Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category
DFL senators killed the House bonding bill in mid-May by insisting that the bill include funding for the Southwest Light Rail project. In June, Gov. Dayton killed middle class tax relief with a pocket veto. In July, Gov. Dayton refused to call a special session in House Republicans didn’t include funding for the Southwest Light Rail project. (Sounds like a broken record, doesn’t it?) In August, after the Met Council, CTIB and Hennepin County provided the local funding for the Southwest Light Rail project, Gov. Dayton hinted that he was open to a special session again.
Friday, Gov. Dayton sent a letter to Speaker Daudt saying that “he had ‘reluctantly concluded that the time for agreement on a Special Session has expired.'” It expired because Gov. Dayton didn’t get everything he wanted in the bill. Republicans insisted that specific highway projects be included in the bonding bill, including the Highway 14 project. Speaker Daudt addressed that, saying “House Republicans have initiated every meeting and discussion over the past two months to pass tax relief and funding for critical infrastructure projects like Highway 23, Highway 14, and countless others throughout the state.”
In the end, Gov. Dayton said that wasn’t enough:
But the infrastructure bill was more troublesome. Lawmakers solved the money issue — Dayton’s demands that Republicans add new funding for his priorities, including upgrades at the state’s psychiatric hospital in St. Peter. But a process issue proved intractable. Dayton objected on principle to the infrastructure bill’s earmarking of money for specific projects, and was backed up in this by a letter signed by a bipartisan range of current and former chairs of the Legislature’s transportation committees. Many lawmakers like earmarking because it lets them guarantee funding for key projects in their home districts. House leaders agreed to a compromise that would give the Department of Transportation more flexibility instead of dictating every project, but Dayton’s letter said that “remains unacceptable.”
Gov. Dayton is pretending like MnDOT ultimately decides what projects get done. That’s fiction. It’s indisputable that MnDOT has a say in which projects get done. The Met Council, CTIB and port authorities all have a say in it, too.
The first time that Gov. Dayton and the DFL rejected the special session, Gov. Dayton and the DFL said no because they put a higher priority on funding the SWLRT project than they put on providing middle class tax relief. The final time that Gov. Dayton and the DFL rejected the terms for a special session, they rejected it because they didn’t get to control who picked the highway improvement projects. The reality is that farmers, veterans, students and small businesses didn’t get tax relief because Gov. Dayton and the DFL didn’t put a high priority on it. Gov. Dayton and the DFL put a higher priority on a project that the vast majority of Minnesotans will never use. Then Gov. Dayton and the DFL said no to tax relief because they didn’t get to pick their transportation projects.
In 2015, GOP Speaker Kurt Daudt and DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk put together a bipartisan budget agreement. The problem that time was that Minnesota’s other political odd couple, Gov. Mark Dayton and DFL Rep. Paul Thissen, combined to sabotage that bipartisan budget agreement. It isn’t unlike the DFL’s sabotaging of the bonding bill this session.
According to this article, “legislative and executive branch staff members [will] gather to discuss bringing legislators back this fall” this morning.
Gov. Dayton, as usual, is acting like a petulant child. This time, he said that the transportation projects in the bonding bill “were selected based on this year’s GOP election needs instead of following a list of the most-needed work as determined by his Minnesota Department of Transportation.” Gov. Dayton knows that a number of the projects specifically put into the bill were picked because the highways were among the most dangerous highways in Minnesota.
While they’re campaigning, Republicans should remind voters that the DFL put a higher priority on funding the Southwest Light Rail project than they put on middle class tax relief. The DFL voted for the Republicans’ Tax Bill but they certainly didn’t fight for it. Let Gov. Dayton criticize Republicans about which transportation projects should’ve been included in the bonding bill. Republicans can counter that by saying that they fought for funding to fix the most dangerous stretches of highway in Minnesota. Then they can remind people that they’re the party that fought for middle class tax relief.
The DFL isn’t in great position going into this election. Many of their mailers talk about bringing people together and how they need a majority in the House and Senate to pass their ultra-liberal agenda. This is my first prediction of the season. Republicans will maintain their majority in the House this election.
It almost seems impossible that Gov. Dayton might call a special session this year but that’s what Don Davis is reporting in this article. He’s reporting that “Gov. Mark Dayton said at the Minnesota State Fair that if local money could be found to support a southwestern Twin Cities light rail project, and the Legislature did not need to take action on the issue, he would talk to key lawmakers about calling a special session to take up a tax bill and funding public works projects.”
Let’s be clear about this. Republicans shouldn’t let the DFL off the hook if a special session is called. There’s no disputing the fact that the DFL was perfectly prepared to throw rural Minnesota under the bus to shove the SWLRT project down rural Minnesota’s throats.
Republicans put together a strong bonding bill in the House that included $700,000,000 worth of funding for improving Minnesota’s most dangerous roads and bridges. DFL senators, in a last night hissy fit, said no to those highway improvements by insisting that SWLRT funding be included in the bonding bill. The DFL did that despite the fact that DFL senators refused to include $135,000,000 in SWLRT funding in their $1,800,000,000 (that’s $1.8 billion) bonding bill. If SWLRT was a high priority to DFL senators, why didn’t they include funding for it in their bill? Further, if it’s such a priority to them, why did every DFL senator vote for their bonding bill even though it didn’t have a penny of funding for SWLRT?
These are questions that the DFL hasn’t answered because the DFL can’t answer those questions. The DFL is playing political games, which is what politicians do when they can’t run on what they’ve accomplished. The DFL has shown that they care about the Metro than they care about all of Minnesota.
The last night of the session, the DFL didn’t hesitate in putting a significantly higher priority on funding light rail than they put on tax relief for farmers, veterans, small businesses. The DFL didn’t hesitate in putting a higher priority on a project that won’t get built for at least another 5 years than they put on making the most dangerous stretches of highway safer.
Is that really the types of priorities we want the legislature to have? If citizens want priorities that fit all of Minnesota’s priorities, defeat the DFL. They’ve shown what their priorities are. They aren’t Minnesota’s priorities.
If anyone needs proof that the DFL hates laborers (the L in DFL supposedly stands for Laborer), they should look at this map of the new alternative route that Enbridge will use to get their Bakken oil to market:
I wrote this post to highlight the DFL’s indifference to pipefitters and other blue collar workers. The metro DFL environmental activists threw up hurdle after hurdle to prevent the Sandpiper Pipeline. The DFL won. The Sandpiper Pipeline won’t be built. Enbridge decided to avoid Minnesota and route their pipeline through North and South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois.
The oil will flow. The commodity will still make it to market. The DFL ‘won’, if you consider losing hundreds of high-paying heavy equipment jobs to other states winning. (HINT: The Metro DFL thinks this is a victory. Since the Metro DFL runs the party, the DFL considers this a victory.)
The DFL isn’t the party of the blue collar workers. This is who they are:
Today’s DFL is led by a trust fund governor who’s lived a life of carefree luxury. It’s led by a House Minority Leader who lives in a tony Minneapolis enclave and pays more in property taxes than some people make in a year. It’s led by a clownish U.S. Senator who made a fortune playing the fool in Hollywood, writing vacuous trash while doing dope. All three live in Minneapolis and consider walking down to the farmer’s market to pick up some kale to be “farming.”
That isn’t all. Think of this:
Of course, the antidote for this malaise would be to get more mining jobs up and running, especially for those minerals, ferrous and non-ferrous, that have recovered in price point. But the urban elites who run the DFL won’t allow it. Instead, they engage in a cynical game of stringing people along, claiming that there’s just “one more” environmental regulation to clear.
Years later, miners are still waiting for good jobs. They won’t be coming, at least so long as Mark Dayton is governor. You see, there is no intention to allow this mining to start up. It’s all a smoke screen to cop some more votes out of Iron Rangers for the next election.
It’s about the false hope. The DFL party has delayed considering a resolution to oppose mining. It wasn’t defeated. Only delayed until after the election.
The DFL abandoned farmers, the F in the DFL, when Gov. Dayton vetoed a tax relief bill that would’ve provided hundreds of farmers property tax relief. Gov. Dayton didn’t fight for farmers. Instead, Gov. Dayton fought for the SWLRT project.
When it was decision time, Gov. Dayton and the DFL fought farmers, laborers and other blue collar workers. They fought for environmental activists and the metro.
The longer that the DFL sits silent about pushing Gov. Dayton on the Republican tax relief bill, the easier it is to figure it out that they voted for it because it was politically poisonous not to vote for it. It’s getting easier to figure it out that rural DFL legislators side with their metro leadership rather than with their constituents. Thanks to this op-ed by Sen. Gazelka, it’s getting easy to detect the DFL’s intention of rallying to their metro base.
Sen. Gazelka highlighted what’s wrong with the DFL when he said “After Democrats walked away from the table on special session negotiations, Senate Democratic Leader Tom Bakk finally came clean about his real motivation for killing the tax cuts and transportation spending. He complained the bills were too focused on rural Minnesota and needed to be balanced with more money for the Twin Cities. This is where local legislators normally come in handy to bring some common sense to the discussion. Unfortunately, Sen. Matt Schmit, DFL-Red Wing, spent the summer standing loyally by his liberal metro leadership as they demanded the train at the expense of Winona County taxpayers. Does he agree with his leader that the bonding and transportation bills spent too much on Greater Minnesota? I say it’s about time! Judging by Sen. Schmit’s vote to add the train into the bonding bill in the last minutes of session, and his silence on the issue since then, we have to assume he sides with party leadership instead of his own constituents.”
The question that every conservative activist needs to ask their neighbors when the last time was that their DFL legislator stood up against their metro leadership. I suspect that these DFL legislators haven’t stood up against the metro in a very long time, if ever. I suspect that Sen. Schmitt is the rule, not the exception, within the DFL.
Sen. Schmitt didn’t lift a finger to bring about $550,000,000 worth of tax relief or $700,000,000 in transportation projects. Sen. Schmitt saluted Sen. Bakk and accepted his marching orders. I suspect that Sen. Bakk appreciates loyal foot soldiers that do what they’re told. That’s what Sen. Schmitt is. That’s what Dan Wolgamott would be. This paragraph says it all:
House Republican Speaker Kurt Daudt likened Democrats’ attitude to “throwing their suckers in the dirt” and walking out because they didn’t get what they wanted. Instead of working together to finish the things we all agree on, they are content to let it all go up in smoke. Meanwhile, $550 million in tax cuts and $700 million in transportation funding are stalled while our roads continue to fall apart.
I’d modify that paragraph just slightly. Instead of saying that the DFL walked out “because they didn’t get what they wanted”, I’d say that they walked out because they didn’t get everything they wanted. The DFL is the party of spoiled brats. They fight for the metro brats all the time.
The simple truth is that voting for the DFL is a vote for the metro DFL.
I’ve written more than a few posts highlighting Rep. Thissen’s dishonesty. It’s nice to know that others have noticed those traits in him, too. This op-ed, written by Rep. John Petersburg, who represents House District 24A, cites the same traits.
Rep. Petersburg starts his op-ed by saying “It was amusing to read Minneapolis Minority Leader Paul Thissen’s inaccurate and partisan letter to the editor in this last week’s paper attacking Rep. Brian Daniels and House Republicans over special session negotiations. Thissen and liberal Metro Democrats are desperate to say and do anything this fall to defeat hardworking legislators like Brian. Why? It’s simple: Paul Thissen wants a return to single-party Democrat control in Minnesota.”
It’s time that Minnesota accepts as fact that Rep. Thissen is one of the most disgusting men to serve in the legislature. He’s been accused of making derogatory statements about GOP staffers. House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin, Reps. Mary Franson, Tony Albright, Marion O’Neill, Tara Mack, Dan Fabian and Jim Nash, stated in their letter that Rep. Thissen “routinely made derogatory remarks about our staff by name on the House floor and in the Rules Committee. These comments were made knowing that our staff cannot respond in kind and that staff has no microphone to defend themselves.”
This paragraph highlights Rep. Thissen’s dishonesty:
I find Minority Leader Thissen’s partisan finger pointing especially interesting given that he personally wrote a letter to Gov. Dayton calling for Hwy. 14 funding to be removed from any special session bonding bill. It’s seems Rep. Thissen is trying to have it both ways and is being disingenuous with Faribault Daily News readers.
It’s clear that Rep. Thissen isn’t interested in working to make Minnesota better. He’s interested in being a dishonest partisan hack who’s interested in one-party rule in St. Paul.
There’s no question about whether Gov. Dayton is dishonest. The only question left to determine is how dishonest Gov. Dayton is. I’d say that he’s exceptionally dishonest if I’m using this article to determine Gov. Dayton’s dishonesty.
According to the article, Gov. Dayton ” said that ‘the cost of inaction’ by state lawmakers had caused the price increase.” Gov. Dayton knows that the legislature has nothing to do with the price increase because Adam Duininck told him that the SWLRT project was being put off by the federal government. Commissioner Duininck told Gov. Dayton that “the federal government has no plans to execute a funding agreement until sometime in 2017 because of ongoing litigation regarding the project.”
The “ongoing litigation that they’re talking about is something I’ve started calling the Tunheim Lawsuit. It’s a lawsuit being tried in federal court. The Tunheim Lawsuit won’t start until Sept. 17, 2017. The FTA, aka the Federal Transportation Administration, won’t lift a finger until that lawsuit is settled. The earliest that lawsuit will be settled will be January, 2018.
That’s actually the least of the Met Council’s worries. It isn’t likely that they’ll win the Tunheim Lawsuit. It’s that they have no chance at winning the lawsuit that the Calhoun-Isles Condominium Association might bring. The Calhoun-Isles Condominium Association hasn’t filed a lawsuit yet but if they did, they’d win.
This paragraph is wishful thinking:
The Council, backed by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, has proposed to authorize $103.5 million in debt, with the Hennepin County Regional Real Authority and the Counties Transit Improvement Board contributing a total of $41 million — enough to ensure $900 million in federal dollars for the light rail project.
This isn’t based on reality. It’s based on what the Met Council, the Hennepin County Regional Real Authority and CTIB wish would happen. They know, though, that it won’t. They know it won’t happen because they’ve been told that it won’t happen.
Saying that WCCO’s reporting on the SWLRT project is based on DFL talking points and outright fantasy is understatement. The SWLRT project won’t happen for at least 3-5 years. That’s the reality thanks to the route that the Met Council picked for the SWLRT project.
WCCO is reporting that “Hennepin County officials announced Tuesday that the county will put in another $20.5 million in funding for a total financial commitment of $185 million – which is 10 percent of the project’s total cost,” adding that “The county’s increased commitment, along with that of the Metropolitan Council and the Counties Transit Improvement Board, will make up for the $144.5 million that was supposed to be paid for by the state.”
My reaction to this is simple: “So what”? The FTA (Federal Transportation Administration) has said they won’t fund the SWLRT until the Tunheim lawsuit is settled. I reported in this post that the Tunheim trial won’t start until Sept. 17, 2017. There won’t be a ruling in that lawsuit until the start of 2018. The thought that the SWLRT project will get started without federal money is preposterous. The latest projection for the total cost of the project is $1.9 billion ($1,900,000,000).
The DFL has been on the offensive about the project. Now Republicans are fighting back. Republicans have the stronger arguments in this fight. Jeff Johnson’s video provides some of those strong arguments:
The simple point is that SWLRT won’t get built for years even if the legislature voted to fund the project tomorrow. SWLRT is fraught with legal difficulties. The lawsuits will tie the SWLRT project up like lawsuits tied up the Big Stone II project. Once a project gets tied up in the courts, it takes on a life of its own. It’s beyond the politicians’ control. That’s where it’s at right now.
Gov. Dayton and Rep. Thissen would have us believe that Republicans are being pig-headed in their opposition to funding the SWLRT project. Actually, what’s becoming clear is that the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce isn’t thinking clearly while supporting the construction of the Southwest Light Rail Transit project. What clear-thinking organization supports a project that can’t be built before Sept. 17, 2017?
If that date doesn’t mean anything to you, that’s because the DFL and the Twin Cities Media haven’t reported that that’s the starting date for the trial of whether the Met Council went too far. That’s likely the least of SWLRT’s problems. The law firm of Felhaber and Larson was retained by the Calhoun-Isles Condominium Association because the “current plan for the construction of the Southwest Light Rail Transit Line provides for the construction of a shallow tunnel which will be located literally within two feet of the exterior walls of the Association’s high-rise structure, as close as six inches to the foundation of the Association’s parking ramp and within 43 feet of a row of single-family townhomes.”
What part of that description sounds like the SWLRT is anything close to being built? Seriously, that sounds like a start-over point. That’s like the Met Council is saying that they don’t care that the Calhoun-Isles Condominium Association’s buildings are in jeopardy. It’s like the Met Council is flipping the Association the proverbial finger. Would any private property owner sit idly by while this happened to their property? The odds of a private property owner signing off on this project are worse than the odds I’ll get hit with lightning while holding tonight’s winning lottery ticket.
It isn’t because my odds of getting hit with lightning are that high or that my odds of winning tonight’s lottery are high, either. It’s that the odds of a private property owner signing off on this project without massive monetary compensation is exactly nonexistent.
This project needs to be totally rerouted. There’s no chance the Environmental Impact Study for this part of the project will be approved. Couple the Calhoun-Isles Condominium Association’ potential lawsuit with the existing lawsuit. Factor in the FTA’s reluctance to fund SWLRT until the lawsuits are settled. Throw these things together and it’s easy to question Gov. Dayton’s prioritization of the SWLRT project.
Speaker Daudt is right that the Met Council’s legal tactics have pretty much failed whenever they’ve been tried. The potential lawsuit by the Calhoun-Isles Condominium Association by itself could demolish the SWLRT project. This isn’t just about public negotiations. It’s also about the details of these potential lawsuits.
Let’s remember that some of these lawsuits are being brought by staunch DFL activists. These aren’t litigation-foolish people. These activists are skilled at dragging out litigation for years. It isn’t unreasonable to think that these lawsuits won’t be settled before we elect Gov. Dayton’s successor in 2018.
During the DFL’s bad faith negotiations for a special session, Gov. Dayton and the DFL insisted that the GOP fund the Southwest Light Rail Transit, aka SWLRT, project. Speaker wisely refused. Now we know why it was wise to refuse. On Wednesday, January 13, 2016, Adam Duininck wrote an email to Gov. Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Flint-Smith about a variety of topics.
In the 4th paragraph of the second page of the email, Commissioner Duininck said “On the schedule we had been pushing the FTA for a number of weeks to sign off on an aggressive schedule that called for a full funding grant agreement by the end of this year, while President Obama is in office. They have resisted that goal and have said the grant agreement is likelier to come in the middle of 2017.” Later in the email, Commissioner Duininck explains why the FTA is hesitating on signing off.
According to Commissioner Duininck, the FTA is hesitating on signing off because “the reason the FTA refused to move the schedule up is that they are concerned that the litigation risk is still there until Judge Tunheim rules on the Lakes and Park Alliance case.”
Connecting the dots
Judge Tunheim’s dismissal of summary judgement against the Met Council is dated August 4, 2015. Judge Tunheim noted that “The LPA may not have met its summary judgment burden at this point, but the record, specifically the negotiation process and agreements between the Met Council and various cities and other public entities, and public statements regarding those agreements, shows that, throughout much of this process, the Met Council has had a clear favorite route for the SWLRT.”
Judge Tunheim also noted that the case is complex because environmental reviews still need to be approved. That hadn’t happened when he ruled on this motion for summary judgment.
Gov. Dayton and the DFL likely didn’t include SWLRT funding in their bonding bill because of the Tunheim lawsuit. Further, the Kenilworth Preservation Group, through Stuart Chazin, insists that “the Met Council has not made the legally required good faith effort to consider alternatives to the Kenilworth route, and has had secret communication between Sen. Latz and the Met Council that will prove the point.”
There’s no doubt but that this is a tangled legal mess that’ll take time to untangle in the courts. With the outcome still in doubt, funding SWLRT at this point is foolish. That’s likely why the DFL Senate didn’t include SWLRT funding in their $1,800,000,000 bonding bill. Further, it isn’t a stretch to think that the DFL is attempting to paint Republicans as reckless when the truth is that the DFL is trying their best to pander to their urbanist special interest organizations. Finally, it isn’t a stretch to think that Gov. Dayton and politicians like Rep. Thissen are grasping at anything in their attempt to win back the majority in the House.
Today’s DFL are a nasty lot, fully prepared to side with brick-throwing thugs like BlackLivesMatter and the anarchists who attacked Republicans in Minneapolis last weekend. They won’t think twice about sabotaging any project or legislation if they think it’ll help them gain power. That’s who today’s DFL is.