Well, he is a trial attorney, so, like John Edwards, the words tend to come easily….
….if not always well.
If John McCain or Barack Obama had said they were “practicing the Braille method” – groping without a vision — in their fiscal management, can you imagine the national media uproar? Cable news, then wire services, then network news, then Stewart/Leno/Co-Co/Letterman.
In Minnesota, crickets.
Excellent MPR story on Emmer and the budget today. Excerpts:
Emmer has made some pretty bold statements on how to deal with the state’s budget deficit.
In late April, he suggested he could eliminate a third of overall state spending, roughly $20 billion.
…Emmer has yet to detail the departments or agencies he would eliminate, and has repeatedly declined to provide specifics on how he’ll balance the state’s budget. Instead, he said he’s embarking on a listening tour to gather input from the public.
Emmer has specifically said he wants to eliminate five agencies — the Department of Human Rights, the Bureau of Mediation Services, the Housing Finance Agency, the Office of Enterprise Technology and the Metropolitan Council.
Eliminating those agencies would cut $232 million in state spending — just 4 percent of the state’s projected $5.8 billion budget deficit in the next budget cycle.
Emmer has said combining and cutting those agencies will make government more efficient, but his statements don’t always square with the actual work being done in the departments.
During a debate in March, Emmer said the state could save a lot of money if the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency were eliminated.
“If you get rid of the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, ladies and gentlemen, and move it to a rent subsidies thing, that’s a $1.6 billion item,” he said.
But that calculcation is wrong, according to Tim Marx, who ran the Housing Finance Agency under Gov. Tim Pawlenty from 2003-2008. Marx said less than 10 percent of the agency’s budget comes from state tax dollars. The other funds come from selling bonds to the private market, the federal government, or from borrowing money at one rate and lending it at another.
Emmer also said he thinks he could cut total government spending by $20 billion, but to do that he would have to do more than cut a few government agencies. The state spends 85 percent of its budget on K-12 schools, higher education, social service programs and aid to local governments.
Jeff Zlonis of Public Strategies Group, a company that advises governments on how to be more efficient, said it’s good to want to make government work better, but cutting agencies isn’t always the solution.
“To just say that by moving boxes, we’re going to save money, doesn’t cut it,” Zlonis said. “It doesn’t work. People have tried it. You end up with organizations that are probably more bureaucratic, because you have more levels when you collapse organizations and put them together. Quite often you end up with more levels of bureaucracy, not less.”
Zlonis is right that merging or cutting departments doesn’t always save a lot of money. In 2008, Minnesota eliminated the Department of Employee Relations and merged its functions with other departments.
Total savings for the taxpayers: $139,000.
Interesting follow-up piece by MinnPost’s Eric Black. Mr. Emmer is looking like an indecisive, ill-informed bumbler…
“Presumptive Repub Guv Nominee Tom Emmer of Delano feels people (his opponents and members of the media) are saying untrue things about him, so on Emmerforgov.com, he has launched a feature called “EmmerTruth,” in which he will set the record straight about distortions of his record, position and statements.
The first couple of entries, though, are pretty weak. In one, he complains that MPR reporter Tom Scheck said that Emmer would cut $20 billion in state spending. But Emmer says he never said he would cut $20 billion, only that he could.
Just on the face of it, this one seems to be slicing the baloney kinda thin. Even in trying to slap down the Scheck piece, EmmerTruth doesn’t say that Emmer won’t cut that much, just that he didn’t say he would.”