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I’m more than a bit surprised after reading this post about Sen. Bakk’s latest transportation plan. Check this out:

In January, Gov. Mark Dayton and DFL lawmakers rolled out comprehensive transportation plans and talked about how urgent it was to do something this year. Republicans held up their hands and said there was no rush.

Times have changed. On Wednesday, it was Senate DFL leader Tom Bakk raising the specter of delaying a transportation bill for another year. “Transportation probably doesn’t have to happen,” Bakk said Wednesday.

While the Legislature has to pass a finance bill to keep the Department of Transportation operating, lawmakers are under no obligation to approve billions of dollars in new spending as both Democrats and Republicans want to do.

Both chambers have rolled out comprehensive transportation packages spending billions of dollars over the next decade on roads, bridges and mass transit. The threat to just go home and not pass a comprehensive transportation bill could be aimed at increasing the Senate’s leverage in final negotiations with the House — potentially forcing Republicans to make more concessions than they want to in order to get a deal.

Republicans passed a bill that fixes Minnesota’s roads and bridges, which is Minnesotans’ highest priority. Because they did their job, Republicans just have to insist that the DFL leadership pass a sensible transportation plan. Then Republicans can remind voters that they listened to the voters before crafting a bill that put Minnesotans’ highest priorities first.

Then the GOP can remind voters that Sen. Bakk and the DFL acted like spoiled brats throwing a temper tantrum. Anyone thinking that that attitude will play well in outstate Minnesota isn’t too bright. The old cliché that you can’t beat something with nothing certainly applies in this instance.

If Sen. Bakk and the DFL insist on pushing an unpopular tax increase down Minnesotans’ throats, they’ll hand the Senate majority to Republicans on a silver platter. First, doing nothing isn’t an option. Next, doing something unpopular isn’t an option, either. Finally, throwing a temper tantrum while doing nothing is a short path from the majority to minority party status.

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Paul Thissen, the House DFL Leader, is a classless jerk. This article offers proof of that:

In the House debate Tuesday, lawmakers exchanged words over an amendment offered by DFL leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, to name a part of U.S. 12 the “Tim Miller Goat Trail” after a freshman Republican lawmaker from Prinsburg who has sparred with Thissen. House GOP leader Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, responded by saying it was the latest in a series of examples where Thissen had behaved inappropriately.

I won’t demand that Thissen apologize. If he mouthed the words to an apology, it wouldn’t mean anything. It wouldn’t be sincere. Thissen is who Thissen is.

What Rep. Thissen is isn’t a picture of statesmanship. He’s been a picture in classless partisanship. In that respect, it looks like Rep. Thissen studied under the tutelage of Tony Sertich although, to be fair, Sertich wasn’t classless like Thissen is.

What type of classless partisan offers an amendment that gives a road a name that insults a colleague? The DFL isn’t the party of Hubert Humphrey anymore. It’s the party that looks for opportunities to humiliate their political opponents.

I hope Republicans remind voters who the DFL really is. I hope Republicans remind voters that the DFL is the political party that puts a higher priority on playing partisan games than they put on doing the right thing.

This morning’s St. Cloud Times Our View editorial is mostly the type of stuff you’d expect from liberals trying to paint themselves as moderates. There is a section, though, that’s clearly liberal:

Now is the time to (pardon the pun) pave the middle ground between DFL and Republican proposals to stabilize long-term transportation funding.

Dayton’s plan does the most because it spends the most by correctly getting users of the state’s transportation system to pay more in gas taxes. Never willing to raise taxes, House Republicans would rather shift general-fund money into transportation. That’s a bad idea because the next Legislature could shift it back based on its funding priorities.

Instead, Dayton should accept a smaller gas-tax hike to a level that more closely aligns with Republican spending targets. Oh, and just call it a user fee.

I hope the Republicans immediately reject the Times’ proposal. The Times editorial board will rationalize their opinion on the faulty theory that compromise is automatically the right thing. It isn’t. Principled compromise isn’t the wrong thing. Compromise for compromise sake is foolish.

First, I’d argue that We The People should come first. It’s clear that the vast majority of Minnesotans a) prefer fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges and b) don’t want to get hit with another tax increase. That means that the DFL would deserve the political nightmare they’d get in if they tried undoing the GOP transportation plan.

Next, I’d argue that it’s foolish to think that the DFL is interested in good faith negotiations regarding transportation. Move MN, the DFL front group that’s campaigning for a $13,000,000,000 tax increase, has consistently talked about Minnesota’s roads and bridges during their TV and radio interviews. The minute they’re off the air, though, they’re lobbying legislators for raising the sales tax on people in Washington, Dakota, Carver, Sherburne and Anoka counties to pay for transit projects that benefit Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

There’s nothing fair about that. It’s a major rip-off that benefits the DFL’s political base by taxing people more closely aligned with Republicans. If Hennepin and Ramsey counties want increased transit projects, let them pay for those projects. It’s immoral to force people to pay for things that a) they don’t benefit from and b) others benefit from.

There’s another flaw with the Times’ thinking. They say that “the next Legislature could shift it back based on its funding priorities,” which is true. What the Times isn’t taking into account is that people can let the DFL know that they’ll pay a steep political price if they get rid of the Republicans’ plan while replacing it with a plan that’s already been tried and failed.

If we implemented the Republicans’ plan and it fixed Minnesota’s roads and bridges, why wouldn’t the Times praise the Republicans’ plan? Further, why wouldn’t the Times criticize the DFL if they tried getting rid of a transportation plan that’s working?

Finally, Republicans should utterly reject the DFL plan in the strongest words possible because it’s been tried before and failed miserably. Compromising with people who’ve proposed terrible policies isn’t a virtue. It’s stupidity.

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I intentionally called Becky Rom a “slithering snake” in this post because she tried dodging legitimate questions about whether she’d submitted a request for a PEIS, aka Programmatic Environmental Impact Study:

What’s strange is no group or individual has had the intestinal fortitude to stand up and say that they requested that a PEIS be conducted. There have been plenty of fingers pointed at groups like Friends of the Boundary Waters, Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness, Sustainable Ely along with one person who has connections to those groups and who has consistently spoken against copper-nickel mining in northeast Minnesota. That person is Becky Rom of Ely.

So we called Rom and asked her if she or any of the groups she is affiliated with formally requested a PEIS from the Forest Service. As a former attorney, Rom is skilled at not answering questions. So we pressed and pressed some more. Here’s the best of answers we could get:

“I’ve encouraged the agencies to do what’s required under the law and using the best science.” “Nobody is pushing for an extra layer or extra delays or costs or more money. I’m just saying this is really important and doing right is following the law and basing decisions on the best science.” “I did not pen any letter but I’ve had these discussions.”
“As far as I know there’s no formal process for a request like a petition.”

We specifically asked if Rom had approached U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary Robert Bonnie (who oversees the USFS). “I never talked about this to Mr. Bonnie.”

It wasn’t until later that the Ely Echo found out that “Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness” requested the PEIS. At the time, Ms. Rom was NEMW’s vice-chair.

That’s just the tip of the Rom-corruption iceberg.

When Rep. Betty McCollum submitted the National Park and Wilderness Waters Protection Act for congressional consideration, Rom praised the legislation:

“This Act is crucial to protecting large portions of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Voyageurs National Park from acid mine drainage,” said Becky Rom, third-generation Ely resident and chair of the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters. “Sulfide-ore copper mining would do more harm than good to this beloved region. Allowing industrialized mining on the edge of the Boundary Waters would not only pollute water, it would also destroy National Forest lands in areas now used for hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, dogsledding, hiking, skiing, canoeing, logging and other activities.”

The problem with that statement is that this article disputes the “third-generation Ely resident” claim:

His daughter, Becky Rom of Edina, a dedicated conservation volunteer, said Olson urged Rom to take jobs in the wilderness, primarily with the U.S. Forest Service in the 1930s.

I don’t doubt that Rom has maintained ties with the Ely area. It’s just that I doubt Ms. Rom’s ability to tell the whole truth. My opinion isn’t just based on that article. Here’s Ms. Rom’s official bio:

Rebecca (Becky) Rom has served on The Wilderness Society governing council since 1996. Becky recently retired as president of Twin Cities Community Land Bank, a nonprofit organization that provides a variety of services for urban redevelopment of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area.

For over thirty years she practiced law at Faegre & Benson, a law firm that has engaged in a national public interest practice in public lands and wildlife protection.

Becky has been an advocate of wilderness protection for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and the Quetico Provincial Park since the mid-1970s and, among other positions, chaired the board of the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness for 17 years. She has also been active in Alaska public lands issues, serving as a board member of the Alaska Wilderness League and founding and chairing the Alaska Coalition of Minnesota.

Becky is former chair of The Wilderness Society’s Governing Council.

In other words, saying that Rom is a “third-generation Ely resident” isn’t just a bit of an embellishment. It’s stretching the truth to the point that the truth isn’t recognizable.

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Betty McCollum just submitted a bill that would kill mining in northern Minnesota:

Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness would be protected from some mining under legislation being introduced in Congress this week.

U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, a Democrat who represents Minnesota’s 4th District, said her bill would bar new federal mineral leases to companies interested in extracting copper, nickel and other metals from sulfide ore within the surrounding Rainy River Drainage Basin.

The basin drains into Voyageurs and the Boundary Waters, and opponents of copper-nickel mining say pollutants from the extraction process could threaten pristine ecosystems.

The so-called National Park and Wilderness Waters Protection Act has little chance of passing in the Republican-controlled Congress, but McCollum said she is also putting pressure on the Obama administration to prevent copper-nickel mining in the area.

Yet again, a DFL legislator has submitted a bill that’s aimed at killing future mining. What will it take for miners to finally figure it out that the DFL is run by environmental activists from the Twin Cities? At some point, sympathy for Iron Range families will dry up. Republicans stand ready to help mining families build a thriving middle class. The DFL, by contrast, has done everything imaginable to destroy mining families by destroying mining. Check this sentence out:

McCollum said she is also putting pressure on the Obama administration to prevent copper-nickel mining in the area.

Rep. McCollum represents St. Paul and some of its suburbs. Range families should ask why she’s meddling in the Range’s business. The answer is simple. She’s fundraising. By submitting this bill, she’s pleasing the Twin Cities’ environmental activists, thereby guaranteeing this year’s flow of checks from Twin Cities environmental activists. Here’s proof of that:

The Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters, which has been lobbying in Washington, D.C., for protections from copper-nickel mining, applauded the legislation. The group’s chair, Ely resident Becky Rom, said if Congress steps in on the issue, it would expand protections from mining it gave the Boundary Waters back in 1978.

Becky Rom is a slithering snake that I wrote about frequently. See here, here, here and here.

The Ely Echo did some digging into who recommended a PEIS (Programmatic Environmental Impact Study), which would essentially halt mining for a decade. Here’s what they wrote initially:

Then they wrote this:

Then, late Thursday a Freedom of Information Act request by Twin Metals-Minnesota was granted. Upon request, they shared those documents with us. If anyone would like a copy, just send us an email. In the documents provided by the Bureau of Land Management was a letter asking for the PEIS. The agency requesting the PEIS? Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness. And who is the vice-chair of NEMW? Becky Rom.

We also have copies of emails sent by Rom outlining a meeting with the BLM where the agenda included: “The BLM, together with the Forest Service, should undertake a programmatic environmental impact statement.”

Rom told us the first she heard of the PEIS was when Tom Rukavina, an aide for Congressman Rick Nolan, was in Ely on March 5. We’d like to refresh her memory. A letter sent Jan. 23 from the attorney for NEMW specifically requests that the BLM and the USFS undertake a PEIS. The letter even references a meeting held on Dec. 10, 2013 with Bonnie and NEMW members. The letter to Bonnie is nine pages long and is a multi-pronged attack on copper-nickel mining in northeast Minnesota. It specifically targets Twin Metals Minnesota.

Simply put, Ms. Rom’s answers were evasive, if not totally dishonest. That’s who’s praising Betty McCollum. There’s more to this that’s coming in a future post. Check back later today for that next post.

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The DFL is opposed to not raising every Minnesotan’s taxes. The Dayton-DFL transportation plan would impose a tax increase on everyone who owns a vehicle. It would also impose a tax increase on everyone in the 7-county metro area via a sales tax increase. The 7-county sales tax increase is collected from anyone buying things in Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott and Washington counties. The sales tax revenue collected, however, mainly gets funneled into transit projects in Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

The Move MN plan isn’t focused. It wants to raise taxes on everyone to pay for this list of items:

Any plan that prioritizes everything doesn’t prioritize anything.

Minnesotans are imploring politicians to fix their roads and fill their potholes. The Republican plan focuses their attention on that. In fact, the Republican plan essentially told transit lobbyists that they’re on their own. That’s a bit of an oversimplification but it isn’t an outrageous oversimplification.

If I polled Minnesotans what they wanted their money spent on this session, bike trails and pedestrian infrastructure wouldn’t break the top 25 items. It just isn’t a priority. It wouldn’t be surprising if that same imaginary poll found that transit projects in the 7-county metro area would be a priority for a plurality of voters in Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

Predictably, the DFL is outraged by the Republicans’ plan. It’s predictable because Republicans listened to Minnesotans’ priorities while the DFL listened to transportation lobbyists. The DFL opposes redirecting the sales taxes away from the general fund.

The question Minnesotans should ask DFL legislators is straightforward. Why should taxes collected on vehicles and auto parts not be part of the solution for fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges? Another question that would be appropriate to ask is why those sales taxes are being directed at anything from funding corrupt organizations like Community Action of Minneapolis to funding MnSCU’s Central Office to paying for outrageous pay raises for Gov. Dayton’s commissioners.

Follow this link for more on this subject.

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This editorial highlights how Education and the DFL have consistently failed students:

In evaluating candidates, delegates should clearly understand where advocacy for grown-ups stops and willingness to put students first begins. As we have noted, the school district is unionized wall to wall; of 7,000 employees, only a couple of dozen are not represented by a union. Our system of checks and balances goes out of balance if the board and superintendent are essentially chosen by, and hence unduly beholden to, one constituency.

Minnesota’s achievement gap hasn’t narrowed, much less closed, recently. Most of the DFL-Education Minnesota’s ‘reforms’ have focused mostly on funding, not innovation. Clearly, that’s failed. Minnesota’s achievement gap still exists. The DFL and Education Minnesota insist that the solution is better funding.

Apparently, Education Minnesota and the DFL either don’t know or they don’t care that this recipe is working. Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. I’d assumed that the DFL and Education Minnesota were crazy. It’s possible, however, that they aren’t insane. It’s quite possible that they don’t care as long as Education Minnesota gets their cut.

Until the money attaches to the student, not the school, Education Minnesota won’t have an incentive for changing their methods. As long as Education Minnesota gets funding increases whether they do a terrible job or a fantastic job, they won’t have an incentive for improving educational outcomes.

Giving students the option of learning at a better school is a step in the right direction. Similarly, giving parents the option of sending their kids to schools where the teachers’ first priority is responding to the students’ needs is also a step in the right direction.

Sitting silent while the status quo continues isn’t acceptable. It’s immoral.

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During Gov. Dayton’s State of the State Address, he insisted that the state of the State was good:

For right now, we have a rare moment of great opportunity. The state of our state is good. Not everywhere. Not for everyone. But overall, Minnesota is doing better than it has for some time, and Minnesota is doing better than most other states.

That’s spin. This is reality:

According to the Getting Prepared report by the Office of Higher Education, 28 percent of Minnesota’s 2011 high school graduates were required to take remedial courses when entering college. Together these students spent $9 million in tuition just on remedial classes – covering K-12 material that taxpayers already funded. The problem affects students from across the state, from affluent suburbs to rural communities to the Twin Cities’ largest districts, but students of color and low-income students are most deeply affected.

When 1-in-4 high school graduates take remedial classes upon entering community college, that says K-12 schools have failed these students. What’s worst is that, according to the Office of Higher Education’s report, these problems affect “students from across the state, from affluent suburbs to rural communities to the Twin Cities’ largest districts.”

That means this problem isn’t confined to students languishing in impoverished inner city schools. It’s happening across the state. Rep. Thissen said that the DFL had made “historic investments” in education. That’s proof that the DFL’s education motto is still intact. FYI- DFL’s education motto is ‘more money, bigger achievement gap, less accountability.’

When one-fourth of MnSCU’s community college students need to take remedial courses, the state of Minnesota’s K-12 program isn’t good. It’s bleak. It need to improve. That won’t happen without a change in policies and leadership.

Thursday night, Gov. Dayton delivered his annual State of the State Address. True to the DFL’s creed, there’s something in there for each of the DFL’s special interest groups. True to the DFL’s creed, there’s a ton of spin in Gov. Dayton’s speech. Here’s a perfect example of that spin:

At the other end of the education continuum, higher education: the University of Minnesota, the MnSCU colleges, and universities, and state financial aid for students are equally deserving of increased support. In 2013, the legislature approved a $249 million increase in higher education funding for the current biennium. That increase, however, only replaced the $246 million reduction enacted in 2011.

In real, inflation-adjusted dollars, state support for higher education in FY 2012 dropped to its lowest level in over thirty years. No wonder tuitions have been forced higher and higher in both systems, causing Minnesota students to graduate with the fifth highest average debt loads in the country.

That’s just dishonest. One of the reasons why tuitions “have been forced higher” is because MnSCU presidents and the MnSCU Central Office have spent outrageously on consultants and administrators. Couple that with the reckless fiscal mismanagement in years past, mostly in the name of pursuing lofty-sounding visions or outright legacy-building and it isn’t surprising why tuitions have skyrocketed.

Pitting students and parents’ budgets against university presidents’ and MnSCU administrators’ wish lists isn’t the best way to build a better Minnesota, though it’s the fastest way to pay off one of the DFL’s strongest special interest allies.

To show how misguided Gov. Dayton’s policies are and how blindly the DFL will follow Education Minnesota’s instructions, check out how Gov. Dayton, the DFL and Education Minnesota are cheating Jazmyne McGill:

Despite meeting all of the requirements for a diploma, I had to take a class in college that covered material I had already passed in high school. Worse, this class wouldn’t earn me any credit toward a degree, although I had to pay full tuition for it.

Coming from a low-income family, I did not have the extra money to take a class that wouldn’t count toward my degree. Minnesota’s college graduates already carry one of the nation’s highest student debt loads and repay their loans at an above average rate. Yet remedial classes saddle students with additional debt, don’t earn them degrees, and deter them from completed their degrees – at a time when an increasing number of Minnesota jobs require post-secondary education.

Jazmyne paid hundreds of additional dollars for a class Education Minnesota told her she’d satisfactorily passed. That’s the definition of educational theft.

Rather than verifying whether the K-12 or higher ed money is producing excellent educational outcomes, the DFL just keeps returning for more money for a system that’s failing Minnesota’s youth. Cheating Minnesota’s students isn’t acceptable — except if it’s Education Minnesota cheating students while the DFL are running things. Then it’s apparently fine.

Finally, check out the transcript. It’s traditional Dayton in that it’s filled with terrible punctuation and grammar. Thank God he hired the best speechwriters, then gave them big raises. Spending lots of money, then not paying attention to whether it’s being spent wisely isn’t proof that government is treating its taxpayers wisely. It’s proof that the DFL cares more about their big government allies than they care about the taxpayers.

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The Duluth News Tribune’s Our View editorial highlights Gov. Dayton’s attempt at slick advertising:

The governor’s bonding bill — er, sorry, Dayton and his staff even came up with a far-more-fetching name: “jobs bill” — has little to no chance of going anywhere. And that makes all the effort to get it ready and proposed, as well as the ballyhooed rollout, all that more curious. Anyone with even a hint of cynicism may have smelled politics at play.

The proposal has little to no chance of passage because such a bill has to originate in the House, and the House this year is led by Republicans who not only aren’t DFLers like Dayton, they’ve made it quite clear they have no plans for such a proposal right now.

Among other reasons for pause, it’s just not the right year. Bonding bills, or jobs bills, if you wish, typically are the products of even-numbered years’ sessions. This session has to be all about passing a budget, which the law requires, and passing a transportation bill, which our crumbling, too-long-overlooked highways and bridges demand. Republicans and DFLers, including Dayton, are far apart on those priorities and others and can spend the remaining weeks of the session compromising and working together with the good of all Minnesotans and their pocketbooks first and foremost in their minds.

That’s insulting on multiple fronts. When Republicans unveiled their Transportation Bill, one of the first complaints that the DFL made was that the GOP plan borrowed money while running up the credit card bill to pay for future road and bridge projects. I said then that putting a multigenerational bridge repair project on Minnesota’s credit card was totally justified because multiple generations will be using the bridge that’s getting repaired.

The DFL, led by Rep. Paul Thissen, criticized that approach. That’s frightening considering the fact that Thissen’s voted for bonding bills that paid for ‘important’ infrastructure projects like repairing gorilla cages at Como Park Zoo or a sheet music museum in southern Minnesota.

Based on the DFL’s actions, it’s apparent that the DFL thinks it’s fiscally irresponsible to pay for transportation infrastructure projects with the state’s credit card but it’s prudent to pay for frivolous projects like museum and zoo repair projects with the state’s credit card.

Bonding bills aren’t “jobs bills.” That’s just Gov. Dayton’s and the DFL’s slick advertising name for them. A high percentage of the projects in the average bonding bill pay off special interest constituencies. If you want to give these types of bills an honest name, let’s call them “the special interests’ appeasement bill.” Either that or let’s call them the “special interests’ pay-off bills”.

This year, let’s give them this name: dead on arrival.

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