Mark Dayton and Tom Horner stepping up criticism of Tom Emmer for vague statements on budget fix

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Both DFL gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton and Independence Party candidate Tom Horner are taking more and more shots at Republican Tom Emmer for his refusal, so far, to offer specifics as to what programs he will cut while attacking the state’s $6 billion deficit.

The Emmer campaign has repeatedly said it will offer its specific proposals soon, probably sometime next month.

But in three debates before business-friendly crowds this week, Emmer has been hinting as to the sorts of things he will propose:

• Dramatically reduce the amount the state pays for medical care to the state’s poorest. At a debate Tuesday — and again this morning at a debate sponsored by the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce — Emmer hinted that rather than pay hospitals and clinics for treatment of the poor, he would give hospitals and clinics tax breaks for doing what he described as “charitable work they already want to do.”

• At the Tuesday debate at the University of St. Thomas business school in downtown Minneapolis, he hinted that an Emmer administration would propose a large consolidation of state agencies. Rather than 22 commissioners reporting to the governor, Emmer said, he would surround himself with six advisers.

• At a debate Wednesday in Brooklyn Park and again this morning, Emmer lashed out at the wages and benefits paid to state employees.

“They are good people,” he said, “but …”

Emmer claims that state employees are paid “30 to 40 percent more” than people with similar jobs in the private sector. He added that they are the recipients of “gold-plated health care” plans and receive pensions, unlike most in the private sector.

Emmer did not say where his wage statistics came from.

But Minnesota’s American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which was the first major player to endorse Dayton, points to two studies that offer a hugely different perspective on pay for public employees.

Studies by the Center for State and Local Government Excellence and the National Institute on Retirement show that public employees nationally make 11 percent less than their counterparts in the private sector. According to Jennifer Mundt, public affairs director, Minnesota state employees are paid about the median level of public employees nationally.

Mundt also said that the average AFSCME worker is paid $38,000. Using that 11 percent figure, it means that the typical AFSCME member could make $4,180 more in the private sector.

“We have traded higher pay for better benefits,” Mundt said.

Emmer was attacking those benefits, especially pensions.

Dayton, on the other hand, defended the contracts of workers that call for them to receive such things as pensions, noting that those benefits had come only after negotiations with their respective employers.

“To denigrate people because they want retirement security doesn’t make sense to me,” Dayton said.

This was the third successive day in which Emmer and Horner were playing before largely friendly crowds — the third successive day in which the people in the audience were mostly white men in business attire.

After the forum, Dayton was asked if he’d ever get a chance to debate on his home turf.

He shrugged and said, “We had a debate on the environment and Emmer didn’t show up; we had a debate sponsored by social workers, and he didn’t show up.”

Then, like Emmer and Horner, he headed to the State Fair.

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.

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Comments (17)

  1. Submitted by Jim Camery on 08/26/2010 - 02:12 pm.

    Cut their pay? I thought the Repubs wanted people to have more money?

  2. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 08/26/2010 - 02:32 pm.

    Several comments/questions:

    Where does Mr. Emmer think the money for “charity” by hospitals and clinics will come from? Especially with those organized as non-profits?

    Does saying he will have 6 advisers mean that he will eliminate the 22 commissioners? Or will they be in addition to the 22? Can Mr. Emmer unilaterally and instantaneously revise state government to whatever minimal form he desires or does the legislative branch need to buy into the process? How long would a realistic transition to his desired government take? Is Mr. Emmer running for Governor or King?

    One of his ideas is to roll all of farm- related governmental interfaces into the agriculture department–he specifically mentioned the PCA. Does that mean that the PCA duties that have to deal with industry are to be rolled into the Commerce department? What about municipalities–do they get their own version of the PCA? Seems to me, his proposal leads to more waste— 3 to 5 mini-PCA’s with divergent and duplicate operations. Hardly efficient!!

    The reality is that Mr. Emmer has no real plans and he is just making it up as he goes along.

    The fact is that within weeks of being inaugurated he must come up with a budget proposal based on the existing state governmental structure. That is the question people are really interested in. All of the other stuff is “pie-in-the-sky”, smoke-blowing BS.

  3. Submitted by Lance Groth on 08/26/2010 - 03:01 pm.

    The three candidates certainly offer voters a full spectrum of choices in this election. I don’t think anyone can claim it’s a choice between “democans” and “republicrats” this time.

    For my part, the more Emmer talks the less I like him. It seems he hasn’t met a problem yet that can’t be solved with an axe – especially if the axe falls on the poor and middle class. Such one dimensional thinking is scary in a guy who wants to be in charge.

  4. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 08/26/2010 - 03:02 pm.

    You are wrong in one regard, Jim. Republicans want to have more money but they want to take it from non Republicans by cutting taxes on the rich and reducing regulation on the industries that make them rich. Remember Bizzaro Superman? He had Superman’s powers but where Superman was good, Bizzaro Superman was bad. Emmer is Bizzaro Robin Hood. He robs the poor to give to the rich.

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/26/2010 - 04:53 pm.

    Emmer’s figures on government workers are based on stereotypes, not facts. Again with the imaginary workers, government, wealthy, etc.

    Regardless, I think someone should point out that Emmer’s plan is the same Republican plan we’ve been getting for decades. What’s interesting is it’s celebration of mediocrity. Note that Emmer’s solution for the economy is not raise people’s incomes to match those of his imaginary government workers, the plan is to lower the bar so they make as little as everyone else. There’s no acknowledgment that we’re in a recession and that people are our of work, and making less money. He wants to increase hardship rather than find a way to alleviate it.

  6. Submitted by Duke Powell on 08/26/2010 - 05:09 pm.

    If you are going to have to cut the state budget in a large way, one has to go where the money is… and that’s public employees.

    As a public employee myself, I would propose a 3 year wage freeze for all public employees-state, county, city and schools.

    No contract increase, no step increase, no increase in pay whatsoever – for 3 years.

  7. Submitted by Joe Williams on 08/26/2010 - 06:22 pm.

    Can anyone tell me what device protects the middle class better than a pension? Is there really a good reason to try to get rid of them other than because the private sector squashed them?

  8. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 08/26/2010 - 08:47 pm.

    Thus far, Rep. Emmer is all slogan and no substance.

    Perhaps former President GW Bush said it best:
    “all hat and no cattle”.

  9. Submitted by Bill Coleman on 08/26/2010 - 10:58 pm.

    Emmer’s comment that non-profits would benefit from tax breaks makes me wonder how he passed the bar exam section on corporations.

    I am sure that Hennepin County Medical Center would really benefit from tax breaks.

    Maybe tax breaks could replace local government aids too!

  10. Submitted by Dan Gerber on 08/27/2010 - 12:08 am.

    Lance, you left an opening that I couldn’t resist. To restate an old saw, if all your
    problems look like trees, all you need is
    an axe!

  11. Submitted by Steve Carlson on 08/27/2010 - 12:11 am.

    I take Emmer seriously. I support Horner. But Emmer clearly has an ear for business. He understands why they make the decisions they do. And it for business reasons, not to pocket the money (although they do often end up pocketing money, I think, I suppose Emmer would call that profit). We need to listen to and hear these business reasons. But I think Emmer wants to take government totally out of the equation, and that is not satisfactory either.

    I agree with Emmer when he talks about creating jobs, basically just any private sector jobs, and not necessarily “quality” jobs. “Quality jobs” means we have Minnesotans who don’t want to work and want cushy jobs with big benefits because they think other people have such jobs and not to give it to them is discrimination. We see what has happened to our economy because of this thinking.

    The archetype of this is Charlize Theron in “North Country” a totally fabricated movie the Democrats like Amy Klobuchar like to say portrays the truth about Minnesota. Charlize, portraying Lois Jenson, was cashing the checks of the miners because she worked at a bank. She saw how much more they made than she did. She decided she’s a miner too (although she’s not) and the rest is history. In truth, putting Lois in that job was done instead of hiring minority men (red, brown or yellow, black or tan) into the steel industry based on an EEOC directive. Klobuchar has no problem with that. But there were no minority men in that movie (or in Class Action, which presented the true facts about the mine), and Jenson became an unproductive worker making too much money because she felt she was entitled to it.

    The moral is, Lois should have stayed in the bank, because that job is the kind of job Minnesota needs to create. All the jobs have to work together to make the economy hum. I think Emmer understands this. Yet, he doesn’t go far enough.

  12. Submitted by Steve Carlson on 08/27/2010 - 12:16 am.

    I think Horner is better because as his budget shows (I think Dayton’s efforts do not, but I’ll study them further), he sees himself as a potential CEO of the state. He’s got to get results. He’s closer to where the governor needs to be during this $6 bill gap because he knows he’s accountable.

    We have the Democrats blaming Republicans for the mess and seeking to maximize entitlements and money for questionable programs. We the Republicans blaming Democrats and trying to maximize tax benefits (and at the federal level government contracts). Each side treats it as a zero sum game in which one of them is the winner and the public is the loser, along with the other side, however temporarily.

    Horner says, I want to be governor because I understand the results we need and I’ll work to build consensus to get us there. Dayton doesn’t do that, and Emmer doesn’t do that. That’s why Horner is waiting for both Dayton and Emmer to bring their documents and put them on the table. And so am I.

  13. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/27/2010 - 08:12 am.

    I keep hearing these Horner people say that Dayton and Emmer NOW need to produce their plans like Horner has. Do they not know that Dayton’s had his plan up on his website for a couple months already?

  14. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 08/27/2010 - 02:09 pm.

    Actually, my favorite old aphorism is this: “When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”

    Our Republican friends have been trying to improve and repair an interlocking, interdependent, interconnected system – the state of Minnesota including government and the private sector – (akin to a major computerized data and operations center) with a tool that’s the economic equivalent of that hammer.

    Of course their ability to understand the system they’re trying to repair is about parallel to the average 80-year-old retired carpenter’s ability to do systemboard-level repair on a laptop computer.

    But if using a hammer is the only thing you can comprehend, what are you gonna do? You’re gonna “fix” that computer by smashing it to bits.

    Their “hammer” is low taxes for the wealthy. Using it has had exactly the same affect as using a hammer to repair everything in that computer center. All they’ve accomplished is smashing up and shutting down more and more of the system. There’s a great deal that doesn’t work anymore (public or private), much of which has yet to be discovered by the general public.

    It’s time to STOP trying to use that hammer to repair high-tech systems and start using tools appropriate to the problems at hand (among which are NOT any kind of income tax cuts at this point).

  15. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 08/27/2010 - 07:35 pm.

    Mr. Carlson states the case quite nicely with regards to Tom Horner.

    The DFL doesn’t want to talk about it when they’re trying to spend more on education and social services. The GOP don’t want to talk about it because that would put tax increases on the table. So you have a bipartisan agreement not to talk about the most important problem facing our state. It’s very difficult for the left and the right to make all sorts of promises that can’t be kept.

  16. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 08/28/2010 - 10:38 am.

    //Horner says, I want to be governor because I understand the results we need and I’ll work to build consensus to get us there.

    I don’t know why people make a big deal out of politicians who talk about consensus. It a non statement. Everything has to pass the legislature, that requires some kind of attempt at consensus- it’s a given. It’s like politicians who talk about efficiency as if someone else is promoting inefficiency. The only ones on the political landscape who seem to think winning an election entitles them to impose their will on the electorate are Republicans like Pawlenty and Emmer.

    Do you really think Mark Dayton, a former senator, doesn’t realize he’s going to have to work the legislature to pass his tax bills? Do you really think he doesn’t realize that’s a consensus process?

    Never trust someone who runs on the bloody obvious as if it’s shrewd insight. And regardless of Horner’s consensus talk, his plan leaves us three billion dollars short. Dayton’s plan get us to within $500 million of a balanced budget.

    What I’m seeing here in terms of Horner support looks like moderate bias, not a real evaluation of the competing plans. Remember, in the real world, the answer is rarely in the “middle”, you either solve a problem or you don’t. If you’ve got one guy who’s telling you the earth is round, another telling you it’s flat the answer isn’t in the middle. If you have one guy telling we’re winning the Viet Nam war and another telling you we’re not, the answer isn’t in the middle. If you have on guy telling you you’re pregnant, and another telling you… you get the idea. It’s like Jim Hightower says, the only thing in the middle of the road is dead armadillos and yellow lines. This middlism is only going to perpetuate a budget crises that’s been ongoing for almost a decade. I don’t think we afford to do that.

  17. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/28/2010 - 01:02 pm.

    Tom Horner has the advantage of not having to worry about being elected and having to live up to his campaign promises.

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