FLASHBACK: Pawlenty Vetoed Mortgage Mediation Program Despite Sky-High Minnesota Foreclosure Rates

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) officially launched his presidential campaign today, in large part banking on a message that he is capable of turning the economy around. “Unemployment is at unbearable levels, gas and food prices are skyrocketing and federal government spending is out of control,” Pawlenty wrote in a USA Today op-ed this morning. “The problems facing our nation are severe. But we can overcome them. We will grow our economy if we shrink our government. We will create good jobs if we encourage job creators.”

Pawlenty likes to highlight his economic record as governor, but as Alex Seitz-Wald noted last week, Pawlenty has some skeletons in his closet when it comes to fiscal responsibility. In addition, while in the governor’s mansion, Pawlenty saw fit to veto legislation that could have saved an untold number of Minnesotans from foreclosure, as the state grappled with some of the highest foreclosure rates in its region.

In 2009, when Minnesota has the highest foreclosure rate in the Upper Midwest, the state legislature passed a bill implementing what is known as mortgage mediation. The concept is pretty simple: before finalizing a foreclosure, banks would have to meet with the borrower and make one last-ditch effort to come to an agreement on a loan modification. Similar programs all across the country have been very effective at preventing foreclosures at little cost, as CAP Housing Policy Adviser Alon Cohen found:

Foreclosure mediation is working to help thousands of homeowners keep their homes while returning greater value to investors and communities than they would see in foreclosure. State governments recognize this and continue to create and expand these programs…We estimate that each foreclosure loses mortgage servicers, lenders, and investors more than $57,000. A mortgage modification resulting from mediation saves these parties more than $35,000. Even 100 settlements at this savings total $3.5 million, well in excess of the funding allotted to these programs.

Mediation programs have taken off in Connecticut, Nevada, Washington D.C., Florida, and in many other states, but not in Minnesota, due to Pawlenty’s veto.

Pawlenty has already revealed himself to be quite the crank when it comes to monetary policy, and he has endorsed a misguided push to grant multinational corporations a tax giveaway worth tens of billions of dollars. He has also regurgitated false GOP talking points about the Dodd-Frank financial reform law and severely criticized the 2009 Recovery Act (despite benefiting significantly from it). As his record as governor shows, he doesn’t have it together on housing policy either.