PoliGraph: Thissen correct – cuts will cost jobs

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Minnesota House Minority Leader Paul Thissen says Republican budget plans put jobs at risk.

Last week, the House Higher Ed budget put 1,200 employees at Minnesota’s colleges and universities on notice” he wrote in an April 5, 2010, press release. “The tax bill will slash another 1,700 jobs in counties and cities across Minnesota… With [the state government jobs] bill, the Republican Majority not only hands out an additional 754 pink slips, but also slashes support for private sector job creation.”

Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, is right that cutting government spending would cost jobs, but his numbers are hard to pin down.

The Evidence

The House version of higher education funding bill would cut about 17.7 percent from the University of Minnesota’s budget and mandate a tuition cap of up to 5 percent. That could mean the loss of 600 to 700 jobs, said Richard Pfutzenreuter who is the Treasurer for the University of Minnesota.

But he points out that those numbers include employees who will retire early and jobs that will remain vacant. Only a fraction will be layoffs, he said. Further, it’s unlikely the university would balance its budget only by cutting jobs, he said. Rather, it will be a mix of trims.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) budget would be cut nearly 16 percent. As a result, the system is looking at either 554 staff reductions or 490 faculty reductions, including retirements and unfilled positions. That’s about 3 percent of the system’s 19,300 person workforce, according to spokeswoman Melinda Voss.

All told, that’s about 1,200 jobs. But Thissen’s figure is on the high end because it’s unlikely all cuts would come from layoffs. And those figures include retirements and unfilled positions as well.

Thissen points to an estimate from Gov. Mark Dayton’s office to support the second part of this claim that the House tax bill will result in 1,700 job losses. The bill cuts state aid to communities, which must be made up through property tax increases or by cutting spending and jobs.

Finally, Thissen underestimates the number of jobs lost as the result of the state government funding bill. That legislation requires a 15 percent across the board cut of all state executive branch employees by 2015, which translates to about 4,900 jobs – not 754 jobs as he states. Those jobs can be cut through layoffs, retirements or hiring freezes.

The Verdict

Thissen’s numbers are based on fact, but he leaves out some important points. For instance, he doesn’t mention that it’s unlikely that the University of Minnesota will cut only jobs to save money, nor does he point out that employment reductions would be made through retirements and hiring freezes, not just layoffs. And his claim on the tax bill relies on just one source–Gov. Mark Dayton.

Given all these caveats, it was a tough call. But overall, Thissen is correct that the spending bills being debated in the House would likely mean government job losses throughout the state.


Rep. Paul Thissen, Laying Waste to the Job Creation Foundation: Statement from Minority Leader Paul Thissen on House Pink Slip Bill, April 5, 2011

Minnesota House of Representatives, Summary: Higher Education Omnibus Appropriations, March 30, 2011

Facts about the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, accessed April 7, 2011

Legislative Testimony by President Robert H. Bruininks, Minnesota House Higher Education Committee, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011

On Campus, Why do college officials use dire but impossible budget scenarios, By Alex Friedrich, February 25, 2011

Minnesota House of Representatives, State Government Finance Omnibus Bill, accessed April 7, 2011

Minnesota Management and Budget, Workforce Report 2010, accessed April 7, 2011

Minnesota House of Representatives, Tax Omnibus Bill, accessed April 7, 2011

Interview, Carrie Lucking, spokeswoman, Rep. Paul Thissen, April 7, 2011

Interview, Richard Pfutzenreuter, Treasurer, University of Minnesota Board of Regents, April 7, 2011


The Humphrey School

  • George

    This is not a “tough call” as reported. The reductions are real even if some of them are retirements and unfilled openings. The point is that there are fewer opportunities for people seeking employment. This is the “jobs” session promised by the Republican majority? Not so much.