Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category

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

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

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

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

The buzz coming from the St. Paul echochamber is all about Gov. Dayton’s soon-to-be-released transportation ‘compromise’ legislation. Ricardo Lopez’s post offers a glimpse into the fictitious drama.

The drama started when Lopez wrote “How to fund the state’s transportation needs over the next decade has emerged as the linchpin for any global agreement to come together in the final week of the legislative session.” Then it escalated when he wrote “Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration is working over the weekend to craft what he is calling a last-ditch compromise to at least partly address billions of dollars in needed road and bridge work.” (emphasis added)

A “last-ditch compromise” wouldn’t be needed if the DFL didn’t insist on another middle class tax increase again. Chairman Kelly’s plan, which Chairman Kelly outlined in this statement, would generate “$3.078 billion over the next ten years” without raising taxes.

Dutifully, Lopez quoted Gov. Dayton as saying that “Transportation will be the tipping point. If that falls apart, I don’t know that we can pull the rest of it together. On the other hand, if we pull that together, I think the framework can be there for the other pieces.” Theoretically, reporters are supposed to ask questions, something Lopez apparently didn’t do. For instance, Lopez didn’t ask why raising taxes is the key when raising taxes didn’t work in 2008.

This isn’t complicated. In 2008, the DFL, with the help of the Override 6, pushed through a major tax increase. I predicted in this post that it wouldn’t be enough because that “bill focuses mostly on transit.”

Further, the DFL had total control of the legislature and Mark Dayton was the governor in 2013-2014. They could’ve raised taxes at any point during that time but didn’t. If raising taxes was the right thing to do, why didn’t they raise taxes then? Wasn’t the DFL interested in doing the right thing then?

The DFL raised the gas tax a nickel a gallon in 2008. Jim Oberstar praised it. Ditto with Steve Murphy, Larry Pogemiller and Tarryl Clark. In fact, Steve Murphy was proud of the tax increases then:

I’m not trying to fool anybody,” said Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, sponsor of the measure that would increase funding for roads and transit by $1.5 billion a year once it was fully implemented in the next decade. “There’s a lot of taxes in this bill.”

Sen. Murphy was right. There were a ton of taxes in Sen. Murphy’s bill. Despite that fact, the DFL insists that there’s a funding shortfall. If that’s the case, why should we settle for another DFL-sponsored tax increase?

The gas tax increase won’t fix the problem. It would lift money from the taxpayers’ wallets. That isn’t a solution. That’s a rip-off.

Rep. Paul Thissen is the chief DFL spinmeister in Minnesota’s House of representatives. He’s also incredibly dishonest. Friday morning, he was joined by House Deputy Minority Leader Erin Murphy and Rep. Melissa Hortman to spin their attacks against the MnGOP.

I knew they weren’t interested in substantive discussions when Rep. Hortman said “The legislative agenda is geared toward attack literature. We have a $900 million surplus, $500 million ongoing. We certainly could reach a deal on a bonding bill that’s in the middle. We could do a responsible transportation bill. But then they lose the campaign issue of ‘Republicans stopped a gas tax.'”

Rep. Hortman, people can’t take the DFL seriously when they’re advocating a $1,800,000,000 bonding bill and the GOP is proposing a $600,000,000 bonding bill. If that $1,800,000,000 bonding bill passed, it would be the biggest bonding bill in Minnesota history by $750,000,000. It’s nearly double the size of the next biggest bonding bill.

Further, it’s impossible to do a “responsible transportation bill” when the DFL and Gov. Dayton are advocating major middle class tax increase. The DFL has made clear that they won’t consider Tim Kelly’s transportation. Chairman Kelly’s plan, which he wrote about here, would create a Transportation Stability Fund that would raise an additional “$3.078 billion over the next ten years” for fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges.

Apparently, that isn’t sufficient for the DFL.

Under this proposal, the State of Minnesota would repurpose revenue that is already being collected from existing sales taxes on auto parts, the Motor Vehicle Lease sales tax, the rental vehicle tax and the sales tax on rental vehicles. By placing these revenue streams, estimated at $3.078 billion over the next ten years, in a newly created Transportation Stability Fund, Minnesota would not only provide new money for roads and bridges statewide, but also for small city roads, bus services in Greater Minnesota, suburban county highways, and metro area capital improvements.

Making this change would dedicate $1.44 billion for county roads, $583 million for municipal roads, and $282 million for roads in towns with fewer than 5,000 residents.

In addition to the dedicated funds provided by the Transportation Stability Fund, the proposal would also utilize $1.3 billion in Trunk Highway bonds, $1.2 billion from realigning Minnesota Department of Transportation resources, $1.05 billion in General Obligation bonds, and $228 million in General Funds.

Rep. Hortman spoke about the attack ads that she thinks have already been written on the transportation issue. I hope they have been written because it’s time to criticize the DFL for not accepting an offer that would fix Minnesota’s roads and bridges without raising taxes. If Rep. Hortman wants to whine about how the GOP is offering Minnesotans the type of transportation that they favor, that’s her right.

It’s also great advertising for Tim Kelly’s proposal.

House Deputy Minority Leader Erin Murphy joined in the chorus:

We’ve all done that together. And these last weeks can be very intense as you’re moving your agenda through using the rules and the procedures of course that are in place. I don’t feel that urgency at all in this House leadership in the Minnesota House of Representatives and I think that we’ve been hearing more from the Republican leadership about who’s to blame for the failure of this session than we’re hearing anything about what they’re going to do to actually accomplish what they said they would do for the people of Minnesota.

There shouldn’t be a rush to finalize a bad deal. The DFL’s transportation proposal and the DFL’s bonding bill are terrible deals.

Further, the DFL hasn’t said anything substantive about why they’re rejecting Chairman Kelly’s transportation proposal. They’ve said that it takes money out of the general fund but everyone knows that’s a scam. The DFL doesn’t want that money dedicated because they want it available so they can keep spending irresponsibly.

Watch the entire DFL dog and pony show here (if you can stomach it):

With the end of session approaching quickly, the DFL’s spin operations are definitely ramping up. Spearheading their effort this year is DFL Chairman Ken Martin, starting with this op-ed. Predictably, it’s his responsibility to spin things in the DFL’s favor whether they’re rooted in truth or not.

For instance, Chairman Martin isn’t telling the whole truth when he said “Gov. Mark Dayton and DFL legislators have thrown out some good pitches on education funding, compromising on a transportation fix and addressing racial and economic disparities.” The only pitch that Gov. Dayton and the DFL have thrown out on transportation has been to shrink the size of the DFL’s middle class tax increase. Further, it’s dishonest for Chairman Martin to say that “Republicans refuse to play ball.”

This article reports that negotiations have essentially started. David Montgomery’s reporting says that the DFL “proposed increasing the normal per-gallon gas tax by 12 cents, phased in over three years” while allowing “metro-area counties redirect some tax money currently going to transit to roads and bridges.”

Montgomery also reported this:

Republicans officially offered to consider a sales tax increase to pay for metro-area mass transit, though they want some concessions in return. In particular, they want to change the Metropolitan Council, which would spend that tax increase on mass transit, to require all its members be composed of local elected officials.

Changing the Met Council from an unaccountable entity into an accountable board, if it happens, is a big deal. The fact that the Met Council is still unaccountable is one of the great tragedies in Minnesota political history. The fact that the Met Council is still unaccountable and has taxing authority is possibly the biggest tragedy in recent Minnesota political history.

This LTE from Carolyn Nieters contains the obligatory DFL lie. Ms> Nieters fulfilled her obligation to the DFL by saying “I saw in the news that House Republicans like Rep. Jim Knoblach proposed investing exactly zero dollars of our $900 million surplus toward education for our community. Zero! Yet their plan includes doling out tax giveaways to the richest Minnesotans.”

If I got paid $20 each time a DFL politician or activist made that accusation, I’d be Donald Trump wealthy. Last May, I spoke with Rep. Greg Davids, the chairman of the House Taxes Committee, about his tax bill, which I wrote about here. When I contacted Chairman Davids to respond to Gov. Dayton’s statement about tax breaks for “millionaires and billionaires”, he said “My bill does not do that. Eighty percent goes to individuals. Tax relief is for the middle class…. My tax bill is tax relief for the poor and middle class.”

First, Ms. Nieters should be criticized for thinking that increasing spending on anything should be paid for with one-time money. That shouldn’t happen. Period. That money should either be rebated back to the people or used to fix Minnesota’s roads. Next, Ms. Nieters either doesn’t know that this is a supplemental budget or she knows and hides that fact from readers.

Last spring, Kurt Daudt and Tom Bakk negotiated a bipartisan budget agreement. That agreement included a significant increase in education spending. Is Ms. Nieters suggesting that we ignore Minnesota’s roads and bridges to pay for additional education funding? If that’s her plan, about the only people who’d agree with her are members of Education Minnesota.

Then there’s this BS:

After a decade of shifts and gimmicks, with students facing crushing college debt and the need for things like pre-K for our youngest learners, we are going to give away our surplus to those who already have the most wealth and power?

Ms. Nieters, did you even bother reading Chairman Davids’ tax bill? If you insist that you did, then you’re either lying or you need lots of help in remedial math and remedial reading. Nowhere in Chairman Davids’ bill does it offer a windfall for “those who already have the most wealth and power.” That’s either a figment of your imagination or you’re just lying.

It’s worth noting that the surplus has shrunk by $1,000,000,000 since last session. The February, 2015 forecast had a projected surplus of $1,900,000,000. In December, 2015, that had shrunk to $1,200,000,000. Now it’s shrunk to $900,000,000. (Apparently, the booming Dayton economy is a myth, too.)

After the DFL legislature passed the biggest tax increase in Minnesota history and Gov. Dayton signed it into law, capital flight from Minnesota accelerated. This study verifies that with IRS statistics.

It’s time to reject the DFL’s failed policies. It’s time to criticize the DFL for their web of lies, too.

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The purpose of this op-ed, written by MnDOT Commissioner Charles Zelle and Met Council Chairman Adam Duininck, is to criticize Jim Knoblach. In the interest of full disclosure, Jim represents me in the legislature. He’s also one of the smartest policy makers in Minnesota. But I digress.

While attacking Chairman Knoblach, Commissioner Zelle and Chairman Duininck made a major mistake by essentially admitting that extending Northstar will be expensive, not just in terms of building it, but also in operating it. Commissioner Zelle and Chairman Duininck admitted it when they wrote “Building out the line involves some up-front costs, including upgrading the St. Cloud Amtrak station to make it ADA compliant; upgrading railroad crossings in St. Cloud; and adding a third track at the Big Lake station to allow trains to stop there. These capital costs along are estimated at up to $43 million, and this doesn’t include the additional funding to operate the line day-in and day-out.”

Why should we extend Northstar at such an expensive price when there’s already shuttle service from St. Cloud to Big Lake? I suspect that the operating costs of the shuttle are less than the operating costs for Northstar. I’m certain, however, that maintaining the shuttle service won’t require $43,000,000 in “capital costs.”

Question for Commissioner Zelle and Chairman Duininck: how many years could the shuttle be operated with those $43,000,000 in capital costs?

Stop that train. Stop that train. It isn’t that the $43,000,000 is the only major financial outlay:

Our $43 million cost estimate also does not include the cost of acquiring right-of-way from BNSF Railway.

Here’s another question for Commissioner Zelle and Chairman Duininck: How much will acquiring that right-of-way from BNSF cost?

Here’s a question for citizens: shouldn’t Commissioner Zelle and Chairman Duininck lay out those costs in an op-ed in a major newspaper?

We want to work with area legislators to find a way to bring Northstar to St. Cloud residents. But that work has to first start by acknowledging the realities and the costs. Minnesotans deserve a real proposal.

The question residents should ask Knoblach is: Does he still support the extension when faced with the reality of the cost?

Actually, the question citizens should ask is whether extending Northstar is worth it at that price. As a lifelong resident of St. Cloud, there isn’t a great uprising of support for extending Northstar. It’s true that a handful of public officials are pushing it but that’s pretty much it.

We don’t need to spend $50,000,000 or more just to give Gov. Dayton another ribbon-cutting ceremony to attend. I don’t speak for Chairman Knoblach but I’ll speak for myself. Spending 10s of millions of dollars on this project is a waste of money.

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This op-ed, co-authored by DFL Sen. Kevin Dahle and DFL Rep. Vicki Jensen, is mostly fiction. It’s totally in keeping with the DFL’s transportation chanting points. Mostly, though, it’s a thinly-veiled attempt at a major middle class tax increase that isn’t needed.

Dahle and Jensen start with a false premise, stating it “is well reported that Minnesota’s transportation needs have reached a critical point.” There’s been no doubt that lots of stories featuring DFL quotes have been written. The question isn’t whether Minnesota’s roads need maintaining. One of the questions is whether Minnesota should focus on roads and bridges or if Minnesota should focus on transportation. Another question worth asking is this: if it’s that well-documented, why didn’t the DFL majorities in the House and Senate send a bill to the DFL governor that raised the gas tax in 2013?

The DFL legislature found time to spend $90,000,000 on the Senate Office Building. They found time to subject farm equipment repairs and warehousing services to the state sales tax, which Gov. Dayton eagerly signed into law. Then the DFL legislature found time to repeal those sales tax increases. Again, Gov. Dayton eagerly repealed the sales taxes that he’d signed into law the previous spring.

The question that hasn’t been asked is why, if this was such a high priority, the DFL didn’t act on it when they had full control of the legislature and had a DFL governor.

This paragraph is an outright lie:

Unfortunately, that’s where our similarities seem to end. We are willing to look at all options on the table. However, we are unwilling to compromise on a plan for our transportation network that is worse for rural communities. By relying on local tax increases, one-time spending, and borrowing, the Republican plan does not provide the same level of support for those communities ? our communities ? that need it most.

Last spring, Rep. Tim Kelly, chairman of the House Transportation Finance Committee, presented a plan that raised revenues without raising taxes. Then he issued this statement:

Personally, I am happy to have had the opportunity to help put together the fiscally responsible Road and Bridge Act of 2015, which will do so much good for the State of Minnesota.

Under this proposal, the State of Minnesota would repurpose revenue that is already being collected from existing sales taxes on auto parts, the Motor Vehicle Lease sales tax, the rental vehicle tax and the sales tax on rental vehicles. By placing these revenue streams – estimated at $3.078 billion over the next ten years – in a newly created Transportation Stability Fund, Minnesota would not only provide new money for roads and bridges statewide, but also for small city roads, bus services in Greater Minnesota, suburban county highways, and metro area capital improvements.

Making this change would dedicate $1.44 billion for county roads, $583 million for municipal roads, and $282 million for roads in towns with fewer than 5,000 residents.

The DFL is clearly lying when Sen. Dahle and Rep. Jensen state that the “Republican plan does not provide the same level of support for those communities … that need it most.” That’s in direct conflict with Chairman Kelly’s statement that his plan would “dedicate $1.44 billion for county roads, $583 million for municipal roads, and $282 million for roads in towns with fewer than 5,000 residents.”

They do not provide any new funding for larger city local roads, and they do not provide enough investment for smaller cities.

The Republican-endorsed candidates for Dahle’s and Jensen’s seats should pepper them with questions about their dishonesty. I’d ask them why they’re pushing for a major middle class tax increase, too. It’s time to rip the mask off the DFL and expose them for the dishonest tax-hiking maniacs that they are.

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I used to think that the Alliance for a Better Minnesota, aka ABM, was the most dishonest collection of progressives in Minnesota. I’m rethinking that, not because I think ABM suddenly became an integrity-filled organization but because Rep. Paul Thissen is a disgustingly dishonest person. I’m writing this because Rep. Thissen is dishonest and deceptive. When he issued this statement, Rep. Thissen put words in Speaker Daudt’s mouth, words that Speaker Daudt didn’t say.

The thing that Rep. Thissen twisted is the sentence that Speaker Daudt said. It reads “Number one, it would fund our roads and bridges, but number two, it would start to starve out the general fund, so it would remove money currently going in to the general fund, which is a really good thing.”

Rep. Thissen twisted that into this sentence, which says “Speaker Daudt’s admission that the purpose of the House Republican transportation plan is to “starve out” the money we use to fund our schools, police officers, and other basic services is the most damning argument against their so-called plan to date. He is openly admitting not only that they do not have a real plan to fund our roads and bridges but that the real purpose is to send us into deficit so they can cut our schools and other basic services in perpetuity.”

Rep. Thissen’s insistence that Speaker Daudt secretly wants to starve K-12 Education and police officer funding is insane. Last year, Speaker Daudt and Senate Majority Leader worked out a bipartisan budget plan a week before the end of session. If Rep. Thissen wants to argue that Speaker Daudt wants to starve education, transportation and public safety, then he’d better argue that about Sen. Bakk, too.

This statement is exceptionally dishonest:

Speaker Daudt and Republicans should bring forward a real transportation plan that will adequately fund our roads and bridges without depriving our general fund of resources that educate our kids from kindergarten to college and fund basic government services that are important to the lives of Minnesota families.

That’s rich. Tim Kelly criticized (exposed?) Rep. Thissen in this op-ed:

Do you recall Thissen’s “comprehensive transportation solution that truly fixes the problem long-term” from two years ago? Me either, because it didn’t exist.

Rep. Thissen is a natural-born obstructionist. His first action is to criticize, not solve problems.

It’s truly a sad day in Minnesota. The DFL leader in the House isn’t interested in solving problems. He isn’t even interested in telling the truth. Paul Thissen is a cookie-cutter DFL weasel whose only objectives are to maintain power and to pass the DFL’s ideological agenda.

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Jane Conrad’s LTE is an exercise in partisan dishonesty. In Ms. Conrad’s opening paragraph, she said “In 2014, state politicians like Reps. Jim Knoblach, Tama Theis, Jeff Howe and Tim O’Driscoll ran and were elected on a promise to improve the quality of lives for citizens in Greater Minnesota. We were promised that our roads and bridges would be repaired and broadband technology would be expanded.”

What’s happening is unfortunate. This isn’t part of the DFL’s campaign. This is the DFL’s campaign. They’ve been whining about Republicans not spending as much on broadband as they are since the 2014 election. The truth is that Republicans are willing to expand broadband in Minnesota. They just aren’t willing to spend as much on it as the DFL.

Second, I’m tired of hearing that Republicans haven’t delivered on fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges. The DFL, starting with Gov. Dayton and including Transportation Forward, is insisting on a major middle class tax increase to pay for roads and bridges. Additionally, they’re insisting that Republicans raise fees to pay for transit projects. In short, the DFL is insisting on listening to their lobbyist allies rather than to the people. I wrote this post in April, 2015 about a KSTP/SurveyUSA poll on transportation. Here is the poll question and the result:

House Republicans propose spending $750-million on highways and bridges over four years by using some of the state’s budget surplus and other existing funds without raising taxes. Do you approve or disapprove? Asked of 525 registered voters. Margin of sampling error for this question = ± 3.8%
75% Approve, 17% Disapprove, 8% Not Sure

It’s pretty clear that Minnesotans don’t approve of a major middle class tax increase, especially when there’s a less expensive way of solving the problem.

This year’s legislative session has been shortened due to construction at the Capitol, so one would assume our representatives would try to make the most of what little time they have, and get done what is most important. Instead, they waste time and taxpayer money trying to pass laws that will not pass in the Senate, would be vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton and would do nothing to help their constituents in Greater Minnesota.

Shame on Ms. Conrad. She’s forgotten that last year’s session went rather well. She’s forgotten, perhaps intentionally, that Speaker Kurt Daudt and Sen. Tom Bakk worked out a bipartisan budget agreement that Gov. Dayton eventually signed right before a partial government shutdown would’ve happened.

To hear Ms. Conrad tell it, Republicans don’t get anything done because they hate central Minnesota and other parts of the state, too. Ms. Conrad is a DFL operative who supports labor unions’ goals. It isn’t a stretch to say that she’s critical of anything Republicans do. That’s who she is.

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This article suggests that the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is preparing to sell out the Republican Party on transportation … again.

It’s telling that the reporter says that the “GOP’s traditional allies in the business community are joining DFLers in the push to include transit in a transportation funding package.” It’s as if the Chamber thinks that transit isn’t getting properly funded and that additional transit funding deserves a higher priority.

The Chamber is wrong on both counts. Frankly, since the Minnesota Chamber consistently insists on playing footsie with the DFL, rank-and-file Republicans should start calling the Chamber something different. I suggest that they be called ‘The Crony Capitalist Chamber. The Chamber isn’t about limited government. They aren’t opposed to tax increases. They’re just opposed to when the DFL wants to raise their taxes.

That isn’t speculation. There’s sufficient proof for that statement. In 2008, the Chamber provided the political cover to pass a major gas tax and transit tax and fee increase. That led to them overriding Gov. Pawlenty’s veto of that major middle class tax increase. There wasn’t a hint of regret that they pushed that bill.

In 2013, when the DFL wanted to raise taxes on businesses, though, they raised a stink about it. They criticized the business-to-business sales taxes. They opposed the Tax Bill proposed by Gov. Dayton and supported by the DFL. To hear the Chamber talk about it, you would’ve thought the end of the world was approaching.

Now the Crony Capitalist Chamber are siding with the DFL again. They’re lifting the middle finger against a middle class that’s getting squeezed. They’re lifting that middle finger because it’s someone else that’s getting hit with a tax increase.

Most importantly, let’s call this tax increase for what it is: a failure. In 2008, we were told that we had to raise the gas tax to meet Minnesota’s then-future transportation needs. Eight years later, the same people have returned to tell us that this tax increase will help fix Minnesota’s transportation needs.

The Chamber was wrong then. It’s likely that they’ll be wrong this time. Most importantly, the GOP has a plan that will work. It’s time to tell the Crony Capitalist Chamber that the Republican Party isn’t interested in part-time allies that don’t have Main Street’s interests at heart. The GOP needs to tell the Crony Capitalist Chamber that they’re siding with their neighbors, co-workers and friends instead of siding with their part-time allies in the Crony Capitalist Chamber.

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