Lori Sturdevant's Feb. 22 column assaults Minnesota Majority's assertion that the state budget "listening sessions" are a sham. We have said these are really just staged events designed to provide political cover for legislative leaders defending out-of-control government spending and advocating for more tax increases.

Sturdevant failed to mention the e-mail sent by Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona, to government officials in his area requesting them to testify at the Winona "listening session." His e-mail says the purpose for the meeting is to get feedback from affected programs in every level of government. This is quite a different take from how the meetings are being billed to the public. "We would ask you to focus your comments on the impact of the Governor's budget including what is the harm to your area of government or program," the e-mail instructs. How many similar e-mails were sent out by other state legislators to government employees?

The vast majority of the 54 individuals who testified in Rochester were beneficiaries of government programs. Only two private sector citizens were allowed to speak to express their concerns about potential tax increases. We are aware of at least four additional concerned taxpayers who registered to speak at the Rochester event but were passed over in favor of government employees.

Minnesota Majority has received similar accounts from individuals attending other "listening sessions" across the state. Most said they did not feel these were genuine community meetings. The so-called "listening sessions" have been largely "echo chambers" with government talking to government.

We believe Minnesotans deserve to know the truth about the state budget "listening sessions." We will leave it to the Star Tribune readers to decide where the truth actually resides.