Pawlenty talks issues, criticizes Penny

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 18, 2002

The Republican candidate for governor, Tim Pawlenty, stopped at Albert Lea’s Trails Travel Center on Tuesday morning to give a brief speech on his key issues, answer a few questions from audience members, and to take shots at Tim Penny, the Independence Party candidate for governor.

&uot;If you’re going to have a strong economy you need two things,&uot; Pawlenty said. &uot;Good education and good jobs.&uot;

Pawlenty stressed the importance of restructuring the Minnesota education system so that &uot;there are results and accountability.&uot; He also said he would like to see teacher pay increased based on achievement.

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The candidate also focused on business development and incentive programs. &uot;We need to have an environment that says to businesses that they need to come here and stay here,&uot; said Pawlenty.

&uot;I’m the only candidate who says that I don’t want to raise taxes,&uot; Pawlenty declared.

He says he’ll hold firm to that pledge despite a multi-billion-dollar deficit projected for 2003.

&uot;Raising taxes is still not a good idea. If Minnesotans are making sacrifices in these times, so does the government. We need leadership that will set priorities straight.&uot;

Pawlenty also said that transportation is a problem. &uot;We are 20 to 30 years behind in our transportation infrastructure such as roads and bridges,&uot; he said. Pawlenty maintained that he would make changes to better transportation state wide.

Attendees inquired what Pawlenty thought about the issues of Local Government Aid (LGA) and local sales tax implementation. Pawlenty told the crowd, &uot;We are doing our best to protect and sustain LGA, but I think it also needs to be addressed as a long-term problem.&uot;

Almost 37 percent of the 2003 Albert Lea city budget is from LGA .

Pawlenty said he’d like to have less LGA and instead use tax incentives to attract business, which would help create a tax base. He proposed that Greater Minnesota be allowed to create tax-free zones in which companies could build. The zones would allow businesses to be tax exempt for 12 years.

&uot;You put these zones in depressed areas that are depressed and don’t give much tax revenue. The businesses grow for 12 years and then you have a large tax base after that,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s like a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) on steroids.&uot;

Karen Trow, part of a group that helped craft Albert Lea’s proposed half-cent local sales tax, asked about Pawlenty’s views on the local sales taxes. Pawlenty said he would like to see either a uniform standard for passing

the tax or he’d like to see the legislature get out of the way of these decisions. Albert Lea needed legislative approval to put the tax before voters last year, but the bill stalled in the House.

Pawlenty criticized one of his opponents, Tim Penny, often throughout his speech, referring to Penny as the &uot;waffle man.&uot; Pawlenty said that Penny has changed his mind many times, or &uot;waffled,&uot; on many of the issues.

Also running for governor are Democrat Roger Moe and the Green Party’s Ken Pentel.