Friday, March 15, 2013

A tale of two luncheons news reports

As I was perusing Twitter Thursday morning, I came across a Minneapolis Star Tribune story about a luncheon where Governor Mark Dayton spoke to a business group.

The headline of said story?

Gov. Dayton gets standing ovation from business group

About nine hours earlier (Wednesday evening), I happened to catch some blurbs on Twitter about how the Governor came off as rather churlish while speaking at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon. After a quick Google search, I came across a WCCO-TV news story with the following headline: 

Gov. Dayton Lashes Out At Chamber Of Commerce

My initial reaction was "Wow! The Governor attended *two* luncheons Wednesday? Why was he so well received at one and so hostile at the other?"

Upon further review, both stories were citing the very same afternoon event. 

If you read only the Star Tribune story, you would've thought that the Chamber of Commerce and the Governor had merely a respectful disagreement. That is at least expected (though hardly scandalous) given Dayton's relentless pursuit to to raise taxes on Minnesotans who earn more than $250,000 per year. On the other hand, business leaders firmly believe that such a policy would serve to kill jobs. 

However, the WCCO-TV news report showed a whole different side of Governor Messinger Dayton at that luncheon.

Gov. Dayton told a stunned luncheon audience that Minnesota is among the best places for business in the country, contrary to the Chamber’s message.

He said government spending is right in the middle, and that the state’s tax rank is dropping.

Dayton said he never heard the same criticism when Republican Tim Pawlenty was governor for eight years, and he asked his staff to investigate.

“And we could not find a single instance of the chamber calling for spending reforms during those eight years,” Dayton said. “Evidently, in your view, spending reform is needed only when a Democrat is governor.”

Aside from what sounded like an incredibly childish statement, it is stupefyingly false. While the Governor's staff may have been unable to come up with the Chamber itself objecting to higher spending during the Pawlenty administration, individual businesses sure as heck took exception.

My friend and Northern Alliance Radio Network colleague Mitch Berg conveyed it better than I could.

Business never complained about spending on Pawlenty’s watch? Huh?

During the first term, business complained about things like “health impact fees” – stealth taxes framed as compromises with the DFL in a legislature he didn’t completely control. Just ask Sue Jeffers. On the other hand, he generally held the line on taxes, pursuant to his pledge to the Taxpayers League.

During the second? Pawlenty was faced with a wastrel DFL legislature; business rightly figured he was the last line of defense against the sort of pillaging the Messinger Dayton Administration and the Legislature have in mind.

And they were right then, and they’re right now.
No doubt Pawlenty had a few warts. The cigarette tax "health impact fee" definitely flew in the face of his pledged fiscal conservatism. Also, he signed the bill that increased Hennepin County sales tax in order to pay for a portion of Target Field. But it's utter nonsense to say that businesses didn't call for spending reforms as those particular proposals were bandied about.

Anyhow, back to the original point of this post. How come the Star Tribune story didn't mention Gov. Dayton's insinuation the the Chamber of Commerce was a biased organization for not calling out a GOP governor on spending cuts with the same fervor as they've conveyed to him? Could it possibly be that Dayton's rather petulant statement didn't exactly cast him in a favorable light and thus the Strib is covering for him?

Whatever the case, I give props to WCCO-TV political reporter Pat Kessler for specifically targeting that portion of the speech in his news report. For highlighting something which doesn't exactly make Dayton look like a stable leader is something that's rarely done amongst the Twin Cities media elite.


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