Archive for the ‘DFL’ Category

I’ve written several articles about Move MN’s proposal to raise taxes on the middle class in the name of “transportation.” See here and here. I’ve written about Move MN’s agenda, which they write about here:

Accessible Transit Statewide
Transit is important to every community in Minnesota. Move MN supports closing a sales tax loophole by dedicating all of the sales tax from leased vehicles to suburban highways and Greater Minnesota transit.

The Twin Cities metro’s sales tax would be increased by ¾ cent and extended to the seven county metro area. It would fund improved transit connections in the metro area, increasing transit service hours and coverage. Ten percent would be set aside for bike/walk connection planning and implementation.

Additional Efficiencies & Greater Transparency
Move MN supports greater efficiency and transparency with transportation projects, in addition to finding new funding sources that meet long-term obligations for all modes. Move MN believes efficiency includes finding cost savings; minimizing construction impact on traffic, businesses and customers; using 21st century materials and practices; and prioritizing projects with the greatest community benefit.

Tuesday afternoon, Dan Ochsner interviewed Bethany Winkels, a field director with Move MN. During the interview, Ms. Winkels focused on fixing roads and bridges. Move MN’s website, however, talks about developing a comprehensive transportation strategy.

Talking up fixing roads and bridges in interviews but writing legislation that raises taxes to support transit expansion is deceptive, if not dishonest.

During the interview, Ms. Winkels spoke of Move MN’s 200 coalition partners. I’ve recreated that list of partners in these photos:

While many of the coalition members are directly associated with fixing roads and bridges, many aren’t. I’ve created a list of those organizations in this photo:

There’s no disputing that the vast majority of these coalition members are environmental activist organizations. Their agenda doesn’t put a high priority on fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges. That’s as accurate of a picture as I can create of who Move MN is and what their agenda is.

One of the worst-kept political secrets is that the DFL is fighting with itself. That isn’t secret anymore because Gov. Dayton announced that he’s cutting the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s budget:

Dayton was nothing if not transparent about the move. The budget materials given to reporters before the late-morning briefing stated that the total of $3.77 million in reductions to the Park Board over the two-year budget period was due to “the Board’s continuing efforts to obstruct progress on the Southwest Light Rail Transit project.”

Of the total, $1.26 million would have come out of the state general fund and $2.51 million out of the natural resources fund, money intended to help the Met Council and 10 local park agencies develop and maintain parks that are regional destinations (think Minnehaha Falls). The money that would be lost by the Minneapolis board goes toward annual operating costs.

When asked about it, Dayton said it was possible he would support restoring the money, if the Park Board ended it opposition. “In my view, if they have all this money to hire consultants, they don’t need all the state money that’s been allocated to them.” Dayton said. He described the board’s actions so far as “very irresponsible.”

First, I’m totally fine with cutting the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s appropriation through the state budget. If Minneapolis wants a Park and Recreation Board, let them pay for it. In fact, eliminating the state government appropriation is justifiable, in my opinion.

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s advocates will argue that they add value to the state. That’s disputable at best. It might help Minnesota tangentially. In fact, I don’t know that a compelling case can be made that the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board makes Minneapolis substantially better.

Most importantly, this is a perfect example of why Speaker Daudt shouldn’t consider funding the Southwest Light Rail Transit project, aka the SWLRT project. The DFL is still fighting with itself on the SWLRT project. Next, regardless of whether the DFL is fighting amongst itself, the SWLRT project is a major waste of money. It’s spending tons of Minnesota taxpayers’ money on something that isn’t a priority with Minnesota’s taxpayers.

The DFL a) is proposing a massive middle class tax increase, b) is still fighting with itself on how to spend your money on their friends and c) is telling Minnesota that paying off their political allies is more important than spending your money wisely.

To use Scott Walker’s words, going big and being bold is the way to differentiate between the DFL’s payoffs and the conservatives’ priorities. Going bold is the way for Republicans to win the legislative fight in 2015, then win the 2016 election.

A political party divided against itself will soon be defeated.

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It’s clear that Gov. Dayton’s Tax-the-Rich promise is history:

Minnesota drivers would pay more at the pump and at the Department of Motor Vehicles under a plan formally rolled out by Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday, but he says the money would provide vitally needed improvements to roads, bridges and mass transit in Minnesota.

In 2010, Gov. Dayton harshly criticized Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner’s cigarette tax, saying that Minnesota needed a more progressive tax system. More importantly, where’s the proof that Minnesota’s transit system has a lengthy list of “vitally needed improvements”? I’ll stipulate that Minnesota’s transit lobbyists have a lengthy wish list of transit projects but I won’t stipulate that there’s a lengthy list of transit needs.

It’s indisputable that roads and bridges need fixing. It’s disputable that we need another DFL middle class tax increase to fix Minnesota’s roads and bridges. It’s indisputable fact that the DFL raised taxes and fees by $2.4 billion for the biennium that started on July 1, 2013. It’s indisputable that Gov. Dayton, the DFL and the transit lobbyist wing of the DFL want to raise taxes on the middle class by $1.7 billion for the biennium that starts on July 1, 2015.

That’s more than $4,000,000,000 in tax increases that the DFL wants to punish the middle class with in each biennium. The DFL’s thirst for increasing taxes is insatiable.

Think of it this way. Oil companies took advantage of the fracking boom, which led to a dramatic drop in gas prices. Gas is less than $2.00/gallon, compared with $3.50/gallon before the fracking boom. The free market giveth cheap oil prices. DFL politicians want to make gas more expensive.

In addition to DFL politicians like Gov. Dayton wanting to punish middle class car drivers with higher gas prices and higher taxes, these same DFL politicians want to force outstate Minnesotans to pay for a transit system they don’t want and will never use.

I don’t care about expanding Twin Cities transit options. They’re virtually invisible to me. I want the DFL to stop focusing on transit. I’d rather they focused on what’s important, namely fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges. The top 3 priorities for Minnesota’s politicians should be a) fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges, b) fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges and c) fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges.

Gov. Dayton’s spin is nauseating:

“It takes some political courage” to approve tax increases, he said, which in this case would not only add a new gas tax but also but also raise vehicle license fees, charge $10 more for car registrations and increase a Twin Cities sales tax. He also pledges to find $600 million from the Minnesota Department of Transportation doing things more efficiently.

That’s stunning. When House Republicans offered their proposal, it included a call for greater efficiencies within MnDOT. At the time, Gov. Dayton insisted that the Republicans’ plans were “pure fantasy.” Now that he’s proposing greater efficiency within MnDOT, he’s dropped the mean-spirited accusations.

Imagine that.

Further, it doesn’t take political courage to raise taxes. If DFL is behind your name, raising taxes is virtually reflexive. It’s like you can raise taxes without blinking an eyelash. If you’re a Republican, raising taxes doesn’t require courage. It requires a brief bout of insanity.

Gov. Dayton’s latest middle class tax increase is his latest attempt to punish the middle class. Gov. Dayton and the DFL should be ashamed of themselves for inflicting this much punishment on the middle class.

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If there’s anything that Erin Murphy knows how to do, it’s spin the DFL’s BS. Here’s a perfect example of that ‘ability’ showcased:

That’s rich coming from a DFL legislator who’s voted repeatedly to shaft the Iron Range without giving them the mine to go with it. Throughout the Iron Range, income inequality is rampant. The poverty level on the Iron Range is frightening. The Iron Range’s middle class is almost nonexistent. Still, Rep. Murphy is lecturing Republicans about income inequality? She should be ashamed of herself. (She won’t be but she should be.)

The DFL’s metrocentric bent is quite noticeable. The DFL has shoveled tons of K-12 funding into the Twin Cities but they barely throw a scrap to the Iron Range. The DFL certainly doesn’t work to open mines that would help build an actual middle class in northern Minnesota.

Still, it’s difficult to feel sorry for Rangers. They’re the people that keep electing politicians that take them for granted.

Move MN’s motivation is laid out beautifully on their agenda webpage:

In order to address the challenges in our current transportation system, new funding must:

  1. Be comprehensive to address, roads, bridges, transit, and bike and pedestrian infrastructure.
  2. Equitably balance the transportation needs of Greater Minnesota and the Twin Cities metro area.
  3. Be a long-term, sustainable funding solution that is gimmick-free and dedicated only to fixing transportation.

First, Move MN is part of the DFL. It has an arm’s length relationship from the DFL only because it was first put together by Darin Broton, a DFL activist/operative. This is red flag city:

We are calling on the Minnesota Legislature to pass a comprehensive transportation funding solution in 2015 that requires additional transparency and efficiency for current resources.

Anytime people talk about comprehensive anything, I break into a cold sweat. That’s because comprehensive plans automatically contain things from lobbyists’ wish lists that the public doesn’t care about.

Here’s a radical thought. Let’s focus totally on fixing roads and bridges and expanding highways. As a motorist, that’s all I care about. If the Twin Cities wants trolley cars and light rail corridors, that’s their problem.

Here’s another radical thought. If the Twin Cities or other cities want to build “bike and pedestrian infrastructure”, let them pay for it. I’m betting that building “bike and pedestrian infrastructure” isn’t a priority with people. Cities that want those things can propose tax increases to their citizens to pay for those things.

The we’re-in-this-together sales pitch doesn’t work with me. If Minneapolis wants to spend $500,000 on 10 artistic drinking fountains, that’s their right. It isn’t their right to have taxpayers across the state help pay for those drinking fountains.

Next, let’s stop using inflated numbers to make it look like there’s a funding crisis:

In 2012, the Transportation Finance Advisory Committee projected we needed $250 million a year to “maintain” our state roads and bridges. Today, Gov. Dayton says we need $400 million. In 2012, TFAC projected we needed $210 million a year to build out the Twin Cities transit system. Today, Gov. Dayton says we need $280 million.

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s a 50% increase in costs over 2 years. Actually, it’s a 47.8% increase but what’s 2.2% amongst friends, right?

Finally, let’s stop with the we-need-sustainable-funding-that’s-dedicated-only-to-fixing-transportation’ gimmick. Let’s start with this thought. Let’s fund only those things that are priorities. Fixing roads and bridges is a priority. Expanding highways is a priority. Building the Southwest Light Rail Transit project isn’t a priority. In fact, raising taxes to fund the building of the SWLRT is theft because it’s embroiled in a major dispute at the moment. The DFL can’t decide on the project’s path. Why should we pay for something that’s a total mess with no solution in sight?

Move MN’s motivation is clear. It’s just the DFL disguising itself while attempting to raise taxes to pay for things we don’t need. Here’s hoping Kurt Daudt and the House Republican majority continue telling the DFL’s lobbyists to take a hike…on their dime.

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It’s clear from this article that DFL legislators are jumping aboard the Metrocrat DFL’s transportation package:

Range legislators and the governor recently addressed the issue in telephone interviews with the Mesabi Daily News.

“The gas tax is one if the most unpopular taxes there is,” said Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm. “But when we ask if people want roads and bridges fixed, 80 percent say yes … then an extra dime on the gas tax and 80 percent say no.”

Other Range legislators expressed support for raising Gov. Dayton’s transportation bill, too:

Rep. Jason Metsa, DFL-Virginia, has one of the biggest road/bridge projects scheduled in the state, the Highway 53 relocation venture that will require a new bridge spanning the Rouchleau Pit, that will require a lot of MnDOT dollars. “I support a gas tax increase. We have Highway 53 … and there are projects like that all over the state.”

Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, said he would back a gas tax increase if it is part of a “sweeping change” for funding roads and bridges. “A gas tax increase is no good for rural folks … but we also use a lot of roads,” Dill said. “We have serious problems and our job is to fix them. The longer we take, the shorter is the long-term.”

It’s worth noticing what these legislators didn’t say. They didn’t mention the other tax increases in Gov. Dayton’s and Move MN’s plans. It’s still possible that they support raising the other taxes and fees, too. It’s just that they weren’t mentioned in this article.

I predicted that the DFL would return to ask for another tax increase shortly after the DFL passed a gas tax increase in 2008. I said then that that bill raised taxes and fees that didn’t fix roads and bridges. I said then that too many of the tax increases were dedicated for transit projects that did nothing for fixing roads and bridges.

It isn’t surprising that the DFL is returning to raise the same taxes that they raised in 2008. It isn’t surprising that Gov. Dayton and the DFL is telling people that their transportation bill is to fix Minnesota’s roads and bridges.

The DFL said the same thing then that they’re saying now. This isn’t surprising. It’s just frustrating that Gov. Dayton and the DFL are attempting to raise taxes to pay for additional transit projects, aka DFL ribbon-cutting ceremonies, while telling Minnesotans that they’re just trying to fix outstate Minnesota’s roads and bridges.

All I’m hoping for is a little honest from the DFL. Apparently, that’s asking too much of the DFL.

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There’s no question that Gov. Dayton is a progressive. In 2010, he campaigned on the issue that Minnesota’s tax code wasn’t progressive enough. Immediately upon getting sworn in, he submitted a budget that raised income taxes. During the campaign, Gov. Dayton criticized Tom Horner’s cigarette tax for its regressivity. In 2013, Gov. Dayton signed a plethora of regressive taxes. This year, he’s pushing hard for another regressive tax increase that will hit the poor and the middle class harder than it’ll hit “the rich.”

When Republicans said no to raising taxes on the poor and the middle class, Gov. Dayton threw another temper tantrum:

Mark Drake, the new president of the Minnesota Jobs Coalition, noticed Gov. Dayton’s change of mind in this op-ed:

During a recent press conference in which he reiterated his support for a gasoline tax increase, Dayton mocked a GOP transportation proposal as “pure fantasy,” dismissing the plan’s funding mechanism as derived from “la la land” and “Fantasy Island.” Yet Dayton’s name-calling can’t change the fact that he’s long been an opponent of the very type of gas tax increase that he’s now pushing.

“I don’t support a gas tax increase at this time, because I think there’s not public support for it,” Dayton said in 2012. Dayton added that he opposed such a hike because “I don’t see it as providing nearly the amount of money necessary to make significant and really identifiable progress.”

“I don’t support a gas tax. I don’t think the people of Minnesota are prepared to support it and that’s the critical consideration,” Dayton assured Minnesotans in 2013. “If it’s going to raise more revenues than the current gas tax, then it’s going to result in higher fuel prices for middle-income Minnesotans. I think they’re not in a position economically to have that,” Dayton emphasized that same year. During his 2014 re-election campaign, Dayton again expressed opposition to a gas tax increase. “I have thought all along that this requires a long discussion in a non-election year,” Dayton stated.

It’s time for Gov. Dayton to stop with his flip-flopping. Gov. Dayton and the DFL didn’t promise to raise taxes during the campaign. In fact, they tried claiming that repealing their tax increase from 2013 was a tax cut. Gov. Dayton and the DFL promised voters property tax relief.

I wrote this post and this post to show that the DFL failed with that promise.

There’s no question that Gov. Dayton and the DFL prefer a progressive income tax system. Likewise, there’s no doubt that Gov. Dayton and the DFL like raising regressive taxes, too. Their record is littered with proof of the DFL voting for progressive and regressive taxes.

Tax the rich is the DFL’s mantra but tax everyone is what the DFL believes in. The DFL just isn’t honest enough to admit the latter in public.

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Usually, it isn’t until the last month of a legislative session that the DFL breaks out into their time-tested nastiness. We’re about to start the third week of the 2015 and the DFL is already taking out their long knives against Republicans. Here’s the vicious lie that Mindy Greiling told Friday night:

Gov. Dayton is right. That’s just a mirage, la-la land. People keep saying that. Even Carol Molnau wasn’t able to do anything about that except for having a bridge fall down when she cut some corners.

Thankfully, Brian McClung quickly exposed Ms. Greiling’s lie. Here’s what he said:

Look, you can’t blame Carol Molnau and budget cuts for the bridge falling down. The report from the NTSB showed that that was a design flaw from the 1960s so let’s just put that aside.

Ms. Greiling isn’t stupid. She’s just frequently dishonest and mean-spirited. She knows that the I-35 Bridge is the federal government’s responsibility. The National Transportation Safety Board investigated the crash and put together the definitive report on the crash. I recall the report’s conclusions and how little dispute there was with the NTSB’s conclusions.

Jim Oberstar, then the chairman of the Transportation Committee in the US House of Representatives, certainly didn’t dispute any of the NTSB’s findings of fact. Steve Murphy, then the chair of the Transportation Committee in the Minnesota Senate and Frank Hornstein, then the chair of the Transportation Committee in the Minnesota House of Representatives didn’t disagree with the NTSB’s findings of fact, either.

Now, 5 years after the NTSB report’s release, Rep. Greiling is attempting to rewrite history. That’s shameful but instructive. This isn’t a mistake. It’s a revelation. It’s who the DFL have become. The DFL’s dishonesty is disgusting and predictable.

It used to be that death and taxes were the only things in life that were guaranteed. DFL dishonesty and mean-spiritedness should be added to that list of guarantees.

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The DFL’s most trusted ally, other than Alida Messinger and the public employee unions, are the environmental activists. For all the things that the DFL does to help the DFL environmental activists make life miserable for blue collar workers, you’d think they’d get a pass on things. Apparently, the environmental activist wing of the DFL didn’t get the memo:

Adding bird-safe glass to the Minnesota Vikings’ new stadium could add as much as $60 million in extra costs and delay construction by six months, the chairwoman of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority said Friday.

Chairwoman Michele Kelm-Helgen gave the estimate in response to complaints that the clear glass planned for the $1 billion downtown Minneapolis stadium would pose a threat to migratory birds, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.

First, this is what environmental activists do. They make things up, then talk about the potential for crisis. This is fiction. Second, if this was a legitimate problem, which it isn’t, who cares?

Why should the Vikings have to spend an additional $60,000,000 to prevent birds from flying into the new Vikings stadium? Why should they have to wait an additional year to move into their new home? Most importantly, why didn’t these environmental activists mention this when the blueprints were first released in May of 2013?

If there was a Republican governor and Republican-picked chair of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, they’d tell these environmental activists to take a hike. What’s better is that organizations like Minnesota Citizens for the Protection of Migratory Birds wouldn’t have standing to proceed with a lawsuit because they can’t show how they’d be harmed.

It’s poetic justice that the political party that specializes in doing special favors for special interests is getting hassled by their most special of special interest allies.

Last night on Almanac’s Political Roundtable, the DFL was represented by Mindy Greiling and Ellen Anderson. That isn’t to say that they helped the DFL’s cause. The first topic of the political roundtable was transportation.

Greiling tossed the first bombshell when she said that a) finding efficiencies in MnDOT was “La-La Land” and b) Carol Molnau’s biggest achievement was having the I-35 bridge collapse because she tried cutting corners. It didn’t take long for Amy Koch and Brian McClung to swat that statement down.

McClung noted that “the NTSB found that it was a design flaw from the 1960s so let’s just set that one aside.”

Next up in the she-didn’t-say-that-sweepstakes was Ellen Anderson. Ms. Anderson said that Republicans have to keep their promise to rural Minnesota “and guess what? Rural Minnesota likes transit, too.” That’s one of the most dishonest statements I’ve ever heard on a political talk show. Considering the type of BS that I’ve heard on political talk shows, that’s quite the accomplishment.

Having lived my entire life in St. Cloud, which certainly qualifies as outstate Minnesota, though I don’t know that people think of it as rural Minnesota, I can state without hesitation that enthusiasm for transit projects in St. Cloud is probably limited to a handful of transportation activists.

That’s significant because nobody north or west of St. Cloud is even slightly interested in the type of transit projects that Ms. Anderson is talking about. Alexandria certainly isn’t clamoring for light rail. Ditto with Little Falls or Willmar or Dassel or Foley or Brainerd.

Ms. Anderson isn’t a ditzy blonde in real life. She just plays one on political talk shows. It’s impossible for me to think that the DFL thinks that transit is a priority north of Plymouth. In fact, Plymouth might be a stretch.

McClung made the right statement, too, in highlighting the fact that, though Gov. Dayton “is unbound”, Gov. Dayton shouldn’t throw one temper tantrum after another if he wants to get things done. Later, Mr. McClung said that Speaker Daudt was willing to work with people so this should get solved by the end of the session.

Clearly, transportation will be a major issue this session. Sen. Koch made a fantastic point of saying that the fight will be over the right balance between roads and bridges vs. transit. If that’s how this breaks down, then it’s entirely possible that this won’t have a happy ending for the metro DFL. It’s entirely possible that rural DFL legislators might join Republicans in fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges while putting little into transit.

If that happens, lots of outstate DFL legislators might be more than happy to get their priorities fixed rather than giving Metro DFL legislators what they want while outstate DFL doesn’t get what they want.

Finally, don’t be surprised if a split develops between outstate DFL legislators and metro DFL legislators. Their priorities aren’t that similar.

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