Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, now running for president, said during a stop Thursday night at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport that both the shutdown he oversaw in 2005 and the one now underway are solely the fault of DFLers.
Although he blamed DFL Gov. Mark Dayton for the current shutdown, Pawlenty did not take responsibility for the 2005 government closure.
"The equivalence is this: Both in '05 and now, you had Democrats demanding that we raise taxes and raise spending," Pawlenty said.
"The upcoming deficit is preposterous in the sense it's based on a massive increase in spending. ... If state government would simply live with the revenues it has available, it wouldn't have any deficit at all.
"The last budget for which I was governor ends tonight at midnight, and it's going to end in the black," he said on Thursday night. "It's going to end with a surplus. And as to the next budget, that has a projected deficit. It's based on a massive increase in spending that I never would have allowed as governor. "
In 2005, the shutdown ended with Pawlenty inking a budget deal that included what he called a "health impact fee," but most called it a cigarette tax.
He said he bore no responsibility for the $5 billion deficit economists projected he left behind and the current lawmakers and governor are working to close.
The former governor met with the media at the airport after flying in from a campaign swing in Florida.
He heaped praise on the Republican majorities in the Legislature and scorn on their DFL counterparts.
"Both in Washington, D.C., and in St. Paul, the Democrats continue their thrust for more spending and more taxes. That's not the right direction for Minnesota, and it's not the right direction for our country," he said.
Democrats "should stand down from their quest to continue raising taxes and spending. This country has to get its government finances under control. ... I applaud the Republicans for standing strong and hope they'll continue to stand strong."
BOB VON STERNBERG, RACHEL E. STASSEN-BERGER