Providing a nonpartisan model for generating and sharing          

    essential information on public issues and proposed solutions              

Shining a light on Minnesota public policy since 2005

                                                                                                  About Civic Caucus   l   Interviews & Responses  l   Position Reports   l   Contact Us   l   Home  

 Response Page - James Solem - Geoff Michel  Interview - Minnesota State Budget   

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Geoff Michel Interview of 03-13-09.

The questions: 

_3.9 average____  1.  On a scale of (0) very negative, to (5) neutral, to (10) very positive, what is your view on whether, in light of  Minnesota's budgetary difficulties, some state assets (e.g. airport) should be sold or leased to private businesses?

_6.8 average____  2.  On a scale of (0) very negative, to (5) neutral, to (10) very positive, what is your view on whether, in light of  Minnesota's budgetary difficulties, units or levels of local government should be merged.

John Farrell (0) (5)

Joe Mansky (5) (10)

Chuck Slocum (5) (8)

Question 1:  It is certainly worth exploring to determine if specific state assets are critical and cost effective to maintain, both now and on a continuing basis; I suggest that the land holdings of the state be evaluated as part of this exercise, as well.

Question 2: Need a strategic and long term view here but with 87 counties, 855 cities, 1,786 townships, 340 school districts, and 59 public college and university campuses, there has to be a more rationale and efficient way to organize our governments in Minnesota.

David Broden (7) (8)
Question 1:  The subject of selling or leasing is an important consideration in "change" as to how State government should  operate. I am not yet ready to say sell or lease any particular items but I strongly recommend that the process of assessment of the pros and cons be evaluated. The assessment must look at short term vs. long term benefit. How "quality" and "improvements" and other changes will be identified, funded, and implemented. Also as needs change can we shut down or eliminate a function or capability if we sell etc. If we do sell or lease something we should also look at how we can apply this approach to "new" facilities, capabilities, or public safety items as we identify new capital assets that the state or local government may need. My rating of 7 for this question is thus strongly an endorsement of "lets move ahead" with a very thoughtful and in depth assessment. We cannot let this approach turn into another public employee pension level of state debt payment--I recently found some notes of an event I participated in in the early 70's that debated the pros/cons of public pension levels and suggested it would be a future problem--my side lost--if some of the options had been addressed vs. just do it approach we may not have the liabilities we now have-the same could occur with the sale or lease if not properly defined. 

Question 2:  This question asks several questions. We first need to separate the idea of local and community participation and involvement that comes with good local units of government from the functions of government. I am a strong supporter of merging/sharing/unifying etc.--functions such as police, fire, education, etc. that can be more efficient with an integrated network. This should be encouraged and incentives placed in the way state LGA is applied. The idea of deleting units of government that are the local dialogue with people which form a voice to the government should be a separate question. The idea of merging or shutting down small town local government, or some suburban communities may be counter productive. The role of government in these areas may change if functions are merged but the need to have a leadership and center of communications will perhaps even increase. Each time this question arises I ask myself and others why are these units not applying the ability to share that comes with the basic "joint powers act" more effectively.

Jan Hively (0) (8)

Question 1:  We have already lost too many of our public assets to private sector control, with the result of fencing out the people who owned the asset -- i.e., the taxpaying public.  If you want examples, I've got them.  In the meantime, look at the website, <>

Bright Dornblaser (5) (10)

Not certain the impact on quality of services or the probability of higher costs to the traveler and if higher the impact on the continued viability of the MSP hub.

Rick Bishop (7) (9)

Kent Eklund (8) (9)

Fred Senn (8) (8)

Eric Schubert (5) (10)

Question 1:   If it could be proven that it's a good idea, I'm for it. 

Question 2:   There are too many layers of government.  We can streamline this.

Bill Jungbauer (7) (8)

Question 1:  I recall an article in the St Paul Pioneer Press Business Section printed back when Northwest Airlines was in the process of filing bankruptcy. The author of the article called for allowing all airlines the right to bid on the gates used by Northwest. The highest bidders would get the gates, thus providing the Metropolitan Airports Commision higher revenues. The state of Minnesota currently provides Northwest with tax breaks in every aspect of their operations within Minnesota, and we have to ask, where has it gotten us? A free market attitude towards the MSP Airport would be beneficial to the tax payers of Minnesota in many ways starting with a healthy competition for gates and better customer satisfaction with the airlines. Northwest suffers low customer satisfaction yet gets more in tax breaks and public subsidies than any other airline doing business in Minnesota.

I am personally in favor of looking further into public, private partnerships in local transportation. If a business wishes to build a toll road and does it with their own financing it should be worth considering.

Question 2:  Each and every session the size of our government has increased. Take for instance the creation of a position of an ombudsman to represent the rights of meat cutters. This was done during the 2007 session. In my opinion this is an act of extreme overkill. OSHA and other agencies of our multilayered government already represent the rights of workers in Minnesota. This is just one example but I think it is a good one to point out that we need to streamline and downsize our government. There are too many examples such as this to be seen each and every session at the Capitol.

Wy Spano (0) (3)

Gordy Jacobson (0) (5)

In light of Minnesota's and National budgetary difficulties why in the world are we building those expensive high fences along highways?  Especially 280 that has survived umpteen years without!  I am an 80 year old grouch and with some common sense.

Donna Anderson (2) (5)

Donald H. Anderson (0) (6)

Privatizing governmental activities is no guaranty it will be more effective or the results would be better -- just witness what is happening to our private sector economy at the present time.

Scott Halstead (0) (10)

Question 2:  In the Twin Cities area, many communities should be combined.  In Ramsey County there should be a maximum of 4 cities with identical school districts geographically.  Consider a single level of government for the geographically small Ramsey County to replace the city governments.

John Milton (0) (5)

In my view, the problem with MN's budgetary shortfall is that Gov P is ideologically married to saying NO-NO-NO to taxes, and that means we can't have an honest, open discussion of revenue and spending.

Keith Swenson (0) (0)

Robert A. Freeman (3) (2)

Question 1: Ambivalent - 3 - certainly think it is worth studying and should also include other gov't-run businesses (e.g. municipal liquor stores).  Should recognize that it is one-time money and legislature should retain some oversight capabilities.

Question 2: Somewhat supportive - 2 - again believe the legislature or someone (Citizens League?) should study this issue and make recommendations to give to legislators.  Need input from the bodies of government affected.

Paul Hauge (2)(8)

My senator, Geoff Michel, toes the line of the Governor and obviously is opposed to any direct tax increase but will try to find funding from any source that on its face does not appear to be a tax increase.

Bert Press (0) (0)

Jim Keller (0) (10)

I agree with the proposition that if the governor is to submit an overall transportation plan, it most certainly should extend across all agencies involved in transportation.

Clarence Shallbetter (3) (8)

Bob White (6) (6)

In response to both questions I would emphasize SOME.   On question 1:  selling/leasing Mpls-StPaul main airports -- Lindbergh and Humphrey terminals -- is a nonstarter.  On question 2:  maybe some smaller cities.

John Nowicki (5) (10)

Question 2:  Start with the Legislature. 

Bill Hamm (8) (0)

Question 1.  I strongly oppose the Government running something that should be a for profit business due to concerns over the ability of the Government to run anything with any degree of efficiency. This also applies to Giants Ridge, Iron World, and yes the state lottery.

Question 2.  Absolutely not.  This is just one of many attempts by city residents to further steal control of rural lands and further centralize control and power.  

Al Quie (10) (0)

The legislature should appoint a group of its members to a joint bipartisan committee on transportation to make recommendations on all transportation policy at the end of November each year and the governor should bring together a committee of transportation administrators and make a report on all levels of government's transportation progress to date and plans to meet the needs of the future at the beginning of December each year. No pot of transportation revenue should be exempt from the scrutiny of both committees nor should transit be separated out.

Education should not need to be protected by dedicated revenue. Achievement results will bring in adequate revenue. The two most important efforts to increase achievement is to empower "both parents" in the social, emotional and cognitive development of their children from birth through 8 years of age and secondly, train and adequately compensate effective teachers. The following achievement levels should be reached: 85% of all children fully prepared for kindergarten, not the present 50%. 88% of children should read proficiently in 4th grade by NAEP standards, not the present 37%. 90% of young people read proficiently in 8th grade, NAEP standards, rather than the present 38%. No high school graduate should need re-mediation in order to pursue post secondary education rather than the present 43% needing re-mediation. 

Roy Thompson (3) (7)

Steve Alderson (3) (10)

Lyall Schwarzkopf (4) (10)

I have proposed to the legislative group that traveled the state that they should look at eliminating townships and have counties do that work, and where small towns are very close together such as around Lake Minnetonka, the towns should be consolidated to about 30,000 population.  We need to get rid of the administrative costs in government.

Wayne Jennings (3) (7)

Robert J. Brown (8) (5)

Sheila Kiscaden (0) (3)

I think that some units of local government should be merged, but this should not  happen in the way the Gov and others are proposing.  It should not be a top-down decision.  I am aware of conversations going on right now within county governments about increased cooperation, collaboration, and merger of certain functions.

I do think that we should be looking a regional human services delivery, but should be creating incentives, and encouragement for new systems to develop rather than some arbitrary geographic grouping done by state policy makers with little or no planning at the local level.

Carolyn Ring (8) (8)

Question 1: A time of "want" is an excellent time to look at any and all alternatives to improve the fiscal situation
Question 2: That's a tricky one as people want their townships, and Republicans have always favored local governments. More combining of services could be an alternative, with gradually working toward that end.

Bill Frenzel (8) (10)

Question 1:   Some should but I have no idea which ones.

Question 2:  MN has been over-governmented for generations. I would not, however, want to bet the rent money on when, or how, reductions might be made.

Jackie Underferth (5) (10)

Ray Ayotte (10) (10)

David Dillon (0) (10)

Terry Stone (5) (5)

Shari Prest (3) (5)

Question 1: I am not opposed to this if adequate guidelines are in place to insure the greater good of all of the citizens of MN. What safeguards will be in place in case of bankruptcy, diminished quality, corporate enhancement,displacing public good, etc.

Question 2:   It depends on what units are considered for merging and for what ultimate purpose. What outcomes will be realized by making a merger and what will the sacrifices be.

Comment on charter schools:

Charter schools, at first seemed like a good idea -- innovation and all. As a state of innovators, we took a risk and tried something new. Although this experiment has not been successful we have learned a lot and may even be better off for having explored the full "choice" venue. In reality however, it did not work. It is indefensible to continue to fund charter schools and/or vouchers at the expense of regular public schools. We know that although some charter schools perform very well, overall outcomes do not exceed or even parallel those of regular public schools. Charter schools are exempt from some of the regulations our lawmakers have mandated for regular public schools although those mandates were presumably implemented because they uphold public values and promote student success. Except for political ideology or momentum to privatize school there is no defensible reason for our lawmakers to continue to support charter schools with tax dollars or to ignore the weighty research and data that demonstrates that charter schools have a higher rate of mismanagement and a lower rate of similar student achievement. At one time it was believed parent satisfaction was higher at charter schools. That information appears to have been skewed by including the input of those parents that kept their kids in charter schools as opposed to all of the parents that start their kids in charter schools including those (a significant percent) that pulled their kids out of charter schools within a year of enrolling them. One must ask where our limited education dollars will provide the greatest return through the most efficient and effective outcomes.

In response to Senator Michel's comments about NCLB, he is correct that NCLB is standardized intrusion into diverse local and state systems. NCLB was a federally implemented program that has produced significant federal, state and local costs. The scope of NCLB has diverted time, attention and dollars from a wide range of student competency areas. NCLB may have in fact improved standardized and one might argue, relatively useless, test scores in limited curricular areas but it has also severely curtailed the ability of educators to focus on the development on the broad spectrum of  other student skills and behaviors that will be needed to be successful in today's world. It is rare that political mandates have resulted in better schools. Historically the enviable innovations and successes of Minnesota schools have been fueled parents, educators, and communities. The politically motivated changes have most often been mandated, paid for, and disappeared. We need a cohesive, consistent, and long-term vision that matches input and outcomes for the dynamic future.

The size of government (and therefore implied the level of taxation) is also mentioned in this interview. Some relative data follows:

        Minnesota’s actual spending on schools is only 91.8% of what is required to bring all students to the median level.

        Minnesota is slightly below the national average in per-pupil expenditures after adjusting for regional cost differences. 

        Only 40% of Minnesota’s students are in districts with per-pupil spending at or above the national average.

      Minnesota’s national ranking on key performance indicators has declined in recent years at the same time that the state has decreased its public investment relative to other states.

      Minnesota ranks 29th to 31st among the 50 states in the total size of state and local government.

      The falloff in Minnesota’s investment in public services and infrastructure since 2002 is largely the result of a “no new tax” agenda.

      Other states have increased the percentage of income they devote to public investments; Minnesota’s public investment has shrunk, dipping below the national average.

Our history is of public schools and a work force that are the envy of the world. In recent years, however, our state investment in education has lost some ground. For example:

         Minnesota's investment in public school has fallen from $47 per every $1,000 of personal income to $39, a decline of seventeen percent.1

         Four out of five Minnesota school districts have dropped in real per-pupil revenue since 2003.1

         In 2005 and 2006, Minnesota ranked among the bottom ten states in the country in public school spending per $1,000 of personal income.1

         Since 1995, state and local government revenues and expenditures in Minnesota have gone down more than those in the rest of the nation.1

         In 275 of the 340 Minnesota school districts, real per pupil revenue in FY 2009 will be less than in FY 2003.1

Difficult economic times require that we invest our resources wisely. So let’s examine what kind of return we get from investing in public education.

         Investment in education results in a skilled workforce that creates a vibrant, robust economy. 1

         States with individual income tax rates that are higher than Minnesota’s are actually at an advantage. In fact, the benefits of that money helped states’ economies more than the increased tax price hurt them.2

         It is estimated a one-percent increase in high school graduates will increase business starts in Minnesota by 3.5 percent.3

         Small business start-ups increase and the economy of the community gets better when increased taxes go to public schools.3

         Research reveals that more education funding does result in better student outcomes.4

         Several studies of model early childhood programs found a return on investment of 16 percent, with 80 percent of the benefits going to the general public.5

         The return on investment in early childhood is a yield of $8 for every $1 invested.6

         A $1 increase in taxes for K-12 education produces an increase in personal income of $1.63. 7

         High school dropouts cost as much as $1.1 million per student in increased use of welfare, health care and law enforcement and decreased wages and tax payments.1

         If a state spends $1,000 more on each student, it will see up to a 10 percent reduction in low scores on reading or math tests, a 15 percent reduction in the high school dropout rate, and a 10 percent drop in the pregnancy rate of teens between 15 and 19 years old.8

         Recipients of high-quality early education were 14% more likely to be employed at age 40 than those who did not receive high-quality early education.9

         More of those who received high-quality early education, particularly females, graduated from high school than those who did not.9

         Those who received high-quality early education had 19% fewer arrests than those who did not.9

Source citations: Information and perspectives within this document have been extracted, paraphrased, and/or quoted directly from the following:

  1. Jeff Van Wychen and John Fitzgerald, Minnesota 2020 fellows

  2. Howard Cherneck, Stella W. Rowley Professor and economist who studies state tax systems

  3. Timothy J. Bartick, “Small Business Start-Ups in the United States: Estimates of the Effects of       Characteristics of States,” Southern Economic Journal.

  4. Rob Greenwald, Searle Fellow, University of Chicago, and Richard D. Laine, Executive Director,      Coalition for Educational Rights

  5.  Art Rolnick, Minnesota Federal Reserve System

  6.  Art Rolnick and Rob Grunewald, “Early Education as Economic Investment,” High/Scope Educational Research Foundation

  7.  L. J. Helms, “The Effect of State and Local Taxes on Economic Growth”

  8. Kristen Harknett, Irwin Garfinkel, Jay Bainbridge, Timothy Smeeding, Nancy Folbre, Sara McLanahan. “Do Public Expenditures Improve Child Outcomes in the U.S.? A Comparison Across Fifty States,” Center for Research on Child Well-being Working Paper, 2003.

  9. High/Scope Educational Research Foundation

  10. Governor Tim Pawlenty, “2009 Education Proposals: Transforming Minnesota’s System of Education,” Minnesota Department of Education.



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;  Lee Canning,  Charles Clay, Bill Frenzel, 
Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  Wayne Popham  and  John Rollwagen.  

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.

contact webmaster



Hit Counter