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According to this article, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce intends to throw its weight around on putting a transportation bill together. The good news for the DFL is that the Chamber wants some spending on transit. The bad news for the DFL is that the Chamber doesn’t want a tax increase for fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges.

Harry Melander, the president of the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council, recently said “When the labor groups and the Chamber get together, it’s usually when stuff gets done. If it doesn’t, then I think we have a much bigger problem with the people up at the Capitol.” Meanwhile, the Chamber isn’t pushing for a gas tax increase like they did in 2008, the last time the gas tax was increased.

The Chamber can supply a little political cover for a middle class tax increase in some years. This year, that’s a (pardon the pun) a bridge too far. Further, the DFL majority in the Senate isn’t likely to pass a middle class tax increase if they aren’t convinced that House Republicans will join them in voting for the tax increase.

Republicans have been steadfast in their opposition to raising taxes to support new transit projects. Charley Weaver of the Minnesota Business Partnership probably is serious about pushing transit but it’s still possible that he’s bluffing. When Weaver said “We wanted to be crystal clear that this is a priority for us. This isn’t an afterthought. This isn’t, ‘Gee, if you get around to it.'”, it’s possible that they aren’t willing to expend much political capital pushing transit as part of a transportation bill.

If Weaver insists, however, on pushing transit, he should expect tons of pushback from citizens. There isn’t a great groundswell of support for transit. There is a significant groundswell of support for fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges. If Weaver pushes too hard for transit, he’ll lose the entire package.

One of the reasons why this session will be contentious is because the DFL is insisting that a promised tax cut be coupled with a middle class tax increase. Simply put, Kurt Daudt and the House GOP caucus won’t let that happen.

The DFL’s proposed middle class tax increase comes from raising the state gas tax. First, it’s indisputable that sales taxes are regressive, hitting the middle class and the working poor harder than it hits the wealthy. Second, raising the gas tax hurts commuters more than it hurts people living in urban neighborhoods. (Imagine that. Democrats proposing raising taxes on the middle class living in exurban and rural Minnesota while protecting rich white people living in the safest DFL districts. That’s as surprising as hearing that Bill Gates made money last month.)

Rep. Thissen highlighted the DFL’s transportation priorities when he said “For someone that’s a leader of the state to come up here and say transit is controversial? It’s only controversial to the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party.”

Actually, Rep. Thissen, imposing a middle class tax increase to pay for transit projects is controversial. It’s controversial because people in outstate Minnesota have put a high priority on fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges. We don’t care about new light rail projects. Our highways, streets and county roads are filled with potholes. I wrote this article to highlight that the roads are dangerous. I wrote that article in May of 2014. Minnesota’s highways, streets and county roads need immediate attention. Transit doesn’t need immediate attention.

Last year, Move MN was leading the lobbying effort for shoving the DFL’s middle class tax increase down our throats. After they failed, something that was inevitable, they’ve been replaced by Transportation Forward. TF will fail, too, because Republicans won’t vote for a middle class tax increase to pay for something that isn’t essential. It’s worth highlighting, too, that there isn’t a great grassroots groundswell of support for new transit funding.

The only way the DFL’s middle class tax increase gets serious consideration in the Senate is if the House GOP provides political cover. That won’t happen. Imagine the political danger involved for the DFL if the DFL majority in the Senate passed a gas tax but didn’t get political cover from the GOP. The ads write themselves. Mailers with headlines like ‘DFL passes middle class tax increase’ or ‘DFL ignores Minnesota’s roads and bridges’ would definitely get people’s attentions.

Things might get real ugly real fast for the DFL if the DFL pursued this ill-advised strategy.

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It’s been years since the regular session of the Minnesota Legislature was this ‘colorful’. It didn’t take long for the fireworks to start, which leads into the regular session’s losers list:

  1. Mark Dayton — Dayton announced that he was unbound now that he’d run his last campaign. It didn’t take long before we learned that that meant he’d start lobbing grenades at whoever got him upset. Tom Bakk ambushed him on the commissioners pay raises. Sen. Bakk, here’s your grenade. Republicans proposed a new way to fund fixing Minnesota’s potholed roads. Here’s your grenade. Gov. Dayton also misread the Republicans and Kurt Daudt. He thought he could bully them into compliance. Though his bullying was ever-present, it didn’t move Republicans because their agenda was popular with Minnesotans. Gov. Dayton never figured that out. He’s still whining about it after the special session.
  2. Tom Bakk — Sen. Bakk ambushed Gov. Dayton on the commissioners pay raises but he didn’t do it until they became unpopular with Minnesotans. Sen. Bakk’s ambush smacked more of political opportunism than voicing displeasure with a bad policy. That was especially true when a reporter actually pointed out that Sen. Bakk voted for the pay raises. Sen. Bakk got stung hard when Gov. Dayton accused him of stabbing him in the back. Later, Gov. Dayton said that he trusted Speaker Daudt more than he trusted Sen. Bakk. FYI- That wound never healed. I don’t know that it ever will.
  3. Metrocrats — They came in with high expectations. Tina Flint-Smith was the new Lt. Governor. They had a bold progressive spending agenda. By the time the session was over, Rep. Thissen’s face was more likely to be seen on milk cartons than at negotiating sessions.
  4. Move MN — They fought for a gas tax increase. They lobbied both caucuses hard, sometimes sneakily. In the end, they got their lunch handed to them.
  5. Brian McDaniel — Brian McDaniel isn’t a household name to most Minnesotans but he’s known by political nerds like me. McDaniel is Republican lobbyist who lobbied for the aforementioned gas tax increase. What’s worst is that he didn’t disclose that he was lobbying for Move MN when he went on Almanac or At Issue. That’s definitely unethical.
  6. Keith Downey — His ‘Send it all back’ tax refund campaign was a disaster. He knew that a $2,000,000,000 tax cut didn’t have a chance of passing. Period. When he appeared in the ad himself, he made himself the face of opposition to the House Republicans’ agenda. The Twin Cities media had a field day playing up that dispute.

I’m sure there were other losers during the regular session but that’s my list. If you want to add to this list or if you want to disagree with me, knock yourself out.

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To: Kurt Daudt, David Hann
From: Gary Gross
Subject: Transportation negotiations

Considering the fact that rank-and-file Minnesotans have stated emphatically that they won’t cheerfully accept another tax increase, GOP leadership in the Minnesota legislature shouldn’t attempt to strike a deal with Gov. Dayton and DFL leadership that includes a gas tax increase. Period. Tax increases are totally off the table. If Gov. Dayton wants to throw another hissy fit, that’s fine. The GOP should record Gov. Dayton’s hissy fit and upload it to YouTube.

There are some things Speaker Daudt and Sen. Hann should forever keep in mind during these negotiations. Here are the things that they shouldn’t forget, in order of importance:

  1. The last time the DFL pushed a gas tax increase, they promised it would solve our underfunding of roads and bridges for the next 20 years. That was 2008. It’s 2015 and they’re back, this time insisting that a significantly bigger tax increase is needed. Don’t double down on the DFL’s failure.
  2. The GOP plan is popular. Insist that the DFL adopt the GOP plan or face a major advertising campaign from now through Election Day. Tell them that every vulnerable DFL legislator in the House and Senate will be targeted with advertising that tells their constituents that they voted for a gas tax increase.
  3. You’re building trust with Republican activists and independents by being straight shooters. Don’t throw that away by agreeing to a transportation compromise that includes a gas tax increase. Accepting a tax increase will be seen as a betrayal. That will lead to Republicans losing the House and the DFL holding the Senate in 2016. (Remember the disaster the last time the DFL controlled the House and Senate and held the governorship?)
  4. Keep pressure on the DFL by addressing the press anytime they’re available. Remind them that the DFL’s last transportation bill was a failure. Remind them, too, that 75% of Minnesotans agreed with the GOP transportation plan and that 51% of Minnesotans rejected the DFL’s plan.

It’s important to constantly switch the conversation away from transportation. Constantly drag the conversation back to fixing Minnesota’s potholed roads and highways. Outside the Twin Cities, it’s difficult to find a dozen transit advocates. Outside the Twin Cities, it’s impossible to find a person who’s happy with Minnesota’s potholed roads.

Play to those facts. Portray the DFL as who they are — the political party who listen to the special interests and the lobbyists while reminding them that a) Republicans listened to their constituents before the session started and b) Republicans are still listening to their constituents by refusing to raise gas taxes.

I’ve written two posts on Brian McDaniel’s statements on the transportation bill. (This is the link to my post about McDaniel’s appearance on Almanac. This is the link for my post about McDaniel’s appearance on At Issue.) In those posts, I expressed my bewilderment with McDaniel’s statements pushing for a compromise on the DFL’s gas tax proposal.

This information from Minnesota’s Campaign Finance Disclosure Board dropped the pieces of this transportation puzzle into place:

According to this report, Margaret Donahoe is the “executive director” of the Minnesota Transportation Alliance. That report didn’t reveal this information:

McDaniel didn’t state that he’s a paid lobbyist for the organization pushing the DFL’s gas tax. He didn’t disclose this conflict of interest when he appeared on Almanac. McDaniel didn’t disclose this important information when he appeared on At Issue.

It’s disgusting that McDaniel didn’t disclose this information. It’s one thing to speak in favor of legislation as a private citizen. It’s another to speak in favor of legislation like you’re a private citizen when you’re actually a paid lobbyist.

It’s standard procedure to disclose that you’re a paid lobbyist for an organization that’s pushing a policy that you’re discussing. To do otherwise is dishonest and corrupt. When others have been caught in that situation before, they’ve started their first sentence by saying “In the interest of full disclosure.” Then the viewers understand that the lobbyist has a dog in that particular hunt.

At this point, Republicans should tell Mr. McDaniel that they won’t listen to his pitch anymore because he isn’t transparent in his dealings with legislators. More importantly, Republicans should reject all calls for a gas tax increase because it’s a failed policy. The DFL tried that approach in 2008. It failed miserably. Because it failed miserably in 2008, the DFL is back asking for a bigger gas tax increase this year.

Move MN, the Minnesota Transportation Alliance, the DFL and Gov. Dayton must be desperate if they’re pushing the gas tax without telling us that they’re sending out paid lobbyists to act like regular citizens speaking out on this issue.

Finally, Republicans should stand firmly against the gas tax increase. They’re on the winning side of this issue.

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Last week, I wrote this post about Brian McDaniel’s statements about whether Republicans should give into the DFL’s plans to raise the gas tax. Last week, McDaniel suggested that Republicans should give in on raising the gas tax in exchange for a few shiny trinkets in a larger tax bill. One of the things I highlighted in that point was that raising the gas tax was terrible policy.

In 2008, the DFL raised the gas tax by a nickel a gallon. At the time, they said that would help rebuild Minnesota’s crumbling roads and bridges, “which have been neglected” for years. The DFL promised that raising the gas tax by a nickel a gallon would provide the additional revenue needed to fix Minnesota’s roads and bridges. Now it’s 2015 and the DFL is back insisting that we need to raise the gas tax by 16 cents/gallon to finally fix Minnesota’s roads and bridges. This time, the DFL is insisting that Minnesota’s roads and bridges have been neglected for 25 years.

What the DFL hasn’t talked about is why they didn’t fix transportation when they had a DFL governor and solid majorities in the House and Senate. They insist now that “Minnesota’s roads and bridges have been neglected for 25 years.” That means that they’d been neglected for 23 years in 2013.

This week, McDaniel appeared on At Issue’s Face-Off. Unfortunately, he was singing the same song. Apparently, he hasn’t figured it out that a terrible policy that doesn’t fix the problem is worthless. It’s time for McDaniel to pull his head out of his arse and actually support plans that fix problems.

What’s worse is that McDaniel said that both parties have robust plans to fix the problem. That’s BS. The DFL has submitted a bill but they haven’t passed it. Until the DFL passes their proposal, I’ll think that the DFL proposal is slick-sounding DFL happy talk. Slick-sounding DFL happy talk plus $1,000,000 is worth $1,000,000, not a penny more.

McDaniel is part of the problem vexing St. Paul. He’s too spineless to tell the DFL that their proposal is worthless. That isn’t opinion. It’s verified fact based on the failure of the 2008 Transportation Bill. It’s time McDaniel threw that in the DFL’s face and demanded that they defend the DFL’s failed transportation policies. Ceding as fact that the DFL plan has merit is ceding defeat.

Apparently, McDaniel is more interested in playing nice than he’s interested in fighting for good policies. That’s wrong. Fighting for solutions that improve families’ lives is right. What’s wrong is giving into the DFL’s failed policies in the name of compromise is foolishness. In fact, it’s counterproductive.

Settling for counterproductive policies that don’t fix problems isn’t a virtue. It’s disgusting.

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Friday night on Almanac’s Roundtable, Republican lobbyist Brian McDaniel suggested that Republicans should give into the DFL’s transportation tax increases in exchange for other tax relief. First, that’s defeatist thinking. Next, it’s betraying the trust between the people of Minnesota and the Republican Party. Third, it’s terrible policy.

Caving on the DFL’s plethora of transportation tax increases means caving on a fight Minnesotans want Republicans to win. The latest KSTP-SurveyUSA poll showed 75% of Minnesotans supporting the GOP plan of not raising transportation taxes. That poll showed only 18% of Minnesotans supporting the DFL’s transportation tax increases. That’s because Minnesotans of all political stripes oppose transportation tax increases. I’m certain that people that vehemently oppose a transportation tax increase wouldn’t support a $13,000,000,000 transportation tax increase.

Minnesotans spoke clearly in that poll on what they don’t want in this year’s transportation plan. They didn’t speak with timidity. They spoke with clarity and conviction. It’s impossible to mistake the message they sent. To their credit, Republicans put together a plan that Minnesotans called for. They said no to the DFL’s transportation tax increases. Republicans said no to tax increases that increase funding for transit projects that serve hundreds of people a day.

Republicans said yes to a new plan that will work. Republicans said yes to stable transportation funding. They said yes to the Transportation Stability Fund. Unlike the DFL’s failed Transportation Bill of 2008, the Transportation Stability Fund will fund Minnesota’s priorities.

Let’s remember that the DFL promised that the DFL’s Transportation Bill of 2008 would fix Minnesota’s roads and bridges for the next quarter century. Instead, the DFL Transportation Bill of 2008 failed within 5 years. Why would anyone trust the DFL with a history of failure like that?

Minnesotans want their roads widened and their potholes filled. They aren’t imploring politicians to fund more light rail projects. It’s time that Republicans totally reject the DFL’s plan. Compromise is the right response when multiple plans have something positive to contribute to the problem. There’s nothing in the DFL plan that fixes Minnesota’s potholed roads. The chief feature in the DFL’s plan is the DFL’s latest attempt to lift Minnesotans’ wallets.

Voting for a plan that doesn’t fix Minnesota’s roads or fill Minnesota’s potholes isn’t compromise. It’s total capitulation.

It’s time Republicans highlighted the fact that the DFL’s transportation policies have failed before. Republicans should remind people of that fact dozens of times a day. In fact, what House and Senate Republicans should do is tell vulnerable DFL members that they’ll target vulnerable DFL legislators in swing districts if they vote for a transportation plan that includes a transportation tax increase.

It’s time Republicans kept their promises. Further, it’s time Republicans went on the offensive. It’s time the DFL paid a high political price for their failed policies. That time is right now.

Wherever Vin Weber goes, the kiss of death comes with him. This Washington Post article says that Weber has signed onto Jeb Bush’s “all-but-certain bid for the Republican presidential nomination”:

Vin Weber, a former Minnesota congressman and top policy adviser on Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, is assisting Jeb Bush’s all-but-certain bid for the Republican presidential nomination, adding yet another high-powered strategist to the former Florida governor’s political circle. Weber confirmed his move Tuesday, as did a Bush aide, after several GOP officials said Weber was working behind the scenes to win Bush support among influential donors and conservative intellectuals.

“My message to conservatives has been: this is the conservative Bush,” Weber said in a phone interview. “I remember when his brother first ran, and he was a fine president. But at the time, most conservatives around the country said it’s too bad because Jeb is the real conservative in the family. I’m reminding my friends about those conversations.”

Jeb might be the most conservative of the Bushes. As Florida’s governor, he implemented some genuinely conservative reforms. Since going national, however, Jeb’s taken on a leftist tilt, starting with his support for Common Core, which most movement conservatives consider the ultimate deal-breaker for GOP presidential candidates.

In recent weeks, Weber said he and other Bush allies have been informally meeting with skeptical leaders on the right to talk through Bush’s gubernatorial record, touting his work on “educational choice and taxes and spending.” Their goal is to scrape away the notion that Bush is a political moderate, a notion that has become a barnacle on his potential candidacy.

Vin Weber knows that Jeb Bush’s chances at being the nominee shrink rapidly if he’s tagged with the moderate label. Bush’s stand on Common Core is close to a deal-breaker. Bush’s position on immigration isn’t noticeably different from John McCain’s or Lindsey ‘Gramnesty’ Graham’s position on amnesty. Bush’s statement at a CEO conference hosted by the Wall Street Journal that Republicans have to be willing to “lose the primary to win the general election” turned lots of people off. John McCain threw conservatives, especially Christian conservatives, under the bus in 2008. His defeat was the worst defeat a Republican presidential nominee has suffered since Barry Goldwater’s defeat at the hands of LBJ in 1964.

Jeb Bush’s disastrous statement won’t help his cause. Frankly, it’s a miscalculation. You can’t tell conservatives they’re wrong, then expect them to support you in the general election.

During Romney’s campaigns for the White House in 2008 and 2012, Weber served as a senior policy hand, organizing meetings with think-tank specialists on foreign and domestic issues, and keeping tabs on conservative concerns.

There’s the proof that Weber is the GOP’s kiss of death, the GOP’s equivalent of Bob Shrum or Bob Beckel.

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Terry Stone’s LTE highlights what’s wrong with how transportation issues get settled. Here’s what happens that inevitably leads to chaos:

Currently, state transportation planning is done by various counties, cities and the Met Council. Then the Metropolitan Airport Commission, the Port of Duluth, the Port of St. Paul and a slug of lobbying groups chime in. Minnesota Department of Transportation and the University of Minnesota have their own ideas and the Legislature has theirs. The federal government uses money to push its own agenda. Intelligent planning for efficient pipelines and safe, efficient railroad infrastructure are largely left to the private sector.

When the transportation suggestions from this gaggle of transportation planners hit the Legislature, the lobbyists descend upon St. Paul like a hungry horde of locusts. Frequently, the special interests with the most effective lobbyists end up with the transportation projects they want.

What could possibly go wrong with so many people wanting their slice of the transportation pie? This isn’t a failure of too few dollars to meet Minnesota’s transportation needs. It’s that there’s too few dollars to fund the special interests’ wish list items and too little time spent prioritizing Minnesota’s transportation needs.

Why isn’t the DFL putting the highest priority on fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges? Why is the DFL paying any attention to increasing transit funding? What proof do we have that transit ridership is increasing dramatically?

The DFL had complete control of Minnesota government in 2013 and 2014. They could have created a state planning agency to develop a plan for building and funding transportation intelligently. Instead, they chose the politically expedient status quo. Now we are being herded and asked to believe that only massive tax increases can allow Minnesota to perform a core function of government; building and maintaining roads and bridges.

I’ll just add that we’re being railroaded into thinking that our transportation needs have dramatically increased since the DFL held total control of government in 2013-2014. In 2008, Steve Murphy pushed through a massive tax increase that was supposed to solve this problem. At the time, Sen. Murphy bragged that he wasn’t “hiding anything. There’s lots of taxes” in his bill.

At the time, the DFL, with Sen. Murphy leading the way, told Minnesota that our roads and bridges were crumbling and only a massive tax increase could fix the situation. It’s 6 years later and the DFL is telling us that our roads and bridges are crumbling and only a massive tax increase will fill the potholes and fix Minnesota’s bridges.

When I went back to my original post about Sen. Murphy’s quote, I noticed something that I’d forgotten. Sen. Murphy wanted the gas tax increased, then indexing the gas tax with the CPI. Before another step is taken, the first thing that needs to happen is determine what Minnesota’s transportation needs are. I’m totally disinterested in what’s included in the lobbyists’ wish lists. I’m just interested Minnesota’s roads being in good repair and Minnesota’s bridges being safe.

This is great advice:

It’s time to think twice before buying into this transportation panic scenario. The Minnesota House has a thoughtful, calm plan to fund roads and bridges without raising a dime of new taxes. The plan deserves our careful consideration.

The DFL’s manufactured transportation crisis should be ignored. The DFL had the opportunity to fix Minnesota’s highways and bridges last spring when they controlled all of the levers of political power. They didn’t get it done. In fact, they adjourned several days before the constitutional deadline.

It’s time to focus solely on roads and bridges. Everything else is a nicety.

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A ton of research highlighted Charting the Future’s deceptions. CtF isn’t Chancellor Rosenstone’s vision for MnSCU. It’s a collaboration of major corporations through the Minnesota Business Partnership, a powerful trade organization (MHTA), a Minnesota-based consulting firm (McKinsey & Co.) and a well-connected former Minnesota politician (Margaret Anderson-Kelliher). Mostly, it’s the work of McKinsey & Company under the title of the Itasca Project.

First, McKinsey & Company isn’t “New York-based” like Chancellor Rosenstone described them as. Here’s the truth:

Based on this map, McKinsey & Co. is a Minneapolis-based consulting firm. Further, MHTA is tied into CtF. Here’s a little information on MHTA:

The group identified a four-part strategy:

  1. Align academic offerings with workforce needs
  2. Foster an ecosystem of research and innovation
  3. Form new collaborations across higher education to optimize system-wide intellectual assets and efficiency
  4. Graduate more students with the foundational and technical skills needed to drive Minnesota’s prosperity

First, government bureaucracies don’t “form new collaborations” to “optimize system-wide intellectual assets and efficiency.” It’d be great if they did but bureaucracies don’t do those things unless they’re forced by the changing of state statutes.

That raises red flags. If CtF’s goal isn’t to make MnSCU more efficient, what is CtF’s goal? Is there an ulterior motive behind CtF? If there is an ulterior motive driving CtF, what is it? According to IFO’s letter to Dr. Rosenstone, the savings from CtF are imaginary:

In the past decade, MnSCU has spent money by the tens of millions on IT consultants that claimed they would create efficiencies that would result in efficiencies for students — student tuitions still continued to skyrocket. The only savings we have seen for students in recent years came from the legislative buy down of tuition rates.

When lobbyists, corporations and consultants put a plan together, nothing good will come of it.

According to this webpage, Margaret Anderson Kelliher is the president & CEO of the Minnesota High Tech Association, aka the MHTA. She’s also the vice-chair of the MnSCU Board of Trustees Executive Committee.

In other words, McKinsey wasn’t hired by MnSCU to implement CtF. They were hired by MnSCU to create, then implement, CtF. That’s definitely a significant deception.

I didn’t have high hopes for CtF prior to this research. I have less faith in it after doing the research.

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