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New Report Shows Minnesotans Weary of Partisan Politics

Anxious to See Hard State Budget Choices Made

 


Saint Paul, Minn. (Aug. 18, 2011) – Minnesotans want state leaders to find a comprehensive approach to future budget challenges that includes government service redesign for efficiency and tax reform, according to a new report released today by the Bush Foundation. These attitudes held true in both the Twin Cities metro area and Greater Minnesota, and were consistent across political ideologies.

The report, Citizen Solutions: Citizen Perspectives on Minnesota’s Long-Term Budget, included findings from three citizen forums held between July 19 and July 21 and from a public opinion poll conducted between Aug. 1 and Aug. 4. The report shows that Minnesota citizens believe:

1. State leaders must take a comprehensive approach. Fifty-seven percent of Minnesotans—including 73 percent of moderates—believe we need to both find more revenue and cut state services to address the state’s budget shortfalls. An even higher percentage of Minnesotans support ideas that go beyond the traditional debates around taxes and cuts. More than four out of five Minnesotans believe that increased government efficiency should be a central component of a long-term budget solution, and nearly three out of four also want to see reforms to the state’s tax system.

2. Redesign is an integral part of the solution. Minnesotans want to take a long-term look at the state’s financial structure, and believe government service redesign will be necessary to end the state’s cycle of stalemates and deficits.

3. One-time borrowing is not a long-term solution. Minnesotans are particularly weary of short-term solutions, including one-time borrowing. The idea of one-time borrowing, which was incorporated into the recent budget deal, was completely rejected by 62 percent of forum participants and two-thirds of Minnesotans polled.

4. Citizen values must anchor future solutions. Eighty-six percent of Minnesotans polled said their voice as an average citizen was lost in this year’s budget debate. Forum participants pointed to the increasingly partisan tenor of budget debates as evidence that citizen perspectives need to play a greater role in future budget discussions.

“This research shows that Minnesotans care about preserving what’s great in our state, including our high-quality public services,” noted C. Scott Cooper, director of engagement and communication for the Bush Foundation. “Citizens don’t want to give up what’s great about Minnesota, but they’re willing to consider new approaches to public services and to make sacrifices today in order to preserve our quality of life for future generations. That’s at odds with the way they saw this year’s budget debate unfold, and they were very disappointed.”

Sheila Kiscaden, a former state senator and InCommons facilitator who helped convene the Rochester Citizens Solutions event, said, “What I found most impressive is that, both in the Citizen Solutions forums and in the poll, Minnesotans consistently voiced a willingness to face difficult choices head-on for the sake of future generations. When given the choice, they didn’t take the easy way out. That says a lot about the character of Minnesotans, and it’s a message that I hope others will take to heart.”

The research also found that a large majority of Minnesotans—83 percent—believe that government services are a critical part of the state’s economy and quality of life.

“What citizens want is clear from this research: Minnesotans of all political ideologies, and from every corner of the state, want to see public officials move away from divisive ideological budget battles to thoughtfully deal with the state’s long-term, structural budget challenges,” said Peter Hutchinson, President of the Bush Foundation.

Many participants in the Citizen Solutions meetings noted that this process helped them understand the challenges that lawmakers face in dealing with this difficult budget situation. Nonetheless, they still thought policy makers should have done a better job of representing the state’s long-term interests rather than putting tough choices off to the future.

The Bush Foundation sponsored the Citizen Solutions forums in partnership with InCommons between July 19 and July 21. The three events were held in Grand Rapids, Bloomington and Rochester, and 130 participants were selected from a pool of online applicants to join the roundtable events. Participants were selected for optimal diversity of ideological perspectives. At each forum, participants were seated in groups of six to seven, provided with a basic overview of the state budget and the budget-balancing tools available to decision makers, and then asked to make their own recommendations for how the state should balance its budget.

Following the Citizen Solutions forums, Wilder Research conducted a public opinion poll for the Bush Foundation designed to test the ideas and opinions generated at the forums. The poll was conducted from Aug. 1 to 4, and had a sample size of 600 with a margin of error of ± 4 percent.

“The Bush Foundation held these events and sponsored this research because we believe that everyday citizens, working together and armed with good information, have the power to tackle our communities’ most pressing problems,” explained Hutchinson. “With our state facing one of its greatest challenges in recent history—our significant, structural deficit—it only felt appropriate that the Foundation give citizens the tools and platform they needed to become involved in generating solutions for the future of Minnesota.”

The complete Citizen Solutions report, including full polling data and methodology, is available at BushFoundation.org.

The mission of the Bush Foundation is to be a catalyst for the courageous leadership necessary to create sustainable solutions to tough public problems and ensure community vitality. The Foundation was established in 1953 by 3M executive Archibald Bush and his wife, Edyth, and today works in communities across Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and the 23 Native nations that share that same geographic area. For more information, visit BushFoundation.org

InCommons is a community-based, Minnesota-wide initiative to connect people face-to-face and online to share credible tools, knowledge and resources to solve community problems. For more information, visit InCommons.org.

Wilder Research gathers and interprets facts and trends in order to help families and communities thrive, get at the core of community concerns and raise issues that are overlooked or poorly understood. It works with organizations at the local, state and national levels. For more information, visit Wilder.org.

 

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