Tom Emmer said he will cut $20 billion from the state budget.
Tom Emmer has never said he will cut $20 billion from the state budget. In fact, he said we “can reduce government easily by 20% in the next four years – easily.” In a classic case of cherry picking part of a quote out of context, Tom’s opponents and the media have started to repeat this claim as a talking point.
The source for this claim is an interview on MPR’s Midday program with Gary Eichten on April 28, 2010. Eichten asked a hypothetical question (that even he admitted was unfair) about the proper size of the state budget. After arguing with Eichten about the size of the current budget, Emmer answered very clearly that the state budget could (not should) be cut by 20% over the next four years.
Since the question was a hypothetical from the beginning, Emmer was talking about what was possible, not making a campaign promise. That’s why he used the words “can reduce” not “will reduce.”
During the discussion with Eichten, Emmer did initially say the overall budget should be around $40 billion, down from the current level of $60 billion. But seconds later he clarified with the definitive statement that we “can reduce government easily by 20% in the next four years.” When Scheck chose to use the $20 billion figure instead of the more definitive final word on the question, he made a critical and material journalistic mistake.
Scheck also failed to mention anywhere in his story that Emmer was talking about a four year goal. Even if you use the bogus $20 billion figure, the reporter should have at least cut it in half when referring to “the overall state budget.”
A 20% reduction in the state budget over four years translates to a 10% reduction for each of the next two state budgets, or $6 billion out of the overall $60 billion budget.
For the benefit of reporters like Tom Scheck and everyone else, here is the transcript of the Midday Program from April 28, 2010:
Gary Eichten: I understand that this is a little bit of an unfair question – let’s say for purposes of discussion, the state has a biennial budget of $30 billion (plus or minus) If you could wave a wand today, what should be the size of the state budget?
Tom Emmer: Yeah, if you want a number, you’re using the general fund number Gary - the total number with dedicated funds is closer to $60 billion and I think really, if we’re going to compare ourselves with what it’s supposed to be,
Gary Eichten: Well let’s stick with the $30 billion – that’s the number that’s usually talked about
Tom Emmer: Well, no I’m going to tell you that the overall budget should probably be around $40 billion. Once you get done, and I’m talking out of that $60 billion -
Gary Eichten: So eliminate about a third of what the state is spending?
Tom Emmer: Actually, you can absolutely start – but you can’t just talk about the state, Gary – you’ve also got to talk about a county level and a city level, the local level. But yes, I believe you can reduce government easily by 20% in the next four years – easily.
Click here to listen for yourself. This discussion begins at the 40 minute mark of the interview.