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 Response Page - Holberg  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Mary Liz Holberg Interview of


State Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, Chair of the Minnesota House Ways and Means Committee, favors a state budget with no tax rate increases viewing this approach as a strategy for encouraging job growth. She calls for restructuring human services, a realignment of the state's relationship with local government, and using student choice to help decide the fate of higher education institutions.

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 Representative Holberg.  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. Outcomes. (7.1 average response) The state should pay human service providers based on how well they achieve prescribed outcomes.

2. Referendums. (5.2 average response) Local option sales taxes should be allowed if approved by voters in referendums.

3. Higher education. (4.6 average response) The state should provide more financial support for higher education in fields where jobs for graduates are plentiful and less in fields with few job opportunities.

4. Rail transit. (4.8 average response) The state should attach low priority to financing rail transit.


 Response Distribution:

Disagree Strongly

Disagree Moderately


Agree Moderately

Agree Strongly

Total Responses

1. Outcomes.







2. Referendums.







3. Higher education.







4. Rail transit.







Individual Responses:

Ray Ayotte  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (2.5)

Anonymous   (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)  (2.5)

Anonymous   (7.5)  (5)  (2.5)  (10)

Bob White  (7.5)  (7.5)  (0)  (2.5)

3. Higher education. This view of higher education as a jobs factory is perverse.  Of course a good part of the purpose is to prepare students for careers.  A larger part is to open their minds to a wider worldview, to broaden their horizons and to explore further what they want in life -- including but not limited to job searching. A student aiming for a business career may change her mind and decide to become an M.D.

Gary Kriesel  (7.5)  (0)  (0)  (0)

Anonymous   (10)  (10)  (5)  (10)

Rosemary Schultz  (7.5)  (7.5)  (2.5)  (7.5)

Polly Bergerson  (7.5)  (0)  (0)  (0)

1. Outcomes. “Outcomes” is one thing, but moving toward sustainable care out of the system is highly important.

2. Referendums. We probably should be moving to a fair flat income tax that is distributed appropriately among the units of government and eliminating the credits, etc., that let many get out of the tax paying arena. If everyone pays proportionately what happens to state, county and local income? Does anyone know?

3. Higher education. Education is important and it should. But, we need to rethink how we educate. What is the shining star for today may be gone tomorrow. What about being well rounded and flexible?

4. Rail transit. We need a more efficient way to travel in the metro area. And our thoughts should be away from motor vehicles and more connectivity with rail and bus transit (if necessary).

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

2. Referendums.  As noted, this is unfair to cities without large retail base.

Don Anderson  (7.5)  (2.5)  (0)  (0)

1. Outcomes.  Problem. Who makes the prescribed outcomes?

2. Referendums.  Those with heavy retail developments will benefit better than those without.

3. Higher education.  What are today's fields with few job opportunities going to be when a person graduates and vice-versa?

4. Rail transit.  If financing rail transit can take the pressure off of major highways won't that be a better solution than building more lanes or additional freeways?

Ken Eichmann  (2.5)  (0)  (10)  (5)

1. Outcomes. It is difficult to say what works. There are always studies showing what supposedly works better only later to find that duplicating what worked in the study seems impossible other places. If we were to apply this kind of thinking to our government officials how much would they be paid? Would they take the blame for what has gone wrong and the current position we are in? Obviously not because government officials continue to receive their pay and benefits like no other employees.

2. Referendums. Though every community could reap some benefit as noted in your comments this does little to balance things among taxpayers. LGA has requirements attached to it. It is to be used to reduce property taxes so I don't believe the comments regarding building ice skating rinks are accurate. In communities like mine (Saint Peter) we have an abundance of nonprofit organizations. This makes LGA a much bigger necessity.

3. Higher education. This makes more sense but there are additional concerns. We are allowing far too many jobs to leave this country. The companies (their owners) reap large benefit from cheap labor abroad and reduced taxes on their business here. It seems if all the good jobs go somewhere else eventually we will have far too few in this country earning a decent living. If this continues the time will come there will be no one in this country to buy the products they produce.

4. Rail transit. Having improved transit of some sort could assist in the reduction of our dependence on not only foreign oil but oil altogether. This should be a priority. Our economy is centered around oil. The rise in its cost raises the cost of everything.

Ray Schmitz  (7.5)  (2.5)  (2.5)  (2.5)

1. Outcomes. Measuring outcomes is the issue, as usual.  What is the time frame, how long is sufficient to keep a person dry after treatment? Who knows?

2. Referendums. This should be a surtax on the state tax during emergencies and then sunset after that.  As she points out a retail center is like the home of a power plant, great local tax base but what would the other counties (do) that provide the shoppers but get no benefit.

3. Higher education. And after four years or whatever, has the market changed? Who knows?

4. Rail transit. Long vs. short term spending. Roads also cost money. We need to provide bus or other alternatives in short term with rail long term.  Also rail is a collected service; bus is collector.

Dennis L. Johnson  (7.5)  (2.5)  (5)  (10)

Joseph Lampe  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

4. Rail transit. There is no meaningful market for long distance or high-speed passenger rail; so public subsidy is not warranted.  LRT carries only a trivial percentage of daily urban trips, at an enormous life-cycle cost per passenger mile; so public subsidy also is not warranted for it. It does not provide meaningful reductions in road congestion, and serves perhaps 2-5% of urban residents.

Will Shapira  (0)  (10)  (0)  (10)

1. Outcomes. I know from personal experience that some human service providers have much tougher tasks to perform and more difficult problems to solve than others so this would be totally unfair.

2. Referendums. It should read "...should be allowed only if approved by voters in referendums." The Pohlads extorted us out of hundreds of millions of dollars for the new Twins stadium five years ago and Vikings super-rich owner Zygi Wilf now is aiming to raise the ante to a billion dollars. April 5 p1A: “Two Republicans advocate for a stadium bill that would do an end run on the state law mandating a referendum on proposed local taxes.” Tim Pawlenty and the Legislature five years ago gave that gift to the Pohlads and Gov. Dayton is ready to do likewise.   I believe Civic Caucus needs to review for us the state constitution so we all can become familiar with the sections dealing with impeachment of a governor and recall of state legislators. We are being sold down the river again for the benefit of a wealthy sports mogul with no public benefit whatsoever.  At least the raid on the public treasury this time is bi-partisan.

3. Higher education. Makes no sense at all to me.

4. Rail transit. Light rail and commuter rail were over-priced scams from the beginning. The answer is cheaper, more flexible Mega-buses. Look into who profited from light rail and commuter rail and check their campaign contributions to key politicians involved and report to the public since the media won't.

W. D. (Bill) Hamm  (7.5)  (5)  (7.5)  (10)

1. Outcomes. For full support I need to see the so-called “outcomes”.

2. Referendums. While I like the local referendum idea, I hate sales tax as one of the most regressive we have. This is why it is so easy for the rich and middle class in control to collectively agree to attack we of the 62%.

3. Higher education. My problem is with the legislature deciding which areas get funding. A very ignorant idea.

4. Rail transit. If it were in any way profitable the private sector would have already done it. In its present form the whole light rail concept is a lie and a con on the people of Minnesota.

Pat Barnum  (2.5)  (5)  (2.5)  (10)

1. Outcomes. What are the unintended consequences of this? Will providers only want to treat those that have a high likelihood of improvement or recovery? Who will want the chronically ill patient? Or those that go home unwilling or unable to continue with the prescribed treatments or medicines only to return shortly with the same ailment?  Who is to say what is "how well they achieve prescribed outcomes"? Some government bureaucrat?

2. Referendums. The danger is that the "haves" can easily out organize, out market, and out GOTV the “have-nots”. Those who believe a few hundred dollars a year in increased taxes are no big deal should not have the right to force that on those who do not have that additional fluff in their wallets. On the other hand, the more locally controlled a tax is, generally the better.

3. Higher education. To answer this question you must assume it is OK for the state to provide any financial support for higher education.   But if it must, this is a shortsighted tactic. Let me give a real life example of how this can hurt our economy long term. I work in the printing industry. It's a mature industry by all accounts, and has been cut into by electronic communications in a noticeable way in the past decade. But printing will NOT go away. Look about you to see how many posters, signs, labels, cartons, menus, books (yes books!), forms, periodicals, and the biggest piece - advertising - are around you this very minute. Yet high schools have cut and cut their industrial tech programs. High school technical education classes feed the post secondary schools, like MNSCU's Mesabi Range, Dakota County Tech, Hennepin Tech, and the great private schools like Dunwoody. Without these feeder programs, and with the statistics of fewer job opportunities than something more glamorous tracks like Cicso network training, college after college has abandoned its print program. Kids think a "printer" is only that thing that sits on their desk. They have no indication that printing is the 4th largest private employer in the manufacturing sector of this state. And of those employees, like most workers across the country, a huge percentage is within spitting range of retirement. While the industry is contracting right now, in a few years it will need skilled, dedicated workers to backfill all the retirements. And there will be no one there to fill them. How long before employers of this strong element of our economy (36,000 well paid employees) will move outside the state to find a qualified workforce elsewhere? And that is just one segment of our economy whose name doesn't end with "technology". I am sure there are many more examples of this.

4. Rail transit. When your family income resources are strained you do not purchase a Cadillac to sit pretty in the driveway, and only drive on Sundays. Why does is state spending on a different plane than the rest of us?

Debby Frenzel  (10)  (5)  (0)  (10)

Bev Bales  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (0)

Carolyn Ring  (8)  (4)  (7)  (5)  

Alan Miller  (2)  (5)  (3)  (0)

William Frenzel  (5)  (1)  (2)  (10)

Greer Lockhart  (5)  (0)  (0)  (0)

1. Outcomes. It depends it on how outcomes are measured

Leanne Kunze  (8)  (3)  (6)  (6)  

Tom Triplett  (8)  (9)  (5)  (3)

Christine Brazelton  (5)  (8)  (9)  (2)

1. Outcomes. While I believe that outcomes must be an important part of the equation, some providers’ services are necessary and certain outcomes are more difficult to qualify. Some services by their nature must be based on "fee for service", not on "outcome" per se. For example, services and shelters for victims of domestic violence:  What kind of "outcome" can you attach?  There must be access whether or not there are victims this week. So we provide "fee for service" and those programs that are in highly populated areas have a financial base from which to operate, and those in rural, isolated areas are unable to support services, putting the population at greater risk.  Another example would be care for an autistic child.  The outcome is that the child was cared for and perhaps the family got respite.  Yet it is still "fee for service". The child may not show much improvement, but quality of life in a compassionate society should still be an important factor.

3. Higher education. When the state is footing the bill, return on investment is

4. Rail transit. Once built, rail can move people using a variety of sources of fuel.  In order to change the source of energy on bus transit, one has to reinvest in new buses.  A bus needs to be replaced more often than a railcar and requires a higher drivers-to-rider ratio.  Regardless of which form of mass transit, the cost/benefit ratio of all forms of
transportation must include a complete analysis, including the cost of infrastructure including construction and maintenance, ongoing personnel costs, access, pollution, and utility.  Rail may be more efficient in the long run in high-traffic corridors, while bus transit allows for more flexibility.

Arvonne Fraser  (4)  (6)  (3)  (2)

How can we know prescribed outcomes are correct or valid?   How do we know when and where jobs will be plentiful?  Careers are long and people move or jobs are moved--history majors become CEOS (I actually know of a history-major lawyer who is a CEO of health care institutions.)  And rail transit has to be part of our future.

Priscilla Klabunde  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)

Structural reforms … are urgently needed in human services, where the state needs to begin paying for results, or outcomes, and to stop just reimbursing vendors for delivering services.      Let us stop paying again and again for human services that prove to be ineffective.   Let us stop having to burden taxpayers for the 45% of the staff and infrastructure costs to pay for these ineffective services.

Jackie Underferth   (9)  (10)  (8)  (0)

Sheila Kiscaden  (6)  (10)  (2)  (1)

For future prosperity, investment in human capital and infrastructure is vital. Human services are many different kinds of services that assist, protect, or support a wide variety of groups, most of which have high needs, great vulnerability, and limited potential for rapid improvement.   In addition, conditions vary from community to community. Outcome measures would need to be tailored to the realities of different communities, disabilities, and risk factors.

Connie Morrison  (8)  (5)  (5)  (8)

I noticed Rep. Holberg didn't suggest Technical and Community College courses.  I'd hate to see them ignored.

Rick Bishop  (8)  (8)  (8)  (0)  

Larry Schluter  (7)  (4)  (4)  (5)

There should more discussion on looking at LGA.  It has not been revised in years. Some communities are getting too much and others not enough. The representative did not offer much in good ideas.

Chuck Lutz  (9)  (9)  (5)  (1)  

David Detert  (1)  (1)  (9)  (0)

As a physician my opinion on paying based on outcomes is for many reasons best described as what we do to keep busy until the system goes bankrupt.  To control health care costs I believe you have to redefine what role government is to play in health care and to decide how much we can afford to spend on health care.  The discussion is then what do we and don't we provide. Pay-for-performance has a role but only minor.  The ultimate thing that people have chosen to ignore is that when we in health care do a better job the costs go up and not down because people live longer (and) develop more medical problems which over time become more difficult to treat.  The proof of this is the problem with Social Security, (i.e.,) the financing of Social Security.  The costs continue to go up because people live longer because of better medical care and improved ways of treating disease and so the projections of what we need to pay for Social Security always come up short because of the continued lifespan of American citizens.
Most of what Rep Holberg advocates is conservative philosophy, which is not connected to reality.

Kevin Edberg  (7)  (3)  (3)  (2)

Robert P Dettmer  (8)  (10)  (8)  (10)  

Terry Stone  (7)  (7)  (7)  (10)

1. Outcomes.  The payment of human service providers based upon how well they achieve prescribed outcomes is conceptually laudable. I remain unconvinced that objective metrics, suitable for private (Rothschild) and public reimbursement, can be achieved.

2. Referendums. The ability to tax is the ability to accrue debt. The ability to accrue debt is the ability to use public money for political gain, cut easy deals with public employee unions while both diffusing and delaying accountability.
A city whose numbers show (it to be) in de facto bankruptcy, has the people of Minnesota over a barrel; a financial default by any city tells bond-holders that the state is sleeping at the wheel. The bonding rates for all Minnesota governmental entities are at risk. So far, bailouts of municipal over-spenders have largely taken the form of low-profile pension fund bailouts, e.g. Minneapolis Public Employees’ Pension Fund.
If the ability to raise and spend money is granted to Home Rule and Legislative Charter cities, then attendant, corresponding and appropriate control must be put in place to assure that no public state money is ever expected to bailout any entity with spendthrift proclivities.
3. Higher education.  State financial support for higher education in fields where jobs for graduates are plentiful makes sense if those jobs will stay in Minnesota; presently an unlikely scenario.
Financial aid interest rates and repayment schemes need to be tied to post-graduation work in Minnesota to provide incentives for graduates to stay. We are doing business as usual while the national labor pool has become far more mobile. An estimated eight million Americans change states every year.
4. Rail transit.  The state should attach low priority to financing rail transit because passenger rail is more based upon social planning ideology than constitutional governance and economic sense.
· Rail projects are consistently underestimated and consequently prone to large cost          overruns.
· Ridership is always over-estimated.
· The level of subsidy is always under-stated.
· The cost to rebuild rail bed, track and rolling stock is never considered.
· Rail systems need to connect employees with employment instead of recreational shoppers with retail outlets.
· Private investment will eagerly build any rail systems that are economically feasible.
· Rail supports adopt a particular mind-set and become untethered from both reason and economics.

Al Quie  (10)  (0)  (8)  (10)  

Clarence Shallbetter  (8)  (4)  (8)  (10)  

Ray Cox  (10)  (5)  (7)  (8)

Rail transit support should be considered as part of comprehensive development tools, not as a stand-alone transportation plan.

Mina Harrigan  (8)  (5)  (0)  (0)  

Lyall Schwarzkopf  (9)  (5)  (4)  (4)  

Fred Zimmerman  (9)  (5)  (5)  (7)

The state should spend somewhat less time deciding what to do and spend more time developing methods for accomplishing desired objectives more efficiently and at far lower costs. Education, health care, and social services are all very inefficient and unnecessarily costly. In higher education, for instance, the average faculty load ranges from about 160 to 400 hours out of a 2000-hour work year. The result has been that tuition has been rising at three times the rate of inflation for many years. Within the framework of mass inefficiency, there is little sense in anyone talking about "financial support."

Gregg Iverson  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)

We are praying for Mary Liz.   She is anti-women.

Scott Halstead  (8)  (5)  (na)  (10)

We have been wasting vast financial resources on rail transit with minimal transit benefit.  The North Star Commuter and the Central Corridor LRT will never achieve a reasonable level of transit benefits and will require very large subsidies forever.  The high-speed rail proposals will never make any financial (sense).  They certainly are not cutting edge technology and do not offer any benefit compared with other modes of transit.   The State of Minnesota needs a complete review of rail transit including statutes, financing, planning, (and) management.

Bright Dornblaser  (8)  (6)  (0)  (0)

Jack and Sally Evert  (8)  (5)  (7)  (5)  

Ralph Brauer  (0)  (5)  (0)  (0)

In short number one is pabulum--in an area where signs of progress may not occur for several years, how do you pay for "outcomes?" Second, who measures and decides the outcomes? Experts in the field or legislators? I also love the willingness of Republicans to specify "accountability" for the public sector but none for the private. For example, where is the accountability in their so-called job creation efforts? As a systems thinker I can predict number two will have the unintended consequence of making richer cities richer (if you have the Galleria this is a gold mine, but what if you are a rural community with a K mart out by the interstate?). Number three is patently ridiculous--and dangerous. In an economy where experts say the average person will make at least four major job changes, funding education in "fields where jobs are plentiful" would require a crystal ball I am afraid none of us possess. By this measure colleges would still be training people in COBOL. It also assumes higher education's primary mission is job training. Why not just send everyone to Brown Institute if that is your goal? If you do not fund mass transit, then how do you propose to deal with crowded freeways, polluted air, and wasted resources? We live in the 21st century. We cannot go back to the 19th.

Wayne Jennings  (8)  (3)  (6)  (2)  

Tom Swain  (8)  (5)  (0)  (1)  


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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