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Yesterday, I wrote this post that the fight between the Dayton administration and the conference committee had intensified after initially igniting during Friday’s conference committee hearing. Here’s the exchange that got things started:

CHAIRMAN PARRY: Commissioner Showalter, was there written instructions given to each commissioner to how to proceed for today’s hearing?
COMMISSIONER SHOWALTER: Mr. Chair, I alerted commissioners, I believe yesterday, of the impact of the provisions that are in front of you (GARBLED FEED)

We’ve been trying to understand the interactions and the magnitude of that impact. We have been in communication with the fiscal staff over the last day to get their understanding and impact of the programmatic impact that we’re trying to present to you today.

In general, contrary to what Rep. Downey, and I do respect his work, but the instructions are pretty clear in the bill as to the level of reductions within this provision and the other provisions. There are a few cost-savings items, but in general, most of the savings that we’re talking about are related to items reducing the staffing complement, reducing the available resources to commissioners to execute their responsibilities so that is the spreadsheet that I talked about before to give you the overall context and to give you an idea.
CHAIRMAN PARRY: So you did give written instructions so that they fully understood how they were to move forward with their testimony today?
SHOWALTER: Mr. Chairman, I haven’t instructed anyone on testimony. What I have asked and informed them on is these provisions because not everyone is watching the State Government Committee or they’re assuming that we take the lead in looking at these elements and helping them understand the impact and what issues they need to be aware of.
PARRY: So were your instructions orally delivered, your message, or in form of the information that they’re working off from. I guess what I’m asking for, Commissioner Showalter, I would like to, if there was a written memo given to each commissioner on how to look at their budget, I would be interested, and I’m sure this committee would be interested to see that memo.

Because if every commissioner that’s coming here with worst case scenarios, that is a far cry from what is inside the House and the Senate versions of this bill as I have listened. And so I guess maybe, for us to understand what the commissioners are working off of, I would think that it would be prudent to give us…let us look at the instructions that you have given commissioners.

Before the conference committee recessed, MMB Commissioner Showalter agreed to get the spreadsheet MMB had prepared into the committee’s hands, a promise Commissioner Showalter kept.

Commissioner Showalter essentially said that the commissioners were singing from the same hymnal. After looking at the MMB spreadsheet, it’s apparent that that hymnal didn’t put a high priority on accuracy. That’s what triggered Sen. Parry to write this letter to Gov. Dayton:

Dear Governor Dayton,

This morning, I received a letter from the State Commander of the American Legion that recognizes the legislature has openly and publicly defended our stance to hold veterans and the Department of Military Affairs harmless in our budget. The State Commander correctly recognized that the honorable men and women that serve in our armed forces have been a top priority with both the Senate and House for the entirety of this session.

The rhetoric being used by your administration completely disregards the legislature’s intent to provide the funding necessary to provide care to our veterans in our state’s veterans homes, to assist veterans in securing federal benefits and to maintain the readiness of our national guard. At the first hint of discretionary authority, you directed your staff to cut veterans and military affairs.

I grew up in a military household. I served eight years in the National Guard. I have been around the military and veterans my whole life and I know what leadership looks like. What you have done to the military and veterans community is not leadership.

That letter was sure to provoke a fight, which it did. At 2:00 pm Monday afternoon, Sen. Parry, Rep. Lanning and Commissioner Showalter met with Gov. Dayton in Gov. Dayton’s office. According to Sen. Parry, the Gov. Dayton he saw “was a very angry governor.” Gov. Dayton shouldn’t be upset with the letter. Gov. Dayton should be upst with the spreadsheet Commissioner Showalter prepared for the other commissioners.

LFR got a copy of that spreadsheet last night. What jumped off the page were two columns in particular. The 4th column on the spreadsheet is titled 2012-2013 House Across the Board Reductions. The 7th column of the spreadsheet is titled 2012-2013 Senate Across the Board Reductions. Neither column accurately reflects what’s in the GOP budgets.

The MMB spreadsheet ‘reports’ that the House GOP budget calls for 10% across-the-board reductions. Further, the MMB spreadsheet ‘reports’ that the Senate GOP budget calls for 9% across-the-board reductions. This spreadsheet isn’t saying that about specific departments. It’s saying that each line item is getting hit with a 10% cuts. K-12 education gets hit with a 10% cut, as does Corrections, the MPCA, the PUC, Agriculture, DEED or any other department.

Here’s what Commissioner Shellito said in his testimony to Chairman Lanning’s questioning:

REP. LANNING: Commissioner General, you know that the Veterans budget is the only budget that got an increase and it seems to me that that sends a pretty clear signal of what our intent is that both the House and the Senate want to protect veterans and military affairs. There should be no mistake about that because it’s very clear because everybody else got cuts. If you take a look at the intent further on the House side, we’re doing everything possible we can to protect nursing homes. If you think that the House is intent on having veterans facilities suffer consequences here that would be problematic, then you’re misunderstanding the intent.

That’s why I’m disappointed that, for whatever reason, you have apparently been given impressions that are not accurate and have led to very serious misunderstanding that we need to address. If there are suggestions that we could do to get more comfort here in stating our intent, then let’s talk about that. But let’s not go scaring people into thinking that something is going to happen when that’s not likely to happen.
SHELLITO: Rep. Lanning, I appreciate that and I understand your frustration but I would then give you my viewpoint. Yes, you’ve given us a 3% increase in the omnibus bill, both sides. Thank you. That I understand. But my mission is to protect the veterans in this room so I only go with the language that I have, which is the omnibus bill as written.

And as I look at it, I see the vagueness of the 15%. I see the vagueness of the 10% and doing my due diligence requires me to…I cannot get into your head and get what you’re really thinking. I couldn’t get into the committee’s head to know what they’re thinking so I had to provide the…and you said it quite eloquently, the worst, worst, worst case scenario. And again, I apologize for that. I don’t want to do that. I value how you’ve treated the veterans in the past.

Shellito admits that the House omnibus bill will increase the Military Affairs budget by 3%. Shellito further admits that he had to provide “the worst, worst, worst case scenario.” Shame on Commissioners Showalter and Shellito for relying on faulty premises and absurd assumptions.

It’s bad enough that MMB is making these assumptions about the Military Affairs budget. It’s disgusting and intellectually dishonest that MMB is making that assumption across the board. There’s no justification for that.

This spreadsheet is proof that the GOP is right in questioning MMB’s fiscal notes. MMB’s spreadsheet isn’t based on the bills’ language. Commissioner Shellito admitted that it’s based on “the worst, worst, worst case scenario”, hardly the most accurate analysis of budget bills.

This spreadsheet should be published on the MNGOP and legislative websites for all the world to see along with the letter from the State Commander of the American Legion.

It’s painfully obvious that MMB Commissioner Showalter has corrupted the budgeting process, compiling spreadsheets that don’t appear to be attached to the legislative language or the legislators’ intent.

Ultimately, though, it’s Gov. Dayton’s responsibility to rein in or terminate his commissioners if their work product is corrupt or chronically inaccurate, as is the case here.

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4 Responses to “Veterans Fight Intensifies, MMB Edition”

  • Donna Foster says:

    Whoever makes those computer-generated animated shorts with the computer-genterated conservatives having inane conversations with computer-generated liberals needs to do one of those based on this conference committee hearing. I think that would be fun!

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