Bruce Montplaisir: Budgets show why priorities matter

2014-02-17T00:00:00Z Bruce Montplaisir: Budgets show why priorities matterBruce Montplaisir Community Columnist Winona Daily News
February 17, 2014 12:00 am  • 

The summer of 2012, I was asked how I thought the Minnesota state budget should be constructed. I said “The first thing to do was to determine what the state was responsible for and go to a zero-based program budget system where we have people focus on each line item within their own programs and hold them accountable for getting those line items right. If the line items are right and the program budgets are right when we put them together the whole budget will be right and predictable.”

Rep. Steve Drazkowski commented to the people present that it is liberal ideas like this that have created the financial mess we are in — or something to that effect.

I’m not sure anyone can identify an organization with a well-articulated line item program budget that is monitored that creates a financial mess unless the budget managers decided to cause a mess. Big budget deficits have occurred when budgets were expanded for programs the people in power favored, which also favored their donors, with the idea that they would cut programs they don’t favor later on.

I have looked at a lot of school district budgets over the years because that is the values clarification part of a school district’s philosophy. The budget articulates the philosophy of a school district more clearly than the mission statement. Whenever a school district was in a financial mess it was because they did not have a well-articulated program-based line-item budget.

Minnesota is often identified as a state that is unfriendly to taxpayers. Minnesota is also identified as one of the healthiest states in the nation with some of the best schools in the nation and is also high on the list of innovative states — but people don’t connect taxes with healthy, well educated, innovative people.

The founding fathers’ concept of freedom of speech guarantees the right of news organizations like Fox News and other media outlets to put out intentionally false information and call it news — though it is not clear that was the founding fathers’ intent.

In 1997 an appellate court in Florida ruled that the FCC’s policy against the intentional falsification of the news — which the FCC has called its “news distortion policy” — does not qualify as the required “law, rule, or regulation” under section 448.102. The court’s decision protected Fox News and other media outlets reporting false information about Monsanto and RBGH as legitimate news stories. We have no right to expect that news, especially politically motivated news, will be true or accurate.

Money isn’t the only factor in an election, even though our nation has moved away from the idea of one man, one vote, to the idea that money is speech and the Constitution guarantees free speech. However, we have the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that seem to indicate people can’t own people and yet we have a Supreme Court that says corporations are people with all the rights of people — even though corporations seem to be owned . . . by people, and these people are able to put as much money (speech) into political campaigns as they want. Many shareholders of corporations are not U.S. citizens and some shareholders are foreign governments.

Seven heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune have more wealth than 40 percent of the U.S. population combined. I don’t know how politically active the Wal-Mart heirs are, but there are several people whose wealth and political motivation gives them more political say than substantial portions of the U.S. population. So we live in a country where some people can put tens of millions of dollars into political campaigns without affecting their lifestyle one bit, while other people have to eliminate basic needs to donate a hundred dollars.

Some religious leaders object to the Affordable Care Act because they believe we are better off executing 48,000 Americans each year through withholding health care than we will be if we allow low income people the same access to birth control as higher income people. These religious leaders seem to believe higher income people have their children spaced at three-year intervals or only have one or two children because they are celibate for most of their married life.

The Congressional Budget Office reported that the ACA would reduce full time equivalent hours worked by 1.5 percent to 2 percent from 2017 to 2024. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is reported to have said the CBO report indicates “millions of hardworking Americans will lose their jobs” and John Boehner has characterized the CBO report as confirming the ACA is “destroying 800,000 American jobs” — even though what is predicted by the CBO is that people will stop working two or three minimum wage jobs.

By the way, Republican operatives who reviewed the records of the Lewiston-Altura School District for the 12 years I served as superintendent know that record shows that actual revenues and expenditures were within one-tenth of a percent of the projected budget most of those 12 years and that facilities, student achievement and teacher competence improved every year.

If the Republican operatives had inspected state records they would have found that Lewiston-Altura had, and still does have, one of the lowest administrative costs per student, in Minnesota.

Copyright 2015 Winona Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(3) Comments

  1. rstatesman
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    rstatesman - February 17, 2014 8:32 pm
    Implementing Zero Base Budgeting (ZBB) in the public sector is a different process than private sector ZBB. ZBB was introduced in the public sector in 1973 by Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter; in 1977 (ZBB) became President Carter's executive branch budgeting formulation process. Can one say public ZBB as being something other than liberal? I agree with Bruce, the wealthy have an unfair advantage in getting people elected. Bruce mentions they give more money to more candidates then average Americans can. Public financing or strict campaign donation limits are the only means of assuring equal freedom of speech in an election. Interesting that Liberals always point to Fox & Conservatives to MSNBC, CNN, etc. for falsifying news. That's why I get my news from both sides; from Huffington Post to World Net Daily, British, & Pravda newspapers. Conseratives like to see things in black and white, liberals only see in shades of gray. I try seeing the complex world in full color, try it sometime.
  2. Sampson
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    Sampson - February 17, 2014 12:00 pm
    Bruce hits on a lot of things. I wouldn’t say his idea for a budget is liberal, but I don’t know how manageable it would be. It certainly couldn’t be any worse than what we have now, so I’d say let’s try it…
    Fox doesn’t slant any further right than MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, etc. do left. If you want the whole story you have to get your info from several places then find the middle. Fox is an easy target for liberals to blame for everything under the sun though.
    The Wal-Mart heirs (or any other rich person/corporation) aren’t our problem. They cannot create & pass laws. Our problem is the crooked politicians who can be bought and paid for.
    The people who think the latest epiphany from the CBO that a lot of full time jobs are going away as good news, because somehow those folks will get enough taxpayer subsidized health care that they can voluntarily work less, are the same folks who believed “If you like your healthcare you can keep your healthcare”..
  3. Walters
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    Walters - February 17, 2014 9:25 am
    Good job
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