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


The aging of Minnesota's population is shaping a new policy context for the state, according to Susan Brower. In this new context, there is a mismatch between our current policies, services and funding mechanisms and today's demographic trends. Both the number and proportion of older adults and the number of students in the K-12 and higher education systems are growing, although the 65+ age group is growing much more quickly. These are the two largest demographic groups affecting the state's general fund spending. If nothing is changed, she says, health-care spending could crowd out all other state spending in 25 years, and that is without accounting for the growing older adult population. Minnesota is not keeping up with today's greater need for a well-educated workforce. Yet, Brower says, the well being of the aging population is dependent upon the economic growth fueled by a skilled workforce to fund expenditures for the elderly. We must recognize the need to innovate with different ways of providing and funding state services. We must also recognize that with innovation, there will be some failures. She says we can use the data we have to move to a results-oriented form of delivering state services.

For the complete interview summary see:

Response Summary: Readers have been asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points discussed by Susan Brower. Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readers’ zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

1. Looming crisis underappreciated. (7.8 average response) Most Minnesotans today have little appreciation of the incredible challenges state lawmakers face as elderly and school age populations grow much faster than revenue generated by the tax-paying work force.

2. Increase state taxes. (5.6 average response) In response, state taxes should be increased.

3. Seniors must share burden. (7.8 average response) In response, retirees shouldn't be exempt from sharing the burden.

4. Hold educators accountable. (8.4 average response) In response, educators need to be accountable for results.

5. Use data to assess and redesign. (8.9 average response) In response, there must be a concerted effort to redesign state services using data-driven, results-oriented analysis.

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Looming crisis underappreciated.







2. Increase state taxes.







3. Seniors must share burden.







4. Hold educators accountable.







5. Use data to assess and redesign.







Individual Responses:

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

1. Looming crisis underappreciated. I suggest that perhaps giving Minnesotans more credit for what they understand would be an appropriate step forward. Minnesotans do understand that the demographics are shifting—the impact may not be fully understood but citizens do know that there is an impact. The challenge for policy wonks is to communicate effectively and engage the population in the needed change, not tell people how to do it.

2. Increase state taxes. Sales tax revenue should be increased—sales tax percent should be appropriately adjusted. The 67/33 % shift or reversal is real and needs to be communicated and understood. We need a tax policy for the 21st century not a tax policy based on an agrarian and industrial society. People know that change has occurred and all people are changing their lives, so why not government?

3. Seniors must share burden. Let’s start this dialogue with what and when is retirement. Retirees should and will share in the cost of government provided it provides services efficiently and effectively to all citizens. Let’s also keep those approaching 60+ in the workforce longer. Let’s adjust the payout to those who do stay in the workforce so that others can be sure of their retirement. As people age and live longer we need a model for the life of citizens in the 21st century, not based on life expectancy of the 1930’s. This means retirees must share.

4. Hold educators accountable. This issue goes around and around and around. How can the system measure accountability in a cost effective manner so that the real cost goes to education rather than a system of measurement. Also what is the result that is to be measured?

5. Use data to assess and redesign. A very valid and appropriate topic and focus. The problem is however that to make this work wisdom must be applied in the definition of metrics, in the accumulation of and compiling and analysis of data. Look at the cost of the data system for the health exchange—perhaps a valid need but is nearly $100million to set up the system valid in other areas. How to design and use a data driven solution is in itself an issue to be addressed as much as the redesign itself.

Jim Olson (10) (7.5) (10) (10) (10)

Chris Brazelton (7.5) (7.5) (7.5) (5) (10)

2. Increase state taxes. Revenue needs to increase if we intend to maintain our current standard of living while meeting these challenges.

3. Seniors must share burden. Retirement age was sent when life span was much shorter. It is unrealistic to think we can live 15-20 years longer, all in retirement without significant changes in whether and how society supports that with social security payments and health care/long term care.

4. Hold educators accountable. Educators must be accountable for what they can control. Far too many issues impact the capacity for children to learn, including poverty/diet/nutrition, environmental stressors/community/family violence, IQ/brain development/Autism and other disorders, etc.

5. Use data to assess and redesign. Absolutely. Why would we do otherwise? This applies to many areas of policy. Do what works, based on reliable results from well-designed studies. Innovate and expand based on what works even better. Well done science/studies should be a primary driver of policy, or at least weighted far more heavily than in the past. Whether it is climate change, health policy, education, policy must be set based on what is most effective to meet long-term goals.

John Crosby (10) (10) (10) (10) (10)

4. Hold educators accountable. Be sure that the measures are not too narrowly based. Test scores alone only measure a portion of progress.

Roger R. Imdieke (10) (7.5) (10) (7.5) (7.5)

2. Increase state taxes. I think the proposed sales tax is a good start. But we also need to address the problem of snowbirds that claim residence in states that pay no or lower state taxes, and then receive the benefit of MN services that others pay for.

3. Seniors must share burden. While I would not advocate denying social security, the older generation is holding most of the wealth in the state and country.

4. Hold educators accountable. Technology and competition is used in nearly every industry sector. Education should also remain competitive and up-to-date in applying technology. We need to find a way to educate more of our young people, and do it better.

5. Use data to assess and redesign. You can't manage what you don't know.

Anonymous (10) (2.5) (5) (10) (10)

Dennis L. Johnson (7.5) (0) (2.5) (10) (10)

Bruce Lundeen (10) (2.5) (10) (7.5) (10)

3. Seniors must share burden. The range of income of seniors from multiple sources is as variable as the income of the work force. I see no problem with "leveling the field" for seniors with extraordinary incomes for the benefit of the less fortunate.

Scott Halstead (10) (10) (7.5) (0) (7.5)

2. Increase state taxes. As the housing market improves, income and property tax increases encourage our many seniors with the financial resources to change their residences to locations with less taxes and more comfortable climates. Some take up residency elsewhere, but spend their summers in Minnesota. Usually they are not vitally involved. Consider a cap on capital gains. Many of the very wealthy are using every tax avoidance method and shift their taxes onto the middle class and at the same time they are at the trough seeking tax breaks from the communities. Many very large businesses have very large profits and don't pay any income taxes yet they want a well-educated workforce, efficient infrastructure, are shifting jobs overseas, not contributing to employees retirement accounts and not paying for government in proportion to their needs.

3. Seniors must share burden. Seniors, everyone including public and private insurance and employers need to provide incentives (policy and financial) for individuals to live a healthier lifestyle and reduce our use of medical services. Like all other insurance, place a higher cost on those with the highest risk. Provide a small tax break for volunteerism.

4. Hold educators accountable. Everyone wants to pick on our educators. With the challenges they face, they do a pretty good job. Perhaps we need to extend our school year and provide pre-school education. We need to hold our state elected leaders accountable. How about a annual report card of their accomplishments? How about a report of their wasted time? How about a very minimal salary and performance pay? How about reducing our Senate and House by 50%? [How about] longer terms, term limits, removing the responsibility of redistricting?

5. Use data to assess and redesign. We need long term planning, reformed improved processes, health, education and welfare systems that improve outcomes and a balanced tax system. We need to provide businesses benefits based upon increased employment in Minnesota jobs with good benefits and tax Internet acquisitions.

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

Fred Morrison (10) (7.5) (10) (7.5) (10)

Leigh Lenzmeier (2.5) (2.5) (7.5) (10) (10)

1. Looming crisis underappreciated. The teachers unions will block this but a dramatic expansion of online learning/resources would greatly help. Higher education is already pricing itself out of the market.

2. Increase state taxes. Higher taxes are a Band-Aid. Incentives for senior self-insurance need to be developed.

3. Seniors must share burden. Especially with incentives mentioned above

4. Hold educators accountable. Online education programs and life-long learning option to facilitate career changes.

5. Use data to assess and redesign. The data is out there, has to be collected and reformatted.

Lyall Schwarzkopf (9) (5) (8) (9) (8)

Carolyn Ring (8) (5) (8) (10) (10)

After the baby boomer population increase following World War II there was a sustained period of declining enrollment in our schools. That will impact resources for retirees. It is imperative that the dropout rate of high school students be drastically reduced.

Vici Oshiro (na) (na) (na) (na) (10)

I think number 5., "Use data to assess and redesign", is already underway. We must also change our paradigm: less emphasis on GDP growth and more emphasis on quality of life; less emphasis on profit and more on triple bottom line; less emphasis [on] individuals and more on community. Current emphasis on consumerism is destructive.

Fred Zimmerman (5) (4) (10) (10) (10)

Manufacturers have been having to redesign their activities using data-driven, results-oriented analysis for years. The same methodologies are now appropriate for education, government, finance, and health care.

Wayne Jennings (8) (6) (7) (8) (8)

A good alert, but with a "sky-is-falling" tone. Data is essential to decision making and can often be used to make opposite arguments depending on paradigms. I liked her view of a willingness to try new approaches without guarantees for success for problems. Accountability requires careful thought because of its different applications and contexts.

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

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

Roger A. Wacek (0) (0) (5) (5) (0)

The issue is defining necessary services the state provides in a flat line economy.

Paul and Ruth Hauge (9) (8) (8) (8) (9)

Susan has picked up on many of the critical issues that our legislators have failed to grapple with. She has done a good analysis of many of the critical problems of the state covering future years.

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

2. Increase state taxes. That is a too simplistic and ultimately disastrous for the state. The tax system needs to be reformed, broadened, and periodically reviewed to make and keep it equitable. The system should also take into account tax competition from other states so that we don't lose either citizens or businesses because of tax policy.

Dave Hutcheson (8) (7) (9) (na) (9)

Of course educators need to be accountable for results; but accountable how, and for what results specifically? Let's consider the possibility that we hold prospective employers primarily responsible for training that is directly job-related, and investigate ways that the educational system can support and assist.

Bert LeMunyon (7.5) (0) (2.5) (10) (7.5)

1. Looming crisis underappreciated. The state should not be obligated to solve all the problems associated with aging. e.g. Not every senior citizen will require long-term care. Many will be cared for by family members or live independently.

2. Increase state taxes. Not all state programs have the same priority or urgency. Programs that are lower on the scale should be reduced or dropped to provide $ for more urgent programs.

3. Seniors must share burden. Seniors should share the burden, but if the burden becomes too great, seniors mSay move to states where necessities are more affordable.

4. Hold educators accountable. Resources at schools of higher education may have to provide more courses that prepare students for the workforce and eliminate courses that are less rigorous.

Ray Ayotte (10) (5) (7.5) (10) (10)

Anonymous (2.5) (2.5) (7.5) (10) (5)


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.
Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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