‘All-star’ politicians announcing bipartisan committee to find ‘third way’ to solve Minnesota budget crisis

An all-star group of Minnesota politicians has put together a bipartisan committee that has been charged with rapidly coming up with “a third way” to solve the state’s budget crisis and end the government shutdown.

Former Gov. Arne Carlson, former Vice President Walter Mondale and former U.S. Sen. Dave Durenberger are the movers and shakers behind the committee, which clearly is being formed with the blessing of Gov. Mark Dayton.

The committee will be announced at a Capitol news conference on Tuesday.

Group to include business leaders, finance experts
Members of the committee include a combination of business leaders, former legislators, former government finance officials, as well as current Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter, who was an assistant commissioner under Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Co-chairs of the committee will be former DFL state legislator Wayne Simoneau, who served as commissioner of Employee Relations and later Finance under Gov. Arne Carlson, and former state Sen. Steve Dille of Dassel, a Republican who retired after the 2010 session.

Arne Carlson
Arne Carlson

Other committee members include:

• John Gunyou, city manager of Minnetonka, former Finance commissioner under Carlson and the running mate of Margaret Anderson Kelliher in her unsuccessful bid to be the DFL’s gubernatorial candidate last November;

• Jay Kiedrowski, former Finance commissioner under Gov. Rudy Perpich;

• Former Wells Fargo CEO Jim Campbell; and

• Former Medtronic Vice President Kris Johnson.

Committee told to move fast
The committee has two distinct charges: Move rapidly and don’t be tied to any of the parameters — such as no new taxes and a fourth income-tax tier — that bogged down negotiations and led to the current shutdown.

The Republican legislative leadership was to be informed of the committee’s formation late Monday afternoon.

It’s unknown at this time whether Republican leaders will buy into the idea.

It’s believed that the idea grew out of conversations Dayton had with Carlson and former Republican Gov. Al Quie in recent months. The DFL governor frequently talked to those two in his efforts to find a way to reach agreement with the Republican majority.

Carlson spoke briefly about the work of the committee in a conversation Monday.

Walter Mondale
REUTERS/Mike Segar
Walter Mondale

His hope is that the committee can come up with “a third way” to resolve the dispute.  This third way — which could include everything from budget cuts, to expanding sales taxes to establishing “blink- off” income taxes — might not be popular with either the governor or Republican legislators.

But such ideas, coming from an outside group, might allow both sides “to save face” and get government functioning again.

“We need ideas that are rational to the great middle ground of Minnesotans,” Carlson said.

He said that those involved in the project believe that “all Minnesotans are willing to share” in the process of resolving the deficit problem.

Coming to a rapid resolution is vital, the leaders of this movement believe. Rapid, in this case, means coming up with a framework as soon as Thursday.

Speed, they say, is essential because the government shutdown will not just cause inconvenience but will slow down the state’s economy.

Could state become national test case?
Beyond that, there’s a great concern among many leaders that Minnesota may end up as the “test tube state” in the national budget debate.

Dave Durenberger
Dave Durenberger

Carlson said he and others are concerned that there are national organizations with “bagloads of money” eager to get into the midst of the Minnesota budget debate. That, they believe, would do nothing but raise the level of rhetoric.

Those supporting this committee also hope that it will free up individual members of the Republican caucus and, to a lesser extent, DFL legislators to vote independently of caucus orders.

“All legislators have the obligation to represent their district and the state of Minnesota, not the caucus,” Carlson said.

At this point, the ex-governor said he has had no specific advice to Dayton on how to bring about resolution.

“It’s a bit of pickle,” he said.

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

Comments (35)

  1. Submitted by Sandy Huseby on 07/04/2011 - 09:14 pm.

    Gov Dayton bringing in more grown-ups. More power to ’em. Now we will see if the Republican legislators can rise above their zealotry and petulance.

  2. Submitted by Nathan Roisen on 07/04/2011 - 09:54 pm.

    I hope that this committee offers the face-saving out that ends the stalemate.. The fact that it includes what appears to be a diverse group across a broad political spectrum is a promising sign.

    I fear that the reality is the republican caucus has lurched far enough to the right that even a committee that includes several moderate republicans will be outside the group’s stream of thought. If indeed the committee is the brainchild of that (archlib/biggov/socialist) Gov. Dayton, I can’t help but think that whatever proposals it comes up with will be rejected out of hand.

  3. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 07/04/2011 - 10:26 pm.

    The Republicans have already dismissed these folks out of hand, unfortunately. Arne Carlson is immediately dismissed as a RINO and the others as “over the hill” pols by the dominant right wing of the party.

    It is sad that no obvious compromise is apparent.

    It is becoming more and more likely that the GOP will return to minority status in 2012. In a way this is unfortunate, but the GOP is not leaving the voters a viable option. Voters previously thought that a mixed marriage might lead to reasonable compromise between these two opposing views. Not going to.

    No matter what happens, total tax reform is going to be necessary or we will suffer a long drawn out economic death. Not kidding. We have to start paying attention to folks like Jay Kiedrowski and moving on his past work in this area.

  4. Submitted by Patrick Wells on 07/04/2011 - 10:45 pm.

    Having a bipartisan group of respected leaders suggest answers to the budget impasse is a good idea. Having a shutdown with no answers is a bad idea.

  5. Submitted by Jim Boyd on 07/04/2011 - 11:00 pm.

    After eight years of Tim Pawlenty, what does “compromise” or a “third way” mean? We start off in a deep hole, so if that third way means accepting half or three-quarters of that hole, it’s not worth it. If everything were “even”” then compromise might be possible. But the DFL has just compromised and compromised and compromised us into being a state we no longer recognize. Dayton isn’t asking for the moon; he’s asking for gentle steps to put us on a path to again being the state we were and can be again. Good heads on this committee, but splitting the difference with the GOP is just not good enough for Minnesota any more.

  6. Submitted by Ray Lewis on 07/04/2011 - 11:13 pm.

    Perhaps if more mainstream citizens went to political endorsing caucuses and conventions we would not have the extreme viewpoints that probably don’t represent the majority of people. Or is the role of big money and campaign promises too much at that level, which turns average people away from their role in representative democracy?

  7. Submitted by Nancy Gertner on 07/05/2011 - 07:40 am.

    This provides an interesting opportunity for Legislative Leaders to follow the path of best solutions. Or to follow pied pipers Sutton and Brodkorb and jump off the cliff to political extinction.

  8. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 07/05/2011 - 07:55 am.

    The fact is that there is a 5 billion dollar deficit.

    “Meeting in the middle”, wherever that is, means that people or projects that would have received funding in the previous biennium will not receive funding in the next.

    Dayton’s $1.8 billion compromise means a 10% cut in people or projects not funded next biennium that would have been funded last biennium.

    Needs have increased, costs have increased. It’s not so hard to see that or explain it. The Republican position that anything above the last biennium spending is wasteful or extravagant is the block to settlement.

    There are none so deaf as those who will not hear.

    I don’t think anyone really has a grasp of what the 10% cut within the Dayton compromise position entails, let alone the 15% cut inherent within the Republican position.

    Any agreement at this point means significant pain. Perhaps these “wise men” would be best positioned to explain the drastic nature of the cuts inherent within the Dayton and Republican position.

  9. Submitted by Jeff Michaels on 07/05/2011 - 08:17 am.

    What? No Tom Horner? It is too bad Arne and Dave could not persuade the liberal Republican who created this mess to join them.

  10. Submitted by Bill Coleman on 07/05/2011 - 08:21 am.

    The great political myth of our time is that the DFL has moved to the left. Harry Truman was an advocate for national health care. If the DFL had moved as far to the left as the GOP has moved to the right, the DFL platform might call for the seizing all Target Corp and Cargill assets.

    More people needing health care and education = more money needed! More concentration of income and wealth at the top = more money needed from those at the top!!

    It will be interesting to see what the GOP reaction is to any proposal from this group. It will be a surprise if they are willing to accept any of the recommendations.

  11. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 07/05/2011 - 08:23 am.

    I was just wondering how much the budget of the State grew during the “fiscally conservative” Carlson term?

  12. Submitted by Eric Paul Jacobsen on 07/05/2011 - 08:25 am.

    There is no quick fix to our general malaise. The right-wing noise machine has trained millions of voters, even here in our beloved Minnesota, to tremble in fear that the government has grown too big and will soon swallow up all of our money unless we put it on a crash diet. They are unable to think about the real issues, which are: (1) how the government spends our money (which of course we always get back, in one way or another), and (2) what we receive, in the way of public benefits, for the money the government spends on our behalf.

    If there were a left-wing noise machine with anything like the power of the plutocrats, we’d be hearing the message: “How’s that small government workin’ for ya?” repeated hundreds of times every day, on every private channel, for the entire length of the shut-down. As it is, we’ll more likely be hearing the message: “Told you so. Government can’t do anything right.” And that’s the message that seems true (or at least “truthy”), because that’s the message that has been so often repeated in recent years that in the minds of many media consumers, it feels like common sense.

    Frankly, we need a better-informed electorate, which means that we need better news media. 24-hour soundbite mills are not enough, and it’s not enough for talented liberal commentators to select a few of the most outrageous lies from the onrushing stream for ridicule. We need to get serious about media reform. We need to employ journalists to do research, separate sense from nonsense, and put statistics in a meaningful context. We need to strengthen our public media.

    I like the work that MINNPOST does, but we need more of it. I believe our slow climb out of this swamp of propaganda may take years or even decades, rather than weeks and months. We need to be patient.

  13. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 07/05/2011 - 08:31 am.

    Sorry, but we elected people to do this job.

    This committee is nothing more than a face-saving effort to cover Dayton’s backside.

    Let Dayton explain why he absolutely needs to raise taxes. He’s never even said how he intends to spend that extra money.

  14. Submitted by will lynott on 07/05/2011 - 09:16 am.

    What seems to be lost in the rhetoric we’ve suffered through since February is the apparent republican notion that the biennial budgets extending into the indefinite future must total not more than $34 billion, unless the economy grows and tax collections increase.

    There is, of course, no sign of that happening anytime soon, since what little growth there is appears to be improving the lot of CEOs and executives, not workers. Add to that the fact that their prescription for growing the economy has had 30 years to show results and has failed miserably. Meanwhile, the need for government services will grow, not shrink. Our once exceptional state faces perdition.

  15. Submitted by David Greene on 07/05/2011 - 10:24 am.

    “Former Wells Fargo CEO Jim Campbell; and Former Medtronic Vice President Kris Johnson.”

    That’s it. I’m sick of this. This is the final insult. Why is it that “business leaders” are always afforded a place at the table while ordinary residents have no such place? These people serve on special commissions, on transportation advisory boards, etc. and are making decisions that have tremendous impacts on all Minnesotans.

    Who elected these people?

    When I ask this question of public officials, the answer I usually get is, “well, elected officials represent the residents.” Well, guess what? They also represent the businesses. At least that’s what they tell me when I ask about closing business tax loopholes.

    This is not right.

  16. Submitted by Jerry Lefkowitz on 07/05/2011 - 11:20 am.

    I’m hopeful in the short-term that these 3 intelligent, convivial, experienced minds can help find the missing pieces of the State budget puzzle and get us through the impasse at hand. I’m less hopeful that the solution reached will aim us in a direction that will create a sustainable means of avoiding similar crises in years to come.
    Ultimately, the crux of the crisis is global, (as long as Corporations can continue playing one state against 49 others, and hundreds of other countries, in deciding/leveraging where to locate increasingly transient jobs to maximize profits and attract/retain investors). So, long-term solutions will, in large part, remain in the hands of those who oversee and regulate these matters.

  17. Submitted by Michael Corcoran on 07/05/2011 - 11:38 am.

    This is a bad flashback…go back to the rocking chair boys!

  18. Submitted by Phyllis Kahn on 07/05/2011 - 11:40 am.

    Not a lot of women in these groups.

  19. Submitted by jody rooney on 07/05/2011 - 12:01 pm.

    That’s a pretty respectable group. I wish I could join them.

    Hey I volunteer to be the ordinary citizen. Sixty year old grandmother with 20 years of Federal Government experience as an economist with an MS in applied economics and 5 years of experience on setting up performance measurement (now called outcome measurement) for a $2 billion Federal organization with 1300 employees. Ten years of corporate experience doing strategic business planning and 6 years running my own economic, environmental and planning business.

    I could help I’m a normal citizen.

    Opps I am the same demographic as these guys, well not exactly I am female. Perhaps they could use some diversity.

  20. Submitted by jody rooney on 07/05/2011 - 12:06 pm.

    David Greene re #15. You will not find more civic minded folks than the Campbell brothers and Mr. Johnson. These people are class acts.

    Executives are not the problem here. At least not this class of executives. The pity is that they are few and far between.

  21. Submitted by Scott Stocking on 07/05/2011 - 12:29 pm.

    Mondale, Carlson, Quie, Durenberger. These guys won’t live forever. What will happen when the next budget crisis arises and we have no reasonable, pragmatic elder statesmen (btw, where are the women pols on this commission?) to offer counsel?

    Coleman, Seifert, Pawlenty, Ventura? One shudders at the thought.

  22. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/05/2011 - 12:39 pm.

    Well this is a first, I’m in complete agreement Mr. Tester. None of these people have been elected, or appointed by our elected officials. I think it’s very interesting to see how easily liberals will voluntarily cheer the arrival of Oligarchy. There isn’t one representative of labor or even the middle class on this so-called committee.

    All these folks can do is point out the obvious, the budget that will eventually pass will combine elements of the two existing proposals. This may be helpful in the sense that it will push the Republican towards compromise, but this is not a constitutional or democratic structure… I hate to say it but this is how illegal and criminal regimes come to power.

  23. Submitted by Ginny Martin on 07/05/2011 - 12:40 pm.

    I think it’s a great idea. They are our elder statesmen, the grownups, the people who have served in various political spots and who know a few things. Plus they have a group of people like John Gunyou and Jay Kiedrowski. They may find good and acceptable answers to this problem. The business leaders have to be involved or you’ll never get the conservatives to move.If rationality and common sense doesn’t work, maybe pressure will.
    Quit whining all you. Unless you have a better idea.
    And then we must try to educate the electorate about knowing who they’re voting for. Maybe this shutdown will get their attention.

  24. Submitted by Arnie Hillmann on 07/05/2011 - 12:55 pm.

    THE POSITIVE:

    How wonderful of these powerful people to step up to the plate to help trying to get the job done.

    THE NEGATIVE:

    It’s sad that the people we elected lack the skills to do their job.

  25. Submitted by David Broden on 07/05/2011 - 01:35 pm.

    Once again the State of Minnesota has been served by the leadership of quality Minnesotans–Arne Carlson–Walter Mondale–Dave Durenburer-and Al Quie. Thanks to all of you. The committee list is real qualtiy and results oriented people with depth of understanding and ideas. I will only add a few points for consideration: 1) The recommendations should be based on a short term plan to restart state govenment to serve the people and a longer term plan to force some serious redesign of government process and services–reesign must be part of the picture to prevent this from recurring again and again.. 2) The second is an observation that the bipartisan committee is metro focused- a committee such as this needs representation from across Minnesota.It is not too late to add 2-3 names from greater Minnesota. This will provide balance and it will enable the endosement by all of the citizens of Minnesota. Makiing this a Full Minnesota solution will be very beneficial approach to all involved.

    Dave Broden

  26. Submitted by David LaPorte on 07/05/2011 - 03:03 pm.

    This is a great committee with strong representation from moderate Republicans (an oxymoron these days) and business leaders. It’ll be fascinating to see their recommendations. I expect that they’ll be mainstream and share the pain evenly.

    And I’m just as certain that the Republicans will reject them out of hand. They’re not looking for compromise. It’s their way or the highway.

    But if Dayton accepts the committee’s recommendations (even the parts that he doesn’t like) and the legislature is inflexible, it’ll make it clear to most Minnesotans who the obstacles to progress really are.

    I don’t believe that partisan gridlock is what Minnesotans were asking for in the last election.

  27. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 07/05/2011 - 03:13 pm.

    Jeff (#9) Mr. Horner said on MPR today that he believes raising taxes on the wealthy is a bad idea because they need that money to create jobs. He seems to be living in that parallel universe in which ideas like that are deemed “moderate.”

    David Greene (#15). Yes. Where are seats at the table for those who work for nonprofits or other groups (nurses, nursing homes, providers of care to the elderly and/or disabled) whose patients and clients would be grievously hurt by the proposed cuts, perhaps even by “middle way” cuts. And for the recipients themselves.

    Without the authentic voices of those who will suffer and those who try to help, it’s possible that this commission might be all too willing to “compromise” away essential funding just to get Republican votes.

  28. Submitted by David Greene on 07/05/2011 - 03:35 pm.

    @jody

    “You will not find more civic minded folks than the Campbell brothers and Mr. Johnson.”

    Perhaps not, but I recall Mr. Campbell being particularly against increased funding for public transportation.

    In any event, it does not matter how civic minded these folks are. If they are there with their executive hat on (and they will be), it tilts the discussion far in favor of entities that have too much power already. We’re not here to create a society that works well for corporations. We’re here to create a society that works well for everyone. We can’t do that when some segments of the population are repeatedly shut out of the negotiations.

  29. Submitted by jody rooney on 07/05/2011 - 05:55 pm.

    @David

    I think you will find that Mr. Campbell was one of the first folks to offer funding to Indian Reservations not for casinos but for housing and other economic ventures. He did it for even those communities that did not have casinos. Mr. Johnson will also some good credentials to his credit along those lines.

    I can’t say that I would argue refocusing some of the public transportation dollars certainly away from buses which are an abominable form of transportation. Bring on rail.

    We have a society that works well for corporations and we are not going to get away from that. Nor should we. You are naive to think so. But it probably doesn’t have to work even better for them than it does now particularly using faulty assumptions on what primes business growth and job creation.

    These people were successful leaders and are grown ups something we clearly don’t have now either in government or in many corporations.

    People are always shut out of something David. Not everyone gets to play every game.

  30. Submitted by Judith O'Donnell on 07/05/2011 - 07:15 pm.

    Isn’t Dayton grown up enough to handle the negotiations without having his hand held? None of those on the “committee” were elected by the voters, and therefore should not be representing the voters in the budget discussions. Moreover, why not move along and effect those portions of the budget on which agreement has been reached. Or does Dayton believe that exacerbating the suffering will achieve what he wants, just like a toddler screaming until his/her parents capitulate.

  31. Submitted by NIcole Masika on 07/05/2011 - 08:40 pm.

    @Ray, Dayton was not endorsed by the DFL caucuses, he won the primary without that so one could argue he had the support of more mainstream people

    But you are right that the caucuses attract too narrow a viewpoint. We need the grassroots participation they represent, but how to do it in a less polarizing way?

  32. Submitted by Mary Kay Lundmark on 07/05/2011 - 09:37 pm.

    This is a brilliant idea. These are seasoned public servants who are no longer hamstrung by having to worry about pleasing their parties or contributors, nor about getting re-elected.

    Sad when the officials we elect are incapable of representing our best interests because the system is set up to maintain the status quo rather than to allow any real change.

    So we are turning to former elected officials who are now free of those shackles. We should pay them the salaries of the legislators.

  33. Submitted by C.S. Senne on 07/05/2011 - 10:59 pm.

    Kris Johnson, former Medtronic VP, is a very accomplished business woman. Yes, woman.

  34. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/06/2011 - 08:12 am.

    I am amazed at how eager people seem to be to outsource government to unelected corporate stand-ins. Wells Fargo? The financial collapse called and wants some attention back.

    As a practical matter this idea is completely lame. This committee has no authority, and cannot develop a budget any more reasonable than the ones already proposed. This committee isn’t and can’t actually DO anything. It surprises me to see so many people expressing some kind confidence that this committee will actually produce some kind of results.

    The only interesting thing about this committee and it’s creation is that is signals a sharp break from the ranks of fundamentalist Republicans. It may well signal an organized and concerted effort by actual conservatives to recapture their party. I think the subtext here is that business and big money donors don’t like the Republican party they’ve created. Apparently they can’t control this batch of Republicans, what’s the point of bankrolling them if you can’t control them? I think the business boy may have finally realized that perpetual budget crises is not good for business, and promoting candidates devoted to perpetual crises yields predictable results.

    With any luck someone in the Republican party will realize that this fundamentalism is dead weight dragging them down. They never won elections because they were actually popular. If they have to rely on popularity alone they’re doomed. What we should be doing is figuring how many Republicans need to change their votes here, and how Zeller and Koch can be forced to call a vote once they’ve lost the majority.

    Meanwhile the Democrats need to stick together and hammer away on the long term damage and perpetual crises the Republican budget guarantees.

  35. Submitted by Scott Stocking on 07/06/2011 - 07:34 pm.

    For all the people who are complaining that the people on this commission are not elected:

    Un-elected lobbyists influence and probably write legislation. At least the big names on this commission were elected at some point in their lives.

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