Archive for the ‘Dave Kleis’ Category

I wrote this post in December about a proposed condo development in downtown St. Cloud. At the time, I thought it inconceivable that an entrepreneur would propose such a monstrosity. I was wrong. An entrepreneur has proposed this project. Here’s something that I wrote in response to the first Times Our View editorial:

The Times editorial board isn’t too bright if they think this is worthy of serious consideration. The former Dan Marsh Drugs building is less than 100 yards from 5 major bars (the Red Carpet, the Press Bar & Lounge, DB Searles, The Office and MC’s Dugout). There are other restaurants and delis within a stone’s throw from where Dan Marsh used to sit. All of these businesses are open well past midnight.

Why would anyone aspire to live that close to businesses that will keep them up well past midnight?

This week, the Times Editorial Board wrote this editorial singing the praises of this project:

First, when the condo project is built, the city will begin to receive property tax payments from the owners of the 46 units. The units range in price from $165,000 to $200,000. Even if it takes time to sell those units, the immediate benefits go far beyond just the tax collection.

Market-rate housing downtown will provide the missing piece of a strong, ongoing rebound for downtown.

With the River’s Edge Convention Center expansion has come a boost in downtown bars, restaurants and some retail. On the west end of downtown, the continued success of the Paramount Theatre and Visual Arts Center has been a strong anchor.

The proximity of downtown offices, St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud Technical & Community College and St. Cloud Hospital makes the condo project attractive to several demographic groups, including young professionals, retirees and single people.

The downtown bars are still within a stone’s throw of the proposed condo. They’re still noisy well past midnight. Here’s the key phrase:

Even if it takes time to sell those units, the immediate benefits go far beyond just the tax collection.

It’s unlikely that this condo project will take off quickly. There’s a decent chance it won’t take off. That being said, if this company wants to build this white elephant, that’s their right. They should know, however, that they won’t get a bailout from the taxpayers if it fails.

This article by Kirsti Marohn raises questions about St. Cloud’s ability to attract regional air service to the airport. At this point, it’s difficult to see St. Cloud attracting another air carrier to the airport:

Boyd said St. Cloud should pat itself on the back for securing the United service, even if it only lasted 10 months. “That’s an achievement,” he said. “You attracted the best regional airline … You don’t do any better than that.”

The problem is, experts say, the odds are stacked against a city this size to find another airline interested in providing service. St. Cloud is not alone. “When smaller airports lie in the shadow of a much larger airport, they’re finding it increasingly difficult to attract and retain air service, and St. Cloud certainly fits that mold,” said William Swelbar, research engineer in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s International Center for Air Transportation and an airline industry analyst.

At this point, it’s difficult to picture another airline coming to St. Cloud for anything other than for the guaranteed money, then leaving the minute the money runs out. It’s probably best to take King Banaian’s advice:

It’s time to do a deep think before raising a few more million dollars to approach another airline, said King Banaian, economics professor at St. Cloud State University. “I think you pause and assess what happened,” Banaian said. “We thought we had the success.”

Albert Einstein famously said that doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. That’s the cycle St. Cloud is repeating. I know Mayor Kleis wants to attract another airline to St. Cloud. He’s fighting a valiant fight. He’s expended tons of energy trying to make that a reality.

Unfortunately, the verdict is in:

“I don’t know of any community in America that has tried harder and had more civic commitment to make this work,” said Michael Boyd, president of Colorado-based aviation consulting firm Boyd Group International. “You did the best you can, and now you’ve learned. There is no other airline.” For St. Cloud residents seeking access to the rest of the world, “your airport is Minneapolis. That’s not going to change,” Boyd said.

Mayor Kleis is trying to get the legislature to loan the City $2,000,000 to attract another airline. There’s little enthusiasm on either side of the aisle for that type of loan. Even if there was, it would be a terrible deal for Minnesota taxpayers and St. Cloud taxpayers.

There’s virtually no chance that a different airline will come to St. Cloud. If one came, the odds that they’d stay after the loan dried up would be tiny, if not officially nonexistent. What Mayor Kleis hasn’t admitted yet is that there isn’t a market for what he’s pushing.

The question Mayor Kleis needs to ask himself is why he thinks thing would be different this time. If he won’t ask that question before asking for $2,000,000 that he’d need to repay, then perhaps it’s time that the legislature simply said no.

It’s time to admit that this priority won’t become a reality.

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This article highlights the foolish priorities that taxpayers have the ability to stop. Here’s what I’m talking about:

An airport that serves the whole Central Minnesota area is looking for financial support from that region. St. Cloud Regional Airport was the first recipient of revenues from the half-cent local option sales tax when it was established in 2003. Residents will vote in November on whether to continue that source of revenue.

The airport is one of the three regional projects, including trail connections and the community and aquatics center, that would benefit from the tax extension.

“It’s our greatest example of a true regional project,” St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis said.

With all due respect to Mayor Kleis, spending money on the airport is a waste of money. A few years ago, money was spent on upgrading the airport. About a year later, scheduled air service was discontinued. The airport parking lot was empty until St. Cloud agreed to terms with Allegiant Air to provide charter service to Arizona.

This is the part of the article that I find offensive:

A $5 million terminal expansion is planned that would need $500,000 in sales tax. The airport was expanded in 2008, and Airport Director Bill Towle said a majority of that work was to bring the building up to new security standards.

The new project would add space to the main lobby area. Towle said the area is overcrowded with the restaurant and lines from the check-in area. Now that hundreds of travelers go through the terminal with daily air service, more space is needed.

There also needs to be more room for baggage claim and the space where bags are stored before being put on the plane, he said.

What happens when scheduled air service to Chicago ends? Then all that money will have been spent foolishly. This graphic shows how underutilized the St. Cloud Regional Airport is:

First, an explanation of the acronyms is in order. LF stands for load factor. To make a profit, airlines need a load factor of at least 70%. The chart shows that they’ve hit that 70% mark twice thus far. They’re projected to hit and exceed that over Labor Day weekend, too.

What’s disturbing is that a significant percentage of the rest of the days fall far short of that 70% mark. Simply put, Skywest Airlines isn’t profitable. They’d need a huge increase in traffic to make a profit.

That isn’t likely considering the fact that airfare out of Minneapolis is 25% cheaper than flying out of St. Cloud. Why would taxpayers vote for a tax that pays for something that won’t get used 3 years from now? (BTW, three years is being charitable.)

While I don’t doubt that the airport is busy right now, there’s little doubt that it won’t be busy if SkyWest opts out in a year. I’m skeptical that air service is viable because the load factor statistics provide an indication of how little interest there is in this travel option.

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When I wrote this post about St. Cloud getting daily air service, I intentionally highlighted the fact that this is a one-year agreement, that fares aren’t exactly cheap and that profitability is more than a bit questionable at this point. A year from now, we’ll have a better picture of whether the air service is profitable. We’ll know that because we’ll have hard numbers to crunch.

As informational as the Times article was, they didn’t talk about other air carriers undercutting SkyWest’s prices and they certainly didn’t talk about workforce issues. I just googled pilot shortages. According to Google, there are over 19,000,000 articles on the subject. Workforce issues are dragging the airline industry down. This WSJ article highlights the how severe the pilot shortage is:

A decade of restructuring in the U.S. airline industry has produced a sharp reduction in air service that is curtailing traveler choice and some local economies even as it improves the industry’s health, new research shows.

The study, by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, shows that from 2007 through last year, U.S. airlines cut the number of scheduled domestic flights by 14%. The number of seats offered fell by slightly less, as airlines pushed passengers onto bigger planes, says the study, which was prepared by MIT’s International Center for Air Transportation and is expected to be made public Wednesday.

If airlines are cutting flights to Memphis and Pittsburgh, cities that have large customer bases, shouldn’t St. Cloud wondering if they’re being unrealistic? I’m an optimist but I can’t ignore the fact that the supply of qualified pilots is deteriorating rapidly. Wishing and hoping is nice for birthdays and Christmas but it isn’t the way to set public policy. Public policy should be put together by crunching numbers and fitting policies with reality.

At this point, what’s needed is a discussion about increasing the number of pilots and other airline support personnel. That necessarily means talking with President Potter and Chancellor Rosenstone about the foolishness of shutting the SCSU aviation program. That means talking with Chancellor Rosenstone and SCTCC President Helens about starting a program that trains air maintenance personnel. (Pilots aren’t the only things that airlines are in short supply of.)

While it’ll take time to start graduating pilots from schools, the reality is that we’ll be in worse shape 5 years from now if nothing is done. That isn’t wise. As the supply of pilots deteriorates, we should understand that airlines will staff flights from places like Memphis and Pittsburgh first while pilots flying for regional airlines will be cut.

President Potter made a major mistake in shutting the aviation program. Unfortunately, he won’t admit what’s obvious. Chancellor Rosenstone hasn’t shown leadership in this matter, either. A leader would’ve told President Potter that he made a mistake and that it’s time to correct that mistake.

If society wants fewer flights staffed with fewer experienced pilots, we’re on the right path. If society doesn’t want that, then it’s time that leaders to step forward and correct this mistake. That means local politicians and state legislators pressuring people like President Potter and Chancellor Rosenstone.

It’s time for Mayor Kleis to step up and put pressure on President Potter. Scheduled air service to Chicago depends on the availability of flight crews and flight maintenance people.

It’s that simple.

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This St. Cloud Times article left me with more questions about the St. Cloud State Police Department than I got answers.

Move-in day at St. Cloud State University this year saw the continuation of a trend of fewer citations issued to St. Cloud State students and fewer issued overall by police.

That’s the good news.

There is another trend that causes trouble for university officials and police: The violence associated with crime on and around the campus is on the rise. That escalation has increased the threat to students’ safety and stands as the main reason the university is paying the city of St. Cloud $240,000 each of the next three years for three police officers dedicated to patrolling the campus and its surrounding areas.

This article attempts to explain why St. Cloud Mayor Kleis and SCSU President Potter signed an agreement in which St. Cloud State, aka SCSU, pays $240,000 per year for the next 3 years. The article didn’t do a good job with that, especially considering the fact that the first St. Cloud Times article, which I wrote about here, was something I’d expect from St. Cloud State’s PR department. Here’s what was said in the Times’ first article:

During the just-completed 2013 move-in weekend, St. Cloud police reported issuing 59 citations, only 11 of which went to university students. That’s a huge drop from last year’s citations, which totaled 161. More importantly, the 11 citations to students last weekend continued a steady decline in the number of university students contributing to any move-in weekend problems.

Look no further than the latest tool to make the campus neighborhood safer — the St. Cloud Police Department’s new Campus Area Police Services officers. Thanks to the university paying salaries and benefits, three city police officers are assigned to the campus area.

Here’s the first red flag in the article:

The agreement between the city and university was years in the making and has resulted in critics from St. Cloud State wondering why the university has to spend $720,000 over the next three years for something they believe the city should already be providing.

Three questions leap to mind from that paragraph. First, why didn’t Mayor Kleis and President Potter issue a statement when they signed the agreement? They didn’t inform the public until after they started taking criticism. Second, if there has been a significant uptick in violent crime in the neighborhoods surrounding St. Cloud State, why didn’t that become a subject addressed during a City Council meeting or a Meet & Confer meeting? If students’ safety is a high priority and the agreement “was years in the making”, why can’t anyone from the City Council or the SCSU Faculty Association remember discussing this pressing problem? Third, where was the St. Cloud Times on this? Each day, they publish a crime log in their newspaper. If there was a significant uptick in violent crimes in the neighborhoods closest to the SCSU campus, shouldn’t they have written a major expose highlighting this? (Yes, that’s a rhetorical question.)

Apparently, the Times is more interested in being President Potter’s cheerleader than they’re interested in doing their jobs as reporters. Either way, they aren’t a newspaper. They’re a media outlet.

Those are just the biggest questions raised by this article. If there has been an uptick in violent crimes near campus, why haven’t students addressed this during the City Council meeting during open forum? If they didn’t do that, they should’ve said something at a student senate meeting.

“This is the right thing to do and yes, it’s money that we have to take out of our budget and yes, it means that the $240,000 a year will not be available for things other people think are important,” he said. “But this is the safety of our students. This is not noise in the neighborhood. This is a life-and-death matter, and I’m perfectly happy to stand up to any critic and say this is a reasonable choice.”

President Potter’s insistence that “it’s money we have to take out of our budget” is BS. The primary function of government, whether local, state or federal, is public safety. Period. The neighborhoods surrounding the campus pay tons of property taxes. The homes to the north of campus along the Mississippi River are older homes but they’re big homes that pay lots of property taxes. The homes to the west of SCSU’s campus are mostly rental properties, meaning they either pay commercial property tax rates or they aren’t homesteaded. Either way, it isn’t like these properties are churches or government buildings.

If this is the crisis that the article says it is, then the Mayor and City Council should adjust their budget to meet their primary responsibility. Let me repeat that important point: Public safety is the city’s primary responsibility. If the city’s budget doesn’t first address that responsibility, then the budget is a failure.

If this agreement was years in the making, doesn’t that suggest that violent crime wasn’t addressed during those years? The city and SCSU can’t have it both ways. Either the agreement was a knee-jerk reaction to a tragic event last November or it’s long been Mayor Kleis’s wish that President Potter pay for expanding the police force for years.

Either way, it’s questionable public policymaking.

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Monday night, the St. Cloud City Council met for a scheduled study session for the purpose of laying the groundwork for creating a regional airport authority. The meeting opened with Councilman Jeff Johnson speaking about the role that workforce infrastructure might play in attracting an airlines. Johnson teaches aviation at St. Cloud State.

Something Councilman Johnson mentioned in his address was reaching an agreement with a prospective airlines to do maintenance work in St. Cloud. Johnson said he could envision a tech college, presumably St. Cloud Tech College, offering a training course that would teach aviation maintenance.

Johnson said “Having an overnight regional airline maintenance facility at our airport would be much more cost efficient than having it in Chicago.”

Johnson pointed out that St. Cloud is playing catch up because they’re attempting to bring in an airline while bigger cities are attempting to keep regional air service. He cited the need for the entire community to pull together to attract regional air service, including the city, the education community and the business community.

Workforce feeder programs for pilots and maintenance personnel might tip the scales in St. Cloud’s favor, Johnson said.

In an interview with retired Aviation Professor Emeritus Patrick Mattson, Professor Mattson said “St. Cloud offers plenty of open airspace and airport space that could easily accommodate aircraft maintenance.”

During the study session, Mayor Kleis cited the fact that St. Cloud wouldn’t be in the running for air service if not for the entire region being behind it. Mayor Kleis said that the inclusion of cities and Benton, Stearns and Sherburne County was critical to attacting the airlines’ attention and consideration.

The next step in the process of creating a regional airport authority is drafting the resolution, followed by the St. Cloud City Council approving the resolution before sending the resolution to other cities and counties for their approval.

The most apparent negative to the process is St. Cloud State’s unwillingness to be a team player in helping attract a regional airline. Having them on board would be seen as a positive. At this point, that isn’t likely.

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9:13 — The convention is now open.
9:19 — Media present thus far are David Pundt of KLKS from Brainerd, Tom Scheck from MPR & Ed Morrissey of HotAir.
9:30 — St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis addressing the delegation. Prior, Rep. King Banaian of St. Cloud led the Pledge of Allegiance.
9:35 — Sarah Anderson, Kurt Daudt named temp chairs of the Convention.
9:59 — Kessler, Rachel Stassen-Berger is in the hall.
10:15 — Credentials report now in the books.
10:50 — Harry Niska now addressing the Convention about rules.
10:52 — Jerry Ewing from Platform Committee: the rules were followed from precinct caucuses to county/SD conventions to CD conventions. Oppose the amendment to allow new items to be added to the platform.
10:55 — Amendment is defeated.
11:22 — Rules Committee report debate getting contentious.
11:23 — Rules adopted.
11:25 — Agenda adopted.
12:15 — Kurt Bills: “Amy says that our problems are too big to solve. I say that our problems are too big to miss.” Wild cheers from the faithful.
12:20 — Laura Brod nominates Pete Hegseth for U.S. Senate.
12:30 — Pete Hegseth is now making his presentation for why he should be the next U.S. Senator from Minnesota.
12:31 — “I’m not running to be popular.”
12:32 — “It hasn’t been just Democrats that have gotten this country in trouble.”
12:34 — “Do people know that she has a more liberal voting record than Keith Ellison? Not yet, but they soon will.”
12:55 — Schudlick “I don’t have alot of money. Maybe it’s because the money comes from the special interests.” Harold, perhaps you don’t get the money because you’re boring after a gazillion runs for office.
1:40 — First ballot is starting.
2:40 — Still waiting for first ballots results.
3:03 — Severson 501 23.47%, Hegseth 450 21.08%, Bills 1,135 53.16%
3:26 — The buzz in the hall is that Bills will win on the second ballot.
3:28 — Light-hearted moment of the day: Kurt Daudt announcing that a person with a white car has a parking ticket. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the car hasn’t gotten towed.
4:25 — It’s over. Bills wins with 1,353 votes; Dan Severson got 439 votes, with Pete Hegseth getting 349 votes.

When John Pederson, Steve Gottwalt and King Banaian scheduled Friday night’s town hall meeting at St. Cloud’s Public Library, they had no way of knowing that public employee unions were planning on disrupting it. Things didn’t get ugly immediately but it didn’t take long before things got out of control.

The first question of the night was directed at Dr. Banaian, the economist, not Rep. Banaian, the Minnesota House member. Here’s the statement and question: “Study after study has shown that right-to-work lowers wages for all workers. Is this true?” Banaian said that there are many studies on the subject but no conclusive evidence in either direction, in the minds of labor economists.

After that, the meeting went downhill fast. When Rep. Gottwalt attempted to respond to a different question posed by a union member, a different union member interrupted, asking “Are you wearing your legislator’s hat or your Coborn’s hat”? When Rep. Gottwalt replied that he’s no longer employed by Coborn’s, the man who interrupted quickly apologized.

That was the first time union members in the audience interrupted. It certainly wasn’t the last time. In fact, union members in the audience made interrupting the rule, not the exception.

In fact, the most confrontational moment came when Rep. Banaian was answering another right-to-work question. Jerry Albertine interrupted, saying “Don’t sit there with your hairspray and your tie, you’ve never worked labor, and say you know what the unions are about.”

That was a statement Rep. Banaian forcefully responded to, saying that he’s a college professor who’s paid union dues to the IFO for over a quarter century.

There were approximately 100 people in the room, with approximately 60-70 of those people union members. AFSCME had a strong presence at the meeting. AFSCME was clearly visible in their bright colored logo on the back of their windbreakers.

Several times, Rep. Gottwalt mentioned how union members, many of whom are nurses, have told him that they want the choice of whether to be in a union or not. At one point, a person in the audience suggested that Rep. Gottwalt was lying, saying that it was convenient that these union members didn’t have names and that they wouldn’t come forward.

Rep. Gottwalt said that Friday night’s union antics are why they haven’t come forward, saying that they don’t want to deal with the unions’ retribution to those ‘wandering from the faith’.

The meeting lasted a little over an hour. During that time, 2 questions were asked about Photo ID, another question asking for a law requiring a legislative panel review whether legislation was constitutional and one question about the closing of the Aviation Program at St. Cloud State.

Another gentleman asked about the the possibility of a constitutional amendment ballot question for an Initiative and Referendum system and about Sunday licquor sales. All other questions were about a potential right-to-work constitutional amendment.

If not for the presence of St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis, the meeting could’ve taken a nasty turn. That’s attributable to the unions’ disruptive, disrespectful behavior.

The unions quickly turned the event into an us vs. them confrontation. They quickly turned it inot a 1 percent vs. the 99 percent confrontation. They came armed with their predictable chanting points. They came intent on citing each of those chanting points. They didn’t come to discuss. They came to start a full-fledged confrontation.

They succeeded in that last point, though it’s safe to say that they didn’t change anyone’s mind on the issues they cared most about.

BTW, about the townhall meeting I mentioned in the title: it never had a chance. This was a union pep fest, pure and simple.

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Tonight’s townhall meeting at the St. Cloud Library was a portrait of Minnesota Nice. That doesn’t mean there weren’t a number of sharp questions and suggestions on how to solve the state’s budget crisis.
One woman that identified herself as working for a nonprofit asked if they’d get paid for work they’d done during a government shutdown. She also asked whether that would affect federal dollars. Another lady asked how the budget could be the biggest in state history and still be considered an all-cuts budget. That lady then asked why anyone would think that raising taxes won’t take money out of the private sector.

Though things got a little contentious during the last segment of the meeting, it was nothing like the contentiousness from last Monday’s townhall held at the Haven Township Hall.

During the second segment, Chuck Rau said that “Fifteen years ago, private employers moved away from defined benefit pensions to defined contributions because we had to.” He then asked why state employees hadn’t gone to that type of retirement system.

Mayor Dave Kleis moderated the event, breaking things down into half hour segments. Twenty minutes of each segment was devoted to people asking questions, with the other 10 minutes devoted to King answering questions.

Rep. Steve Gottwalt was scheduled to co-host the event but wasn’t able to attend. In the middle of Tuesday afternoon, I saw a tweet talking about a brief negotiation period on the HHS bill had yielded some positive results. As a result of that, the tweet said that they’d be holding another negotiating session starting at 4:00 pm Tuesday afternoon.

Shortly after seeing that tweet, I contacted Rep. Gottwalt to verify whether he’d be participating in the negotiations or whether he’d be participating in Tuesday’s townhall. Shortly thereafter, Rep. Gottwalt confirmed to me that he’d be participating in the HHS negotiations.

During the event, a wide range of questions were asked. Others chose to make suggestions. Though not as many as last week’s townhall, many questions focused on “the richest [fill in percentage] percent” paying their fair share.

King responded to most of the questions, including answering one tax the rich question with a question. King asked what percent was a rich person’s fair share. He then noted that capital and labor were more mobile than they were a generation ago. He then said that that’s why it isn’t possible to raise taxes on the rich without risking capital flight.

The crowd of approximately 60-70 people were generally well-behaved compared with last week’s agitated bunch that pushed the message that Republicans had to compromise with Gov. Dayton. Then again, Tuesday night’s group wasn’t as filled with public employee unions as last week’s event was.

Mayor Kleis, Rep. Banaian and the audience each deserve kudos for the integral parts they played in the townhall. There were still disagreements but they each played a role in showing how people can disagree without being disagreeable.

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Saturday morning’s townhall meeting featuring all 6 area legislators was certainly well-attended, with over 150 people attending. St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis moderated the event, doing a good job of keeping a good pace to the many people who wanted either for their questions to be answered or to have their voices heard.

Here are the notes I took at the meeting:

9:05– Hosch up first because he has 4 townhalls to attend. Talking deficit. “It’s gonna require compromise” to solve the deficit.
9:10– Rep. Gottwalt, Rep. Banaian & Sen. Pederson introduce themselves first, then Sen. Fischbach and Rep. O’Driscoll introduce themselves. Rep. O’Driscoll compliments Sue Ek & Kevin Poindexter of Rep. Banaian’s staff for putting this event together.
9:15– First question Emily APAC member says mobile home owners have been abused. Says they’re putting legislation together to do background checks on mobile home park managers. Talks about managers admitting that they’re selling drugs out of their office.
9:20– Retired judge dealing with the guardian ad leitum says their budget was cut by $1,000,000 a year.
9:25– James Rugg mentioned the SCSU Aviation Dept., then asked why universities aren’t focusing more on knowledge-based programs, not social-based programs.
9:27– Two more higher ed questions, one advocating for smaller cuts. Sen. Fischbach answers that they’ll be closely scrutinizing the budget. Rep. Banaian talks about voting against House Higher Ed bill, then says he’ll be taking a closer look at some things in Senate Higher Ed bill.
9:35– Lady talking about health care cuts causes them to miss their maintenance of effort targets. That causes them to miss additional fed funding. Sen. Pederson now addressing the question, saying misinformation is out there that he’s addressed with constituents.
9:40– Woman says she’s worried about cuts to HHS bill re: children with disabilities. Rep. Gottwalt says they’re seeking, on a bipartisan basis, waivers to increase flexibility for the health care programs. Representative Gottwalt then says that a 44% increase was the PROJECTED INCREASE & that we’re still increasing spending by 5%.
9:45– Bruce Hentges “Thanks for keeping education a priority.” Concern is with “redistribution of funds”, much of it dealing with Special Ed funding. Question is about losing special ed funding even though ISD742’s overall funding isn’t being cut. Rep. Gottwalt says that they’re working on reforms that they’re working on. Rep. Gottwalt then says that if ISD’s “enact certain reforms, the money is there.” Rep. Banaian says that they’re reducing mandates so ISD’s can start closing the achievement gap. Rep. Banaian also says that eliminating mandates will increase flexibility for the ISD. Sen. Pederson then talked about legislation they’re in the process of writing that should be submitted this week.
9:53– Rockville city councilmember Duane Willenbring thanks the delegation for the Green Acres fix. Rep. O’Driscoll says that the conference committee report is finished & should be on Gov. Dayton’s desk before May 1, noting that that’s an important deadline.
10:00– Small business owner asks about getting gov’t out of businesses. Says that the state lost almost $500K delivering service that small businesses could do better. Rep. Gottwalt says that they’re working on getting gov’t out of the way.
10:05– Sonja Berg talking now about LGA…says that they’ve had LGA cut by $3,000,000 the past 3 years. Asks for offering regional centers more flexibility.
10:10– Gentleman says that he & his wife just built their dream home west of St. Cloud, then says that Minnesota’s laws are holding back the economy…emphasizes the need for regulatory reform.
10:15– Lori Dieters from SEIU asks what will be done to “fix the real problem” of the wealthy not paying their fair share. Dieters says revenues are lost because jobs are being privatized into jobs that “pay $8/hr. & that they don’t get health care.”
10:20– Teamster union member asking about family planning dollars & sex ed.
10:22– Engineering professor saying that there’s a need to eliminate some of the higher ed schools in the MnSCU system.
10:30– Gentleman is talking about raising taxes, sharing the pain.

Most of the questions centered on either raising taxes, reforming MnSCU or cutting spending. It was apparent that some people with disabilities were worried about getting kicked off state programs based on their belief that the HHS budget was getting slashed.

As Rep. Gottwalt said, they’re increasing the HHS budget by $500,000,000. They’re also implementing several reforms which will save more than $100,000,000. Rep. Gottwalt said it’s unrealistic, and unsustainable, to increase the HHS budget by 44% per biennium. That’s what’s scheduled through the budget tail from last year’s HHS omnibus bill.

Consider the fact that the HHS budget is 25% of state general fund spending. That’s approximately $8,000,000,000 off the top this biennium. Increasing the HHS budget by 44% would add approximately $3,500,000,000 to the HHS budget this biennium.

That isn’t sustainable. What’s worse is that a $3,500,000,000 increase in the HHS budget would almost wipe out the HCAF. When that fund is depleted, Minnesota state law REQUIRES that people be kicked off taxpayer-subsidized health insurance plans.

We mustn’t forget that the MMB said then-Candidate Dayton’s planned tax increase would generate $1,900,000,000 in new revenue. That’s approximately 54.2% of what’s needed to pay for the projected 44% HHS spendng increase.

Saturday morning’s meeting was well-received by most in that most everyone got to ask their question or say their piece that wanted to speak up. The legislators certainly took the questions seriously.

Most importantly, it was important that the legislators got a reminder of where people were at before starting the home stretch of the session.

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