Gov. Tim Pawlenty would like to have it both ways. When he spoke to the Brainerd Lakes Chamber last week he said the nation needed a stimulus bill, but the end result was not one he would have crafted. Later that day his criticism was more pointed.
This thing has turned into a meandering buffet of spending, he told the Brainerd Dispatch editorial board.
Fair enough. Yet when we fast forward to Wednesday's gubernatorial fly-around to Rochester, Mankato, Duluth and St. Cloud, he was more than happy to unveil 60 outstate Minnesota transportation projects that are expected to create about 5,000 jobs. Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel said the stimulus package doubles the usual annual federal transportation funding for Minnesota.
Pawlenty was right to accept the stimulus money and in doing so he shouldn't have to forfeit all criticism of the package but his facile shifts on this issue are part of a pattern. The governor vetoed the recent gas tax hike even when the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce provided cover for him to support it. It was an overdue, business-friendly, user-based hike - the first one since 1988. When the Legislature overrode his veto Pawlenty could argue that he tried to stop the tax hike and then politically benefit from the improved state highways.
If roads, bridges and other infrastructure are truly important to Minnesota's economy, at some point, a state leader has to be willing to bear the brunt of criticism and support those measures.
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