Tim Pawlenty is on the short-list to be called to serve as Mitt Romney’s Republican running mate, but this fact has made more than just a few conservatives uncomfortable.
It seems that Pawlenty, when he was the governor of Minnesota, chose a path not considered orthodox according to the strictly conservative playbook, and added a startling “health impact fee” of 75 cents to the cost of one pack of cigarettes. This move sent his administration into defense mode as the opposition effectively shut down the state’s government in response to the “tax.”
Pawlenty never labeled the fee a tax, but those in the opposition certainly did. And new (or any) taxes are anathema nowadays in certain circles.
There are still those on the right side of fiscal policy who are not too pleased with Pawlenty for vice president, mostly over this issue, but it appears that his wayward behavior will not cost him much in the way of political points among Republicans in general.
His critics believe that Pawlenty broke the “no new taxes” pledge, even if he did call it a “fee.” But even the leader of the extremist anti-tax movement, Grover Norquist, is ready to let this misdeed slide.
Phil Krinkie, the president of the Taxpayer’s League of Minnesota, who also was a state representative in the Minnesota House during the harrowing budget debate, said the Pawlenty’s appropriateness as vice president is more complicated than this one issue.
“Was it a tax increase, absolutely. Do I think some 6 or 7 years later that it’s a disqualifier? No,” Krinkie said.