As usual, when reviewing the DFL’s claims, the rule of thumb is “distrust but verify; then, resume the distrust”.
So too with DFL House Minority Leader Paul “Mini-Bakk” Thissen’s claims that the GOP budget is “destroying jobs”. MPR’s “Poligraph” addresses Thissen’s claims.
At least, analyzes the direct claim on its face. To really analyze it, and the DFL’s entire response to the GOP’s initiative to re-engineer how this state budgets its’ resources the money they divert from the economy, you have to dig a little deeper.
“Last week, the House Higher Ed budget put 1,200 employees at Minnesota’s colleges and universities on notice” he wrote in an April 5, 2010, press release. “The tax bill will slash another 1,700 jobs in counties and cities across Minnesota… With [the state government jobs] bill, the Republican Majority not only hands out an additional 754 pink slips, but also slashes support for private sector job creation.”
Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, is right that cutting government spending would cost jobs, but his numbers are hard to pin down.
In part because they were never meant to be “pinned down”. Scare lines are supposed to be nice and vague.
And scare lines are all the DFL really has, this session.
Problem is, Thissen’s scare line isn’t even a good one:
The House version of higher education funding bill would cut about 17.7 percent from the University of Minnesota’s budget and mandate a tuition cap of up to 5 percent. That could mean the loss of 600 to 700 jobs, said Richard Pfutzenreuter who is the Treasurer for the University of Minnesota.
But he points out that those numbers include employees who will retire early and jobs that will remain vacant. Only a fraction will be layoffs, he said. Further, it’s unlikely the university would balance its budget only by cutting jobs, he said. Rather, it will be a mix of trims.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) budget would be cut nearly 16 percent. As a result, the system is looking at either 554 staff reductions or 490 faculty reductions, including retirements and unfilled positions. That’s about 3 percent of the system’s 19,300 person workforce, according to spokeswoman Melinda Voss.
All told, that’s about 1,200 jobs. But Thissen’s figure is on the high end because it’s unlikely all cuts would come from layoffs. And those figures include retirements and unfilled positions as well.
In other words, Thissen is taking the “worst case” – more on that later – and putting it out there, unvarnished and without context, to disinform the voter. And MPR is giving the reader the gentlest possible reminder to read beneath the surface.
Thissen’s numbers are based on fact, but he leaves out some important points. For instance, he doesn’t mention that it’s unlikely that the University of Minnesota will cut only jobs to save money, nor does he point out that employment reductions would be made through retirements and hiring freezes, not just layoffs. And his claim on the tax bill relies on just one source–Gov. Mark Dayton.
Given all these caveats, it was a tough call. But overall, Thissen is correct that the spending bills being debated in the House would likely mean government job losses throughout the state.
Just like cratering revenue means job losses to all of us in the private sector.
And what does the private sector do when this happens?
Not just lay people 0ff (not the smart companies, anyway); if it wants to survive, the business changes the way it does business.
And as much as it may hurt the feelings of some government workers, it’s a fact that there is a difference between the horse that’s pulling the cart and the one that’s sitting in the back cracking the whip. Government funding exists because the private sector pulls the cart forward. Fewer horses in the cart makes the whole thing easier to pull – and, ideally, means more horses can do the pulling.
Which is something that was, to be fair, outside the scope of the MPR piece – and something Thissen wants to keep you from thinking about.