Not surprisingly, we heard from Minnesota Managementand Budget Commissioner Tom Hanson about Steve Perry‘s post, "MMB: The gang that couldn’t count straight?"In classic Hanson "no hubris here" style, he wasn’t concerned about the shots that Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller (DFL-Minneapolis) fired at him personally, so much as he was about the shots filed at his staff ("the gang").
So I listened to the tape of Hanson appearing before the Legislative Commission on Planning and Fiscal Policy.
The dust-up over budget calculations is not a new conversation when it comes to budget comparisons.In the Jesse Ventura years, both Democrats and Republicans took shots at that administration about the same thing:the need to — or avoidance of — making apples-to-apples comparisons.
Part of the problem at this pointis that the House and Senate are still finishing up their spending proposals, and thus numbers are not finalized. More significantly, there are elements in the governor’s proposal that are not reflected in the House or Senate positions. That makes true comparisons difficult, but no question: Everyone working with the same numbers is in everyone’s best interests.
When trying to do a comparison of the three plans, four primary differences must be considered in order to do an apples-to-apples comparison:
1. Appropriation bonds (governor’s budget)
2. K-12 shifts (governor’s and House’s budgets)
3. Stabilization backfill (governor’s, Senate’s and House’s budgets)
4. Health Care Access Fund merger into general fund — and cuts (governor’s budget)
See the attached chart, provided by the MMB, for details.[By the way, this is a unique year due to the complications of accounting for federal stimulus dollars.]
If you do those adjustments across all three positions, you end up with the following bottom line:
As compared to the February forecast, GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty has a $1.9 billion reduction in spending. The DFL House has a $700 million reduction in spending and the DFL Senate has a $1.4 billion reduction in spending.
Hanson is one of many commissioners from opposing political parties whom Pogemiller has tried to shred in public testimony, and Pogemiller is very good at it. But DFL talk that the Pawlenty administration can’t count straight is just that, DFL talk (as Perry noted in what he wrote).
The good news for MMB is that in the 20 years I’ve observed Democrats, Republicans and independents argue about the integrity of budget numbers, I’ve never witnessed any traction on the issue with the public.
Arguing budget number calculations is an under-the-dome game and usually one used to obfuscate the real issue:
What’s the cosmic budget solution to which everyone can agree?