With 34 vetoes, Pawlenty is new godfather of 'no'

By MIKE KASZUBA, Star Tribune

May 29, 2008

Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed a heavily debated mortgage foreclosure bill on Thursday, officially closing the 2008 legislative session with more vetoes in one year than any other governor since before World War II.

As he completed action on bills sent to him by the DFL-controlled Legislature, the Republican governor issued his 32nd, 33rd and 34th vetoes -- easily breaking the previous record of 29 set by Gov. Arne Carlson in 1993.

Pawlenty's veto total was the highest since 1939, when modern-day records started to be kept, officials said. He also signed several bills Thursday.

"The checks and balances that are part of our system led to a record number of vetoes this year," said Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung.

"The governor felt it was important to aggressively use his taxpayer protection pen to make sure government is held accountable and lives within its means," McClung added.

Ellen Anderson, DFL-St. Paul, chief Senate author of the bill that would have let some homeowners defer foreclosure, said most of Pawlenty's vetoes had nothing to do with holding the line on taxes, "Most of his vetoes dealt with social policies," she said.

As the new veto record holder, Anderson said, Pawlenty has proven himself to be a governor who doesn't know how to compromise, find common ground and get things done for his state.

Assistant Senate Majority Leader Tarryl Clark, DFL-St. Cloud, said that issuing a record number of vetoes probably isn't something to which most Minnesotans think a governor should aspire.

Still, despite the record, Clark said the tone Pawlenty set this year was a bit different from last year. "There were times last year that it seemed he was governing by veto instead of negotiating," she said. "This year's budget negotiations were built on the things we could agree on."

Among the bills Pawlenty vetoed was a massive transportation funding bill that included a gas tax increase, a veto that was overridden. He also rejected bills raising the minimum wage, prohibiting the state from complying with federal identification card regulations, and regulating surrogate mother contracts.

Other bills are signed

The governor also signed several significant bills Thursday, including a tax bill, a health care overhaul and bonding legislation that provides state funding for the Central Corridor light-rail line linking Minneapolis and St. Paul and helps create a new state park on Lake Vermilion.

The Central Corridor project in particular had been a focus of an emotional back-and-forth between the governor -- who at one point vetoed money for it -- and the Legislature as this year's session headed into its final weeks.

As for the mortgage foreclosure deferment bill, which passed both the House and Senate but was criticized by some as overreaching, Pawlenty said it was flawed legally and philosophically. "No other state in the nation has enacted a bill like [this]. There is a reason for that -- it is not sound policy," he said in a written statement.

The bill's DFL authors criticized the veto, saying the legislation would have prevented 12,000 Minnesotans from losing their homes to foreclosure and that the governor had chosen to side with the banking industry over ordinary homeowners. "It's just an excuse," said Anderson. "He's feeding Minnesotans a line that he got from some [banking] industry lobbyist."

Under the bill, homeowners holding a subprime or negative amortization mortgage could defer a pending foreclosure for up to a year but would have to agree to use the services of a foreclosure-prevention counselor and make partial payments during the deferment period.

Other signings

The tax bill that the governor signed limits how much local governments can raise property taxes, provides some homeowners bigger state refund checks and offers potential public aid to developers at the Mall of America.

County officials complained of a side deal Pawlenty made with top Democratic legislators to cancel out one provision in the bill. The lawmakers say they'll act quickly next year to repeal a portion of the new law that would have freed counties from locked-in spending levels for certain service offerings.

The health bill Pawlenty approved aims to reduce the administrative costs of health care, push treatment more toward prevention and connect more uninsured people with insurance programs.

The governor also signed a bill ridding the state budget of a nearly $1 billion deficit using a mixture of spending cuts, rainy day reserves and accounting shifts. The bill includes a modest aid boost for schools.

Staff writer Mary Lynn Smith and the Associated Press contributed to this report. Mike Kaszuba • 612-673-4388