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State Senator Geoff Michel
Civic Caucus, 8301
Creekside Circle #920, Bloomington, MN 55437
April 8, 2011
Broden, Janis Clay, Paul Gilje, Verne Johnson, Sallie Kemper, Ted Kolderie,
and Dan Loritz
covers a Civic Caucus meeting with State Sen. Geoff Michel, GOP
deputy majority leader, Minnesota State Senate. Michel opposes revenue
increases, even those that would be temporary, to balance the state's
budget. He believes a specific redesign agenda should be prepared for the
interim between the 2011 and 2012 sessions. The agenda should include
local government issues. The state should seek federal waivers to allow
more flexibility in redesigning Medicaid, he said.
Welcome and Introductions--Verne
and Paul welcomed and introduced State Sen. Geoff Michel, Edina,
Minnesota Senate GOP deputy majority leader. Michel grew up in Minnetonka
and received a B. A. Degree from Dartmouth College. Upon graduation he
worked as a legislative assistant to former Minnesota Congressman, Bill
Frenzel. He returned home to
and received his J.D. from the U of M Law School. From there he went to
work as Legal Counsel for Governor Arne Carlson. Currently he is Counsel
at Securian Financial Group.
Michel is serving his
third term in the Minnesota Senate and is chair of the Senate Jobs and
Economic Growth Committee, chair of the Subcommittee on Redistricting,
vice chair of the Taxes Committee, and a member of the Rules Committee.
He is a co-chair of the Early Childhood Caucus and the Cancer Caucus.
Comments and discussion--During
Michel's comments and in discussion with the Civic Caucus the following
points were raised:
* Optimism on adjournment--Michel
is optimistic that the session will end on schedule May 23, without the
need for a special session. Even though differences are great, Michel is
encouraged that legislative leaders are meeting regularly with the
Governor. If both the Governor and the Legislature are successful, the
state as a whole will benefit.
that the media seem preoccupied with conflicts and the question of a
Viking stadium .No matter the importance of other issues, the stadium
dominates discussion with the media.
* Potential for broadening the budgetary
discussion--If, in fact, the Governor and Legislature become
embroiled in a budgetary controversy that defies settlement, the question
was raised whether opening the debate to more issues might help bring
about agreement. "The budget will be for $34 billion and no more," Michel
predicted. "There's no such thing as a temporary revenue increase," he
said, in response to a suggestion that perhaps temporary revenue increases
could be employed for two to four years while new strategies are developed
that ultimately could reduce state spending. Citing an actual temporary
revenue increase, members recalled a temporary surtax levied during the
Quie administration, which was rescinded as scheduled.
* Few states considering tax increases-"If
we consider what is happening in other states you'll note that only five
governors are asking for tax increases," Michel said. "Others are holding
taxes level or reducing them." He is not comfortable with Minnesota being
among the few raising taxes.
* Structural reforms will need to wait
--Rather than only cutting services, doesn't the tight revenue
situation call for states to be more open to innovation or redesign of
services, to accomplish real efficiencies, a member questioned? "Because
of the immensity of the budget question in 2011, structural reforms such
as redesign of services will also need to be on the legislative agenda in
2012," Michel said. "However, technically, the Legislature only takes a
recess on May 23, so committees and task forces can convene throughout the
interim to examine these structural reform issues."
* Setting a purposeful agenda for the
interim--Civic Caucus members and Michel discussed whether the
Governor and/or legislative leadership ought to outline priority areas for
interim work, rather than leaving the agenda open. Michel said he sees
great merit in developing a specific agenda for the interim.
* Interim work should address local
government issues and tax reform--Sometimes, it was noted,
state government focuses interim work on state government agencies, even
though not more than 10-20 percent of the state budget funds these
agencies. The bulk of state appropriations is spent by counties, school
districts, cities, and townships. Michel said he agrees that, to be
successful, any interim work must cover issues at the local level. Tax
reform should also be an interim issue, Michel added. Noting that Sen.
Julianne Ortman, Tax Committee chair, has a heart and a passion for tax
reform ,he cautioned that "to be successful we'll need leadership from the
Governor." A member suggested that external participation during the
interim should also be welcomed, recalling a session in the 1980s when
major issues were settled after interim work that involved groups like the
Minnesota Business Partnership.
* Don't hesitate to seek federal waivers
to try new approaches--"With such a distinguished group of
medical care organizations in Minnesota--including Mayo and
Medtronic--this state should proudly go to the federal government and seek
waivers to give the state greater flexibility with Medicaid," Michel
said. He went on to note that he believes Governor Dayton is himself
strongly supportive of seeking federal waivers.
* Prospects for innovation in early
childhood development--Taking note of Michel's leadership in
the Legislature on early childhood issues, a member inquired whether a
pushback from several legislators is going to derail early childhood
action in this session. Michel said he's not yet given up. He's impressed
with leadership from Duane Benson and Arthur Rolnick and knows that the
Governor, too, is supportive.
* Stimulating private investment in human
services--Continuing the discussion of redesign ideas
already on the table, Michel said he supports the proposal from Steve
Rothschild of Twin Cities Rise! for stimulating private investment in
social services via the issuance of human capital performance bonds.
* Might advocacy groups sidetrack innovation
in human services?--Michel
was asked whether advocacy groups prefer dealing with one organization,
the State Legislature, and would not be supportive of giving more
authority to counties in human services, because the advocacy groups would
need to concentrate on influencing 87 counties, not just one Legislature.
While acknowledging the possibility of such concern, Michel said the
Legislature must take action on new ways of delivering services in a time
of severe fiscal constraint.
* Don't forget about stimulating business
activity-- A member noted that some entrepreneurs are fearful
of coming to the state because of concern over environmental regulations
and high property taxes. Responding to the concern about the business
climate, Michel reminded the group that the Legislature took quick action
this session--with support of the Governor--to provide regulatory relief.
* Setting a vision for the state--Michel
said he'd like functions such as those carried out by the now-defunct
State Planning Agency to return. He agreed that the Legislature itself
isn't good at looking beyond the next two years. He said he's open to
suggestions for some kind of planning structure, either inside or outside
government or some combination of the two.
behalf of the Civic Caucus, Verne thanked Michel for meeting with us