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I didn’t think I’d say this but the DFL isn’t as bright as I thought. I’m basing that opinion on the DFL’s highlighting the failures of the Pogemiller/Kelliher legislature. The Minnesota DFL retweeted this message:

RT @epmurphy: Former Gov. left @GovMarkDayton a mess.

Actually, the DFL legislature produced one balanced budget that the media treated like a joke. When the media treats a DFL budget like it’s a joke, you know it’s noteworthy.

Not only did the DFL retweet this message but they attached a new button that the GOP is circulating:

The DFL hasn’t presented a serious budget in at least 6 years, possibly longer. In 2007, when they took over the House, there was a $2,163,000,000 surplus. By the time the 2008 election rolled around, that surplus had essentially disappeared.

In September, 2007, Rep. Steve Gottwalt, Rep. Larry Haws and Sen. Tarryl Clark participated in the St. Cloud League of Women Voters Education Forum, which I wrote about in this post. The most stunning part of that event was this exchange:

Steve Gottwalt had just said that we needed to do a better job prioritizing education spending, prompting Larry Haws to say “Maybe we do need to prioritize.”

This is instructive for multiple reasons. First, the situation Minnesota was faced with was that of a significant surplus and a slowing economy. That’s the worst combination imaginable if you aren’t paying attention.

With that big a surplus, it isn’t difficult to get complacent. That’s obviously what happened with Rep. Haws.

Rep. Gottwalt had talked about the slowing economy and had urged restraint during the previous spring’s budget negotiations. He wasn’t alarmist. He was just exercising justified caution.

By the time 2009 rolled around, Minnesota faced “a $6.4 billion deficit”, a fact Rep. Buesgens reminded people of almost daily. Despite the reminders, the DFL submitted one balanced budget the entire session. That budget came with less than 10 minutes left in the session.

Two months into the biennium, the budget was in deficit. That’s how big a joke the DFL’s 2009 budget was. In a $33,000,000,000 budget, MMB projected a surplus at the end of the biennium of less than $35,000.

That the DFL is now accusing Gov. Pawlenty of ruining the state is utterly laughable. Let’s remember Cy Thao’s infamous quote, which I broke in this post:

“When you win, you get to keep your money. When we win, we take your money.”

Does that sound like a legislator who views himself as the taxpayers’ watchdog? Or does it sound like someone who’s intent on spending like a drunken sailor?

That the DFL has the audacity to be that reckless with spending is terrifying enough. That they’d then accuse Gov. Pawlenty of ruining the state is proof that the DFL isn’t in touch with reality.

Thank God Minnesota had the sense to elect GOP majorities in the House and Senate to be the taxpayers’ clean-up crew.

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Bob von Sternberg’s post says that Republican leadership is recycling its talking points about Gov. Dayton’s budget:

Republican legislative leaders resumed their criticism Wednesday of Gov. Mark Dayton’s budget blueprint, aiming most of their rhetorical fire at his plan to raise income taxes on the wealthiest Minnesotans.

Such a tax increase is simply not acceptable, said House Speaker Kurt Zellers. “This budget is detatched from the reality every other state has recognized,” he said.

The GOP leaders largely recycled the talking points they made Tuesday in the wake of Dayton’s budget presentation,including displaying a U.S. map that declared “state governments take a stand against new taxes, except Gov. Mark Dayton.”

I’d disagree with von Sternberg’s characterization of the GOP’s “talking points.” I’d argue that they’re the GOP’s long-held policy beliefs. Talking points are more what politicians and political operatives use to “stay on message” rather than deal with specific questions.

Talking points usually are used when a politician doesn’t have a substantive answer or when they’re plain wrong.

That isn’t the case here. The GOP leadership has a ‘tax map’ showing every governor either cutting taxes pledging not to raise taxes. There’s bipartisan support for not raising taxes.

While Zellers said the “depth and breadth of concerns we have about the budget can’t be expressed,” the Republican leaders offered no specific alternatives to Dayton’s plan.

What wasn’t said in that sentence is that the GOP has identified wasteful spending that’s happening in this biennium. That was the basis of the bill they passed that Gov. Dayton vetoed.

I know from conversations with legislators that they’ll submit a budget bill to the public the minute the February forecast is unveiled. That’s a stark contrast with the DFL majority in 2009:

It happened again Thursday. The Minnesota House was meeting in full session, running through some routine business, when Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Delano, rose, cleared his throat and said to DFLers, “We’ve been here a month; why are we still waiting for your budget proposal?”

There were some head shakes, but no response. The House got back to the business at hand.

Emmer’s question has become the mantra of state Republicans. In every public forum, at least one or two Republican legislators raise the question: If DFL legislators don’t like Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s proposed budget, why don’t they come up with one of their own?

“It’s strategic,” said House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, of the Republican cry. “It’s designed to freak people out on our side, and it takes attention off the governor’s budget.”

Kelliher and Pogemiller never submitted a budget. They spent their time criticizing Gov. Pawlenty’s budget. Some people are sure to say that this sounds similar. They have a bit of a point…with this exception: the GOP has already submitted substantial legislation reforming the budgeting and permitting processes. They’ve also passed legislation cutting wasteful spending ahead of the Feb. forecast.

This is far beyond what the DFL did in 2009. That year, they spent a month trying to solicit testimony proving the need for tax increases:

From: Gene Pelowski [mailto:Rep.Gene.Pelowski@house.mn]
Sent: Tuesday, February 17, 2009 10:13 AM
This Friday, February 20, there will be a bicameral hearing held in our region. Senators and Representatives from both political parties will be in Winona from 3:30 to 5:30 PM, Winona City Hall, 207 Lafayette St. The purpose of this hearing is to get testimony from affected programs in every level of government, education, health care or service impacted by the cuts suggested by the Governor’s state budget.

I am writing you to ask that you or a designee get scheduled to testify. You may do this by going to the House website at www.house.mn and clicking on ‘Town Meetings’.

We would ask you to focus your comments on the impact of the Governor’s budget including what is the harm to your area of government or program. Please be as precise as possible using facts such as number of lay offs, increases in property taxes, cuts in services, increases in tuition, elimination of programs. To be respectful of the time necessary to hear from a large number of constituents it would be advised to use no more than 3-5 minutes to convey your message. If you choose to provide handouts or printed materials, please plan to bring approximately 25 copies, enough for committee members and media.

Sincerely,
Representative Gene Pelowski
District 31A

This GOP legislature has held more hearings on substantive reforms already than the DFL held during the entire 2009 session.

It’s important to highlight the fact that Gov. Dayton’s tax increases are totally out of touch with Minnesotans’ priorities. The business community certainly isn’t pleased with Gov. Dayton’s tax increases. Main Street Minnesotans aren’t happy with them either, mostly because they elected GOP majorities to stop the insane spending.

Gov. Dayton’s budget doesn’t cut spending. According to King Banaian, Dayton’s budget solves the deficit with $4 of tax increases for each dollar in spending cuts:

Gov. Mark Dayton today unveiled historic tax increases and the nation’s highest income-tax bracket as his means to setting Minnesota’s budget.

His plan calls for around $4 billion in tax increases; that’s approximately $4 in tax increases for every $1 in spending reductions. Our state would increase spending by 22 percent over current levels, to around $37 billion.

Gov. Dayton better drop these demands ASAP because they’re unrealistic and unsustainable. It’s time that Gov. Dayton started dealing with reality rather than with what satisfies his political allies.

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OMG. I’ve thought from the beginning that Gov. Dayton’s decisionmaking and ability to champion liberal causes was limited. After reading this post, which is essentially his defense of bloated government, though, I’m beginning to question his priorities.

The Democratic governor said the proposals “exploit the opportunity” to drive wedges between Minnesotans, demonize public employees and suggested they show a lack of understanding and care.

“Most state employees, most public employees, most teachers are extraordinarily dedicated, hard working people, who are striving to make ends meet for their families…just as people in the private sector are,” Dayton said.

The governor addressed a bill that would freeze teacher pay and limit teachers’ ability to strike as well as a measure to cut 15 percent of the state workforce.

“The myth that there’s been this explosion of (the numbers of) public employees in Minnesota is just that,” Dayton said. “In a difficult economic time, some people exploit the opportunity to try to drive wedges between Minnesotans.”

He said: “I wish the legislators would take the time and the care to really understand these issues and the complexity and to hold public hearings and allow for public input on all sides of the question and then present something that really reflects a caring and concern for the well being of all Minnesotans.”

I wish Gov. Dayton would quit thinking that government doesn’t need major reformation. I wish he’d stop thinking that Minnesota’s priorities are great and don’t need major changes.

The GOP legislature isn’t attempting to villainize unions as much as it’s just trying to set sensible priorities for state spending. Meanwhile, Gov. Dayton is obviously playing to his political base while driving away independents.

Those Minnesotans who haven’t gotten laid off during this current recession have either had their pay cut, their hours cut or had their insurance premiums increased substantially. Rep. Downey’s legislation simply says that the public sector must share in the sacrifice.

The House and Senate leadership started with trimming their budgets. They’ve refused to adopt a Cuts for Thee but not for Me attitude. They’ve adopted a me first attitude.

In light of that attitude, Gov. Dayton appears to be saying he’ll continue then-Speaker Kelliher’s and then-Leader Pogemiller’s plan to exempt public sector employees while demanding tax increases. If Gov. Dayton intends on continuing down that path, he’d best be prepared to take alot of lumps.

He’s defending the indefensible.

Rep. Banaian’s budgeting reform and sunset bill does away with the assumption that government’s current structure fits the 21st Century. HINT: It doesn’t. Government’s current structure might’ve been justified in the 1980s but it’s outdated for the 21st Century.

The governor condemned Rep. Keith Downey’s words that he wanted to strangle the beast” of public worker rolls. Downey, R-Edina, proposed the state workforce cut, which breezed through a House committee Wednesday.

“I’m really shocked,” Dayton said. “Government is not a beast. Public servants are not beasts. They are fellow citizens…To demonize people who are,in most respects. hard working committed people is very unfair and unnecessarily divisive.”

Perhaps Gov. Dayton should contemplate the possibility that Rep. Downey wasn’t attacking individual workers but rather the current structure of government. If Gov. Dayton wasn’t so trained in practicing victimhood politics, he might’ve noticed that Rep. Downey was talking about reforming government.

Instead of asking Rep. Downey what he was talking about, Gov. Dayton flew into a temper tantrum, thinking that Rep. Downey was being personal. Had Gov. Dayton looked at the totality of what was said, he might’ve noticed that government reform, spread across many departments, was the target.

If Gov. Dayton wants to keep having these childish temper tantrums while playing exclusively to his base, that’s his right. Nonetheless, that’s a great recipe for losing legislative fights and elections.

Each week, Gov. Dayton is getting exposed as a puppet for the DFL’s special interest group masters. They’re either controlling him or he’s a true believer that what’s best for these special interest groups is what’s best for Minnesota.

Thankfully, Rep. Downey, Rep. Banaian and others are in touch with Main Street Minnesota’s priorities. Thankfully, they’ll set the right priorities.

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If there’s anything reliable about the DFL other than having an unquenchable thirst for raising taxes, it’s their mantra that not raising taxes inevitably leads to higher property taxes. That’s the upshot of this article:

The Republicans in the majority of both houses have said they do not favor any tax increases to deal with the deficit. Minneapolis legislators, however, are strong supporters of income tax increases or other revenue sources to help balance the budget.

Dayton favors a mix of tax increases, budget cuts and reform.

Pogemiller said taxes will rise one way or another. He favors an income tax hike on higher earners. If not, the Legislature will be forced to cut its aid to local governments.

“If you cut (Local Government Aid) you will raise property taxes,” he said.

Pogemiller said Minneapolis lost about half of its Local Government Aid during the Tim Pawlenty administration.

Loeffler also favors new state revenue, and she cited closing corporate tax loopholes and raising fees and permitting costs as possible solutions.

“Property taxes have been going up dramatically even though peoples’ housing values have been flat or gone down,” she said. “That’s not fair. It’s one of our least progressive taxes.”

What isn’t fair is when mayors and city councils raise property taxes because they refuse to set sensible spending priorities. They should be ashamed of themselves for mistreating their citizens.

In 2008, I went through St. Paul’s operating budget. I wish I’d made a list of all the wasteful spending I found. It was pathetic. The crap they spent money on made me want to scream. If I’d lived in St. Paul, I would’ve created that list, then I would’ve brought it to a city council meeting to ask them why they’d spent money so recklessly.

Why aren’t R.T. Rybak and Chris Coleman required to act with any fiscal discipline? I won’t lose a splitsecond of sleep over Minneapolis and St. Paul not getting a big increase in LGA. If they can’t run their cities properly, then let their citizens see how inept they are. Let their citizens experience the pain that comes from electing spendaholic mayors and city councils.

I hope that this GOP majority tells R.T. Rybak and Chris Coleman that they won’t get their annual bailout stipend, that they’re gonna have to figure out ways to make their dollars stretch a little farther.

This is Minnesota, a state of innovators. It’s time R.T. Rybak and Chris Coleman discovered their innovative side. It’s time they put their innovative skills to use by setting smart spending priorities and saving its citizens’ money.

In St. Paul and Minneapolis, that would be a rare change indeed.

Even with new revenue sources, Minneapolis legislators say reforms and tough cuts will be coming.

Loeffler, Greene and Pogemiller spoke of the importance of funding education. However, K-12 Education funding makes up 38 percent of the state budget and higher education makes up 9 percent of the state budget.

Pogemiller said state health care costs are rising by 8 percent annually. Because of the state’s aging population, it’s unlikely to make any real cuts to the health and human services budget, which is about 29 percent of the total budget.

“I would love to see a bill that addresses the $6.2 billion deficit without raising taxes, but I just don’t think it’s going to be possible,” Greene said.

The DFL legislators admit that they’ll have a number of tough votes ahead even if they raised taxes. Shouldn’t Minnesota’s legislature start with figuring out how many dollars can be saved via reforms and actually saying no to the DFL’s special interest group allies? Shouldn’t the DFL legislators say that the first option to balancing the budget is raising taxes on people?

After all, it isn’t as though they’re undertaxed. It isn’t as though cities are setting smart spending priorities.

When cities have made the difficult decisions, they’ll understand what the legislature does.

This quote really irritates me:

“I would love to see a bill that addresses the $6.2 billion deficit without raising taxes, but I just don’t think it’s going to be possible,” Greene said.

Did Rep. Greene attempt to put a list of line items together that could be cut? Did she think that there might be a less expensive way of providing the same service level at a cheaper price? Does Rep. Greene have any reform proposals in the HF hopper? If she doesn’t, isn’t she saying something isn’t possible without checking what’s possible?

Shame on her for not doing her due diligence first. Shame on her for giving up without making a spirited attempt at rethinking how government works.

Cities will certainly attempt to get their LGA payments ‘restored’. They shouldn’t get their hopes too high. It’s time cities became reform-oriented. It’s time they relied on themselves first, the state second. (A distant second at that.)

Minnesota families have been making sacrifices for a few years already. The state has made some difficult choices, too. Isn’t it time that cities started making difficult decisions and reforming their government?

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Mark Dayton and the DFL have told us we’re facing “a $6.2 billion deficit” and that “the rich” aren’t paying their fair share. It’s time we looked at this through an historical perspective.

According to this MMB pdf file, Minnesota’s biennial budget passed in 2007 was $32,637,644,000. Actually, it was more than that originally but it was reduced by unallotments agreed to by Gov. Pawlenty and the DFL legislature when it became obvious Minnesota’s revenues were shrinking. The original budget bills signed by Gov. Pawlenty called for spending $34,500,000,000.

For there to be a $6.2 billion deficit this biennium, the state general fund budget would have to approach $39,000,000,000. This biennium, we’re scheduled to spend $30,700,000,000. (That’s before factoring in the education shifts.)

To reach $39,000,000,000 in spending this biennium, they’d need to increase spending by upwards of 20 percent. In this economy, Dayton and the DFL want to increase government spending by 20+ percent. Are they nuts? That’s insanity or, at minimum, the height of irresponsibility.

In fact, Minnesota is projected to have almost $33,000,000,000 in revenues this biennium. That means the deficit comes almost entirely from department-by-department spending increases. Those spending increases total almost $6,000,000,000 or over 20 percent.

In this economy, no sane person can justify that type of spending increase. The truth is that it’d be almost impossible to justify that type of spending increase if our economy was creating wealth and prosperity in unprecedented fashion.

Thankfully, there’s reform-minded, fiscally responsible GOP majorities in the both houses of the Minnesota legislature. They’ll keep spending under control, thanks in large part to the implementation of cost-saving reforms that could’ve been passed during the DFL’s reign of failure.

Yes, their time in the majority is a major failure. They took a $2.2 billion surplus & turned it into back-to-back $6.4 billion & $6.2 billion deficits. They did that because they rejected common sense, cost-saving reforms that the GOP offered.

That’s why voters rejected them this past November. That’s why Gov. Dayton will be confused and frustrated this year. I’m betting that he isn’t prepared for the magnitude of reforms he’ll face.

This should be a good year for the House and Senate GOP. They’ll be able to showcase all the great reforms that the DFL bottled up the last 4 years. That means that the Agenda Media’s credibility will be demolished if they argue that Republicans are just the party of no.

Realistically speaking, it’s more likely that they’ll be honestly called the Ideas Party. That’s how to win independents and elections.

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When Sen. Pogemiller and Sen. Berglin visited St. Cloud last week during the DFL post-session flyaround, she talked repeatedly about how Minnesota would get $7.45 back for every Minnesota dollar spent on Medicaid expansion. Meanwhile, the Rochester Post Bulletin criticized Republicans for not accepting that money:

Clinic lobbyist Frank Iossi said Mayo Clinic and Mayo Health System stand to lose $20 million to $25 million a year because lawmakers chose not to enroll in an expanded Medicaid program available at the federal level. On top of that, he said hospitals had agreed to a 2-percent rate cut and to delay rebasing, which reassesses Medicaid rates, in order to get the Medicaid expansion. But while those additional cuts went through, the Medicaid expansion got bogged down in political wrangling.

“Hospitals paid for the state’s share of early enrollment in Medicaid but didn’t get it,” Iossi said.

In total, Iossi said the 2-percent cut will cost hospitals statewide $44 million, and roughly a $6.6 million cut for Mayo Clinic and Mayo Health System. The rebasing delay also amounts to an estimated $100 million loss for hospitals statewide.

What the Mayo Clinic isn’t mentioning is that there are some expensive strings attached to that money. Since the article ran, I’ve done some digging into what’s attached to the fed’s money. Here’s just a few things attached:

First off, ObamaCare doesn’t guarantee that the federal money will be there after 2014. That means the states might be left with the entire cost of MA or having to kick people off health care coverage.

Even with the federal government paying a larger share, there is still an increased cost to the state for moving more people onto MA (in Minnesota, we’d have to come up with another $1 billion next biennium as we push 100,000 people into the program). If you’re like Minnesota, your state doesn’t have the extra cash laying around!

The early MA provision imposes NO residency requirement: if you’re income eligible, all you need to do is indicate you “intend” to live in the state. So, if your state gets into this before neighboring states, you can imagine the flood of welfare recipients who will come looking for ObamaCare in your state at your taxpayers’ expense.

It’s time the MNGOP started telling people that we can’t afford the ‘free money’ from Obamacare. There’s no such thing as free money. It always comes with strings attached. Except with this administration, there aren’t strings attached, there’s cables attached.

When Sen. Berglin made it sound too good to be true, red flags went off. It turns out I was right. It was too good to be true. Now I know what parts were too good to be believed.

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Apparently, Sen. Pogemiller used a canned line during his visit to St. Cloud. After reading this quote in the Makato Free Press, I realized that:

Pogemiller, who landed at the Mankato Airport less than an hour after the Republicans took off, said he doesn’t understand why Republicans are waiting until next year to push for reforms.

“I think we have to talk about facts and fantasy,” Pogemiller said. “…This state has been governed by a Republican governor for eight years.”

Pogemiller also said government reform alone won’t fix the looming budget shortfall for 2011 and 2012, projected to be $5 billion or more. “You could eliminate all of state government, all of the agencies and all of the state employees, and that would be less than $1 billion (in savings),” he said.

Technically, Sen. Pogemiller is correct. If you eliminated the salaries of every employee from every government agency, you’d fall short of what’s needed to balance the budget.

That’s a nice spin, though, because it isn’t about eliminating the government employees. It’s about the programs they administer.

For instance, as far as I can tell, Steve Gottwalt’s plan to reform MinnesotaCare doesn’t involve cutting state employees. It does, however, have the ability to save more than $1,000,000,000 during the next biennium by shifting from the current health insurance policy to an health reimbursement account or HRA.

Mary Kiffmeyer talked about getting an amendment passed through the house during this year’s session that would’ve changed the state’s budgeting process from the current baseline budgeting to zero based budgeting. Rep. Kiffmeyer explained that zero-based budgeting forces each agency to justify every penny of budgeting. It also introduces cost benefit analyses into the budgeting equation.

As King aptly puts it, it forces the government to justify every penny spent rather than just haggling over the last few pennies of the increase. Add to that Tom Emmer’s pledge to vigorously search out agency overlap and their budgets and you have the potential for alot of savings.

That’s before factoring in the savings the state will realize from the pension reform that will get signed into law this year.

Once businesspeople start seeing that a GOP majority in the House and Senate are enacting reforms that reduce the cost of government, coupled with a government that’s more better at customer service, business costs will shrink, giving businesses the capital incentive to invest in their companies’ expansion.

As Rep. Gottwalt likes to put it, that will give the goose that lays the economic golden eggs to keep laying more golden eggs.

Think about the difference in mindsets. The DFL has displayed an attitude of ‘it can’t be done’ whereas the GOP has adopted an attitude of ‘watch what’s possible when we put our mind to it.’

Minnesotans are starving for leadership that says that they’re returning to doing things that make sense, starving for leadership that says ‘we’re laying out a positive vision for Minnesotans.’ I’m betting that Minnesotans are more likely to respond to the GOP’s positive message than they’ll respond to the DFL’s message of ‘No we shouldn’t.’

This November, the DFL will learn the hard way that reality-based positivity sells.

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It was a busy day at the St. Cloud airport Tuesday afternoon, with the DFL and the GOP stopping in during their post-session flyarounds.

When I pulled into the airport parking lot at 1:20 pm, Sen. Pogemiller was standing outside talking on his cell phone. That seemed rather odd compared with past flyarounds. In the flyarounds in previous years, I assumed that the DFL and GOP planes would be late.

When I walked into the lobby where the press conferences would be held, the people that I didn’t see spoke louder than the people who were there. Tarryl Clark wasn’t there. Neither was Larry Haws. Also missing from this trip was Speaker Kelliher. The only local candidate attending was Bruce Hentges, the DFL endorsed candidate for Tarryl’s Senate seat.

It isn’t that that’s surprising considering the fact that the DFL doesn’t have endorsed candidates for a number of House and Senate seats. As of tonight, Steve Gottwalt, Mary Kiffmeyer, Michelle Fischbach and Tim O’Driscoll don’t have opponents.

Like I told Times reporter Mark Sommerhauser, I can understand the DFL not having candidates running against popular incumbents like Michelle Fischbach, Mary Kiffmeyer and Steve Gottwalt. It’s stunning that they don’t have a candidate running against Tim O’Driscoll for the open seat in HD-14A, where Dan Severson left to run for Secretary of State against Mark Ritchie.

When asked if Gov. Pawlenty had won the budget battle, Sen. Pogemiller said that yes, “Gov. Pawlenty did win if you’re talking about national talking points” before adding that he’d “argue that Minnesota lost” as a result of the outcome. When pressed about why they didn’t push harder for their agenda, Sen. Pogemiller said that “There’s no amount of political philosophy that’s worth shutting government down over.”

For her part, Sen. Berglin said that this year represented a lost opportunity caused by Minnesota not agreeing to opt in on Obamacare. Sen. Berglin said that Minnesota would’ve gotten $7.45 back for MA for each dollar it paid into the federal government.

Sen. Berglin said that not doing the early opt-in would cause other states to get the money Minnesota could be getting.

Clearly, the DFL leaders were dispirited as a result of not getting their priorities passed into law.

When the GOP entourage arrived, there was a detectable difference in attitude. Led by GOP endorsed gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, the entourage of Emmer, House Minority Leader Kurt Zellers, Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem, Rep. Matt Dean and Sen. Amy Koch greeted the people gathered in the Aviation building at the St. Cloud Airport.

After giving a brief presentation on his reform agenda, Rep. Emmer invited questions from the audience. WJON-AM’s Jim Maurice and the St. Cloud Times’ Mark Sommerhauser also covered the event. Rep. Emmer said that health care would be a major issue in the campaign, saying that, if elected, he wouldn’t opt into the Medicaid expansion.

Opting into the Medicaid expansion is enticing initially, he said, but that there’s no guarantee that the money Sen. Berglin talks about would be there after 2014. What would be there would be maintenance of service agreements that Minnesota would have to sign if they opted in.

Rep. Emmer then called St. Cloud Rep. Steve Gottwalt to the microphone to explain his Healthy Minnesota Plan, HF3036 this past session. Rep. Gottwalt said that it wasn’t accepted as the reform to MinnesotaCare but that it was adopted as a pilot program.

Under the pilot program, 60,000 single Minnesotans without dependent children will be covered. Rep. Gottwalt said that the fiscal note calculated the savings at $110,000,000 for the next biennium. If enacted into law for all 800,000 people on MinnesotaCare, the savings might exceed $1,000,000,000 for the upcoming biennium.

Rep. Zellers spoke about how government operations should change to be more customer friendly. He spoke about streamlining the permitting process for construction permits would save contractors time and the government money.

Rep. Emmer said that the key isn’t in cutting money from the budget because, sooner or later, that agency or that department will want the cuts restored. He said that the key is first determining what state government should be doing, then eliminating duplicative agencies, then streamlining processes so that the bureaucracies so that they’re more responsive to the public.

When asked if he thought if there were enough reform opportunities to balance the budget, Rep. Emmer pointed out the budget saving that could be realized just by implementing Rep. Gottwalt’s Healthy Minnesota Plan.

Sen. Senjem drove the point home by saying that making government more efficient and responsive to Minnesota’s needs would help Minnesota become a business friendly state that’s able to compete with anyone.

The thing that stood out to everyone who attended both events was that the DFL event was poorly attended and all but lifeless whereas the GOP portion was upbeat, filled with ideas and laying out an appealing agenda that Republicans will campaign on.

Also attending the event were GOP endorsed candidates John Pederson and Dave Brown, representing SD-15 and SD-16 respectively, along with King Banaian and Tim O’Driscoll, representing HD-15B and HD-14A respectively.

The GOP group was outgoing and upbeat. Also impressive was how they cheerfully answered all questions posed to them in a straightforward, facts first manner.

There was a detectable difference in energy levels, with there being significantly more energy, and more people attending, at the GOP event.

That Tarryl Clark, Larry Haws, House Majority Leader Sertich and Speaker Kelliher weren’t there spoke louder than anything in Sen. Pogemiller’s or Sen. Berglin’s presentation.

It truly was a case of the visuals telling the real story.

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It isn’t a secret that Larry Pogemiller is an ideologue who doesn’t like taking no for an answer. When Sen. Pogemiller said that Gov. Pawlenty was stubbornly refusing to raise taxes, what he should’ve said was that Gov. Pawlenty was stubbornly refusing to ignore the will of the people:

Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, blamed Pawlenty’s stubborn refusal to consider a blend of cuts and tax increases to balance the budget. He also criticized Republican legislators for going along with it.

Pogemiller warned it would be a further hardship to the struggling construction industry if the state can’t honor its commitment to build hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of projects.

The latest KSTP-SUSA poll showed that 64 percent of likely Minnesota voters think they’re paying too much in taxes while 27 percent think they’re paying the right amount of taxes and a paltry 8 percent think they’re paying too little in taxes. (I’ve heard that the people comprising this 8 percent live in Dane Smith’s and Mark Dayton’s neighborhoods but I can’t confirm it.)

While it’s true Gov. Pawlenty and Republican legislators have been stubborn on raising taxes, the truth is that there’s a differece between the DFL’s stubbornness and Republicans’ stubbornness. The GOP’s stubbornness comes from the fact that the vast majority of people are adamantly opposed to tax increases.

NOTE TO DFL: It’s silly to cave when you’re on the side of the angels on such this important an issue right before the campaign start.

Sunday morning, Laura Brod tweeeted that the DFL is using fuzzy math:

REALLY Fuzzy Math..Dems claim each $1 we spend we get $7B back from feds. If true, heck, why not spend $5B & have the feds pay entire budget.

Steve Gottwalt isn’t amused with the DFL’s tactics either:

Our budget is growing TWICE as fast as our revenues! We are spending $200 million more per month than we take in! Wake-up!!!

Even though everyone’s tired, Rep. Gottwalt is still making sense:

Sertich asks “What more can we do?” How about leading with real, sustainable solutions? Walked away from real reforms and compromise. Shame!

The most concerning part of this budget proposal is the tails, the incredible deficit this leaves for the coming biennium: $7 billion!

The DFL must have a death wish. That’s the only explanation I can think of for their tactics. They’ve conceded that they won’t increase taxes. While they’re proposing cutting spending for some things, they’re proposing increasing spending for other things.

What they aren’t doing is agreeing to any of the GOP’s reforms. If they weren’t so adamant about that, a budget deal likely would’ve been struck hours ago. That’s what’s behind the DFL pushing Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. Report after report shows that picking this option raises next biennium’s deficit, and each subsequent biennium’s deficit, by $1,000,000,000.

Why on God’s green earth would people push that option? The DFL spent this session whining about how we aren’t doing anything to solve the structural problems in the budget. They finish whining about that then they propose a bill that will make the deficit situation worse going forward.

The DFL, especially Tony Sertich, have talked about all the spending cuts they’re willing to make. NOTE TO TONY: They don’t matter if the budget still doesn’t balance, which it won’t with the new spending that the DFL is adding.

This won’t end well for the DFL if they force a special session. GOP candidates will be talking about how the DFL didn’t balance last year’s budget, then insisted on raising taxes until the last minute, then insisted on a health care plan that will add $1,000,000,000 to next biennium’s already huge deficit.

That won’t play except in the urban districts of the Twin Cities, in Duluth and in college towns. The DFL is in danger in districts not fitting those descriptions.

The other thing that’s playing out right now is Mark Dayton and Matt Entenza are licking their chops. Speaker Kelliher is having another meltdown for the second consecutive year. Mssrs. Dayton and Entenza will surely pounce on that, saying that it proves she can’t close a deal. Fair or unfair, that’s how Mssrs. Dayton and Entenza will play it.

With there only being hours left in the final day of the session, things aren’t looking good for the DFL. Unless they drop their health care demands, they’ll get hurt by a special session.

That’s what happens when you stubbornly refuse to listen to the people’s cries for not raising taxes.

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I didn’t watch Wednesday night’s floor session but based on the DFL’s and GOP’s factchecking tweets alone, it must’ve been one feisty floor session. Here’s one feisty exchange:

paulthissen Truth Check: Rep Brod, there are no cuts to adoption assistance
laurabrod Fact Check @paulthissen: look at line 328 of spreadsheet where it says “reduce adoption assistance Relative Custoday Child Services Grants

Rep. Thissen didn’t reply to Rep. Brod so I’m betting that he took the ‘discretion is the better part of valor’ approach to that particular article.

Here’s Tom Hauser’s tweet from somewhere between 6:30-7:00 pm:

5hauser DFLers say they’re no longer “pushing” governor for new revenue ie. tax increases.

Although Tom Hauser is a pretty reliable reporter, I still verified the rumor with some of my contacts at the Capitol. After midnight, I got an email from a loyal reader of this blog. Here’s the key portion of the email:

Rumor has it the Dems did some polling and found very little popular support for “new revenues.”

That information verifies what the KSTP/SUSA poll showed. That polling said that 64 percent of Minnesota likely voters thought they paid too much in taxes, 27 percent thought they paid the right amount and a mere 8 percent thought we’re paying too little in taxes.

Right now, tax increases simply aren’t popular. What’s probably frightening the DFL most right now is that they’re allegedly finding this out after voting for numerous tax increases.

In other developments, the legislature passed the HHS omnibus bill, sending it to Gov. Pawlenty’s desk for his veto.

The bottom line is this: If the DFL has stopped pushing tax increases, which seems likely, then the legislature has taken an important step towards solving the deficit problem. There still are hurdles but they aren’t the gigantic hurdles that taxes posed.

Still, I won’t breath easier until I know that Sen. Pogemiller won’t try pulling some last minute stunt that he’s famous for. Once we’re past that, then I’ll breath easier.

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