Archive for the ‘Taxpayer Revolt’ Category
The big story from Tuesday night was that Republicans pretty much had their way with Democrats once the urban votes were counted. Donald Trump was on the verge of victory seemingly for hours. Minutes ago, he won Pennsylvania, officially giving him 278 electoral votes. That’s without adding Arizona’s 11 electoral votes (Trump leads there 49.7%-45.4%) and Michigan’s 16 electoral votes (Trump leads there 48.1%-46.8%). If Trump wins those states, that puts him at 305 electoral votes.
Though Trump’s victory was the night’s biggest news, it wasn’t the only good news for Republicans. At this point, Republicans have lost a net of 1 seat in the US Senate with 2 races heading for runoffs. That gives Republicans a minimum of 51 seats in the Senate. Add to that the fact that Republicans easily held onto their majority in the House and you’ve got a banner night for the RNC and America’s blue collar workers.
This means that Merrick Garland won’t be confirmed as the next Supreme Court justice. In fact, the next question will be whether President Obama pulls the nomination or whether Garland withdraws his name from consideration.
Throughout the night, commentators kept saying that Trump had a path to victory but that it was a narrow, uphill path. After Trump won the must-win states of Florida, North Carolina and Ohio, those commentators said that Trump had done what he had to do before mentioning the fact that Mr. Trump hadn’t yet penetrated the Democrats’ Blue Wall. That commentary disappeared when Wisconsin fell. Suddenly, those commentators realized that Mrs. Clinton was on the defensive. They realized that she was suddenly in the position of needing to run the table to win the White House.
By the time they called Pennsylvania, the writing was on the wall. Reality had started sinking in. Most commentators in the network studios understood that Donald Trump was all but officially the president-elect of the United States. This is how Fox News called the race over:
The incoming Trump administration and the Republican House and Senate now have a mandate to get things done. The first 100 days of the Trump administration figure to be busy. They’ll have to nominate the man or woman who will replace Justice Scalia. They’ll want to work with Congress on building the wall. Hopefully, they’ll repeal and replace Obamacare. They’ll want to get started with reforming the tax code, too.
Those things wouldn’t have been possible if not for the Republicans’ big night on the nation’s biggest stage.
Ric Studer is a candidate for the ISD 742 School Board. This morning, I noticed Mr. Studer’s LTE published in the St. Cloud Times. Saying that it’s a bit unusual is understatement. Frankly, I find it repulsive.
The opening paragraph of Mr. Studer’s LTE says “I am a candidate for St. Cloud school board. As much as I would like your vote and to serve on the board, I ask that you vote for the very qualified Shannon Haws and Monica Segura-Schwartz.” The next paragraph says “There are no ethnic minorities or women remaining on the board after Les Green and Debbie Erickson chose not to run for re-election. Our district is ethnically, religiously and racially diverse. I find it appalling that the three remaining board members and six of the eight candidates are white, middle-aged, middle class, Christian or Jewish men.”
While I agree that there isn’t enough diversity on the ISD 742 School Board, it isn’t that I’m worried about the ethnic or religious diversity. The diversity that’s lacking is diversity of thought. This board suffers from a chronic case of groupthink. They’re arrogant, too, but that’s another story. This Board hasn’t disagreed with Willie Jett in any meaningful way, much less challenged him on anything. Each of the current members and all but one of the candidates running for the Board think that taxpayers are ATMs to be tapped whenever the Board wants.
The ‘solution’ that the Board has come up with is foolish and expensive. Build a new school, they say, even though Apollo will soon be big enough to house all of the district’s high school students. This Board wants taxpayers to vote for a $143,250,000 bonding referendum simply because they want something for their legacy. That type of groupthink isn’t just expensive. It’s foolish.
I wrote this post to highlight the fact that John Palmer would be the lone voice of sanity if he were elected to the ISD 742 School Board. Dr. Palmer is a retired professor who taught education at SCSU. He’s the taxpayers’ advocate in the race. That’s why he’s needed on the Board.
Finally, there’s this from Mr. Studer:
How can good decisions be made for the district’s people without the representation of a true cross section of our community? A vote for Shannon and Monica will give us the respected voices of women and the Latino community on the board.
We’ve seen that good decisions can’t be made when everyone practices groupthink. That’s how we’ve arrived at this mess. What’s needed is a fresh perspective. What’s needed is a leader. John Palmer provides both qualities. That’s why I’m voting for him this Nov. 8.
This article highlights another instance in which the DFL is trying to drive companies out of Minnesota. They shouldn’t be blamed, though. Democrats in Washington, DC, are attempting to drive companies out of the U.S.
Specifically, “Senate DFLers are pushing a more generous paid family leave than the three states that require it, mandating up to 12 weeks of paid time off for new parents or people caring for sick family members. That’s double what is required in New Jersey and California; Rhode Island offers eight weeks.” Additionally, the “fight is gaining attention at the national level as Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have proposed leave policies.”
This is just another thing ton the DFL’s agenda that’s driving employment costs up for Minnesota businesses. (It isn’t like they aren’t already leaving for lower tax states.) The executive summary of Peter Nelson’s report doesn’t paint a positive picture for Minnesota.
This information is especially troubling to Minnesota’s long-term health:
Most of the taxpayers who leave Minnesota for lower-tax states are in their prime earning years. One might think that most high-earning families who leave Minnesota are retirees moving to Florida or Arizona, but this is not the case. Working-age people between 35 and 54 account for nearly 40 percent of Minnesota’s net loss of tax filers for the 2013-2014 period.
In other words, Minnesota isn’t losing people at the end of their prime earning years. If they were, they could recover from that fairly quickly. It’s more difficult to recover long-term income loss because you have to attract people who are entering or in their prime earning years.
Further factoring into this difficult situation is the fact that people in their prime earning years aren’t likely to be as loyal to Minnesota as someone in the last part of their prime earning years. Someone that’s 60 and still earning significant dollars likely has a family here. They’ve established their lifestyle and are comfortable with it. Their friends are likely here, too.
It’s understatement that government-mandated business costs don’t incentivize companies to stay loyal to Minnesota. Their first priority is to maximize their company’s profits, which contributes to their family’s security.
This says it all:
Doug Seaton said he believes that politicians have no business telling employers to offer paid family and medical leave.
When politicians start putting their capital at risk and start signing the front of the paycheck, they can choose to offer paid family and medical leave. Then there’s this:
“Politicians, most of whom have no experience signing paychecks for employees of any kind, are not in a good position to make these decisions,” Seaton said. “It restricts the ability of the business to tailor its benefits to all employees in a way that makes sense.” He added that it came on top of “what employers already perceive as a very extensive and expansive set of entitlements in Minnesota.”
That’s a polite way of telling politicians to stop imposing their will on companies that they don’t own. It’s a polite way of telling politicians to shut up.
Technorati: Mark Dayton, Alliance for a Better Minnesota, Tom Bakk, Regulation Nation, Family Medical Leave Act, Paid Leave, Income Migration, DFL, Entrepreneurship, IRS, Economy, Marginal Tax Rates, Center for the American Experiment
After I wrote this post, I was invited onto Dan Ochsner’s Ox in the Afternoon radio program to discuss the alarming disparity between the ISD 742 estimates and the bid that was put together for Sarah Murphy and Claire VanderEyk.
During the campaign to pass the Tech bonding referendum, the ISD 742 school board said it would cost between $85,800,000 and $96,800,000 to temporarily fix Tech for 5-10 years. When Ms. Murphy and Ms. VanderEyk toured the facility, they took notes on what was in disrepair and needed fixing. Since they’re both architects, they’re qualified to determine what’s in need of repair, what’s structurally deficient and what’s in good repair.
Ms. Murphy and Ms. VanderEyk are both Tech alums so they’d like to preserve the building if that’s possible. That’s why they took their notes to a contractor to see how much it would actually cost to repair the existing Tech campus. Saying that their estimate came in at less than $97,000,000 is understatement. It came in at $15,696,000, which is approximately $100,000,000 less than the School Board said it would cost to build a brand new Tech High School.
It’s worth noting that the new Tech High School would be able to hold 1,800 students, which is significantly more than it needs. It’s also worth noting that the School Board wanted $46,500,000 in bonding authority to fix Apollo High School, which is less than 50 years old. (Tech is over 100 years old.)
Considering the fact that the bid put together for Ms. Murphy and Ms. VanderEyk to refurbish and repair a 100-year-old building was less than $16,000,000, it isn’t a stretch to think that it wouldn’t cost $46,500,000 to repair Apollo. In fact, it isn’t a stretch to think that both projects combined could be done for less than what the Apollo renovation would’ve cost.
As I said in the earlier post, I’m not arguing to do nothing. That ship has sailed. It isn’t returning to port. What I’m arguing for is to rethink the entire project and see if we shouldn’t adopt a more taxpayer-friendly option that still helps students attend a high school where they can prepare for a college education and a productive working career.
Simply put, I’m arguing to kill last fall’s plan once and for all. It isn’t needed and it can’t be afforded. It’s that simple.
When I wrote this post about the ISD 742 School Board’s numbers on how much it would cost to fix Tech High School, I unintentionally omitted the enrollment figures for the district. The point of the article was to highlight the fallibility of the School Board’s numbers. Specifically, I quoted Sarah Murphy’s criticism of the repair cost figures.
Kevin Allenspach’s article quotes Ms. Murphy as saying “Those numbers are really round, so it’s hard to take them seriously.” Rather than just criticizing the figures, Ms. Murphy and Claire VanderEyk, both Tech alumni and architects, got a bid on how much it would cost to fix Tech.
The ISD 742 School Board estimated the cost at between $85,750,000 and $96,750,000. The estimate put together for Ms. Murphy and Ms. VanderEyk was $15,696,000. That’s a difference of more than $70,000,000. As terrible as those numbers are, that isn’t the whole story. This St. Cloud Times article on open enrollment is just another nail in the School Board’s bonding project coffin.
According to the School Board, the new Tech High School and the renovated Apollo High would have had an enrollment capacity of 1,800 students each. Here’s what the Times’ open enrollment article says:
The Sauk Rapids-Rice school district has seen a steady increase in the number of students open-enrolling from other districts. This fall, the district gained more than 500 students more than it lost to other districts. Almost a quarter of Sauk Rapids-Rice students aren’t residents of the school district. On the flip side, the St. Cloud school district lost about 1,660 more students this year to other public school districts than it gained through open enrollment.
The combined enrollment at Tech and Apollo was 2,700+ students last year. The trend is declining enrollment. Taxpayers aren’t out of line in questioning the School Board’s decision to build a new school that’s bigger than they need at a price nobody can afford.
It’s important to remember that the School Board’s price tag on a new Tech High School was $113.8 million. Compare that with Ms. Murphy’s and Ms. VanderEyk’s estimate to fix the existing Tech High School is $16,000,000. Additionally, the School Board’s estimate of fixing Apollo was $46.5 million.
Why would anyone trust the School Board’s figures for either project, especially given their proclivity for wild exaggerations? It’s time to scrap the School Board’s plan entirely. That doesn’t mean we can afford to do nothing. That isn’t an option. It just means we should fix what needs fixing at a price that’s taxpayer friendly.
After reading Kevin Allenspach’s article, it’s difficult to give the ISD 742 School Board the benefit of the doubt.
Last fall, the school board argued that it was wiser to build a new school (estimated cost of $113.8 million) than to remodel the current Tech High School. Allenspach’s article highlights the untrustworthiness of the School Board’s numbers. For instance, Allenspach notes that “the district’s pre-referendum estimate of $85 million in maintenance during the next 10 years just to keep the school in use” is being questioned by 2 Tech grads.
Sarah Murphy and Claire VanderEyk are both architects and Tech graduates. They’re both convinced that the ISD 742 School Board’s $85,000,000 estimate isn’t accurate. The School Board’s estimate includes “$10 million-$15 million for roofing, $20 million for a boiler replacement, $5 million for a chiller replacement, $5 million for window replacement, $10 million for asbestos removal, $1 million for brick tuckpointing, $5 million for plumbing, $2 million for lighting, $1 million for parking lots, $2 million-$3 million for electrical service, $3 million to replace classroom ceilings, $3 million to replace doors and hardware, $2 million to replace flooring, $750,000 for a building control system and $15 million-$20 million for general building repairs.”
Murphy’s response was powerful:
“Those numbers are really round, so it’s hard to take them seriously,” said Murphy, who worked for architectural firms in Minnesota and Colorado before becoming a space planner for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. “The building is 100 years old, so it’s going to need some help. But if there are real structural problems, there shouldn’t be anybody in the building. If the cafeteria has major structural issues, why are they using it? They’d be putting the kids at risk. There’s a difference between structural problems and things that are inconvenient or don’t look good, like floor tiles popping up.”
The School Board’s pitch was essentially a sky-is-falling pitch. The Board essentially said that not approving the bonds for the new Tech High School was the equivalent of putting these students at risk. It isn’t a stretch to think that the School Board tried shaming voters into approving the bonds.
Murphy has worked on similar projects, including North High School in Denver, which required technology updates and other renovations but preserved a building built in 1907. Both she and VanderEyk said they will work with the Friends of Clark Field citizens group to see if there is a way to get more information about renovating Tech.
Ms. Murphy and Ms. VanderEyk should be applauded for their efforts. I’ve learned more from them in a short period of time than I learned from the Vote Yes campaign all last fall. Most importantly, I’m thinking that I’d make a more informed decision because of these ladies’ works.
This is information that we should’ve gotten from the School Board but didn’t. That leads to the question of why we got this financial information from them. Let’s recall that Barclay Carriar admitted that the blueprint for the new Tech High School wasn’t available:
According to Barclay Carriar, a 57-year-old adviser with Ameriprise Financial and co-chair of Neighbors for School Excellence, “What a lot of them don’t recognize is, with the cost of designing a building, 80 percent of it isn’t going to be designed until after the referendum. And the plans we’ve got now are still tentative.”
That’s stunning. They asked taxpayers for $113,800,000 in bonding approval but they hadn’t designed the building. What’s up with that? How many banks would lend money based on that type of information and still be solvent 5 years from now? Hint: the number rhymes with Nero.
When I read this Our View editorial, my first reaction was that of disgust. The Times has tried to portray itself as object, as allies of ‘the people’. That façade disappeared when they wrote about setting a revote on the Tech-Apollo bonding referendum for this spring.
When they wrote that “a huge turnout expected in presidential election years may not enhance the chances for a school referendum to pass”, the Times essentially said that the right outcome was more important than giving the people the right to make informed decisions based on information gathered during meetings where the school board took questions and answered them on point. If the school board doesn’t answer the people’s questions directly, then citizens should continue to defeat the bonding referendum.
BTW, giving platitude-filled answers doesn’t constitute answering the citizens’ questions. That’s deception, which isn’t tolerated. The citizens have a right to know more of the specifics about the building that would be built with their money. When Barclay Carriar admitted that “80 percent of [the new Tech HS] isn’t going to be designed until after the referendum”, he essentially told voters that they should approve the bonds without knowing what they’d get.
Carriar is an “adviser with Ameriprise Financial and co-chair of Neighbors for School Excellence.” Think of adviser Neighbors for School Excellence as the DFL’s Vote Yes campaign organization for pushing the bonding referendum down voters’ throats. It’s important to remember that the bonding referendum was defeated in November because the School Board tried getting their referendum passed without answering voters’ questions.
That time, with the bonding referendum being the only thing on the ballot, voters rejected the proposal by an 8,460 to 7,393 vote margin. That 53.4% of the people voted to reject the proposal is a major upset.
Supporters and district campaign materials first cited a 10-year maintenance tab of $140 million at Tech. However, as the Election Day neared, credible evidence arose to question it. Yet supporters and even district leaders remain tight-lipped to this day about its validity.
That was a major nail in the School Board’s coffin. That wasn’t the only thing, though, that people questioned. They also questioned whether the buildings both needed to have a capacity of 1,800 students, especially considering the fact that there are 2,700 students in Tech and Apollo right now.
The chances of ISD742 increasing enrollment by one-third over the next 20-50 years is approximately zero. The school board tried convincing their constituents that writing the school board a blank check based on a platitude-filled campaign.
That measure went down in flames.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk isn’t having fun, thanks in large part to Senate Republicans and Senate Minority Leader David Hann. Sen. Bakk is insisting that Republicans move into Bakk’s Palace, the building Sen. Bakk shoved down taxpayers’ throats in the 2013 Tax Bill in the dead of night the last weekend of session without going through the committee process. It didn’t go through the committee process intentionally because Bakk didn’t want it to be scrutinized by anyone.
Now, Sen. Bakk is attempting to play hardball, insisting that “other state entities need Republicans’ current quarters in the State Office Building.” Senate Minority Leader Hann isn’t buying, saying “if that’s the case, Bakk should say who is it and when they’re going to move, ‘because that’s all news to us.'”
What’s especially laughable is that Bakk calls their refusal to move “short-term political gamesmanship.” The truth is that Sen. Bakk doesn’t like it when GOP legislators shine the spotlight on Bakk’s Palace, my nickname for the new Senate Building. Bakk doesn’t like the attention because he’s trying to maintain his majority through the 2016 election. When House Republicans highlighted the House DFL’s support for Bakk’s Palace, they lost their majority.
When people take a look at Bakk’s Palace, Republicans will remind them that Democrats voted to raise taxes on citizens, which paid for the $90,000,000 building. They’ll also remind citizens that the DFL also voted to dramatically raise the pay of Gov. Dayton’s commissioners.
Sen. Bakk should stop worrying about political gamesmanship. He should start worrying about the DFL’s legislative history since the last election. Then he should kiss his majority status goodbye.
Tim O’Driscoll’s op-ed on MNsure’s rate increases is the best explanation I’ve seen on the subject. Here’s the key paragraph in Rep. O’Driscoll’s op-ed:
But if you’re still wondering how the state arrived at a 4.5 percent average increase, Commerce simply took the four average rate changes for providers in the exchange (up 17.15 percent, up 8.12 percent, up 1.8 percent, and down 9.07 percent) and divided them by four.
First, it’s important to note that the Commerce Department intentionally misled Minnesotans. While the average rate increase for each of the 4 remaining plans equals 4.5%, that’s misleading at best. Here’s why:
The reality is people are paying more than ever because of Obamacare in Minnesota. For people in Benton, Sherburne and Stearns counties, MNsure enrollees will see their average rates go up between 18 and 37 percent. And people in the bronze plans, which offer the lowest cost options, will see premiums increase about 20 percent. This is simply unaffordable for too many hardworking Minnesotans.
So why are their numbers off by so much?
First, it’s important to note the comparison of last year’s rates to this year’s is not an apples-to-apples comparison. Instead, when calculating rates, Commerce chose to ignore that the lowest cost provider (which covered about 60 percent of MNsure enrollees) dropped out of the exchange because of continued technical problems and inefficiencies.
The Minnesota Senate Republicans put together this interactive map showing how much insurance premiums were increasing in each of Minnesota’s 87 counties.
For instance, Benton County’s least expensive health insurance premiums will increase by 22% in 2015. Stearns County’s least expensive health insurance premiums will increase by 22% in 2015, too. Ditto with Sherburne and Wright counties.
They should consider themselves lucky that they aren’t in Meeker, Kandiyohi, Chippewa or Yellow Medicine counties, where their least expensive health insurance premiums will jump by 43%. (Does that sound affordable?)
Cottonwood, Lyons, Nobles and Murray counties’ least expensive health insurance premiums hit a less-than-happy medium, increasing by 34%.
But I digress. Here’s more important information from Rep. O’Driscoll’s op-ed:
Additionally, I offer this to people who argue rates still aren’t going up as fast as they did before the Affordable Care Act or before Minnesota taxpayers spent $160 million on a broken MNsure website. From 2003 to 2010, individual market insurance premiums rose a total of 35 percent in Minnesota, compared with 47 percent in our first year under Obamacare.
That isn’t Rep. O’Driscoll’s opinion. That’s from statistics compiled by the Department of Commerce. Finally, this is great advice:
Keep a copy of this article, and when open enrollment begins Nov. 15, take a look at your new premiums and compare my math to the 4.5 percent number being marketed by MNsure.
I’ve just got one tiny dispute with Rep. O’Driscoll. In fact, it isn’t really a dispute. The 4.5% increase figure is being peddled by the Dayton re-election campaign through the Commerce Department. There’s no sense in being polite. The 4.5% figure is fiction. Every real journalist should be highlighting the Dayton campaign’s dishonesty.
Finally, while I agree with Rep. O’Driscoll’s statement that people should “keep a copy of this article” and compare their “new premiums” with the Commerce Department’s 4.5% fiction, I’d additionally suggest that people remember Gov. Dayton’s and the DFL’s dishonesty in pimping the 4.5% figure. They know it’s intellectually dishonest. They don’t care about honesty when Gov. Dayton and the DFL are trying to win elections.
While there’s no doubt that people think that politicians aren’t the most honest people, there’s no doubt that people should take politicians that are intentionally dishonest to the proverbial woodshed. It’s time to take Gov. Dayton and the dishonest DFL legislators to that woodshed.
Monday night, the St. Cloud City Council missed an opportunity to put pressure on the J.A. Wedum Foundation. Instead, they voted to give the Foundation permission to refinance their apartment complex on Fifth Ave.
Had the City Council told the J.A. Wedum Foundation they’d only approve the refinancing if the Foundation renegotiated their lease with St. Cloud State, Wedum wouldn’t have had a choice but to renegotiate with SCSU.
Instead, the City Council essentially gave the Foundation permission to save money while the taxpayers foot the bill. This is aggravating because St. Cloud State has lost $6.4 million the last 4 years of the lease. This official SCSU budget document verifies that fact:
George Hontos and Jeff Johnson were the dissenting votes to approve the resolution. Unfortunately, the other council members didn’t think it was the City Council’s job to, in their terms, meddle in SCSU’s affairs. That’s a great way of saying ‘it isn’t my problem’.
That’s rubbish. If the City Council would’ve put the Foundation’s refinancing on hold, it would’ve gotten St. Cloud’s attention. It would’ve shined the light on the fact that SCSU President Earl Potter signed a terrible lease. It would’ve shined the light on the fact that the Foundation is making money hand over fist at the taxpayers’ expense. It would’ve highlighted the cozy relationship between President Potter and the Foundation.
SCSU’s downward trajectory is the City Council’s business because it affects St. Cloud’s economy. If President Potter won’t protect the University’s and the taxpayers’ interests, then it’s perfectly appropriate for the City Council to do an intervention.
Hontos questioned the public benefit of an arrangement where the taxpayers “take a bath” over this money losing project. None of the council members argued the city should be involved in the specifics of trying to renegotiate the Wedum lease with SCSU. However, Hontos argued that the council’s action in turning down the resolution might provide an incentive for Wedum to renegotiate the lease with SCSU.
Watching this video (starting at the 29:00 mark) makes me sick. Councilman Hontos entered into the record a statement from the Wedum Foundation asking for the city of St. Cloud’s help in an effort to keep the lease “at an affordable rate” for SCSU.
That letter from the J.A. Wedum Foundation directly to the City of St. Cloud insists that the City has an important responsibility in this lease. Hearing Carol Lewis say that this isn’t the City’s business highlights her indifference towards the taxpayers. The only one I’d criticize more than Ms. Lewis is City Council President Jeff Goerger.
It’s clear that Goerger and Lewis had their minds made up long before the meeting. The information presented at the City Council meeting was irrelevant to them. Shame on them for their closemindedness. Shame on them for their indifference towards taxpayers.
Finally, thanks to President Potter’s inept handling of St. Cloud State’s finances have given the Wedum Foundation millions of dollars they didn’t earn. Let’s be clear about this. I don’t have a problem with companies making money in the private sector. I’ve got a major problem with nonprofit organizations raking in money from mismanaged government entities.