here for PDF format
of Meeting with Dan McElroy
Friday, Jan. 27th,
Verne C. Johnson, chair, Chuck Clay, Jim Hetland. Via phone , John Mooty,
Jim Olson and John Sampson
is Dan McElroy?
introduced McElroy, who is a former member of the Burnsville City Council,
Mayor of Burnsville, member of state house of representatives, Director of
Finance for Minnesota, Chief of Staff to Governor Pawlenty and currently
holding the cabinet position of Senior Advisor on Innovation. He
graduated from Notre Dame University.
Civic Caucus is good news for the rest of us – our productive life
expectancy is up --
of us who are considered experienced, there is still time to do much. For
those who reach the age of 65, we can now expect 18 more years of active
life. I am 57 and working on my personal 30 year plan.
remarks today will mostly be about
is where I have the greatest experience.
are seeing considerable innovation in
with leadership at the executive level. Some great ideas still come from
the legislature, but not as many as in the past.
It takes time to recognize innovation – we didn’t immediately know that
the Met Council or Fiscal Disparities were as significant and they now
appear until they had time to impact the system. We only now
recognize how innovative open enrollment and charter schools are. It is
unfair to say nothing innovative has happened in recent years – it is too
soon to write that history. Things like Sen. Kiscaden’s flexible benefit
health insurance plan, customer information report cards for schools,
nursing homes, and health outcomes, the Smart Buy Alliance and other ideas
will probably be seen as innovations in the future.
Minnesota leads the nation in so many areas statistically --
Number one in ACT Scores
Best education improvement in 2005
Number one in SAT Scores
Most Caring State by United Way
Lowest rate of uninsured
Second lowest poverty rate
Second most livable state in the nation
Second healthiest after Hawaii
results are more than competitive -
it is the process that
is far from perfect. We have to be concerned about maintaining great
results when the current process needs work.
PRINCIPAL AREAS OF
Politics and policy are distinctly different
is the process of getting elected. Policy is the result of governmental
action or inaction. Today there is an excessive emphasis on politics and
far too little on policy. Some people have tuned out policy because they
are fed up with politics.
Too much specialization by legislators and other leaders today --
public interest legislation is being adversely affected by a multitude of
single issue organizations and special interests. We need more
generalists and more people with a broad viewpoint on public policy.
Absolutism scares me-- We need more comity and collaboration than we have
been seeing. --
As Tim Penny says “We
may not change our tune, but we can change our tone.” Respect for the
differing views of others needs more respectful listening. Too many
people think they are absolutely right and anyone who disagrees is
Centrists have given up on the caucus system and no longer participate.
This is not
an answer until or unless the law is changed. Centrists must
participate. I am a centrist and I will produce at least 125 people at
our next caucus.
Support an earlier primary election date --
Although I am not confident that the change can be effectuated, I favor an
earlier - say June - primary election date as a means of lessening or
eliminating the influence of the caucus system. Until this happens
centrists must become active within the two party system.
Party designation for legislators should be abandoned --
It was a
mistake to require party designation for legislators, as has been asserted
by previous caucus speakers such as Bill Frenzel..
Grouping legislators by party in separate offices is unsound and should be
We need to
encourage more intermixing and exchange of thinking. We need to get to
know each other better. The separation by partisan groupings is a serious
is not a serious problem --
redistricting in recent years has been by a judicially appointed body, not
by the legislature itself. Making competitive districts in portions of
Minnesota is not possible. But my preference would be for judicial led
redistricting, if the necessary change could be made.
Require the senate and house to operate with joint standing committees --
I introduced an even more sweeping bill as a legislator - patterned after
the system in
Sweden, which makes the house the dominant legislative entity with the
senate having to approve in certain areas. Joint committees are more
realistic and are used in 29 states.
Campaign financing needs to be far more open than it is --
By far the best remedy for the campaign finance problem today is to assure
that any and all contributions are made public. With today’s electronic
ability, this could be all but instant and on-line.
Examples of Encouraging Developments in Civic Affairs --The
evident Citizens League revitalization is reassuring, as is the
impressive and creative use of the internet in reaching a broad audience
by the Civic Caucus. I applaud the 20-20 group in the
legislature. The Hubert H. Humphrey Institute, under the
leadership of Tim Penny and Vin Weber is sponsoring significant
discussions. I applaud Wy Spano for what he is doing in
Also producing good work is Hamline University and the Itasca
Conference -- These are but examples of the encouraging
developments I am seeing.
important issues involve education, health care and transportation & they
are being addressed --
simply not true that social issues are diverting Minnesota legislators
from these real issues. The legislators don’t spend 5% of their time on
these divisive issues.
not favor a multiple party system for
Third parties draw
away centrists from the two major parties, which leads to polarization and
paralysis of the legislative process. This is the seemingly easy way out,
but in actuality it is not.
population growth rate is slowing with the prospect
might lose one congressional representative in the future --
This should concern each of us and should lead us to insist on competitive
advantage over other states. Increasing taxes significantly in what is
now a high tax state will not prove constructive. We must learn to do
more, better, with less.
that the civic caucus invite in younger thought leaders than you have to
We should listen
to leaders like Steve Schier, Sean Kershaw and others. The younger and the
older should be actively involved and in a way that assures listening to
each other. Other highly respected thought leaders might include John
Hottinger and David Jennings.
dependence on debt financing is not worrisome --
All projects are capital items which will be used by the next generation.
Our debt rating is fully competitive with other states; indeed Minnesota
has one of the best debt ratios in the nation. Our state’s balance sheet
in holding the line on taxes, is not increasing the dependence on local
government for financing --
Property taxes are lower in most places than in 2001, before the takeover
of basic school funding. The current system works when there is a
connection between those who pay, those who benefit, and those who decide
on spending. Decisions weren’t always best when 70 or 80% of some budgets
were paid by Local Government Aid or commercial and lake shore property
whose owners couldn’t vote in local elections.
Governor Pawlenty’s no tax increase pledge does not pertain to future
sessions of the legislature.
Governor has said that he doesn’t need to sign future pledges – his record
speaks for itself. Keep in mind that all of our neighboring states have
also held the line on taxes and several area Democratic Governors have
made promises similar to that of Governor Pawlenty.
should move away from the concept of the gas tax and think more of “fuel
coming, as is bio-diesel and perhaps hydrogen . Our transportation
energies should be directed at how well we spend in meeting our
transportation needs and on dedicating the motor vehicle sales tax to
transportation. Efficiency is also an issue: for example we have 1,200
more transportation employees than Wisconsin. The amount of gas tax
collected has nearly tripled since 1981 even though the rate has stayed
should be thinking in terms of a new concept for light rail – there are
exciting new options --
We need to
increase our usage of innovative transit for the future.
response to a question concerning the effectiveness of the “no child left
behind” legislation, McElroy stressed the vital essentiality of empowering
the parent. --
central to the needed improvement. We could and should be doing this at
the state and local level.
key problem is not lack of good executive leadership --
Paralysis is primarily caused by political factors such as the strategy
most likely to win control of the legislature. DFL leaders discovered
that gridlock led to blaming the governor and incumbents and resulted in
the DFL winning additional seats in the legislature. It is a bum rap to
claim the governor did not show leadership.
commended McElroy for his amazing detailed understanding of such a wide
range of issues and for the coverage of so many issues in so short a time
and announced that our next thought leader would be former Mayor George
The Civic Caucus
is a non-partisan,
tax-exempt educational organization. Core participants
include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting
years of leadership in politics and business.
A working group meets face-to-face to
provide leadership. They are Verne C. Johnson, chair; Lee
Canning, Charles Clay, Bill Frenzel,
Paul Gilje, Jim Hetland,
John Mooty, Jim Olson, Wayne Popham and John Rollwagen.
Click Here to
see a biographical statement of each.