How Much of the Minnesota Government Shutdown Is Tim Pawlenty’s Fault?

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Photo: Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Things aren't so fun up in Minnesota lately: The state is struggling through the second week of a government shutdown, with 22,000 workers on furlough and millions of dollars' worth of revenue loss in both the public and private sectors expected as a result. The state's bond rating was just downgraded. Michele Bachmann has become its most recognizable export. The weather's been rotten. Plus, the Twins are in second-to-last place in the AL Central. So how much of that can people blame on Tim Pawlenty?

At least some of the government shutdown, according to some Minnesotans (and the state's finance department). Pawlenty has touted his hard-core fiscal conservatism during the GOP primary and loves to cite the "line in the sand" he drew against spending in his home state during his time as governor. Arne Carlson, another former Republican governor of the state, explained Pawlenty's fiscal management style to the Times thusly:

“He basically reduced the weight in Pocket A and increased the weight in Pocket B, and said, ‘Look at what a great job I did.’ This was all sleight of hand.”

Pawlenty's rejoinder didn't exactly counter that blame-shifting description, either: "I’ve been gone for six months, and the last budget on my watch is in the black.” His suggestion for fixing the budget crisis is to keep delaying public school aid, as was done while he was governor. During his tenure, Pawlenty also kept that budget in the black by counting federal stimulus dollars and the payout from a tobacco settlement, which critics see as, at the least, skewing the full budget picture. And while Pawlenty was able to stick to his campaign promise of keeping income taxes down, cities' property taxes went up dramatically, to keep municipal services operating.

Plus, his budget is also totally responsible for the Twins' injury woes, sources say.

Amid Minnesota Crisis, Pawlenty Faces Scrutiny [NYT]