It was a busy day at the St. Cloud airport Tuesday afternoon, with the DFL and the GOP stopping in during their post-session flyarounds.

When I pulled into the airport parking lot at 1:20 pm, Sen. Pogemiller was standing outside talking on his cell phone. That seemed rather odd compared with past flyarounds. In the flyarounds in previous years, I assumed that the DFL and GOP planes would be late.

When I walked into the lobby where the press conferences would be held, the people that I didn’t see spoke louder than the people who were there. Tarryl Clark wasn’t there. Neither was Larry Haws. Also missing from this trip was Speaker Kelliher. The only local candidate attending was Bruce Hentges, the DFL endorsed candidate for Tarryl’s Senate seat.

It isn’t that that’s surprising considering the fact that the DFL doesn’t have endorsed candidates for a number of House and Senate seats. As of tonight, Steve Gottwalt, Mary Kiffmeyer, Michelle Fischbach and Tim O’Driscoll don’t have opponents.

Like I told Times reporter Mark Sommerhauser, I can understand the DFL not having candidates running against popular incumbents like Michelle Fischbach, Mary Kiffmeyer and Steve Gottwalt. It’s stunning that they don’t have a candidate running against Tim O’Driscoll for the open seat in HD-14A, where Dan Severson left to run for Secretary of State against Mark Ritchie.

When asked if Gov. Pawlenty had won the budget battle, Sen. Pogemiller said that yes, “Gov. Pawlenty did win if you’re talking about national talking points” before adding that he’d “argue that Minnesota lost” as a result of the outcome. When pressed about why they didn’t push harder for their agenda, Sen. Pogemiller said that “There’s no amount of political philosophy that’s worth shutting government down over.”

For her part, Sen. Berglin said that this year represented a lost opportunity caused by Minnesota not agreeing to opt in on Obamacare. Sen. Berglin said that Minnesota would’ve gotten $7.45 back for MA for each dollar it paid into the federal government.

Sen. Berglin said that not doing the early opt-in would cause other states to get the money Minnesota could be getting.

Clearly, the DFL leaders were dispirited as a result of not getting their priorities passed into law.

When the GOP entourage arrived, there was a detectable difference in attitude. Led by GOP endorsed gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, the entourage of Emmer, House Minority Leader Kurt Zellers, Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem, Rep. Matt Dean and Sen. Amy Koch greeted the people gathered in the Aviation building at the St. Cloud Airport.

After giving a brief presentation on his reform agenda, Rep. Emmer invited questions from the audience. WJON-AM’s Jim Maurice and the St. Cloud Times’ Mark Sommerhauser also covered the event. Rep. Emmer said that health care would be a major issue in the campaign, saying that, if elected, he wouldn’t opt into the Medicaid expansion.

Opting into the Medicaid expansion is enticing initially, he said, but that there’s no guarantee that the money Sen. Berglin talks about would be there after 2014. What would be there would be maintenance of service agreements that Minnesota would have to sign if they opted in.

Rep. Emmer then called St. Cloud Rep. Steve Gottwalt to the microphone to explain his Healthy Minnesota Plan, HF3036 this past session. Rep. Gottwalt said that it wasn’t accepted as the reform to MinnesotaCare but that it was adopted as a pilot program.

Under the pilot program, 60,000 single Minnesotans without dependent children will be covered. Rep. Gottwalt said that the fiscal note calculated the savings at $110,000,000 for the next biennium. If enacted into law for all 800,000 people on MinnesotaCare, the savings might exceed $1,000,000,000 for the upcoming biennium.

Rep. Zellers spoke about how government operations should change to be more customer friendly. He spoke about streamlining the permitting process for construction permits would save contractors time and the government money.

Rep. Emmer said that the key isn’t in cutting money from the budget because, sooner or later, that agency or that department will want the cuts restored. He said that the key is first determining what state government should be doing, then eliminating duplicative agencies, then streamlining processes so that the bureaucracies so that they’re more responsive to the public.

When asked if he thought if there were enough reform opportunities to balance the budget, Rep. Emmer pointed out the budget saving that could be realized just by implementing Rep. Gottwalt’s Healthy Minnesota Plan.

Sen. Senjem drove the point home by saying that making government more efficient and responsive to Minnesota’s needs would help Minnesota become a business friendly state that’s able to compete with anyone.

The thing that stood out to everyone who attended both events was that the DFL event was poorly attended and all but lifeless whereas the GOP portion was upbeat, filled with ideas and laying out an appealing agenda that Republicans will campaign on.

Also attending the event were GOP endorsed candidates John Pederson and Dave Brown, representing SD-15 and SD-16 respectively, along with King Banaian and Tim O’Driscoll, representing HD-15B and HD-14A respectively.

The GOP group was outgoing and upbeat. Also impressive was how they cheerfully answered all questions posed to them in a straightforward, facts first manner.

There was a detectable difference in energy levels, with there being significantly more energy, and more people attending, at the GOP event.

That Tarryl Clark, Larry Haws, House Majority Leader Sertich and Speaker Kelliher weren’t there spoke louder than anything in Sen. Pogemiller’s or Sen. Berglin’s presentation.

It truly was a case of the visuals telling the real story.

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4 Responses to “The Visuals Said Everything”

  • J. Ewing says:

    Somebody really asked the right question there, as to whether there is enough “waste, fraud, abuse and reform” in the current budget to cover the “shortfall” of the next biennium. I have no doubt there is, because current revenues would fully cover the spending budget of just 4 years ago. It will take a GOP legislature, lots of political will, and earplugs against the wailing of liberal special interests to get it done, though.

  • Gary Gross says:

    You’re right on all statements, Jerry. The group I saw yesterday are ready to listen to John Q. Public but they’re willing to ignore the whining of people whose ideas don’t make sense.

    Like I said in the title, the visual told a great story for the GOP. The energy level for reforms is obvious from a mile away.

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