Pawlenty: Plan to Curb Oil Firms’ Tax Breaks Is ‘Ludicrous’

Last published on 05/09/11 at 10:49 AM

MANCHESTER, N.H. – Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty called a White House proposal to reduced tax breaks for oil companies “ludicrous” after a gathering of tea party activists.

“I think we should have a discussion about all subsidies,” Mr. Pawlenty told Washington Wire at a forum for 2012 GOP presidential hopefuls. “But the Obama proposal is ludicrous. I mean the worst thing we could do is raise the cost burden on costs on energy and oil… What he’s proposing is a tax increase on energy at a time when the gas is $4 a gallon. It’s preposterous.”

Oil companies reported strong first quarter profits this week.

The thinking puts him close to other Republicans, such as Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.), who talk about eliminating all subsidies and lower corporate tax rates. This week, Speaker John Boehner said Washington should consider cutting tax breaks for for oil companies. “It’s certainly something we should be looking at,” Mr. Boehner told ABC News. “We’re in a time when the federal government’s short on revenues. They ought to be paying their fair share.”

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, another potential candidate for the GOP nomination in 2012, declined to comment on oil subsidies Friday during a campaign stop in Manchester. During the visit to a gas station, he spent $38.52 on regular unleaded at $3.93 a gallon for an aide’s SUV.

“I’m not planning any new subsidies for the oil industry,” Mr. Romney said. But when asked if tax breaks should be cut, he responded that corporate taxes, across the board, should be lowered. “As the specifics of that industry, I haven’t looked at it in sufficient depth.”

During a separate interview Friday night, Mr. Pawlenty appeared to take a subtle swipe at Mr. Romney, who some consider the frontrunner for the GOP nomination.

Mr. Pawlenty has noted that “everyone has a couple of clunkers in their record,” pointing to his own past support for a cap on carbon emissions in the Midwest. Cap-and-trade- proposals remain deeply unpopular with conservatives. “I think mine are fewer and less severe than most,” he added.

Some say Mr. Romney must deal with his biggest liability as he pursues the GOP nomination: the health care law he signed as governor.

The White House, in an effort to undermine Mr. Romney, has called the Massachusetts health law a model for Democrats’ national health-care overhaul, which was adopted last year. Both the Massachusetts plan the federal health-care law require individuals to purchase insurance. Mr. Romney has said his own law was an experiment that was never meant to go national. He has also said parts of the law didn’t work, though he didn’t get specific Friday night.

Mr. Pawlenty declined to say if his “clunkers” were less severe than Mr. Romney’s

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