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This weekend, I wrote that I was skeptical of reports that a special session would be called this August. After reading Don Davis’ article, I’m hoping that a special session only happens if Republicans stand steadfast against SWLRT.

In the article, Sen. Bakk thinks that, with regards to SWLRT, “there appear to be some alternatives available.” Here’s hoping that Speaker Daudt shoots that down immediately and harshly. Anything that gets SWLRT built is unacceptable. Any Bakk-favored alternative should be shown the door in as hostile a manner as possible.

LRT projects are a disaster. If communities want to build them, let them build them with their tax revenues. Then let them subsidize their operations with their property taxes or their sales taxes. Talk that the business community wants them isn’t justification for building SWLRT. If businesses think LRT is so fantastic, let them pay for building them.

The dirty little secret is that LRT isn’t worthwhile except if taxpayers build it and subsidize its operations. Even then, these projects benefit the few while hurting others. Ask the displaced businesses in St. Paul if they’re fans of LRT. Hint: when asking that question, wear a bullet-proof vest.

There is some good news in the negotiations:

Dayton said he is more optimistic than ever that there will be a special session. “Where there is a will, there is a way.” The governor said he gave up all spending he earlier wanted to come up in a special session other than work needed on sex offender facilities and at the state hospital in St. Peter.

That’s the benefit of steadfastly saying no to unreasonable spending demands. Give Speaker Daudt and Sen. Hann and their caucuses credit for that. It wouldn’t have been possible if members of their caucus had left their reservation.

That’s why Speaker Daudt needs to return to that position and why Sen. Hann needs to be given the title of majority leader. Conservatives would applaud them shutting down Gov. Dayton’s reckless spending demands. Minnesota’s economy would improve by not having the legislature and the governor pile tons of new regulation on small businesses, too.

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According to this article, Sen. Bakk, Speaker Daudt and Gov. Dayton are close to an agreement on a special session. I question the accuracy of that statement.

The article opens by saying “A special Minnesota legislative session to approve tax cuts, transportation projects and public works construction could happen in a month, but the governor and key legislators are not quite ready to promise that.” Notice the hint that all is not well? Saying that “the governor and key legislators are not quite ready to promise that” set off red flags with me. Several paragraphs later, my suspicions were vindicated.

The vindication came when the article said a “major unresolved issue continues to be whether to approve a light rail line from downtown Minneapolis to the southwestern suburbs.” That’s indisputable. That’s the line Republicans shouldn’t cross under any circumstances. It’s the Minnesota equivalent to the infamous Bridge to Nowhere.

Speaker Daudt needs to realize that he’s sitting in the power position. I’m betting that DFL candidates aren’t popular because Gov. Dayton vetoed a major tax cut bill. Bakk and Dayton aren’t striking a more conciliatory tone because they’re altruistic. They’re striking a more conciliatory tone because they aren’t getting the response they’d hoped for.

Speaker Daudt, Sen. Hann and all Republicans should stand steadfast against the SWLRT project. If metro DFL legislators object, fine. Republicans don’t need to flip urban seats to flip the Senate. They need to flip seats in rural Minnesota. That’s where the tax cut bill is popular. If DFL candidates and incumbents want to defend Gov. Dayton’s veto of the Tax Bill, Republicans should rejoice that the DFL is giving them that gift.

Further, I’d encourage Republican House and Senate candidates to highlight the fact that the DFL put broadband and SWLRT at the top of their priority list and that Republicans put gutting taxes on farmers, the middle class, the military and small businesses at the top of their priority list.

Let’s fight that fight on our side of the battlefield. Let’s see if the DFL is capable of fighting that fight. I’m betting they’ll lose that fight by a significant margin.

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Ron Kresha represents Little Falls in the House of Representatives. Rep. Kresha is the incumbent running for re-election in District 9B. (The main cities in Rep. Kresha’s district are Little Falls, Long Prairie and Pierz.) It’s safe to say that HD-9B is a district with tons of farmers. Though the district has changed since I last visited the area, I’m still able to identify most of the cities and towns in the District.

Now that I’ve laid out the history of the district, let’s dive into the editorial Rep. Kresha’s opponent wrote. Rep. Kresha’s opponent made a point of saying “I will listen to farmers. I will stand up for our farmers, and I will fight for our farmers because I know that without them, our communities would not survive. As state representative, I will make sure our farmers are not forgotten in St. Paul. That is why I am running as the Democratic-Farmer-Labor candidate. I want to shed light on the struggles our farmers deal with and thank them for their hard work.”

Of course, Rep. Kresha’s opponent had to throw in the cheap shot of saying “My opponent in Minnesota House 9B has done very little to preserve farms and to make certain farmers are treated like the first-class citizens they are.”

With all due respect, the DFL hasn’t done much to help farmers. The DFL opposes building pipelines that would free up rail space so farmers could get their crops to market faster. In fact, the DFL is ruled by environmental activists who love regulating farms to death. Metro Democrats tried and succeeded in killing a major proposed farming operation in western Minnesota through the use of the now-defunct Citizens Advisory Board. The DFL killed this proposed farming operation so Republicans killed the advisory board because “the Citizens Board had stopped projects that had gotten their MPCA permits.”

Does anyone seriously think Rep. Thissen will let Rep. Kresha’s opponent fight for farmers? There’s a better chance that the king’s horses and king’s men will put Humpty Dumpty back together again than there is of Rep. Thissen will let any pro-farmer legislation get a committee hearing. If you’re living in rural Minnesota, voting for the DFL is a wasted voted.

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Julia Erynn’s articleprovides proof that the people closest to light rail projects don’t like them. Ms. Erynn’s article starts by saying “Dozens of business owners in St. Paul are speaking out against a light rail addition to West 7th St, placing signs in their windows urging patrons to sign a petition against the additional mass transit” then adding “The local business owners fear growing crime rates (which are proven along light rail routes), loss of parking for customers, and loss of revenue.”

That’s fantastic. Crime increases and taxpayers subsidize the criminals’ ‘getaway car’. I don’t know the specifics of this neighborhood but I know that other neighborhoods affected by light rail have been decimated because they’ve relied on walk-up business. Light rail demolishes that business model. Why can’t city planners leave well enough alone? Why do they have to side with the special interests all of the time?

As bad as that is, this is worse:

Several of the local owners say they feel they are not involved enough in the decision making process.

This information isn’t surprising either:

Alpha News has reached out to local lawmakers Senator Sandy Pappas (DFL) and Representative Carlos Mariani and have yet to receive comment.

Why would elected officials think that they need to be accountable? What St. Paul needs is their STPexit.

When it comes to dishonest DFL politicians, Paul Thissen is in the conversation. Though he isn’t at the top of the list, he’s certainly part of the conversation. Yesterday, Rep. Thissen issued this statement. To be fair to Rep. Thissen, there were fragments of truth in his statement.

For instance, Rep. Thissen was sort of right in saying “Republicans have refused to provide any compromise offers to get needed tax, bonding and budget bills passed in a special session.” I say sort of right because they’re sticking with the House bill, which included lots of DFL priorities in it. I wrote this article to highlight the amount of compromise included in the House bonding/transportation bill. I included a lengthy quote from Sen. David Hann in the article. He was clearly and justifiably upset with Gov. Dayton’s refusal to drop any of his demands. Here’s what Sen. Hann said:

I would just reiterate that the bills that we had on the last day of session were compromise bills. Go back again. Look at the tape. Look at Sen. Stumpf talking about the bonding/transportation bill. He called it a “true compromise between Republicans and Democrats.” The Speaker has pointed out that half of that bill, more than half of it, had the Governor’s priorities in it. And now we’re supposedly at a point where all of those compromises are off the table and we’ve got another $243,000,000 of additional spending that we are being asked to do without any backing away from that number — an additional couple hundred million in bonding.

And all of this is kind of in complete denial of all of the compromise work that had gone on this entire last session. This is what I find so remarkable. I think it is a setback. Why, after a whole session and actually going back to the session before of talking about some of these issues, to now have a bill get killed at the last minute with a request for a light rail project that no one had ever seen a hearing on and now, that becomes a must have and they say we have to start over and renegotiate everything, I think it is a setback.

Rep. Thissen, why should Republicans offer additional compromises when Gov. Dayton refuses to move a square centimeter from his post-session positions? Rep. Thissen apparently thinks that Republicans should always compromise and that DFL politicians don’t ever have to compromise.

Later in his statement, Rep. Thissen said “If House Republicans were serious about doing the job they were elected to do, they wouldn’t be bringing controversial new policy into the discussion at this stage.” That’s rich. The only reason we’re in this position is because a handful of DFL senators amended the House bonding/transportation bill with less than 10 minutes left in the session to include a provision for funding for the Southwest Light Rail project. That provision was controversial. It wasn’t discussed in any House or Senate committee hearings. As Sen. Hann points out, “now it becomes a must have and we have to start over and renegotiate everything.”

It’s time Speaker Daudt and Sen. Hann turned up the heat on Gov. Dayton for killing the Tax Bill, then refusing the legislature to fix it. Gov. Dayton said he wouldn’t hold the Tax Bill hostage. I guess he meant he wouldn’t hold it hostage until he started using it as leverage in negotiations. Here’s why that’s important.

Gov. Dayton wants to increase the size of the bonding bill by more than 40% over the House bonding/transportation bill. Further, he wants $243,000,000 worth of additional spending for the Twin Cities added to a new supplemental appropriations bill after signing a major supplemental appropriations bill a month ago.

In other words, Gov. Dayton is insisting on getting everything he’s wanted from the start of the regular session. Republicans need to expose him for the autocrat that he is. Similarly, they need to expose the DFL as the party who hasn’t negotiated in good faith and that aren’t interested in doing what’s right for Minnesotans. Here’s Rep. Thissen’s statement:

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The SC Times Editorial Board isn’t as unflinchingly liberal as the Strib’s Editorial Board but it’s a close second in Minnesota. This editorial isn’t the worst that they’ve published but it’s still a cheerleading editorial.

For instance, this editorial says “Earlier, the Times Editorial Board gave this advice to Gov. Mark Dayton: Don’t call a special session. Make the lawmakers deal with the consequences of failing to find agreement on some major legislation.” Clearly, the Times Editorial Board is picking Gov. Dayton’s side. It’s as if they’re absolving him of any responsibility for the trainwreck.

Gov. Dayton isn’t innocent in all this. He’s the idiot that vetoed the Tax Bill that would’ve provided tax relief to small businesses, farmers, students with crushing student loan debt, parents trying to save for their kids’ college education and military veterans. Is the Times Editorial Board cheering this disastrous decision? That’s what it looks like.

Dayton’s glum status report: “We’re moving backward.”

Gov. Dayton ought to know. He’s the politician who’s moving things backwards. During the session, he signed a supplemental spending bill. It wasn’t for nearly the amount that he’d originally wanted. Gov. Dayton is now insisting that a special session won’t be called until Speaker Daudt agrees to give him the rest of his spending request.

Thankfully, Speaker Daudt rejected that demand. Meanwhile, the Times apparently doesn’t care that hard-working blue collar people have gotten deprived of tax relief thanks to the actions of a spoiled trust fund liberal. Listen to Sen. Hann’s opening statement in this video. It’s quite compelling:

Dayton’s limousine liberalism and his my-way-or-the-highway negotiating style sends the clear message that he puts his ideology ahead of doing the right thing for Minnesotans. Lumped in with that is the DFL itself.

Sen. Hann noted the bipartisan nature of the bonding/transportation bill. Now Gov. Dayton wants to essentially start over and include all of his priorities while refusing to accept Republicans’ proposals. That’s what obstructionist liberalism looks like.

Let’s be clear. If Sen. Bakk were a profile in courage, he’d break with Gov. Dayton and insist that Gov. Dayton call a special session to fix the Tax Bill. The fact that he’s stayed silent says everything.

Finally, why has Gov. Dayton and the DFL insisted on a bonding bill that funds Southwest Light Rail? Twin Cities progressives insist that it’s needed. They’ve never explained why it’s needed. That hasn’t mattered to the Times. Like an obedient puppy, they’ve refrained from asking important questions. That isn’t surprising, especially considering the Times’ puppy dog reputation.

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It wouldn’t be a special session if the DFL’s special interest allies didn’t suddenly rush out of the woodwork like they’re doing now. This morning, legislative leaders met with Gov. Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Flint-Smith. PBS’s Mary Lahammer tweeted that negotiations are underway. Meanwhile, David Montgomery is reporting that the meeting is over. Montgomery quoted Speaker Daudt as saying “I’m still optimistic we’ll get to a special session. It may take some time.”

That’s probably right. I suspect that the DFL won’t cave until they start seeing how poorly they’re doing in outstate districts in the House and Senate. That’s the point at which they’ll have their ‘come to Jesus’ meeting with Gov. Dayton. It would be embarrassing for the DFL to thrown out of the majority in the Senate in the year Hillary cleans Trump’s clock in Minnesota. Still, that’s a distinct possibility.

The array of DFL special interests this morning was impressive in a depressing way. Transportation Forward put together a rally. Check out their list of DFL special interest “Coalition Partners“. I’ve made this graphic showing the environmental organizations on Transportation Forward’s “Coalition Partners”:

Organizations highlighted are hardline environmental activist organizations.
Here’s some other Coalition Partners:

Transportation Forward’s special interest allies have made it essentially impossible to negotiate a deal for a special session. That’s disappointing.

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When this year’s legislative session ended, the CW was that the DFL held the upper hand in the PR/campaign fight. Whether that was true or not at the time isn’t relevant anymore. What’s relevant is who’s fought the smartest fight to this point. This statement hammers home some important points.

In total, it says “House Republicans did their job this year, negotiated in good faith and passed bipartisan bills on the priorities most important to Minnesotans. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats and Gov. Dayton deliberately obstructed progress. First, Senate Democrats blocked funding for transportation and infrastructure, then Governor Dayton vetoed tax relief for working families, college students, parents, farmers, and veterans. If Gov. Dayton knew he was going to veto the tax bill, he should have done it a long time ago and called a special session right away. Now the election is ramping up and the political environment will get in the way of honest compromises. We are willing to hold a special session. We agree with Gov. Dayton’s requests in the tax relief bill, and we should pass the bipartisan compromise transportation and infrastructure bill that was agreed to on the last day of session. We are not going to rehash the whole session by repeating negotiations on half a billion dollars of new spending demands.”

The DFL has talked solely about process, talking about the end of session. Republicans have talked about Gov. Dayton vetoing the Tax Bill, then questioning why Gov. Dayton decided to hurt veterans, farmers, college students, parents saving for their kids’ college education and small businesses.

I won’t say that people don’t care about process. If I were a betting man, though, I’d bet that people care more about getting tax relief. If the DFL thinks that they’re winning that fight, I hope they keep thinking that.

The DFL is also highlighting the line ‘If the Twin Cities wants to raise the money to build SWLRT, they should be able to.’ I’d agree to that statement only if the DFL agreed that the metro also paid for the annual operating deficits, too.

The DFL needs to pick up seats in exurban and rural Minnesota. Arguing that tax relief for farmers, veterans and small businesses hinges on a metro project is exceptional stupid politics on the DFL’s part.

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Saying that this editorial doesn’t have a pro-DFL tone to it is understatement. Let’s start with where the editorialist says “when Gov. Mark Dayton pocket vetoed HF 848 which would’ve provided significant tax relief to the citizens of Minnesota, it sort of felt like something major was lost.”

I don’t think Gov. Dayton realizes that his veto of the Tax Bill is killing the DFL. When the editorialist writes “Gone was tax relief for veterans, gone was tax relief for small business owners, gone was a tax break for farmers, gone was a tax break for the residents of Houston County who live in Minnesota but work in Wisconsin, gone was the forgiveness of interest paid on debt on the new school building.” he listed all of the groups of people who were hurt by Gov. Dayton’s veto. That’s a devastating paragraph.

It’s even more damaging to the DFL when the editorialist adds “All because the governor wanted additional monies for a light rail line in Minneapolis. Two years of hard, hard work by Rep. Greg Davids (Rep. Preston) on the bill dissolved by the governor not signing the measure into law.” This places the blame for Minnesotans not getting tax relief squarely on Gov. Dayton’s shoulders. People won’t care about the drafting error. Their response is likely to be ‘Call a special session and fix it then.’

Contrary to popular opinion, Republicans aren’t the ones at risk. The DFL is. While Gov. Dayton and the DFL whines about the end-of-session process, Republicans talk about the tax cuts that Gov. Dayton vetoed. In a messaging fight of end-of-session process vs. DFL vetoed tax relief, tax relief wins by a wide margin. If the DFL thinks that’s a fair fight, I’ll agree. It’s as fair a fight as I’d like.

Davids, when receiving the phone call from the governor of his plan to veto it, worked to appeal to their friendship. The governor chose politics.

That’s as surprising as finding out that the sun rises in the east. There’s more:

The Republicans came up from $600 million to $950 million in the bonding bill that would’ve addressed transportation needs in the state. Davids said anything over $1 billion jeopardizes the state’s bond rating. The governor wants $1.5 billion with about $600 million going towards a new light rail line in the metro.

Gov. Dayton is foolish if he thinks Republicans will cave on SWLRT funding. Like I said earlier, Republicans are in the stronger position. The DFL is sitting in a position of weakness, especially in outstate Minnesota.

People living in outstate Minnesota won’t care if SWLRT is funded. They’ll care that Gov. Dayton vetoed their tax relief. The longer this drags out, the better it is for Republicans. That’s because they’re fighting for fixing roads and bridges and significant tax relief.

That’s a winner for the GOP and then some.

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The special session that everyone wants to have hinges on 2 things: Gov. Dayton’s insistence on more spending in the general budget and funding of the SWLRT. Of the two, it’s thought that funding SWLRT is the higher priority for Gov. Dayton and the DFL.

That makes sense since they’re the metro party. They aren’t the party that puts a high priority on roads and bridges. They’re the party that sees transportation through the lens of using transportation as a tool for social engineering.

If there is a special session, there’s no doubt that the Tax Bill will be fixed, passed and signed. If Gov. Dayton vetoes it again, that veto will be put up for an override vote, which would pass overwhelmingly. The DFL doesn’t dare sustain Gov. Dayton’s veto this close to the election. That would be political suicide.

But I digress. Back to the transportation section of the bonding bill. Republicans should be the ‘party of no’ on SWLRT funding. In return, they could throw in a few more dollars for traditional transit. They should, however, be steadfast in their opposition to funding SWLRT.

If Gov. Dayton and the DFL pick SWLRT as their hill to fight and die on, then Republicans should take them up on that offer. That fight would strengthen every exurban and rural GOP incumbent and challenger immensely. It would simultaneously weaken every DFL legislator and challenger, too. This is one of the few times when politics is a zero-sum proposition.

Beyond the special session, though, Republicans should make a concerted effort to explain why the gas tax is obsolete as a funding method for fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges. Though this op-ed talks about Wisconsin’s transportation situation, the same principles apply:

Wisconsinites are going farther on the same gallon of gas than they were even 10 years ago. This trend will not be reversing. The number of vehicles on the road has been stable since the beginning of the decade. The state cannot count on more vehicles on the road to make up for fewer gallons needed per vehicle. Furthermore, add in new vehicles that do not use gas or use very little like hybrids, fuel cells, and all electric, the future of gas tax revenue becomes clear to anyone with a basic understanding of mathematics.

The gas tax has reached the point of diminishing return. Increases in the gas tax will not provide the all the desired additional revenues the legislators, transportation bureaucrats, and road builders hope for. When you raise the price of something, you get less of it. When gasoline was $4.00 per gallon, people drove less than they do now at $2.50. Drivers also gravitated to more fuel efficient options or options that do not use gasoline at all. These options will only get more abundant as the technology improves.

In 2008, the DFL promised that raising the gas tax would provide the funds to fix Minnesota’s roads and bridges. It’s failed miserably. I predicted at the time it would fail. I wasn’t alone.

It’s time to start pushing the issue of finding different ways to fund road and bridge repair. If the GOP wants to provide a contrast to the DFL on transportation, which it should, this is the approach to take.

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