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Do-it-yourself budget plan: Chamber will offer specific cuts in 2011 session

Remember what your frustrated mother used to say? “If I want it done right — I’ll have to do it myself.” That may sum up the next move from Minnesota’s business community after the November election.

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is already planning for the 2011 legislative session with suggestions for trimming government and it’s promising to get specific.

“Truthfully, you will see the Chamber work harder and bringing ideas on how to deal with the budget issue,” said David Olson, president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce (and co-chair of MN Forward, the group independently supporting Tom Emmer’s candidacy). “We will go up and say don’t raise taxes and here’s some ideas on where legislators can look for savings and public sector redesign.”

(Disclosure: I am a partner in a strategic communications firm that has done work for the Chamber in the past, but the Chamber is no longer a client and my firm has not done work for the Chamber for several years.)

We’ll have to wait and see what the Chamber proposes. But if the Chamber wants to balance the budget with cuts alone, those cuts will have to be massive because lawmakers will be confronting a projected $6 billion budget deficit for the upcoming biennium.

Former Gov. Arne Carlson, who inherited a budget shortfall of about 14 percent (compared to this year’s more than 20 percent) and left the state with billions in the black, foresees a nightmare next session.

Muses Olson: “Does anyone want this job?”

Furthermore, any winner will pose a problem for the business bloc. Mark Dayton and Tom Horner are promising the tax increases that business claims are job killers. Tom Emmer has pledged only budget cuts to cover the gap but some question whether he will he be a problem-solver not an ideologue. “Depends,” says Olson. “A governor usually doesn’t solve the problem by himself. There’s the inner circle, commissioners, legislators.”

David Olson
David Olson

Prior to every legislative session, the Chamber identifies policy areas and outlines dozens of initiatives, but this would be the first time it delves into what would be line-item budget detail. Olson says in November the Chamber will take these budget proposals around the state in November, get input from members, then roll out a legislative plan in the following weeks.

Olson pointed out that all three candidates expressed interest in hearing the Chamber’s ideas. They better, according to Carlson. The budget is “a fiscal disgrace, and who is going to pick up the mess — the business community,” he said.

Carlson advises business to come up with another do-it-yourself plan. To avoid divisions in the business community, he suggests that groups like the Minnesota Business Partnership, the Chamber, the Minnesota Realtors, et al., be put under one umbrella — and not only to have a cohesive political front.

“Put together a list of people who can be serious contenders,” said Carlson, who supports Independence Party candidate Tom Horner this year. “Run a candidate that can win and we can coalesce behind.”

Whether business actually puts together its own slate for 2014 is still in a speculative stage, but it’s clear that given the enormous concerns about the outcome of November 2010, lawmakers should prepare for a united, aggressive business front in 2011.

Comments (35)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/08/2010 - 09:46 am.

    It’s about time these people start to flex their muscles, and their brains.

  2. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/08/2010 - 09:46 am.

    The MN Chamber of Commerce has become a branch of the Republican Party. As such they embody the most mediocre, least imaginative, and economically handicapped group of thinkers in the state. The majority of Minnesotan’s have the common sense to realize that balanced budgets are the product of revenue and expenses and favor a combination of targeted cuts and tax increases. Maybe there was a time when this group possessed some kind of expertise but those days a long gone. No real solutions of any kind will emerge from this group of dullards.

  3. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 10/08/2010 - 10:38 am.

    “…flex their ‘muscles’ and their ‘brains’…”

    …but if ‘they’ are one and the same, what’s a poor chamber guy to do?

  4. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/08/2010 - 10:49 am.

    “As such they embody the most mediocre, least imaginative, and economically handicapped group of thinkers in the state…No real solutions of any kind will emerge from this group of dullards.”

    Other than the inconvenient fact that these are the people that *create* the state’s economy, that *really* nailed it.

    Thank God we’ve got scary smart, reality based thinkers to do the heavy lifting.

  5. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 10/08/2010 - 10:59 am.

    So – MinnPost – High Quality Journalism – did you know that Cyndy Brucato is a paid consultant to the Chamber?

  6. Submitted by Matthew Steele on 10/08/2010 - 11:18 am.

    Chamber of Commerce, Hubbard Broadcasting, MN Forward… why bring the political incest here to MinnPost?

    It’s about time businesses pull out of the MN Chamber of Commerce.

  7. Submitted by Roger Buoen on 10/08/2010 - 11:30 am.

    Regarding Rob Levine’s comment: Rob, Thank you, you make an important point. Cyndy’s firm has done work for the Chamber in the past, but no longer has the Chamber as a client. That information should have been disclosed in the original version of this post. We’ve added the disclosure.

  8. Submitted by donald maxwell on 10/08/2010 - 11:51 am.

    “Other than the inconvenient fact that these are the people that *create* the state’s economy, that *really* nailed it.”

    Another statement with no factual basis whatsoever.

  9. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 10/08/2010 - 11:54 am.

    Unfortunately, the Chamber’s political platform seems to consist of “Taxes bad. Corporate welfare good. Programs that help people bad. Stadiums good.”

  10. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 10/08/2010 - 12:00 pm.

    That’s better, but a little bit of a cop out, Roger. It’s not a revolving door anymore – its an evolving door. Brucato moves seamlessly between being TV anchor, politician in the Carlon administration, to consultant, and now to contributor to Minnpost. Who is she really loyal to? It’s hard to know.

  11. Submitted by Elizabeth Halvorson on 10/08/2010 - 12:08 pm.

    I am not happy to see partisan advocates contributing to this paper. By the way, I understand that the Excelsior CoC resigned from the state and national organizations because of their political advocacy. Yeah, Excelsior!!

  12. Submitted by Rebecca Hoover on 10/08/2010 - 12:16 pm.

    What’s with the publishing of PR pieces for the Republicans written by Cyndy Brucato? This is not journalism and it is disappointing to see MinnPost publish this PR.

  13. Submitted by Stephan Flister on 10/08/2010 - 12:37 pm.

    Rob (#10) says “Who is she really loyal to? It’s hard to know. ”

    No, it’s not.

  14. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 10/08/2010 - 12:41 pm.

    You’re right to point out that large amounts of spending won’t get a particular candidate in office, but wrong to conclude that spending has little effect on politics. Spending by interest groups is far more effective in defining the public’s knowledge of certain issues and in defining the debate in which candidates must participate.

    If enough people propound a point a view enough times, people will begin to believe it is true, and the freedom of action of elected figures will be constrained as a result. Psychological research supports the idea that if people hear a lie, even if they are told it is a lie at the time, when they hear the same lie later on in another context, they are likely to believe it is true because they recall hearing the argument previously but, in forgetting the exact details, forgot the detail that the argument was a lie.

  15. Submitted by Douglas Shambo II on 10/08/2010 - 12:45 pm.


    The Chamber of Commerce deciding how to deal with the state budget is a little like the fox telling the farmer how to arrange chickens in the hen house so that the fox can eat them faster.

  16. Submitted by Charles Holtman on 10/08/2010 - 12:47 pm.

    Ms Brucato, a little sleight of hand here, I think: “Furthermore, any winner will pose a problem for the business bloc. Mark Dayton and Tom Horner are promising the tax increases that business claims are job killers.” Business “claims” tax increases (on the upper brackets) are job killers, but of course it is quite clear that they are not. Voila, no problem for the business bloc! The issue is 30 years’ bipartisan movement of wealth out of middle class pockets toward the top. The upper bracket is bathing in cash, but has nowhere to invest it since there’s no one to buy the Model A’s any more. Hence, stagnation. “Re-accessing” that capital and investing it in the ways it is proper for government to do (infrastructure upkeep; green and “new” economy research, development and market support; education and retraining) and is what will create jobs.

  17. Submitted by Arito Moerair on 10/08/2010 - 12:51 pm.

    Taxes don’t kill jobs. I’m really getting tired of that meme, because it’s completely, 100% false. Low demand kills jobs. That is our problem right now, and tax cuts will do nothing to fix it.

  18. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/08/2010 - 12:53 pm.

    “It’s about time businesses pull out of the MN Chamber of Commerce.”

    There appears to be some confusion about what the Chamber of Commerce is, or more properly stated, what it *isn’t*.

    Membership in the CoC is voluntary in every way; in other words, the CoC is not a labor union.

    It’s funny…you’d think that “people that care about Minnesota” would be happy to listen to the people that put their mouths where their payrolls are.

    But maybe I don’t understand what the scary smart, reality based community actually means when it says it “cares”…then again, maybe they don’t.

  19. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 10/08/2010 - 12:57 pm.

    I believe there was a time when the “Chamber of Commerce” was at least as interested in the welfare of the average mainstreet business and manufacturing firm in small towns across the state as it was in the welfare of it’s larger, wealthier business owners and their massive enterprises.

    Those days are LONG gone. At the state level, the “Chamber of Commerce” has morphed into “The Chamber which advocates the maximum state welfare benefits for the FABULUOUSLY Wealthy and Big Business.”

    I feel absolutely safe in predicting that their suggestions to the legislature will be nothing more nor less than suggestions as to how to further enrich our state’s richest citizens while punishing the poor and stripping the middle class of their remaining assets, all couched in terms of creating the fabled “better business climate” (which all these years of experience making the changes they’ve demanded in order to try to do so have proven that the Chamber of Commerce’s idea of the best possible “business climate” results in the worst possible environment in which average citizens can find well-paying jobs with decent benefits.

    For average citizens of Minnesota, the best thing the legislature could do with the State Chamber of Commerce’s suggestions would be to enact exactly the opposite of everything they suggest.

  20. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/08/2010 - 01:17 pm.

    That really should have read

    “It’s funny…you’d think that “people that care about Minnesota” would be happy to listen to the people that put their payrolls where their mouths are.”

  21. Submitted by Rich Crose on 10/08/2010 - 01:25 pm.

    If we let the businesses write the budget we’ll see rivers of toxic red sludge floating down the Mississippi like in Hungary.

    I’m not voting for a business-friendly candidate, I’m voting for a people-friendly candidate.

  22. Submitted by Tommy Johnson on 10/08/2010 - 01:48 pm.

    Everyone knows the CoC is married to the GOP – sometimes even literally.

  23. Submitted by Matthew Steele on 10/08/2010 - 01:49 pm.

    Thomas, I know it’s voluntary. I was suggesting that the extremist views of the Chamber will continue to become more widely known by the public, and when that happens then membership becomes more of a liability to these businesses. At some point, the liability will match the benefit for these businesses to be members, and in that case they will voluntarily cease their memberships.

  24. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 10/08/2010 - 01:51 pm.

    This is why one pays attention to the chamber of commerce. We got exactly the policies it advocated from 2001 to 2008 and look what we ended up with–miserable growth, budgetary profligacy, and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And the Chamber still thinks George W. Bush’s policies are the ones that will restore growth. Is that nuts or what?

  25. Submitted by Brad Robinson on 10/08/2010 - 02:04 pm.

    You’d think the “fiscal disgrace” was brought on by the state government. The fiscal mess, and it is, was brought on by the unemployment of huge numbers of the poor and middle class, and resulting loss of income tax revenue. In addition it was brought on by those same people hit but the downturn needing more assistance. A double whammy on the budget. There was a much bigger picture than the state budget and to forget that is to be just plain… forgetful.

  26. Submitted by Virginia Martin on 10/08/2010 - 03:46 pm.

    When did joining a union become mandatory?
    So, it’s voluntary, so what? How do you like various foreign companies and state-owned businesses contributing to the Chamber and influencing our elections? Including oil-producing states?

  27. Submitted by Beryl John-Knudson on 10/08/2010 - 04:09 pm.

    Stirring the Chamber pot…

    Big political spenders, Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, “an offshoot of American Crossroads”… in-the-family-way or at least,bedfellows?

    Daily Kos covers it in …”Rove’s American Crossroads and the US Chamber of Commerce, “Kissing Cousins” by Jean McCarter.

  28. Submitted by Virginia Martin on 10/08/2010 - 04:11 pm.

    I am disappointed that Brucato is now on the staff. Maybe you thought you needed a right-wing voice. OK, but find one that doesn’t shade and hide the truth, and doesn’t leave out inconvenient truths and do all the things that fox does to present false information. She does have too many obligations to too many right-wing people to be fair.

  29. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 10/08/2010 - 04:35 pm.

    I hope that we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations, which dare to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.

    Thomas Jefferson

    You can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you have to concentrate on.

    George Bush, 2005

    What luck for rulers that men do not think.

    Adolf Hitler

  30. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 10/08/2010 - 05:06 pm.

    Reasonable people, of course, would find a way to combine #19 AND #20. What’s good for “business” isn’t necessarily good for the society as a whole, as we’ve had ample opportunity to observe after 8 years of The Shrub and the accompanying corporate-friendly policies. Note how the “low taxes equals jobs” thing has been working out in recent years. I would certainly be VERY suspicious of a Chamber of Commerce agenda.

    That said, this is one of those rare occasions when Mr. Swift is himself scary smart and reality-based, and he has sort of a point. I might not like what the Chamber had on its budget-balancing agenda, and might not agree with any of it, but it doesn’t make sense to reject it out of hand before it’s even seen the light of day. Big corporations don’t have much interest in the welfare of society, but necessity requires that they have – most of the time – at least SOME interest. After all, unless they deal exclusively in international terms, and especially if the business qualifies as a genuinely “small” one instead of being a corporate giant, some of their figurative neighbors are also potential, or even actual, customers, and even the greediest of CEOs on the C of C board might want to try to avoid alienating the customer base.

    In any case, governmental paralysis is not a grown-up way to deal with financial problems, and none of us is well-served by loud voices on both sides of the aisle doing little else but shouting at each other. If there’s nothing to C of C proposals but lower business taxes, then I’ll know it’s not a serious attempt to deal with the problem, but even in that case, I want to see it first before I make a judgment.

    And some of the commentators need to take a deep breath. I don’t know Ms. Brucato at all, haven’t met her, and given her employment history as listed on the MinnPost site, I’d be surprised to see her write a column in favor of organized labor. More’s the pity, but that doesn’t make her subhuman, nor does it indicate that MinnPost has suddenly begun to worship Rush Limbaugh.


    I’ll expect Ms. Brucato to present a viewpoint with which I’m unlikely to agree very often, if ever, but that simply requires that I keep a few parameters in mind when I see that she’s written a new column. I might be skeptical, but it seems only fair to at least let her state her case, even if it’s from the usually ethically-challenged viewpoint of a PR firm.

  31. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 10/08/2010 - 09:14 pm.

    Very thoughtful comment, Ray. As are many of the other comments here. I think it’s correct that whomever becomes Governor is going to have a hard time because these are hard times. But while it goes without saying that the Chamber of Commerce will be heard (which is not the case with many of the unfortunates in our society), the history of this country shows that business is often run by people who the poorest judgment of their own self interest, let alone society’s. What’s happening now with the finance industry is an example of an entire industry which just don’t understand that it’s possible to be too greedy even for its own own good.

  32. Submitted by Joe Musich on 10/08/2010 - 10:51 pm.

    One has to wonder that the lack of investment into jobs by by businesses with historic profits is not a calculated action. Collution is always difficult to uncover but the huge investment of dollars into this years political campaign under the cover of the Citizens United decision certainly look like if it walks like a duck. Doesn’t that call for some sort of investigation ? Oh yea unions can compete dollar for dollar with corporations. Let’s be honest here. No disclaimers needed. Checkout the cover of this weeks Onion where truth is often more accurate then fiction.

  33. Submitted by Harris Goldstein on 10/09/2010 - 08:57 am.

    Actually, I think this is positive.

    I’m tired of individuals and organizations making broad, general statements (on both ends of the political spectrum) but hiding the ugly details.

    Let’s get their (CoC) plan out on the table with all the specifics.

  34. Submitted by William Pappas on 10/09/2010 - 09:21 am.

    Anything the Chamber comes up with will be entirely inadequate to deal with a budget deficit of this magnitude and will be born of their need to pimp for multi nationals and big business. As has been repeatedly pointed out the services that would have to be greatly reduced to significantly effect this deficit would have to include police, fire, education, health and retirement benefits. Won’t that help all those small businesses the Chamber claims to represent. Taxes are at an all time low. Wealth is concentrated in an unprecedented amount in the upper class. The middle class has been so destroyed by these two trends they are unable to participate in the recovery. By all means lets enact regressive taxes, cut more services that benefit the middle class, give more tax breaks to the wealthy just like we have been for the last ten years to fix what those very policies have wrought. Are we collectively that dumb?

  35. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 10/09/2010 - 12:51 pm.

    “Oh yea unions can compete dollar for dollar with corporations. Let’s be honest here. No disclaimers needed.”

    No disclaimers up my sleeve:

    “So far in 2010 Education Minnesota has outspent the business group nearly seven to one, spending more than $1.29 million to influence the outcome of all kinds of elections, versus expenditures by the chamber of $187,000.”

    Doesn’t that call for some sort of investigation? Operators are standing by right now!

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