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These comments are responses to the statements listed below,
which were generated in regard to the 
Bill Blazar  Interview of

Redesign for better service at lower cost to grow the state economy


According to Bill Blazar, senior vice president of public affairs and business development at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, given the state budget's turmoil over the last 10 years, policymakers have three possible strategies to help develop and grow the state economy. 

The first, raising taxes to improve services, is the strategy Gov. Mark Dayton and the Legislature embarked upon during the 2013 legislative session. Blazar says there are already considerable reasons to question the wisdom of this strategy in the short run and the long run.

The second, balancing the budget using existing resources, was tried during Gov. Tim Pawlenty's time in office (2003 to 2011) and Blazar believes it was successful in the short run. But in the long run, spending down the state's reserves, imposing higher fees and cutting growth in the state budget resulted in slower growth--and actual cuts--in higher education spending, which has a direct impact on the quality of the workforce.

The third, redesigning services to deliver better value, is the best strategy, Blazar says, in both the short and long run. But it hasn't really been tried yet.

For the complete interview summary see: Blazar summary

Response Summary: Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readersí zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

Readers were asked to rank the following on a scale of 0-10 ("not at all important" to "very important").

1. Usefulness of topic. (8.5 average response) How useful to you is today's interview?

2. Importance of further discussion. (8.5 average response) How would you rank the importance of scheduling additional interviews on this topic?

Readers were asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points discussed by Blazar.

3. Neither raise taxes nor cut services. (6.8 average response) Neither raising taxes nor cutting services should be the first option in balancing Minnesota's state budget.

4. Competitiveness demands quality services. (8.8 average response) But Minnesota's competitiveness depends upon high quality public services that produce a well-educated and well-trained work force.

5. Redesign is preferred strategy. (8.9 average response) Thus, the state now needs to move to a different strategy, redesigning services to deliver better value.

6. MN must compete for trained workers. (9.1 average response) Minnesota is in major competition for trained workers with other states and around the globe.

7. Need acute due to MN demographics. (7.9 average response) Need for workers is particularly acute in Minnesota because of its ever-higher non-working-age population (under 25 and over 65).

8. Balance business aid, workforce development. (8.2 average response) The value gained in using state dollars to subsidize specific businesses needs to be balanced with the value gained using state dollars to produce an adequate supply of trained workers.

Response Distribution:

Not at all important

Moderately unimportant


Moderately important

Very important

Total Responses

1. Usefulness of topic.







2. Importance of further discussion.







Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

3. Neither raise taxes nor cut services.







4. Competitiveness demands quality services.







5. Redesign is preferred strategy.







6. MN must compete for trained workers.







7. Need acute due to MN demographics.







8. Balance business aid, workforce








Individual Responses:

Ray Ayotte (7.5) (2.5) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)

Bert LeMunyon (10) (5) (7.5) (10) (10) (10) (5) (7.5)

6. MN must compete for trained workers. Universities in Minnesota should be encouraged to develop engineering schools. Minnesota really has only one major university; all the rest are small, albeit good, schools.

Dave Broden (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (7.5) (10)

1. Usefulness of topic. Blazer put the situation in Minnesota in a very well described description of the alternative from which we can learn the best approach or impact of the alternatives.

2. Importance of further discussion. There is definitely a need to expand the impact of the alternatives on Minnesota economy and quality of life.

3. Neither raise taxes nor cut services. There must be attention including public buy-in to addressing what is needed for growth so we have a vision of the future before we get tied up in "cut or tax".

4. Competitiveness demands quality services. We all agree on this point which must be achieved by expanding opportunity and growth along with the benefits of increased attention to education and training.

5. Redesign is preferred strategy. Minnesota must redesign but redesign must first have a purpose and value. And redesign must be more than just how the state delivers services; it must include attitude, vision, commitment and all factors that role into competitiveness.

6. MN must compete for trained workers. Agree. To do that we need to be competitive in all respects and make that known effectively. Key to this is having industries that are attractive to employees of all skill levels and income ranges.

7. Need acute due to MN demographics. Minnesota speaks of the issue stated above and it is real but it is similar in other states. We need to be in a position to utilize the workforce we have and to attract others to Minnesota

8. Balance business aid, workforce development. This statement gets to the bottom line. We need to be focused on competitiveness and how we will grow and sustain our strengths as we look ahead.

Joe Nathan (10) (10) (5) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)

5. Redesign is preferred strategy. Post-secondary options and the move to have more high school students taking college level courses is an example of system redesign that has helped more than 100,000 students in Minnesota. System redesign needs to be an important, though not the only part of Minnesota's strategy.

Fred Zimmerman (10) (10) (5) (7.5) (10) (7.5) (5) (10)

1. Usefulness of topic. Bill exudes a meaningful understanding of key issues facing Minnesota. He is credible.

3. Neither raise taxes nor cut services. I agree that system redesign is in order for Minnesota and both better results and lower costs are likely with redesign. However, Minnesota still seems to spend money like drunken sailors in many areas, so it seems unnecessary to raise taxes to support lavish and irresponsible spending.

4. Competitiveness demands quality services. In general, the statement is true, but we have to distinguish between high quality and high cost public services. Most of Minnesota's public services are high cost or close to high cost, but only a few are of high quality. Spending more money on cost-ineffective low quality public services will only reduce Minnesota's competitiveness.

5. Redesign is preferred strategy. Redesigning improved systems is relatively easy. Imposing redesigned improved systems in education, healthcare, finance, and government services is the hard part. Nobody wants to have their own performance graded or share in any behavior modification. All of the adjustments must be made by somebody else. For this reason, any successful redesign strategy has to have its foundation enormous political support based upon a perception of necessity.

6. MN must compete for trained workers. Minnesota is in major competition for trained workers with other states and around the globe, but Minnesota is losing. We have one of the shortest school year (e. g. Korea's is 240 days with much more intense homework). Minnesota has some good trade schools (like Dunwoody) and some good science and engineering schools. But, in general, other locations are progressing faster.

7. Need acute due to MN demographics. Demographic studies should not be restricted to age and race. My suspicion is that substance abuse and uncultivated work habits are more feared by employers than the occasional older worker.

8. Balance business aid, workforce development. Subsidizing specific businesses is not always favored by the business community. Some see it as blatant favoritism randomly applied.

Don Anderson (5) (5) (5) (10) (7.5) (10) (10) (5)

Anonymous (10) (10) (7.5) (10) (10) (10) (5) (7.5)

David Dillon (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)

Bruce A. Lundeen (10) (10) (5) (2.5) (10) (2.5) (7.5) (2.5)

2. Importance of further discussion. The message that business leaders contradict popular thought is very important because a certain percentage of them will take action: And that action has too often been moving out of Minnesota and taking jobs with them.

6. MN must compete for trained workers. I am afraid we Minnesota not a competitor but an also ran.

7. Need acute due to MN demographics. As I age (63) I wish the business overhead structure and government tax policies were more conducive to part time employment. It is not, and employers would rather force overtime than employee a new person. Lay-offs are expensive to hiring is avoided.

Dennis L. Johnson (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10) (7.5) (7.5)

1. Usefulness of topic. This is the only approach to take. Look at every Democrat run unit of government - cities, states, and the national government. Nearly all are either in or approaching bankruptcy.

2. Importance of further discussion. About time to listen to the non-progressive opposing point of view.

5. Redesign is preferred strategy. Difficult strategy since progressives by their nature have never had to do it. Must be done by people who have learned in the private sector to do more with less and keep competitive.

6. MN must compete for trained workers. Redesigning government functions will be the most effective way to compete, if done right. Unions and established bureaucracy will only drag their feet and oppose redesign.

7. Need acute due to MN demographics. Getting taxes and regulations down will attract workers from elsewhere. Look at Texas.

8. Balance business aid, workforce development. Not as important as reducing taxes on individuals and businesses. If the jobs come to Minnesota, skilled workers will follow. See question 7 comments.

Dana Schroeder (9) (7) (10) (10) (10) (10) (8) (8)

Paul Gilje (8) (10) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)

Chuck Lutz (6) (9) (6) (8) (7) (9) (9) (9)

The Blazar interview was disappointing in its lack of examples of "redesigning services to deliver better value."

Richard McGuire (7) (9) (0) (10) (6) (9) (5) (7)

Redesigning services sounds good and likely looks good on paperÖ.how does it get done? The private sector probably has some of the best resources to bring to bear on redesigning service. Are they committed and at the table? It seems that much more needs to be done to get the private sector much more engaged since much this effort will benefit businesses directly.

Mina Harrigan (7) (10) (8) (10) (8) (8) (10) (10)

Bright Dornblaser (10) (8) (8) (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)

Wayne Jennings (8) (8) (8) (8) (8) (8) (8) (6)

This is a hard area to appraise because of conflicting values. I wonder what our state would be like if Blazerís comments had been acted upon over the years. I didn't catch a sense of dealing with human needs or even an interest other than the catchphrase of reallocation. More of the Pawlenty policies didn't seem to yield much by way of reallocated resources. We would all like reduced taxes, especially real estate taxes, but what services would we cut?

Jack Evert (6) (8) (4) (10) (8) (10) (7) (9)

Dennis Johnson (10) (10) (10) (5) (10) (10) (8) (9)

Who does the redesigning? No Unions, no progressives, no Democrats. They don't know how and don't want to know how.

Tom Spitznagle (10) (10) (6) (8) (10) (10) (5) (8)

Redesign is very difficult to achieve in state government due to the lack of expertise in strategic planning and management among the political leaders. The structure of state government also makes it very difficult since political offices turn over very frequently and redesign requires a long-term vision and commitment, which most legislators donít, do not seem to have the time for. I learned from attending the legislature's redesign caucus meetings that the state does not even have a strategic plan for its operations. Also I learned from a spokesperson for the Stateís labor unions who appeared at the redesign caucus that their first priority is to protect union jobs. This creates an immediate roadblock to any significant operational redesign efforts. I believe that operational redesign of the states "Enterprise" at the state, county and city levels combined is critically important to the future of Minnesota. It will be incredibly difficult for this to happen however given the current structure of the state government.

Paul and Ruth Hauge (8) (8) (5) (8) (5) (7) (9) (6)

Clarence Shallbetter (6) (8) (5) (6) (na) (na) (na) (na)

Tom Swain (8) (9) (5) (10) (7) (10) (10) (10)


The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   David Broden,  Janis Clay,  Bill Frenzel,  Paul Gilje,   Jan Hively,  Dan Loritz (Chair),  Marina Lyon,  Joe Mansky, 
Tim McDonald,  John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  Wayne Popham  and Bob White

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
2104 Girard Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55405.
Dan Loritz, chair, 612-791-1919   ~   Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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