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 Response Page - Thissen  Interview -      

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


State Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL minority leader of the Minnesota House of Representatives, asserts that the Legislature and Governor should rely on a common source for estimating the dollar impact of budgetary actions. He also highlights education as an area of opportunity for reform, and recognizes the potential value of continuing informal, bi-partisan meetings during the interim period in order to work on ideas for redesign that are advanced by the executive branch and from outside government.

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 Rep. Thissen.  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. Budgetary estimates. (6.8 average response) Rather than the legislative majority and the Governor each relying on different sources to estimate the dollar impact of budgetary actions, they should both rely on the same source, the Minnesota Department of Management and Budget.

2. Delay redesign. (4.5 average response) Redesign/restructuring of state services will have to wait until next year or later because the 2011 legislative agenda is dominated by finding a way to balance the biennial budget.

3. Sources of proposals. (5.7 average response) Good proposals for redesign/restructuring need to come mainly from the Governor and from outside groups, because the Legislature isn't able to originate such proposals itself.

4. Vision. (5.2 average response) The Governor has expressed a good vision for the state: fairness, building the middle class, getting people back to work.


 Response Distribution:

Disagree Strongly

Disagree Moderately


Agree Moderately

Agree Strongly

Total Responses

1. Budgetary estimates.







2. Delay redesign.







3. Sources of proposals.







4. Vision.








Individual Responses:

Greer Lockhart  (10)  (10)  (5)  (7.5)

Michael Martens  (2.5)  (2.5)  (2.5)  (0)

1. Budgetary estimates. This is important information. Having two sources reduces the possibility of mistakes being made in the calculations

2. Delay redesign. Redesigning state services may need to be part of balancing the budget

3. Sources of proposals. Redesign can only happen by either the Legislature or the Governor acting. So having the legislature initiating change needs to be part of the process.

Bob White  (10)  (2.5)  (7.5)  (5)

2. Delay redesign. Pressures will not diminish in later years, nor will the budget dilemmas.  The urgency of dealing with the current deficit should signal comparable urgency to begin -- now -- on long-term changes in the delivery of services.

3. Sources of proposals. Agree, provided legislators are not reluctant to offer their own initiatives.

4. Vision. O.K., but nonspecific; i.e., everyone regardless of political party favors the goals listed.

Susan Morris  (5)  (0)  (2.5)  (0)

1. Budgetary estimates. I do not know the other side of the story, is there a reason the legislature is seeking other numbers?

2. Delay redesign. It needs to move forward now; we can talk redesign to death. There are plenty of ideas that have come from Ass.MN Counties for Redesign; we have spent years working on it!

3. Sources of proposals. Many legislators have served on School Boards, Township Boards, County Boards- do not assume that they do not understand the issues. But I also believe that the "boots on the ground" need to be engaged in the discussion.

4. Vision. The Governor is a kind and caring man, but I do not believe he understands the plight of working families. The middle class is all of us that have seen our incomes decrease over the last four years, and with energy costs increasing our expendable incomes are shrinking even more. It is hard to keep a family afloat and with talk of increasing taxes to provide more services I get a little nervous.

Dave Broden  (2.5)  (2.5)  (0)  (2.5)

1. Budgetary estimates. The MN Management and Budget Dept. should be a yardstick and baseline, but independent input and estimates should remain available and used. For government to work effectively there must be a strong and working balance of internal resources with outside "lobbying resources"; whether these are considered lobbying or independent input is not critical, but the role of independent information is fundamental to the good government process. It is a check and balance as well a fresh input. This also is a way to judge the content of the state dept., etc.

2. Delay redesign. The importance of focused attention on redesign/restructuring must become a central recognized need with some legislative hooks in this session to include several specific topics, which the legislature must address during the interim and into the next session of the biennium.  While this session is dominated by the budget, the budget focus is also the driver of initiatives related to redesign --pushing it down stream only will result in low priority and attention. Thus the need to establish the need, a plan and an approach with some specific action milestone must be a commitment of the legislature and the executive offices.

3. Sources of proposals. The statement is simply ridiculous. Good proposals can come from all areas --inside the legislature, from the governor, from state departments and agencies, from outside groups, and most importantly from the individual citizens of MN. Thinking that anyone has special capability for new ideas is one of the problems of government. Views that only new ideas come from a "selected group" is simply a belief that only some "elitist" organization is capable. All people have ideas.  When that is recognized perhaps problems will be solved since top down or special interest solutions will not be the focus.

4. Vision. If the statement is a really a visions statement--as stated it does express a focus that all of MN can understand.  However it seems to lack something that captures an action theme. This is not a bad starting point from which to evolve a MN Vision that can be "owned" by all citizens of MN and which will enable action by government and the private sector including individuals to act as a MN community to become the state that the vision defines.

Juris Curiskis  (10)  (0)  (7.5)  (2.5)

1. Budgetary estimates. If the government does not rely on one single reliable source of information, how can the constituents separate facts from fabrication? How can they trust their government?

2. Delay redesign. Why wait if one can save (a) billion dollars right away without any adverse consequences?

3. Sources of proposals. The Legislators can't even see that they are not upholding their oath of office.

4. Vision. The Governor has not proposed to eliminate about a billion dollars from the State Budget Deficit. An expenditure that would not be needed if our property tax burdens were equalized as per our State Constitution. No one would need to be subsidized by the State if our property taxes were fair.

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

1. Budgetary estimates. I definitely agree that all sides need to first agree on the numbers.  Otherwise whatever they do cannot be judged.

2. Delay redesign. I agree that the budget problems need to be fixed first and that it is somewhat realistic to think that a total redesign of government can happen at the same time.  That said, where realistic changes can be made with sufficient thought and validity at this time, they should be implemented.

3. Sources of proposals. I think we need to look to all sources for good proposals, including the legislature as well as all others.

Bruce A. Lundeen  (2.5)  (0)  (5)  (2.5)

1. Budgetary estimates. MN DMB is prone to be a political entity.

2. Delay redesign. Change has to begin this session.  Change is incremental.

John DeSantis  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)

 I agree with Rep. Thissen that during the legislative session, legislators are concerned with creating laws for passage.  Ideas for change come primarily from outside the legislative process.

W. D. (Bill) Hamm  (2.5)  (10)  (10)  (0)

1. Budgetary estimates. That is a viral political accusation that I do not see the proof of. Thissen has chosen to be as blatant … a DFL political leader as we have seen in recent times. (He) does not speak with the best interest of anyone but his precious upper middle class.

2. Delay redesign. Br’er Rabbit say's, "please Mr. Fox don't throw me in the briar patch". Mr. Thissen has no interest in any real structural change other than a change of the party in control.

3. Sources of proposals. Let it be known that Mr. Thissen is at least one of the four most important reasons this is true. As a DFLer, I am tremendously disappointed in the arrogance of these social elitists and their misuse of their scrap of power.

4. Vision. After a good start by defying the party and beating down it's chosen feminist, he sold us out by taking up the teacher’s union/white collar public employee banner. His budget isn't his; it's direct party sell out of the working class.

Anonymous   (0)  (0)  (0)  (0)

Matt Dean  (0)  (0)  (0)  (0)

2. Delay redesign. Budget requires redesign of government.  If Rep Thissen's party were in the majority, would he seriously dismiss the entire ability of the legislature to represent the people who voted for them?

3. Sources of proposals. Seriously?  Where did this come from?

Dennis L. Johnson  (0)  (0)  (0)  (0)

4. Vision. Thissen is waffling to try and head off any changes he doesn't like by the majority in the legislature.  He wants to protect all liberal programs until he is with the majority again, so he can resume spending other people's money.  Note:  A film version of Ayn Rand's book, "Atlas shrugged", opens in many theaters next week. Worth seeing. 

Robert Freeman  (7.5)  (5)  (2.5)  (5)

1. Budgetary estimates. With the proviso that the fiscal note process should be as transparent as possible.

3. Sources of proposals. Good ideas can come from anyone, but the best ones come from people who have no hidden agenda.

Don Anderson  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)

1. Budgetary estimates. Relying on different sources leads to everyone having different solutions.

3. Sources of proposals. It's obvious this year’s Legislature can't or won't work together. After all where is the campaign-funding coming from? You can't vote against your campaign funders’ ideas.

Bev Bales  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)

Ray Schmitz  (10)  (0)  (2.5)  (7.5)

1. Budgetary estimates. However, there needs to be a good system of non-partisan preparation in the process.

2. Delay redesign. In this instance the budget issues are ongoing, so waiting for next year means nothing.

3. Sources of proposals. That is the purpose of the hearing process, but it needs to be fair and open.

Steve Tjeltveit  (10)  (9)  (10)  (9)

I continue to think and hear that Paul is one of the great voices in this process

Jeff K. Peterson  (9)  (3)  (2)  (3)

Arvonne Fraser  (10)  (5)  (4)  (9)

Leanne Kunze  (9)  (9)  (9)  (8)

The budget needs to be sustainable to ensure the goals of the State, not the goals of a particular political party.   I liked the comment that suggests listening to the frontline workers as they usually have the best ideas for efficiencies and pointing out waste.  Its unfortunate how the budgets are implemented by higher-ups who are too far removed from the mission and all too often protect themselves at the cost of the public they should serve. Too many frontline workers and general public are negatively impacted by this structure. Rather than larger units of government such as converting local government to State or Regional government, more autonomy and control needs to be at the very local community level. We need to be realistic about the tax code and subsequent impacts of cuts over the past decade.  Attracting jobs will require a high quality of life and success in education...not a free ride and cheap labor.

Mina Harrigan  (10)  (8)  (8)  (3)

John Milton  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

Gov. Dayton is a grown-up, with respect for government and the people of MN.  The current leadership in the Legislature could not have been chosen to lead in the era of Stan Holmquist, Gordon Rosenmeier, and Bob Ashbach.  And I know that you folks agree with me on this.

Don Fraser  (10)  (8)  (7)  (10)

Lyall Schwarzkopf  (7)  (3)  (4)  (5)

I believe that "fairness, building the middle class, getting people back to work" is not a vision.  It is a statement, or a goal, or a campaign pitch, but not a vision. 

Wayne Jennings  (10)  (3)  (8)  (7)

It’s so frustrating to see the standoff at the legislature and lack of creative thinking about redesign.

Al Quie  (10)  (0)  (8)  (4)

Larry Schluter  (10)  (4)  (8)  (7)

The legislature needs to have a bill that they will work on redesign next year.  If they don’t they will find another reason not to do it next year.

Bert Press  (0)  (5)  (10)  (5)

Carolyn Ring  (6)  (4)  (4)  (3)

William Kuisle  (1)  (1)  (1)  (0)

Paul and Ruth Hauge  (9)  (9)  (7)  (9)

Ray Cox  (5)  (3)  (7)  (3)

The legislature can rely on various sources to estimate the dollar impact of fiscal changes, and also have the MB review the calculations. There are too many ways for political impacts in MB calculations, regardless of who is in charge. An example is the voter ID bill:  a year ago it had a $4-5 million price tag, now this year it has a $40 million price tag, driven by all sorts of advertising, etc., MB calculated into the cost.  
Redesign should not have to wait---it can occur while budget adjustments are being made. This can be done area by area, not necessarily on some massive wholesale level. Minnesota has to stop the effort to ‘return to the 1950’s-60’s’ and preserve the status quo. We should be working directly with health care professionals, long-term care providers, and many others to redo systems and delivery methods. A good example is SOCS homes paying employees $6-7 more per hour than private care providers….why?
The Governor’s vision is not necessarily a bad vision, but it needs to focus more on personal responsibility and life choices. Minnesota cannot continue to provide lifetime support for people that continue to make terrible life choices. The middle class will take care of itself if government creates common sense policies to allow them to do so. “Getting people back to work” does not mean creating ‘make work’ government programs and facility projects---that is totally unsustainable.

Kevin Edberg  (10)  (8)  (8)  (7)

It is absolutely ludicrous for the Republican majorities to avoid the use of agency-prepared fiscal notes by substituting their own numbers or those of their own consultants/donors/national colleagues.  I worked in the administrations of Governors Perpich, Carlson, and Ventura; during that time, (and before and since) the legislature and Governor all used the same process for score-carding the budget. No "reform" is needed here.
The Governor's vision is good, as far as it goes, but it is not complete.  But the elements of vision expressed by Republicans are not complete either. We are essentially talking about the social contract between a free people and their democratically elected government. I'd like to see some bigger vision outlined, with options and the implications of options, assessed. The current level of discourse revolves around "cut spending". That's not a vision, and it doesn't get close to expressing a quality of life.
Realistically this discussion around vision won't happen between now and adjournment. Getting a budget deal is the near term game; setting up the interim discussion is the mid-game.

Chuck Lutz  (10)  (7)  (8)  (9)

Ralph Brauer  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

Robert J. Brown  (0)  (0)  (2)  (5)

1.  More sources will allow for discussion and the ability to challenge each source to justify its positions. 

2.  Reform and redesign can only be done when there is a crisis – otherwise the politicians are happy with business as usual. 

3.  Outside groups are almost always the source of creative ideas, although those outside groups can include the National Governors Association and the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Alan Miller  (10)  (7)  (9)  (9)

David Detert  (10)  (2)  (4)  (7)

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

Thissen talks about the 'warehousing' education process years ago. There's little that can be done to bring about reform unless the parents are in on the process. Disney created a new town here in Florida, "Celebration", which was to bring about a sort of "Epcot" approach to the American Way of Life, socially, economically and physically.  Those who moved in were intrigued with the concept until they came face to face with innovative ideas for teaching their kids. There was so much uproar from the parents that the 'Warehouse' concept was reinstated and continues today. (And that's not even a bit of the 'tip of the iceberg' Thissen presented.)

Tom Spitznagle  (4)  (3)  (6)  (2)

Clarence Shallbetter  (na)  (3)  (3)  (3)

Creation of the Metropolitan Council was a response to a crisis: sewage flowing in the yards in Crystal. The legislation proposal was crafted with creative assistance from the outside by a State Senator.

Tom Swain  (5)  (7)  (9)  (8)

Terry Stone  (0)  (0)  (0)  (0)

1. Legislative fiscal notes need to be based upon economic realities and not dependent upon a single politicized source of economic opinion.  MMB has institutionalized ideas based upon certain norms and paradigms fostered by long ingrained political styles. MMB work product can and has appeared objective but is now suffering from inertia and a lack of resilience in the face of a fast changing legislative style. An inconvenient truth is that much of what MMB is asked to summarize is not only unknown, but unknowable due to certain factors of complexity and the lack of sufficient data or experience. Certain legislation will surely have a synergistic relationship to other components of the state economy. Changes in other components will, in turn, affect yet other components of the economy. It is disingenuous to dissimulate that the effect of some legislation is knowable and a finite quantity. This is why a remarkable amount of unintended consequences are a byproduct of the Minnesota Legislature. An effort to obtain fiscal notes of rich and diverse quality will provide more informed and actionable legislative and executive guidance.

2. The idea that redesign or restructuring of state government cannot be initiated immediately because the legislature can only handle one task at a time is simply absurd and self-serving. Delaying redesign a year gives the minority party a free bonus year before their expected reinforcements arrive. It gives the majority party one less year to fulfill their rock solid mandate to fix years of minority party bureaucracy and social planning initiatives. My view is that Mr. Thissen is clearly trying to participate in the time honored liberal tradition of kicking the can down the road—even if only for a hapless year.

3. The idea that good proposals for redesign/restructuring need to come mainly from the Governor and from outside groups, because the Legislature isn't able to originate such proposals itself, almost defies intelligent commentary. Special interests have been designing both spending and bureaucracies for decades by dominating the conversation and thinking of the Minnesota legislature.  It seems clear that the current legislature contains an enormous amount of private sector talent. This intellectual agility coupled with decades of shelved redesign plans can reform Minnesota dramatically, productively and quickly. Sustainable government is well within reach; it is threatened only by political will and institutional inertia propitiated by the familiar and predictable special interests and their minority party co-pilots.

4. The governor has not expressed a good vision for the state. Governor Dayton has exhibited an enthusiasm for a stale statist liberal ideality.  The subjective notion that wealth needs to be redistributed to the common good is not original with Governor Dayton.
• The idea of the rich paying their fair share is intellectually flawed in more than one way.
• The concept of rich is nebulous, dependent upon context and subjective. 
• Children use the words fair and unfair to express realities that they find uncomfortable or inconvenient.
• The concept of share also emanates from childhood. Just under half of Minnesota adults don’t acknowledge an actionable share of responsibility in contributing to Minnesota’s general fund. This leaves the slightly more than half to contribute about twice their fair share which some, understandably, see as an unfair share.
• Notwithstanding the emotional tone of fair share and the inherent jealousy invoked by the idea that someone has something they aren’t sharing, this line of thinking is not an economic argument. At best, scapegoating the rich creates class resentment unbecoming a constructive vision for Minnesota and represents an argument that is vaguely a moral one.
• The governor seems blindly unfamiliar with how capitalism works, how wealth is created and how capital is deployed in a free market system.
• Historic financial dynasties played a key role in building Minnesota. The name of Minnesota’s financial dynasties now appear on charitable trusts, foundations and institutes that provide seed money and matching funds for a vast amount of programs that serve the commonweal of our state. These pools of capital dedicated to the public good came from what Governor Dayton calls the fortunate rich. About a billion dollars is distributed per biennium by foundations whose principles are or were the rich who Governor Dayton opines are or were not paying their fair share.
I suggest that these foundations came from the hardworking, creative and smart Minnesotans who availed themselves of the opportunities provided by the traditional vision of Minnesota. When government saps the lifeblood of these wealth engines of our economy and places confiscated wealth into government “investments” and bureaucracies GDP is not enhanced. The private sector contributes to state and federal GDP; government employees do not. The private sector requires pools of private capital. These pools of capital are our state’s engines of job creation when demand supports production. The accumulation of these pools of capital and the state government’s invariable attempts to confiscate them are a fundamental ideological dichotomy. Governor Dayton, a product of wealth, ironically and inexplicably gets this wrong, as does Mr. Thissen.


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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