Gov. Tim Pawlenty spoke to a group of students, faculty and others at the Humphrey Institute for Public Affairs on Friday about the war in Iraq, the economy and health care.
His speech was part of a series of speeches sponsored by the Humphrey Institute known as the Policy Forum Breakfast Club.
Pawlenty said Minnesota is seeing many changes, many of which are related to national issues.
He said the day before his speech, he was in St. Joseph, Minn., to see off approximately 100 Minnesotan troops who were going to Iraq, and he praised them for their high spirits.
“You go up to them and say, ‘How are you doing?'” he said. “They say, ‘we’re doing great.’ They work six days a week for 12 hours a day. You go to those troop deployments, and you tell me you’ve got problems.”
He said Minnesota and the country are going through large changes, and people should not view the present through “the prison of yesterday.”
“These are not normal times we live in,” Pawlenty said. “We are a country at war, and we are going to be at war for the foreseeable future.”
At the state level, Pawlenty said Minnesota’s greatest challenges will come from the state’s changing demographics.
He said the numbers of senior citizens and immigrants in the state are increasing rapidly, and the state will have to
respond to those changes in a responsible manner. He said he views such changes as an opportunity as well as a challenge.
But he said increasing taxes is not the way Minnesota should respond to those challenges.
“You can’t have government growing faster than people’s paychecks,” he said.
He said health care is consuming the state budget at a level that is “unsustainable,” and there is no easy way to solve that problem.
After Pawlenty’s speech, he took questions from audience members. Many were skeptical of his policies.
Global studies senior Nikki Enfield asked Pawlenty about increasing tuition at the University, but afterwards said Pawlenty evaded her question.
“Everything in his answer alluded to the belief that if you don’t seek education, it’s your own damn fault,” Enfield said. “There’s just a huge disconnect there.”
Scott McMahon, president of the Humphrey Institute’s Public Affairs Student Association, said he was satisfied with Pawlenty’s speech.
“I think he did an excellent job identifying the issues the state is facing,” said McMahon, a second-year environmental policy graduate student.
But he said Pawlenty should have offered more solutions to the problems he mentioned.
McMahon said he also would have liked to see the governor address higher-education issues.
Pawlenty did not discuss the possibility of a special legislative session during his speech.