DFLers criticize Pawlenty's travel; Pawlenty criticizes the story
DFL legislative leaders in both the House and Senate have ramped up their criticism of Gov. Pawlenty's travel. For weeks, they have made subtle and not so subtle comments regarding Pawlenty's out-of-state trips.
After the MPR News report aired Friday morning, the criticism got a bit sharper.
"I've seen more of the former governors than I have of the current governor during the start of session," said DFL House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher.
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Kelliher said she's worried that Pawlenty has not been meeting with her or other DFL legislative leaders. She said the last time she met with the governor was on Feb. 13, one day after the legislative session started.
DFL House Majority Leader Tony Sertich said he hopes to see the governor come to the table as budget negotiations intensify.
"I think it's shocking. It would be shocking to Minnesotans to know that their governor and their elected legislative leaders have not been in the same room since the start of the legislative session," Sertich said. "I've seen him more on the Sunday morning TV talk shows ... than I've been in the room with him."
"He has been out of the state. A vast majority of that time was on weekends."
MPR News analyzed Gov. Pawlenty's travel between Jan. 1 and March 12, and found that he's been out of the state at least 25 times for part or all of the day.
The report was based on Pawlenty's public schedule and press accounts, because the governor's office didn't turn over his personal calendar before the story aired. A request through the state's open records law is pending.
Gov. Pawlenty's spokesman Brian McClung characterized MPR's story as "misleading" because it "does not differentiate between activity during the week and on weekends."
"An average listener listening to this MPR story would get the impression that the governor has been gone and missed a lot of work. That's just not the case," said McClung. "He has been out of the state. A vast majority of that time was on weekends, and the eight weekdays that he's been out were for official business."
That business was for the National Governors Association, which Pawlenty chairs, and for the Minneapolis-St. Paul host committee for the 2008 Republican National convention.
But Pawlenty spent a full Friday campaigning in Florida on John McCain's behalf, and attended an Iowa caucus event on a Thursday night.
The original MPR report stated several times that a majority of his out-of-state travel was on the weekend, which McClung acknowledged.
McClung also said state taxpayers paid for just one of his out-of-state trips. That was to attend the National Governors Association winter meetings.
McClung also said the governor has been engaged in the legislative process, and that Pawlenty has had several private meetings with lawmakers.
House Speaker Margaret Kelliher acknowledged she hasn't invited the governor to any meetings. She said she'd be happy to hold one in her office if the governor would attend.