Categories

Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category

Yesterday, I wrote that Rep. Thissen reflexively criticized the Republicans’ transportation proposal. This post will show how Sen. Bakk’s math doesn’t add up. Here’s what Sen. Bakk said about the Republican transportation plan:

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL- Cook, said constitutionally-dedicated funding, like the gas tax, is a better approach for transportation. Bakk said the House Republican plan to use general fund revenue could too easily be undone by the next Legislature.

“There’s just no guarantee that roads and public infrastructure are going to continue to be a priority once you’ve put them in the mix of having to compete with everything in the state budget,” Bakk said. “I think it’s unlikely that transportation competes in that environment in the next budget cycle.”

First, the DFL essentially raised the gas tax unilaterally in 2008. That tax, we were told, would solve our problems. I wrote this post in 2008. It turns out that that “constitutionally-dedicated funding” plan didn’t fix anything, which proves that Sen. Bakk is full of it.

Why trust a guy who promised a solution that didn’t work the last time? It’s foolish to trust people who’ve failed us before. That’s what Bakk did. There’s also no reason to trust Sen. Bakk, especially after he said that “There’s just no guarantee that roads and public infrastructure are going to continue to be a priority once you’ve put them in the mix of having to compete with everything in the state budget.”

Under the GOP plan, those sales taxes on lease vehicles, auto parts and car rentals wouldn’t be part of the general fund. They’d be part of the Transportation Stability Fund. The only way that changes is if the DFL would vote to take money out of that fund to pay for other things that they want.

If Republicans hold their House majority and retake their majority in the Senate, they could put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2018. If that passed, then the Transportation Stability Fund would become constitutionally dedicated fund.

Finally, beyond Sen. Bakk’s shaky math, it’s shameful that the DFL is ignoring their constituents. According to KSTP’s latest poll, 75% of Minnesotans oppose raising the gas tax. What part of that doesn’t the DFL understand? Perhaps the better question is this: Does the DFL care what their constituents want? I’m not certain they do. At minimum, I haven’t seen proof that they care about their constituents, though there’s tons of proof they care about their special interest allies.

In fact, there’s ample proof that that’s all the DFL cares about.

Technorati: , , , , , , , , , ,

Rep. Paul Thissen, currently the House Minority Leader, issued this totally dishonest statement after Republicans presented their comprehensive transportation plan:

“Minnesotans who are sitting every day in traffic, who are afraid their kids can’t get to school safely, who can’t get to that new job that promises a brighter future for their family, demand real transportation solutions. Unfortunately, the Republican plan is the same old shifts and gimmicks budgeting we’ve come to expect from them. Siphoning money from schools and hospitals and relying on the state’s credit card is no way to fund Minnesota’s transportation system. This is a ‘Give the Deficits Back’ Act.

House Democrats have said all along we will work to pass a comprehensive, statewide transportation solution that meets the needs of our entire state, roads, bridges, and transit, in a permanent way, without excessively siphoning money from our kids’ education or running up the credit card. It’s our hope Republicans will get serious about a plan that solves our transportation problem without creating new potholes in our budget.

The Republican plan irresponsibly raids the general fund, shifting hundreds of millions of tax dollars that should pay for better schools and uses it to pay for transportation projects. The next economic downturn could be around the corner, and if we use general fund tax dollars to fund transportation projects then we are hurting our schools, hospitals and other basic priorities in the future. Investments in Minnesota’s transportation systems shouldn’t compete with our kids’ education.

And the Republican plan excessively borrows money, running up the credit card bill to pay for future road and bridge projects. Minnesota is finally in a better financial position. We shouldn’t go right back to the borrowing and gimmicks that got us in trouble for the previous decade.”

Let’s go through Thissen’s diatribe paragraph-by-paragraph, starting with this:

Siphoning money from schools and hospitals and relying on the state’s credit card is no way to fund Minnesota’s transportation system.

First, Rep. Thissen can’t offer proof that the GOP transportation plan siphons “money from schools and hospitals” because that proof doesn’t exist. Period. Next, it’s entirely appropriate to put major bridge repairs on highway lane expansions on the state credit card because a) the rebuilding of a major bridge is expensive and b) it’s the type of thing that’ll benefit multiple generations. Why should 1 generation pay the entire bill for a bridge that multiple generations will benefit from? Why shouldn’t multiple generations pay for adding lanes for a state trunk highway? After all, multiple generations will benefit from it?

When the DFL raised taxes just 6 short years ago, we were promised that the DFL’s plan was the investment that would fix our transportation funding problems. Either the DFL lied to us then or they don’t know what they’re talking about. Why should we trust them at this point?

House Democrats have said all along we will work to pass a comprehensive, statewide transportation solution that meets the needs of our entire state, roads, bridges, and transit, in a permanent way, without excessively siphoning money from our kids’ education or running up the credit card.

It’s without question that the DFL has said that they’d work with Republicans on “a comprehensive, statewide transportation solution.” It’s just that their statements aren’t credible. The DFL always meant that they’d work with Republicans if the Republicans’ transportation plan included a major middle class tax increase. The DFL never meant that they’d work with Republicans if the Republicans’ transportation plan didn’t include a major middle class tax increase.

The Republican plan irresponsibly raids the general fund, shifting hundreds of millions of tax dollars that should pay for better schools and uses it to pay for transportation projects.

If there’s a political party that knows about irresponsibly raiding the general fund, it’s the DFL. That doesn’t mean they’re trustworthy. It just means that they know about irresponsibly raiding Minnesota’s general fund. Look at all the money they shipped to Community Action’s corrupt leaders. That includes the money CA shipped to Jeff Hayden while stiffing the people who needed the money to survive.

Minnesota is finally in a better financial position. We shouldn’t go right back to the borrowing and gimmicks that got us in trouble for the previous decade.

Rep. Thissen shouldn’t talk out of both sides of his mouth. Year after year, the DFL has called their bonding bill their jobs bill. The DFL has told us time after time that borrowing money to build civic centers and sheet music museums was essential to creating jobs. It’s astonishing that the DFL can tell us that borrowing money to pay for critical highway infrastructure is a negative.

It isn’t astonishing that Rep. Thissen could tell us this without hesitation. You can’t be a leader in the DFL if you can’t lie through your teeth with a straight face.

Technorati: , , , , , , , , ,

House Speaker Kurt Daudt issued this statement after announcing the House GOP transportation proposal:

“Minnesota families rely on our road and bridge infrastructure to get their kids to school and themselves to work. To help them, our goal from the beginning was to refocus transportation dollars on roads and bridges and deliver a real, long-term solution without increasing their tax burden. I’m proud today to unveil our vision for the next decade that achieves our shared goal,” announced Speaker Daudt.

“Republicans have developed a thoughtful solution to adequately maintain and expand our road and bridge infrastructure without raising gas taxes, because Minnesotans can’t afford to pay more at the pump. Our proposal will benefit small cities, rural areas, suburban communities, and elderly and disabled Minnesotans while also making significant commitments to state roads,” said Senate Republican Leader Hann.

“Most Minnesotans count on safe roads and short commutes every day, and our plan focuses on those daily needs. It fills potholes and repairs streets in their neighborhoods and will alleviate congestion on Minnesota roads. Now, Minnesotans have a choice between smart budgeting that dedicates existing transportation taxes to roads and bridges without a tax increase and a plan that raises the gas tax by at least 16 cents per gallon,” added House Majority Leader Peppin.

Predictably, the DFL immediately criticized the plan:

DFLers, in contrast, attacked the Republican plan for shifting money from other sources. “What programs will (Republicans) cut to pay for (money) they are taking from (the) general fund?” Dayton’s deputy chief of staff Linden Zakula wrote on Twitter.

House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, responded that the GOP plan “irresponsibly raids” the general fund. “Unfortunately, the Republican plan is the same old shifts and gimmicks budgeting we’ve come to expect from them. Siphoning money from schools and hospitals and relying on the state’s credit card is no way to fund Minnesota’s transportation system,” he said in a prepared statement.

Here’s my response to Mssrs. Zakula and Thissen: What corrupt programs will the DFL fund with the money that the GOP proposes to fix roads and bridges with? Does the DFL plan to finance more trips for Sen. Hayden? Or would they rather direct money to Community Action? Would the DFL rather funnel more money to MnSCU to sign contracts with their friends to do ‘consulting’ work ?

Actually, Rep. Thissen, putting some things on the state’s credit card is the right thing to do. Why should this generation pay the entire cost for fixing bridges? Shouldn’t subsequent generations pay for their fair share of the cost since they’re going to get a substantial benefit from new bridges? Why shouldn’t younger generations pay for some of the cost of lane expansions?

There’s nothing wrong with paying for road repairs with current money. Maintenance is a short-term proposition. Fixing potholes is something that’s done annually. Widening State Trunk Highway 23 to 4 lanes from St. Cloud to Foley is a one-time thing. That’s something that should be paid for by multiple generations.

Finally, it’s interesting to watch the DFL immediately insinuate that Republicans want to “siphon money from schools and hospitals.” It didn’t matter to Rep. Thissen that there’s literally no proof that Republicans want to do that. In fact, there’s proof that Republicans don’t want to do that.

That’s irrelevant to Rep. Thissen. The truth isn’t relevant to him because it’s about frightening people with baseless allegations. It isn’t about having an honest debate based on reality. Simply put, the DFL is the Fearmongering Party.

Technorati: , , , , , , , , ,

Gov. Dayton is trying to shift the spotlight away from building oil pipelines by preaching the gospel of railroad safety:

ST. PAUL, Minn. — State officials estimate that 326,170 Minnesotans live within a half mile of railroad tracks that carry crude oil, a distance often known as the danger zone. People within a half mile of tracks usually will be evacuated if an oil train could explode or catch fire after a derailment.

The estimate, released this morning after state officials could not answer a Forum News Service question about the issue last week, is the first time Minnesotans had an idea about the number of people that state transportation and public safety officials say could be in danger of oil train explosions like those seen elsewhere in the United States and Canada.

“This data provides a greater emphasis on the need for a strong rail safety program,” Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle said. “If trains derail and an emergency occurs, many lives could be in danger.”

This is a phony issue created by belligerent environmental activists serving on the Public Utilities Commission, aka the PUC. If the PUC hadn’t delayed by at least 2 years the building of the Sandpiper Pipeline, the amount of oil shipped via railroad would drop significantly.

Environmental activists are fighting the building of the Sandpiper Pipeline and other proposed pipelines because these activists hate the use of fossil fuels. As long as people don’t criticize Gov. Dayton and these environmental activists, the activists will continue needlessly putting Minnesotans in harm’s way. Even if this money would get spent, the danger would still exist because millions of barrels of oil would still be shipped via trains.

The truth is that pipelines are dramatically safer than shipping oil via railcar. If Gov. Dayton doesn’t change that policy, the problem will still exist. It’s that simple.

I’ve written 3 posts about Move MN, the DFL front group on transportation issues since the start of the year. See here, here, and here for those posts. My state senator, John Pederson, recently got a bunch of letters regarding transportation. That’s understandable because Sen. Pederson is the ranking member on the Senate Transportation and Public Safety Budget Division. Here’s why Sen. Pederson is in the news:

Sen. John Pederson, R-St. Cloud, knows it’s important to a lot of his constituents. But he wonders if all of the people whose names are listed on postcards recently delivered to him by Move MN, a transportation lobbying group, really filled out the information in an effort to sway his opinion on funding solutions.

Pederson says of more than 100 postcards he received, the handwriting on 27 of them appears to be identical and most did not list an email address or phone number.

Pederson is the GOP lead on the Senate transportation committee, and a policy bill is deadline looming Friday. “We wrote a letter back to every one and I got a response from someone I know who said ‘Thanks for the letter, but I didn’t send anything to you,'” Pederson said. “We forwarded a copy of what we received and they said it wasn’t their handwriting and they didn’t recall anyone asking their support of the cause. It appears there are a sizable number of postcards that weren’t legit.”

Move MN isn’t honest in the sense that they frequently talk about transportation but their stated goal is to increase funding for transit. That’s given away by the fact that lots of environmental organizations are part of Move MN’s partners:

Look at the list of organizations running Move MN:

Move MN is governed by an 11-person steering committee made up of representatives from AFSCME Minnesota Council 5, Alliance for Metropolitan Stability, American Council of Engineering Companies, American Heart Association – Minnesota, Associated General Contractors of Minnesota, Association of Minnesota Counties, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49, Laborers District Council of MN & ND, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Minnesota Community Foundation, Summit Academy, Transit for Livable Communities and The Transportation Alliance.

The organizations that are italicized don’t care about fixing roads and bridges. They’re advocates for transit and bike paths. Since they’re the organizations behind Move MN, there isn’t any doubt that they’re the people pushing for the DFL’s massive middle class tax increase.

More importantly, though, Move MN was just exposed as corrupt. Filling out petition cards in other people’s names isn’t the picture of integrity. Couple that corruption with the corruption in this post and it’s pretty obvious that the DFL won’t hesitate to lie to push a tax increase across the line.

Technorati: , , , , , , ,

Based on this article, Minnesota is headed for war in 2016:

House Republicans have been working on a plan that doesn’t raise taxes but would dedicate the revenue from several existing taxes to fix road and bridges. But state Rep. Tim Kelly, chair of the House Transportation Committee, isn’t ready to say how much it will cost.

Kelly, R-Red Wing, said his plan would use some money from the state’s $1.9 billion budget surplus. He also wants to borrow some money, and dedicate a portion of existing tax revenue to transportation. Those taxes may include the sales tax on auto parts as well as taxes on leased vehicles and rental cars, which together raise about $200 million a year.

The GOP plan would dedicate additional revenues to fix roads and bridges without raising taxes. The DFL has a dramatically different approach:

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said he doesn’t support dedicating tax revenue to transportation that now goes to the general fund. Bakk said using general fund revenue for transportation projects is a bad idea because lawmakers will always put a higher priority on education and health care than on roads and bridges.

“Those investments will always get delayed,” said Bakk, DFL-Cook. “So the challenge of trying to craft a transportation bill that relies on general fund spending is we can cobble a budget together for this two-year budget cycle, but after the 2016 election, a new Legislature is going to come in here and they’re going to have their own priorities.”

Not surprisingly, the DFL’s plan includes a massive middle class tax increase. According to the DFL’s own table, this massive middle class tax increase would cost the middle class $1,315,000,000 a year. That isn’t GOP spin. That’s the DFL’s own estimate.

Normally, Sen. Bakk is pretty good at reading the political tea leaves. This time, it looks like his political radar is failing him:

Even though his plan spends much less than Dayton and Senate Democrats, Kelly said the Republican proposal is more popular, according to recent poll from KSTP-TV and Survey USA.

“The biggest difference, of course, is where the revenue is coming from,” Kelly said. “As we lay out our plan, the state of Minnesota is going to help us out because we had a 75 percent approval on just our basic plan. When we see this, it’s going to go 85 percent.”

If Sen. Bakk want the 2016 election to be fought over transportation, he’ll be the minority leader in 2017. It’s that simple.

Technorati: , , , , , , ,

This article should finish debate over whether the legislature should raise the gas tax. This is stunning:

The governor and Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle may have shared the same message at the podium in Mankato — promising that passage of a $10.7 billion funding program will translate into a green light for 600 specific projects across the state, including Highway 14.

The message was far different, a “yellow” light at best, from Department of Transportation headquarters in St. Paul. When some of the metro counties expressed heartburn about the lack of representation for their priority projects on “the list,” we learn from a MnDOT spokesman that the 600 projects on Dayton’s list are merely “examples of the kind of work that we would do with the new transportation funding.” We were told that “if new funding is approved, there will be a planning process at MnDOT to program improvements. During that time, there will be ample opportunity for cities and counties to make the case for projects that aren’t on the list.”

On March 6th, I wrote this post to include some statistics from an email sent by Gov. Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith. It included this information:

Notice that it said that the Dayton-Smith plan “would fund over 600 road and bridge projects statewide in the next 10 years.” It didn’t say that Gov. Dayton’s list were “examples of the kind of work that we would do with the new transportation funding.”

It’s time for Gov. Dayton, the DFL and Move MN to stop lying to us about what this gigantic middle class tax increase would pay for. We’re taxed too much already.

Technorati: , , , , , , ,

The DFL’s full court press for “transportation” is nothing more than the DFL’s attempt to increase spending on transit projects. There’s no question whether the DFL wants another middle class tax increase. This article highlights how the DFL’s transportation activists push for transit funding:

Someone asked why the draft update of the state’s rail plan seems to put extending Northstar commuter rail to St. Cloud on the back burner behind other rail corridors that wouldn’t have as high of ridership. Zelle said that while Dayton supports Northstar and thinks it should have been built to St. Cloud in the first place, he is skeptical there will be any federal funding for intercity rail projects.

That’s relatively mild compared with this in-your-face LTE about the ‘need’ to expand Northstar:

Now is the time to push again for Northstar for the following reasons:

  • The economy is on the upswing.
  • We have a new member of Congress, Tom Emmer.
  • The transportation bill is up for renewal this spring in the U.S. Congress.
  • The Homeland Security bill is up for discussion.
  • Minnesota has a budget surplus of a billion or more dollars.
  • The sequestration law and review will likely increase defense spending, i.e. troop transportation.
  • Northstar creates economic development, especially housing.

I believe Northstar should come to St. Cloud and go beyond, heading north to Little Falls, Camp Ripley and end at Brainerd — Camp Ripley because of military needs and Homeland Security issues and Brainerd as an entry point for the lake and resort industries.

The Brainerd area could see the development of a privately owned shuttle service to get visitors and lake residents off the Northstar on Friday afternoons and evenings. What a blessing to the environment if we could reduce the thousands of automobiles on U.S. Highway 10, Minnesota Highway 25 and on Interstate Highway 94 on Friday and Sunday afternoons.Northstar isn’t what’s needed. In fact, it’s a hindrance, not a benefit. What’s needed is money to fix Minnesota’s roads and bridges. That means cutting funding for things like Northstar and the Southwest Light Rail project. Those projects won’t help goods get to markets. They’ll help implement the Met Council’s goal of a transit-driven state transportation system.

Several years ago, before Northstar came to Big Lake, we had a grassroots group called “All Aboard” that lobbied for Northstar at the Minnesota Legislature. “All Aboard” had great community support including the veterans hospital; St. Cloud Hospital; colleges and universities including St. Cloud State University, St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict; trades and labor; chambers of commerce; and other local businesses.

Now, with the establishment of the “Greater St. Cloud Community Priorities” we have the broad support to get the ball rolling or the “train rolling.”

The thought that there’s a groundswell of support for Northstar is BS. There’s a handful of go-along-to-get-along people who support expanding Northstar. Finding a transit activist in Brainerd, Little Falls or Rice is virtually impossible. Finding a dozen Northstar activists in St. Cloud is difficult at best.

Technorati: , , , , , ,

The only thing missing from the Bakk-Dayton transportation press conference was a picture of them kissing after making up. True to form, Gov. Dayton said at least one thing that’s utterly laughable:

Gov. Mark Dayton didn’t mince words Thursday when it came to the House Republican transportation plan, calling it “fiction.”

“All we get from House Republicans and even Senate Republicans is whack at this and whack at that, and rant about this and rant about that,” Dayton told reporters. “There’s nothing coming forward except a slice of the surplus and a double dose of make-believe.”

This coming from the buffoon who published this side-by-side comparison of his plan vs. the Republicans’ plan:

Check out this BS from the table:

In January, Governor Dayton introduced a straight-forward, honest proposal to make long-overdue investments in our aging, under-funded transportation system. The Governor’s proposal would honestly address our state’s $6 billion road and bridge deficit over the next ten years, fix 2,200 miles of state roadways and 330 bridges, provide nearly $2.4 billion for local road and bridge improvements, and invest $2.9 billion in Greater Minnesota and Metro Area transit improvements.

By contrast, the transportation proposal introduced by Republicans in the House of Representatives would fix just 40 miles of local roads over the next four years.

According to Gov. Dayton’s own document, his tax increase, most of which will be paid for by the middle class, will be $13,150,000,000. By comparison, his tax increase from 2013 was $2,100,000,000 for the current biennium.

For all of his “tax the rich” rhetoric, Gov. Dayton’s history is that he’s raised taxes on the middle class far more than he’s raised taxes on “the rich.” The numbers that he’s published verify that statement. Gov. Dayton’s transportation taxes (roads, bridges and transit) are a bigger tax increase than his 2013 tax increase. His 2013 tax increase increased revenues by $1,050,000,000 per year. The Dayton-DFL transportation tax increase is projected to raise transportation taxes by $1,315,000,000 per year.

With a $2,000,000,000 surplus and over $1,000,000,000 in the state’s rainy day fund, there’s no justification for a middle class tax increase, especially a middle class tax increase of this size.

Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt said last week that the expanding budget surplus should mean a gas tax hike is off the table. After Dayton’s Thursday news conference, House Transportation Chair Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, said he plans to release the details of the House GOP proposal this month.

Kelly declined to say how much it will spend but said it will likely include money from the surplus, some borrowing and dedicating existing tax revenues from auto parts, rental cars and leased vehicles. “These are real dollars,” Kelly said. “This does mean investment into transportation and it does not mean a tax increase.”

Dedicating existing tax revenues from “auto parts, rental cars and leased vehicles” makes more sense than raising taxes on the middle class. Redirecting existing taxes to pay for fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges is infinitely better than raising taxes on the middle class.

Technorati: , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday afternoon, Gov. Dayton sent out an email highlighting their transportation plan. Saying that their math is questionable is being charitable in the extreme. Here’s what I’m talking about:

In January, Governor Dayton introduced a straight-forward, honest proposal to make long-overdue investments in our aging, under-funded transportation system. The Governor’s proposal would honestly address our state’s $6 billion road and bridge deficit over the next ten years, fix 2,200 miles of state roadways and 330 bridges, provide nearly $2.4 billion for local road and bridge improvements, and invest $2.9 billion in Greater Minnesota and Metro Area transit improvements.

By contrast, the transportation proposal introduced by Republicans in the House of Representatives would fix just 40 miles of local roads over the next four years.

That’s BS. First off, the Dayton-DFL plan would raise taxes by $6,000,000,000 over the next 10 years. The Dayton-DFL plan doesn’t focus on just roads and bridges, though. A significant portion of that tax increase comes in the form of a sales tax for the 7-county metro area which is dedicated to transit projects.

That means the Dayton-DFL plan raises taxes dedicated to roads and bridges by $450,000,000 a year for 10 years. The initial Republican plan called for spending $750,000,000 over the next 2 years. All of that money is dedicated to fixing roads and bridges. The final GOP plan will likely jump to $1,250,000,000 for the next 2 years. If that’s what the GOP plan calls for, that means Republicans will spend $400,000,000 more on fixing roads and bridges over the next 2 years than the Dayton-DFL plan will spend.

I’d love hearing the DFL’s explanation on how they’ll spend less money fixing roads and bridges over the next 2 years than Republicans but they’ll fix 55 times as many miles of roads as Republicans. That’s with an asterisk, too. According to the Dayton-DFL email, the DFL allegedly will fix 2,200 miles of state roadways and 330 bridges. According to the Dayton-DFL email, Republicans will only fix 40 miles of roads.

I might’ve been born at night but it wasn’t last night. This chart is pure fiction or it’s proof that the Dayton-DFL transportation plan is a massive middle class tax increase:

Check out this statement:

Would invest $785 million per year over the next 10 years to repair and replace state and local roads and bridges.

If that’s accurate, that’s $7,850,000,000 worth of middle class tax increases over the next 10 years. Earlier in the email, Gov. Dayton said that his proposal “would honestly address our state’s $6 billion road and bridge deficit over the next ten years.” According to the chart, they’d spend nearly $8,000,000,000 on fixing Minnesota’s roads. Which is it?

The $7,850,000,000 figure is 31% bigger than the $6,000,000,000 figure. They can’t both be right.

The difference, I suspect, is a significantly bigger middle class tax increase.

Technorati: , , , , , , ,