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 Response Page - Heegaard  Interview -      

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

The Questions:

On a scale of (0) most disagreement , to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, please indicate how you rate the following options: 

1. (8.4 average response)  Deficit committing The state should stop its practice of “deficit committing” – making commitments with budgetary “tails” that obligate the state to higher spending in later years.

2. (7.5 average response) Spending targets The state should establish total spending targets for each of the next four years based on projected revenue growth without tax changes.

3. (7.3 average response) Competition:  The state should remove governmental bureaus' monopolies and let people choose for themselves which service producers are best for them.

4. (6.3 average response) Vouchers:  The state should permit low-income parents to receive education vouchers that could be used at private and parochial schools.

5. (8.4 average response) Ongoing equivalent:  An on-going equivalent to Brandl-Weber is needed to continue to offer creative reorganization ideas to the Governor and Legislature.

The Responses:

Chuck Slocum   (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

 I urged Ms. Heegaard to connect for a substantive briefing with each of the candidates for governor on this topic.  The questions above are pretty simple and leave little open for nuance…but the topic is a good one.  

Tom Spitznagle   (7)  (9)  (9)  (6)  (8)

Education vouchers should be given to all Minnesota parents so that they can choose which school to send their kids to.   Competition between schools for students will almost always lead to a better overall product.  No competition leads to self-perpetuating and much less effective bureaucracies.  It's the same in business.  End result of low competition? - Answer: the customer (kids and parents) are not well-served, only the teachers and administrators are.  How much longer are we going to tolerate the broken public school model when new technology and new approaches for funding public schools are readily available to facilitate new models?

Tom Swain   (10)  (5)  (6)  (5)  (10)

Gene Franchett   (10)  (8)  (7)  (4)  (9)

Bert LeMunyon   (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)

1. Deficit committing.  I like the idea, but how can you maintain programs without having to reauthorize them each budget cycle?

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

1. Deficit committing.  This is the Legislature lying to the public about the cost of programs.   The DFL was famous for starting a new program in the last 6 months of a 2-year budget. And the full cost of the program was completed until the end of the next 2-year budget. That way the initial cost seemed small, but quickly grew in the next several years. 

5. Ongoing equivalent.  There are lots of good ideas out there for saving state and local governments money. What is lacking is the political will at the Legislature.     A major problem is the unwillingness of many DFL legislators to do anything that might upset the teacher's union or the public employees unions.   Until the DFL is willing to stand up to teachers and public employees on behalf of the common people to control  state and local spending, MN will continue to have budget problems.

Anonymous   (2.5)  (7.5)  (2.5)  (0)  (7.5)

Ray Ayotte   (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)

Mark Jenkins   (10)  (10)  (5)  (2.5)  (7.5)

1. Deficit committing.  I oppose deficit committing when it is used to buy a "benefit" today with funds from tomorrow.  The only exception I can think of would be budgeting for future benefits with future funds.  It would need to be a rare and beneficial project to justify such a commitment.

2. Spending targets.  While the targets should reach out for four years, the targets should be updated every year to make sure we adjust accordingly

3. Competition.  I think this is a noble idea, and sounds like government would be reducing governmental control.  Unfortunately, increasing choice is all too often followed by legislation to monitor and report on the choices made by the consumers.  This opens up the possibility of governmental oversight turning into governmental regulation and control of each/all of the choices available.  In the end, this risks broadening regulation instead of reducing its impact.

4. Vouchers.  I am OK with some government assistance for private education, but I would prefer to see the funding go straight to the school.  This will allow some schools to remain completely private, while others could open their enrollment to subsidized students.  The benefit is that schools that wish to take state aid in exchange for subsidized students will have volunteered for the program and thus should be willing to meet minimum state guidelines in order to receive the state aid.  Voucher programs do not provide that level of control to the state.

5. Ongoing equivalent.  The level of compliance to this kind of study can be monitored on an annual, or bi-annual, basis.  The study itself should only be undertaken every 10 years.  This will keep the scope of the study long-term.  The closer the studies, the more likely the study will only focus on actions and results that could occur in the years between the studies.

Mina Harrigan   (7.5)  (2.5)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)

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

1. Deficit committing.  Common sense budgeting.

2. Spending targets.  We have a 2-year budget cycle that couldn't react to the recent recession. The questionable use of 3rd and 4th year projections is controversial in the real world.

3. Competition.  I very much support moving all decision-making possible back to its most local level. The Dept. of Education should be the first power structure eliminated or at least downsized to [a] helping rather than controlling agency.

4. Vouchers.  So long as teachers unions undermine quality education, I will support this option.

5. Ongoing equivalent.  Only if broad-based involvement can be achieved.

Vici Oshiro   (7.5)  (7.5)  (5)  (2.5)  (5)

3. Competition .  [There is] no one answer across the board.

4. Vouchers.  This would require accountability; not sure that is adequate now - or, in some cases, desirable.

5. Ongoing equivalent.  The discussion needs to continue, but may take a different form.

Ken Smart   (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)

1. Deficit committing.  Although I agree strongly, I really doubt there is the political will to accomplish the goal.

2. Spending targets.  When one looks at Minnesota State spending as a percentage of state GDP, one has to conclude that enough spending occurs - it is more of determining if we are allocating this spending to the right areas.

3. Competition.  In general, I think we have learned that private service producers generally provide better customer service experiences at a lower cost.

4. Vouchers.  This often is the best way for economically disadvantaged children to break out of the cycle of poverty and welfare.

5. Ongoing equivalent.  Having an independent commission free of the political environment can offer better solutions than politicians, and a commission's recommendations can also provide some political cover for good, but politically unpopular solutions.

Dave Broden   (7.5)  (0)  (10)  (10)  (10)

1. Deficit committing.  Deficit committing must stop. There should, however, be some format in which very high priority quality of Minnesota activities may have commitment for which long term funding requirements are needed. This should, however, be very limited and done with a definite plan for long term funding.

2. Spending targets.  Budget projections are required, but to be able to project 4 years is likely not a sound statement--a 4-year budget plan with some income projections is OK as a guide but must be updated at selected intervals to have any value. The idea of locking into "no tax changes” is not wise--keeping the options open should be a reasonable position.

3. Competition.  Moving to "open sourcing" by government will bring multiple benefits without risks to the function of government or the services provided to citizens. Setting up and implementing the "purchased services" will be key to the success of this approach.

4. Vouchers.  A voucher system offers many types of incentives both to the schools as alternatives and to the parents. Vouchers, if implemented, do require a good monitoring system which should be established and applied uniformly across all income levels.

5. Ongoing equivalent.  An on-going process is valid and should be addressed. The only problem I see is if we set up an on-going system it will become another state agency that can become an end onto itself and not a creative system. The benefit of a new group periodically is that new fresh ideas come and the risk of focus on a "pet rock" idea is lower. Thus the on-going idea should be addressed but how, who, and how new thoughts keep coming is key. Perhaps an organization which is set up and organized such that it must evolve each year with some members added and some leaving each year--also there must be turn-over on some staff to avoid internal focus.

Peter Hennessey   (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (2.5)

1. Deficit committing.  There is nothing more immoral than locking in commitments that some future generation will have to pay for. Pay for your present needs here and now. There is no reason why a State should plan and handle its budget any differently than private individuals and businesses. In fact there is every reason why a State should do a better job, because they have access to the services of experienced professionals who should do better at this job than ordinary husbands and wives. Just keep the politicians out of the process; this is an administrative / managerial chore.

2. Spending targets.  Sure, as long as there is also planning for possible negative "growth" which is another way of saying, saving something for a rainy day. Learn from the past 2-3 years. OK, this is one place where politicians can have an input, helping to decide priorities.

3. Competition.  The State should not have any legal right to provide any services that are also provided by someone in the private sector.

4. Vouchers.  The problem with public education is that it is a monopoly. Nobody has any incentive to improve if there is no competition. Nobody has any way of measuring his own performance if there is no one else to compare with. If parents have a choice, they can vote with their kids' attendance clearly enough. If they have to make a choice, they will also care more. But why bother if you don't have a choice anyway? You can't yell at the teacher to do a better job if your kid will continue to see the same teacher.

5. Ongoing equivalent.  You need a commission and on-going studies to tell you:  1., to model your State functions after the federal Constitution [with] limited powers, specific responsibilities; 2., not to duplicate services available in the private sector. Contract with private providers for all services. Government at any level has no business running power and water plants, schools, research labs, hospitals, roads, trains and buses; and even social services can be provided by others, such as churches who have done that job for centuries. State functions could easily be reduced to contract awarding and contract administration. [and] 3., to apply normal business practices. There is no difference between private and public bureaucracies; paper-pushing is paper-pushing in any context. There is no need to pretend there is any difference between private and public administration; the lessons derived from operations research in the private sector apply equally to government.

Anonymous   (5)  (5)  (7.5)  (5)  (5)

John  Sievert   (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (0)  (7.5)

4. Vouchers.  This is a guaranteed recipe to destroy the public school systems, one of the finest in the state.  The real issue is that we put total accountability on the school for things that need to happen at home.  Parental involvement is the #1 predictor of academic success, so if parents are not engaged with their child's education, how is that the school's fault?  If anything, we need to hold these parents accountable for this.  For example, in the Philadelphia school system, while the schools got report cards on their performance, so did the schools rate the parents on their performance.  I think that is a great feedback mechanism and would work well here.

Dan McElroy   (2.5)  (7.5)  (2.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)

1. Deficit committing.  Some programs, such as education and health care, need a degree of predictability in funding.  Lower priority programs may need to be stopped altogether.  Some could be funded on a year-to-year basis.

2. Spending targets.  Moving toward priority-based budgeting with a fixed bottom line and variable "sub budgets" would be ideal.  Disrupting the systems that rely on state funding will be very difficult.  As the demographics of the community change, raising taxes will be more and more difficult.

3. Competition.  Competition in some areas, such as education, may be helpful.  Competition in areas like human services and transportation may not be realistic.

4. Vouchers.  Why limit freedom of choice to low income parents?  Why not allow all parents to chose the education they believe to be best for their learners?

5. Ongoing equivalent.  More citizen involvement is a great thing.  How to go about this will be an interesting discussion.

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

4. Vouchers.  This should apply to all parents, not just low-income schools.

Grant Abbott   (7.5)  (7.5)  (5)  (0)  (10)

1. Deficit committing.  I would agree strongly, but there are the issues of employee pensions, maintenance of additional parklands (Lake Vermillion), and upkeep of new buildings and other infrastructure. When decisions are made to add staff, land, buildings or other infrastructure, there should be serious consideration to the ongoing costs of those additions to the state.

2. Spending targets.  I agree, as long as there is the possibility to change those targets when dramatic changes take place, such as, the influx of refugees from Southeast Asia and east Africa or another severe recession.

3. Competition.  Who are the "people"? Are we talking about individuals or communities? How would those "choices" work? At a time when many people are talking about the need for the efficiencies of large-scale organizations, this seems to be decentralizing services to smaller businesses or nonprofits, that is, until these new competitors get bigger and bigger. Will they really be less costly and more efficient than the government we have? Is there proof, or only ideological assertion?

4. Vouchers.  I have real problems with vouchers until the playing field is leveled. It's not fair that public schools have to play by much stricter rules and regulations that charter, parochial and private schools. It's also not fair to give out vouchers that can't really make it possible for poor children to attend the school of their choice that will accept them. What would happen if every child received a $20,000 voucher to attend the school of his or her choice?

5. Ongoing equivalent.  The legislature could ask the Citizens League, or the Civic Caucus for that matter, to take the lead in updating the Brandl-Weber study, especially if it seems to be so tough for people to come up with today's replacements for John Brandl and Vin Weber.

Bob White   (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (5)  (10)

Anonymous   (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)

Charles P. Lutz   (7.5)  (0)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)

2. Spending targets.  State government must seek avenues to increase revenue, including tax increases. Some of the tax cutting for higher-income Minnesotans within the past decade has to be reversed.

5. Ongoing equivalent.  Some vehicle for developing recommendations reflecting a political middle, outside the Legislature, is obviously needed.

Jack Swanson   (7.5)  (7.5)  (5)  (0)  (10)

5. Ongoing equivalent.  it seems to me the greatest economic driver in our ongoing fiscal problem is health care, and more specifically, health care and long-term care of senior citizens.  Until we, as a society, determine how we intend to pay that ever-growing bill -  we cannot resolve those fiscal problems.

Anonymous   (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (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
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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