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 Response Page - Terri Bonoff  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Terri Bonoff Interview of

The Questions:

1. _7.3 average_____On a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, what is your view on whether shifting tax and spending authority from cities and school districts to the state has enhanced power of statewide employee organizations, because such groups now can focus on the Legislature, instead of having to deal with hundreds of local cities and school districts?

2. _6.2 average _____On a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, what is your view on whether broadening the base of the Minnesota state sales tax to include items now exempt from the tax, such as clothing, ought to receive higher priority than increasing the state income tax?

3. _5.0 average _____On a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, what is your view on whether the Civic Caucus should devote more attention to interviewing persons capable of offering knowledge and insight to candidates for Governor than to interviewing candidates themselves?

Do you have suggestions for who we might interview to provide such knowledge and insight? _see responses below

Bill Frenzel (8) (7) (10)
Question 1: Powerful reference groups have always tried to kick their issues up to the next level.

Question 2: The question is too simple. In general, I agree, but any important change must consider the tax system as a whole. Tweaking the system often leads to the dreaded “unintended consequences”.

Question 3: This may not be our final answer, but I believe it is the best way to start.

Jan Hively (6) (10) (5)
Question 1: The shift has enhanced both the power of the legislators and the access of
all pressure groups to the decision makers who hold the purse strings. Why
does your question focus only on employee organizations? Are you showing
some bias?

Question 2: I have been strongly in favor of broadening the base of the sales tax to
include clothing since the state sales tax was first approved. I would also increase the state income tax, however.

Question 3: I believe that every citizen is capable of offering knowledge and insight
to gubernatorial candidates. There are two questions for the Caucus to consider: 1) How can we assure that the citizens are educated about the pros and cons of issues that affect them? and 2) How can we assist in the task of developing clear channels for citizen advocates to offer knowledge
and insight to candidates.

Question 4: How about civic education experts -- Harry Boyte, Ann Wynia,
MN League of Women Voters? How about a couple of people who head effective umbrella policy advocacy organizations -- the leader of MCEA (MN Center for Environmental Advocacy) or Mark Ritchie (IATP, etc.)

Bill Kelly (3) (2) (1)

Paul Hauge (5) (6) (5)

Bob White (10) (10) (5)

Question 1: The shift makes inevitable the increased influence of statewide interest groups including employee organizations. But this does not mean that greater state fiscal authority over, for example, school districts is automatically negative. The alternative for local authority is greater reliance on property taxes -- which clearly puts such authorities in more direct touch with their constituencies but is likely to crimp their revenues.

Question 2: Broadening the sales tax is long overdue and therefore deserves higher priority. But because the looming budget crunch suggests that such a broadening alone would not close the gap, income tax increases can't be ruled out. Sen. Bonoff's proposal seems to me to demonstrate that point. 750 mil by adding clothing, plus accounting shifts? That doesn't look like a solution.

Question 3: I give a waffling rating because this shouldn't be an either-or. Interviewing candidates without interviewing wise outsiders on the same issues would be a mistake. So would interviewing outsiders or candidates alone. An essential ingredient is, as the group discussed, assembling the right list of questions and issues on both short-term and long-term steps the state ought to take collectively to shape its future -- collectively meaning both government and a more engaged citizenry (as also was discussed)..

Question 4: As to who would be the best non-candidates to involve: Seems to me the Caucus has a ready-made list, composed of many of the individuals you have interviewed the past couple of years.

Christine Brazelton (8) (4) (5)
Question 2: Concerned about regressive taxation. The 10th of the population with the least income already pays the highest percentage of their income in state and local taxes.

Question 3: Both have value.

Question 4: I can't give you any names, but hope that we can find insightful people that are not already politically polarized, or polarizing.

Terry Stone (8) (8) (5)
Question 2: No discussion of any tax should be should be engaged with out a clearly defined tax policy intent. Priorities need to be set and those priorities funded after low priority functions of government have been reduced or eliminated. To facilitate this, the Legislature really should initiate a constitutional amendment that eliminates most or all dedicated funding. This will provide the open structure budget environment in which real work can be done. With dedicated funding schemes in place, services are being provided because there is a pool of money to deliver the service; not necessarily because the service is a high priority.
As a matter of tax policy, all taxes imposed by the Legislature should have a sunset provision with a short time parameter to avoid government on autopilot that leads to governmental growth and fiscal inflexibility.
Question 4: All of the states adjacent to Minnesota deliver their services for far less than Minnesota. Having lived in and/or traveled in these states, I saw little or no difference in the quality of life. The Governors of these states should be a refreshing source of useful perspective on governance and budgetary insight. How about a videoconference?
A key question for all gubernatorial candidates should be: What role, if any, can a state Governor play to stop the march of federal power over state’s rights and state authority?
I asked candidate Pat Anderson this question last Tuesday and she acknowledged that the weapon of choice for federal control is money. She said that the governors have got to form a solid front and refuse federal money in order to regain control over their future. She has a whole bag full of rock solid budget ideas. For the record, Anderson seems a perfectly acceptable and qualified candidate; although she polled at 9% among northern Minnesota likely delegates to the state GOP convention October 3rd.

David Detert (8) (7) (7)

Robert J. Brown (8) (10) (5)

Question 1: I think this has happened, but at least equally important is the removal of responsibility from local elected officials for decisions about their spending when a major share of their funding is coming as intergovernmental payments. The disconnect of authority to spend from responsibility to tax is a major part of our problem today.

Question 2: Broadening the sales to clothing and food along with a credit towards income tax (with the credit going to those who don’t even owe a tax) would make sense. This type of sales tax would actually be progressive since more affluent people would be buying more expensive clothes and food. Also it would gain us more revenue from tourists in our state. Unfortunately, it is hard to present this concept to the unthinking public when the demagogues would be confusing people with emotional arguments about taxing the poor as Dave Graven found out when he tried to run for governor.

Question 3: I don’t think it is an either –or question, it should be both. Interview the knowledgeable people to gain insights, but use those insights for more thoughtful and penetrating interviews with the candidates.

Question 4: I would not suggest specific names, but I think you should look at different types of people such as key strategists for each candidate, thoughtful think tank leaders and editorial writers, key leaders of business, labor, foundations, nonprofits, etc.

Carolyn Ring (10) (10) (5)
Question 2: As we know from spending winters in Florida, taxing clothing pays off and is among the reasons Florida has no income tax and Minnesotans move there. There could be some exceptions such as Goodwill and church Clothing Centers, or tax credits for low income, or a combination thereof.

Question 3: Both are important and a good mix would be best.

Question 4: Past congressmen, legislators and other state leaders who experienced true bi-partisan government as they might have valuable insight. Maybe Al Quie and Roger Moe together could be an example of that.

Norm Carpenter (9) (9) (9)

Question 4: John Gunyou and Jay Kiedrowski (again and again), Peter Hutchinson, Arne Carlson, Peter Heegaard, Larry Pogemiller

Phil Herwig (10) (_) (1)
Question 2: I don't favor broadening the tax base or increasing the state income tax. We need to cut spending!

Question 4: Civic Caucus needs to interview the candidates. Does anyone believe that dumping knowledge on people is going to give you any idea of where they intend to go with it? The Caucus needs to find out and question a candidate's guiding principles. "Experts" and knowledge are fine---what about wisdom?

Bert Press (10) (10) (5)

Al Quie (10) (10)(8)

Mary Rossing (7)(5) (8)

Charles Lutz (7) (9) (5)

Jill Sletten (5) (4) (4)

Kathleen Anderson

Question 4: We'll have to see who's in the race at the end of filings. Perhaps the end of filing is too late but certainly later when we can discern who's for real.

Scott Halstead (10) (10) (5)
Question 3: I would prefer to see a listing of the most important issues and a report card for the Governor, majority and minority leaders for the session and wide distribution of the results.

Jason Mooty (7) (0) (6)

Greg Davidson (3)(10) (9)

Question 2: WITH the condition that clothes costing under $50 are tax exempt. I believe that any needed item of clothing including warm coats/boots; can be purchased for under $50. Using this exclusion would minimize the argument that sales taxes hurt the poor.

Question 4: - Former Governors especially Carlson
- Former state Senate and House leaders (Majority and Minority leaders)
- History Professors
- Business and University/College leaders. Whatever happened to the Iasca project?
- former VP Mondale, Rep. Ramsted, other long term serving elected to federal positions who still reside in MN.
Bill Kuisle (10) (0) (5)
I think we have to look at the fact that by broadening the sales tax you provide a wind fall to the legacy account. The public never thought legacy fund would get a boost everytime you broaden the sales tax. It really was a bad piece of legislation.

Connie Morrison (0) (0) (0)

John Adams (8) (10) (5)

Peter Hennessey (10) (5) (5)

Question 1: Huh? I can't believe MN has actually done that. Why? Obviously way too much DFL. As Ayn Rand observed, Divide and Conquer, Unite and Rule. Democracy works best when power is closest to the people. Of course, it's simpler to deal with one Legislature than many city councils and school districts! By the same reasoning, let's elect a "president for life" and everything will be much more simple! Good grief... does anyone remember we are Americans?

Question 2: There are all kinds of benefits to be reaped from going to a consumer tax, and while you're at it, dumping the income tax. With a sales tax, you are in charge of deciding if, when and how much you can afford and want to spend. A sales tax is also inherently, automatically fair. You can live as simply and as frugally as you want, and pay little or no tax, or you can live as extravagantly as you want, and pay a lot. The mechanism for collecting the tax is already in place and it's automatic, at the time of sale. There is no need for the tremendous waste of time in collecting receipts and filling out forms for individual tax returns, there is no need for the tremendous bureaucracy to process all that paper, there is no need for the additional bureaucracy to do enforcement. There is no more social engineering through tinkering with the tax code, there is little or no more need for lobbyists to "advise" legislators in such efforts. The people win on all counts; that's why it will never happen.

Question 3: Why the false dichotomy? Are people's opinion about a candidate more important that you own evaluation of the same candidate? Whom do you trust more, yourself or some pundit or "expert"?

John Nowicki (5) (1) (1)
Question 4: This gets you into the political arena. Do you really want to be there. You might lose objectivity.

Steven Hardie (5) (0) (4)

Alan Miller (8) (10) (8)

Question 4: How about interviews of average, intelligent, voting citizens who are leaders in their communities or organizations rather than such a heavy emphasis on elected or formerly elected officials and legislators?

John Milton (5) (0) (0)

Glenn Dorfman (5) (5)(5)

The Civic Caucus should put a packet of position papers together on what it considers the key issues for the 2010 Governor’s race and do the difficult work of meeting with the candidates to explain the reasoning behind its recommendations. It would also be helpful to put the Civic Caucus positions out for public consumption and reaction ---on the Internet ---prior to finalizing the positions. This allows for public education and input which is imperative in the new world order versus the old elite model of “we know what is best for you” on both sides of the political aisle.

David Dillon (10) (10) (10)

Bill Hamm (10) (0) (0)

Question 1: Much to our detriment, the central planning model will always cost us more and put more power into the hands of public employees while undermining efficient low cost local decision making. It undermines the very fabric of our society by undermining local input and reducing the number of local citizens involved with real decision making that has always taken place locally until recent times. Whether it is schools or land use decisions every layer of bureaucracy adds tremendous cost when figured across the state while stealing our voice in process. In rural Minnesota this is how our local economies are being undermined and we are being driven off our land by twin citidiots.

Question 2: This is at least the third time this year you have reframed this garbage and stuck it in our face. Nno, this is by far the most regressive tax in Minnesota and you keep trying to add to it. The key here isn't increasing revenues but rather returning control and decision making back to the local level to reduce cost of government. Let's take some time to look at a fair, say 15%, flat tax with a drop off at the poverty line instead of trying to find more ways to attack the poor people of this state.

Question 3: Your attempts to influence the political system will prove futile and ignorant. Stick to airing issues where you at least have a chance of uncovering some useful truths.

Your progressive (spelled socialist) core is sticking out more and more lately making it harder and harder to view you as an unbiased think tank and putting you more into the arena of Matt Entenza's Minnesota 20/20. I strongly suggest moving back to a more even handed unbiased stance.

Perhaps you could take a look at what's going on with the Civic summit over in Minneapolis for some new material particularly a group called, and help us put MN back on a positive track instead of helping the Socialists undermine us.

Rick Krueger (5) (9) (9)
Question 4: I would suggest securing a panel or a series of meetings of former state Finance Commissioner including Kiedrowski, Wheelock and Gunyou.

It seems to me that in an age when technologies afford us access to more and higher quality information including for state issues and candidates that the same technologies are creating opportunities for greater noise, clutter and confusion. Consequently we are trapped in a situation where we probably could better understand issues but instead are drowning in meaningless campaign slogans.

What does “no new taxes” mean? Apparently shifts of ever growing fiscal structural problems and accounting gimmicks into the future qualify in some people’s minds for fiscal responsibility. All sides blame the other for irresponsibility, even though a day of budget reckoning will ultimately come. The next governor of Minnesota may will to deal with the largest percentage deficit in the nation when taking the shifts as a percentage of the state budget. I chaired State Government Finance and am appalled at what is being offered as “solutions”. We need to become more substance versus slogan driven in our public policy decisions.

Another possibility would include how to use information technology (and specifically the ‘new media’ to better inform the public. I don’t know if there is a single person I would recommend, but I have some ideas as to who might be provocative thought leaders in e-democracy efforts.

Ray Schmitz (1) (5) (9)
Question 1: Formerly they had the ability to play one district against the other, now the decision does not stop at the board so they can just blame the legislature.

Question 2: I am just not sure income is the issue, spending tends to go up if there is revenue to support it, but when the revenue dips there are not similar cuts. We need base line budgets that can be sustained, then additional spending can be used for programs/projects when it is available but when not then they can be scaled back or eliminated.

Question 3: You are right the candidates have gotten so sophisticated at staying on message, and the message has become so bland, that interviewing them is a waste of time.

Question 4: Thinking I hesitate to say business types because they also have messages and agendas, the former governors/finance comm, etc have provided interesting points in the recent past. Government profs and similar often have valuable perspective, and often can use examples from other states and cities.

Jim Keller (10) (10)(0)

Robert A. Freeman (8) (9) (2)

Question 2: Even though I appreciate the argument that this is regressive, it is clear that the state needs a more stable source of revenue and I think this would discourage consumption by people who cannot afford it. In the UK children's clothing (but not adult's) is exempted from VAT, which I think is a reasonable compromise, since kids need new clothes much more regularly and this unfairly impacts parents of young children.

Question 3: Think both have equal merit. Like the idea of getting candidates to think about these issues if nothing else.

Mary Rossing (7) (5) (8)
Question 4: As to suggestions of folks who could provide good insight, I always
appreciate the comments of those who have formerly held the position since they know more than anyone the challenges as well as have had time to think of the opportunities that they may have missed. So, former governors would be interesting.

Also I am personally interested in the relationship of the state and local government, so someone from the MN League of Cities. Or a former mayor--again those currently in office are too encumbered by what they want to accomplish and perhaps not able to provide objective insight.

Kent Eklund (8)(9) (5)
For your Aug. 14th meeting on aging issues, LaRhae Knatterud has headed Project 2010 and done a lot of good work. You might also ask Mark Thomas, CEO of Ebenezer, who is at the forefront of the critical linkages between acute care and senior care issues. I have contact information for both if you are interested.

Dave Durenberger
We would benefit greatly from asking Ray Sheppach, who has been Executive Director of the National Governors Assn for decades to be our guest sometime. To trace what he has seen in the demands on Governors and the nature of the people who are being elected and the national forces at play in leadership on public policy. The same would be true of a former Governor from the 1970/80s still active in public/civic affairs. George Voinovich of Ohio retires from the USS this year. Bob Kerry did a few years ago as did Dave Pryor of Ark, Dick Schweiker or Dick Thornburgh in PA - the list is long if you're interested.

Among the various factors that I believe have changed significantly enough to affect how productive a Governor can be are, in no special order:

Public, public opinion, and sources of reliable information on which to base decisions...this includes special interests, parties, journalism, the media, punditry and its economic rewards, -- no one seems truly "independent" any more.

Decline in pride of place, respect for and recognition of leaders and leadership...candidates have been running so long against the government they are supposed to become that they've left little room for genuine innovation in governance and policy.

I like your questions on leadership. I'd ask every candidate to compare themselves with prior Governors and be specific - back as far as they can recall.

As long as I've been a candidate I've never known a time that candidates created the issues. They are there and have been polled to death and millions of dollars collected to be for or against whatever the two big issues will be. Independents and self-financed GOP or DFL can create an issue that doesn't surface with a champion to espouse it and make it important with his/her bucks.

I didn't much like Tony Sutton's responses about the MN tax climate. Presumptions about why 3M expands abroad or in tax-free states while it hires a Brit to be its CEO and live in Chicago just don't help. Nor does the colony of MNs in Naples who take their MN-financed success off to the west coast of FL - or the irrigated deserts of AZ - until they need long term care or grandkids to care for more than their beach homes and then they return.

Or the notion that policy ideas come only from the fringe of politics not the middle. This is why in a real middle ground, battleground state like we are, Republicans have ceded both the middle and the elections to DFLers for much too long. If Harry Blackmun hadn't spent all that time in Mayo's library setting up Roe v. Wade, there wouldn't be a GOP in this state any more.

David Pundt (10) (0) (0)
Question 1: There seems to be a playbook a number of pressure groups have in use. I'm an ELCA Lutheran and 'voting members' will cast ballots next month on questions dealing with same-sex marriage and ministers involved in same-sex relationships. Over time, voting rules have been changed so that no congregations or members of congregations not involved in the process have impact on the actual voting. Voting members are volunteers who are told that they do not represent the views and opinions of their respective congregations and are to vote their consciences when deciding these matters. Looks like a parallel to me. And the pressure interest groups - in this case those who want bigger, more intrusive governments, have had their way, so far. And I don't see a sizeable push-back effort. Perhaps, like in the case of the church, most of us won't realize what happened until long after it, whatever the goal of the pressure group happens to be has happened.
Question 3: If I understand the suggestion, the CC would then talk to the campaign manager or publicist or think tank operator for that particular candidate? I guess my question would be why would these people give answers more frank and revealing than the candidate themselves? Perhaps retired, less involved persons who had held the position before; Al Quie, Wendy Anderson, Jesse Ventura? And their opinions about individual candidates. Perhaps the grilling needs to be more intense to get at the kernel of stuff. Specifics.

David Broden (8) (10) (10)

Question 1: The shift suggested in the question certainly has occurred and is an barrier to resolution of issues as suggested. Further the approach has weakened the role and more importantly the responsibility of the local units of government. This of course must be balanced with the importance of ensuring uniform base of education and local services and safety and providing for balance in funding where funding resources due to property value and income factors cannot ensure the quality. Minnesota quality of life has been high across the state because of the concern for all of Mn--this must be maintained but the impact of special interests in defining programs and funding must be minimized. We must ensure that the local units have some ownership in the management and funding of all activities not just taking "free money" and using it in some way. Government in all areas needs to be more accountable for the activities, revenue, and spending and this has eroded as we have shifted responsibility. This thus gets to rethinking who should make what decisions, what are the units of government, how do we keep local and citizen involvement and process involvement. A good reason for a focus on a new state structure document re: what is a county--what is a region --who does what--and how do we deliver public service--how and who raises revenue etc.--sounds a bit like perhaps some form of a Mn Constitutional Rewrite--pretty radical ideas to start the discuss--it is time to move toward this with some good and well set goals.

Question 2: The revenue base must be expanded to reflect the type of economy that we are living in today. Sales tax across all segments should be a first step. Income tax that continues to be only progressive without reaching to all who use services is only hurting the growth of many aspects of the state. I do not want to be labeled as a anti-tax person I want to be labeled as a pro-Mn quality of life and pro-jobs person. We can adapt the revenue side with some innovation to encourage all sides if we begin with expanding the sales tax to capture revenue from the full economy of the 21st century.

Question 3: The future of Mn must be based on the needs of the stakeholders from all segments of the economy, the diversity of the population, areas of the state, etc. Only by capturing the thoughts and priorities of the leaders in key parts of the state, in key businesses, in education, in diversity of population can the framework for leadership and direction be defined. People with knowledge and insight can offer this vision. From a series of interviews with thought leaders from across Mn --regions and topics--the CC could form the top 5 common themes which we can then use with the candidates for governor. There will be many organizations and the press focusing on the candidates--we can provide a service to the state by asking the question of Key Thought leaders--What is needed for Mn future, why, and how--and driving those ideas to the attention of the media and the candidates. Later in the process we can bring in the candidates as the list gets smaller.

Question 4: We should establish a list of thought leader and community leaders from across the state--to begin we could ask key organizations who the leaders are that they recognize. One approach might be to go a)League of Counties and ask Mulder who are the top 5 people in the counties statewide, b) go to Mn Bankers association and ask who are the bank leaders in each area of the state or just ask the bank association to come in; c) how about someone from the 9th fed--Rolnick?; d) Perhaps John Himle may have some thoughts since he has had statewide PR leadership; e) Mn Ag Council; f) state labor leaders--ask someone in labor leadership to come in and discuss what is needed; g) how about someone from Farm Bureau or Farmers Union etc. . What is not needed is a focus on elected leaders--or academic--we need real stake holders. This may take a bit more work than we have the resources for but to try one or two and see where it goes is a good idea.



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.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  David Broden, Charles Clay, Marianne Curry, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  Marina Lyon, Joe Mansky, John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  and Wayne Popham 

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
8301 Creekside Circle #920,   Bloomington, MN 55437.
Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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