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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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Now that we’re in the 6th painful year of Gov. Dayton’s administration, we have a historical record to judge his administration on. It isn’t a history of successful negotiating. In 2011, Gov. Dayton attempted to push the GOP legislature into accepting his tax increase proposal when Gov. Dayton shut down the government. Let there be no doubt about this. Gov. Dayton planned the government shutdown. Insiders at HHS saw a memo that outlined the strategy a week after the end of the regular session and a month before the official shutdown. The memo explained how Gov. Dayton and the DFL would exploit the media in their attempt to vilify the GOP.

After that fizzled, Gov. Dayton announced that he was going to tour the state to raise support for his budget. Originally, it was planned to hit Rochester, then St. Cloud, Moorhead, Duluth, Brainerd and Bemidji. The Rochester stop fizzled even though they planned on heavy union participation in Rochester.

That afternoon, St. Cloud got word that Rochester had fizzled. When Gov. Dayton appeared at Apollo High School, Steve Gottwalt stole the show, telling Gov. Dayton that they could resolve the budget impasse by getting Dayton’s administration out of St. Paul and bringing Gov. Dayton’s number crunchers to St. Cloud. After the Apollo meeting, it was announced that the rest of Gov. Dayton’s trips were canceled. A week later, the special session was held. The shutdown ended.

Last year, Gov. Dayton tried the same gambit. He did his utmost to portray Republicans as heartless politicians who don’t care about people. Gov. Dayton insisted on funding Universal Pre-K. Rather than caving, Speaker Daudt met with Dr. Art Rolnick. During the regular session, Dr. Rolnick said that universal Pre-K wasn’t the way to go:

Also, interestingly enough, early education advocates throughout the state, including myself, a person like Art Rolnick, a person who has pushed early childhood learning to the head of our state, is saying that the Governor’s plan to implement is wrong. We should be targeting resources to those kids most in need.

It wasn’t until a month later that Gov. Dayton caved on universal Pre-K. Again, Gov. Dayton’s top priority, the thing he wanted most of all, he didn’t get it. Speaker Daudt made a fantastic policy statement, bringing in Dr. Rolnick and making the case against universal Pre-K.

This year, Gov. Dayton wants funding for SWLRT and a ton of additional spending. Gov. Dayton is again touring the state. Friday, he’ll be at SCSU. I’ll be there to cover the event. Thus far, the DFL playbook has been pretty much what it’s always been, that Republicans don’t care about the little guy, that they only look out for millionaires and billionaires and multi-national corporations. This week, the GOP turned the tables on Gov. Dayton. They had Ryan Visher, a store owner from Madelia, MN, explain how Gov. Dayton’s veto of the Tax Bill will hurt him.

Predictably, the things that Gov. Dayton is pushing for aren’t popular outside of the DFL. It’s just a matter of time before everyone realizes that. Predictably, it’ll take a little time before DFL legislators will tell him that his pressure ploy isn’t working. Shortly after that, we’ll get a special session largely on Speaker Daudt’s terms.

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Wednesday afternoon, I got into a discussion on Twitter with Rep. Kim Norton. Rep. Norton brought up the fact that there’s a language error in the tax bill that needs to be corrected. The bill’s language will cause a $100,000,000 in revenues. That point isn’t in dispute. In fact, Speaker Daudt has said that fixing the drafting mistake will be the first order of business the minute a special session is called.

What’s interesting is that William Morris’ article highlights how DFL legislators aren’t on board with Gov. Dayton’s agenda. Sen. Vicki Jensen said “It’s very unreasonable, that whole list of demands he has. I’m hoping they don’t add a bunch in, and we don’t have to have a huge conversation.”

It’s time to fix the tax bill so that people like Ryan Visher can get the property tax relief he needs to get his business back up and running. The only thing standing in the way of a short special session is Gov. Dayton’s insistence on funding for the SWLRT and his insistence on $423,000,000 of additional new spending.

Last year, Gov. Dayton torpedoed the bipartisan budget agreement. Last year, he insisted on funding universal pre-K. After a long standoff, Gov. Dayton caved and called a special session. It took a full day but business got done.

It’s important to remember that Gov. Dayton shut down the government in 2011 and tried shutting it down in 2015. Now, Gov. Dayton is standing in the way of property tax relief for small businesses and farmers. He’s standing in the way of fixing dangerous roads like Highway 12, the deadliest stretch of highway in Minnesota.

It’s time for Minnesotans to write or call Gov. Dayton and tell him to stop acting like a little child throwing a temper tantrum and put Minnesotans like Ryan Visher first for a change.

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Let’s be blunt about this. The DFL isn’t sad that Gov. Dayton vetoed the Tax Bill. Instead, a defiant DFL defended Gov. Dayton. For instance, said Rep. Tina Liebling said “The tax bill was put together very hastily and brought to the floor very hastily and had very little debate. It’s not too surprising to me that it had a $100 million error in it, and I think (the governor) was absolutely right to let it expire.”

Rep. Liebling is defending the indefensible. Thanks to Gov. Dayton’s stubbornness, small businesses ravaged by fire in Madelia, MN, won’t get the property tax relief they were waiting on. Shop owner Ryan Visher explained why the Tax Bill Gov. Dayton vetoed was so important, saying “And so we looked to Sen. Rosen and to Rep. Cornish and Rep. Gunther and asked what can help us do this because no developer is going to come into our town to develop that area so it came up to us, all 4 of us land owners, to redevelop that, to use our insurance proceeds and make it whole. The problem, though, with that is that the insurance money will build the building but now we’re gonna have a building that’s going to be valued at 5 times, 6 times than what it was originally and we probably can’t pay the taxes on that.”

Visher then explained his disappointment:

We’d have a great building that isn’t viable for us and so they came up with a plan to give us some tax relief and so both parties and both houses supported that and it got to the Governor’s desk. And the Governor was down here and he said that he would help us and he hasn’t yet and it’s unfortunate that being in outstate Minnesota, we’re being held hostage to some things that will only affect Metro.

Sen. Bakk said that setting up a special session should be easy. Sen. Hann’s response was as firm as it was swift:

The part that sticks out comes when Sen. Hann says “We agree with Gov. Dayton on 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 entire session by repeating negotiations on half a billion dollars of new spending demands.”

Gov. Dayton promised to help these shopkeepers in Madelia, MN. That’s what Minnesotans of all political persuasions have done throughout the years. This time, Gov. Dayton reneged on his promise to help the Madelia shopkeepers when he vetoed the Tax Bill. That isn’t a Minnesota tradition.

Gov. Dayton, prove that you just had a momentary lapse of judgment. Gov. Dayton, call a special session that passes the bonding bill before SWLRT funding was shoved down Minnesotans’ throats. Call that special session so that Mr. Visher and the other shopkeepers can get their lives restored rather than be held hostage in the name of political gamesmanship.

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David Hann’s op-ed about DFL opposition to the bonding bill is hard-hitting and to the point. The opening paragraph to Sen. Hann’s op-ed says “It’s no secret why the bonding and transportation funding bills failed on the last day of the session: Senate Democrats, including Sen. Rod Skoe, tried to add a last minute amendment to pay for light rail transit in Minneapolis, breaking a deal made by legislative leaders. One of Rod Skoe’s DFL colleagues confirmed this doomsday strategy in a Twitter message sent moments after the session collapsed saying ‘No light rail funding, no bonding bill. When will the House figure this out?'”

Let’s remember that SWLRT funding has been controversial for as long as I’ve been paying attention to the state legislature. It’s a priority for transportation lobbyists but it isn’t a high priority for anyone else.

Sen. Hann closed his op-ed strong, saying “Rod Skoe will have to answer for failing to pass a long-term transportation package in the face of a $900 million surplus. Skoe will also have to answer why he chose light rail transit in Minneapolis over these important transportation projects.”

SWLRT isn’t a priority. Fixing Highway 12 isn’t a high priority either. Fixing Highway 12 is a super-high priority project. If Sen. Skoe wants to explain why he voted for funding SWLRT but didn’t fight for important projects, I can’t wait to hear his explanation. For some reason, I’m picturing Sen. Skoe doing lots of tap-dancing during his explanation.

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