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Pawlenty derides stimulus program

But presidential hopeful used aid

By Shira Schoenberg
Globe Correspondent / May 27, 2011

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MILFORD, N.H. — In his first foray into New Hampshire since becoming an official candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty yesterday denounced the federal stimulus program, even though under his leadership his state benefited from billions of dollars of the aid.

Pawlenty met with reporters and the public and toured Cirtronics, an electronics manufacturing company that indirectly received $935,000 in federal stimulus money.

Asked about the stimulus, Pawlenty acknowledged that many governments and businesses used the money. “The real question is did it work,’’ Pawlenty said. “We had an economy that has not recovered substantially. We’ve got people who are experiencing unbearable levels of unemployment.

“It’s maybe had a little temporary effect,’’ Pawlenty said. “But it comes with big negative consequences down the road. It sets a really bad precedent.’’

Pawlenty, like other Republican candidates, has often derided the stimulus — a $787 billion package of federal grants, benefits, and tax breaks signed by President Obama in 2009. Pawlenty has called it “reckless,’’ “irresponsible,’’ and ineffective at creating new private sector jobs. But he has also used the money.

In Minnesota, where Pawlenty was governor until January, the state used $2.3 billion in federal stimulus money to balance its budget during the two-year budget cycle ending this June. The state received a total of $5.9 billion, including funding for programs, unemployment benefits, and medical assistance, according to the Minnesota Management and Budget Office.

Pawlenty defended the use of the money, saying Minnesota gets only 72 cents for every $1 paid in taxes. “Anyone who says we’re not paying our fair share, or somehow President Obama bailed us out, what you have to look for is we’re actually subsidizing the rest of the country,’’ Pawlenty said.

Cirtronics — a popular campaign stop in Milford and a company whose president has donated to Republican candidates — received the stimulus money indirectly. It subcontracted for two organizations — Morpho Detection and Reveal Imaging Technologies — that received money from the Department of Homeland Security to develop bomb and drug detection technology for use in airports and buildings.

A New Hampshire Democratic Party spokeswoman, Holly Shulman, criticized Pawlenty for opposing the stimulus. “This is just one out-of-touch position of many that Tim Pawlenty holds,’’ she said. “The Recovery Act’s successes are evident across the Granite State and have touched many New Hampshire families.’’

Speaking to about 300 people at Cirtronics, Pawlenty did not mention the stimulus but focused on a theme he has stressed since he announced his campaign Monday: speaking truth to power. He said government spends too much and must embrace difficult solutions: ending ethanol subsidies, raising the Social Security retirement age, refusing to bail out failing corporations, and turning Medicaid into a block grant program to states.

Pawlenty had a few staunch supporters at the event, but many attendees said they were keeping their options open. Nancy Guidice, 49, of Nashua, who works in human resources training, worries that none of the candidates are viable. She said of Pawlenty, “I’m concerned he won’t be able to beat President Obama.’’ Pawlenty returns to New Hampshire for a June 13 debate. His wife, Mary Pawlenty, will visit June 20.