The Owatonna People's Press has published Parry proud of work he did for Steele County, part two of staff writer Derek Sullivan's retrospective interview with retiring state senator Mike Parry. Bluestem pointed out a factual issue in the first installment with Fact check: Parry's 2012 flood relief vote and the Owatonna People's Press Parry feature.
The second story acknowledges that Parry voted no on the Duluth disaster bill:
Parry also traveled up to St. Paul in August to vote against flood relief for Duluth area residents, one of just seven legislators to vote against the bill, which was signed by Gov. Mark Dayton on Aug. 24. It was reported in Sunday’s paper that Parry supported the $1 million in flood relief, but he instead voiced concerns over a $1 million allocation to the Department of Natural Resources to compensate for lost timber sales in areas where many trees were blown down, according to a story by Minnesota Public Radio.
Bluestem spots two items that deserve a fact check. The first concerns Parry's political history in Waseca:
Before getting into politics, Parry owned and operated a Godfather’s Pizza restaurant in Waseca. He said he was tired of his town poorly managing its finances, so he ran for city council in 2004. Parry, who lost a city council election in 2008, still believes Waseca officials don’t work together to grow the city.
“In Waseca, there is still an intergovernmental power struggle going on, not the cooperation there should be,” he said. “Waseca appears to have a lot of individuals that want to make a name for themselves. There are certain pockets of teamwork, but nobody wants to come together and have a plan. That’s everything from trying to bring an event into town to trying to bring a business into town.”
In fact, Mike Parry first ran for city council in 1998, shortly after he moved to Waseca, challenging and losing to Fran Zwach. He ran again in 2004 for an open seat; he was unopposed. The citizens threw him out of office resoundingly in 2008. Read the details in Bluestem's January 2010 post, Who's the power hungry man?: Mike Parry's bids for public office date back to the 1990s.
Then there's a larger claim that appears to be unsupported by the record; it's about the state government budget bill. From today's Owatonna People's Press article:
Parry’s state government committee also passed a State Government budget bill, which he said was a highlight of his two-plus years in St. Paul.
After what Parry called a “furious” five-hour debate, the bill passed with a 37-29 party-line vote. The bill spends about $600 million on state government in 2012-13, which amounts to a nearly 35 percent cut. The bill also calls for a 15 percent state workforce reduction by 2015.
Parry said Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter praised the bill as a key reason for the current $323 million surplus in Minnesota.
Bluestem finds several important factual errors in Parry's memory.
First, the senate did indeed pass a state budget bill in May 2011 on a 37-29 party-line vote, as Briana Bierschbach reported in Senate passes state government omnibus budget bill.
But Governor Dayton vetoed the bill, the government shut down, and an entirely different bill was passed during the summer 2011 special session. The Session Daily reported in State government bill goes to governor [emphasis added]:
The House passed the bill 81-47 after the Senate passed it 40-24. It now goes to Gov. Mark Dayton for action.
“The state government finance bill comes before you tonight with some substantial changes,” Lanning said.
The bill would reduce General Fund spending on state government by 1 percent. The net spending reduction would rise to 10.3 percent when the impact of new revenues are included. Both figures are modest compared to the 32.3 percent cut that Republican lawmakers sent to Dayton earlier this year.
Proposed cuts to many state agencies have been dramatically reduced from the original bill, with most agencies now receiving a 5 percent cut in their operating budgets rather than 10 or 15 percent. . . .A controversial requirement to reduce the state’s workforce 15 percent by 2015 was dropped from the bill as part of the final budget agreement. Also left on the chopping block was a plan to shift $90 million of the total cost of state employees’ health insurance premiums off of the state and on to the workers, as well as a $94.9 million general reduction across all state agencies.
Parry may have loved his draconian cuts, but they weren't part of the final bill that legislators voted for and Governor Dayton signed.
Finally, Bluestem finds no evidence that Commissioner Schowalter credited either Parry's fantasy legislature bill or the real one as "a key element" for the surplus. In fact, Schowalter was quite dour about that surplus and was scolded by a prominent Minnesota conservative blogger for his assessment of its meaning.
In Forecast: Minnesota has a $323 million budget surplus for biennium, PIM's Bierschbach reported that Showalter credited the surplus to other factors:
The latest economic forecast puts Minnesota an additional $323 million in the black for the remainder of the 2012-2013 biennium.
The added surplus was due largely to a $230 million decrease in spending, mostly stemming from lower-than-anticipated enrollment in the state’s early Medicaid expansion under the federal health law for single adults. The state also took in about $93 million more in revenues than anticipated, state budget officials announced on Wednesday.
What's more, the "surplus" had already been "spoken for" to pay some bills:
Despite a desire from lawmakers to use the money to push major policy initiatives sought this session, the surplus already is spoken for under current law. The first $5 million will be used to replenish the state’s budget reserve, bringing the emergency fund to a total of $653 million.
The remaining $318 million will be used to begin repaying more than $2 billion in state aid payments to school districts, $750 million of which was added to the tab as part of last year’s budget compromise between Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP leaders of the Legislature. The first $200 million of those payments are set to go out to districts March 15.
What did Schowalter actually say? Minnesota Public Radio's Tim Pugmire reported in Minn. budget forecast shows $323 million surplus:
That was the first surplus in four years, and state law required the money be used to restore the state's depleted cash-flow account and budget reserves. The trend of reduced state spending and better-than-expected revenue collections has continued since December, but Schowalter said the 1 percent improvement in the forecast is also spoken for under state law.
"That anticipated $323 million balance does not stick around long. It immediately goes to replenish the state's budget reserve and then starts to repay some of the school shifts for our K-12 institutions," he said.[emphasis added]
Those delayed payments to schools helped DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders erase a $5 billion deficit and end a government shutdown last summer. They also tapped other one-time money as part of the fix. That's why another modest surplus has not yet put state finances back on solid ground for the long term.
Schowalter said the new forecast projects a $1.1 billion deficit by fiscal year 2014. That's a little better than the $1.3 billion projected in the last forecast, but he said it still presents big challenges.
"We were able to balance this year's budget, if you'll recall, with sizeable one-time resources from the tobacco bonds, from the school shift. Those aren't there in 2014-15, but the obligations and the continued programming is," said Schowalter. "So as a result, we have a structural balance that we're going to have to resolve."
He was scolded as a partisan hack for saying that by Shot in the Dark. Showalter served as deputy MMB commissioner during the Pawlenty administration before Dayton appointed him commissioner.
Bluestem suspects that Parry's confused memory may be substituting remarks made by Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem in a caucus press conference later that day. Here's a video synopsis Senate media put together:
Video of the entire press conference is available here in the Senate media archives in Flash and Windows Media formats under "Minnesota Management and Budget presents the 2012 February budget forecast at the State Capitol. Republican and Democrat legislative leaders and Governor Mark Dayton respond in separate press conferences" for Wednesday,February 29, 2012.
Parry mentioned in the first OPP article that he's helping the endorsed Republican candidate running for the senate seat he vacated to unsuccessfully seek his party's endorsement for MNCD1 congress. Bluestem has heard from a source closed to the Jensen campaign that many voters ask DFL-endorsed candidate Vicki Jensen if she's running against Parry. When told he's campaigning for her opponent, voters assure her of their support. He's just that popular.
In Parry's own mind, he passed that fantasy legislature budget bill. He tells the OPP he loves that part of politics:
Parry wouldn’t rule out another run or taking a job as a lobbyist or a position within the Republican Party.
“I like politics to the point where if you can convince people to come together and being able to pass state government budget bill. I like that part of it. I hate the things that happen during a campaign.”
Photo: Mike Parry