Thursday, June 16, 2011

140 not enuf room 4 full story

As the deadline for a state budget looms, the afterburners on both sides are kicking in. The governor and legislators are taking their respective cases to the people through news media and even social media. Sometimes the behind the scenes dialogue gets testy.
On Thursday, there was this Twitter exchange between Kevin Watterson, director of media services for Minnesota House GOP (aka Twitter's "kwatt"), and Bob Hume, senior communications adviser for Gov. Dayton, (aka "bobhume").
It all started with this "tweet" from Carrie Lucking, director of public affairs for Minnesota House DFL Caucus, regarding Local Government Aid to Cities.
(For the purposes of publishing this exchange and make it more readable I have taken the liberty of expanding the truncated dialogue that often happens on Twitter with its limitation of 140 characters per "tweet.")
"Think @repmattdean will talk about the millions of LGA cuts for Mankato?"
Kwatt responded "Mankato would get exactly what they got in 2010"
Bobhume: "Actually, the GOP budget has Mankato looking at a 12.6% property tax increase to absorb the cuts in LGA"
Kwatt: "Mankato received $6,228,727 in 2010; in 2011 $6,228,727; Change from 2010 to 2011 = 0. In 2012, $6,228,727, Change from 2011-2012 = 0
Bobhume: "In 2012, Mankato will get cut by $1,608,937. How can an entire party think this budget exists in some kind of vacuum where consequences don't exist?"
Kwatt: "So you're saying $6,228,727 is $1,608,937 less than $6,228,727? No wonder you can't put together a list of spending cuts?"
Bobhume: "Zing? 2012 current law =$7,837,664. 2012 budget with GOP cut - $6,228,727. Your total cut = $1,608,937."
Kwatt: "Oh, so we're going by the increase that's never happened as being what they should get. Got it."
Well, they're both right -- kind of.
For the record, Mankato didn't budget for the $7.8 million because it knew the state would likely cut back but not decimate LGA.
I asked Tanya Ange, assistant city manager for Mankato, for some history of LGA allocations to put this discussion in perspective.
As a point of reference to where the city was at one time,, in 2002, Mankato received $9.3 million in LGA.
In 2005, $7.4 million; 2006, $7.97 million; 2007; $7.8 million; 2008, $6.5 million, 2009, $6.95 million.
But in 2010, after certification to receive $7.8 million, it actually received only $6.2 million after then Gov. Tim Pawlenty's unallocations. In 2011, it was set to receive $7.9 million but the city budgeted $6.4 million and in 2012, it was scheduled for $7.9 million but who knows what will happen between now and then.
Last year, Mankato City Manager Pat Hentges told the council he was budgeting the lesser amount in part on a political analysis of how much the the Legislature will cut from LGA amid the huge budget deficit being forecast by the state. He was already preparing to live with declining state aid by cutting staff levels 15% over the last three years. But the city also approved a 1.9% hike in the tax levy to soften the impact of lower property values.
Of course, other Twitter followers of "kwatt" and "bobhume" don't have that on-the-ground perspective and history and that's not the purpose of such heightened dialogue. However it does show the inherent danger of getting your information solely from social media.

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