Pawlenty sets tone of hope in State of State address
ST. PAUL -- The state of the state is, it appears, political. Gov. Tim Pawlenty rattled off 16 "major accomplishments" in his first three years as governor Thursday during a 40-minute State of the State speech that challengers said was a preview ...
ST. PAUL -- The state of the state is, it appears, political.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty rattled off 16 "major accomplishments" in his first three years as governor Thursday during a 40-minute State of the State speech that challengers said was a preview of his re-election campaign.
The Republican governor patted himself on the back for completing "the biggest financial turnaround in Minnesota history, going from a $4.5 billion deficit to a billion-dollar surplus."
He said his proposal to pay teachers based on performance means Minnesota "regained our status as the nation's innovators in education." And he promoted "the largest transportation funding package in modern history," in which the state borrowed money to pay for road construction and transit needs.
Pawlenty declared: "Our people are working. Our students are learning. And our citizens are healthy." He said Minnesota is a lighthouse for other states on many issues.
Not quite, said Sen. Steve Kelley of Hopkins, a DFL gubernatorial candidate. "With all the puny half-measures, we are going to be a nightlight state."
A joint session of the Legislature, along with former Govs. Wendell Anderson and Al Quie, gave American troops three standing ovations during the address. Pawlenty's speech was interrupted for applause 59 times, more than half with only Republicans applauding.
Pawlenty said he wants to:
E Increase science and math requirements in schools and establish pilot projects to test new educational ideas in 15 school districts.
E Require health insurers to more aggressively market their less expensive health plans and provide money to help move health care providers move to electronic medical records.
E Reform how the state spends money for natural resources projects and approve a constitutional amendment dedicating part of the state sales tax to outdoors uses.
E Set a goal of generating 25 percent of the state's energy with renewable sources by 2025.
E Stop property tax increases.
When Pawlenty called for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriages, DFL Reps. Karen Clark of Minneapolis and Ron Latz of St. Louis Park stood with their backs to Pawlenty in the middle of the House chamber. Clark is the House's only openly gay member.
DFL and Independence Party governor hopefuls had plenty of complaints.
"He is good at identifying the problems, but he doesn't address how to solve them," Attorney General Mike Hatch, a DFL candidate, said.
For instance, Hatch was critical of Pawlenty for seeking $20 million to help clean up the state's waters, but not saying where he would get the money.
Sen. Becky Lourey of Kerrick, another DFL candidate, said the speech showed no vision or leadership.
"I got excited" about the first half of the speech Lourey said, but the second half did not follow through with telling how initiatives would be funded.
The Independence Party's Peter Hutchinson agreed with Lourey that Pawlenty delivered two speeches.
"He had the main things there and he talked about them," Hutchinson said. "I just had wished for more specifics"
Hutchinson said the speech gave "a direction without a destination."
DFL hopeful Kelly Doran criticized Pawlenty's taking credit for turning state finances around. He said that since Pawlenty was House majority leader for eight years before becoming governor "he was part of the problem" that created a deficit.