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When I wrote this article, I included an email sent out to the SCSU community through their Announce listserv. The email was sent by SCSU History Professor Mark Jaede. The email that Prof. Jaede sent out raised awareness of the fact that “Granite City Baptist Church in St. Cloud is sponsoring a presentation by a speaker who tours the country denouncing Islam and warning that Muslims are conspiring to take over America” and that “#unitecloud, an organization that seeks to support immigrants and bring together people from the St. Cloud area of different religious perspectives, is holding a counterdemonstration Friday at 5 pm.”

Then Prof. Jaede added this:

“This announcement is posted consistent with the guidelines for SCSU-Announce which can be found here:

http://huskynet.stcloudstate.edu/policies/announce_discuss.asp

and say in part:

“Examples of acceptable use:

  • Event announcements
  • Items that have been lost or found
  • Awards and recognitions
  • Community opportunities related to the university

As always, any comments, responses, or denunciations should not go to Announce, but should go either to Discuss or to me personally.”Interestingly, Prof. Jaede highlighted “event announcements” and “community opportunities related to the university.” What I’d be interested in hearing is Prof. Jaede’s explanation how a religious event at a church is related to St. Cloud State University. (BTW, the University’s spelling sucks. It shouldn’t be spelled “related to the university” because it’s talking about St. Cloud State University, which makes it a proper noun, which requires a capital letter. But I digress.)

Further, I can’t wait to hear Prof. Jaede’s justification for using government resources to talk about a counterprotest put on by a progressive political organization named #unitecloud. If you visit their missions page, it says “Who is your neighbor?

LGBT, Muslims, Christians, Immigrants, Disabled, Homeless, Poor, Women, Whites, Blacks, and on and on. We all have biases. They influence how we treat each other. You don’t have to agree with your neighbor’s lifestyle to promote a culture of respect. You don’t have to agree on anything to be kind. Our commonality is based in our humanness. Take time to look them in the eye, learn their story, and see how much we all hold in common.”

If that doesn’t sound like a DFL front group, then DFL front groups don’t exist. And I know DFL front groups exist because I’ve exposed more than a few dozen DFL front groups.

I’d love hearing President Potter’s or Prof. Jaede’s justification for using government resources to announce a political protest at a church on the opposite side of town from the University. I’m betting that they’d fumble their way through a justification if I asked them that question without notice.

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Rachel Stassen-Berger’s article provides a little levity at a critical time. Ms. Stassen-Berger’s article opens by saying “Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton will spend his holiday weekend reviewing the minute details of the spending and tax bills the Legislature delivered for his signature as he decides their fate.” If that’s true, it will mark the first time in his administration that Gov. Dayton will have paid any attention to the details of any legislation.

Right before FarmFest 2013, Gov. Dayton discovered the farm equipment repair sales tax in the Tax Bill he personally negotiated with Sen. Bakk and then-Speaker Thissen. After FarmFest, Gov. Dayton promised to repeal the farm equipment sales tax during a special session of the legislature. Then Gov. Dayton and the DFL legislature broke that promise.

In 2012, Gov. Dayton was outraged to find a provision in the Vikings’ stadium bill that gave the Wilfs the authority to charge extra for PSLs, aka Personal Seat Licenses. Like the farm equipment repair sales tax, the Vikings Stadium bill was a bill Gov. Dayton personally negotiated with the legislature.

In the interview, the governor said he had already pored over the lawmakers’ work.

“I spent six hours on Wednesday and about four hours yesterday going through them in detail with staff,” Dayton said. “We went through all the major bills with a fine-toothed comb and asked for some further analysis I’m going to get by the end of the day.”

If Gov. Dayton vetoes the GOP’s tax relief bill, Republicans will hang that veto around the necks of every DFL legislator or challenger in a swing district. Not even Gov. Dayton is that foolish. Here’s why:

The Legislature, on wide bipartisan votes, also approved tax cuts and credits that cost the state cash in its short- and long-term budgeting. Students with college debt, veterans, tobacco companies, families and cities are among the beneficiaries.

Throughout the session, the DFL’s top priorities were for broadband expansion, raising the gas tax and spending more to reduce racial disparities. They voted for tax relief because voting against it would’ve been political suicide but it wasn’t a priority with the DFL. Likewise, it isn’t a priority with Gov. Dayton.

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When I wrote this article, I expected to have lots of company covering Rep. Thissen’s abusive behavior. Since the 7 GOP legislators wrote the letter to Rep. Thissen, I’ve done searches to see if anyone had written about Thissen’s disgusting behavior. I wrote, too, about how the DFL sat silent while Rep. Thissen repeatedly taunted GOP staffers.

Thus far, the silence has been deafening. It’s been telling, too.

When 7 legislators say that they’d “witnessed a disturbing pattern of verbal abuse of Republican Staff by [Rep. Thissen] on the floor of the House of Representatives,” that’s a big deal. When Reps. Peppin, Franson, O’Neill, Mack, Albright, Fabian and Nash said that they’d witnessed Thissen’s abusive behavior “throughout this session”, that should’ve gotten reporters’ attention. Apparently, it didn’t get the media’s attention.

It’s disgusting that the DFL legislators that Rep. Thissen allegedly leads to sit silent. It’s in their partisan interest to look like they aren’t led by a man who can’t control his temper. It’s one thing to protect a politician in you own party. It’s another to protect a politician when you’re supposed to be a reporter at a major newspaper or TV station. I’m even willing to cut columnists a certain amount of slack.

It’s quite another thing when a chief political reporter for KSTP or the Pioneer Press mention the incident in a tweet, then go totally silent on the subject. I get it that the end of session is the biggest story of the week. It’s another thing to just be silent about another big story. And yes, the Thissen story is a big deal.

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When the DFL senators amended the Bonding bill at the last second, they made sure there wasn’t enough time to pass it in the House. The DFL senators who insisted that the bonding bill include money for the SWLRT did Minnesotans a great disservice. They insisted that they get everything they want and that public safety be damned.

When the session ended and the bonding bill crashed, left unfunded was the Highway 12 safety upgrade. According to this article, that stretch of road is exceptionally dangerous. According to the article, “There have been 21 people killed over the past five years on the 38-mile stretch of road from Wayzata to Cokato, giving it one of the highest fatal crash rates in the metro.”

Public safety is a core function of government. Light rail projects aren’t. While transportation lobbyists will disagree with me on the latter statement, most Minnesotans will side with me in saying that making Highway 12 safer is an infinitely higher priority than funding the SWLRT project. If a pollster informed people of how dangerous that stretch of Highway 12 is, then asked people whether Highway 12 funding was a higher priority than the Southwest Light Rail project, 95% would pick the Highway 12 project as urgent.

When the DFL amended the bonding bill, they knew that they were killing funding for the Highway 12 project, at least temporarily.

I’ve criticized Rep. Thissen fairly frequently. While I didn’t know that Rep. Thissen was vulgar, I knew that he wasn’t a man of integrity. Today, 7 members of the House GOP sent a letter to Rep. Thissen criticizing him for Rep. Thissen’s “disturbing pattern of verbal abuse of Republican Staff.” The letter was signed by House Majority Leader Peppin, Mary Franson, Marion O’Neill, Tara Mack, Tony Albright, Dan Fabian and Jim Nash. According to Rachel Stassen-Berger’s tweet, Rep. Thissen has apologized because Rep. Thissen’s “behavior was over the line.”

That’s BS. The letter from Reps. Peppin, Franson, O’Neill, Mack, Albright, Fabian and Nash said “Throughout this session, we have witnessed a disturbing pattern of verbal abuse of Republican Staff by you on the floor of the House of Representatives.” Thissen’s behavior wasn’t “over the line.” They weren’t an aberration. They weren’t his reaction in the heat of the moment during the last pressure-packed night of the session.

They were the actions of a coward. Later in their letter, Reps. Peppin, Franson, O’Neill, Mack, Albright, Fabian and Nash said “Despite this near-universal recognition, you routinely made derogatory remarks about our staff by name on the House floor and in the Rules Committee. These comments were made knowing that our staff cannot respond in kind and that staff has no microphone to defend themselves.”

Another thing that stands out is the fact that the DFL watched Rep. Thissen’s abusive behavior and didn’t do a thing to correct Thissen’s behavior. It’s bad enough that Thissen acted like Harry Reid during one of his mindless temper tantrums. It’s worse that the DFL did nothing after witnessing their ‘leader’ abuse defenseless staffers.

It isn’t enough for Rep. Thissen to just apologize. That’s required but it isn’t enough. What’s required, too, is for Thissen to resign his post as House DFL Leader. Repeated abusive behavior is proof that he doesn’t respect the people who support legislators. It’s proof that he thinks they’re his servants, not valued support staff that makes the legislature work.

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Last night, I noticed several tweets from the DFL side from Susie Merthans. After the session ended, a loyal reader of LFR sent me the link to ABM’s statement. According to the statement, Merthans is identified as “the Communications Director at Alliance for a Better Minnesota.”

That’s an attention-grabber because Ms. Merthans’ Twitter profile says “Communications Director for @ABetterMN by way of @mnhouseDFL.” Taxpayers shouldn’t pay the salary of someone who draws a salary as the communications director for the DFL’s campaign messaging unit. That’s what ABM is. If I had a $10 bill for each time I wrote about ABM’s role in DFL campaigns, I’d be living the life of luxury.

The DFL is a different operation. Their campaign communications are run through ABM’s offices. The DFL hasn’t been involved in campaign communications in years. ABM is as dishonest as they are corrupt. Check this paragraph from ABM’s statement out:

Republicans will be eager to start campaigning in their districts on the merits of this session. However, their record shows that they prioritized a Trump-like agenda that focused on tax giveaways to corporations and the wealthy, restricting women’s healthcare access, and denying that issues like climate change are a concern for Minnesota’s future.

First, as a proud member of the #NeverTrump resistance, I can’t figure out what Trump’s agenda will be beyond building a wall on the Tex-Mex border and stopping refugee resettlement programs from Muslim nations. I’m certain that the House GOP didn’t try enacting legislation making those thing the law in Minnesota.

Second and more importantly, the GOP fought for middle class tax cuts. If it was left to the DFL, they didn’t want to pass tax cuts. They wanted the money spent on broadband and on programs aimed at reducing racial disparities. Here’s Greg Davids’ statement on the GOP tax cuts:

“Over the past two years, I’ve continued to say ‘don’t stop believing,’ and today I’m proud that we can deliver significant tax relief for Minnesota families,” said Davids. “From a farmer in southern Minnesota, to a family in the suburbs, to a small business owner on the Iron Range, to a recent graduate at the U of M, this plan provides targeted relief to the middle class throughout the state.”

In the next three years, the plan provides tax relief in the amounts as follows:

  • $90.6 million in agriculture property tax relief for Minnesota farmers
  • $110 million in tax relief for college graduates paying off student loans through a refundable tax credit up to $1,000, the first of its kind in the country.
  • $49 million in tax relief for families who contribute to 529 Plans to save for their children’s college costs.
  • $146 million in property tax relief for every small business in the state by exempting the first $100,000 of commercial-industrial property.
  • $13 million in tax relief for veterans by raising the income eligibility threshold, and increasing the total credit from $750 to $1,000.
  • $150 million in tax relief for working families by expanding the working family tax credit
  • $32 million to reduce the cost of childcare; by expanding the childcare tax credit, families could earn a tax credit up to $960.

Those aren’t “tax giveaways to corporations and the wealthy.” They’re middle class tax cuts. The DFL spinmeisters at ABM aren’t interested in the truth. They’re interested in savaging Republicans at all costs. If they have to make things up, that’s what the DFL will do. ABM isn’t there to tell the truth, as I’ve pointed out multiple times. ABM is there to be the DFL’s hatchet against Republicans. If the DFL and ABM need to lie about Republicans, then that’s what ABM will do because that’s what the DFL wants them to do.

That’s hardball politics. What I have a complaint with is when the DFL expects the taxpayers to pay part of their communications director’s salary. There should be a constitutional amendment prohibiting people like Susie Merthans from ever working for as a legislative staffer. There should be a bright line between campaign shills and taxpayer-funded positions.

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I knew that the DFL and ABM would start spinning things after they created a mess but this is ridiculous. While the legislature was still in session, Susie Merthans started spinning things. She quoted Paul Thissen as saying “Modest victories are due to Gov Dayton & DFL Senate dragging GOP kicking and screaming across the finish line.” Then, as though that wasn’t enough, she added “Paul Thissen: GOP beholden to corporate special interests, it’s time for a change.”

First, it’s frightening that Ms. Merthans admits in her profile that she’s the “Communications Director for @ABetterMN by way of @mnhouseDFL.” Why should ABM’s communications director get paid by Minnesota taxpayers? That’s the definition of corruption. ABM doesn’t change when the session ends. It’s the same dishonest messaging as they used during the legislative session. The only difference is that ABM will spend more money on mailers and ads during the campaign. The dishonest themes remain pretty much intact.

That’s before talking about the dishonesty of Thissen’s statements. The DFL is the party that does whatever the environmentalists tell them to do. Actually, they don’t do what the environmental activists tell them not to do. Think about the DFL’s opposition to the Sandpiper Pipeline project. Think about the DFL’s opposition to a resolution at their State Convention in 2014 that said the DFL supported mining. At the DFL’s State Convention in Duluth in 2014, that timid resolution was pulled by Ken Martin said it was too controversial. Seriously.

Another example is how the DFL rammed through forced unionization on in-home child care providers at the end of the 2013 session. Despite a massive lobbying effort organized by in-home child care providers, the DFL ignored the in-home child care providers and sided with public employee unions. Again, the DFL didn’t care about the people. The DFL sided with their special interest allies. It isn’t surprising. That’s their habit.

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Predictably, the DFL, led by Rep. Paul Thissen, Gov. Dayton and Sen. Tom Bakk, is overreaching in a major way. Predictably, they’re pushing a bonding bill that’s the biggest in state history by orders of magnitude. It isn’t surprising to hear Rep. Thissen whining about the bill. In this article, Thissen is quoted as saying “This bill is an unfortunate, sad joke that House Republicans are playing on Minnesotans. We should vote no on this bill and get to work on a real bonding bill that will create jobs and strengthen communities in every part of this state. The clock is ticking. Let’s get to work.”

The DFL is constantly telling people that Minnesota’s economy is going great. They’re also telling people that the bonding bill is a jobs bill. What the DFL won’t say is that the bonding bill costs Minnesotans tons of money in higher taxes, money that could be used by businesses to create permanent jobs when they expand their companies. The DFL won’t say that the jobs that are getting created are temporary construction jobs.

The Senate’s bonding bill tops out at $1,470,742,000. That’s a ton of pork. Spending $28,055,000 on tearing down buildings on the Bemidji State campus and the Hibbing Community College campus, then rebuilding the buildings that are getting torn down. The Senate bill also includes $20,385,000 for Rochester Community and Technical College to “complete design, demolish Memorial and Plaza Halls, construct, equip, and furnish an academic building expansion, and renovate,
equip, and furnish replacement space for classrooms, labs, and office spaces.”

That’s before spending $17,780,000 to “complete the Heart of the Zoo II project, including renovation of the snow monkey exhibit and surrounding public spaces and construction of a meerkat exhibit.” That’s before appropriating $10,000,000 for the Metropolitan Regional Parks and Trails Capital Improvements. That money will pay for “the cost of improvements and betterments of a capital nature and acquisition by the council and local government units of regional recreational open-space lands in accordance with the council’s policy plan as provided in Minnesota Statutes, section 473.147.”

That’s $76,220,000 just on those 5 projects. There are other projects in the Senate bonding bill that are equally unworthy of a Republican’s vote. For all of Rep. Thissen’s whining, he’s frequently been short of solutions and positive suggestions. Sen. Bakk is better than Rep. Thissen but mostly because it’s difficult to do worse than Rep. Thissen.

It’s time that the St. Cloud Times put more thought into their Our View editorials. This one is particularly annoying. Their chief complaint is that things don’t get done until there’s a deadline. Now that’s a shocker. Both parties hold to their positions until the last minute. The DFL does it because they’re rigid ideologues that want things their way. Principled conservatives, not to be confused with Republicans, stick to their guns because they’ve thought things through and believe that their ideas work.

The Times might as well have just used Paul Thissen’s talking points in writing the opening paragraphs of the editorial. Those paragraphs state “With three days left in the 2016 legislative session, anything can happen. Of course, Minnesotans would not know about it because it probably would take place behind closed doors.

That introduction in itself highlights one of the biggest frustrations rank-and-file Minnesotans have about the 2016 session. Just like so many other recent sessions, 2016 is coming to a conclusion with virtually no way for voters to see what’s going into final agreements worth potentially billions of tax dollars.”

When government is this intrusive, it’s guaranteed that there will be lots of lobbyists looking for a slice of the government pie. Rather than whining about last minute negotiations, the Times should be complaining that government is too intrusive, too expensive and too larded up with fat to effectively serve the people.

Editorials like this give the DFL the cover to keep doing what they’re doing. Simply put, they know that a ‘throw the bums out’ editorial, which this is, plays to their advantage because they’re the out party in the House.

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt, DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and perhaps a handful of other key legislators are holding “closed door” negotiations as they try to bridge gaps involving transportation funding, the $900 million state surplus and a statewide bonding bill. These leaders emerge from their meetings and say virtually nothing that helps voters learn anything useful. Then it’s rinse and repeat until a secret deal is reached.

While the Times’ editorial whines about secrecy, the Times says nothing about the fact that the DFL transportation bill sticks people with a major tax increase. Why don’t they speak out against something substantive rather than whining about process? Isn’t the goal to pass legislation that improves society?

Based on the Times’ editorial, their goal seems to be to whine without providing substantive solutions.

Last year, Rep. Paul Thissen’s partisanship paved the way for the legislature’s special session. Without his throwing a daily hissy fit about Republicans, the legislature wouldn’t have needed a special session to finish the biennial budget. Thanks to Rep. Thissen’s whining, there was a special session. Though this AP article doesn’t mention Rep. Thissen, it’s definitely got his fingerprints all over it.

For instance, the final paragraph of the article starts with “DFLers called the House bill partisan and said it elevated projects in Republican districts above others that were ranked higher priorities. They cited was Eastman Hall, which was ranked lower on the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities wish list than projects in Hibbing, Rochester, Winona and Bemidji, which are in DFL district and were not included in the bill.”

The truth is that the Senate DFL, not the House GOP, is to blame for the bonding bill logjam. The Senate DFL’s bill called for $1,800,000,000 of bonding. That’s $750,000,000 more than the biggest bonding bill in Minnesota history. Because the Senate DFL’s bonding bill was that expensive, Republicans couldn’t take it seriously.

Republicans couldn’t take it seriously because the DFL’s bonding bill keeps running up debt which requires high taxes:

Moody’s 2015 State Debt Median Report ranks Minnesota debt burden as moderately elevated compared to other states: Minnesota’s net tax-supported debt (NTD) per capita is $1,538 compared to the national median of $1,012; NTD as a percentage of personal income is 3.2% for Minnesota versus a national median of 2.5%; and NTD as a percentage of gross state domestic product of 2.69% is above the national median of 2.21%. However, Moody’s estimates Minnesota’s fiscal 2014 debt service ratio (net tax-supported debt as a percentage of operating fund revenues and pledged revenues) to be 4.2% versus a fiscal 2014 median of 5.3%. This ranks in the top (or most favorable) quartile of state rankings.

Rather than letting the private sector grow the economy, the DFL’s preferred path is to have the government borrow money to pay for what essentially is a sugar high economic bump. The DFL is incapable of thinking that the private sector doesn’t need help in growing the economy because the DFL thinks that the government has to be involved in everything.

Until the DFL stops thinking that the economy won’t grow if the government isn’t spending tons of money, Minnesota won’t have a strong private sector economy.