The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

September 23, 2006

Pawlenty promises better times ahead

MANKATO — Gov. Tim Pawlenty said during a stop in Mankato Friday that he would win a second term if the election were held today, that he thinks Minnesota might need to make a transition from gas taxes to mileage taxes and that he was too unyielding in his first four years in office.

Pawlenty — stopping at The Free Press before moving on to newspapers in New Ulm, Redwood Falls, Marshall and Willmar — trumpeted his work in eliminating a $4.5 billion state deficit and promised better times in the coming four years.

The first-term Republican governor, who makes some lists as a possible choice for vice president, said he wouldn’t accept a position on a national ticket in 2008.

“I like being here and I love being governor,” he said. “... I committed to serve out my term as governor.”

Recent polls show Pawlenty in a dead heat with Attorney General Mike Hatch, the Democratic nominee. Independence Party candidate Peter Hutchinson picked up less than 10 percent in each poll.

Pawlenty said he’s not surprised to be in a tight race because the state still leans Democratic but said polls that weed out people not likely to actually vote on Nov. 7 put him in first place by a slight margin.

Many of Pawlenty’s comments during more than a half-hour of discussion with The Free Press editorial board echoed previous themes about tackling a tough budget problem, tying accountability measures to government spending and holding the line on statewide taxes in a way that promoted economic growth.

But Pawlenty also expressed interest in a new tax to fund transportation in the state — one that could ultimately replace the gas tax with a charge for miles driven. With the nation eventually facing a transition from fossil fuels to other forms of energy, a mileage tax might be a necessary replacement to the per-gallon tax on fuel at the pump, he said.

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