Verne Johnson (Chair); David Broden, Janis Clay, Sheldon Clay, Paul Gilje,
Jim Hetland, Kevin Horner, Curt Johnson, Ted Kolderie, Dan Loritz, Tim
McDonald, John Mooty, Jim Olson, Wayne, Popham, Bob White
Summary of Horner's
budget plan: Horner's budget to eliminate a $6 billion-plus
shortfall in 2011-2013 would include $2.45 billion in spending cuts,
service redesign, and government efficiency; $2.15 billion in new sales
tax revenue; $500 million in new spending; a new racino, projected to
yield $250 million; $1.8 billion in saving by continuing school aid
shifts, with payment for school district borrowing, and a $400 million
bonding bill. Details of his budget proposal were released a few days
after he met with the Civic Caucus.
A. Context of the
meeting-Today's discussion with Tom Horner, Independence Party
candidate for governor, is the first of what we anticipate to be three
separate meetings with each of the gubernatorial candidates. These
meetings seek specifics about the candidate's governing philosophy and
interest in moving beyond taxing and cutting to rethink public services in
B. Welcome and
introductions-Tom Horner comes from a communications family. He
graduated from St. Thomas College and spent time working in New York
before returning to Minnesota to work for Sun newspapers as a
reporter-eventually becoming managing editor and supervising the editorial
content of 16 different papers. He was later asked to go to Washington to
serve as press secretary and later chief of staff for Senator David
Durenberger (where he met his wife Libby who worked in Sen. Hubert
Humphrey's office-"We were bipartisan before bi-partisanship was cool").
Upon returning to Minnesota he founded Himle Horner Inc, a communications
consultancy, and has been working with the firm since.
C. Comments and
discussion-During Horner's visit with the Civic Caucus, the
following points were raised:
Horner's motivation to enter the campaign is to counter partisanship-"Many
of you here have helped shaped my thinking about the importance of
citizenship and involvement, Horner opened to the group. When my wife and
I were sitting and talking about 2010 it became clear to us that the
parties would present candidates that would perpetuate the atmosphere of
partisanship. I'm here and in this campaign because of this state. I have
been given so much that I couldn't in good conscience wake up on August 12
and have our two choices be from the extremes."
Horner told the group that he is running as
an independent because he could not get endorsed by a party
today-particularly in the convention setting. He said that he believes in
the coming years Minnesota will need an independent governor who isn't
reform high on his agenda-- It's beyond cutting or increasing
taxes, he contended-Minnesota has a tax system that is out of date and
must be reformed.
The problem as he sees it is that the
Republicans are so trapped in the position of "no new taxes" they're
unable to raise certain taxes in order to decrease them elsewhere in order
to gain revenue neutrality. Meanwhile Democrats won't draw a distinction
between taxing a successful individual, which he said ought to be done and
done fairly, and taxing a business, which he notes must be done very
Three priorities for the campaign--Horner laid out three
priorities of his campaign platform:
a. Three-legged stool to balance the budget.
We do need to balance the budget, he said, and that will require the
three-legged school. First: We need people to understand government won't
do everything. Second: We need redesign, finding ways to do things
differently. Third: We need to rethink tax structure.
Concerning raising taxes to balance the
budget, Horner said, "Even if you could do that, it may solve the coming
biennium, but it will not solve the next deficit." The state enters the
next biennium with all of its tax capacity absorbed; yet there is another
deficit. It's just not a sustainable strategy.
Horner advocated rethinking the tax
structure to favor business startup. He proposed raising more tax revenue
by expanding the base of the sales tax. "Do have rebates for low-income
people," he said, about what would be considered a regressive tax. "But
everybody must have some skin in the game." He strongly advocated raising
the tobacco tax, and is considering other 'sin' taxes.
A detailed budget proposal from Horner was
made public a few days after the meeting. See:
b. Make investments for the 'knowledge state.'-to-grave
system of education." Further, if we don't take advantage of that
opportunity to rethink what we want from higher education, it will be a
major waste. "What we can't have is mission creep," he said, where
"vocational schools want to be community colleges; community colleges
wanting to be 4-years; 4-years wanting to be everything." Describing a
need to look to the future, and to make investments that support Minnesota
as the "knowledge state", Horner advocated the creation of what he calls
"a seamless cradle.
Horner supports funding research, both
applied and scholarly, as a basic line item and advocates bolstering ties
between university research and commercial uses. Minnesota needs a
world-class research institution, he said.
c. Strong, rooted communities. Horner
bemoaned deterioration of services in some cities. He cited examples of
where that is being lost-school districts going to four-day weeks, cities
turning streetlights off late at night. The state needs to have a culture
that allows people to live, work, and stay in a community for their whole
Importance of discussion during the campaign of redesigning public
services--A participant described how he believes there is a
growing understanding in the state for the need of rethinking public
services-what many are calling 'redesign.' Former governor Arne Carlson
has said we cannot just tax/cut/grow our way out of this budget problem as
a state-that those things will need to be done, but we also need to do
things differently. Ideas and examples of activity are out there. Most
can't be done to achieve payoff in the 2011/12 biennium, but still need to
be initiated in order to yield a long-term return. Some may require
legislation; some may not.
Horner replied that he doesn't want to wait
until the time of governing to raise new ideas, but wants to raise them
now-during the campaign. "We need to have a substantive campaign that's
putting issues on the table. And not just about process, but outcomes. I
don't think the question is whether Minnesota has too many counties," but
instead how counties can do things differently.
Horner said the campaigns need discussions
like this (at the Civic Caucus), and people interested in ideas calling on
the candidates to "put ideas where their mouth is," and react to specific
ideas. For that we need the right kinds of forums. There are three debates
in coming days, Horner said. The question is whether people and the local
papers can get involved in reporting not just the "flop", but more
importantly the substance.
the Independence Party candidate is positioned--Having spent
over two decades advising companies on how to position themselves in the
marketplace, Horner now finds himself in a similar position. It is said
that he is part of the 'honorable tradition' of the Independence Party
putting forth quality candidates but unable to connect with voters. Horner
is up against two strong personalities. Could he learn something from
Ventura's simple, straight-talking style?
"I think so, and I think it's wise..."
Horner said, with a grin. "We've got to figure out, as people who care
about the state, what's the right balance between setting a provocative
tone for a campaign, and what is responsible governance?" He recognized
the need for a split-level campaign: what he called the Ventura side
(character), and the policy side.
Horner said that he believes the opportunity
now for an IP candidate is much like it was in 1998 when Ventura won. "I
have got to be not a 51 percent candidate, but a 37 percent candidate." To
reach that level Horner said that he could either do a scatter-shot
strategy to spread his message, or use a more focused approach. Much of
that will be determined by the availability of financing.
He knows that he needs to show momentum
"People don't vote for you because it's the right thing to do," instead
they do it to join a bandwagon, or to avoid someone else. In the coming
weeks Horner said he will have a series of events that show momentum-with
politicians, business people, community leaders supporting him.
Name recognition is important. He sees
potential. Horner feels he has an opportunity to put voice to the problems
people have, and then showing that he has ideas to handle them.
"It's like Jet Blue," he said, anticipating
a reaction by voters to the other candidates: "'I'm sick and tired of all
of you.' Minnesotans have done all the right things, and then you've got
two candidates that keep pulling the rug out, each in their own way."
need for leadership in post-secondary education--When
discussing the need for leadership in post-secondary, a participant asked
Horner what kind of new leadership he believes the MnSCU system and the
University of Minnesota need to have?
He replied that post-secondary leaders need
an ability to manage complex financial organizations, and do it well. They
need to have business savvy. They need to be visionary, having a vision of
what higher education needs to deliver, not to work simply with what we
have now. This takes political will. Horner expressed discouragement that
a majority of the U of M selection panel is from inside the institution.
A participant asked whether the state should
change the alignment of the University of Minnesota and MnSCU? " First
thing we need to do is clarify what we need them to do. First, understand:
What are the goals of the system? Then we can start to think about how
they need to change."
and economic development--A participant asked Horner about his
interest in being in involved in economic investment and business
development: How do we avoid the government picking winners? He commented
that the state should be interested in helping bridge its investment in
research with the creation of jobs-creating jobs because we're going to
have a partnership that's an umbrella. He gave an example: "The Mayo
Clinic and the University of Minnesota have a partnership running at $8
million now. They tell me now if they had $25 million they could put
Minnesota at the front of the nation on life science." There are clear
Taming rapid growth in Health and Human Services costs--The
Health and Human Services portion of the state budget is projected to grow
faster than any others. A participant asked Horner what he could do?
Minnesota needs a fundamentally new model
around how we finance and deliver health and human services. Particularly:
a. Promote health and personal responsibility
(insurance, personal savings, redesign Medicaid so people need to
contribute some of their own resources)
b. Redesign delivery (what kind of
institutions, how people are admitted/removed)
c. Redesign services (consortium of
non-profit industries; e.g., last year one consortium for aging in Steel
Country saved 700+ days of nursing home care)
Resolve public needs without services? A participant commented
that the greatest potential may be in non-service-in resolving public
needs without services. For example with fire, it's not just about hiring
fire fighters but prevention and volunteers. Health care should include
prevention. The service model takes you to more and more highly paid
providers. In K-12 it may be about tapping into unpaid labor-student
peer-teaching and self-directed learning.
Horner told a story about a woman who needed
trash taken to the curb, in order to stay in her home. If she couldn't
perform that task she'd need to go into a care facility. Recognizing the
problem, some people helped her find an alternative garbage service that
would come to her door-saving the system resources that would have been
spent on substantial care.
people understand and care about can be surprising--"When I'm
talking to audiences what resonates is getting rid of ethanol subsidies.
Those are $7 million, and will sunset in two years. Is it as consequential
as larger areas of spending? No. Is it something people understand and
care about? Yes."
Recommendations for structural reform of government--Horner
shared two particular areas he favors for structural reform: (a) judicial
retention elections-moving to a merit selection panel; and (b)
redistricting--shifting the responsibility for legislative redistricting
from the Legislature to a bipartisan commission.
Leadership by the Governor--"The big issue in 2010 is
leadership. Who's going to stand, put a stake in the ground, and say I'll
take the hit?" In education there is a system where everything is governed
by tenure, and pay rising faster than the private sector. The question is
how to break out of that mode and begin getting more creative thinking.
"You can do it. The governor's part is to say what's wrong, and to act on
Governing from the center?--"I would model Ventura, who
assembled one of the best teams ever, based on merit and not politics.
When his commissioners would walk in the door and present the options, he
would ask what is in the best interest of Minnesota? Then would choose
"Thomas Paine said politics is about
changing the hearts and minds of people." Horner noted that in 2002 the
stake-in-the-ground issue was rail transit. "Pawlenty was opposed then,
but last year when we cut the ribbon for corridor, he was there with a big
smile on his face-because we built the coalitions, got people on board."
"I have no interest in being elected in a
way that I can't then govern," he said. "We've got 20 percent of the
electorate that say tear everything down; 20 percent say tax the wealthy;
then 40-60 percent in the middle who want good ideas." That's where he
wants to reside.
Thanks to Mr. Horner for taking
the time today for a good discussion.