OTR Interviews

Pawlenty: I've Led as an Executive in Government, Bachmann Hasn't

Presidential candidate on the debt ceiling standoff, his criticism of Bachmann and how he handled a shutdown when he was Minn. governor


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," July 13, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Former governor Tim Pawlenty is standing by his criticism of Congresswoman Bachmann, saying that her record in Congress is, quote, "nonexistent." Why did he said that? Earlier today, former governor Tim Pawlenty went "On the Record."


VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, nice to see you, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Governor, getting some heat because you took a little bit of a slap at fellow Minnesotan, Representative Bachmann, saying that her record is nonexistent. What did you -- what do you mean by that? And what do you seek to gain by that?

PAWLENTY: Well, each candidate brings different strengths to the table. I certainly respect Congresswoman Bachmann. I share many of her ideas and her conservative views and values. But I think the country is going to expect and the Republican Party should expect that the next President of the United States has executive experience leading a large enterprise to conclusion with results and records on things like reducing spending, cutting taxes, and not just talking about these things, but leading as an executive. I've done that. Congresswoman Bachmann hasn't.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me ask you about that because right now, Minnesota is in a state of shutdown. Obviously, you're not the current governor. You have -- as of January, you were no longer the governor. But it's in a current state of shutdown. Former Republican member of your party -- governor says -- is very critical of the way you were as governor, saying - - suggesting that you did some patching, but you never did the structural changes that would have prevented Minnesota from now being in the situation they are with a $5 billion deficit.

And then let me add one other thing, is that in spring of 2009, that you signed all these spending bills the Democrats wanted and you vetoed all the Democrats' revenue bill. And when the -- after the legislature adjourned, you did unilateral cuts to balance the budget, and then that was determined to be an unconstitutional exercise of your authority.

So that experience that you're relying on has got -- you know, you got some explaining to do.

PAWLENTY: Well, Greta, I've got -- if you look at this race, I've got the best record of anybody in this race when it comes to reducing spending, cutting taxes, doing health care reform the right way, not through mandates or government takeovers, making sure that we do public employee pension and benefit reforms, and not just talking about this stuff but actually doing it. And that's the big difference.

And as to the points you raise, that former governor is an Obama supporter, a John Kerry supporter. So you don't put too much credence into what he is talking about. But beyond that, every budget when I was governor of the state of Minnesota was balanced, as it must be by law. And in fact, the last one for which I was governor ended just about a week ago, on June 30th midnight, and it ended with a surplus. It ended in the black.

And this projected deficit for the next two years is based on an assumption, a bureaucratic assumption, a hypothetical of 20-plus increase percent in spending that I would never have allowed had I continued on as governor, Greta. So those are the facts. Every budget was balanced under my watch and still was through last week.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do you -- how do you respond (INAUDIBLE) maybe the criticism is incorrect, but there are two ways to balance a budget. One is to make structural changes, real changes, so that the -- so it's a really healthy economic environment. The other is to do patchwork. And there's some criticism of you, for instance, taking some of the tobacco settlement money, which was in the billions of dollars around the state, and using that to meet shortfalls. And obviously, the following year, that money's not going to be there to tap into for the shortfall.

So you know, what structural changes did you make, as opposed to the patching ones?

PAWLENTY: Well, look, we -- I was governor for eight years. For 40 years before I became governor, the average two-year increase in spending in Minnesota was 21 percent. We brought it from historic highs to historic lows, including cutting spending in real terms for the first time in 150 years.

And the Democrats when I was there squealed loudly and regularly how I was cutting things to the bone. Now to suggest that it was all some one- time shift just isn't true. And as to the executive action you mentioned earlier, I absolutely did that. I took more money out of the budget as an executive than all the other governors combined. I got the legislature after the court ruling to reinstate most of that.

And so this suggestion that I think people are saying is one time or I didn't cut it -- the budget was balanced, real cuts were made, and it took executive leadership. And again, if you're going to be president of United States, you actually should have run something of a large public nature with results. There's a big difference between talking about things and doing things. And my record will stack up and prove that I've got that kind of seasoning, experience and results.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I'm not a big fan of cigarettes, I can tell you right now. And while you were president -- while you were governor, rather, is the -- there was an increase in the tax -- increase in the amount on cigarettes. And everyone -- many people say it was a tax increase of I think 75 cents per pack. You have said that it's not a tax increase. Why isn't that a tax increase when all of a sudden, you have to pay 75 cents more per pack of cigarettes? And I ask you because you don't want to raise taxes.

PAWLENTY: Well, we had a government shutdown. I was part of a larger compromise that we agreed to. But as to whether it was a tax or fee, the point is, it was revenue involved. But a court of law actually litigated that issue in Minnesota and concluded it was a fee. So that wasn't, you know, just my reference. A court of law litigated it and determined that as a matter of law, Greta. And by the way, Congresswoman Bachmann voted for that, as well.

VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, thank you very much. It's going to be a very interesting season. And I look forward to having you back again. I do hope you'll join us again. Thank you, sir.

PAWLENTY: Thank you.