POLITICS

Pawlenty's good rhetoric, mixed record on pro-sports subsidies

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney

If you're about my age, you remember watching a couple of World Series played at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. The white roof made it very easy to lose fly balls. The homer hankies made it even easier. The ventilation, according to legend, was switched to blow out when Twins were batting and in when the visitors were batting.

Today, the Twins play at Target Field, thanks to $392 million contributed by the taxpayers of Hennepin County. The team's owners paid $125 million.

This whole story began back in the 1990s, when Tim Pawlenty was a state legislator, and continued through his governorship. His position on taxpayer subsidies for a profitable business was nuanced, to put it nicely.

My column today, looking at Pawlenty's on-and-off fight against/belief in corporatism, mentions his flip-flops on the stadium. A new Club For Growth white paper treats the matter in more detail.

Pawlenty’s position on public subsidies to private enterprise is especially confusing when one takes the case of financing a new sports stadium. Pawlenty voted to use taxpayer dollars to finance a new baseball stadium for the Minnesota Twins  in 2001, despite having called professional baseball a “cartel” in 1997.  In that year, he voted against using taxpayer dollars to build the stadium,  claiming that he opposed any public involvement. He blasted “subsidizing billionaires so they can pay millionaires” according to press accounts at the time.  Pawlenty then flip-flopped again on the issue in 2002, voting against the proposed stadium.  By 2006, Pawlenty had flipped for a third time, and signed a bill that funded most of the $522 million new stadium with public dollars, including a 0.15 percent sales tax increase in Hennepin County.

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