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 Response Page - Michel  Interview -      

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


State Senator Geoff Michel, GOP deputy majority leader, opposes revenue increases, even those that would be temporary, to balance the state's budget.  He believes a specific redesign agenda, including local government issues, should be readied for the interim between the 2011 and 2012 sessions.  He also contends that the state should seek federal waivers to allow more flexibility in redesigning Medicaid.

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 Sen. Michel.  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. Revenue increases. (4.9 average response) Temporary revenue increases ought not be considered in a budget settlement, because such increases inevitably become permanent.

2. Interim agenda. (8.1 average response) The Governor and legislative leadership should prepare a specific redesign agenda for the interim between the 2011 and 2012 sessions.

3. Local government. (8.7 average response) Interim redesign work must encompass issues related to schools, counties, cities, and townships, because that is where the bulk of the state's money is spent.

4. Medicaid. (7.1 average response) The state should seek federal waivers to allow more flexibility in redesigning Medicaid. 

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Revenue increases.







2. Interim agenda.







3. Local government.







4. Medicaid.







Individual Responses:

Ray Ayotte  (10)  (10)  (10)  (7.5)

R.C. Angevine  (2.5)  (7.5)  (10)  (5)

1. Revenue increases. The primary goal should be to define the services that should be provided by the state and then put in place the revenues to support that plan.  To say that revenue increases should not be considered simply because they might become permanent seems to be saying that the legislature can't control itself over the long term.

3. Local government. Definitely agree that the major effort needs to be spent on the areas that have the highest probability of payback and that would seem to coincide with the high expenditure programs.

Bob Olson  (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)

Anonymous  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (10)

Scott Halstead  (10)  (10)  (2.5)  (2.5)

1. Revenue increases. A small, permanent income tax revenue increases on the wealthy and broadening the sales tax should be enacted.

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

1. Revenue increases. In addition, there is a spending problem.

3. Local government. My personal pet peeves are the abuses that have grown out of the Department of Labor and Industries oversight of construction.  The most racist, prejudiced group of people in the private sector are the unions and the government bureaucracy that backs them up.  Local control of this function is corrupt.  Mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire, and all other inspections services should be administered by the Dept. of Commerce (and the) DLI abolished for all practical purposes.

Don Anderson  (0)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (0)

1. Revenue increases. Maybe the temporary revenue increases turn out to be more beneficial and streamline processes.

2. Interim agenda. If they could agree on a specific redesign agenda. At the present rate I doubt they could.

3. Local government. All units of government have to be considered in any redesign work.

4. Medicaid. Leave Medicaid to the federal government. It should be uniform nationally and not subject to individual states’ messing around.

Vance Opperman  (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)

Juris Curiskis  (10)  (10)  (10)  (5)

1. Revenue increases. We need permanent fixes. And there are plenty of things to fix to save expenditures that will give a permanent net revenue gain.

2. Interim agenda. Yes, if the Governor and the Legislature agreed to reform the local government tax based on household's ability to pay, the DEFICIT could be reduced by a billion dollars because there would be no need for property tax rebates to homestead properties ever again.

3. Local government. The threshold of local government taxes is considered at 6% of our household income, judging from past bills introduced by the Legislature. The DOR data tells us that the average actual tax burden for all homestead households, in MN, is less than one half of 6%. Therefore, it is logical to reform our local government tax based on ability to pay and increase the threshold burden to 6%. No longer would there be the 20% and up tax burdens, but we would double the revenue stream to our local governments.

4. Medicaid. It is evident from the DOR data that we have a great deal of personal income wealth in MN. It is also indicative that this wealth would not be overburdened if we took care of Medicaid ourselves.

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

1. Revenue increases. Needs always expand to fit the money available to meet them, just as in any family.

2. Interim agenda. Only with the proviso that only changes that generate reductions in cost will be considered, any that raise costs will be rejected.

3. Local government. Fix local government units revenue on a per capita basis adjusted for unusual conditions; then let the local units do the redesigning if they wish. Some worthwhile innovations may then result.

Robert Freeman  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)

3. Local government. …and health care.

4. Medicaid. …with the aim of delivering services to patients more efficiently, not just to save money for the state .

Greer Lockhart  (0)  (10)  (10)  (10)

David G. Dillon  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

4. Medicaid. Tremendous savings in Medicaid spending is possible without loosing good quality care or coverage.  Minnesota is lucky to have thought leaders in efficient health care delivery such as Michael Howe (the former CEO of Minute Clinic) and John Fraser, (the founder of ApeniMED, a national leader in health care connectivity solutions).  More could be saved in this one area than all the others combined.

John Cairns  (0)  (5)  (10)  (0)

1. Revenue increases. There is no budget solution that can emerge without additional revenues... sunsetting at some later date could be tolerated.

2. Interim agenda. Interest in redesign will be pretty low among government employees if the Republican effort to eviscerated rights/benefits ends up in law --- doubtful given the Governor's loyalties and attitudes.  I have yet to see any specific "redesign" proposal from the Republicans and my skepticism is increasing as the mysteries of their asserted "savings" emerge and are analyzed.  I am disappointed that Senators Michel, Hann, etc., were not challenged to offer specifics that are more sophisticated than simply providing less money.  This is particularly true on the illogic of asserting that lower taxes on high-income individuals will produce economic growth and jobs.

3. Local government. The discussions have to have great substance and include wise people who grasp the fact that less money alone will get us nowhere.  Plus some sign from the Republicans that they want real solutions, not just political rhetoric --- e.g., acknowledging that they don't have all of the best ideas.

 4. Medicaid. We should also figure out a way to tax Indian, Chinese and Brazilian citizens to fund Minnesota government ... worse than wishful thinking since the Republicans apparently believe that there is some reality to waivers coming to be.

Louis DeMars  (0)  (5)  (10)  (5)

1. Revenue increases. Senator Michel should go serve on a city council somewhere to find out how tough it is. He also forgets that much of the State revenue comes from efforts and programs that cities and counties have worked hard on to increase revenue.

3. Local government. It's also where a large part of the State revenues come from, (through) efforts by the local units of government with little or no help from the State.

John Sievert  (7.5)  (2.5)  (7.5)  (10)

2. Interim agenda. They should have plenty of time to get their work done during the session.

Michael Martens  (7.5)  (5)  (10)  (10)

2. Interim agenda. I would have to see the specific proposal before expressing an opinion.  There needs to be a balance between what can be considered and not being too specific about how redesign should be done. " The devil will be in the details"

3. Local government. The state cannot force redesign down the local governments’ throats.  It will need to use a carrot-and-stick approach, i.e., giving more funding to local units that change and reduced funding at some point in the future for local units that don't change.    The major problem with redesigning schools is the teacher's union.  Until the ability of the teachers union to obstruct change is reduced, no meaningful change will happen.

Peter Hennessey  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)

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

1. Revenue increases. (Consider) our sales tax, which was sold to us in the Northland as temporary and at 3%; look what we have now.

2. Interim agenda. Need to see the agenda. It could easily end up being just another political display.

3. Local government. This statement only describes where and not what is eating up our budget, (i.e.,) healthcare costs.

4. Medicaid. Again the proof is in the pudding; while the concept is good, serious political issues could undermine the credibility of any such effort.

Dave Broden  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (7.5)

1. Revenue increases. Temporary revenue increases are likely as stated to evolve to permanent in some form. Increasing revenue is the easy solution to a tough problem and it is time to work the real issues of government cost and related redesign. Temporary revenue changes may be useful after all other factors have been addressed including a complete tax structure overhaul and redesign.

2. Interim agenda. This should be a top priority of both the legislature and the executive branch. However the legislature must be the driver since their legislation must drive the change. The redesign agendas would benefit if coordinated and common but it is more important to have a focus or multiple focuses for the interim than to squabble over what is and what is not in the redesign agenda. Let each move toward the goal and then coordinate during the time or as the new session begins.

3. Local government. In the entire debate of the budget shortfall there is often too much focus on the role of the state in the process without listening to the people and leaders in the other levels and jurisdictions of government. A one-sided discussion leads to one-side results and conflict.  Solutions will come when all levels of government begin working together to (a) common goal. Agreeing to this format should be the first step.

4. Medicaid. I would like to say (that I) strongly agree, but again the federal government and the states need to be on a coordinated approach and plan. To have to chase paperwork and delays to get a waiver approved is not the answer--we need a plan for state and federal partnership that is clear in how the role and cost of each unit of government and the decision of each are made. Without this type of agreement there are simply too many special interest ties and decisions that drive the process.

Terry Sluss  (0)  (0)  (0)  (0)

Trish Klein  (0)  (10)  (10)  (10)

Don Fraser  (0)  (5)  (5)  (5)

Given the Senator's background, I thought he might not (be) so tightly tied to the “no tax” theme.  He seems to ignore that many states dealt with revenue issues in the prior sessions - something precluded because we still had Pawlenty. Too little information to judge the merits of 2, 3 & 4.

William Frenzel  (6)  (9)  (8)  (10)

Carolyn Ring  (4)  (8)  (10)  (10)

With a DFL governor and a legislature that is not veto proof, some compromises are going to have to be made.  A temporary increase in some taxes with a beginning and ending date may be necessary.

Chris Brazelton   (0)  (10)  (10)  (na)

1. Revenue increases.  As our population grows and our infrastructure ages, it should be expected that our budget for serving that population and rebuilding that infrastructure will also

2. Interim agenda.  We absolutely need to work on redesigning delivery of services, as it is natural for processes to become obsolete. There is always room for improvement and ways to utilize innovations in technology and thinking. 

4. Medicaid. Seeking waivers and getting them are two different things, and throwing disabled human beings to the wolves in order to save money is not the answer.  Seek waivers if you find a better way of meeting the needs.  Ignoring the needs won't make them go away.    Thank you for your work on these important issues.

Mina Harrigan  (0)  (10)  (10)  (8)

Jerry Fruin  (0)  (7)  (9)  (9)

Bright Dornblaser  (2)  (10)  (10)  (6)

4. Medicaid. Yes, if the Governor can veto flexibility reforms that focus only on cutting benefits vs. redesign to provide benefits in new ways that emphasize increasing assets vs. control and reducing the cost of administration and beneficiary participation.

Chuck Lutz  (0)  (10)  (9)  (8)

1. Revenue increases.  Why must revenue reductions, such as those enacted about a decade ago, be viewed as permanent? If higher rates of taxation on those with higher incomes were then viewed as not needed, why should not those rates be restored when there is a clear need?

Wayne Jennings  (2)  (10)  (10)  (6)

I am glad to hear that redesign efforts will continue during the interim. This provides a calmer atmosphere and an opportunity to prepare legislative initiatives.

Kevin Edberg  (1)  (8)  (8)  (5)

The example of the Quie era surtax is entirely appropriate. We should have done the same thing (i.e. temporary rebates) when the state was flush with money during the Ventura administration.  The focus on redesign of processes at the local level is appropriate.  In fact, so appropriate that the redesign should keep on the table the idea of using more stable statewide tax bases (sales, income taxes) to buy down costs of delivering services in low-tax-base localities.  We continue to miss the discussion about whether or not we are one state, and how that manifests itself in our taxing decisions.

Paul and Ruth Hauge  (5)  (7)  (7)  (5)

Shirley Heaton  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)

Although I am not familiar with the interim between sessions practice, my past experience in the work world showed, time and again that much more was accomplished when the private sector (business etc.) was deeply involved. In Washington, the redevelopment of Pennsylvania Ave. and the transformation of Union Train Station to a Visitor's Center, come to mind. A consortium of public and private forces can work wonders.

John Milton  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)

I'm not interested in anyone who's totally opposed to revenue increases.  If this guy had been around in 1971, there wouldn't have been a Minnesota Miracle.  Face it: these new folks are marching to crazy drummers, with plugs in their ears.

Fred Zimmerman  (6)  (6)  (9)  (10)

I am a little concerned that Minnesota leaders are spending too much time postulating what processes will be used to improve Minnesota's prospects for the future. Sometimes, I wish that more could be done right away to improve the State's financial status in a shorter time frame. Some of the actions that seem overdue are the following:
- Increase the retirement age for public employees to at least 68 years -- now.
- Consolidate some of Minnesota's 79 publicly supported institutions of higher learning and have them specialize more -- as is the case in Wisconsin.
- Revise Medicaid reimbursements so that radiologists, anesthesiologists, orthopedic surgeons and some other specialists are not able to earn $500,000 per year.
- Require people in education, both K-12 and post secondary, to work a full year like everyone else does. K-12 teachers work a 35-week year. The average teaching load at most colleges is around 330 contact hours per year, and sometimes less. Regrettably, some students are graduating with four-year degrees when the vast majority of their classes have been taught only by graduate students. The predominant work ethic in education needs upward revision.
- Get rid of some of the bloated economic development staffs we have at cities, counties, regions, and at the state level and replace them with practical people with established contacts in industry. Then focus efforts on what will differentiate Minnesota industrially. Many such programs could be effective.
- Tax somebody. Many people pay no taxes at all. Others employ exotic schemes to escape paying taxes. Perhaps we should institute some creative taxes on things that interfere with education or health such as a $.30 tax on each 12 ounce can or bottle of beverages, a $10 tax on each video game, A $1.00 tax on French fries, and a $50 tax on each television set sold.
- Reduce health costs by pricing health insurance premiums by the pound for each of the insured.
- If it is reasonable to charge a traveler $25 for a 40 pound bag, why not levy a charge of $25 each passenger 40 pounds overweight? Then give the money to the Metropolitan Airport Commission to cover their costs.

George Pillsbury  (5)  (10)  (10)  (1)

Dave Hutcheson  (2)  (8)  (9)  (8)

I'm pleased to hear the optimism about a happy ending to the regular session; I hope Sen. Michel is right about that.   

Steve Tjeltveit  (0)  (5)  (7)  (1)

Larry Schluter  (1)  (6)  (8)  (6)

Terry Stone  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

1. Revenue increases.  Temporary revenue increases ought not be considered in a budget settlement. This is not only because such increases almost inevitably become permanent, but also because government with a spending problem is not mitigated with  additional or enhanced revenue.

Tom Spitznagle  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

Bert Press  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

Lyall Schwarzkopf  (7)  (8)  (9)  (9)

Clarence Shallbetter  (5)  (9)  (9)  (8)

Tom Swain  (0)  (7)  (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
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Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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