Here are the Questions:
A. If you could wave a magic wand, what steps would you take to
possible $4-billion-plus shortfall in Minnesota's next biennial
See comments below by each name.
B. Which of the following options most closely resembles your views
check one only):
1. _47.0 percent___ With the large
budget problem facing the state, it's probably
best that the Governor and Legislature proceed very cautiously, do
necessary to balance the budget, but avoid significant initiatives
2. _38.2 percent___ Now is a very
good time for the Governor and Legislature to try
new initiatives that are expressly designed to improve service
delivery in an
atmosphere where revenues are severely constrained.
3. _14.7 percent___ The need for
vastly improved state services is such that the Governor and
Legislature must pass needed legislation, even with major tax
increases, to maintain and improve services.
C. _7.8 average___ On a scale of
(0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong
agreement, should the recommendations from the State Budget Trends
Commission as outlined in the summary be enacted by the Legislature?
D. _0.1 average___ On a scale of
(0) strong disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) strong
agreement, should more constitutional amendments be proposed in 2009
tax revenue to selected services?
Wayne Jennings (3) (7) (0)
Robert J. Brown (2) (8) (0)
Bill Frenzel (1) (10) (0)
Question A: Beats the hell out of me!
Bert Press (1) (5) (0)
Question A: Cut spending across the board.
Great conversation! 2009 session is going to be interesting. Keep up
the good work. Happy Holidays.
Alan Miller (1) (7) (0)
Eric Schubert (2) (10) (__)
Question A: I don't have the magic wand for the biennium. But I know
one place that I'd focus innovation efforts on right away for beyond
the biennium and that's to figure out a new way to pay for long-term
care in Minnesota. A fully government-paid funding system isn't
working now and it isn't sustainable. That's the elephant in the room
that we just ignore, yet it's the one eating nearly $2 billion today
and much more tomorrow. We shouldn't wait for intergenerational
Question C: We need to have to proactive long-range planning rather
than always being in crisis management and playing catch up.
Question D: If we don't lead and innovate as a state in how we pay for
these services, more constitutional amendments will be the norm even
though it's horrible public policy . . . we get what we pay for, and
if we don't pay for innovation and results, we're going to pay more
taxes through poor patchwork policy called constitutional amendments.
Charles Lutz (3) (9) (0)
Tim McDonald (2) (5) (0)
This is great, and well timed. Very well timed--I was putting together
an article this morning for a magazine and wanted to say a few things
about the budget--this was the perfect context. Note: the Minnesota
Private College Council has done some good work on projected
Question A: Start-from-zero budgeting; cut social services; find
innovations in efficiency--increasing processes.
Question D: I consider this an anathema to the way our state
governments are meant to run. It is very frustrating and troubling
that someone chose to go this route.
Don Fraser (3) (10) (0)
Ann Berget (1) (8) (0)
One doesn't "erase" a shortfall. Instead, one plans how to deal with
it: reducing future spending, raising future revenues. A projected
shortfall is a looming threat that has not yet materialized. I tend to
the fiscally conservative side, so I'm inclined to prefer cutting back
before I consider raising taxes/fees. I found the apparent Kiedrowski/Gunyou
preference for property taxes and fees disturbing since this revenue
stream, though less
volatile, is often not linked to ability
Question D: ABSOLUTELY NOT. In fact, legislative steps should be taken
now to prevent more of this before it becomes a trend (i.e., like
school district excess levy volatile, is often not linked to ability
to pay. referenda).
Dennis L. Johnson (1) (5) (0)
Question A: Do just what I do when money is short - I spend less! Or
is this incredibly naive to expect of our government?
Kent Laugen (2) (10) (0)
Question A: Stricter review of charter schools. Huge dollars being
drained from local school districts with little accountability. Huge
administrative costs for DOE.
Establish a commission to review the effects of raising user fees.
Review unintended consequences. Example, court filing fees increased,
more pro se litigants resulting in more time for court personnel, such
as judges, bailiffs, law clerks, court clerks. Eliminate non-pension
retirement benefits, such as retiree health care.
Donald H. Anderson (2) (5) (0)
David Broden (2) (10) (0)
Question A: 1. Form a bipartisan citizen high quality commission to
independently look across the budget to identify any possible
savings--benefit--some saving realized but gains public visibility and
sets the agenda for objectiveness in the legislature decisions. This
group must act within 60 days--Complete by approx 1 March.
2. Look for reasonable approaches to add "fees" to the state services
that can be viewed as user fees--could be some state parks--over and
above current fees
3. Extend Sales Tax to some services--lets get to applying this to the
type of economy we are living in--could be at some level lower than
other sales tax.
4. Look for tax areas where a "surcharge" could be considered
reasonable--I am generally against this but as a "temporary" deal it
and handled correctly may have some merit.
5. Education should be generally not a focus for cuts but some
creative thinking on how to fund special activities--look for
public/private partnerships. Hhow about the pro sport teams providing
funding to schools for sports teams? How about the tech industry
offering support to STEM areas in terms of funds, people as teacher
aids, equipment etc.?
6. Ensure State government unified message of leadership and why all
Minnesotans must participate in making the budget balance objective--a
great opportunity for a lesson in government operation and civics.
This will take leadership not only from the elected officials but
community leaders across the state. If done right it could do a great
thing to get people buying into what needs to be done and not turning
this into a war of words that have no purpose.
Question B: New initiatives are key--status quo will not do the job.
Lyall Schwarzkopf (1) (8) (0)
Question A: Change the formulas that set the amount of money the state
must spend for municipal/county state aid, K-12 school state aid,
nursing home care for elderly, and higher education. Consider charging
prison inmates for part of their daily cost to be paid from their
income and/or saving, if they have any. These are the areas that most
of the state's general fund finances. Then implement many of the ideas
that may come from the Commission on State Budget Trends. We do not
need to raise more taxes at a time the economy is in the tank.
John S. Adams (1) (8) (0)
Human resources have Minnesota's main economic resource, and we are
slipping badly. Yankee business leaders working with Northwestern
European immigrants and their descendents made good use of "the good
hand" that nature supplied to our state.
For over a century, we were able to rely on a relatively homogeneous "home+school+student
culture" in which there was consensus on what was expected of young
people, and what public and private investments were needed to achieve
agreed-upon public and private outcomes. Because we did not confront
the continuing diversity of successive waves of newcomers after 1914
(until the 1970s), we could proceed with business as usual--until the
last few decades, when we've been pounded on the head.
Since the "cultural revolution" of the 1960s, our state-wide consensus
has evaporated. The 1973 TIME Magazine "State That Works" story lulled
our state and its leadership into a smug complacency at the very time
that a fresh understanding was needed about what investments and new
thinking would be required in coming decades to sustain and enhance
what the state had benefited from in the post-WWII era and earlier.
Governor Orville Freeman's 1956 Tax Study Commission Report gave us a
modern, progressive income tax structure, but beginning with the
inflation of the late 1960s when President Johnson and the Congress
decided to finance the Viet Nam War with borrowed money rather than
higher taxes, the inflation that followed moved Minnesota taxpayers
into higher marginal tax brackets so that by the time of the TIME
story, our state was garnering additional tax revenues without the
Legislature deciding to raise tax rates.
The extra money just flowed in, and was spent--schools, roads,
welfare, environment, etc. That was termed: "the state that works" but
it was not understood that more money for public programs without
effective debate about which programs, how much to pay, and the
opportunity costs associated with money diverted from private
(personal, household, business) spending and investment has proved not
to be such a great idea. Government should never proceed on
At the same time that this transition was underway in the 1970s,
Minnesota manufacturing as a share of the state's economy began slowly
to erode. Theories were advanced that basically argued that "we are
now in the service economy" and that "this is the natural next step in
the economic maturation of the U.S.--remember "product-cycle theory"?"
and that "we don't have to produce what we consume--that's what world
trade and NAFTA are all about" (Let the NICS do it--Korea, Japan, Hong
Kong, Singapore, Taiwan; remember??) and "we don't have to consume
what we produce." "We are in a new world, etc."
What was not realized at the time, was that these new (high-class,
high-prestige) "service industries" [hospital-medical, insurance,
government, banking and finance, law & courts, education at all
levels] were different from the (low-class, low-prestige) manufacture
and trade of widgets. [One writer termed this attitude "the British
Disease", that is, a fundamental disdain for the doing of useful
Manufacturing normally contains elements of competition, along with
more-or-less informed willing buyers and willing sellers. BUT the new
services industries increasingly have operated in a different
environment--the buyers were often NOT willing buyers, and the sellers
have increasingly been able to dictate the terms under which they did
business (Education Minnesota; higher education). The result has been
excessive state (and national) treasure flowing to these industries
without a corresponding value returned to the economy.
The recent collapse of financial markets is only the latest example of
the consequences of this kind of dislocation, and the structural
problems of the economy that have emerged during the last 30+ years.
Increasingly, firms, public organizations, and their employees are
compensated without a check on their productivity or their
contribution to the economy's current or long-term health.
That's why I am dissatisfied with the work of those able and
well-intentioned folk who are trying to fix our state government
budget. The state government budget (and the U.S. government budget as
well--replete as it is with dishonesty in reporting revenues,
expenditures, and accrued obligations) cannot be fixed until the U.S.
economy is fixed, and I do not see--either in the Bush administration,
or in the incoming Obama administration, a clear understanding of what
the basic problems of our economy have been-and are today.
It has not passed my notice that the 40-somethings who are close to
our president-elect have grown up and have been educated during the
past 25 years--a time when this defective economy has surrounded them.
Unfortunately, what is familiar is too often taken as necessary, and
At bottom, the inability of our school systems to prepare young people
for full and effective participation in the economy and in
constructive civic life is thee worst omen.
The fact that our public budgets focus on annual cash flow without
reference to any concept of a State Balance Sheet is a further
indication of how shallow is our thinking about what is wrong, and
what is needed to fix things as we move into the future.
William Kuisle (1) (8) (0)
Question A: No new taxes and budget cuts.
Scott Halstead (2) (10) (0)
Question A: Bid out performance of the bus routes in the metropolitan
area. Suspend any further action on the Central Corridor and future
LRT until proper performance and cost guidelines are established.
Enact a capital/worth gain tax where land values are substantially
increased because of government investment in transit and roads.
Establish a surface parking fee dedicated for transit in the metro
area to encourage transit, encourage better uses of land and reduce
runoff from hard surfaces.
I suggest a metro area income tax surcharge dedicated to roads and
transit in the metro area.
Clarence Shallbetter (1) (8) (0)
Question A: Start the process of reducing the legacy costs of public
employees of the state and local units of government.
Shari Prest (3) (6) (3)
Hans Sandbo (1) (10) (0)
The state and the country are going to have to do something drastic
with entitlements. Those on SS will need to be divided into groups,
able bodied, non able bodied. Those who are able bodied will need to
work for full benefits -in health, education or government. (or some
such program ). Those who are not able bodied will basically be on SS
David Pundt (1) (_) (_)
Now (any time really, the sooner the better) is the time for
government to radically reduce spending and cut taxes to enhance
private investment and private employment and thereby increase revenue
to the state. Weird, I know, but it worked in the past and will work
again. But that would take courage and lawmakers would have to be
willing to do the right thing regardless of what they think it would
do to their re-election chances. Almost sounds like I'm thinking about
running for the state legislature again, doesn't it.
Terry Stone (2) (8) (0)
Question A: My magic wand would swap Minnesota Government with the
government of South Dakota that is supplying $1 of Minnesota public
services for 46Ę. Assuming a Minnesota general fund expected
expenditure of $35 billion for the current biennium, the newly swapped
legislature would provide the same services for about $16.1 billion.
Subtracting a $5 billion deficit, we would be left with a $13.9
billion surplus. Since Minnesota is six and a half times more populous
than South Dakota, applying the same governance formulary would make
additional savings available through the economies of scale. Itís
The magic wand would also protect the integrity of the Minnesota
Constitution, protect the budgeting process and empower the voters by
amending Article IX in the following way.
Section 1. AMENDMENTS; RATIFICATION. A majority of the members elected
to each house of the legislature, or one fourth of the number of
voters in the last general election, by petition, may propose
amendments to this constitution. Proposed amendments shall be
published with the laws passed at the same session and submitted to
the people for their approval or rejection at a general election.
If a majority two-thirds of all the electors voting at the election
vote to ratify an amendment, it becomes a part of this constitution.
If two or more amendments are submitted at the same time, voters shall
vote for or against each separately.
Question B: The An Agenda for Reform is a treasure trove of innovative
ideas that delineate the fundamentals of good governance. Brandl and
Weber presented a cornucopia of timeless ideas in need of a motivation
for implementation. Todayís economic stress is a unique motivation to
deploy innovation. Itís an opportunity that should not be wasted.
Question C: [recommendation (a)] The idea of a state planning
organization is useful, but it may want to have more authority than
the previous attempt. The Minnesota State Planning Agency, Office of
Jobs Policy Coordination, disappeared in 1991 when the incoming
Carlson Administration failed to renew the Perpich executive order.
While a list of its work products seems wide-ranging, there is little
evidence of its efficacy.
Question D: The September 8th, 2008 Civic Caucus Statement on the
Constitutional Amendment for outdoors, water and the arts contains
this prophetic statement:
"Despite the language, it can be argued that the amendment will not
restrict legislative flexibility. The Legislature will set
appropriations at wherever level it chooses. It might always treat the
amendment funds as something special. But imagine the dynamics of a
session facing a significant deficit. To erase the deficit the
Legislature could cut other general fund appropriations for outdoors,
water, and the arts, and use constitutionally guaranteed revenue to
offset the cuts."
In September, the state budgetary deficit was widely believed to be a
billion dollars. By mid November, that deficit is now being appraised
at $5 billion. For the attentive, thereís a trend line here; and a
take-home message on funding amendments. If the Legislature was to
revisit the idea of placing a funding scheme for non-essential state
spending on the ballot today, in this economic climate, the idea would
have no support beyond the usual special interest legislative
suspects. If the voters were to have the opportunity to revisit the
issue today, it would be unlikely to pass. While the Civic Caucus, Rod
Grams, the State Chamber of Commerce and a handful of others saw this
train wreck coming for months, if not years, only now is the full
imprudence of the amendment obvious to our taxpayers.
Make no mistake, the legislative placement of this referendum and the
passage of this amendment by the voters was a mistake of monumental
proportions for all of the reasons pointed out by the Civic Caucus and
a number of additional reasons missed by the position paper. Some of
these missed reasons now rise in import.
A scramble for dedicated funding is likely to follow the successful
2008 referendum; further exacerbating legislative finance
responsibilities. It is particularly disquieting that this
constitutional funding precedent was set on three completely
non-essential spending categories.
The Amendment was an 80-word run-on sentence, written in legislative
language. The sentence contained 4 semicolons, 14 comas and 13
verbs--- hardly a concise statement; and arguably well beyond the
reading and comprehension level of many voters.
When the text of the 2008 amendment was tested, these results of
standard readability standards were obtained.
The numbers of years of formal education that a person requires in
order to easily understand the Amendment on the first reading:
Gunning Fog index: . . . .35.50 years of formal education
Approximate U.S. grade level needed to comprehend the Amendment by
these standard tests:
Coleman-Liau index: . . 13.27
Flesh Kincaid Grade level: . . 34.49
ARI (Automated Readability Index): 42.12
SMOG: . . . . 20.32
Additionally, the Amendment text was tested by the Flesch Reading Ease
scale with this result:
Flesch Reading Ease: . . . -9.72 (best understood by college
According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, only 13% of
adults are proficient in prose.
By contrast, this response to Civic Caucus is typical of my writing
and tests at:
Flesh Kincaid Grade level: 16.24
ARI (Automated Readability Index): 16.59
Civic Caucus policy papers typically test at:
Coleman Liau index: 13.13
Flesh Kincaid Grade level: 15.24
ARI (Automated Readability Index): 15.98
Conclusion: Voters with from 13 to 42 years of education best
understood the Amendment; and even then, perhaps, tenuously. The
voters were duped and disenfranchised by the legislature.
Simple legislation can restore a measure of basic legitimacy to any
future dedicated funding amendment; should the Legislature choose to
again abdicate its fiduciary responsibility.
Legislative recommendations for preemptive amendment reform
All amendments that, if passed, will or could result in a tax
increase shall commence with this statement: YOU ARE VOTING ON A TAX
If the tax increase if for a finite time, that time shall be stated
as in this statement: YOU ARE VOTING ON A TAX INCREASE FOR A PERIOD OF
This statement shall be in all upper case and in a bold font of no
less than 12-point type.
No sentence shall contain more than 18 words (FOG Index
No sentence shall test over the 7th grade reading level. (It is
common for health information to be written at the 5th grade level.)
At the very least, our Legislators owe the voters some chance at
understanding just what it is upon which they are voting. So long as
the opportunity to obfuscate the implications of an amendment exists,
it will be used. The fact that special interest money will, as with
this 2008 referendum, swamp any potential for objective analysis, only
makes the matter more critical.
David Hutcheson (3) (10) (0)
Question A: 1) Adopt the recommendations listed as "possible". 2)
Scrub the state budget thoroughly, to the tune of about $2B, but be
very careful with LGA until we are sure we understand the size and
impact of declines in market value of real estate. 3) Raise taxes,
mostly income, to make up the remaining difference. 4) Lobby the
federal government to route "stimulus" funds through states so as to
help solve similar problems in all 50 states.
Marianne Curry (1) (10) (0)
Question A: 1) Get back to the fundamentals and focus on high quality
employment generation, including manufacturing products and the
trades. This is the source of all revenues. Align education curriculum
accordingly. 2) Eliminate charter schools. There's plenty of evidence
that they are not working. Little accountability. Drain resources away
from public schools. Greatly increase bus transportation costs.
Require students to ride long hours away from home community . 3)
Devolve K-12 education funding back to the least volatile source:
Local Property Tax with state and federal funding restricted to
special programs. Eliminate unfunded or inadequately funded programs
mandated by federal/state regulations. Restore responsibility for K-12
to local school district boards, who enjoy less and less discretion
under current formulas, thereby weakening a sense of community. 4)
Reduce and eliminate federal/state unfunded programs. 5) Two-track
8-12 students to prepare for either technical training in the trades
or higher education in the professions (the European system). 6) Stop
LRT in its tracks until we figure out how to control congestion. 7)
Improve Capital infrastructure planning to include operating and
maintenance costs upfront. 8) Legislature report all funding sources
for programs and department functions. The General Fund is only part
of the story. Stop nickel and
dime-ing the taxpayers to death with "off-budget" fees, surcharges and
other euphemisms for taxes. 9) Ask the Star Tribune editorial board to
feature the MN budget from January to May in a series to educate the
public to the crisis we now face but don't know it. 10) Force the
legislators to tell all on "tails" (obligations that carry into the
future indefinitely). 11) Pay close attention to demographic
implications on HHS budget expenditure of aging population. Consider
policies to curb heroic care in final stages of dying. 12) Educate the
public on relationship between jobs/trade/health insurance/competitive
position of MN and U.S. jobs. Support uniform national health care
insurance focused on maintaining health, not treatment of disease.
Jim Keller (1) (4) (0)
Question 1: Extend the sales tax to clothing and cut 5% across the
board on all current expenditures.
Chris Brazelton (1) (10) (0)
Increase the state income tax on the top 5% of income earners so that
when all state taxes and fees are considered that group's tax burden
is more equal to everyone else's.
Paul Hauge (2) (9) (0)
Ed Dirkswager (2) (_) (0)
Question A: Start with the Weber-Brandl recommendations and analyze
the budget from that perspective.
Question C: As much as I like most of the suggestions the Jay and John
have suggested that may be the recommendations of the Commission I
think that they are not sufficient and in one case need a significant
change. The deficiency is that I think that the Weber-Brandl report
recommendations, or something equally as thoughtful, must be included
as guidance about the principles necessary in addressing budget
concerns. The Weber-Brandl recommendations get to the heart of how the
state ought to think about the delivery of services. The Commission
report seems to be heading in a somewhat more structual direction. The
structural changes are necessary but not sufficient. As Stated by Jay
the Commission suggestions may include some areas that are critical to
look atóthe achievement gap and health care. The Weber-Brandl report
suggests the going in principles in how to develop solutions.
The one area where I may disagree, at least in part, with the
potential Commission recommendations is the re-establishment of the
State Planning Agency. The State Planning Agency was once a vibrant
contributor to long range planning discussions and policy making.
However, while there is a need for and agency to do long range
planning that planning must include a fiscal component that has never
been present with any degree of completeness in the past. While an
imperfect example the OMB might serve as a better example than the
State Planning Agency as we knew it. It is not sufficient to say, as
we have in the past, that State Planning and the Finance Department
can each do part of the long range planning task. The demographic,
programmatic and fiscal dimensions must be looked at together and not
in relative isolation.
Al Quie (1) (5) (0)
Question A: In the early 1980's it worked best when we did 1/3 cuts,
1/3 deferred expenditures, 1/3 tax increase.
Carolyn Ring (1) (5) (0)
Question A: Start with zero budgeting. Government departments and
agencies too often just look at past budgets and increase from that.
Every program and expenditure should be analyzed and justified.
Tom Swain (2) (8) (0)
Bill Hamm (2) (8) (0)
Question A: There is no magic wand so we have to look at real cuts in
programs, push the deficient into the future, or look at
decriminalization of marijuana and pardon those now sitting in our
prisons and jails for this healing non-lethal herb. This one step
would bring in enough sales tax coupled with reduction in prison costs
to help save the state as well as going a long way to reducing and
controlling county budgetary problems state wide. Free the weed and
Question B: As stated in A this new initiative alone brings us what we
need to balance the budget, although it should not stop us from
looking for more ways to streamline state government.
Robert A. Freeman (2) (7) (0)
Question A: Simplify our HHS programs as Wisconsin has done. Fold the
manifold programs into one large program. Do the same with taxes - get
rid of all the health care assessments and taxes and instead roll into
one provider tax that falls equally on all people instead of placing
undue burdens on small businesses that are not protected from state
mandates by ERISA.
Increase sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco. Broaden sales tax and work
to make tax revenues more dependable. Put all budget items on the
table for potential cuts, including education. Lower corporate tax
rates to encourage new business growth and offset by raising income
taxes on upper echelons. Simplify simplify simplify.
Question C: Not passing future deficits onto the next legislature is a