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Ann Rest’s amendment has sparked a great controversy at the Capitol. This article highlights how the DFL is filled with vitriol. It also highlights the fact that they’re still feeling a little sensitive about appropriating money to build the Senate Office Building. Brian Bakst and Tim Pugmire reported that tensions “rose in the Senate when majority Democrats amended the bill with a provision reallocating Republican office space inside the State Office Building to the Revisor of Statutes.”

What’s laughable is Sen. Rest’s rationalization/spin of her amendment. She actually had the temerity to say “It is not evicting you. You still have 13,000 square feet of space to operate your caucus in. What we are doing is saving the taxpayers money.”

Sen. Rest and her DFL colleagues don’t care about saving taxpayers money. If they did, they would’ve highlighted the foolish spending within the MnSCU Central Office and at St. Cloud State.

This is the text of Sen. Rest’s amendment:

If the DFL was sincere about saving the taxpayers’ money, where were they when they voted for this Taj Mahal for politicians? Republicans shouldn’t take Sen. Rest’s spin seriously. Until the DFL admits that the Senate Office Building was a taxpayer-funded boondoggle, Senate Republicans should remind taxpayers who’s looking out for them and who’s looking out for themselves.

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Last week, Senate Minority Leader David Hann wrote Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk a letter requesting that Sen. Bakk release the content of a threatening email Sen. Bakk sent to Cook County businessman Dennis Rysdahl. Predictably, Sen. Bakk refused to release that email, saying “You just can’t do that.”

After hearing Mr. Rysdahl’s testimony and reading his quote in the DNT’s article, I’d argue that it’s imperative that Sen. Bakk’s email be made public. Rysdahl testified at Cook County’s County Commissioners meeting, saying “I got an email from Tom Bakk yesterday, and he’s very concerned. He’s already hearing, again, what’s he’s heard many times before that Cook County doesn’t really belong in the Taconite Relief District, and if they’re going to take an action like this, they don’t deserve to continue to be involved.”

After reading that quote, it’s insulting that we read this opening paragraph of the Mesabi Daily News article:

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk of Cook will not acquiesce to a Republican request to make public a personal email sent to a Cook County businessman regarding the Twin Metals lease issue.

That’s BS. First, I’d demand to know which email address Sen. Bakk used. If he used his legislative email address or his IRRRB email address, that ends Sen. Bakk’s argument that it’s a personal email. Saying that you’re using a government account to send personal emails is a nonstarter.

Further, I’d argue that any email that talked about potential action by an executive branch agency isn’t personal. Based on Mr. Rysdahl’s testimony, it sounds like the email relates directly to Sen. Bakk’s responsibilities as a member of the IRRRB executive board. This paragraph indicates that the email was official:

But in Cook County, there is also an undercurrent of an Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Board issue — should Cook County continue as part of the Taconite Relief Area and receive agency funding.

I can’t wait to hear Sen. Bakk explain how threatening the Cook County commissioners with cutting off funding is “personal.” As I said earlier, I don’t doubt that Sen. Bakk wanted to keep his threatening email private.

I hope that Sen. Hann has another plan to force Sen. Bakk into producing that email. Private citizens shouldn’t have to deal with threats from public officials. That’s what Sen. Bakk did to Mr. Rysdahl and to the Cook County commissioners.

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This op-ed, co-authored by DFL Sen. Kevin Dahle and DFL Rep. Vicki Jensen, is mostly fiction. It’s totally in keeping with the DFL’s transportation chanting points. Mostly, though, it’s a thinly-veiled attempt at a major middle class tax increase that isn’t needed.

Dahle and Jensen start with a false premise, stating it “is well reported that Minnesota’s transportation needs have reached a critical point.” There’s been no doubt that lots of stories featuring DFL quotes have been written. The question isn’t whether Minnesota’s roads need maintaining. One of the questions is whether Minnesota should focus on roads and bridges or if Minnesota should focus on transportation. Another question worth asking is this: if it’s that well-documented, why didn’t the DFL majorities in the House and Senate send a bill to the DFL governor that raised the gas tax in 2013?

The DFL legislature found time to spend $90,000,000 on the Senate Office Building. They found time to subject farm equipment repairs and warehousing services to the state sales tax, which Gov. Dayton eagerly signed into law. Then the DFL legislature found time to repeal those sales tax increases. Again, Gov. Dayton eagerly repealed the sales taxes that he’d signed into law the previous spring.

The question that hasn’t been asked is why, if this was such a high priority, the DFL didn’t act on it when they had full control of the legislature and had a DFL governor.

This paragraph is an outright lie:

Unfortunately, that’s where our similarities seem to end. We are willing to look at all options on the table. However, we are unwilling to compromise on a plan for our transportation network that is worse for rural communities. By relying on local tax increases, one-time spending, and borrowing, the Republican plan does not provide the same level of support for those communities ? our communities ? that need it most.

Last spring, Rep. Tim Kelly, chairman of the House Transportation Finance Committee, presented a plan that raised revenues without raising taxes. Then he issued this statement:

Personally, I am happy to have had the opportunity to help put together the fiscally responsible Road and Bridge Act of 2015, which will do so much good for the State of Minnesota.

Under this proposal, the State of Minnesota would repurpose revenue that is already being collected from existing sales taxes on auto parts, the Motor Vehicle Lease sales tax, the rental vehicle tax and the sales tax on rental vehicles. By placing these revenue streams – estimated at $3.078 billion over the next ten years – in a newly created Transportation Stability Fund, Minnesota would not only provide new money for roads and bridges statewide, but also for small city roads, bus services in Greater Minnesota, suburban county highways, and metro area capital improvements.

Making this change would dedicate $1.44 billion for county roads, $583 million for municipal roads, and $282 million for roads in towns with fewer than 5,000 residents.

The DFL is clearly lying when Sen. Dahle and Rep. Jensen state that the “Republican plan does not provide the same level of support for those communities … that need it most.” That’s in direct conflict with Chairman Kelly’s statement that his plan would “dedicate $1.44 billion for county roads, $583 million for municipal roads, and $282 million for roads in towns with fewer than 5,000 residents.”

They do not provide any new funding for larger city local roads, and they do not provide enough investment for smaller cities.

The Republican-endorsed candidates for Dahle’s and Jensen’s seats should pepper them with questions about their dishonesty. I’d ask them why they’re pushing for a major middle class tax increase, too. It’s time to rip the mask off the DFL and expose them for the dishonest tax-hiking maniacs that they are.

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I used to think that the Alliance for a Better Minnesota, aka ABM, was the most dishonest collection of progressives in Minnesota. I’m rethinking that, not because I think ABM suddenly became an integrity-filled organization but because Rep. Paul Thissen is a disgustingly dishonest person. I’m writing this because Rep. Thissen is dishonest and deceptive. When he issued this statement, Rep. Thissen put words in Speaker Daudt’s mouth, words that Speaker Daudt didn’t say.

The thing that Rep. Thissen twisted is the sentence that Speaker Daudt said. It reads “Number one, it would fund our roads and bridges, but number two, it would start to starve out the general fund, so it would remove money currently going in to the general fund, which is a really good thing.”

Rep. Thissen twisted that into this sentence, which says “Speaker Daudt’s admission that the purpose of the House Republican transportation plan is to “starve out” the money we use to fund our schools, police officers, and other basic services is the most damning argument against their so-called plan to date. He is openly admitting not only that they do not have a real plan to fund our roads and bridges but that the real purpose is to send us into deficit so they can cut our schools and other basic services in perpetuity.”

Rep. Thissen’s insistence that Speaker Daudt secretly wants to starve K-12 Education and police officer funding is insane. Last year, Speaker Daudt and Senate Majority Leader worked out a bipartisan budget plan a week before the end of session. If Rep. Thissen wants to argue that Speaker Daudt wants to starve education, transportation and public safety, then he’d better argue that about Sen. Bakk, too.

This statement is exceptionally dishonest:

Speaker Daudt and Republicans should bring forward a real transportation plan that will adequately fund our roads and bridges without depriving our general fund of resources that educate our kids from kindergarten to college and fund basic government services that are important to the lives of Minnesota families.

That’s rich. Tim Kelly criticized (exposed?) Rep. Thissen in this op-ed:

Do you recall Thissen’s “comprehensive transportation solution that truly fixes the problem long-term” from two years ago? Me either, because it didn’t exist.

Rep. Thissen is a natural-born obstructionist. His first action is to criticize, not solve problems.

It’s truly a sad day in Minnesota. The DFL leader in the House isn’t interested in solving problems. He isn’t even interested in telling the truth. Paul Thissen is a cookie-cutter DFL weasel whose only objectives are to maintain power and to pass the DFL’s ideological agenda.

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Suffice it to say that Gov. Dayton’s trip to Ely last week was controversial. While visiting the Range, Gov. Dayton met with RAMS, aka the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools. RAMS peppered Gov. Dayton with questions and opinions. Steve Giorgi, RAMS executive director, asked the most pointed, pertinent, question, asking “Why would a company want to come to Minnesota and invest hundreds of millions of dollars?”

While that was the most pointed question of Gov. Dayton’s trip, it wasn’t the only uncomfortable moment for him. Another uncomfortable moment happened when Giorgi “presented Dayton with 17 resolutions passed by area governments, all seeking that Dayton reverse course, [which] argued that the decision could also have a chilling effect on other mining operations in the region, even taconite mining.”

Predictably, Gov. Dayton fought back, saying “I’ve told both of my commissioners to proceed as expeditiously as you can (on PolyMet). I view that project very differently, because of its location, than Twin Metals.”

TRANSLATION: The environmental activists that fund the DFL’s campaigns weren’t happy with Gov. Dayton when he waited until he couldn’t wait any longer to take a position on PolyMet. When he finally made the right decision, Gov. Dayton knew that he had to oppose Twin Metals because he couldn’t risk alienating the environmental activists that dominate the DFL.

This is heartbreaking:

“These kinds of opportunities are few and far between,” said Chisholm Mayor Michael Jugovich, touting a Twin Metals project that promises several hundred jobs. “This is the mecca for mining. We do it better and safer.” Jugovich said too many Iron Rangers, including his own children, have to leave the area to find sustainable employment.

That shouldn’t happen. The people of the Range are industrious and hard-working. Not maximizing that talent is virtually criminal. The DFL, especially the IRRRB, has squandered that talent.

That’s the definition of foolish.

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Jane Conrad’s LTE is an exercise in partisan dishonesty. In Ms. Conrad’s opening paragraph, she said “In 2014, state politicians like Reps. Jim Knoblach, Tama Theis, Jeff Howe and Tim O’Driscoll ran and were elected on a promise to improve the quality of lives for citizens in Greater Minnesota. We were promised that our roads and bridges would be repaired and broadband technology would be expanded.”

What’s happening is unfortunate. This isn’t part of the DFL’s campaign. This is the DFL’s campaign. They’ve been whining about Republicans not spending as much on broadband as they are since the 2014 election. The truth is that Republicans are willing to expand broadband in Minnesota. They just aren’t willing to spend as much on it as the DFL.

Second, I’m tired of hearing that Republicans haven’t delivered on fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges. The DFL, starting with Gov. Dayton and including Transportation Forward, is insisting on a major middle class tax increase to pay for roads and bridges. Additionally, they’re insisting that Republicans raise fees to pay for transit projects. In short, the DFL is insisting on listening to their lobbyist allies rather than to the people. I wrote this post in April, 2015 about a KSTP/SurveyUSA poll on transportation. Here is the poll question and the result:

House Republicans propose spending $750-million on highways and bridges over four years by using some of the state’s budget surplus and other existing funds without raising taxes. Do you approve or disapprove? Asked of 525 registered voters. Margin of sampling error for this question = ± 3.8%
75% Approve, 17% Disapprove, 8% Not Sure

It’s pretty clear that Minnesotans don’t approve of a major middle class tax increase, especially when there’s a less expensive way of solving the problem.

This year’s legislative session has been shortened due to construction at the Capitol, so one would assume our representatives would try to make the most of what little time they have, and get done what is most important. Instead, they waste time and taxpayer money trying to pass laws that will not pass in the Senate, would be vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton and would do nothing to help their constituents in Greater Minnesota.

Shame on Ms. Conrad. She’s forgotten that last year’s session went rather well. She’s forgotten, perhaps intentionally, that Speaker Kurt Daudt and Sen. Tom Bakk worked out a bipartisan budget agreement that Gov. Dayton eventually signed right before a partial government shutdown would’ve happened.

To hear Ms. Conrad tell it, Republicans don’t get anything done because they hate central Minnesota and other parts of the state, too. Ms. Conrad is a DFL operative who supports labor unions’ goals. It isn’t a stretch to say that she’s critical of anything Republicans do. That’s who she is.

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This past week, the IRRRB faced a ton of well-deserved scrutiny. The question going forward is whether the IRRRB will learn from its past mistakes. Prior to this week, I was more than a bit skeptical that the IRRRB would learn from its mistakes. After reading this article, I’m confident that the IRRRB won’t learn from its mistakes because it apparently doesn’t know which mistakes it’s making.

One of the key findings in Jim Nobles’ report on the IRRRB verified that the “Giants Ridge ski facility near Biwabik in Northeastern Minnesota received $17.4 million in subsidies” from the IRRRB since 2006. The IRRRB’s solution is straightforward and expensive. The IRRRB’s plan is to “offer severance pay to some workers, paving the way for the agency to turn Giants Ridge operation over the a private company in a year.”

I’ve argued here and here that the IRRRB is a failure. It should be dismantled. That isn’t what Sen. Bakk wants, though, so they’re proposing cosmetic changes and a ton of spin in their effort to continue spinning the need for them to stay involved. The DFL’s arguments are rubbish.

First, they’re admitting that they don’t know what they’re doing if they’re admitting that they need a private company to run Giants Ridge. They’re admitting that they shouldn’t have gotten into the ski resort business in the first place. If they’re admitting that they don’t know what they’re doing, why doesn’t the IRRRB sell Giants Ridge outright? This explains why they won’t sell it outright:

A private business already runs the IRRRB’s two golf courses and other facilities. The agency will seek one business to run them all, including a new events center.

The IRRRB shouldn’t be in business. Neither should other government agencies. If there’s a venture that can make money, entrepreneurs will quickly start a business. If it isn’t a viable business, they won’t. Further, the government shouldn’t get into a business if the private sector can’t make money at something.

The senator said that his goal would be to eliminate the IRRRB subsidy for the ski area, then eventually make money from Giants Ridge. The IRRRB is funded by tax on taconite mined on the Iron Range. Ski area subsidies come from that tax, not general state funds. When a private operator is obtained, the IRRRB still will provide improvements, such as working on some substandard ski lifts. The IRRRB will continue to own the facility.

It’s interesting to hear Sen. Bakk say that they hope the IRRRB starts making money on Giants Ridge by hiring a private manager in one sentence, then tell people that they’ll keep refurbishing the facilities while they retain ownership of the company.

There’s nothing in there that says they’re efficient and capable of making a profit.

Technorati: Tom Bakk, IRRRB, Giants Ridge, Government Subsidies, Early Retirement, Slush Fund, DFL

Bill Hanna’s article about Friday’s agenda says everything about who Gov. Dayton and the Metrocrat wing of the DFL listen to. Gov. Dayton and the Metrocrats take their orders from the environmental absolutists that fund the DFL’s campaigns. That’s why this afternoon’s meetings will get passionate.

Gov. Dayton better be prepared to hear lots of things that he won’t like hearing.

The only item on today’s agenda will be “Gov. Dayton’s decision three weeks ago to not allow the Department of Natural Resources to authorize any access or lease agreements for mining on state lands.” It’s a little ironic that today’s Ely City Council meeting is getting held at the IRRRB offices in Eveleth. Predicting that there’s a better chance of Gov. Dayton getting criticized during the meeting than there is a chance that he’ll receive a hero’s welcome doesn’t require Nostradamus. Here’s why it doesn’t require great prognostication skills:

The state would be turning away millions of dollars of just exploration work based on a pre-emptive emotional appeal by Gov. Dayton regarding the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness watershed rather than a DNR assessment based on science and facts.

There’s a fair amount of distrust of the DNR on the Iron Range. There’s more distrust in the declarations of an out-of-touch governor from the Twin Cities.

Gov. Dayton is coming north for a couple reasons. First, he wants to explain why he’s stopping the Twin Metals mining project without a serious scientific study to determine whether it can be done without harming the environment. Good luck with that. The other reason he’s visiting the Range is to tamp down this type of political unrest:

Public comment in Iron Range newspapers was overwhelmingly against Dayton’s decision.

That included a letter to the governor from former DFL Rep. Joe Begich of Eveleth, who said he was “shocked” by the decision. He also said, “…. as I have traveled in our area, I can’t believe the solid Democrats who are saying they are voting Republican. Will this be your legacy?”

A longtime Range DFLer, who is now political wavering, said the Begich letter was especially telling. “If the DFL loses Joe Begich, it would lose the Range,” she said.

I wrote about Rep. Begich’s op-ed in this post. The message of my post is that today’s DFL isn’t anything like Rudy Perpich’s DFL. Perpich’s DFL actually fought for the Range’s blue collar workers. Today’s DFL is more of a white collar bunch than anything else.

When Gov. Dayton meets with the people of the Range, he’ll see firsthand the difference between Metrocrats and Rangers. I hope he won’t be too traumatized.

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Anyone who’s read LFR knows that I’m not a fan of the IRRRB. Likewise, if you’ve read my Examiner article knows that I’ve pulled lots of information together that verifies that the IRRRB has failed. This afternoon, a loyal reader of LFR sent me this article about the IRRRB’s outright corruption. Saying that this friend of LFR isn’t a conservative is understatement. He’s a Bernie Sanders guy.

The thing that jumps out at me from the article is how the Iron Range delegation have used their positions on the IRRRB board to torment cities who don’t cheerfully submit to the will of the IRRRB board. For instance, the article says that former State Rep. Tommie Rukavina “has been outspoken in dealing with township officials opposed to [new sulfide] mining, again using the threat of IRRRB funding.”

I get it that Commissioner Rukavina is one of the strongest mining advocates in Minnesota. I’ve written about Commissioner Rukavina’s fight for mining in this article.

It’s one thing to be a mining advocate. That’s justifiable. What isn’t justifiable is threatening to withhold IRRRB funding if you don’t toe the pro-mining line. That’s a slippery way of doing things but it’s still corruption.

Here’s what “the late Rep. David Dill” said about withholding IRRRB funding:

There are times when Senator Bakk and myself [sic] have to fight and answer questions from core Iron Range legislators as to why Cook County should get taconite tax dollars when they hear anti-mining rhetoric from some citizens in Cook County.

Legislators are listening to the mining debate [about sulfide mining] going on in Cook County and elections have consequences. The rail harbor has been shut down for years. The power plant is reducing its output and with generator No. 3 scheduled to be closed in the future there will be more questions. The loss of millions of production tax dollars a year would be devastating to businesses, Grand Marais, the school and the county. The local boards would have very tough decisions to make.

Other counties have stayed in the service area after mining has left their communities. Those communities have realized the benefit it is to be a part of a “mining region” and likewise have supported mining.

It’s pretty clear that these legislators that have comprised the IRRRB board are playing hardball with Iron Range and Arrowhead communities. One wonders if there’s a correlation between the IRRRB playing hardball and the poverty rates on the Range and in Minnesota’s Arrowhead.

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A little over a week ago, the St. Cloud Times published my LTE in which I talked about how Speaker Daudt challenged Rep. Thissen. Specifically, I wrote that Thissen accused Republicans of throwing “controversial provisions into big bills right at the end” of session. Unwilling to let Rep. Thissen’s spin go unchallenged, Speaker Daudt asked him to name some specific controversial provisions that Republicans threw into big budget bills at the end of the 2015 session.

Rather than respond substantively, Rep. Thissen repeated the accusation.

Later, I wrote that “Tim Kelly, the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, wrote an op-ed saying that the next transportation plan Thissen submits ‘will be his first.'” I also said that it’s “a disgrace that the DFL would pick a dishonest man to lead them in the House.” I finished by saying that the DFL agenda is “all criticism and no solutions.” I must’ve gotten under Rep. Thissen’s skin with that. Earlier this week, the Times published Rep. Thissen’s op-ed.

Rep. Thissen’s op-ed addresses some items from the DFL agenda. He started by saying that the “reality is we have been the party of ideas, bringing forth common-sense solutions to address Minnesota’s biggest problem — too many Minnesotans are being squeezed in an economy tilted in favor of the insiders, elites and special interests.” With all due respect, Rep. Thissen, the DFL is the party of special interests.

Nobody’s been squeezed more than the Iron Range. They’ve been squeezed by environmental absolutists who demand that mining projects can’t produce any pollution ever. They’ve been squeezed so tight that it’s difficult to find middle class families on the Range. Minnesota’s poverty rate is 11.5%; compare that with Hibbing’s poverty rate of 20.6% and Virginia’s poverty rate of 26.5%. Then, Rep. Thissen, tell me who’s getting squeezed and who’s getting ignored by the DFL.

Rep. Thissen also wrote that “House DFLers proposed just a solution comprised partly of the House GOP transportation plan and Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposal.” That isn’t a solution. The DFL’s ‘solution’ would’ve imposed a major tax increase on the very middle class taxpayers that Rep. Thissen insists are getting squeezed by the special interests. FYI- Gov. Dayton’s transportation plan is virtually identical to Move MN’s transportation plan. Move MN doesn’t exist anymore. The new DFL-aligned transportation lobbyist organization is called Transportation Forward.

Rep. Thissen, when the DFL approved spending on the Senate Office Building, which group of squeezed people did that help? When the DFL legislature passed its Tax Bill, it included sales taxes on farm equipment repairs, warehousing services and other B2B taxes. This table offers a good explanation of the middle class tax increases the DFL imposed on Minnesotans:

Rep. Thissen, why did the DFL legislature pass this mountain of middle class tax increases in 2013, then vote to repeal them in 2014?

It’s crazy that Rep. Thissen thinks that this is a solution:

We have introduced legislation that would demand powerful drug companies be more transparent about profits to reduce costs of prescription drugs.

That’s right, Rep. Thissen. Central Minnesota has been insisting that the state government get involved in telling businesses how they’ll be allowed to conduct business. Minnesotans are getting squeezed by busybody politicians like Rep. Thissen have heaped piles of compliance costs, reporting requirements and regulations on businesses. That, more than anything else, is what’s driving up costs.

Finally, what’s interesting is that Rep. Thissen didn’t argue that he wasn’t truthful about the controversial provisions thrown into bills.

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