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Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published December 21 2010

Pawlenty reflects on 2 terms in office; Langseth says 'he was not a good governor'

ST. PAUL - Tim Pawlenty says many Minnesotans think he already mentally has moved on from being governor because Democrats cannot believe he rejects tax increases.

In a Forum Communications interview today, Pawlenty said that Democrats' logic goes something like this: "He must be running for president or he would be raising taxes."

"It's a bunch of crap," he said about what he sees as Democratic-Farmer-Laborite attempts to paint him as a disinterested governor.

In the interview exactly two weeks before when he leaves office after eight years, Pawlenty rattled off a long list of accomplishments that he said keeps Minnesota near the top of most important state rankings.

Pawlenty said he has not changed since his decade in the state House. "I think I am the same person."

But one of Pawlenty's harshest critics said the governor's dreams of higher office hurt Minnesota.

"He was not a good governor," Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said. "One of his problems was that he was thinking about the big time. That is why he just refused to do what was needed with the budget."

Langseth said Pawlenty changed from the time he was in the House.

"After he got elected governor, he started thinking about the big time," Langseth said, adding it was especially bad in his second four-year term. "When he first was elected to the House, he was a pretty moderate guy. As the party shifted right, he shifted with them."

Former House Speaker Steve Sviggum, now a Pawlenty commissioner, said it is natural for a governor to be criticized. "But I do not think you can dismiss the honor, the trust, the straight forwardness, the honest of Gov. Pawlenty. They have always been there."

Sviggum, R-Kenyon, predicted a bright national future for Pawlenty: "I believe that the governor has that right mix to be a very, very strong player on the national level in the next few years. He brings that right balance that some others don't bring."

The governor blamed the media for his poor perception. Reporters, he said, are not interested in positive stories that would make him look good, only negative ones that get lots of online attention.

He admitted that when he decided last year not to see a third term he did not think fellow Republicans would win both chamber of the state Legislature. Coming after what he called an "Obama wave," GOP hopes looked dim, he said. Had he known Republicans would win, he may have run for a third term, he added.

Pawlenty highlighted his efforts to keep state government spending under control, and avoid tax increases.

While saying he has not made up his mind if he will run for president in 2012, most of his lengthy recitation of accomplishments would fit well in a national campaign. He began 14 pages of information promoting his time in office with the topic "reducing government spending."

In the interview, he repeated his often-mentioned statistic that the current budget is the first time since before he was born 50 years ago that state spending actually went down from one budget to the next. The $30.7 billion two-year budget would have been $56 billion if increases continued like before he took office, Pawlenty said.

Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.