A government watchdog group is criticizing Gov. Tim Pawlenty's decision to end a state tax refund for political contributions.
The Republican governor plans to eliminate the refund as part of a broader unallotment plan to erase a $2.7 billion budget deficit.
Mike Dean of Common Cause Minnesota said Pawlenty should return the $236,000 he has received through the refund program since 1995, while campaigning for the Legislature and the governor's office. Dean said the tax refund has allowed candidates to raise money from average Minnesotans and focus on their issues.
"If we move away from this type of system, it's going to skew it to where politicians now have to raise a lot more money from wealthy and special interest groups, and they'll then start focusing on those issues," he said. "That's why this program has [existed] for so long and it's been widely used by both political parties."
State finance officials say eliminating the refund program will save about $10 million over two years.