Nonprofit, independent journalism. Supported by readers.


State union’s got a plan to help fix Minnesota’s budget deficit, too

There’s a Republican solution to the state’s budget deficit. There’s a DFL solution. And now, there’s a union solution.

There’s a Republican solution to the state’s budget deficit. There’s a DFL solution. And now, there’s a union solution. Or, at least a partial solution from one union.

Jim Monroe, executive director of the nearly 12,000-member Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE), said at a news conference this morning that the union has come up with $350 million in savings for the state over the biennium. The MAPE bargaining unit represents a wide range of state workers who provide specialized services in everything from accounting to transportation operations.

Monroe added that Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s staff has not been impressed by MAPE’s efforts to help close the $4.6 billion deficit.

Here’s where the state could find $350 million, according to Monroe: $240 million a biennium in uncollected revenues, much of which is in the form of employers not paying unemployment taxes, plus streamlining “bloated” state government management to the tune of $110 million in savings.

Article continues after advertisement

He also said that the state could save money by reducing the amount of work currently being outsourced and by cutting the amount of outstate travel done by state employees at all levels of the bureaucracy.

Monroe said that MAPE has twice tried to pass its savings plans to the governor, once in January and more recently during contract negotiations. Both times, he said, the governor’s budget staff rebuffed the union’s efforts “to help.”

Clearly, one of the reasons MAPE made a public issue of its plans was the result of comments Pawlenty recently made on his weekly radio show.

“The public employee unions and the spenders and the DFL should quit coming up with the tax increase of the week — or the day — idea and focus on how we can reduce our spending,” Pawlenty said on his April 10 show.

“We answered his call to action, and no action has been taken by him,” Monroe said, a tinge of anger in his voice.

It should be noted that Monroe believes that new revenues – in the form of taxes – must be forthcoming. He favors increasing taxes on cigarettes and alcohol, as well as adding a fourth tier to the state income tax tables.

But, he insisted, better management practices also are needed in state government.

Pointing to state guidelines, Monroe said that nonprofits obtaining state funds must cap the percentage of management at 15 percent of the workforce. Several state agencies and offices have far-higher percentages of management, including the Higher Education Service Office (44.7 percent management), Minnesota Management & Budget (32.9 percent management), Human Rights Department (25.7 percent), Commerce Department (23.7 percent),  the governor’s office (21 percent management) and the Health Department (18.1 percent).

“He (Pawlenty) portrays himself as a fiscal conservative,’’ Monroe said. “But what are his priorities? Why not collect money owed? Why not scrutinize where money is being spent … Prudent fiscal management has not been a part of this administration.”

Article continues after advertisement

Monroe also took several shots at Pawlenty’s talk of forcing furloughs on state workers during contract negotiations. Putting MAPE workers on 24-day furloughs would actually cost the state money, Monroe said, because 60 percent of the funds used for MAPE payroll come via the federal government. That money would have to be paid back to the feds if the workers were furloughed.

MAPE has reached a tentative contract agreement with the governor. Members are to vote on that deal in a few weeks.