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Why Dayton’s veto threat may pose problems — for Dayton

MinnPost photo by Briana Bierschbach
Gov. Mark Dayton wants what he wants — and if he doesn’t get $173 million for his pre-kindergarten program for the state’s four-year-old children, he’s going to veto an entire education bill.

Gov. Mark Dayton has long been fond of a particular saying: “The governor proposes and the Legislature disposes.’’ He’s also frequently mentioned that he placed a sign in his office that was once in the office of his mentor, Gov. Rudy Perpich: “None of us is as smart as all of us.”

But apparently in these last few hours of the legislative session, Dayton has forgotten about this burdensome process and consensus stuff. He is, after all, “unbound.” He wants what he wants — and if he doesn’t get $173 million for his pre-kindergarten program for the state’s 4-year-old children, he’s going to veto an entire education bill. (The figure means the pre-K program would be run on a half-day basis for the school districts who choose to be involved.)

Dayton’s veto vow comes despite the fact that the Legislature has had little time to digest this major education initiative. And he’s making the vow despite the fact that it’s not just Republican legislators who are saying “no,” but many school administrators, who are cool to an idea that would not only be very costly but has raised other questions about its value. Even early-childhood advocates question whether a “one-size-fits-all” public school pre-K program is good policy.

The simple reality is that Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and House Speaker Kurt Daudt came up with a compromise plan they both could endorse that would put an additional $400 million into the K-12 funding formula. It’s not as much as DFLers wanted, but it’s more than Republicans wanted to spend.

The governor has said “no” — repeatedly — unless he gets his pre-K money.

Now, even Bakk is calling Dayton’s veto pledge “risky.’’ The obvious risk is to school districts, which are saying that even with the additional $400 million included in the current deal, they will have to cut programs and lay off staff. Without that $400 million infusion, there will be cuts deeply felt by every school district in the state.

That means there will be political fallout. If the veto happens, there could also be chaos. Administration officials say a veto could mean a shutdown of the Minnesota Department of Education, which would halt teacher licensing and, of course, mean no added funds to the formula going out to cash-strapped districts. 

Dayton believes that Republicans will take the heat for the mess. Republicans, of course, believe it will be Dayton and DFLers. But what matters to politicians in the hothouse environment of the Legislature — who takes the blame for what — often doesn’t matter much to people just want to live their lives, i.e. voters, especially when the issue is education. 

In a statement, education committee chair Sen. Chuck Wiger, DFL-Maplewood, sort of defended the governor, but he also made it clear that he believes the legislative process sort of worked. “While I promise to keep on fighting for greater early-education funding, K-12 schools across the state can look forward to another two years of growth and success, rather than facing cuts,” Wiger said.

Dayton isn’t the first governor to go into a public pout when he doesn’t get his way. His predecessor, Tim Pawlenty, a Republican who dealt with DFL majorities in both the House and Senate, tried to get everything he wanted using an unallotment process that the state’s Supreme Court ultimately decided was unconstitutional. And Jesse Ventura, Arne Carlson and Perpich were all capable of snits and bullying when their brilliance was questioned.  

But this feels different. For starters, during his first term, Dayton often seemed like the adult in the room. On this issue, he sounds more like the cantankerous old pol who believes he’s right, and that anybody who opposes him is not just wrong, but morally suspect: opposed to sunshine, puppies and Minnesota children.

“I’m going to veto $400 million because it’s wrong for the people of Minnesota, the parents of Minnesota and the school children of Minnesota,” he said at one point in this mini drama. Of his opponents on the matter, he railed: “I don’t know how they can look at themselves in the mirror.”

Apparently, somebody must have misplaced his “None of us is as smart as all of us” sign during Capitol renovation. 

It wasn’t that long ago that Dayton successfully pushed for legislation that has brought all-day kindergarten to Minnesota. This was a big change in how we school our kids.

Now, even as the state copes with that change, he’s back again, demanding an even more dramatic change. Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, is both amazed and miffed by the governor’s demand.

“Last year, he got all-day kindergarten,” Davids said. “Now he wants pre-K for 4-year-olds. Then, he’ll come back for 3-year-olds, 2-year-olds. Pretty soon he’s just going to want to back the school bus up to the maternity wards.”

If there was universal agreement that six hours a day of pre-K schooling would close the massive gap in achievement between white and minority students in Minnesota, perhaps the governor’s demand would be understandable. But there is not universal belief among early-childhood experts that it would.

The current pre-K system isn’t a system at all. But then 4-year-olds are not exactly ready to be systemized. Some are big toddlers, some are relatively mature, some still need help in the bathroom. A few are reading, but some are still sucking their thumbs. The marketplace, to use a term that Republicans love, offers as many types of systems as there are pre-K kids. 

Obviously, many of those choices are costly, but the state has a nationally-lauded pre-K scholarship program for children of low-income families. Legislators of both parties support the program, which advocates say will offer 45,000 children scholarships in the coming year. 

Dayton deserves credit for working with legislators to establish that flexible program, which gives parents a choice in which type — if any — pre-K school is right for their kid.

That was then. This time, he’s on his own.  

Comments (65)

  1. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/18/2015 - 10:11 am.

    A couple of things

    Well, all of this is kind of weird. I don’t claim to be any kind of insider exactly, but I am involved in school issues, and have been involved in DFL politics a little is more than most, and here are some of my thoughts, for whatever they are worth. It’s a mistake, I believe, to think of the governor as acting as a politician or in political terms. He isn’t now, and never has been close to the DFL party itself. He doesn’t define himself in political terms, nor does it seem to occur to re gard a deal that secures passage in a legislative as inherently successful. I believe, and this is without any personal knowledge of him at all, that the governor sees this as one of the rare moments in which it is possible to do what he sees as right, not just what is politically viable.

    A lot of what I see in Mr. Grow’s piece are examples of St. Paul oriented thinking, the reverence to arguments that make sense only to politicians. There is the slippery slope thinking. There are the references to the ancient governors of the past. There is the allusion to the achievement gap, with it’s implicit assumption that the job of our schools is to reduce the testing gap between white and minority students, when it’s perhaps Gov. Dayton’s goal to improve the education all our kids. There is the political incrementalism, the belief in the power of compromise, that if we can only make things a little better, that’s enough for now.

    Well, for better or worse, Governor Dayton isn’t buying into the politics solution, the St. Paul solution, the solution that quite frankly would make my life easier next year solution. At least now for now. The tech types speak in glowing and fearful terms of disruption. Gov. Dayton is imposing the disruptive solution. It should be interesting to see if he succeeds or if he backs down.

  2. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/18/2015 - 10:52 am.

    “None of us is as smart as all of us.”

    What do we really know about consensus solutions? Do we really agree on them because we believe they are the smartest solutions? Or do we agree on them simply because they are the easiest ones to enact? Governor Dayton, rightly or wrongly, is saying that universal pre-K is the right policy for our kids, even if it isn’t the right policy for legislative equanimity. He is suggesting that the education policy choices we make for our kids should not be influenced by the fact that we are disconnecting the voting board tomorrow.

    It’s easy to delay choices. The Minnesota legislature has done that year after year, decade after decade. But those decisions to put off decisions have real world consequences, and they are permanent and irreversible. Those of us who are involved in the legislative process have gotten very used to the notion that well, if we can’t solve it this year, we can solve it next year or next session, but that just doesn’t work in the real world of our kids and how we teach them. We have very narrow, exceedingly narrow windows of opportunity to teach our kids. In the real world, if we don’t teach our youngest elementary kids how to read this year, we know it’s going to more difficult to teach them next year, and maybe impossible to teach them the year after that. We must never lose sight that supposedly temporary legislative decisions made for reasons having nothing to do with the policy which they are intended are in fact permanent, and they involve missing opportunities that will never come back.

  3. Submitted by Lora Jones on 05/18/2015 - 10:56 am.

    The biggest problem with the “compromise”

    is that, as has been pointed out elsewhere but not here, this level of funding leaves $1 billion on the bottom line. If I were Dayton, I’d be angry, too — particularly as 1) he’s made it clear all session that this is one of the things he wants; 2) given that, I don’t buy that “legislators haven’t had time to digest” the proposal; and 3) this appears to be a blatantly political move on the part of republicans to “reserve” some money for the egregious property tax giveaway to 1,000 Minnesota individuals and companies that is certain to blow a hole in the budget for years to come, because the $75 dollars they proposed to give back to average Minnesotans sunsets after 2 years, but the big bucks going to the richest few just keep on going ad infinitum.

    • Submitted by Jared Schei on 05/18/2015 - 11:49 am.

      and you are assuming…

      that universal pre-k won’t blow a giant hole in the budget? The cost today is the tip of the iceberg. The program will only get more expensive, and what is the plan to fund the program during the next recession when the state is looking at budget deficits again?

      The blatant political move is Dayton acting more like the CEO of Education MN looking to boost the union ranks and less like the chief executive of the state.

      A common sense approach is to expand the current scholarship program so the funding gets to those that need it the most. There is no reason for the state to fund pre-k for my daughter since we can afford to pay for it. Help those that need it; no one has shown why the state needs to fund pre-k for families that are already paying for it.

      The governor is threatening to veto a $400 million increase in education funding that was passed on a bipartisan basis. The pre-k bill didn’t even get passed out of the house or the senate, so his own party doesn’t agree with his position.

      I say all of this as someone that voted for Dayton in the last two elections. I’m not advocating for huge tax increases, but I think we need to be wise about adding huge expensive programs since we won’t always have a $2 billion surplus.

  4. Submitted by Karen Kormann on 05/18/2015 - 11:34 am.

    Late night meetings….

    In an email addressed to the Mn. legislature late last night, (from at least 18 state and regional civic
    and environmental organizations) I received several pieces of
    disturbing information regarding changes being made to legislation during secret, late-night
    meetings of various legislative committees. These were transparent only in the sense
    that corporations are beoming more transparent in their secretive lobbying efforts.

    One item rolled back an important beginning for pollinator protection; another essentially
    gives a safety go-ahead to Polymet. A third demolishes public input and access to the
    MPCS by ABOLISHING the Citizens Advisory Board! These moves had not been made
    public previously, and with the closing of the session tonite, imply a fast move to
    save the corporate interests without any public input.

    Yes, I am concerned about the schools, but precisely because of children, I and others have,
    at this time, more concern about corporate power, food supply, protection of water.

    Gov. Dayton addressed these environmental issues consistently, and we were gladdened.
    What dark deals went on Saturday night, and why haven’t they received more and more
    thorough coverage?

    The tone of this article is meant to discredit Dayton. Rue the day we lose him to
    the powers that do great damage at our expense.

    • Submitted by Bill Willy on 05/18/2015 - 04:27 pm.

      House File 486

      You’re 100% correct about the middle of the night stuff.

      The particular bill you’re referring to is House File 846, the “Omnibus environment and natural resources finance bill.”

      Some of the concerns mentioned in the email you got are being discussed on the floor of the House right now (it’s been going on a couple of hours). Several Democrats are raising concerns, including the elimination of the MPCA Citizen’s Advisory Board, weakening of several water quality provisions related to agriculture, weakening of “pollinator protections,” and several others. In a nutshell, the “allegations” are that agricultural interest’s provisions in the bill have been favored to the detriment of the environmental provisions.

      There has also been a lot of talk about things that were IN the bill when it left the House that were either changed or taken out in conference committee (in the middle of the night without any public scrutiny).

      Whatever the case, the bill will pass the Republican House and be sent to the Governor. If you and the folks that sent you the email (and people they know that feel the same way) would like to contact the Governor to let him know about your specific concerns and/or to encourage him to veto the bill for those, and his own, reasons (very weak, watered-down “buffer” provisions, for example), let them know that can be done by going here…

      … and choosing the best method of doing so. (He has three days sign or veto the bills he’s sent).

      Another similar bill to watch out for is Senate File SF 2101, the “Omnibus agriculture, environment, natural resources, jobs, and economic development appropriations” bill:

      I don’t know where that one’s at right now, but I THINK it will be heard (for final passage) sometime between now and midnight in the Senate (if it hasn’t been already which I don’t believe it has because of the same “middle of the night stuff”) but it MAY be worse that HF 846 because it contains the ALEC-funded and pushed “Pat Garofalo House omnibus environment and affordable energy” bill that’s LOADED with all kinds of toxic environmental policy provisions geared to promote coal, nuclear and general repeal of Minnesota’s environmental standards and progress.

  5. Submitted by Sandra Nelson on 05/18/2015 - 11:36 am.

    Pre-K Puzzle

    I am a supporter of education funding but frankly, I don’t get the Governor’s obsession with universal pre-K. If the state already has a pre-K scholarship program for low-income children, what is he trying to accomplish? State funding of pre-K for affluent families, too? In a Star Tribune story this morning, the Governor said that Minnesotans would take his side. I called the Governor’s comment line several times this morning to respectfully disagree. No answer.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/18/2015 - 02:56 pm.

      Possible answer

      Making pre-K a universal program could be a way of building future support for it. History shows that programs targeted to the disadvantaged have a weak constituency. Programs that benefit the middle class and above will have stronger support, and are less vulnerable to budget cutting.

      Medicare is a good example of this. It is available to all seniors. If there were a means test, you can bet that the Tea Party would not be demanding that the government keep its hands off their Medicare.

      • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 05/18/2015 - 03:24 pm.

        Very good point

        By building a program that benefits not only people who are marginalized, but one that benefits the sacred “middle class” as well, it builds in public support protection for the program. The important part of this is that, no matter what happens to the “middle class”, providing pre-K education to all kids will support middle class kids and poor kids.

        After all, the “middle class” is not terribly strong these days, and most middle class families are just one bad year away from being poor. And, sure, a “middle class” family can more likely afford pre-K than a poor family, but being something more than poor removes your eligibility from lots of support while not necessarily increasing your income enough to pay for those things outright.

        Besides, there’s more to learning than just “ABC’s.” Children learn as much from each other as they do from their teachers at that age. Encouraging more kids to participate in the program will support those kinds of learnings, as well.

      • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 05/18/2015 - 06:27 pm.

        There is a “means test”

        in that the premiums are higher for higher-income people. But it’s an insurance program that people pay for. It’s not welfare.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 05/19/2015 - 09:23 am.


          Medicare premiums are based on income, but it still is a program open to all. If it were in fact limited to poor people–welfare, as you put it–it would not be the political third-rail that it is now.

    • Submitted by Tom Knisely on 05/18/2015 - 11:56 pm.

      Why Universal Pre-K

      “what is he trying to accomplish?”

      Simple, by holding out for Universal Pre-k he will kill the scholarship program and ensure that all new funding is funneled through public schools and hence fund teacher union jobs. The innovative, targeted, helping kids in need, scholarship program that’s already working? He’s not interested in that, because this isn’t about the kids for him, or the achievement gap. It’s all about paying back the union.

      Ask yourself this. Why are we going to spend millions upon millions so rich kids in Edina and Minnetonka can get free Pre-k? The answer? So we can fund more union jobs. It’s really that simple and anyone who didn’t see that coming wasn’t paying attention.

  6. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/18/2015 - 11:57 am.

    “The biggest problem with the “compromise” new

    is that, as has been pointed out elsewhere but not here, this level of funding leaves $1 billion on the bottom line.?”

    Dayton would argue that the biggest problem with compromise is that it doesn’t satisfy the educational needs of our children. The point of government, one might argue, is to respond to the needs and concerns of the citizenry, nor to deliver a balanced budget. There are kids living today, assuming no all consuming environmental or man made catastrophes who will be living in the 22nd century. The decisions made this day by this legislature will have impact on those children all of their lives. When the year 2200 rolls around, will any of those elderly Minnesotans be saying to themselves, “Too bad I never learned to read, but at least the state budget was balanced 85 years ago.”

  7. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 05/18/2015 - 11:59 am.

    I confess to some ambivalence

    I’m inclined to agree with Doug Grow about how this “feels”: “…On this issue, he sounds more like the cantankerous old pol who believes he’s right, and that anybody who opposes him is not just wrong, but morally suspect: opposed to sunshine, puppies and Minnesota children.” It does feel somewhat like a gubernatorial temper tantrum, and I agree with Grow that there’s potential here for blowback, and a blot on the record of a remarkably (up to now) popular and, in my view, sensible Governor.

    However, having kept up with education issues reasonably well in retirement from the classroom, I’m well aware that pre-K, and even primary-grade enhancements provide us with the most bang for the taxpayer buck spent, and not just by a sizable margin, but in a way that likely will benefit most those little kids that *need* the benefit the most, though I think it will be quite worthwhile for every 4-year-old. The positives that come out of this seem to me likely to be of benefit to Minnesota for years to come. Those 4-year-olds are going to grow up to be 24 and 44-year-olds eventually, and frankly, I want my grandchildren (who fall into that age group) to be surrounded by relatively educated, literate, civilized human beings, even if I’m not around to see it.

    There does seem to be some confusion and, if you will, lack of focus regarding the specifics of just what those 4-year-olds are going to experience. Even with that, however, I’m inclined to agree with Lora Jones regarding the legislature having had time to digest the proposal. It predates the start of the legislative session 5 months ago. Do your homework, folks, instead of using “I didn’t have time” as an excuse.

    In ordinary circumstances, I’d probably be inclined to accept the legislature’s compromise solution without complaint. These are not ordinary circumstances. Leaving a billion dollars on the table rather than fund the Governor’s proposal strikes me as beyond cynical, and yet more evidence that the GOP is, as others have said, hostile to government spending in any form, no matter how admirable the justification. It’s a position that smacks of ideology, not governance.

    For what it’s worth, I also think Hiram Foster is right on target in the 2nd paragraph of his 10:52 AM comment. It’s easy to delay choice and action. Too easy. Windows of opportunity like a $2 billion surplus do not come along on a frequent and regular basis. We – as in, Minnesota and its legislature – have an opportunity here to do something that might even be called “bold,” and in a very positive sense. We could begin to make real progress against a stubborn achievement gap, and perhaps show the rest of the country at least one way to do so. I would not like to see this rare opportunity slip away in the guise of “reasonable compromise.”

    I can’t say I like the Governor’s tone very much, but I also don’t much care for tax breaks when we have a surplus. Minnesota has dozens, maybe hundreds, of problems, from underfunded transportation to water quality to energy, that need to be dealt with, and almost none of those solutions are free. To talk of tax breaks in these circumstances is, frankly, irresponsible.

  8. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/18/2015 - 12:22 pm.

    What’s he doing?

    “If the state already has a pre-K scholarship program for low-income children, what is he trying to accomplish?”

    I haven’t really reached any firm conclusion on the policy merits of what the governor is proposing. I have simply been engaging in groundless speculation on his motivation. My guess is what the governor would say, and probably has said, is that our schools aren’t just there for some of the kids, they are there for all of the kids. More glibly, all kids are low income kids, unless they have jobs on sit-coms. For a lot of reasons, the distinction we make between low-income and other kids is arbitrary, and in educational terms very hard to defend. That’s from the governor’s perspective. A moment ago, I just received an email from my friends in the Republican Party informing me, basically, that Dayton was doing this because he hasn’t delivered anything to the teachers’ union this session and this pre-K initiative is his last chance. Unfortunately, the governor doesn’t confide in me, so I don’t know what’s in his heart and/or soul, and maybe there is a grain of truth in what my Republican friends are saying. I can tell you for a fact that what teachers say has an impact on my thinking, and I don’t know if there is anything terribly wrong about that.

    “State funding of pre-K for affluent families, too?”

    Yup. And this is certainly an area of intense and reasonable dispute. Art Rolnick, a very respected voice in these matters suggests we should target the money. Art’s an economics guy, and tends to see the world in economic terms, in this case, emphasizing the concept of efficiency. And his view as his merits, but again, will any of us looking back on our lives take comfort in the idea that although we might have gotten a lousy education, at least it was delivered to us efficiently? Like a lot of what the government does, education is provided to us with extreme inefficiency. If it weren’t, maybe the private sector would deliver more of it.

  9. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 05/18/2015 - 12:42 pm.

    Who gets what

    When a government devolves from its constitutional role of preserving and protecting your constitutional rights to one of simply collecting and spending taxpayer money, this is the result that you can expect as every legislative session boils down to a scramble for who gets what.

    We haven’t even had a debate about whether pre-K education for 3-4 year olds is even a good idea. There’s evidence that not only do any benefits that may be gained dissipate after 3-4 years but that early focus on academic skills may be counterproductive!

    But in the more important contest to determine who won and who lost, things like whether or not an idea is even worthy of consideration gets lost in the shuffle.

    • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/18/2015 - 02:20 pm.

      Constitutional rights.

      “When a government devolves from its constitutional role of preserving and protecting your constitutional rights to one of simply collecting and spending taxpayer money, this is the result that you can expect as every legislative session boils down to a scramble for who gets what.”

      Actually government has relatively little to do with preserving and protecting anyone’s constitutional rights. The fact is, the federal constitution as originally enacted, came under withering criticism immediately after it was proposed for containing few if any references at all to anyone’s constitutional rights. They remain pretty much of an afterthought.

      I don’t have a really settled opinion on the actual merits of the governor’s position. I tend to reflect the views of the people I hang out with, and the people I hang out with are union types, administrative types, and legislator types, all from a DFL perspective. The union types want all day pre K, but my impression is, are not fanatical on the subject. The administrative types are content with scholarships and are a bit intimidated by the prospect of providing universal pre K. The legislative types are not adverse to it, but would be content with phasing it in, rather going in all at once. As you might see, all these mild conflicts leave me in something of a quandary with respect to the actual substance of the dispute. Since I don’t hang out with the governor, I don’t reflect his views very much.

    • Submitted by John Ellenbecker on 05/18/2015 - 07:30 pm.

      Minnesota Constitution

      I primary function of state government in Minnesota – as per the Minnesota Constitution – “The stability of a republican form of government depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people, it is the duty of the legislature to establish a general and uniform system of public schools. The legislature shall make such provisions by taxation or otherwise as will secure a thorough and efficient system of public schools throughout the state.” Please not the words “duty” and “shall.” Also please not that public schools aren’t defined as K-12. Quality early childhood education is about “the intelligence of the people” – it is about assisting brain development during a critical time of brain development for the human body – which has a very important impact on that child’s success in the future. That first phase of brain development doesn’t get a do over. That is why this is such an important issue.

      • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 05/19/2015 - 07:56 am.

        The government’s role in public education

        Has nothing to do with “brain development.”

        The Founding Fathers recognized that a democracy would not survive without an informed citizenry. And we’re seeing their concerns come to pass.

        • Submitted by John Ellenbecker on 05/19/2015 - 12:52 pm.

          The science of brain development is very real

          It gets really tiring to hear from so many people who simply want to ignore or deny the very real world of science. Quality early childhood education has the very real science of brain development behind it. Our brains don’t come pre-programmed – they develop over time – and the first six years are a critical time in brain development. I would hope that we would all want every child in Minnesota to have the opportunity to develop their brain in an environment that is designed to give them the best opportunity in the future.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/19/2015 - 09:09 am.

        Thanks John

        It get’s tedious when people who don’t understand our constitution or the function of our government issue proclamations and advice regarding the “government”. The difference between ideological fantasy and recorded history escapes some people.

  10. Submitted by Michael Hess on 05/18/2015 - 12:59 pm.

    If He would listen….

    While there is not universal agreement that universal Pre-K would be an educational panacea for the state, the evidence is stronger that targeted pre-K for the youth at risk does have benefit. However Dayton has 100% rejected this notion of expanding the scholarship and other targeted programs in demanding universal preschool or veto.

    He WOULD probably have more of the citizens on his side if he’d focus on those at risk youth but right now his demands seem as focused on creating thousands of new union jobs as they are educationally minded.

    And for those who are focused on the $1B left “on the table” remember that’s part of a current surplus and who knows if tax revenue will drop in the future? This Universal pre-K program was part of Dayons’ proposal to commit in perpetuity to spending almost every dollar of the current budget surplus when there is in in fact no guarantee these level of tax revenues will continue.

    You can’t just turn on and off an entire educational grade, the Legislature is wise to go slow here, Dayton would be wise to listen to the experts in the room and town down his “Unbound” persona.

  11. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 05/18/2015 - 01:05 pm.

    Dayton is right on this issue

    It isn’t that Dayton hasn’t been totally clear from Day 1 of the session that this is his most important priority and why he feels this way. The Legislature can pretend his veto power doesn’t matter and it might “cause problems” but if someone doesn’t speak up for our youngest residents, we will see another generation in which primary and secondary schools are unable to undo the huge disadvantage that poor children are born with in our society.

    The have-have not thing starts at birth and if poor kids aren’t as ready for school as their more affluent contemporaries, they will remain permanent behind for a lifetime. Dayton is trying to break down the traditional paradigm that we get serious about educating all our children at kindergarten, when so much potential is lost before that time. So much easier just to spend more per student later rather than venture into unknown territory we don’t know.

    The same lame excuses for inaction were given before we funded full-day kindergarten. Did that break the bank? No. Does it help with the disparity issue? Yes. Is it enough? Definitely not. Does Minnesota want to be best state in the country in terms of educating all our children? I say yes. Will we regret making the effort? Definitely not. Will life in the state be better in 20 years if we do this,in terms of fewer school drops outs and fewer poor kids in jail? Absolutely.

    People like Mr. Grow need to grow up and stop being conventional thinkers. Dayton has a point and if we don’t listen, when these problems persist, don’t be surprised. What we do for children age 0-4 is absolutely our most important responsibility, because they are totally dependent on us. They have nothing to say about where they are born and how they are treated. We must not stifle their potential through penny wise, pound foolish thinking.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 05/18/2015 - 01:36 pm.

      Your assumptions are incorrect, sir

      “A follow-up study of children who began school at age 4 (referred to as Year 1 in this study) was conducted to examine the influence of three different preschool models on later school success. These children from an urban school district were studied again in Year 5 as they prepared to leave the primary grades and in Year 6 when they were scheduled to enter fourth grade if not previously retained.

      The study examined report card grades, retention rates, and special education placement of 160 children at the end of their fifth year in school and 183 children at the end of their sixth year in school. The sample was 96% African American and 54% female, with 75% of the children qualifying for subsidized school lunch and 73% living in single-parent families.

      Academically, girls surpassed boys at the end of Year 5, and this difference persisted into the next grade level. Children whose preschool experience was more academically directed had been retained less often than peers. No differences attributable to preschool model were found for special education placement.

      By the end of children’s fifth year in school, there were no significant differences in academic performance of children who had experienced three different preschool models.

      By the end of their sixth year in school, children whose preschool experiences had been academically directed earned significantly lower grades compared to children who had attended child-initiated preschool classes.

      Children’s later school success appears to have been enhanced by more active, child-initiated early learning experiences. Their progress may have been slowed by overly academic preschool experiences that introduced formalized learning experiences too early for most children’s developmental status. ”

      • Submitted by Dan Landherr on 05/18/2015 - 02:32 pm.

        Notice there is no control group

        The study you cite is discussing the gains from different types of preschool teaching methods. There is nothing there about children who didn’t attend preschool at all.

        • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 05/18/2015 - 06:30 pm.

          The type of preschool Dayton wants

          is the type with an academic skills focus, which of course is the worst possible type according to the studies. But teachers pay more union dues than do daycare workers, so there’s your reason.

        • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 05/18/2015 - 07:22 pm.

          They’re all around you

          Pretty much anyone over 40 probably didn’t attend preschool. They’re also probably the ones who passed the legislation that the Governor will veto. I’m not sure if the Governor attended preschool, he might even pre-date kindergarten in many districts.

    • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 05/18/2015 - 07:19 pm.

      Check with your local school board

      “The same lame excuses for inaction were given before we funded full-day kindergarten. Did that break the bank? No.”

      It has only been one year (and apparently you have all the data, we’d like to see it) and there are still districts trying to figure out where to house the extra students (the State doesn’t pay for buildings) and how to afford the teachers. There will be teachers layoffs for the coming school year and All Day Kindergarten is one of the causes.

      Once the Governor’s program starts, it has to be funded–every year.

  12. Submitted by Bill Willy on 05/18/2015 - 03:30 pm.

    In his own words

    Just to include some of the Governor’s own words, here’s some of what he had to say just this morning. I suppose some will think he’s lying, but to me it sounds pretty close to what Hiram’s been saying:

    “I’m doing what I believe is the best for Minnesota. Again, this is not about who gets wins and losses – and gets their number one priority or anything else. This is about what’s right for Minnesota. This is what’s best for people who have got to drink the water. Right now, it’s declining in quality all over the state as both the Department of Health and Pollution Control Agency have documented in the last couple weeks.

    “This is about four-year-olds and their parents and giving them a better chance in life. And giving kids from disadvantaged backgrounds a chance in life. That’s what I’m fighting for. I’m fighting for the kids of Minnesota. I’m fighting for the parents of Minnesota. I’m fighting for the parents of those kids. I’m fighting for the people who need to drink quality water and think they are but will be horribly shocked that they’re not. That’s what I’m fighting for.

    “My wins and losses are not important to me anymore. Doing what’s right for Minnesota is what’s important to me. I’m not running again. I’m not here to win or lose political points for myself. I’m here to win for people of Minnesota.”

  13. Submitted by Logan Foreman on 05/18/2015 - 04:03 pm.

    The scholarship program is

    Essentially a voucher system according to my info. I’m interested in funding public education, not religious schools or private schools. If we go the voucher way, then tax payers without kids in school pay NOTHING in property taxes for schools.

  14. Submitted by Logan Foreman on 05/18/2015 - 04:10 pm.

    Tells about the present “scholarship program”

    Which I understand is a pure voucher system. Unconstitutional per se.

  15. Submitted by John Ellenbecker on 05/18/2015 - 07:18 pm.

    Maybe – just maybe – the spending is worth it.

    Quality early childhood education programs have been subjected to serious study – and they have teh potential to have significant positive impact on brain development during the formative years of brain development. We each only get one chance at brain development – why should we be leaving this years kids behind? Those of us who have had the financial ability to put our kids in quality early childhood programs know the benefits that those programs afforded our kids. Time to open that advantage to every kid in Minnesota. The Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank – hardly an advocate for liberal free spending – has determined that the benefits of quality early childhood education programs far exceed the cost and has been a strong advocate for these programs.

  16. Submitted by Cyndi Cunningham on 05/18/2015 - 07:36 pm.

    pre-k school based education

    the answer to why Gov Dayton is so hooked on universal pre-k is that he is answering to the President, not the people of Minnesota. The Commissioner stated on Feb 19 at the presentation of the Gov’s proposed budget that president Obama has asked the Governor’s of the nation to set and fund universal pre-k programs. The President knows that there is not enough money at the Federal level to fund his universal pre-k proposals, so he needs the states to do their part. We need a Governor to do what the people want, not the President.

  17. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 05/18/2015 - 07:46 pm.

    I’m Thrilled Gov. Dayton is Standing Up for What He Believes

    to be the MOST positive use of a good chunk of our current budget surplus,…

    the BEST way of building future prosperity for ALL Minnesotans,…

    and telling the wizards of legislative last-minute wheeling and dealing to go to perdition,…

    at least on this issue.

    I’m also fascinated by how soon we have forgotten that former Gov. Pawlenty did this REPEATEDLY,…

    and repeatedly got the DFLers in the legislature to go along with his, and their GOP colleagues’ desire to dismantle ALL the forms of infrsatructure that made Minnesota prosperous in the first place,…

    all to soothe that tattered and jangling nerves of a VERY few hypersensitive Minnesotans who,…

    though they could easily afford to pay ten times the taxes they were paying and never miss a dime of it,…

    (except, of course, for their miserable and miserly dysfunctions),..

    earnestly believed that even a nickel of tax on their $millions and $billions,…

    was far too much (and that those with far less should pay far more by percentage).

    Gov. Dayton is standing strong and firm as an adult. I’m proud of him for doing so,…

    and bemused and fascinated that the politicians and pundits in St. Paul can’t seem to wrap their heads around the possibility that,…

    he’s not playing a game,…

    nor seeking some personal or political advantage,…

    nor trying, in some way, to enrich his wealthy friends.

    They can’t seem to figure out what his “angle” is,…

    and completely unable to comprehend that he has no angle.

    He’s just telling the truth,…

    and fighting for the good as he sees it.

    Congratulations on your integrity, Gov. Dayton. Keep it up!

  18. Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 05/18/2015 - 08:00 pm.

    At least he is not shutting down the Government like happened by our republican legislators a few short years ago.
    Stick with it Mark. Then go into an extra session and work it out.
    Do what is best in the long run for our future and the children’s future.

  19. Submitted by Bill Willy on 05/19/2015 - 12:15 am.


    Check the record, but, according to the live Minnesota Public Television clock (and coverage) of both the Minnesota House and Senate, NEITHER body adjourned by midnight, May 18, 2015.

    Does that mean all bills passed in the session are null and void, or what?

    • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/19/2015 - 10:26 am.


      I was kind of snippy in my response to this issue, and I apologize for that.

      I don’t know how much of an issue the timing thing will be. My guess is that it won’t be very significant for a lot of reasons. Basically, we have a government with a separation of powers. One of the things that means is that each branch of government should not interfere with the internal procedures of the other branches of government without a pretty good reason. The other branches of government know that the legislature has done something when the legislature certifies that it has. Those other branches of government should avoid looking behind those certifications, because they are equal, not superior branches of government. Now there may be exceptions to this, but in the main, the judiciary shouldn’t look too closely to strictly procedural matters such as the precise time when the session concluded.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 05/19/2015 - 04:21 pm.

      I wonder . . . . .

      what clock they go by (and if that’s called out specifically in the Constitution)?

      Do they have to adjust all clocks to atomic time? Or is there some other metric?

  20. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/19/2015 - 06:26 am.


    So the end of session tests the wisdom of the sign in the governor’s office: ““None of us is as smart as all of us.”

    Is what the legislature has done smart? Or is it politically expedient? Or is it both? Does bipartisanship make us smarter? Or dumber? More specifically, in my area of concern, in times of surplus and an improving economy and an increasingly competitive global marketplace, is funding education at level that requires cuts and layoffs, the wise choice? I saw a letter from a bipartisan group of legislators last night urging the governor to sign off on those cuts. I wold have appreciated a little bit of insight from those legislators explaining to all of us, why that would be the smart choice.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/19/2015 - 10:07 am.

      Gridlock isn’t consensus

      I don’t think anyone can really describe this legislative session as “consensus” driven. When no one can get anything other than minimum constitutional requirements done and barely get that… it’s gridlock not consensus. It’s actually depressing that people are looking at a session that completely failed to address any of the major issues voters wanted addressed as a “success” simply because they met the minimum standard of getting stuff passed by the deadline. Oh how far we’ve fallen.

  21. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/19/2015 - 06:46 am.

    Does that mean all bills passed in the session are null and void, or what?

    Maybe the clocks were wrong. In any event, it’s not the job of the courts or MPR for that matter to tell the legislature what time it is.

  22. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/19/2015 - 09:32 am.

    What’s Dayton doing?

    Somebody somewhere has said today that neither political party is “happy” with the session. And you see this coverage all over the place. I think this goes back to Hiram’s description of Grow’s “St. Paul” coverage of politics.

    I think we can flesh this out a little by pointing out that the function of government in a liberal democracy, and the function legislation in general, isn’t to satisfy political parties, or make political parties “happy”. The question isn’t whether not the “parties” are happy or satisfied, the question is whether or not the People are going to be happy or satisified? And the follow question is who will the people blame if they’re NOT satisfied?

    We know Minnesotan’s wanted transportation spending more than they wanted tax cuts. We also know that education and tuition are priorities for Minnesotan’s. We also know the majority of Minnesotan’s were looking for an end to gridlock, they want their government to work, they weren’t looking a session that basically did nothing.

    So will rural voters who supposedly put republicans in the House be satisfied with the status quo? We already know that they weren’t looking for tax cuts as much as they were looking for improved services so what will they make of the deal to scrap services in the absence of a tax cut?

    We can already see the republican strategy for deflecting responsibility being deployed. Daudt is trying to tell everyone that it’s Dayton’s fault for not building support. You see Ms. Brucato echoing that strategy when she compares Carlson to Dayton. I personally think it’s a High School debate Game strategy that won’t fly. Dayton spent the entire summer traveling the state talking about his education priorities so the idea that he didn’t try to build support is specious for one thing. Second, the governor doesn’t set the House priorities or agendas, and the suggestion that hyper partisan republicans who vote against almost anything the governor proposes could have been sold on his pre-k if only he’s taken the time is literally laughable. Third, Dayton’s been negotiation with the House all week, is Daudt telling that no one discussed the education bill? And by the way, how time did the NRA spend building support for the silencer law? How stupid does Daudt think we are?

    What’s Dayton doing? He’s serving the people instead of the parties. I don’t always like the way Dayton serves the People, the “peoples stadium” is a complete dud for example. But that’s what he’s doing. The only question is how the people will respond or whether or not they appreciate it.

  23. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/19/2015 - 09:35 am.


    ““Last year, he got all-day kindergarten,” Davids said. “Now he wants pre-K for 4-year-olds. Then, he’ll come back for 3-year-olds, 2-year-olds. Pretty soon he’s just going to want to back the school bus up to the maternity wards.”

    Yeah. If only Dayton had spent more time building support republicans like this would have voted for his pre-k program. Clearly you CAN reason with these people…. NOT.

  24. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/19/2015 - 10:31 am.

    What’s the problem anyways?

    Look, we are constantly saddled with imperfect and or outright bad policy because “small” guvmnt mentalities make it impossible to solve even the most basic problems. We can’t even have intelligent conversations about education policy because reactionary republicans denounce any reasonable proposal as A) And evil product of lobbying by the teacher’s union. B) An attempt to throw money at the problem. or C) A liberal attempt to take over the schools and brainwash everyone’s children. Whatever.

    The problem Dayton is trying to solve is one of inequity. We have children entering the school system at different levels of preparedness. Some children are so far “behind” their peers that it jeopardizes their prospects for a successful educational career.

    There are three approaches to this problem. The first is to give schools, kindergartens, the resources they need to bring all children up to speed regardless of their entry skill levels. That would be my preferred approach. That approach is impossible however because it’s denounced according to all three “principles” described above. The second solution is to attempt to raise preparedness BEFORE children enter the system… that’s Dayton’s proposal. Now I think the proposal is dead on arrival with republican’s for the same reasons, but they’re pretending it’s a budget problem instead. The third approach is to do nothing. Let the inequity stand, and let the less prepared children fail, or continue to fail. This is the preferred libertarian nightmare based on social Darwinism pretending to be meritocracy, and it’s what republican’s prefer because the alternative is roll school buses up to the womb.

  25. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/19/2015 - 10:33 am.


    As I understand it, the debate is really over universal versus targeted pre K. A lot of folks argue that given the fact that our resources are limited, we should target them toward the kids most in need. What Dayton wants to do is make such aid universal which, the argument goes, means a lot of money goes to kids who are doing just fine, and which therefore, will have little or no effect reducing inequity or the achievement gap. There are good and reasonable arguments on both sides of the question, and it’s probably fair to say there are more sides than two to the question anyway.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/19/2015 - 01:50 pm.


      Again: This is an artificial problem because we know how to identify and assist children in need, we just don’t do it. The system could cope with any child that enters Kindergarten, but we don’t give it the necessary resources. Then we have this “argument” about equity and cost because we’re trying to implement the only solutions small guvmint mentalities will allow. Obviously you would want to apportion resources to those that need them the most, but that’s systemic approach that recognizes the public schools as an essential necessity. Any decent education system would serve those children as a matter of course, but we have powerful interests who don’t actually care about having a decent education system, and they refuse to pay it.

      We can’t get the money to fix the system, so I think Dayton is trying to work it out by adding another component to the system and maybe getting the money for that.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/19/2015 - 08:59 pm.


        Hiram, Excellent comment.

        The reality is that as more money is given to the system, those who are most capable and influential direct the money to what they think is the best place. The influential and capable are not the unlucky kids or their parents, they are the educational bureaucrats, personnel, unions and engaged middle/ upper class parents.

        I mean the staffing of the Minneapolis schools show this very well, the schools with the luckiest students get the experienced / expensive teachers. In my district the money and attention flows to magnet schools and not to the poorest community schools. And I have never heard a teacher say that their compensation is acceptable, so they will keep negotiating for more compensation. And everyone wants to fund the arts, enrichment classes, sports, etc

        All of these are normal human responses that will ensure extra money gets those with the most influence, so until clear measureable goals and accountability measures are in place…. More money is not the solution.

  26. Submitted by tiffany vanvorken on 05/19/2015 - 06:23 pm.


    no doubt, He should resign.

  27. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/20/2015 - 08:50 am.

    Throwing Money

    Whenever someone declares that “more money” isn’t THE solution you know that they’re not interested in providing real solutions. It’s critically important to keep this in mind and keep our eye’s on the ball when having public policy discussions and debates. We have to stop pretending that incoherent ideological agendas could yield sensible policy.

    We can spend as much or as little time we want parsing out the reasons that republican efforts to govern have failed so miserably in the last couple of decades but one succinct way of explaining it is stereotypical thinking. Libertarian/Tea Party/Reactionary republicans inhabit a universe almost entirely comprised of stereotypes that make rational policy nearly impossible. Which brings us back to throwing money.

    The reason the mental image of someone throwing money at something is so absurd is because it’s….absurd. No one ever actually throws money at a problem. Have you ever seen someone throwing money at their stalled car? Do you remember all that cash flying around during the floods a while back when home owners were throwing money at their damaged property? Can you walk through a hospital and scoop up tons of cash that people have thrown at their broken and diseased bodies? No? Well that’s because we don’t throw money at stuff… we pay for stuff. Throwing money is a stereotype pretending to be financial wisdom. Stuff costs what it costs and you either pay for it or you don’t. A better public education system is going to cost more than the one we have, that’s just a fact. The fact is we’ve never actually paid for the education we have now, let alone the better one we’re pretending to aspire to. We’ve dumped millions of dollars worth of unfunded mandates on our schools and then we pretend they should have more than enough money.

    You can’t build sensible policy based on a litany of premises based on stereotypes but that’s what we get from republicans, tea partiers, and libertarians. Unless you think our education is currently perfect, as excellent as can be, and is serving all students to everyone’s satisfaction, you must acknowledge that we need to make improvements. In the real world outside of stereotypical thinking you don’t provide better service to more students statewide for less money. Money isn’t the solution, but the solution will cost money. And the idea that somehow government or education systems are misbehaving or doing something wrong when they spend or cost money is just another incoherent stereotype based on bizarre business pseudo-models of governance. Sure, a something can be more or less efficient, but that doesn’t mean it will cheap or less expensive.

    The absurdity of these “money” claims can easily be exposed; all the proponents of tax and budget cuts and “no more money” have to do is tell us exactly how much they think government, educations systems, transportation, whatever- should actually cost and why? Are you telling us $17 billion is exactly what a public education system for Minnesota should cost? If not, what’s your target, and why? The idea that the answer to such question is always “no more”, or “less”, or “smaller” is stereotypical thinking pretending to be budget policy.

    At any rate this incoherent stereotypical thinking is what Dayton is trying to deal with. Bakk has never been able to deal with it effectively while Dayton has trounced it several times in the past. So my money’s on Dayton.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/20/2015 - 03:56 pm.


      “A better public education system is going to cost more than the one we have, that’s just a fact.”

      You comment reminds me of the statement: “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” The reality is that often quality and productivity can be improved while reducing costs, unfortunately this requires a willingness to change, improve, modernize, stop doing low value / high cost activities, etc.

      • Submitted by jason myron on 05/20/2015 - 04:48 pm.

        Like government, public education is NOT a business.

        Efficiency in the private sector is all about profit. Not everything that is profitable is of social value and not everything of social value is profitable.

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/21/2015 - 08:13 am.

          Efficiency and Effectiveness

          Improving efficiency and effectiveness is not just about profit, it is equally important for non-profits and charities. And it should be very important for government.

          By increasing efficiency and effectiveness, an entity is able to help more people, provide more services and/or provide higher quality services for the same amount of money. This is not a “for profit” business thing.

          I believe most all of us want to provide good quality public services to those who need them while minimizing the cost to us tax payers?

          The only group I know of who opposes this are the public employee unions. I mean by definition their goal is on increasing compensation and job security for all of their members regardless of cost to the tax payers or those in need. I am not blaming them, it is what they were formed to do and we need to remember that.

          • Submitted by jason myron on 05/22/2015 - 01:23 pm.


            Corporate America has being hiding behind similar memes for years, usually right after announcing layoffs in order to meet quarterly numbers. 99% of the time it results in the exact opposite of what you described. More people are being inconvenienced because there are less clerks, bank tellers sales consultants and reps. More time is wasted navigating automated customer service phone systems, designed specifically to make it more difficult to resolve anything other than order more service or goods.
            No, John…despite your wishful thinking, public unions are NOT the people that oppose a relentless quest for efficiency. In fact, the majority of people that favor it is are so called “efficiency experts.” Gee…I wonder why?

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/22/2015 - 04:24 pm.


            It’s always funny. Efficiency is supposed to be the skill set and responsibility of management, yet for some reason labor always gets blamed for inefficiency despite steadily rising productivity rates for decades now. SOP for the American executive class… blame someone else and collect the bonus.

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/23/2015 - 09:25 am.

              Most companies are pretty efficient and doing a good job of making use of technology. Of course they do not have many unions to deal with anymore. The consumers voted with their wallet against union companies and reduced the number of them.

              Unfortunately the government and public employees unions are not under the same competitive pressure. It would be interesting to see some kind of efficiency measure for government.

  28. Submitted by Jay Willemssen on 05/20/2015 - 04:51 pm.

    US expenditures on primary and secondary education

    1967: 4.1%
    2012: 4.1%

  29. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 05/21/2015 - 07:57 am.

    Money v. policy

    I was at a meeting the other day about school issues. No bagels were provided so it was a particularly difficult session for me, and I attended under protest. Anyway, a friend of mine at at the meeting talked about a conversation he had with a school type who was asking for some tech thing, iPads maybe for his school. My friend said, you aren’t asking for iPads, you are asking for money. The school guy said no, I’m not asking for money, I am asking for iPads. From a third party perspective, I propose the question, “In terms of policy, what was being asked for here? Ipads, or the cash to pay for them?” I submit that there is no clear cut, definitive answer to this question. Rather how the question is answered goes a long way toward telling whether the person answering the question is a Democrat or a Republican.

    Republicans, their rhetoric tells us, believe policy should be driven by revenue considerations. In the Republican mind the two are inseparably linked. The result is the kind of thinking that emerges from Republican legislators and press releases. We have in Minnesota a two billion dollar surplus. For the GOP that means that we can buy two billion dollars worth of policy. Revenue, for them, determines and limits policy. Democrats, on the other hand, and without the same degree of consistency or clarity, believe policy should drive our revenue choices. That means if you decide you must have things like roads and schools, that decision includes within it, the decision to tax to pay for them. A lot of what plays out at the legislature and in our politics generally reflects these divergent world views. One funny thing about that is that these different view are so deeply engrained that those holding them have difficulty perceiving the alternate view. The friend who told me that the ipads were an issue of money, couldn’t grasp that the folks he talked to saw money as an issue of ipads. My guess is that the other folks, wherever they were couldn’t grasp the opposite view.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/22/2015 - 09:29 am.


      “I propose the question, “In terms of policy, what was being asked for here? Ipads, or the cash to pay for them?” I submit that there is no clear cut, definitive answer to this question.”

      I hate to say it but I think this is false dichotomy, unless you can get the iPad’s for free, your asking for money. Now, where that money comes from may be a different conversation, but the money must come or you don’t get the iPad’s your asking for.

      I wasn’t there but you appear to be describing our incoherent education discussion in a microcosm. It sounds like your iPad advocate was trying to ask for something while attempting to dodge the “throw money at me” response that is so typical these days. Like I’ve said elsewhere, the “throwing money” mentality is simply an incoherent wrench tossed into the discourse. Best to ignore it.

      I also think your description of republicans gives them too much credit. They don’t think policy should be driven by revenue considerations (maybe they used to think this), they think revenue is perpetually exessive and must be reduced i.e. tax cuts that shrink the size the government. The demand for a $2 billion tax cut wasn’t an attempt to buy policy, it was driven by an ideological imperative to reduce revenue and “shrink” government. If republicans REALLY believed in revenue driven policy they wouldn’t consistently produce massive deficits whenever they get into power. Revenue driven policy works mathematically, republican budgets always fail mathematically.

      Getting back to your iPad discussion; republicans don’t say: “I see that your asking for iPad’s but we don’t have the money.” They don’t even say: “I see your asking for iPad’s but I don’t want to give yoiu the money to buy them.” THAT would actually be a coherent response. What republicans actually say is: “You can have the iPads but you don’t need the money to buy them”. THAT’s incoherent. It’s always a something for nothing proposition that they can never deliver despite mumbo jumbo about “efficiency”.

      All you have to do is look at stuff republicans want and you can see that when they want something, they understand they have to pay for it. They want a big military, they don’t want food stamps. On very fundamental level this mentality is actually dishonest. Republicans don’t really want to cut food stamp funding for fiscal reasons, they just don’t believe in welfare and they use manufactured fiscal crises as an excuse to cut funding for stuff they don’t believe in.

      So it’s not just a matter of different approaches to policy. It’s more like having one party that tries to make policy (albeit imperfectly) and another part producing anti-policy. On a very basic level an anti-government mentality is an anti-policy mentality. This mentality pretends that personal choice or preference, can supplant public policy. This is a Libertarian fantasy pretending to public policy debate.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/25/2015 - 10:26 pm.

        Policy Differences

        “It’s more like having one party that tries to make policy (albeit imperfectly) and another part producing anti-policy.”

        The reduction of food stamps does not undo welfare (ie anti-policy), it just means that there is less money in the program. Hopefully that will encourage the managers of the funds to prioritize their expenditures better, to make sure that only the most needy get them and that fraud is minimized.

        Funding the National Defense is certainly a part of policy and government, since it is Fed job #1 and has been since day 1 of the USA.

        I think a good policy is like a good project charter. It should define the problem/opportunity, in scope, out of scope, goals, budget, etc. To just say we need to do something good in vague terms without the rest is just wishful thinking.

  30. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/22/2015 - 08:48 am.

    The Efficiency Myth

    From banks, to retail giants, cable companies and exploding oil rigs we’ve seen a constant parade of private sector efficiency fails that make government look positively brilliant at times. The idea that private sector business is some kind of repository of efficiency expertise is an idea way past it expiration date.

    Efficiency is a human tendency, not a business “paradigm”. Humans invented the bow and arrow because it delivers a lethal blow to game more efficiently than jumping on something’s back with a sharp rock. Hunting for food wasn’t a business plan.

    Nothing is ever perfectly efficient, that’s actually a law of physics. But the assumption that efficiency is a solution to budget or revenue problems is simply incoherent because “efficiency” isn’t necessarily cheap, or free, or less expensive. Most of the time you have to invest additional capital in order to realize new efficiency’s. Efficiency isn’t just about reducing costs. Faster computers, fuel efficient cars, and efficient heating and cooling systems aren’t less expensive, but they’re more efficient. Efficiency is about completing a given task while expending the least amount of energy. Efficiency may or may not less expensive. So it might well be more efficient to use reactive computers to teach math, but it’s not going to be cheaper because the mission is to teach math, not make the teaching cheaper.

    This idea that we can substitute efficiency for tax revenue is also patently absurd. Republican’s have promising this since Reagan walked into the White House but they’ve NEVER delivered. All we get are recessions and deficits. The reason is simple, and I’ve discussed this already, the “inefficient big government” republicans always promise to reform doesn’t actually exist, it’s a stereotype based on fantasy and false assumptions. I’m not saying the government is perfectly efficient, but it’s no where near as inefficient as republicans assume. Pawlenty scoured the budget for efficiency or 8 years and given $240 billion (that’s billion with a “B”) dollars worth of government spending during the course of his tenure, he found a grand total of $90 million (that’s million with an “M”) worth of efficiency savings.

    Again, anyone who tells you they want to substitute efficiency for new spending, or claims that they’ll somehow create efficiency by fiscally “disciplining” a government system, isn’t interesting in solving the problem, and probably doesn’t even agree that there is a problem. Efficiency in this context is little more than magical thinking. Efficiency is an ongoing project, not a shrewd business insight, move along, there’s nothing to see here.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 05/25/2015 - 10:14 pm.

      Change Resistance

      “Efficiency is a human tendency, not a business “paradigm”. Humans invented the bow and arrow because it delivers a lethal blow to game more efficiently than jumping on something’s back with a sharp rock. ”

      For every significant change there have been folks who resisted the improvement for fear of how it would negatively impact themselves or others. The public employee unions and their members work very hard to maintain the status quo. They are the equivalent of the folks who manufactured bows when guns were invented. Of course they resist, they may not be the best way of accomplishing the goal anymore. This may reduce their power, influence and income…

      Hopefully we citizens who are not afraid of progress demand the effectivity and efficiency improvements for the good of the children and tax payers.

  31. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/22/2015 - 12:01 pm.

    Republicans today

    Getting back to the notion policy differences that Hiram suggested, I think it’s important to remember that the republican party has changed significantly. This “small govmint” mentality was never more than magical thinking, and even republicans realized that at one time. You’ll recall that there were republicans that looked at all of this tax cutting/fiscal discipline/lost efficiency mumbo jumbo and recognized it as voodoo economics, and they said to. They were right, but they lost the party.

    The fact that the republican party has spent the last several decades purging fiscally responsible members in the name of fiscal responsibility is simply toxic irony, but there you have it. Arne Carlson might thought about policy the way Hiram describes, but he’s persona no grata as far as contemporary republicans are concerned. As is Bush Senior, and the poor bastards who voted for the tax hike that fixed our roads a while back.

    I actually hope reason and intellectual integrity return to the republican party, and in some respects I see some movement in that direction. But there’s a long way to go and when Dayton says some of these guys don’t believe in public education he’s right. That actually goes all the back to the 1820s when Thomas Jefferson’s attempt to establish national education standards fell victim to the first or second “Great Awakening”.

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