MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We are less than a month away from a critical primary election in Minnesota, and the governor’s race is heating up.

Former Governor Tim Pawlenty is airing a tough TV ad attacking fellow Republican Jeff Johnson. But how much of it is true?

Pawlenty’s attack ad makes 12 questionable claims in 30 seconds — that’s one every 2.5 seconds.

“Who is Jeff Johnson? He’s a career politician who taxes and spends, a lot,” said the ad’s narrator.

The ad mocks the famously fiscal-conservative Johnson as a “taxer” and “spender.”

“As a Hennepin County Commissioner, Johnson didn’t just vote for a massive property tax increase, he proposed one,” the narrator said.

Tim Pawlenty and Jeff Johnson (credit: CBS)

That is misleading. In 2009, Johnson tried to stop a 4.98-percent Hennepin County property tax hike, unsuccessfully proposing to lower it to 3 percent. When that failed, Johnson was the lone vote against it.

“Johnson then supported Gov. Dayton’s plan to expand the state sales tax to auto repairs, babysitting and more,” the narrator said.

That is false. Johnson supports lowering Minnesota’s 6.875-percent sales tax, and spreading it out over more items.

A Blue Ribbon Commission appointed by former Gov. Pawlenty proposed exactly the same thing, which Pawlenty ignored.

DFL Governor Mark Dayton had a similar plan, and Johnson supported the idea — but not the plan. Johnson said it included a “business to business” tax, and in a St. Paul Pioneer Press opinion piece, he called it “a blown opportunity.” Here is what Johnson wrote:

The governor did propose a controversial, but wise, change to Minnesota’s sales tax. Many of us have believed for some time that we should lower the sales tax rate and expand the base to better reflect other states in our region. The governor’s proposal did that and I applauded him for it. He extended the principle too far with his damaging business-to-business tax, but he at least set forth a sound principle that should have moved forward in some form. It just might be the biggest blown opportunity we’ve seen in Minnesota politics in a long while.

“Jeff Johnson supported spending millions of dollars of taxpayer money to support Obamacare,” the narrator said.

That is technically true, but out of context. Johnson opposes Obamacare. In 2011, he voted to approve a $5 million grant to help a Minneapolis health clinic get Affordable Care Act money for its facility.

And then there is this pot-meet-kettle claim from the ad: “Who is Jeff Johnson? He’s a career politician. Johnson has been a state representative and a Hennepin County commissioner for 18 years.

Pawlenty has been a state representative, a governor and presidential candidate for 18 years. From September 2012 to 2018, Pawlenty was CEO of the Financial Services Roundtable, a Washington D.C.-based lobbying group for the banking industry.

Here Are Some Of The Sources We Used For This Reality Check:

Pawlenty TV Ad: “Truth”

St. Paul Pioneer Press: Johnson Op-Ed “Governor Dayton’s Blown Opportunity”

21st Century Tax Reform Commission

Americans For Tax Reform: Johnson’s “Read My Lips” Problem

Star Tribune State Fair Interview With Jeff Johnson

Tax Foundation: Options for Broadening the Tax Base

Star Tribune 2009: Hennepin County Property Tax Hike

Hennepin County Board Minutes 10/11/11

Jeff Johnson Hennepin County Board 2011

Jeff Johnson Political Career

Tim Pawlenty Political Career

Worried Hennepin County Hikes Property Tax

Pat Kessler

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