Friday, November 13, 2009

A thought on Clark 

A quick thought on our own Sen. Clark, who apparently has gotten herself engaged in a (relatively small) fracas over some comment she made to a left-wing blog. If you live in St. Cloud you often see her, sometimes with her husband, visiting with constituents. "Isn't she nice?" many will say to me. Yes, in fact, mostly she's nice to me to my face. (Gary has had a different experience; I have not.) But there does seem to be two Mrs. Clarks -- the one constituents and her own family see in St. Cloud, and the one her DFL family in St. Paul sees. I'm sitting in one of those places right now where she enjoys a bit of a rock star status sweeping through the coffee shop. But ask those people what she does in St. Paul and all you get is "she represents us." It's a vague answer.

I really don't think the St. Cloud observers know the St. Paul Clark, and I'm not sure they'd like what they saw if someone showed her to them. Some will certainly, the strong partisans and the bombthrowers and the tax consumers. But her ability to reach independent voters, particularly in the business community I know, would be damaged if she was seen as being as strident as her Daily Beast or Kos blog shows her to be. As of yet in St. Cloud, tax consumers are not the majority.

If the Bachmann campaign wanted to play hardball with Clark, it should show St. Cloud the St. Paul version. The Americorps comment is what football players call "bulletin board material."

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Clark doesn't heart Reagan 

Eric Black writes a bio of state senator Tarryl Clark. He makes a big deal about her claim that she was once a Republican.

A MinnPost reader stumbled on the fact that Clark was a former Repub and asked me to check it out. Sure enough, she grew up in a Republican family and voted Repub as a young adult, including for Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984 (ouch, don�t tell Walter Mondale).

Of that 1984 vote for Reagan, Clark says: �If I could take that back, I would. He [Reagan] was kind of the nail in the coffin� of her Republican sympathies.

During the Reagan years, she says, she saw her ancestral party abandoning the needs of families and failing to walk the walk on fiscal responsibility. She�s been a Dem ever since and served as deputy chair of the DFL. (An aside, because I happen to recall it, Rep. Bachmann was a Democrat as a young adult, campaigning for Jimmy Carter. The Reagan years turned Bachmann into a conservative Republican and Clark into a liberal Democrat.)

I don't know about Bachmann, but I can tell you I made the opposite journey. Voted for Carter in 1976, for John Anderson in 1980. I cannot even say that, when I voted for Reagan in 1984 that I did so with great enthusiasm; it was much later that I realized the breadth of his intelligence. But I was attracted to Friedman and Margaret Thatcher earlier, and given the disastrous fiscal policies proposed by Mondale the vote for Reagan that time was not hard.

But I don't get how Clark claims the Republicans "abandoned the needs of families" and "failed to walk the walk of fiscal responsibility." The balanced-budget high-spending Republicans of the east coast are not those of her previous homes in Illinois and Virginia. Did not Reagan's foreign policy precipitate the fall of the Berlin Wall, saving us $100 billion in defense spending? The ones who squandered the peace dividend came after the fall of the USSR.

Did the budget balance that came at the end of the Clinton years come thanks to Clinton, or thanks to the 18 year run of good economic performance that came after the 1981-82 recession (with a small pause in 1990?) Didn't all that income help families? It took me a long time and perhaps some time with Robert Bartley's The Seven Fat Years to understand what Reagan had wrought. Clark failed to learn the lesson.

Clark is undoubtedly aware of the difficulties of running as a pro-choice DFLer who voted for many tax increases and a healthy stealth pay increase through per diems (you'll note I've never removed this from the blog sidebar.) First Ringer highlights the uphill fight Clark faces; even if Bachmann is a lightning rod for liberals, her district has a pretty substantial base of people who will vote for her, and gets an IP candidate that last time tanked Tink. If in a DFL highwater year with Obama at the top of the ticket Bachmann can get 49% even after sticking her foot and calf in her mouth on national TV (to the extent MSNBC can be called that), it's hard to see how Clark finds a plurality.

And the side benefit is, SD 15's state senate seat is now up for grabs unless Clark reverses field or should lose the endorsement to Dr. Maureen Reed. The latter is the longest of long shots; the only way Clark doesn't get the DFL endorsement is if she decides her party has dressed her up just to carry her up to the volcano, and declines to be tossed in.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Unallotment powers 

The DFL continues to make claims about the unallotment process that Governor Tim Pawlenty is using to balance the budget that the Legislature chose not to. Leading this charge has been DFL state Senator Tarryl Clark of St. Cloud. From her latest newsletter:
It has been just over one month since the Governor announced he was ending negotiations and would go it alone on budget cuts. We thought it was unwise then and it remains so now to do budgeting behind closed doors. Unallotment is meant to be a scalpel, not an ax and it is meant to be used at the end of the two-year budget cycle, not the beginning. It is for unanticipated budget shortfalls, not ones created by vetoes and a refusal to negotiate.
This is wrong on at least two levels. First, the DFL legislature had in fact created the budget in private, asking next to no help from either the governor or the Republican caucus. It did so on May 8, and then did so on the last night of the legislature, passing a bill barely by midnight. It is rather rich for Clark to argue that the governor will go it alone when they did not take his wishes into account (something Rep. Gene Pelowski understood.) Gary Gross is correct in saying that Clark and her colleagues assumed they could get Pawlenty into special session, where the pressure would bear down on him as much as them. She is upset that the Governor side-stepped that box.

Second, Clark has misrepresented the nature of the unallotment process. Luckily, a review of the process was done only last October. The House Research document on unallotment speaks to the issue of timing:
The statutory duty to reduce allotments is mandatory to the extent needed to make up a projected deficit not solved by use of the budget reserve account. However, the statute does not specify a timetable. The authors presume unallotment would have to occur in time to make up the projected deficit within the biennium. Arguably, the Commissioner of Finance must unallot immediately once the conditions that require unallotment have been determined to exist, and the commissioner has approval of the governor and has consulted the LAC. However, in the past, it has been a common practice of commissioners of finance and governors to wait until the legislature had time to rewrite the budget before unallotting. The requirement to obtain the governor�s approval and to consult with the LAC may imply that the commissioner has some discretion in the timing of unallotment. (pp. 4-5)
The governor notified the legislature of his intention to use the power if he did not receive a plan from them. They chose not to act on that power except to run forward a last-minute bill that had already been vetoed once (and had that veto sustained.)

The Minnesota Supreme Court also spoke on the unallotment process in Rukavina v Pawlenty (684 N.W. 2nd 525 [2004]), finding it constitutional for the Legislature to have ceded that power.
Although appropriation of money is the responsibility of the legislature under Minn. Const. Art. XI � 1, it is an annual possibility that the revenue streams that fund those appropriations may be insufficient to actually realize each appropriation. For that purpose, the legislature, by statute authorized the executive branch to avoid, or reduce, a budget shortfall in any given biennium. Minn. Stat. � 16A.152 does not represent a legislative delegation of the legislature's ultimate authority to appropriate money, but merely enables the executive to deal with an anticipated budget shortfall before it occurs.

Although purely legislative power cannot be delegated, the legislature may authorize others to do things (insofar as the doing involves powers that are not exclusively legislative) that it might properly, but cannot conveniently or advantageously, do itself. (cite omitted). It does not follow that, because a power may be wielded by the legislature directly or because it entails an exercise of discretion and judgment, it is exclusively legislative. (cite omitted). Pure legislative power, which can never be delegated, is the authority to make a complete law--complete as to the time it shall take effect and as to whom it shall apply--and to determine the expediency of its enactment. We conclude that Minn. Stat. � 16A.152, does not reflect an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power, but only enables the executive to protect the state from financial crisis in a manner designated by the legislature.
Indeed, to the extent possible Governor Pawlenty has delayed most unallotments to not take place until July 1, 2010, to both hope for more revenue from an improved economy and to allow the Legislature time to make changes in cooperation with the Executive. The door isn't closed: The governor offers the chance to find a better solution, and makes plain the consequences of not compromising.

Clark notes that Pawlenty has used unallotment three times, and in one of those cases the legislature had sought an opinion from the Supreme Court. It therefore had full knowledge of the law. If it did not want to permit the executive the power to "protect the state from financial crisis" through the current law, it only needed to pass a law amending the process. Certainly if the executive is expanding power unduly, the DFL could find a few GOP representatives to vote to defend their prerogative.

I encourage you to read Gary's post for more on what's wrong with Senator Clark's e-letter. But the point here is to make it plain that the DFL continues to mischaracterize Pawlenty's use of powers the Legislature delegates to him. They knew the issues, they did not address them by legislative initiative, and they continue to be hypocritical over who didn't bargain in good faith with whom.

UPDATE: Gary has a second post. Key point I would highlight:
It isn�t accurate to say that the DFL didn�t submit a balanced budget. It�s accurate, though, to say that the first balanced budget they submitted to Gov. Pawlenty passed the Senate with minutes left in the session. It�s equally accurate to say that the Tax Bill that passed was a hodgepodge bill, filled with a litany of tax increases and spending shifts.
And let's not forget that this was trotted out at 10:30pm for passage before midnight in an uncivil manner. Senator Clark should also answer for that clusterfarg.

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Friday, April 17, 2009

She didn't get the memo 

In her e-news letter to constituents, Senator Tarryl Clark (DFL-St. Cloud) reports on the difference between the Senate's plan to balance the state budget and that of Governor Tim Pawlenty.
Using a combination of cuts, federal recovery funds and new revenues it brings the state budget into balance for not only the next two years, but also the two years beyond that. This is something our Governor does not plan to do. Instead he pushes much of our present problems into the next two years. Seemingly he is hoping, and that�s all it is, is a hope, that things will get much better, much sooner than most economists believe. If his hope is misplaced Minnesota will be in even worse financial straits.

I don't think the Obama administration is buying that with their forecast of GDP. CBO, who has panned some of the President's numbers, nevertheless expects real GDP to grow 4% in 2011, 4.1 in 2012. Indeed, the disingenuous part of Sen. Clark's statement is that there are no forecasters saying growth will be weak in 2011, when the next biennium budget begins. �(See the WSJ survey last week, or Blue Chip yesterday.)� Why is Sen. Clark so pessimistic about Minnesota? �Why does she not share the optimism of her party's leader?

I will be dissecting other parts of this letter next week.

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

"It's too hard!" 

Frequently students come to my office, usually near the end of the semester, and ask if I can give them an 'incomplete' grade for the class. They need more time, they say, to do the work required. Sometimes their reasons are valid, like an illness or in one case jury duty that lasted four weeks. Many other times, though, the student simply managed his time poorly, in which case the answer is 'no'.

I've posted and spoken on the Final Word about the inability of the DFL leadership in the Minnesota Legislature to come up with a budget plan. I think we're making some headway on this, because today DFL Assistant Leader Tarryble Clark responds that it's too hard for her to figure out a budget:
Perhaps an explanation of the well-established processes the governor and the Legislature follow when creating the budget will help ease the confusion.

Every two years the governor puts together a budget for the state for the next two years. The governor, his staff, and the staff at the agencies he controls are the only group capable of assembling a complete budget of the size and complexity our state requires.

There are hundreds of people working up to seven months to produce the documents that become our budget.

The Legislature's duty is to examine the governor's budget, seek input from the public and accept, reject or modify what the governor is proposing.
Not so fast my friend (with apologies to Lee Corso.)

First, the budget process does have the governor providing a budget. But what about new governors? How much extra time do they get, given they don't even know they're governors until the first week of November? The answer, according to the Senate, is three weeks. This seven months and a full staff explanation is a canard. If you really needed that long to develop a budget, you would not hamstring new governors with such a short time horizon.

Second, the idea that poor little Tarryl has nobody to help her and her colleagues develop a budget is, to be polite, connerie. The Senate has 211 full time staff members; the House, 249. That's more than four hundred staffers. The Senate has a budget of over $25 million. The House doubled the amount of money it spends on its committee structure. Why does Senator Clark think they are incapable of helping her develop a budget?

Third, Senator Clark has received $4,128 in interim per diem payments which means since the end of the special session last year. Not only was there 211 full time Senate staffers, they had access to 43 days worth of Mrs. Clark ($4,128 divided by the miserly per diem rate of $96.) Her leader, Larry Pogemiller, had 73 days; Tax Committee chair (and DFL gubernatorial candidate?) Tom Bakk, 60. If they did not have time to write a budget, what were they doing that they thought was more important? Do any of them intend to account for these days?

During these "listening sessions" -- and you can still sign up to speak, if you want -- you are probably not going to get answers to the following questions. You should ask them anyway:
  1. Can you account for the days you spent for which you received interim per diem payments?
  2. Why is it so hard for legislators to complete a budget when they have large, full-time staffs?
  3. Why does Minnesota state statute say a new governor has to come up with a budget within seven weeks of entering office, but the leaders of the Senate cannot in seven months? Is it too hard for you? Why?

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