov. Tim Pawlenty is leaving office and reflecting on his accomplishments, he doesn’t point to a signature building, or a program, as his legacy.

Instead, Pawlenty said he’s most proud of his Republican philosophy of change in a Democratic leaning state.

“I am the first real fiscally conservative governor the state’s had in the modern history of this state,” said Pawlenty. “So nobody has really put the brakes on as hard as I have.”

Pawlenty’s two terms were often combative, especially with a Democratically-controlled legislature for six of the eight years.

Nevertheless, he forced a resistant legislature to slow down spending, even though he did not actually cut Minnesota’s budget.

He fought against what he called “health care welfare” and later “Obamacare.”

Pawlenty also took a “no new taxes” pledge, and rejects critics who say his policies resulted in higher local property taxes.

Leaving office, Pawlenty appears sensitive to his legacy.

“Almost everything we’ve talked about will be affirmed by the future,” he predicted.

Pawlenty’s “regret list” is not long.

It does not include the Interstate 35W bridge collapse, in which 13 people died, but which garnered for Pawlenty high marks for leadership.

He does not mention record jobless numbers during the long recession on his watch, or the record $6.5 billion deficit he’s leaving for incoming Governor-elect Mark Dayton.

In fact, what Pawlenty said bothers him most is what he says was his awkward and ineffective attempts to expand Indian gaming in Minnesota and recover state revenues.

And after a chance encounter in the State Capitol with the new DFL governor and Republican majority leaders, he’s not joking when he says he regrets not running for a third term.

“Had I known that, of course I probably would have wanted to stick around and do that,” he said. “But I’m very comfortable with my decision and, for me, I made the right decision.”

Pawlenty leaves office with approval ratings hovering in the 40 percent range in Minnesota.
He got most of what he wanted from the DFL-controlled legislature through a record number of vetoes, only an occasional compromise and even a government shutdown.

And Democrats say he’s leaving the state in worse condition than he found it.

“Tim Pawlenty won’t leave a big imprint on the state of Minnesota,” said State Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley. “He has sacrificed virtually everything else in order to get his no new taxes achievement. He talks about tightening his belt, but he never really did the hard work to take the weight off. He just squeezed it together and it pushed out in other places. ”
In his last 18 months in office, Pawlenty spent much of his time on political travel.

He’s formed a Political Action Committee, “Freedom First,” to raise money for Republican candidates and causes.

He’s co-authored an autobiography, “Courage to Stand,” which is considered a prelude to a possible 2012 run for president.

Pawlenty said he’ll make a decision on whether to get into the presidential race by March 2011. He said he’s talking it over with his family, and laughingly retold a recent conversation with his teenage daughter.

“She said, ‘Dad, are you going to run for president?’ I said ‘I don’t know honey — I might.’ And she said, after a pause, ‘Just don’t embarrass the family.'”

WCCO-TV’s Pat Kessler Reports

More from Pat Kessler
  • dunnski57

    Minnesota’s regret is that you were ever our governor

  • Itse

    If we had a Democrat governor in that time, Minnesota would be bankrupt like California.

    • Ignorance must be bliss

      Itse – Want to back that with some facts or like every other republican are you just talking to hear yourself speak? Have to love when people make a statement just to sound like they know what is going on. You can go back to watching Glenn Beck now.

      • itse

        Which means that you are a typical angry progressive…. you fill in the rest.

  • Kevin

    Tim sure has been a busy boy the last couple months – kissing as much conservative a$$ as he can in hopes of getting somewhere in his quest for Pres. (dream on Tim, Republicans. also think you’re boring).

    For example – from the Minnesota Independent and something none of the mainstream media outlets will tell you about:

    “Rep. Michele Bachmann and Gov. Tim Pawlenty have thrown their support behind the Family Research Council and other groups that the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated as anti-gay hate groups.”

    Yes, Tim sure has been a busy boy making sure all those nasty gays remain 2nd class citizens. All in the name of Jesus Christ and Christian love you know.

    Bye, bye Tim. Really happy to see you go.

  • mark from

    Thank you for a great job Gov. It’s a dam shame you didn’t run so we can start cutting back on the money the Liberals have wasted. Here is our part 2 List on wasted tax dollars in Minnesota just follow the link to our blog

  • Outstate News (12-23-10) | MiddleMinnesota (Views of a Moderate Pol)

    […] Winkler: Pawlenty Talks About Leaving Office, His One Regret. (Wcco) […]

  • Murph

    Pawlenty is still in his fantasy world where cold coniving and clever catch words rule over reality and results.He should not have ever entered politics where his methods and madness could be charted and diagnosed over time rather than his fantasy projections. He does not have what it takes upstairs to handle anything more than the shoeshine stand in the courthouse where he was convicted of endangering vulnerable citizens for personal revenge and status among his corrupt tribe of politicians.

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