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Tim Pawlenty's Claims Present Issue Of Facts vs. Reality

Tim Pawlenty Fact Check

CALVIN WOODWARD   05/23/11 05:57 PM ET   AP

WASHINGTON — "Truth" was Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's buzzword Monday when he announced his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. He said he will tell the truth about hard choices facing the nation while others – President Barack Obama notably among them – do not.

A parsing of Pawlenty's opening-day statements shows they were not the whole truth.

Here is a sampling of his claims Monday and how they compare with the facts.

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PAWLENTY: "The truth is, people getting paid by the taxpayers shouldn't get a better deal than the taxpayers themselves. That means freezing federal salaries, transitioning federal employee benefits, and downsizing the federal work force as it retires." – Campaign announcement.

THE FACTS: A federal pay freeze is already in effect. Obama proposed and Congress approved a two-year freeze on the pay of federal employees, exempting the armed forces, Congress and federal courts.

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PAWLENTY: "ObamaCare is unconstitutional." – USA Today column.

THE FACTS: Obama's health care overhaul might be unconstitutional in Pawlenty's opinion, but it is not in fact unless the Supreme Court says so. Lower court rulings have been split.

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PAWLENTY: "Barack Obama has consistently stood for higher taxes." – Campaign announcement.

THE FACTS: Obama's record shows more tax cutting than tax raising. The stimulus plan early in his presidency cut taxes broadly for the middle class and business, and more recently he won a substantial cut in Social Security taxes for a year. He also campaigned in support of extending the Bush-era tax cuts for all except the wealthy, whose taxes he wanted to raise. In office, he accepted a deal from Republicans extending the tax cuts for all. As for tax increases, Obama won congressional approval to raise them on tobacco and tanning salons. The penalty for those who don't buy health insurance, once coverage is mandatory, is a form of taxation.

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PAWLENTY: "For decades before I was elected, governors tried and failed to get Minnesota out of the top 10 highest-taxed states in the country. I actually did it." – Campaign announcement.

THE FACTS: Minnesota remains among the 10 worst states in its overall tax climate, according to the Tax Foundation. In its 2011 State Business Tax Climate Index, the anti-tax organization ranks Minnesota 43rd, making it the eighth worst state. The ranking slipped from 41st two years earlier. The index considers corporate, individual, sales, unemployment insurance and property taxes.

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PAWLENTY: "I stood up to the teachers unions and established one of the first statewide performance pay systems in the country." – Campaign announcement.

THE FACTS: The system may be statewide, but it is voluntary and most school districts have not joined. Out of the 340 school districts and charter schools in the state, with 830,000 students, 104 districts and charter schools serving 254,592 students are currently enrolled in the performance-pay program.

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PAWLENTY: "There's only four governors in the country that got an A grade from the tough-grading Cato Institute for fiscal management. I was one of them." – ABC's "Good Morning America."

THE FACTS: Cato may be a tough grader, but it is hardly objective. The institute holds staunch libertarian views, including a passion for smaller government, and graded governors in 2010 according to their success in cutting taxes and spending. Pawlenty tied for third with Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, behind South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, both Republicans.

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PAWLENTY: "I could stand here and tell you that we can solve America's debt crisis and fix our economy without making any tough choices. But we've heard those kinds of empty promises before."

THE FACTS: Although politicians typically talk about the need for hard choices, Pawlenty actually does name several. He proposes to phase out ethanol and corporate subsidies, raise the Social Security retirement age for young workers and restrain cost of living increases for Social Security recipients who are wealthy.

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Associated Press writers Brian Bakst in Des Moines, Iowa, and Jim Drinkard in Washington contributed to this report.

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Filed by Elyse Siegel  |