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 Response Page - Horner  Interview -      

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

The Questions:

On a scale of (0) most disagreement , to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, please indicate how you rate the proposals advanced by Horner:  

1. (8.3 average response)  Spending.  State spending should be reduced through spending cuts, service redesign, and government efficiency.

2. (6.7 average response)  Sales tax.  The state sales tax should be broadened to cover exempt items, except for non-discretionary spending of food, prescription drugs and medical procedures.

3. (4.8 average response)  Local option.  The state should authorize counties to adopt 1/2 percent sales taxes as part of a redesign of state/county services, with 20 percent of the revenue distributed to counties with low sales tax collections.

4. (6.3 average response)  Tobacco and liquor.  The state should increase tobacco and liquor taxes.

5. (3.5 average response)  Racino.  The state should authorize a racino, with funds dedicated for a budget reserve, a Vikings stadium and other purposes.

6. (4.1 average response)  School aid.   The state should continue to shift school aid payments, while paying for interest on necessary school district borrowing because of the shifts.

Member responses:

Robert J. Brown  (10)  (9)  (5)  (8)  (8)  (0)

2. Sales Tax. It should include food, too. Those who are more affluent can spend more on food per person and thus the tax is not necessarily regressive Over the years the definition of food has been narrowed so more items could be taxed (candy, pop, etc) and crafty legislators will find ways to narrow the definition further. It would be simpler to tax all food and provide a rebate or refund for low-income people as South Dakota does.

3. Local option. The state should authorize counties to adopt 1/2 percent sales taxes as part of a redesign of state/county services, with 20 percent of the revenue distributed to counties with low sales tax collections.  To level the playing field it would be better to provide for a local (city or county) addition to the state income tax. It is too difficult to find a fair way to redistribute sales taxes.

4. Tobacco and liquor.  Since I neither drink nor smoke I find this a very attractive way to raise money. However, I recall when we made a major hike in the liquor tax in the 1960s we actually lost revenue since more people took advantage of the fact that the bulk of our population lives near the state borders and people went out of state to buy their booze. We either have to have more border guards or else be cautious in how much we raise these taxes so we are not too noncompetitive with our neighbors. 

5. Racino.  I opposed gambling as a regressive source of state revenue, but it appears that battle was lost years ago, so I reluctantly support the racino which at least will give the state a reasonable share of the revenue from that industry.

William Kuisle  (10)  (0)  (0)  (0)  (8)  (6)

Shirley Heaton  (NA)  (-)  (-)  (-)  (-)  (-)

Since it takes a current Minnesotan to respond, I'll not participate in this presentation but just wish we, here, in Florida had such a Caucus group to get our candidates to really outline their plans for making improvements

Joseph Mansky  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (5)  (5)

Dennis Fink  (10)  (9)  (5)  (5)  (9)  (6)

Dennis Peterson    (10)  (10)  (9)  (9)  (10)  (9)

We are with you. Make a one- or two-hundred dollar exemption on the clothing so the working person can buy work clothes.

Arvonne Fraser   (2)  (7)  (8)  (2)  (0)  (3)

I believe strongly in the progressive income tax.  A racino is a terrible idea and there's nothing here about needed infrastructure.  We have more than enough stadiums.

Joe Lampe  (-)  (-)  (-)  (-)  (-)  (-)

My confidence in government as a solution to our problems has waned to near zero. Itís difficult to be enamored of a candidate whose bioethical stance is basically that of Planned Parenthood. The one concession I got from Tom is that he would support the Minnesota Positive Alternatives Act that helps fund crisis pregnancy centers.  Heís pro-transit, but he has most of the analysis wrong and appears contaminated by conventional ďwisdom.Ē There are substantive and process problems with transit as we are now doing it, and I hope that as governor he would do a ďrule-set-resetĒ and take a new look at the subject.  His recent appearance before the Civic Caucus is not encouraging.   In 2002, the stake-in-the-ground issue was rail transit   The trouble is, people got on board a permanent fiasco promoted by the newspapers, the Citizens League and three foolish governors (Carlson/Ventura/Pawlenty) who got bad advice from advisors and insiders driven by civic boosterism and the lure of free federal money. Tom Horner appears to have been a participant or even a cheerleader in this misguided crowd.  Three foolish governors got us into this mess. One smart governor should be able to fix it.

Jack/Sally Evert  (10)  (8)  (9)  (6)  (0)  (6)

I really appreciate the even-handed, rational approach Horner takes to our many problems.  This is the type of debate we need to have.  These are good ideas with solid underpinnings.

Dennis McCoy  (7.5)  (7.5)  (0)  (5)  (2.5)  (7.5)

1. Spending.  Only so much can be accomplished using this tool; local government has been doing this for the last 8 years.

3. Local option.  Not a good idea. Why would any regional center county board take such a hard vote only to share 20%?? Get real; it doesn't/won/t work that way and its just a fancier cost shift.

Chris Rice  (2.5)  (10)  (5)  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)

David Gay  (7.5)  (0)  (0)  (0)  (0)  (0)

2. Sales tax.  This is a tax law change that will affect those least able to pay the most. We need to be looking at lowering the sales tax rate permanently.

3. Local option.  This will just hide the problems of irresponsible county governments.

4. Tobacco and liquor.  These are already high. Then the state needs to sell more tobacco and liquor to resolve revenue shortfalls.

5. Racino.  The state has no business building the Vikings a stadium, and this will end up going everywhere else. Why not tax the newspapers, TV and radio stations to fund a Vikings stadium.

6. School aid.  The state needs to resolve this budget item (K-12 education) before it tackles the other budget items. Or shift the funding from income and sales taxes to something that is much more predictable.

Dave Broden  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (5)  (0)  (0)

1. Spending.  I agree with the statement 100% but would change the thought of spending reduction to providing necessary and beneficial services delivered at an affordable cost.

2. Sales tax.  Redesign of the MN tax structure must adapt to the economy of the 21st century --service society, purchase of articles on line, and different distribution of spending than that of the 1960's--a thoughtful layout of all taxes must be completed and then the appropriate rate and who pays must be established to reflect society today.

3. Local option.  This is wise if done so that the state does not evolve isolated districts of taxes vs. no-taxes that then result in a new problem of lack of revenue in some areas and lower resources for the quality of life.

4. Tobacco and liquor.  While higher tobacco and liquor taxes always (are) in vogue--this is not a real solutionóletís tackle the real tax problem.

5. Racino.  We need a Viking Stadium as part of the MN experience, but to do it with a gambling source is improper. Letís do it with real costs in a fair way.

6. School aid.  No-- we must get the schools back on a (basis of) we-will-fund-the-current-year-cost-as-needed. Deferred costs solve nothing and roll problems forward to the next year and beyond.

Robert Freeman  (10)  (10)  (5)  (10)  (5)  (5)

2. Sales tax.  With the caveats that the overall rate be reduced and this be part of an wider overhaul of Minnesota's tax system.   

4. Tobacco and liquor.  The true cost of alcohol and tobacco on health care and state budgets should be better reflected in their price through increased taxation.  Regardless of how much revenue this produces, this will greatly help reduce long-term health care costs.

W.D.(Bill) Hamm  (10)  (0)  (0)  (0)  (0)  (0)

1. Spending.  While I strongly agree with this statement, I wholly disagree with Hornerís solutions. We need to eliminate all LGA payments, drastically change the Minn. Dept. of Education eliminating 90% of it's budget and making it a pool purchasing subservient organization pushing power back to the local level.

2. Sales tax.  Horner is just another Middle Classer trying to push his share of the tax burden off on the poor through regressive taxation. Nothing new from this loser.

3. Local option.  Again his only answer: attack the working poor with more regressive taxation.

4. Tobacco and liquor.  Are fat people next? Just how far do you think you can go with this before we revolt. More regressive garbage.

5. Racino.  Gambling doesn't even come close to paying for the problems it creates and ends up being just another way to balance the debt on the backs of the poor.

6. School aid.  Shifting anything by our state government only means shifting the debt to next year or the year after. It's an accounting gimmick not a solution to anything.

Dennis L. Johnson  (10)  (2.5)  (0)  (0)  (0)  (5)

Ray Schmitz  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (5)  (0)  (2.5)

1. Spending.  Yea, and what else is new.  These are the alternatives; the problem is distinguishing the good parts from the less good.

2. Sales tax.  Problem with his proposal when it actually got n paper is that it is not well drawn, i.e. rebate for low income but not in a fair method, cut rate and increase spread seems according to MPR to have no total increase in collections.

3. Local option.  What than happens to city local options, and how do the schools participate?  Also the ability to find county innovations that work is limited; many of them are just paper work shuffles.

4. Tobacco and liquor.  Why not, but what does it really accomplish?

5. Racino.  Why feast on an addiction, as above with booze and cigarettes?

6. School aid.  Silly. Assumes this is short-term problem; most are saying it is not.

Bob White  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (0)  (2.5)

Peter Hennessey  (10)  (7.5)  (2.5)  (2.5)  (5)  (10)

2. Sales tax.  Unfortunately, both the idea and the implementation are too full of fuzzy qualifiers. What are the definitions of exempt items, non-discretionary spending, food (beer, wine, soft drinks, delicatessen, etc. are all foods), prescription drugs ("medical" marijuana?), medical procedures (elective cosmetic plastic surgery is also a medical procedure)?

3. Local option.  How does this proposal make sense?  Some counties will set their rates low, to attract businesses and shoppers, and therefore not only compete with but also be subsidized by high-tax counties?   Eliminate the subsidies and let counties compete by setting their own rates.

4. Tobacco and liquor.  Make up your mind. Are these products legal or not? Do you want to make it profitable for criminals to engage in smuggling or not?

5. Racino.  I don't gamble myself. There are people who find it entertaining; for others it is a very harmful addiction. Lotteries as a source of revenue have been grotesquely over-hyped. I suppose it is OK if and only if:  1. it is not run by the State;  2. taxes on this industry are fair, not punitive or extortionist;  3. the revenue goes into the general fund, not dedicated to any special purpose;  and 4.  the Vikings buy their own stadium. Football is not a State function. It is just another business.

6. School aid.  The notes don't explain what is meant by "school aid shifts." To the extent that I see the idea blended with borrowing, subsidizing, and issuing bonds, I disagree. I know we are in the age of latter-day FDR Obamanomics, but the fact is you canít pay for presently on-going expenses from future income. You must pay for current expenses from current income. This is must be as true for government's budget as it is for the family budget. In both, borrowing will only lead you to the point where the carrying costs max out your budget and then you don't have anything left for reserves, unexpected outlays or emergencies.   Let local school districts determine their own needs and set their own budgets within their own means. Let them refuse to comply with all unfunded mandates, whether from the feds or from the State; and if funded, comply only to the extent that the mandated program does not adversely affect other school functions. Unfunded mandates have a nasty habit of doing nothing more than permanently increase the school district's overhead costs (salaries, benefits, facilities, pensions, etc.), thereby diverting funds from the classroom -- and then we are wondering why the quality of education is decreasing decade after decade.   If you what to improve the situation, you must dismantle this Rube Goldberg scheme that was built up since the 1960's when the feds first started to dangle money in front of local administrators starving for funds and salivating at the prospect of federal aid. All that got us is a huge and growing self-perpetuating bureaucracy, which is all too eager to cut teachers but never a single bureaucrat or administrator whenever they face a budget shortfall.

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

Debby Frenzel  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)  (0)  (7.5)

John Sievert  (10)  (5)  (0)  (10)  (0)  (0)

6. School aid.  The one thing we can't do on the cheap is education.  We need to fully fund out education system and quit short changing the university system.  According to the UM Alumni Association's 2006 survey of 300,000 graduates, 58% of alumni founded businesses were started in Minnesota.  Today, they have $100B in annual sales and employ 500,000 Minnesotans.  This is one of the largest economic engines of our state, if not the largest.  It depends on highly educated K-12 kids coming to the University system.  This is an area of investment we cannot afford to cut.  Anything else can be cut but this is the move-ahead investment that is critical to our way of life, our industry and our long-term success.

Richard C. Kagan  (7.5)  (0)  (0)  (10)  (0)  (7.5)

1. Spending.  Why is government considered the only target for reducing spending?  Why not corporations?  The bonuses paid in the health field, in banks, and other larger income organizations should also be tapped.  The attitude Horner projects is that government is the basic problem.  However, the alternative would be the whittling down of our quality of and security for life.  Horner's policies are not as exaggerated as the Republicansí.  Theirs is a policy of "cut and suffer."  They want to cut services which will result in the suffering of others who are not capable of falling back on large tax breaks, and reserves of income and capital.

2. Sales tax.  Horner offers to send 20% of the revenue from the new sale taxes to the poorer rural areas.  This is an extremely inefficient use of compensation.  A low-income family pays more for current exempt items, and then the county is reimbursed or is paid more sometime later with the new revenue.  How does it directly make up for the new cost of items?    This approach seems to make it easier for Horner to avoid calling for an increase in income taxes.

3. Local option.  See above. The last approach should be to stress or rely on regressive taxes.  In some counties, a large percentage of people live below $20,000/year.  Others have severe medical problems and expenses.  And the unemployed, whom Horner seems to be unaware of, have very limited incomes.  Why add sales taxes to the list of getting them to bail out the delinquent legislature?

4. Tobacco and liquor.  The problem with this suggestion is that it will most likely reduce the amount of tobacco sold and thus reduce the tax revenue over time.  It may also have unintended consequences of creating a black market in cigarettes-without-sales tax.  These would probably be foreign cigs.  Then there would be an additional cost for paying for law enforcement--investigators, trials, and incarceration.   A significantly higher liquor tax could negatively affect domestic wine and other liquor companies.    What bothers me about many of the proposals--not just Horner's--is that they do not look carefully enough on the down-stream consequences of the new ways to raise revenue.  Most commentators only concentrate on the alleged consequences of higher taxes for the wealthy and not for the low-income or disabled, or children, or other social groups.

5. Racino.  This is truly going down the wrong path for raising money.  We could become another old Shanghai.   

6. School aid.  I do not know enough of the way this would help the immediate condition of teaching.  I would presume it would be negative.    Horner's view of education is that it should be run like a business.  I totally reject this notion.  To put it rhetorically, just like there is a division between church and state, there should be a division between business on the one side, and health, education, and quality of life on the other side.  Horner objects to the number of academics and University insiders on the Trustees of the U. of M.  I would suggest that he study the research results of the efficacy of that approach when applied to appointing business people to run Universities, Research organizations, and other institutions of higher education.   Horner, unintentionally I presume, reflects Pawlenty's focus on reducing education to business goals.  For instance, the State Education program spreads the gospel that learning Chinese will allow one to pursue business contacts in China.  There is almost no indication that learning Chinese will nurture a perspective that develops an individual's aesthetic appreciations, spiritual awareness, political philosophy, social understanding, etc.  The slogan about "drill Baby" is replaced by the Chinese mantra of "Profit trumps politics, quality of life, and fairness for the common good."

Other comment:  I have met Horner and do like him.  I am glad that he is being specific and is bringing up new and innovational ideas, especially with regard to connecting new research with business IPOs.

Steve Williams  (0)  (10)  (0)  (5)  (0)  (5)

Pat Barnum  (10)  (0)  (0)  (0)  (5)  (2.5)

Ken Smart  (10)  (0)  (0)  (0)  (0)  (0)

1. Spending.  Quite frankly, the government could save a lot of money by outsourcing non-core functions such as park maintenance, custodial work in government buildings, etc.  All could be done by private companies without paying public employee union wages and benefits and would save state significant money.

2. Sales tax.  Expanding the base only provides a path for the government to take more revenue from the private sector over time even though initially it would be implemented at revenue neutral.  This state has a spending addiction.

3. Local option.  This is nothing more than a payoff to public employee unions in outstate counties, particularly on the Iron Range.  A goofy proposal and that's being kind.

4. Tobacco and liquor.  Why should users of these products be asked to disproportionately fund their share of government?  There is little public policy rational for doing this other than this seems a politically expedient way to raise revenue for the state.

5. Racino.  A racino makes sense only if it serves to reduce the already too high tax burden on individual taxpayers.  As a way for the government to take in more revenue, it is no better than increasing taxes- it still has the effect of removing dollars from an efficient private sector and allocating it to an inefficient public sector.

6. School aid.  Nothing more than a budget gimmick.  Either cut the state aid or pay in the correct budgetary purpose.

Joe Nathan  (5)  (8)  (5)  (8)  (0)  (0)

The shift of school aid payments is a really bad strategy.  It introduces considerable confusion and uncertainty among educators as to what they will in fact be receiving.  The smaller the district or charter, the more challenges faced in dealing with shifts (though it's not easy for big districts either).  We need far more substantial change in the way that learning and teaching operate than this.  Sorry that the candidate did not have more to offer here.

George Pillsbury  (10)  (10)  (7)  (7)  (5)  (5)

Carolyn Ring  (9)  (8)  (4)  (8)  (7)  (4)

Alan Miller  (2)  (5)  (2)  (2)  (0)  (0)

A very libertarian, and elitist approach

Chuck Slocum  (10)  (8)  (7)  (10)  (5)  (0)

Making a positive contribution to the gubernatorial campaign this year, Mr. Hornerís proposed budget plan and informed, general tone as a candidate is welcomed.  His business experience, pragmatism and civic experience are evident in his policy agenda. 

Austin Chapman  (8)  (9)  (5)  (9)  (2)  (5)

Lyall Schwarzkopf  (10)  (5)  (3)  (5)  (5)  (4)

Jim Keller  (10)  (10)  (8)  (0)  (0)  (0)

Donald H. Anderson  (8)  (8)  (6)  (10)  (0)  (5)

Racino is another form of gambling, a vice as is tobacco and liquor use. Definitely not a way to raise funds.

Wayne Jennings  (7)  (7)  (7)  (9)  (6)  (1)

Roger Heegaard  (6)  (8)  (NA)  (8)  (5)  (1)

Dale Fairbanks  (7)  (10)  (3)  (1)  (9)  (3)

Why do we continue to fund two different management systems for our upper education system?  The U of M should be the flagship for our education system, not a separate entity.

Terry Stone  (10)  (0)  (0)  (0)  (0)  (0)

1.  I concur. 

2. The DFL wish-list idea of increasing the revenue (size) of government through expanded sales tax differentially impacts low-income families. It is unacceptable because it is inconsistent with smaller government. Hornerís claim that this idea gives everyone some skin in the game ignores Minnesotaís other 35 taxes. 

3. Increasing the revenue (size) of county government is only acceptable with analogous and concurrent reductions in state government. If a service is dropped from state government, then an amount up to the amount saved can be locally funded if the local entity deems the service worthwhile.  Sales taxes are insidious and inflationary. Businesses paying sale taxes on goods and services used in the conduct of business pass those expenses along to maintain profit margin and the customer pays sales tax on his purchased product that includes the inflated price of the increased operating expense of the business. 

4. The State of Minnesota is a major business partner in the production, distribution and sale of both tobacco and liquor. Minnesota is the worst kind of business partner because it takes its cut right off the top with no regard to its impact of production, distribution and sale.  These products are consumed by a good number of people who are not in control of their consumption. The State needs to decide if these are really sins and, if so, do the people really want to be a partner in the sin business. If alcohol and tobacco are not sins, then preying upon chemically dependent people seems like a less than ideal funding mechanism for expanding government or trying to sustain the unsustainable.

5. Minnesota needs to recognize an immutable separation of sports and state. Since money is fungible, the governance implications of public funding for a Vikings stadium are identical; whether the money is cut from school lunch programs, extorted from chemically dependent smokers and drinkers or taken from gamblers.
The entire idea that people who smoke, drink or gamble belong to a subclass that is morally exploitable is an unattractive tax-crazed fallacy. The relentless taxing of smokers, drinkers and gamblers is morally identical to taxing fat people with whom a great deal is shared--- they have a problem that is out of hand, they are politically unorganized and they are held in low esteem by a subset of Minnesotans.
Of all elements of society where the free markets can sort out the winners and the losers, professional sports are, perhaps, the most proficient. It seems unlikely that public subsidy would buy even one touchdown. If thatís not the case, then obviously we arenít discussing sports in any recognizable form of the term.

6. The practice of shifting school payments in another form of evading simple pay-as-you-go governance. Itís not rocket scienceóit you donít have it, donít spend it. If youíll have it later, then spend it later. In the mean time, cut and redesign.

Jerry Fruin  (10)  (8)  (8)  (8)  (4)  (3)

Tom Spitznagle  (9)  (5)  (2)  (4)  (3)  (4)

Ralph Brauer  (0)  (0)  (0)  (4)  (0)  (0)

1. I am really tired of hearing this one! Please tell us what services you would cut and how much. What would the systemic consequences be? I agree that state spending could be cut, but lets start with corporate "welfare" first instead of poor people who cannot afford medical care. Across-the-board cuts are just dodging the issue. As a systems person it is time we looked at government from a systemic point of view and asked what functions are truly necessary?

2. Countless studies have shown the sales tax is a regressive and inequitable tax. Why not instead restore the Ventura "Humvee Cut" and tax luxury cars at the rate they were before the governor decided he did not like paying the license fee.

3. This is inequitable because if you have Southdale and the Galleria, as does Edina, you will make out like a bandit on this one. Or, Minnesota might not do so well.

4. These taxes have been extended about as far as they can.

5. I find it fascinating that the "family values" people seem to be gung-ho for legalized gambling.

6. This was an inexcusable rip-off of school districts and should be remedied ASAP. 

7. There is too much issue-dodging here. See for example his comments on higher education. If you know you are not going to win the election why not offer some real innovative ideas not more of the same.

Mary Jane Morrison  (10)  (8)  (8)  (10)  (2)  (2)

Ray Cox  (10)  (5)  (5)  (10)  (10)  (10)

I appreciate Tom's interest in redesigning how government collects revenue, but I'm not sure about broadening the sales tax. I don't really like the idea of a broad form adoption of county sales tax either, as I believe it will just promote support for the status quo in government. If reductions in state spending simply push more spending onto counties we have not accomplished anything. We need less expensive government.

Mary Tambornino  (10)  (5)  (5)  (6)  (0)  (8)

Fred Senn  (10)  (10)  (7)  (7)  (5)  (6)

Tom Swain  (10)  (10)  (5)  (10)  (8)  (8)

Chuck Lutz  (6)  (10)  (8)  (10)  (5)  (8)

Connie Morrison  (10)  (0)  (8)  (10)  (5)  (10)

Schools should be allowed to increase levies without referendums.

Bright Dornblaser  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (7)  (3)

Ellen Brown  (10)  (10)  (5)  (10)  (0)  (2.5)

1. Spending.  I don't hear anyone say set priorities/make choices re spending.

2. Sales tax.  But also (include) some income tax increase at the high end of incomes.

3. Local option.  Fiscal disparities in a new form? I'd need to know more about this. If the half-cent is local option, it doesnít strike me as fair to force that to be shared.

4. Tobacco and liquor.  At some point this is bound to decrease demand and thus be a wash, revenue-wise. Especially for cigarettes!

6. School aid.  Again, I am not a whiz on school funding but I don't think the state should be using a backhanded way of borrowing to solve its problems. After all, what are they going to be paying the interest with? More shifting of payments? It's a vicious cycle.

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



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.

   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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