Archive for the ‘Transportation’ Category

According to this article, MN.IT is almost out of the $10,000,000 appropriated in late March. I’d argue that Ms. Clyborne is spending money like a drunken sailor but I think drunken sailors have more restraint.

Clyborne has had the $10,000,000 for 82 days! How can you spend that much money in that short of time? Spending at that rate would cause MNLARS to spend almost $50,000,000 in a year. MNLARS is attempting to pass the blame. According to the article, “Minnesota IT Services and the Department of Public Safety updated state legislators this week in a required quarterly progress report on ongoing efforts to fix MNLARS gaps and defects. Agency officials noted some improvements since their initial report was delivered in late April. But they also highlighted the looming financial problem. Another ramp-down of the repair work is coming, Minnesota IT Service Commissioner Johanna Clyborne said in an interview. She’s just not sure when. ‘We’re going to do as much as we can with the funding that we have and we’re going to have to make some tough decisions,’ Clyborne said.”

This is what utter incompetence looks like:

Discussions continue this week with deputy registrars, auto dealers and other MNLARS users to rank the repairs and improvements they want in the system, Clyborne said. She said the timing of the ramp-down will become clearer once the list of priorities is set. “The question is whether I ramp down in August or whether I ramp down in October or somewhere in between,” she said.

That’s a 2+ month difference in “ramp-down” time estimates. If you’re spending money and that’s the best you can do in terms of pinpointing spending, then you should be fired immediately for incompetence.

Saying that Gov. Dayton failed deputy registrars is extreme understatement. Nonetheless, he’s already started blaming Republican politicians for his failures. Dave Orrick’s reporting lays things out nicely by saying “It’s all the result of the faulty launch of MNLARS, a new computer system launched over the summer to handle vehicle title and tab transactions. It was a mess and largely still is, say deputy registrars, as well as car dealers, insurance agents and untold numbers of regular folks who waited in long lines or ran up against any number of roadblocks in their attempts to transfer a title or some other previously routine transaction.”

Don Davis’s article highlighted how the DFL abandoned the registrars:

The Minnesota House has failed to override Gov. Mark Dayton’s veto of funding to reimburse local offices who struggled with the state’s new driver registration system.

It’s just the second attempted override in Dayton’s tenure. With just 79 House members voting to override Dayton on Sunday, it fell short of the required 90-vote margin. Most Democrats voted against overriding Dayton’s veto.
Dayton struck down the bill Saturday, saying lawmakers should have paired it with funding to fix MNLARS. That money is in a separate bill passed by the Legislature. MNLARS was plagued by problems since its summer launch. GOP Rep. Dave Baker says lawmakers owe it to deputy registrars to reimburse them for their extra costs due to problems with the system.

DFL members who voted for the bill initially voted to sustain Gov. Dayton’s veto. That means that they put Gov. Dayton’s vanity ahead of the registrar’s financial needs. Saying that Speaker Daudt was upset with Gov. Dayton is understatement. Watch Speaker Daudt’s body language during this press availability:

About 12:25 into the press availability, Speaker Daudt spoke to the registrars bill, saying “Well, the deputy registrar bill, we are extremely disappointed that the Governor vetoed that bill. Even in his veto letter, he said that “I support this money for the deputy registrars. Confusing. Again, he keeps saying ‘send me a bill — an individual bill all by itself — a standalone bill’ and he vetoes it anyway. In reality, this bill had 101 votes going out of the House. I think we’re going to find out tonight if Democrats stand behind making these deputy registrars whole for the losses that have been incurred by the disaster called MNLARS and I hope that Democrats will stand with Republicans tonight behind these deputy registrars instead of standing behind this governor who has literally gone back on his word to these people.”

In his own press availability, Gov. Dayton said that he’d only sign the deputy registrars’ bill if it included ‘the other $33,000,000’ needed to fix MNLARS. Republicans told him consistently that they weren’t willing to write him a blank check, then hope that his IT team would fix MNLARS over the summer. Writing this incompetent governor a blank check with the belief that he’d fix that system isn’t just insane. It’s stupid. Why trust a governor with Gov. Dayton’s legacy of mishaps and mistakes and who can’t be held accountable now that he’s officially a lame duck?

When some of these deputy registrars go out of business or lose their homes, I hope they remember who stood with them and who abandoned them. Gov. Dayton vetoed the bill but DFL legislators abandoned them. DFL legislators supported their governor rather than supporting their constituents.

I hope these deputy registrars and their families remember that the DFL preached that they’re for the little guy — until their governor needs their votes. When they walk into the voting booth, I hope they feel like this:

Then I hope they vote for the people who will support them when it matters. They’re known as Republicans.

Gov. Dayton is quickly becoming known as the most inept governor in Minnesota history. In just the past year, he’s screwed up the implementation of a new MNLARS system, his Human Services Department failed to investigate the deaths of seniors in elder care facilities and didn’t notice the rampant fraud in child care centers. Other than those things, Gov. Dayton had run a virtually flawless administration this year. That’s until we got this statement from Rep. Dave Baker:

On Saturday, Governor Mark Dayton announced a veto of a bill authored by Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, to provide $9 million of aid to deputy registrars to help offset the numerous costs incurred following the rollout of the state’s vehicle licensing system, MNLARS. The bill, HF2835, passed on wide bipartisan votes in the legislature; 101-19 in the House and 46-20 in the Senate.

“By vetoing this bipartisan bill, the governor is once again failing to live up to his promise to take responsibility for MNLARS’ failures, leaving our deputy registrars behind as a result,” said Baker. “The failure of Governor Dayton and his agencies to produce a working licensing system is costing deputy registrars around the state countless dollars due to staffing of overtime work, slow processing times, and delays caused by MNLARS. It’s unconscionable to not lend a helping hand to registrars who are trying to navigate this broken system; the governor should be ashamed.”

Prior to Saturday’s veto, Governor Dayton nor his commissioners contacted Rep. Baker in an effort to reach a compromise. “As chief author of this bill, the Dayton Administration never contacted me to tell me of any issues with our bill language to provide relief for deputy registrars,” said Baker. “He has apologized and taken responsibility for the mess, but is doing nothing to help people whose livelihoods he has hurt as a result of the MNLARS mess.”

Think about this. The bill passed by veto-proof margins in the House and Senate. This is the definition of strong bipartisan support, something that governors have praised (and wished for) for years. Instead of signing the bill, Gov. Dayton vetoed a bill that would’ve fixed a situation that his incompetence created.

Gov. Dayton’s statement that he’s taking responsibility for the MNLARS mess isn’t a serious statement. It’s a PR statement aimed at avoiding a PR crisis. Taking responsibility requires quickly fixing the problem. Taking responsibility requires helping the people on the front lines who’ve dealt with this DFL-created disaster since its rollout. Gov. Dayton hasn’t done anything like that. Instead, he’s insisting that the legislature provide the ‘other’ $33,000,000 in funding to fix MNLARS. Of course, there’s no guarantee that the additional $33,000,000 is needed or that it will fix the problem.

That doesn’t matter to the DFL or Gov. Dayton.

UPDATE: Perhaps I spoke too soon:

Let’s see if the DFL will stand up to Gov. Dayton. Let’s see if they’ll hand him a well-deserved defeat on his way out the door.

UPDATE II: I totally agree with Sen. Newman’s statement on Gov. Dayton’s veto of what’s being called the Deputy Registrars’ bill:

Governor Dayton’s lack of empathy for the deputy registrars predicament is incredibly disappointing. His veto is an insult to the hardworking deputy registrars – many of whom are the sole provider of vehicle titles, license plates, and tabs for rural Minnesotans.

Small businesses are suffering, and in many cases, in grave danger of shutting down altogether, because of the incompetence of the governor’s own state agencies. His veto sends a message to these men and women that their work is not appreciated.

“I am not willing to exacerbate the suffering of these deputy registrars. The Senate is considering all options for moving forward, including the possibility of a veto override.”

The bill initially passed with veto-proof majorities in both houses. This time, it’s for real. Let’s see if the DFL will hand Gov. Dayton a well-deserved stinging defeat before achieving official lame duck status.

UPDATE III: The DFL is rallying around their failed governor:

Perhaps the people who wrote this LTE didn’t realize it but it frames an important question satisfactorily. Todd Holthaus and Dave Smiglewski state “A proposal making its way through the Minnesota House and Senate would ask voters to change the State Constitution to permanently dedicate the revenue attributable to the sales tax on auto parts to roads and bridges. These funds, almost $300 million per year, currently go to the state’s general fund, the same pool of money that supports things like schools and Local Government Aid (LGA).”

Actually, the truth is that the money from those sales taxes are used to pay for K-12 education, LGA, nursing homes, veterans care and a lengthy list of other things. It pays for things like Community Action Minneapolis, which used the money to fund Caribbean vacations for corrupt Twin Cities politicians. It also pays for child care fraud to help the ‘folks back home’. Back home in the Middle East and the Horn of Africa, that is. Unfortunately, Messrs. Holthaus and Smiglewski didn’t think that information was important.

Make no mistake about it, Minnesota’s roads and bridges need help. However, diverting money away from the general fund will either cause pain to other important state programs or require the state to raise taxes to make up the shortfall. That is why we urge legislators and the public to reject this proposed constitutional amendment.

Messrs. Holthaus and Smiglewski didn’t admit that economies built on pro-growth policies matter. Holthaus and Smiglewski base their opinion on policies that aren’t pro-growth, that don’t unleash the private sector. The best way to consistently have enough money for government’s core functions is a strong economy. The DFL’s policies hurt too many people in rural Minnesota. The DFL’s buffer strip legislation hurts farmers. The DFL’s wild rice rule hurts miners. The DFL’s anti-fossil fuel policies hurt all Minnesotans.

Budgets are about setting priorities. For decades, the DFL has pushed the myth that funding equals great educational outcomes. The DFL hasn’t had a new idea on education since Wendy Anderson was governor. That’s because the DFL is owned by Education Minnesota.

According to this memo, the Minnesota House of Representatives has “passed legislation (HF4437) Thursday on a bipartisan 76-54 vote that would constitutionally dedicate existing sales tax revenue from auto parts to statewide road and bridge construction.”

Representative Paul Torkelson issued this statement after the legislation was passed:

Anyone driving around our state knows our roads need more work, and it takes money to do that. It’s my hope that this fall, voters can decide if it makes sense to use taxes already being collected from the sales of auto parts in order to continue this road and bridge prioritization. If they vote favorably, we not only will improve our transportation infrastructure but also support thousands of good paying union jobs across our state and put people to work.

If approved by the Minnesota House and Senate, voters would decide this November whether or not to redirect the already-collected sales taxes to road and bridge repair on state, county, township, city and small town projects.

Last year we approved a law to utilize existing tax collections to fund road and bridge repair, and the result is a multi-billion dollar investment over the next decade. This is the logical next step, as we always seem to have trouble finding needed resources as they are always in competition with other portions of the state budget. If voters decide to set aside this revenue, we can assure that it will be spent on roads and bridges.

Gov. Dayton & the DFL insist on funding light rail boondoggles while underfunding maintaining and building road and bridge repair. They’ve argued against dedicating this money by saying it takes money away from the general fund. This is Minnesotans’ opportunity to dedicate these sales taxes to funding road and bridge repair.

If auto-related sales taxes shouldn’t be used to fix or build roads and bridges, then they should be abolished entirely. To have them go into the general fund is to overfund government waste.

MNLARS remains the unfunny punchline to an unfunny joke. At this point, it almost feels cruel to criticize their ineptitude. Almost. This WCCO article highlights just how mixed up the department is.

For instance, “Shawn Sheely, who refurbishes motorcycles, got a surprise in the mail this week. ‘There was a title for a 2009 Harley Davidson, brand-new bike with one mile on it,’ Sheely said. ‘Clearly not my bike. I don’t own a Harley Davidson.’ He wondered if he is the victim of identity theft. ‘There’s a lot of potential messes that could come out of this,’ Sheely said. We ran the VIN number from the title through a number of websites, and on CarFax it came back as a 2009 Husqvarna motorcycle. Sheely did once own this kind of motorcycle, but he sold it three years ago.”

Rep. Paul Torkelson, the chair of the Transportation Finance Committee, said “We have many examples all the way from somebody who got their driver’s license with the wrong picture on it,” Torkelson said. “Onto titles, onto people who have two sets of license plates for the same vehicle.”

Though he won’t like it, MNLARS is part of Gov. Dayton’s legacy. Ditto with MNsure. When it comes to incompetence, the Dayton administration is the king of the hill.

Minnesota needs a competent governor, someone whose administration performs the basic functions properly all the time. Instead, our current DFL governor is a joke, a travesty. Why am I not surprised?

Torkelson said the issue of additional funding for MNLARS to fix the glitches will come up before the legislative session ends, which is in just two and a half weeks. But right now, Torkelson said he is not in favor of putting money into a system that is still clearly broken.

Rep. Torkelson, please don’t fund MNLARS repairs until we have a new, competent, and Republican governor. This isn’t Monopoly money. It’s real people’s hard-earned money. Treat it like it’s precious — because it is — though you wouldn’t know that from how Gov. Dayton spends the taxpayers’ money.

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According to this Strib editorial, the Met Council is just terrific. Apparently, they don’t think the same about Jason Lewis. The editorial’s opening paragraph states “Second District Republican U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis is attempting to apply the heavy thumb of the federal government to tip the scales in a long-running debate over the composition of the Metropolitan Council. We think Lewis and the feds should keep their hands off. This is a matter Minnesotans can and should decide for themselves.”

Actually, it isn’t just a local matter. That’s because many bodies like the Met Council exist across the nation. Further, since the Met Council has taxation authority and the authority to usurp local jurisdictions, it’s insane to think that they shouldn’t be accountable to the people.

The editorial also says this:

We’ve also been skeptical about creating a “council of governments.” Its members would be politically beholden to the local constituencies that elected them, rather than the region as a whole. Instead, we favor instituting staggered terms for council members and employing a panel of local officials as a screening committee to recommend council candidates to the governor.

What’s so virtuous about a panel that’s accountable only to the governor? I don’t see anything worthwhile about that. Let’s further ask the question at the heart of this argument: why do these bureaucrats, plus the Star Tribune, fear the people? Governments are supposed to be of, by and for the people. This nation was started in part by the belief that there should be no taxation without representation. Who does the Met Council represent? The Governor?

That doesn’t sound like a governing body that governs with the consent of the people. That sounds like a dictatorial body.

The Met Council is filled with special interests. For instance, Jennifer Munt ‘represents’ District 3, “which includes the Hennepin County cities of Chanhassen, Deephaven, Eden Prairie, Excelsior, Greenwood, Long Lake, Minnetonka, Minnetonka Beach, Mound, Orono, Shorewood, Spring Park, Tonka Bay, Wayzata, and Woodland. Munt is the Public Affairs Director for AFSCME Council 5, where she leads marketing, communications and media relations.”

This isn’t about representing the people. It’s about representing the special interests:

Previously [Munt] was the Communications Director for the Hiawatha LRT project (2000-2005) and an Outreach Coordinator for the Metropolitan Council (1999-2002).

Munt hasn’t represented people in the past. She’s represented governments and special interests.

Here’s Jason Lewis’s statement on what his amendment actually does:

“Currently, and in contrast to federal law, all 17 members of the Met Council are appointed by the Governor of the State of Minnesota. MPOs nationwide are created with the intent to improve infrastructure planning and, especially, transit investments on behalf of constituencies across a given region. In 2012, Congress rightly determined that locally elected officials are best suited to represent those same groups. In our region, the failure of the Met Council to include locally elected officials as part of their governing board has undermined this key aspect of accountability to the people they represent.”


MAP-21 required that federally recognized MPOs that participate in transit improvement program planning, long-range capital plans, coordination of transit services, and that carry out other state activities, all of which rely on federal funding and grants, meet certain requirements. These requirements include a board makeup of locally elected officials, public transportation officials, and appropriate state officials.
The Metropolitan Council (Met Council) currently has a Transportation Advisory Board (TAB) that consists of local elected officials, but in August of 2015, the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration ruled that the TAB lacked any voting authority and therefore the Met Council did not meet the threshold of MPO compliance.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration used a separate clause in federal law to “grandfather” the Met Council into compliance.

Our amendment does not seek to change the operations or scope of the Met Council. It does not attempt to change the activities of the board. It simply requires that for a board to be in compliance they need to have locally elected official representation consistent with every other MPO in the country.

In other words, the Strib appears to be running interference for the Met Council. Rep. Lewis’s amendment doesn’t change the Met Council’s responsibilities. It simply requires the Met Council into compliance with existing federal law. That isn’t “tipping the scales” in one direction or another, as the Strib implies. It simply forces the Met Council to comply with existing federal law.

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The DFL has a warped, misguided policy towards ‘transportation’. Notice that I didn’t say roads and bridges. When Republicans talk about this, we talk about roads and bridges. When the DFL talks about the issue, they talk about transportation because they lump in transit, especially light rail boondoggles.

This article whines about the Republicans’ proposed constitutional amendment that would permanently dedicate sales taxes on car leases, car rentals and vehicle repairs to building and maintaining roads and bridges. Here’s how AFSCME whines about it:

Senate File 3837 proposes a constitutional amendment to permanently dedicate certain general fund revenues toward the state’s transportation fund without replacing them with additional revenues. This reduces the amount available to fund other areas of the budget. Transportation is largely funded through dedicated sources, such as the gas tax. As a result, transportation has not traditionally competed with investments like schools, nursing homes, and broadband for the same funding.

As a public employee union, AFSCME is biased towards putting as much money into the general fund. That’s where their bread is buttered. It isn’t that they’re worried about fixing roads and bridges. They’re worried about keeping the general fund as fat as possible. Period.

Speaking of funding state transportation needs, this bill would do little to actually fill the need for better transportation funding. In 2012, the Transportation Finance Advisory Committee determined that Minnesota needs $21 billion over 20 years just to maintain the current status of the state’s transportation system. This proposal doesn’t do that, nor does it get us close to funding a world class transportation and transit system needed for a strong economic future.

Frankly, I don’t care about Minnesota’s transportation needs. I care about fixing and maintaining Minnesota’s roads and bridges. Further, if we’re going to spend money on transit, it should be spent on flexible modes of transportation. That means eliminating funding for light rail.

Notice how the unions insist that transit is needed to fund “a world class transportation and transit system”, which is “needed for a strong economic future.” What a pile of BS. There’s no proof that that’s true.

Senate File 3837 locks down today’s budget choices and limits our ability to address tomorrow’s needs. By putting this language into our state’s constitution, it will tie future policymakers’ hands when they need to adapt to new funding priorities and needs.

The entire idea behind locking down politicians’ choices is to guarantee funding that will fix and maintain Minnesota’s roads and bridges so politicians can’t strip money for frivolous things. Why wouldn’t I want to guarantee that our highest priorities get dedicated funding?

Rest assured that big government types will fight this constitutional amendment tooth and nail. They prefer government to be big, bloated and utterly inefficient. They also prefer targeted tax increases. If you don’t believe me, check out Sen. Steve Murphy from 2007:

The proposed 10-cent-a-gallon gasoline-tax increase moving through the Minnesota Legislature could end up being higher than that, maybe more than twice as high. Tucked away in a big transportation funding bill being fast-tracked to a Senate floor vote today are future increases in Minnesota’s gas tax that could push it from 20 cents a gallon to more than 40 cents over 10 years, higher than any state’s current bite at the pump.

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

Back then, the DFL promised that this tax increase would provide the funding we needed for transportation. They either lied or were wrong. Either way, it’s clear that the DFL shouldn’t be trusted.

The best thing that will be said about Johanna Clyborne is that she won’t be around much longer. Based on her insistence on not cooperating with the legislature, this might be a case of good riddance.

For instance, state “lawmakers blasted a state agency leader Tuesday for not telling them about a report that blamed a former Minnesota IT Services executive for the problems in rolling out a new vehicle licensing system. The report … focused on the performance of Paul Meekin, who held the title of chief business technology officer, blaming him for failing to address known defects prior to the MNLARS launch last summer.”

That’s bad enough but it gets worse. “During the hearing, Rep. Jim Nash, R-Waconia, told IT Services Commissioner Johanna Clyborne that he was concerned that the report surfaced in the media, and he didn’t hear about it from her agency. “If it sounds like evasiveness and looks like evasiveness, it may be evasiveness. I’m just wondering when we were ever going to hear about this report from you, because had it not been for the press, I don’t believe we would have known,” Nash said.”

It went downhill after that:

Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, the chair of the state government finance committee, said she too was left out of the loop. “MNIT is actually under the state government finance purview, and yet you never bothered to call.”

Clyborne, who’s only been on the job for two months, defended her agency’s handling of the report. Clyborne said she told a key lawmaker that the report was completed. But she said no one in the Legislature asked for it. “It would be up to the body to request that information. I would be violating the laws that were put in place by this Legislature had I willy-nilly handed out that information, because it deals with an employee,” Clyborne said.

Apparently, Ms. Clyborne thinks that oversight in the middle of a crisis is a time for business-as-usual. Didn’t she notice that her ship is sinking and people are asking questions? This isn’t a time for business-as-usual. It’s a time for proactively doing the right thing.

She’s been on the job 2 months now. Isn’t it long past time that she starts doing her job?

This amendment puts the DFL in a bind this election season. Right now, I’m betting that they’ll vote to put the constitutional amendment in front of voters.

Here’s what’s happening. For 3 years, Republicans have pushed for additional funding for roads and bridges. Then-House Transportation Chair Tim Kelly proposed dedicating “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.” Initially, the DFL balked, saying that the money wasn’t dedicated, then arguing that taking that money from the general fund would take money from health care and education.

This week, “Scott Newman finally got his bill in front of lawmakers for the first time.” His constitutional amendment would dedicate “sales tax dollars from vehicle leases and rentals toward transportation projects” to the building of roads and bridges.

It isn’t amazing that the GOP is attempting to put this question on the ballot. What’s astonishing is that it’s garnered the wide-ranging support that it’s gotten:

The coalition supporting the bill includes business groups like the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, contractors and some labor unions, including the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49 and the Northern States Regional Council of Carpenters. “This is the biggest job creating bill you can pass this year,” said Jason George, the legislative and special projects director for Local 49, noting that the total spending would amount to dedicating less than 1 percent of the state budget toward transportation.

It isn’t surprising that the DFL opposes this constitutional amendment:

“There are two things we should be treating with the utmost caution, and it’s our general fund and our Constitution,” said Bradley Peterson with Greater Minnesota Cities. “Putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot for potentially $300 million per year is premature.” School groups and other labor unions, including SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, testified that the bill would limit the pool of funds available for education and health programs across the state, which don’t currently have any dedicated funding streams.

“We shouldn’t be pitting students against roads, and we shouldn’t be pitting healthcare against the trades,” said Sen. Matt Little, DFL-Lakeville.

The question now is whether the DFL actively opposes this proposed constitutional amendment or if they’ll support the construction unions. At this point, they’re in a can’t-win situation. Thanks to Sen. Newman, Minnesota’s roads will likely have dedicated funding for roads and bridges.