Archive for the ‘Earmarks’ Category
This op-ed calls out the DFL, starting with Gov. Dayton, Sen. Bakk and Speaker Thissen, for telling whoppers about repaying the school shift. Dan Fabian’s and Deb Kiel’s op-ed is a shot across Gov. Dayton’s bow:
So, when Gov. Mark Dayton and Democratic leaders recently declared their one-party control led to the state making good on $2.5 billion in delayed K-12 school payments, we stopped dead in our tracks, totally astonished.
Now, people who know us gather we are reasonable people. We don’t like to get into partisan politics, but in this instance, we felt the need to set the record straight to what we view as one of the more egregious examples of political misrepresentation.
Rep. Fabian and Rep. Kiel won’t say it this harshly but I will. Gov. Dayton, Sen. Bakk and Speaker Thissen lied through their teeth. (I first wrote about this in this post.) Here’s what the DFL press release admitted:
Governor Mark Dayton, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, House Speaker Paul Thissen, Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter, and Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius announced that Minnesota schools were repaid an additional $636 million at the end of the 2013 fiscal year.
The budget that was in place through the end of FY2013 was passed by the GOP legislature after a lengthy shutdown caused by Gov. Dayton. Credit for paying off $636,000,000 of the school shift rightly belongs to the GOP legislature, first because their budget created a healthy surplus and secondly, because the GOP legislature said no to the greedy fingers of the DFL’s special interests.
Here’s some verifiable facts for Gov. Dayton, Speaker Thissen and Sen. Bakk to digest:
From the previous Legislature, we inherited a $5 billion deficit, including a $2 billion school shift. A “shift” simply means that payments to K-12 schools are delayed to a later date in order to provide a one-time savings to the state without actually reducing education appropriations.
As we wrestled to balance a historic deficit and out-of-control spending, we and our legislative colleagues called for holding the line on taxes and controlling state spending; on the other hand, Dayton called for large tax increases to fix the deficit.
During compromise negotiations, Dayton was first to float the idea of delaying school payments to an even later date. Ultimately, as part of the 2011 budget agreement with the governor, the amount owed in deferred payments to schools grew to $2.7 billion.
In other words, the DFL had little, if anything, to do with accelerating the paying off of the school shift. Rep. Thissen didn’t vote for the budget Gov. Dayton grudgingly signed. Sen. Bakk didn’t vote for the budget that Gov. Dayton grudgingly signed, either.
It’s pretty pathetic to see 3 people attempting to take credit for something they shut down the government to prevent. That’s the sad truth of this episode. Here’s what the Democrats said about the GOP budget:
Hardworking Minnesotans responded well to the budget that didn’t tax them, and revenues coming in to the state were consistently higher than expected. Record numbers of businesses popped up, and the unemployment rate continued to drop.
In April 2012, Dayton vetoed the Legislature’s move to pay back more than $2 billion in delayed K-12 payments. With this veto, Dayton said, “This is what I think is right for Minnesota.”
Vetoing a bill that would’ve paid off the vast majority of the school shift, then taking credit for paying off the school shift with the money from a budget they didn’t want belongs in the theater of the absurd. It’s pathetically fitting that Democrats would take credit for something they didn’t want anything to do with.
By this point, the 2011 fiscally responsible budget had produced nearly $3.4 billion in cumulative budget surpluses. Of this, about $2.5 billion has been applied to the school shift, leaving only about $238 million from the 2010 DFL-led Legislature.
During the 2013 session, our DFL colleagues enacted a special provision that allowed them to use the remaining budget surplus of $636 million and put it toward the remaining school shift.
Now, Gov. Dayton and legislative leaders who decried the 2011 budget are taking credit for its benefits. We have to admit, it’s a shrewd move and politically savvy. But it’s not honest.
The words honesty and Democrats fit together as nicely as ‘government shutdown’ and ‘respectful of veterans’.
Gov. Dayton and the Democratic legislature fought against paying off the school shift. Democratic legislators voted in lockstep against the GOP to repay the shift. Gov. Dayton vetoed the bill that would’ve paid off $2,500,000,000 of the school shift. Those are verifiable, irrefutable facts.
Gov. Dayton and the Democratic legislature should be ashamed of lying this blatantly about who paid off the school shift.
UPDATE: Sen. Nienow just emailed me this clip from this September’s special session. In the video, Sen. Bakk admits that the school shift wasn’t in the DFL’s budget. Further, Sen. Bakk made clear that paying off the final $238,000,000 would rely on whether sufficient revenues came in. Finally, Sen. Bakk sounded anything but clear on whether there was enough money to repeal the DFL’s mistake taxes, aka the B2B sales taxes on farm equipment repairs, telecommunications purchases and the warehousing services sales tax.
Technorati: K-12 Education, School Shift, Mark Dayton, Paul Thissen, Tom Bakk, DFL, Dan Fabian, Deb Kiel, School Shift Repayment, Rainy Day Fund, MNGOP
I wrote this post this past Wednesday about Chip Cravaack’s Strib op-ed, in which he explained why he opposed the Northern Lights Express, aka the NLX.
In Chip’s op-ed, he said this:
The wisest course of action for us is to not spend money on a venture that can’t pay for itself. Instead, we must first attend to the crumbling roads, the bridges in urgent need of repair and the incomplete highway projects that we have throughout the state.
Recently, the Minnesota Department of Transportation reported that 1,154 bridges are “structurally deficient” in Minnesota. That’s 8.4 percent of the state’s bridges in need of attention.
Yet, some people are clamoring for additional spending projects.
Why is our transportation system in this condition? Because prior Congresses not only raided the Social Security Trust Fund to pay for an increasing number of government programs, they also diverted funds from the federal gas tax away from maintenance of our roads and bridges.
Gas-tax funds that should have been set aside for transportation purposes were spent elsewhere, on things like bike path bridges, flower plantings and historical preservation.
In other words, Chip said that roads and bridges were a higher priority than a shiny new choo-choo. That came through loud and clear, right? Apparently not for these dimwits:
Duluth-With no end in sight to the jobs crisis, local residents will attempt to get an answer from Rep. Chip Cravaack over why unsafe bridges in the Northland are not slated for investment.
Heather Yun, a concerned constituent, says she’s been sending pictures and data regarding dangerously degraded bridges to Cravaack’s office since September with no response. Yun and other concerned Duluthians will attend Rep. Cravaack’s Military Service Night at Finlayson High School in Hinckley in their search for answers.
WHAT: Rep. Cravaack’s Military Service Information Night
WHEN: Thursday, Oct. 20th, 7:30-9:00 PM
WHERE: Finlayson High School (board room) 201 Main Street, Hinckley, MN 55037
WHO: Local residents, unemployed workers
Site contact: Allen Richardson, (218) 428-0290
The following day (Friday Oct 21) Yun and others will hold a noon press conference in front of the Heaney Federal Building to discuss their findings, featuring large color photographs of regional bridges in dangerous condition and their ratings according to Transportation For America. http://t4america.org/statefacts/minnesota/
WHAT: Press Conference in Duluth regarding crumbling regional bridges
WHEN: Noon, Friday, October 21st
WHERE: Steps of the Gerald W. Heaney Federal Building, 515 W. 1st St. Duluth, MN
WHO: Local residents, unemployed workers
“We plan on asking Chip Cravaack why his office is ignoring hard data that there are multiple bridges in our area that are in dangerous condition and overdue for inspection. Why would Cravaack fail to introduce a jobs bill when so many families are hurting and there is so much critical work that needs doing?”
These nitwits obviously need to enroll in a remedial reading class. Either that or they need to start paying attention to what their congressman says. Either that or they should criticize Jim Oberstar for neglecting their district while he chaired the House Transportation Committee.
Apparently, these nitwits think these bridges were in perfect shape until Lord Oberstar’s defeat the first Tuesday in November, 2010. Apparently, these nitwits think that these bridges rapidly went to hell in a handbasket a minute after Chip was sworn in.
Put bluntly, Chip’s a no-nonsense guy. If there are genuine public safety needs, they’ll get his immediate and undivided attention.Chip knows that public safety is one of government’s affirmative responsibilities laid out in the US Constitution. Period.
More than likely, these loudmouths are DFL activists hoping they can defeat Chip. If that’s the case, they’re hypocrites and idiots. It’s time for them to pull their head out of their backsides and make sensible statements.
This weak crap won’t cut it.
This morning, Daniel Fannning, one of 4 DFL candidates vying for the endorsement to run against Chip Cravaack, appeared on Esme Murphy’s program. During the interview, he some things that indicate he’s going to run a base race, meaning that he’s only focusing on his political base. Here’s the video:
One of the things Fanning said was that he supports the Occupy Minnesota:
This is what we’re seeing with the Occupy Minnesota, given the fact that people are obeying the law and being nonviolent. This is a movement that I very much support and am very proud of the people who are taking to the streets and saying “I’m tired of politics as usual” and that’s exactly why I’m runnning for congress.
Later, he said this:
For example, there’s the Northern Lights Express, which would be great for Duluth. It would be great for the Twin Cities. It would be great for the region. It would be great for the Mille Lacs band. It’s something that would not only immediately create lots of construction jobs but it would also set the region up for long-term success as well. So it’s a win-win. Unfortunately, we have a congressman who doesn’t seem interested in investing in our own district.
That’s one of many projects. There’s also crumbling infrastructure throughout the district, from Chisholm and Buhl, from Quamba and Mora. All throughout the district, we see crumbling roads, bridges and sewer systems that need to be rebuilt.
How can roads and bridges be crumbling in the Eighth District, especially with Lord Oberstar as chairman of the House Transportation committee prior to getting defeated? Might it be that Chairman Oberstar spent too much money to the district in the form of pork rather than putting a priority on getting important things done?
It sounds to me like Fanning would continue the Oberstar tradition of bringing home the pork while ignoring important things like repairing roads and bridges.
Fanning touched briefly on the importance of mining and shipping to the Range. Strangely, though, his issues page doesn’t say a thing about mining. If mining is important to Mr. Fanning, why didn’t he bother mentioning PolyMet on his issues page?
Certainly, there are plenty of miners that think getting PolyMet operational is a big deal. Might it be that Mr. Fanning isn’t talking about it because Chip Cravaack is pushing the EPA in DC and the MPCA in St. Paul to make PolyMet a reality?
If PolyMet is built thanks to Chip Cravaack’s persistence, he will have done more in 2 years serving in Congress than what Oberstar got accomplished in the previous 4 years.
Much like Oberstar, Mr. Fanning appears to be wedded to expensive pork projects while neglecting important things like making PolyMet and similar mining projects a reality.
In this editorial, the St. Cloud appears to pose the question of whether Michele Bachmann is pro-earmark. They suggest that she’s starting to sound like a corrupt, old-fashioned politician:
Wait. Hold onto your saucer. Upon discovering her district has some transportation needs, she now says she wants to “redefine” congressional earmarks, something she has advocated against? That sounds disturbingly like an old-fashioned Washington politician.
It’s important that people get an accurate perspective on Michele’s position on earmarks. I published Michele’s position on earmarks in this post:
Like you, the status of the DeSoto Bridge repairs is very important to me. There are few arteries or bridges more vital to the St. Cloud area. Regrettably, it’s critical projects just like this that are shortchanged most by rampant pork barrel spending in Washington.
That’s why I’ve taken a pledge to not take any earmarks this year while working with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle who are determined to reform the earmarking system. It is our hope to replace a system of backroom backscratching with one in which projects are judged on merit and each of your tax dollars is spent wisely on real priorities.
In my first year in the Congress, I requested local earmarks for my district and was fortunate to secure funding for important local projects, including $803,600 for St. Cloud Metro Bus. I was able to stand confidently by each and every earmark request made, knowing they could stand on their merits withstand public scrutiny. Not all my colleagues could say that. Some sought millions of dollars in funding for golf programs, Christmas tree gift shops and the like.
In other words, Michele’s opposed to the corruption practiced by porkmeisters like the late John Murtha or the vanquished Jim Oberstar. Their type of earmarking was based on buying off votes or helping friends get re-elected, not on the basis of what’s a priority.
Why would Michele support Oberstar- or Murtha-style corruption?
This isn’t news, at least to those who read this blog. I wrote that post in May, 2008. That’s 32 months ago. Had the Times read my post, they would’ve known Michele’s position on earmarks. They wouldn’t have made the mistatement they made.
The TEA Party movement and organizations like the Club for Growth are worried about earmarks, partially for the corruption that’s involved but mostly they’re worried about the air-dropped earmarks that get dropped into a conference report that gets either an up or down vote.
Air-dropped earmarks aren’t debated in committee mark-ups of bills or are rejected in committee because the projects are deemed unworthy. Until recently, the earmarks’ authors weren’t revealed. The system is improving but it’s still far from perfect.
Many of the air-dropped earmarks are put in ahead of requests for DeSoto Bridge-type projects to secure votes for passage. That’s what Michele is fighting against.
The SCTimes editorial board needs to do better research if they’re going to write provocative things about Michele. Why should it be left to me to correct their editorials?
I didn’t know this but after reading this post on TPM, I’m informed that an anti-earmark hysteria is sweeping through the GOP in DC. If TPM is declaring it, then it must be true.
After all, it isn’t like TPMDC is some far left, Soros-funded, distribute-the-wealth website that used to accept everything that proceeded from President Obama’s or Speaker Pelosi’s mouth as gospel fact.
On second though, I’d better retract those opening paragraphs.
Here’s TPM’s declaration:
“if you look at non-security, then it’s about $88 billion, or about 20 percent below what’s in the omnibus [spending bill],” says Jim Horney, a fiscal policy expert at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The omnibus spending bill, which would have funded the federal government through September 2011, died in the Senate last week, a victim of the anti-earmark hysteria that’s overcome the GOP.
I would’ve sworn that Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker piled tons of earmarks into last week’s defeated omnibus spending bill. I must’ve gotten that wrong.
The basis for TPM’s diatribe is the House GOP’s reiteration that they intend on following through on significant budget cuts:
This week, Congress is expected to continue funding the government at current levels through early March, at which point a newly Republican House of Representatives will get to take an axe to the federal budget. Naturally, they’re promising dramatic cuts in non-defense spending.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen here today, or tomorrow, or Sunday in terms of how we keep the government funded,” said soon-to-be House Speaker John Boehner at his weekly press conference last week. “But what I can tell you is all you have to do is go to the Pledge to America and we outline pretty…clearly that we believe that spending at ’08 levels is more than sufficient to run the government.”
One of the line items that the House GOP plans on not including in the omnibus is the $1,000,000,000 in funding for implementing Obamacare. With the GOP being unwilling to implement Obamacare and with public opinion consistently saying they favor repeal of Obamacare, the likelihood of that being defunded appears to be strong.
The midterms proved that there’s a great hunger for getting spending under control. Starting today, I’ll start refering to this midterm as the election where voters said they wanted the deficits brought under control by Congress cutting spending.
At one of the presidential debates, then-Sen. Obama said that there was a need to cut spending but not with a cleaver “but with a scalpel.” After the Obama/Pelosi/Reid spending binge, I’d argue that it’s time to get out the meat cleavers because spending increased at unsustainable rates.
This wasn’t just a matter of degrees in spending. This was a spending binge of historic proportions. This isn’t something where a little trimming around the edges will fix things. This is the type of spending binge where eliminating spending increases from 2009-2010 are perfectly in order.
I wrote in this post about the Heritage Foundation’s spending cuts. Based on the descriptions of what’s being cut, I’d argue that cutting these items would barely be noticed by the general public.
It’s time that the Democrats realized that a) this election’s message was that they spent way too much money in way too short a period of time and b) this is the start of the sane reaction to their spending overreaction.
In short, it’s time that Democrats got over it.
Last night, Harry Reid pulled the pork-filled omnibus spending bill, agreeing to a 1-page CR to fund the government through the holidays:
After wrestling with, and finally abandoning, a 1,900-page catch-all spending bill stuffed with more than $8 billion in home-state projects known as earmarks in Washington and pork in the rest of the country, Senate leaders need to come up with a measure to keep the federal government running into early next year.
Nearly $1.3 trillion in unfinished budget work was packed into the spending measure, including $158 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid gave up on the bill Thursday after several Republicans who had been thinking of voting for it pulled back their support.
Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky had thrown his weight against the bill in recent days, saying it was “unbelievable” that Democrats would try to muscle through in the days before Christmas legislation that usually takes months to debate.
This was a major victory for the TEA Party, who called their senators until they cried uncle.
The media’s yapping about earmarks suggests that Republicans are just as bad as Democrats. Thanks to Byron York’s reporting, we now know that isn’t factual:
The Senate is a different story. But even though some Republicans are still seeking earmarks, Democrats are by far the bigger spenders. The watchdog groups found that Democrats requested 15,133 earmarks for 2011, for a total of $54.9 billion, while Republicans requested 5,352 earmarks, for a total of $22 billion.
There’s just a 3:1 difference between R’s and D’s. Practically indistinguishable, wouldn’t you agree? This isn’t a defense of porkers like Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker. They’re terrible abusers of the pork system. I won’t defend the indefensible.
Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky had thrown his weight against the bill in recent days, saying it was “unbelievable” that Democrats would try to muscle through in the days before Christmas legislation that usually takes months to debate.
“Just a few weeks after the voters told us they don’t want us rushing major pieces of complicated, costly, far-reaching legislation through Congress, we get this,” McConnell said. “This is no way to legislate.”
The turn of events was a major victory for earmark opponents like Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who for years have been steamrolled by the old-school members of the powerful Appropriations Committee.
The spending barons saw their power ebb in the wake of midterm elections that delivered major gains for Republicans, with considerable help from anti-spending tea party activists.
“We just saw something extraordinary on the floor of the United States Senate,” a grinning McCain said.
This is a victory for TEA Party activists, Tom Coburn and John McCain. Eventually, Washington will get the message that we’re fed up with the spending on totally worthless junk. A memorial to Ted Kennedy? Another memorial to John Murtha? Nearly $20,000,000 for the two of them?
The people who proposed these earmarks will talk about what a fitting tribute these things are to two giants and all the jobs they’ll bring to the state/district. They won’t talk about the projects that couldn’t get funded when the government took that money out of entrepreneurs’ hands.
Buffoons like Harry Reid either don’t know this (not likely) or they’d rather pork things up so they can say ‘I brought this many jobs to Nevada’ or wherever. It’s time to turn the porkmeister machine off.
Tell these jackasses that their overspending will get them fired the next time they’re up for re-election. Tell them that “we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.”
Now that Democrats are larding up the tax bill with Christmas ornaments to their special interest allies, it’s time for Republicans in the Senate to kill this bill. This isn’t the bill that Republicans agreed to.
If I was the GOP’s media consultant, I’d have high profile people like Paul Ryan, Mike Pence and Thad McCotter in front of the cameras every couple of hours talking about the Democrats endangering the extension of the unemployment benefits by larding the bill up with Christmas presents to their special interest allies.
It’s gotten so bad that the AP has listed the bill’s defects:
The add-ons were being attached behind the scenes.
Almost $5 billion in subsidies for corn-based ethanol and a continuing tariff to protect against ethanol imports were wrapped up and placed on the tree Thursday night for farm-state lawmakers and agribusiness lobbyists. Environmentalists won more grants for developers of renewable energy, like wind and solar.
For urban lawmakers, there’s a continuation of about-to-expire tax breaks that could save commuters who use mass transit about $1,000 a year. Other popular tax provisions aimed at increasing production of hybrid automobiles, biodiesel fuel, coal and energy-efficient household appliances would be extended through the end of 2011 under the new add-ons.
The package also includes an extension of two Gulf Coast tax incentive programs enacted after Hurricane Katrina to spur economic development in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.
The ethanol money was added despite a growing congressional opposition to subsidizing the fuel after decades of government support. Last month, 17 Republican and Democratic senators wrote to leaders calling the tax breaks “fiscally indefensible,” since there’s already a law in place that requires ethanol be blended into gasoline.
These additional buyoffs aren’t just obscene. They’re infuriating. If Republicans added them, they should be excoriated, then primaried.
We have the right to protect the brand. Including big pieces of corporate welfare isn’t helping Republicans’ image. More importantly, they aren’t helping the economy, the deficits/debt and they aren’t helping balance the budget.
Because this version of the bill is radically different from the one agreed to, I’m suggesting that Republicans do everything in their power to stop the bill and start from scratch when the new congress is sworn in.
It’s time the GOP sent a message to the nation that they’re the party who won’t tolerate favors to special interest groups and that, yes, subsidies for ethanol are a waste of the taxpayers’ money. It’s time that the GOP showed that they’re the party that is hell-bent on reforming how DC does business, starting with the structure of the tax system works.
Finally, it’s time that the GOP told the Democrats that Christmas ornaments are for Christmas trees and for decorating homes. They aren’t for stuffing inside a bill to extend the Bush tax rates.
During his press conference, President Obama said that he’d kept all his campaign promises or had tried to prior to his waving the white flag on the Bush tax rates. That isn’t the truth. First, here’s President Obama’s statement:
And so then my question is, does it make sense for me to tack a little bit this way or tack a little bit that way, because Iâ€™m keeping my eye on the long term and the long fight not my day-to-day news cycle, but where am I going over the long term?
And I donâ€™t think thereâ€™s a single Democrat out there, who if they looked at where we started when I came into office and look at where we are now, would say that somehow we have not moved in the direction that I promised.
Take a tally. Look at what I promised during the campaign. Thereâ€™s not a single thing that Iâ€™ve said that I would do that I have not either done or tried to do. And if I havenâ€™t gotten it done yet, Iâ€™m still trying to do it.
Jim Geraghty’s list suggests otherwise:
HEALTH-CARE NEGOTIATIONS ON C-SPAN
Eighteen from his first 100 days:
1. â€œAs President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.â€
2. â€œI will make sure that we renegotiate [NAFTA].â€œ
3. Opposed a Colombian Free Trade Agreement because advocates ignore that â€œlabor leaders have been targeted for assassination on a fairly consistent basis.â€
4. â€œNow, what Iâ€™ve done throughout this campaign is to propose a net spending cut.â€
5. â€œIf we see money being misspent, weâ€™re going to put a stop to it, and we will call it out and we will publicize it.â€œ
6. â€œYesterday, Jim, the head of Caterpillar, said that if Congress passes our plan, this company will be able to rehire some of the folks who were just laid off.â€
7. â€œI want to go line by line through every item in the Federal budget and eliminate programs that donâ€™t work, and make sure that those that do work work better and cheaper.â€
8. â€œ[My plan] will not help speculators who took risky bets on a rising market and bought homes not to live in but to sell.â€
9. â€œInstead of allowing lobbyists to slip big corporate tax breaks into bills during the dead of night, we will make sure every single tax break and earmark is available to every American online.â€
10. â€œWe can no longer accept a process that doles out earmarks based on a member of Congressâ€™s seniority, rather than the merit of the project.â€
11. â€œIf your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime. I repeat: not one single dime.â€
12. â€œBarack Obama and Joe Biden believe the United States has to be frank with the Chinese about such failings and will press them to respect human rights.â€
13. â€œWe must take out Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants if we have them in our sights.â€
14. â€œLobbyists wonâ€™t work in my White House!â€œ
15. â€œThe real gamble in this election is playing the same Washington game with the same Washington players and expecting a different result.â€
16. â€œIâ€™ll make oil companies like Exxon pay a tax on their windfall profits, and weâ€™ll use the money to help families pay for their skyrocketing energy costs and other bills.â€
17. â€œObama will not sign any non-emergency bill without giving the American public an opportunity to review and comment on the White House website for five days.â€ Obama is 1-for-11 on this promise so far.
18. A special one on the 100th day, â€œThe first thing Iâ€™d do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. Thatâ€™s the first thing Iâ€™d do.â€
I guess President Obama means that he’s kept every promise other than the dozens he’s already broken. I can’t imagine President Obama intentionally telling a whopper of that magnitude. That would be so unstatesmanlike.
Mark Sommerhauser’s article does a good job outlining how difficult it is to track the revenues raised by the Legacy Act Amendment. The inadvertent result of the article is to highlight the lax oversight that existed during the DFL’s time in the majority:
Voters amended their state Constitution to impose a three-eighths-cent sales tax to fund such projects. State legislators quickly divvied up revenues from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, appropriating about $400 million for projects in fiscal years 2010 and 2011.
But itâ€™s tough for taxpayers to determine where their dollars are being put to work, two years after they endorsed the Legacy Amendment. The public can learn, in broad terms, how Legacy Amendment funds are being used by public agencies and other groups.
But try to link Legacy dollars to the specific projects throughout the state, and tracking your tax dollar gets a lot tougher.
At teh urging of their political allies, the DFL quickly got their amendment on the ballot. Unfortunately, they didn’t think alot about tracking how the money got spent:
Linking Legacy Amendment dollars to projects is complicated by the sheer number of public agencies administering the projects. Seventeen public agencies are expending Legacy funds, according to the Office of the Legislative Auditor. Legislators allocate the Legacy money to the agencies.
I’d bet that most of the projects are being done by the DFL’s political allies. At this point, that’s just a hunch but it isn’t a stretch. There’s no way to know at this point because the DFL didn’t establish a tracking system for Legacy Act projects.
Within 2 years, we’ll know, though, because we’ll be able to track the projects by organization, then see if people employed by those organizations contributed to the DFL.
The bottom line is this: the DFL didn’t worry how our taxes were being spent. Oversight wasn’t a priority. It’s never been a priority. I know because I asked Tarryl Clark about whether they’d conduct oversight hearings during the 2007 regular session after a January, 2007 townhall meeting:
After the meeting, Sen. Clark stopped to talk with Leo & I. I asked Sen. Clark if adopting a zero-based budget was a possibility. Sen. Clark said that thatâ€™s something they were looking into and that it might happen for the â€˜08 legislative session but that there wasnâ€™t enough time to adopt it for the â€˜07 session. Not willing to let it go at that, I asked if they would at least schedule oversight hearing that would identify the wasteful spending thatâ€™s already there. I was assured that they would be holding vigorous oversight hearings. (I phrased the question specifically to establish the fact that waste existed & that it was just a matter of determining how big the amount was.)
Pressing forward, I then asked Sen. Clark why six tax increase bills were introduced the first week. She said that â€œthere were really only 2 tax bills, one to lower property taxes, the other to raise them.â€ She assured us that the other bills werenâ€™t going anywhere and that they â€œwere introduced by individualâ€ legislators and â€œwerenâ€™t part of the leadershipâ€™s agenda.â€
Letâ€™s consider the fact that one of those proposals is a constitutional amendment to raise the Minnesota sales tax 3/8ths of a cent. That type of legislation isnâ€™t something that just happens. Thatâ€™s something that is carefully planned.
I’d forgotten that the Legacy Act amendment was mentioned at the meeting. That matters because the DFL tried getting it passed in 2006 but it failed because it didn’t have the support of the arts community. Before it passed the House and Senate for the 2008 ballot, the DFL added the arts to the bill to guarantee support from that special interest group.
This matters because the DFL knew this, not just months ago, but years ago. There’s no excuse for them not to have established a tracking system for Legacy Act projects with that generous timetable.
After Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment, or stimulus, Act, federal officials created a website where taxpayers could look up stimulus projects nationwide. They also posted signs at stimulus project sites so taxpayers could see the federal funds at work.
But in Minnesota, itâ€™s even been slow going for the state to develop a logo for Legacy Amendment projects.
Legislators in 2009 charged the state arts board with designing a logo that could be posted at project sites. Nearly 18 months later, the DNR is now responsible for the project, and is running a statewide contest for the public to design a Legacy Amendment logo.
Before anyone criticizes Gov. Pawlenty for not getting the logos designed, it’s apparent that the agencies were told what to do but that they simply didn’t complete their assignment. If Gov. Pawlenty wasn’t paying attention, how did the logo assignment get shifted from the State Arts Board to the DNR?
Let’s remember that the ARRA website wasn’t a great success either. This transcript shows why:
SULLIVAN: Your next guest has just announced his run for Congress from the phantom Double-Zero district of New Hampshire, one of those mentioned in the stimulus plan that donâ€™t actually exist. Grant Bosse says that if itâ€™s good enough to be cited as creating jobs, it ought to have a congressman.
Grant Bosse, Brian Sullivan in for Neil today. Forgive the tongue in cheek.
BOSSE: Oh, of course.
SULLIVAN: The Fighting Double-Zero, isnâ€™t that what youâ€™re calling it up there?
BOSSE: The Fighting Double-Zero. Itâ€™s about time we had representation in Congress. Just because we donâ€™t exist doesnâ€™t mean we shouldnâ€™t count. Weâ€™re just as serious, weâ€™re just as real as the jobs that were created under the stimulus plan.
SULLIVAN: What is your phantom platform?
BOSSE: Well, to keep the jobs here that the stimulus bill created.
SULLIVAN: Real jobs, though, right? Double-Zero would be happy to push them out to a real New Hampshire district, I assume?
BOSSE: We supposedly found out this week, through the Franklin Centerâ€™s report on 440 fake congressional districts nationwide, that New Hampshireâ€™s Double-Zero District got about 2,800 jobs from the stimulus plan, which was quite a shock to the people who donâ€™t live there because it doesnâ€™t exist. And then when they changed the website, they took those 2,800 jobs away, so Iâ€™m gonna fight to bring them back and I think we need the type of fake jobs that, umâ€¦
SULLIVAN: If I was a fake member of that fake district, Iâ€™d be really upset because I was being discounted as being fake.
BOSSE: And thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m asking you to pretend to vote for me.
SULLIVAN: You know, youâ€™ve got my pretend vote. Now the problem is that itâ€™s in real reports. So itâ€™s not a fake report. Thatâ€™s the problem. Itâ€™s a fake district with fake jobs but itâ€™s a real report.
BOSSE: Yeah, we spent $84,000,000 as part of this stimulus plan for the recovery.gov website and what we got is a very nice website with a great interactive map and the data on it is complete garbage. And in fact, the people that run that website now admit that they canâ€™t tell how many jobs the stimulus bill created because the data, they never bothered to check if the data was any good or not.
SULLIVAN: Listen, if I get up to the Phantom Fighting Double-Zero District, weâ€™ll go out for a fake burger, a fake beer and a real conversation.
BOSSE: No, the beer will be real.
SULLIVAN: Thatâ€™s the best part. Grant Bosse, thank you very much and good luck with your campaign.
BOSSE: Weâ€™ll need it.
Obviously, DC’s Democrats and Minnesota’s DFL don’t have a good track record of keeping track of how our money is spent. That’s the main reason why they were run out of the majority in the Minnesota legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives. Simply put, people saw how irresponsible they were with the taxpayers’ money.
The DFL should rest assured that I’ll remind people between now and the 2012 election that the DFL championed taxation on autopilot and nonexistent oversight. I’m betting that voters won’t approve of that.
If they don’t tighten their ship considerably, the DFL, President Obama and DC’s Democrats will suffer another bloodbath 24 months from now. Taxpayers don’t like having this much of their money taken. They certainly don’t like having this much of their money taken and being spent this irresponsibly.
Rest assured, if Democrats don’t tighten things up, the TEA Party will take it out on them for being this irresponsible.
During this morning’s At Issue, I was reminded why Jim Oberstar got dumped by the people of the Eighth District. Jim Oberstar expressed his disgust with the audience at the DECC for his debate with Congressman-Elect Chip Cravaack.
To this day, Oberstar still doesn’t think that his vote for Cap and, Trade turned off voters in the Eighth District. At minimum, Oberstar doesn’t let on that his Cap and Trade vote mattered. Having covered that race closely, I know Oberstar’s vote on Cap and Trade led to his undoing.
It’s stunning that someone who’s represented his district for almost 40 years doesn’t understand his district that well.
The other thing that came through during Hauser’s interview with Rep. Oberstar was Oberstar’s anger on his health care vote. Rep. Oberstar expressed his anger for not getting credit for the Hyde Amendment. Rep. Oberstar said that he’d cast 338 votes that protected human life. What Rep. Oberstar didn’t talk about is that his vote for Obamacare was a vote for taxpayer funding of abortion.
It’s also stunning that Rep. Oberstar still hasn’t called Chip Cravaack to congratulate him on his victory. It’s obvious that Rep. Oberstar hasn’t gotten over his stunning defeat. It’s equally obvious that Rep. Oberstar hasn’t figured it out that his defeat is owed directly to his ignoring the unionized mineworkers.
Rep. Oberstar needs to man up and admit that he was defeated by Chip Cravaack, an upstart who ran a brilliant campaign simply by listening to the people of the Eighth District. Rep. Oberstar also needs to stop acting like an elitist who thinks he should’ve been able to retire at his choosing and hand the ‘keys to the kingdom’ to the person of his choosing. That isn’t how democracies work.
Apparently, however, that’s how things are supposed to work in Rep. Oberstar’s fiefdom. Thankfully, Minnesotans disrupted Lord Oberstar’s plans and installed Chip Cravaack, someone who got elected by listening to the people.