The Governor and Legislature should stop shifting expenses to the
following biennium as a temporary budget balancing device.
The state should discontinue property tax relief and state aid to
To replace lost state revenue, cities should have the right to impose
their own local sales or income taxes if approved in local
Minnesota's precinct caucus endorsement process hinders the emergence
of strategic, forward-thinking candidates for Governor.
Scot Housh (8) (6)
The caucus system encourages
polarization at various ends of the political spectrum. We need more
moderates in government. They are not considered by either party.
David Broden (10)
(3) (7) (0)
Question 1: Shifting solves nothing
only is a soft solution. Shifting should only be considered if it is
part of a longer term fix for which a more positive resolution of the
issue is addressed and is certain to occur.
Question 2: This topic deserves much
in depth consideration. A redefinition of how the state interacts with
the role of local government and what is state funded vs. what is
local is a must. We must however not trade of the quality of key
services such as water, sewer, public safety, and similar services at
the expense of changes to who pays what--the MN quality of life must
be maintained and should be a good guide. If however the LGA is
focused to services such a parks or special buildings etc. that could
be local expenditures that is a different issue. A rigorous review of
what the relief does and what is LGA purpose will set a new focus
that can benefit all.
Question 3: Very logical and
reasonable approach. Recommend that some well thought out guidelines
that will keep some sense to uniformity across the state as to how
this is used, what is taxed etc., what items or services the local
government can tax vs. the state etc. must be part of the package.
Question 4: Rather than criticize the precinct caucus process which I
strongly concur is broken-- we need to suggest that the process has
the capability to work in a better way--it is up to concerned and
involved people to get into the process and make it work and for
the leaders of the political parties to get off the political focus
and onto good government focus. It may seem off base to believe that
this can work but strong leadership can shift the approach to how
caucuses are used. I would rather spend time discussing the issues and
getting more people to work the caucus participation than to spend
months restructuring something that is broken and then still not have
better public dialogue.
Chuck Slocum (10)
(5) (5) (10)
It is clear that we need to do things
differently, beyond “no new taxes and cutting spending,” as Tom notes.
I welcome the debate about state spending and expanded local taxing
authority; no doubt that property taxes are frequently unfair. I am
uncertain about the new tax “mix” but it will likely need to include
major changes, i.e. sales tax expansion to clothes, services, etc..
The containment of the “entitlement driven” growth of public spending,
too, is essential to achieving balanced budgets. (See Mike Vekich
editorial commentary from the Strib 1-11-10.)
Paul Cumings (10)
(0) (0) (5)
Discontinuing property tax relief
programs like LGA, CPA and the PTR would not be advisable. While the
formula is far from perfect these programs shield communities from the
regressive nature of property and local sales tax. It also allows
small communities the ability to provide a basic level of service. If
aids were taken away and local governments were given the option of
local sales or local income tax most would apply those taxes leaving a
patchwork of local taxes that would be far from equitable. Some
municipalities would be able to raise so much more than others. Small
communities and property/commercial/income poor communities would have
to levy a large % in taxes in order to receive the same amount of
money. At first glance this proposal makes sense but it is very
inequitable and very regressive.
Brent Olson (10)
(0) (5) (7)
We need to have an honest, open,
budget process – accounting tricks have gotten us in a huge mess – we
need to spend less or tax more – we need to decide what we want to
give up or how much we want to be taxed. I don’t see any current
politician willing to lead that discussion. State aid should be cut
only if mandates are removed and state taxes are cut dramatically –
the state can’t tell us to do stuff and then not leave a mechanism for
paying for it.
Cairns (6) (3) (8)
Bob White (10) (5)
About questions 2 and 3: Tom is
probably right that it's time to dissolve the MN Miracle of sending
magical money to local governments, which in turn would get more
authority for their own levies. But doing this wisely and fairly is a
huge challenge. As he points out, the equalization principle is
important even though too often overridden. Also, the issue of
communities with large tax bases vs. those with small ones can't be
solved by local levies alone. And other issues need attention at the
same time: for instance, the sheer number of local authorities, and
the possibility of redesign for greater sharing of services. My
ratings of 5 reflect my view that multi-faceted changes are
Shari Prest (9)
(5) (_) (9)
Question 3: No, inadequate state
funding has forced schools districts into this situation. There are
several dangers: Referendum campaigns are resource consuming; they are
rarely representative of the population; local gov funding is so
complex that people rarely understand the impact of flat, decreased,
or increased funding. Through the years of "no new taxes" people have
actually been and would be taxed at higher levels but it would be done
in such a way as to diminish the impact on state level politicians.
This is not governing with integrity. People should understand that
good roads, schools, social services, health care, etc. come at a cost
and the burden to provide the resources resides with the people of the
state. There is no honor in no new taxes.
Comments: Public Strategies group is
not universally noted as one of the best in the nation. It is the
darling of fiscal conservatives.
Another very useful summary - thank
Bert Lemunyon (10)
(5) (5) (10)
Rick Bishop (10)
(8) (10) (8)
Judy Swanson (10)
(8) (10) (10)
Chuck Lutz (10)
(6) (10) (7)
Robert J. Brown
(10) (10) (5) (10)
Question 1: Because they have
gotten us in such a deep hole it may take more than one biennium to
get back on a pay as we go basis, but there has to be a plan to do it
even if we have to stretch the catch up period to two biennia.
Question 2: We too long have
detached the authority to spend from the responsibility to tax. We
have allowed local government units to be irresponsible.
Question 3: There has to be some
means for local government to have the money they need to operate.
Local option taxes are not the best way, because those with wealth
(e.g., Bloomington with a sales tax at the Mall of America) will have
an unfair advantage. Some type of power equalizing formula needs to be
created that would allow the locals to raise more money if it were
tied to an equalization formula in which the state participated on the
basis of need and of local effort relative to the tax base.
Question 4: Unless we can get the parties to support a multiple
endorsement system, the current precinct caucus system is allowing the
extreme elements in the parties too easily to control the selection of
candidates. We need a system that encourages broad participation. Too
many people have been driven away from the caucuses by organized small
groups with narrow interests.
Lee Munnich (10)
(0) (10) (0)
Bert Press (10)
(0) (10) (10)
Paul Hauge (10)
(4) (3) (7)
Carolyn Ring (9)
(7) (8) (5)
Obviously, I pretty much agree with
1. 2. and 3. The problem is in working out the details of revenue
replacements and change in design. As for caucuses they are no
longer functioning as intended. However, they can be useful if broad
based enough in searching for the best candidate and not relying just
on money and the media to influence voters.
Vici Oshiro (10)
(5) (2) (3)
what else you/they/we do.
Joe Mansky (10)
(5) (1) (7)
His most interesting comments relate
to local government aid, etc. The issue for us becomes (I think) this:
is there a better way to target state resources to solve specific
problems rather than the generic fund transfer system now in place?
Should each community in the state be required to have some base
services and be provided with the necessary funds?
Bob Fenwick (10)
(10) (10) (7)
Question 2: Requires an immediate
reduction in state collections equal to the total aid. This is easy to
calculate for cities, but far more difficult for counties and would
have to include elimination of mandates and maintenances of effort. It
would also require a state budgeting process where revenue collection
is a function of a transparent link to needed deliverables, not the
reverse as they perform presently.
Question 3: Should not be contingent on referenda because, unlike the
state, counties already use a budgeting process that asks for revenues
based on deliverables. This can be done because they levy annually
against property value based on need, and therefore; the property tax
should not be ignored as a source for additional local revenues.
Because of this transparency a real referendum occurs every two
Assuming that these and other safeguards can be put in place so that
we don’t just end up back where we are today, separating
intergovernmental finances as Mr. Triplett recommends is an absolute
necessity. There are many more problems to overcome if we are to
accomplish this; however, this should be one of the bases for real
Fred Senn (10) (5)
Shallbetter (3) (3) (2) (8)
Question 1: I gather
this device while financially unwise apparently does not result in
dropping the state's credit rating and it eases the political cost in
trying to balance the budget. Unfortunately it imposes some cost on
local governments who do not have reserves sufficient to carry them
for the month but maybe that is something local units that receive
state funds will need to include in their budgets.
Question 2: Something to consider
but major reform of the number of units of local government and of the
property tax system will be needed before this step can be taken.
Maybe reduction in the value of deductions on income taxes for home
mortgages and property taxes should be considered before reducing or
eliminating property tax relief.
Question 3: Only if the number of
cities is reduced and their boundaries or individual tax wealth is
included in this step. These changes will require some time. Tom noted
such a system apparently operates in Iowa but is effective only after
a referendum approving the tax. If cities are given permission to
access a new source of taxes why not school districts, counties, and
special purpose districts. How in all this is the citizen supposed to
know who they can hold politically responsible at elections? What
happens when some cities have lots of retail activity and therefore
the possibility of lots of sales taxes and other cities have few
retailers? Will we need another form of fiscal disparities?
Question 5: Re-design of the revenue side of the budget is worth
considering but the spending side is what is escalating at rates in
excess of the cost of living.
James L. Weaver
(10) (0) (0) (_)
Jan Hively (10)
(4) (7) (4)
(8) (5) (7) (10)
The idea of cities imposing their own
sales or income tax leaves one to wonder how you could get any
consistency between adjoining cities.
Glenn Dorfman (5)
(10) (5) (1)
If we support state redesign of services
and programs, why would we take the easy way out with local
governments (raising revenues). Shouldn't they redesign their programs
and services to make them more efficient and effective? On the matter
of local revenue, two requirements: (1) the referendum be held only on
a state election day (2) the state is prohibited (in the Constitution)
from "equalizing local revenue" across rich and poor jurisdictions or
between ones that pass the referendum and ones that cannot (like they
currently do with school aids and referendums.)
(10) (10) (10) (7)
restore the possibility of accountability in local government
spending. If the legislature gets out of the so called "property tax
relief" business, people can actually know better who is accountable
Ray Cox (10) (10)
LGA, after over 30 years
of tinkering, should be discontinued. We do need some type of
equalized solution so that small poor tax cities can continue public
safety programs. Budget shifting should be restricted to one
biennium----if there is an unpaid shift from the previous biennium
then no additional shifting should be allowed and all shifts should be
limited to a certain percentage of the total funding. Local sales
taxes are a way to get taxing back to a local level. I believe we
should also undo the 100 percent state funding of schools and go back
to an 80/20 mix between state and local taxpayers. Local taxpayers
need to have some 'skin' in the game with their own schools.
Mina Harrigan (10)
(4) (4) (10)
Bill Kuisle (5)
(5) (0) (5)
Question 1: This can be used as a
short term borrowing tool and has been successful in the past if used
right. But it takes restraint on spending.
Question 2: It needs more reform
than we did in 2003 and reduce the amount the state shells out.
Question 3: Horrible idea. It will
just bring more disparities between regional centers and the rest of
the state. We need a more uniform tax system to attract businesses and
grow jobs. Not a patchwork of taxes that will only become another maze
that will cause businesses to leave
Question 4: Simple solution. Run in the primaries.
Alan Miller (9)
(0) (9) (9)
John Adams (10)
(_) (4) (10)
Question 2: Discontinue property tax
relief—yes; discontinue aid to local governments—no. Local
governments that rely disproportionately on property taxes have widely
capacities. That's why we have the fiscal disparities law. As far as
property tax relief is concerned, we should not use the tax system as
a welfare device. The same argument holds for sales taxes. A city
that hosts a regional shopping mall is lucky. Support for essential
services should not depend on luck.
Wayne Jennings (9)
(3) (5) (8)
Kent Eklund (10)
(8) (9) (10)
I think the precinct
caucus system rewards intensity and the intensely connected this early
in the process are the wings of the parties (left and right) and not
he broad moderate middle -- part of the problem of being moderate is
that politics is not a full time activity. Until we change the
process we will have the extremes in the party outlooks. I believe we
should abandon the precinct caucus system and look to a system based
on primaries in the late fall and time for run-offs -- or something
different than we currently have.
Tom Swain (10) (5)
Schultze (10) (5) (5) (5)
(10) (5) (0) (10)
Lou DeMars (10)
(3) (3) (10)
In the early 70's when the state wide
sales tax was passed part of the agreement was that a portion of the
sales tax was to be returned to the local units of government. The
cities go through all kinds of efforts to generate business and from
that business comes Sales tax revenue to the state with very little
effort by the state in generating the local business.----- SO it must
be replaced but I'm very suspicious of the ability of local government
to get the people to pass referendums. Also those who need it the most
will probably have the hardest time passing anything ---- we have too
many units of government so some sort of consolidation must happen---
too many police and fire chiefs, administrators, Planning departments
city councils. school boards, mayors, engineering departments etc.
Dave Hutcheson (8)
(8) (8) (8)
Question 2: discontinue only
gradually, over a period of say 5-6 years.
David Dillon (10)
(5) (10) (10)
Dropping state aid seems like a right
idea but dropping it 100% seems like too much too fast. I’d want to
see this modeled / projected before I could be fully supportive.
David Detert (10)
(0) (0) (5)
Jack Paul (6) (10)
Question 2: For some smaller
counties, this is indeed needed. Otherwise, we'll continue to lose
citizens to metro or move out of MN.
Question 5: It is so frustrating to
watch partisan politics in
America today, which says
Party 1st, the country or state 2nd. That is a failure of our
democracy and it stinks.
(10) (5) (10) (10)
You'd need to eliminate fiscal
disparities (and you should) to make the local taxing option work.
Try to get former Gov. Arne Carlson involved in the solution. He and
Triplett are two of the state's leading creative thinkers in times
like these, and should be listened to.
Robert A. Freeman
(10) (6) (7) (4)
Within reason – it might be better to
reform the program rather than eliminate it.
States that have primaries don’t produce
any better candidates for governors. Problem clearly goes deeper.
Triplett makes a very good point
about the pressures on health care made by individuals in the last 6
weeks of life. We need to have an open conversation about this issue
in the legislature and support the concept of living wills to ensure
families have these conversations with their loved ones ahead of time
so they can honor their wishes instead of medical science doing
everything it can to save them if it is not what they wished for.
Medicare and Medicaid should reimburse doctors for having these
conversations with relatives and enable people die with dignity.
Larry Schluter (9)
(6) (8) (9)
I am almost neutral on #6 as a lot
more discussion is needed here. We have been doing property tax
relief so long now that it needs to be looked at to see if should be
continued, is it doing what it was suppose to do and how can it be
improved. There is probably too much of property tax relief being
Dan Schultz (9)
(1) (5) (7)
Bill Hamm (10)
(10) (6) (10)
Question 1: Now with that said, as
your speaker said, how are you going to make it happen in today's real
world. Pie in the sky doesn't do anything for us or your credibility.
Question 2: As well as the rest of
the Socialist "Minnesota Miracle" and its total failure. Do you have
the courage to back that?
Question 3: The proof is in the
details, so the support is very little until those details are seen.
Question 4: What is your proposal to
end endorsement influence?
Sometimes I find myself wondering
just how much real political experience exists in this group's
leadership. Repeatedly I hear the same kind of proposals from this
group that I hear from politically naïve folks on the street, get
involved, participate and attend the political caucuses. We need more
that the 1 out of 400 or so now attending.
Larry Connery (10)
(_) (0) (5)
Question 2: The State should fully
fund state mandated programs.
Overlander (10) (0) (10) (5)
I am just so sick of partisan
politics; it's time the elected officials put the welfare of the State
ahead of their parties!
Ray Ayotte (5) (8)
Steve Pierce (10)
(_) (_) (_)
Shifting is the most irresponsible
thing I have seen in recent years...Simplify the property tax system
then leave it alone.
Jake Sieg (10) (6)
If the state discontinues property
tax relief and state aid to local governments, the state should also
relieve local government of state mandates for certain programs. This
will give elected local government officials the ability to make
decisions to balance loss of LGA with cuts in programs vs. increases
in property taxes. I would also add that local government (at least
in rural MN) officials make decisions that are good government first
and good politics second. Therefore, one could argue that our voters
would be better served if more authority rested in the hands of local
government and state government contracted.
David Johnson (10)
(0) (8) (8)
Jack Swanson (8)
(2) (8) (8)
(10) (10) (10) (10)
We need to look carefully at
consolidated school districts that serve multiple communities or parts
Amy Wilde (10) (2)
(9) (5) (6) (9)
Dennis Fink (9)
(4) (6) (5)
Questions 2 & 3 are a bit simplistic.
By themselves, they tend not to provide solutions. If they are
combined with offsetting recommendations that eliminate or allow local
units of government some flexibility from existing mandates, a
reasonable argument could be made for discontinuing the revenue.
Simply substituting one revenue stream for another does not represent
redesign as defined in these documents.
Shirley Heaton (_)
(_) (0) (_)
Question 3: This business of
extending taxing rights to localities begs the question of how deep is
the 'income well' of middle and lower income groups? It seems to me
there must be some way to mandate the current taxing institutions
to abide by the allocation of funds. Creating a new layer of
taxing requires spending more money to administer the process. I'll
never forget while in Detroit as a planning consultant I met with a
group of locals who wanted to 'get in on the gravy train of the Urban
Renewal Program program' to renovate their main street only to learn
that the administrative costs were exorbitant and unnecessary if they
formed a consortium and did the job themselves.(Which they did, by the
Irene Koski (8)
(2) (5) (9)
I think local sales or income tax
should be applied state wide and then let the local jurisdictions
decide to collect or no.
Rodney Bounds (5)
(0) (5) (4)
Terry Stone and
John Carlson (8) (8) (7) (3)
Question 1: A case could be made for
shifting expenses only if there is reasonable expectation that the
next biennium budget was projected to have a substantial increase in
revenues. It would be more palatable to shift expenses one time than
to amass large rainy day funds at the expense of the taxpayers to meet
temporary one-time budget shortfalls.
The current trend of continually
shifting expenses is nothing more than an unacceptable failure of the
legislature to do its job and balance the budget without shifting
expenses. This unfortunate political behavior would be less likely if
our legislators had the courage to tackle budget problems as they
arose; without regard to reelection concerns or their fixation on who
gets the credit for legislative initiatives.
Much like a citizen’s financial
responsibility to maintain a cash equivalent reserve of three to six
months of expenses, the State would be well served by a similar
reserve; making it less likely to need a budget shift.
Political scientists have vigorously
advocated the idea of a larger state financial reserve. When the
Minnesota budget was “balanced” in 2008, about 80% of the $625 million
in state reserves was depleted. Assuming a $60 billion biennial
Minnesota budget (remember, this is dedicated funding plus the General
Fund) the state was carrying a reserve of less than 8 days of
The $125 million remaining after the
2008 “balancing of the budget” represents about 36 hours and 30
minutes of operating reserve; not quite the three to six months
recommended by financial planners for personal financial
These grim statistics support the
idea of a 2010 legislative session with no bonding bill. Legislators
simply need to step away from the checkbook.
As much as Minnesota politicians are
currently trying to make both the 2010 session and the 2010 election
all about “jobs, jobs, jobs”, sustained employment is best created by
the private sector; not by following the runaway-spending model of the
federal-level government. A retrenchment of common sense and the
willingness to feel some pain is in order.
For the past thirty years, the
Legislature has been creating Departments of Happiness. Every time a
special interest group alleged unhappiness, the Legislature threw
money at the situation and established a bureaucracy to administer the
tax money. Now we suffer a state government that is bloated and choked
with Departments of Happiness. Our “most vulnerable citizens” are now
the Minnesota taxpayers.
Question 2: Control of spending,
quality of life and the proper role of government are best done at the
local level. Discontinuing property tax schemes born of social
planning initiatives and discontinuing LGA would greatly reduce the
size and cost of state-level government.
The end of local government on
autopilot would end the homogenized nature of local government where
every community has about the same taxes, about the same fuel costs,
about the same labor costs, about the same income tax and about the
same sales tax. Communities and counties could compete for residents
with real disparities in quality of life; instead of competing with
homogenizing LGA money given to the community a few miles away.
Question 3: Cities should have more
local autonomy in revenue sources. Of the 36 taxes that the State of
Minnesota chooses to collect for its own operations, it is unclear why
only sales and income taxes would be proposed for municipal
implementation; particularly home rule charter cities.
A city may want to tax electric
“green” vehicles. These heavy battery vehicles use and ablate
transportation infrastructure without paying a dime of fuel tax. A
city so inclined should have that authority.
Expanded municipal tax authority
would bring a level of public discourse and political accountability
not seen in recent times. Local politicians would need to monitor the
pulse of the taxpayers far more closely. Clearly defined municipal
public policy would evolve. The idea that who one votes for makes a
difference would have a welcome resurgence. There would be no more
lazy summer Monday nights at City Hall.
Question 4: Candidates aren't endorsed at precinct
caucuses. Delegates to the state convention are elected at precinct
caucuses. It is these elected delegates that endorse State-level
candidates at the state conventions of each party. Usually informal
and nonbinding straw polls are taken at precinct caucuses; this year
for the Governor's race.
In any given election cycle, and in
any given race, a case can be made that the endorsement process
hinders the emergence of the best candidate.
The people who will show up to a
February Minnesota party caucus are a long way from average voters.
Caucus attendees will put down their remote controls, start the car,
travel to a public facility in likely sub-zero weather, walk across a
likely icy parking lot and spend two hours in quasi-organized
pandemonium. These are the uber-voters; the extremists of both
parties. Little good comes from the present caucus system. It serves
the party hacks of each political party very well. It’s entrenched
from the precinct to the State Capitol and very hard to change.
One of the more colorful parts of the
caucus system is the straw poll. These straw polls are very useful to
the parties. This year’s poll will address the governorship. If the
caucus attendees agree with the party mandarins, the straw poll
results are a useful promotional tool for the candidate of choice. If
dissident interlopers (like rural moderates) swamp the caucuses, the
parties can still override the straw poll results at the state
Both parties have gubernatorial
candidates plugged into their respective party power brokers and both
parties have self-made public servants competing with the party
machines. It will be interesting, if not useful, to observe the caucus
system impact on what the party insiders have in store for us this