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 Response Page -  Schowalter  Interview -      

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


Jim Schowalter, Commissioner, Minnesota Department of Management and Budget describes challenges facing Minnesota, and opportunities arising from them. He explains the variability of state revenue and cautions that the state's control in certain areas, such as higher education, is decentralized and rarely direct. He sees presently a greater opportunity for change than at most any other time in his career.

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 Commissioner Schowalter. 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. Innovation. (6.6 average response) The hard reality that state-local government is a loose collection of systems, not one entity, compounds the challenge for the Governor and Legislature to accomplish change.

2. Federal student loans. (7.3 average response) Readily available federal student loans can lead to state support in certain higher education programs irrespective of ultimate job prospects for graduates.

3. Advocacy. (8.6 average response) To balance the budget--while confronted by aggressive advocates for all sorts of legitimate human needs--the Governor and Legislature must have quality information from the state Department of Management and Budget. 

 Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Innovation.







2. Federal student loans.







3. Advocacy.







Individual Responses:

Robert Freeman  (7.5)  (5)  (10)

Anonymous   (10)  (5)  (7.5)

3. Advocacy. I agree but the DMB has only a limited amount of information, vision and ability to influence the direction that the state could, should or would go.  Honesty, integrity, vision, curiosity, and other attributes must be a part of the other sectors that influence and determine state policy.  The DMB does have an important role but it too is not without bias.

Dave Broden  (0)  (10)  (7.5)

1. Innovation. The state-local government approach is often the excuse for not being able to resolve some of the issues. Perhaps looking at who can best do the job rather than focusing on the complexity of the situation and also looking at the services and facilities required would be more appropriate topic than are there too many units or how complex the various units make government execution.

2. Federal student loans. There is no doubt that easy funds push the growth of some education institutions.

3. Advocacy. Agree that the State must provide confirming or refuting data for all issues. On the other hand the data should come not only from the state but also from both sides of an issue as well as from other interested groups. We should not make decisions on government only data.

Dennis L. Johnson  (0)  (7.5)  (7.5)

3. Advocacy. General Comment:  Showalter appears to be another lifetime bureaucrat, a class who have concluded that government is far too complex for we mere mortals to comprehend and therefore only people like them are needed to change anything. They then agree with each other than nothing can really be changed due to the complexity of government, thus ensuring that their own jobs survive.    Is it really all that complex? Why not just cut all recipients of State funds by ten, or fifteen, or whatever percent is needed, and let each recipient figure out how to get by with less money. Then, once the budget is balanced, there will be time to reconsider or reinvent the structure of government to save even more. One way is to terminate all the professional bureaucrats and use people with real experience in the private sector.

Ray Schmitz  (10)  (7.5)  (10)

1. Innovation. And they do not benefit if one system saves another money. Thus, (there is) no incentive to do so.

2. Federal student loans. But that assumes an irrational decision by the student.

3. Advocacy. And then they need to accept the information; this seems to be lacking this session.

Peter Hennessey  (0)  (0)  (5)

1. Innovation. If the premise is true, then the conclusion is wrong. It is a good thing that a central authority has difficulty ruling, especially in matters that are properly a local responsibility anyway.    It is amazing that none of the questions today are related to the outrageous statements and assumptions made in this speaker's presentation. 

No, there is no transitioning to a federal framework for medical services. The state should and must assert its 9th and 10th Amendment rights and tell the feds to go away, both with their money and their unfunded mandates. They have no constitutional authority to butt into medical services at any level. The “Obamacare” law in particular is unconstitutional and is widely admitted now to be nothing but the means to destroy the private health care and insurance industries, and to set up a deliberately broken system to facilitate the imposition of socialized (communized) medicine. 

No, you don't settle on how much revenue to collect and who pays. You settle on what is the absolute minimum size of the government needed to fulfill its most essential functions. 

No, you don't need to reform government except to shift control as far down toward the local level as possible. 

No, you don't need to adapt agencies to the aging workforce, unless of course your employment practices have been so blindly and greedily screwed up that you neglected the need to keep bringing in the next generation.   

No, you don't have to redesign for the future and certainly not by implementing "big ideas." There are no big ideas to be implemented; the bare essential government services have been the same for countless generations. The only "big idea" that you need to implement is to privatize as much of the services as possible, on the model of the water, sewer and garbage services, for example.   

No, revenue levels are not unpredictably volatile, if you settle on a decent and fair formula. For example, if you eliminate all taxes and fees on all persons and businesses, and replace them with a simple retail sales tax, then government is taken out of the business of interfering and screwing it up by tinkering with the tax code in the name of "social justice," "economic justice," and other lunatic Marxist ideas. 

No, the state has no moral or legal authority to run a structural deficit. If such an abomination occurs, then the state must correct the structure of its obligations and expenditures, by shedding both. 

No, education costs do not need to be federally driven. The state should and must assert its 9th and 10th Amendment rights and tell the feds to go away, both with their money and their unfunded mandates. They have no constitutional authority to butt into education at any level.

2. Federal student loans. First of all, the feds have no business interfering in education at any level, and they don't have the money to do so anyway except by borrowing and borrowing and borrowing.   Secondly, even if you could make a case for federal funding and assistance, it is the height of irresponsibility to throw money at students too stupid to know that they must have solid job skills and job prospects, both to succeed in life and to repay the loans. If they want to nurture their impractical fantasies, let them pay from it with their own money.

3. Advocacy. Yes, everybody needs solid information before making a decision, about anything and everything.   Why specify that this information must come from the MMB? Do they have a monopoly on information, judgment and wisdom? And who says that the Governor and the Legislature must cave to aggressive advocates? Don't they have enough spine to tell them to go (away)?

Don Anderson  (10)  (7.5)  (10)

3. Advocacy. The needs are always greater than the funds available. Quality information, balancing legitimate human needs, is essential.

Scott Halstead  (0)  (5)  (10)

W. D. (Bill) Hamm  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)

1. Innovation. While it may be a loose connection of systems looking at it from the top down, it is an entrapping snare of mandates and control mechanisms looking from the bottom up. Education and social services are at the top of this list.

2. Federal student loans. That's what happens when an imbalanced body of attorneys dominates bureaucracies like this legislatively.

3. Advocacy. Sadly the quality of information available to our legislators doesn't always affect the emotional, biased outcomes.

Juanita Reed-Boniface  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)

Will Shapira  (2.5)  (5)  (0)

1. Innovation. The real challenge is getting your social priorities straight. For example, wasting up to a billion dollars on a new stadium for the Vikings should be off the table now and forever.

3. Advocacy. That's what you're there for but the information must not be politically influenced if that is ever possible.

Rosemary Schultz  (10)  (7.5)  (10)

Bob White  (0)  (0)  (0)

2. Federal student loans. This was an especially illuminating part of the discussion.

Don Fraser  (9)  (5)  (10)

An interesting interview.

Alan Miller  (8)  (7)  (9)

Joseph Mansky  (5)  (10)  (10)

1. Innovation. This may be true, but is it the proper role of the state government to be the sole source of innovation in the state? Shouldn’t elected local government leaders have an opportunity to engage in innovative activities without interference from the state? 
2. Federal student loans. This leads to an interesting public policy discussion: should the federal government pick the subject areas in which it will offer public support for tuition and fees payments? Should the Board of Regents or the legislature set tuition and fees at the U and in the MnSCU schools at a lower rate for students in subject areas that have been identified by the state government as either in need or in demand by the state? Does the presence of the federal government as a third party payer, through the guaranteed student loan program, actually encourage cost increases in tuition and fees?

Wayne Jennings  (9)  (10)  (10)

One more call for redesign. He gave an example with government transparency implemented quickly. We need to put more action steps to the concept of redesign.

Chuck Lutz  (9)  (8)  (10)

Robert J. Brown  (10)  (10)  (10)

2. Federal student loans. Once the feds took over as the primary supporter of higher education funding (which had been the role of the family until the 1960s) it enabled higher education to go on a spending spree greater than health care. The only institutions that are challenged for turning out students for jobs that do not exist are the propriety schools. The state and not-for-profit schools should be held to the same standard. A system of higher education vouchers would be the first step in responsibility in post secondary education finance.

Kevin L. Edberg  (8)  (10)  (9)

Brent Olson  (10)  (7)  (10)

It is insane to talk of balancing the budget without adding revenue – the cuts would just be too deep.  You can get things trending in the right direction and that is what needs to be the reasonable goal.  Too much pain otherwise, and throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Terry Stone  (2)  (10)  (10)

‘"We talk about state government as if it were a single, private organization," Schowalter said. Rather, it is a loose collection of systems that indeed get some funding from the state, but have independent governance and leadership.’
This previous statement seems to grossly understate the command and control capabilities of state government.
Counties are de facto local offices of state government. Cities are strongly limited by their home rule or legislative charter. State law supersedes all lower levels of government. Unfunded mandates from the state abound. The state is the pass-through agent for federal funding.
Minnesota has at least two governments-within-a-government and both are predictably out of control. This is solvable by eliminating the IRRRB and redefining the role of the Met Council.
Schowalter seems to miss the point that notwithstanding various applications of political science, governing preferences must be sustainable. Mark Dayton’s formulary for accelerated statist bloat is not sustainable. Government that doubles every 3.27 biennia cannot continue for long.

Bright Dornblaser  (8)  (10)  (10)

Fred Senn  (10)  (7)  (10)

Clarence Shallbetter  (9)  (na)  (8)

David Detert  (10)  (9)  (9)

Al Quie  (0)  (5)  (10)

Mina Harrigan  (10)  (10)  (10) 

Lyall Schwarzkopf  (9)  (8)  (9)



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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