Posts Tagged ‘Governor’

A Vision for Minnesota

Tom Emmer released the final part of his budget plan yesterday. As I figured, it was pretty brutal: a one-third cut(!) to LGA, cuts to K-12 education (giving them less than they get this year is not quite “holding education harmless”), cuts to higher ed, cuts to health care (reading between the lines of his priorities, I’m guessing a significant reduction in MinnesotaCare for working adults), and not paying back the K-12 funding shift until later (there’s that “harmless” again). It’s quite the vision for Minnesota. I had an inkling of what he was planning on doing before I read this, and it was confirmed in his talk today: Emmer wants to continue down the Pawlenty path of dismantling the Minnesota Miracle.

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Emmer’s budget fantasy

Tom Emmer has been rightly criticized for not revealing the details of his budget (the Grand Forks Herald, not exactly a liberal newspaper, has a particularly brutal dressing-down of Emmer). So far, he’s released a program of more than $600 million in tax cuts, which only widens the budget deficit Minnesota faces. Why hasn’t he released a detailed budget yet? Probably because there’s little way he can make the numbers honestly add up.

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Emmer and government employees

Tom Emmer is a deeply unserious candidate for office. There will be many examples of why that is popping up between now and election day. Here’s one: his comments on public employee pay.

I really have to wonder how much attention Tom Emmer is paying to his own legislative staff people, who are themselves public employees. First, I would like to know what his source is for his claim that public sector workers make “30 to 40 percent more than private sector” counterparts. Perhaps he gets his information from not-too-bright stories like these which merely compare the average wage for all private sector workers with the average wage for all public sector workers, without bothering to point out that there are no public sector retail, food service, and other low-wage occupations to pull the numbers down for public employees (not to mention that article was mainly about federal employees anyway). Other studies I have seen (such as this one) that have looked at directly comparable jobs show that public sector employees by and large are paid less in wages than their private sector analogues, but benefits like vacation are often better, so it’s close a wash. Lower-income public sector employees like janitors do make more than their private sector counterparts, but that’s also due to the fact that public employees are largely unionized. The main point is that you can find studies that show things going both ways, and there are a host of other considerations that come into play in public employment, so that merely saying that public sector employees are paid 30-40% too much is not only inaccurate, it misses the point. I’d sure like to know if Emmer has asked his staff if they think they are overpaid by that much.

Second, Emmer wants to move people from defined-benefit plans to defined-contribution plans. Again, he must not be talking to his staff, because legislative employees hired since 1997 have been put into just those defined-contribution plans. At least in the debate, it didn’t seem like he was aware of this. More importantly, how is he going to pay for the switch? I actually have no problem with a switch to defined-contribution plans, provided it is done correctly: auto-enrollment, auto-contribution increases tied to wage increases, life-cycle funds, and low administrative costs…those pesky little details that matter. Most importantly, though, a switch has to be paid for up front if it is to be done responsibly, and the cost is going to be quite high. I can’t see how he can move from defined-benefit to defined-contribution retirement plans AND solve the state’s budget deficit, all without increasing taxes.

He also had some comments about the health insurance plans that state employees get. Has anybody asked him if he uses his legislative health insurance?

Most of Emmer’s plans are heavy on ideology and light on details and practicality. But this one stood out because, as a legislative employee, these are issues that I’m pretty cognizant of. He should probably be aware of them as well if he wants to be taken seriously.

The Patrician Legislature

Representative Tom Emmer, running for governor, has a lot of ideas about “redesigning government”. One of those ideas, apparently, is ending benefits for legislators. Emmer thinks that legislators and other elected officials should not get health insurance, pension contributions, or per diem payments. If Emmer wants a legislature that does not reflect Minnesota, then this is a great idea.

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