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Reality Check: Shutdown Is Part Of Pawlenty’s Campaign

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty inserted himself into the 2011 shutdown debate twice in the last six days.

First, an airport press conference denying responsibility for the $5 billion budget deficit which state lawmakers are fighting.

And second, a new television ad in Iowa in Pawlenty’s 2012 bid for President.

But it re-writes the history of a 2005 state shutdown under his watch.

“Minnesota government shut down,” said the ad, showing images of protests and tax hike newspaper headlines. “Why? Because Tim Pawlenty would not accept Democrats’ massive tax and spending demands. Result? Pawlenty won.”    

 That’s actually a distortion of what really happened.

Minnesota’s nine day shutdown in 2005 ended when Republican Gov. Pawlenty proposed a tax increase. It was on cigarettes, just as DFL Gov. Mark Dayton is doing now.

Pawlenty proposed a new 75 cent tax on every pack of cigarettes, closing the deficit and ending the shutdown.

Part of the deal was to write the new tax into law as a ‘health impact fee,’ not a tax. And Pawlenty warned critics not to use it for political reasons.

“Given what the state’s been through, anybody who tries to spin this as a partisan victory should be ashamed of himself or herself,” a relieved governor said on the night the unprecedented shutdown ended.

“It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t efficient. But it was democracy with all of its warts and all of its demands.”

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