Archive for the ‘Dave Senjem’ Category

Until yesterday, I knew that the DFL wasn’t interested in accountability but ‘only’ had logic to support that. Now I’ve got proof in the form of legislation that the DFL is actually pushing. Here’s the text of Sen. Senjem’s official statement on the DFL’s attempt to avoid accountability:

“As a former city council member, I will attest that ‘Truth in Taxation” hearings provide an invaluable opportunity for a specific meeting dedicated to discussing the budget and to hearing directly from citizens regarding the tax policy of local governments.

Ending ‘Truth in Taxation’ hearings at a time in history when we need more citizens involved with their government and paying more attention to tax policy in Minnesota is simply wrong.”

I wholeheartedly agree with Sen. Senjem. There’s never a time when government should be unaccountable to its constituents. I’d bet that the Senate’s vote to eliminate the Truth In Taxation provisions isn’t appealing to Main Street Minnesotans. I’d bet the proverbial ranch that it’s appalling to Main Street Minnesotans.

Mitch’s post is spot on with this observation:

Why would they do this?

Simple. Much of the DFL’s agenda, especially in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, is enacted at the local level. That’s one of the reasons that the DFL cried so long and hard about the cuts to Local Government Aid six years ago; it curbed the redistribution of wealth from the parts of the state that work to the parts that have suffered under generations of debilitating DFL hegemony.

If the peasants can’t see how the local units are spending the money they get, they can’t get upset. If they can’t get upset, then there’s no reason to upset the DFL’s applecart.

Last summer, I said that the DFL was the “No Solutions Party.” I’ll add that the DFL is now the Anti-Accountability Party, too.

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Factoring in what I saw last night, it’s time to officially declare DFL leadership in the MIA category. It’s time we looked at this in timeline form, starting with Sen. Tarryl Clark’s statement on At Issue over a month ago:

Hauser: You can talk about reform all you want but reform inevitably ends up meaning that some people that are getting state services now won’t be getting them after this reform, whether it be in HHS, whether it be in education, early childhood, any of those things.

Tarryl: Sure, and an estimate, a good estimate would be that maybe we could figure out how to save about $500 million.

While there’s no doubt that some difficult decisions will have to be made, it’s equally true that a number of reforms that achieve cost savings are available if people are willing to look for them. I’ve previously said that cost savings are dramatically different in nature than budget cuts because cost savings maintain service levels while cutting the cost of delivering services. Budget cuts simply means cutting money from budgets, which may lead to cutting services.

It’s important that we recognize the fact that some budget cuts are worthwhile if the services that are rendered aren’t high priority or important items.

The next example of the DFL’s leadership going MIA is their refusal to present their priorities, goals and spending levels. Rather than affixing a date to their refusal, I’d categorize it as ongoing. Despite all the days for which DFL legislators took out-of-session, tax-free per diem, the DFL still hasn’t presented a budget. Contrast that with the specific proposals that the House and Senate GOP have submitted. Here’s a joint statement released by Senate GOP Communications Director Michael Brodkorb and House GOP Communications Director Kevin Watterson on one of the GOP’s reform proposals:

(St. Paul) – Responding to the likelihood that Minnesota budget deficit will be close to $7 billion, Republican members of the Minnesota House and Senate announced a legislative proposal today to cut the pay of legislators and constitutional officers by 5 percent.

If enacted into law, the base pay for legislators would drop from their current amounts to $29,583 per-year, with the estimated total savings per biennium of $676,441.20. [Please see the attached table for salary information for legislators and constitutional officers.]

“At a time when the budget deficit is growing larger by the minute, legislators need to set an example in St. Paul by cutting their own compensation and that of constitutional officers,” said Senator Geoff Michel (R-Edina). “The legislative branch must be part of the budget solution and before we go through the entire state budget, line by line, we should find savings in our own budget.”

Currently, Minnesota statutes (15A.082) establishes a 16-member Compensation Council to provide salary recommendations for the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, State Auditor, Attorney General, and legislators. The Legislature can adopt these recommendations, adopt with modifications (such as a percentage), or establish altogether different rates.

While the constitutional officer salary is a percentage of the Governor’s pay, this bill makes individual salaries independent. This bill also provides transparency to the public by placing actual compensation amounts in law.

“This plan should absolutely be part of the discussions that take place around Minnesota over the next two weeks. Legislators have to be willing to step up and show leadership in doing what it will take to balance the budget,” said Representative Dan Severson (R-Sauk Rapids). “If we’re not willing to put ourselves and our salaries up for debate, then we won’t have a lot of credibility among the people we hear from during these meetings.”

While House and Senate Republicans are proposing cost-cutting measures, the DFL holds hearings where DFL activists who rely on government largess for their livelihoods testify that government can’t be cut.

I said in this post that the highlight and lowlight of the testimony was stark. I said that Janelle Kendall’s testimony was the the highlight because she cited a number or specific reforms. This morning, Jenny Theis, a special assistant to the County Attorney, sent me the list of reform proposals. Here’s the list of proposals that Ms. Kendall cited during her testimony:

  • Allowing the courts to provide notice of hearings via email vs. mailing paper notices.
  • Expanding the use of interactive TV for court hearings so defendants do not need to be transported through out the state for hearings.
  • Allowing change of venue where one county can handle all cases that occur in other counties regarding the same defendant, again eliminating the transportation costs.
  • Allowing judges to make decisions on sequestering jurors. The cost of keeping jurors overnight is substantial and not needed in all cases.
  • Centralize and automate payment of fines and fees online.
  • Handle no proof of insurance through the Department of Public Safety rather than courts.

I also said that the person testifying on behalf of the Great River Regional Library system testified and that her recommendation was to raise taxes so that GRRL wouldn’t have to cut services. There was no mention made during this woman’s testimony that suggested that they’d thought of ways of cutting costs while maintaining the same level of service.

The reason why I restate their testimonies is because one represents new thinking, the other represents status quo thinking. Especially in times of difficult financial times, it’s imperative that we think of ways to cut costs. Sometimes that means eliminating programs entirely, especially if they’re more wish list material than supplying important needs. Sometimes, that means finding ways, like the MCAA did, of providing constitutionally mandated services at the best price possible.

The next item on the timeline that justifies putting the DFL leadership on the MIA list is Gene Pelowski’s infamous email:

From: Gene Pelowski [mailto:Rep.Gene.Pelowski@house.mn]
Sent: Tuesday, February 17, 2009 10:13 AM
This Friday, February 20, there will be a bicameral hearing held in our region. Senators and Representatives from both political parties will be in Winona from 3:30 to 5:30 PM, Winona City Hall, 207 Lafayette St. The purpose of this hearing is to get testimony from affected programs in every level of government, education, health care or service impacted by the cuts suggested by the Governor’s state budget.

I am writing you to ask that you or a designee get scheduled to testify. You may do this by going to the House website at www.house.mn and clicking on “Town Meetings”.

We would ask you to focus your comments on the impact of the Governor’s budget including what is the harm to your area of government or program. Please be as precise as possible using facts such as number of lay offs, increases in property taxes, cuts in services, increases in tuition, elimination of programs. To be respectful of the time necessary to hear from a large number of constituents it would be advised to use no more than 3-5 minutes to convey your message. If you choose to provide handouts or printed materials, please plan to bring approximately 25 copies, enough for committee members and media.

Sincerely,
Representative Gene Pelowski
District 31A

Rep. Pelowski’s email ties in perfectly with Sen. Clark’s statement about how they can’t find sufficient savings. Tarryl said that $500,000,000is the most that can be expected in savings. Rep. Pelowski’s email encouraged DFL activists whose livelihoods depend on government largess to testify that cutting spending is impossible.

That was predictable because the DFL is invested in spending ever-increasing amounts of money. That’s what happens when you’re disinterested in finding cost-saving efficiencies.

It’s imperative that government workers, whether they’re working at the municipal or county level or whether they’re working at the state level, aggressively look for ways of providing constitutionally mandate services at the most cost-effective price.

It’s imperative because taxpayers and small businesses are burdened enough.

Most importantly, it’s imperative because the DFL’s leadership has been MIA on this important issue.

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I was informed yesterday that Democratic Sen. Steve Murphy called for tax increases during a Senate Finance Committee hearing. Senate Republican Leader Senjem immediately issued this press release:

Let me be clear: now is the worst time in state history to raise taxes. Even the Obama administration is proposing tax cuts, not tax increases. Senator Murphy and other Minnesota Democrats are out of touch with their legislative proposals to increase taxes.

Helping create a business friendly environment that will stimulate the creation of private sector jobs is the best solution to solving this budget deficit. Minnesota businesses are being chased away with excessive taxes and regulations, and Senator Murphy’s call for new tax increases is simply the wrong approach to jump-starting Minnesota’s economy.

This is what precipitated Sen. Senjem’s issuing that press release:

Last week, Pawlenty recommended borrowing $1 billion to help plug a $4.85 billion hole in the state’s next two-year budget. To pay that debt, he would use about $100 million a year for the next 20 years from tobacco company payments to the state that settled an industry lawsuit in 1998.

Instead of borrowing money, Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, said the Legislature should take the lead in balancing the budget in an “open, honest, straightforward way.” “Would there be some tax increases? Yes,” Murphy said during a Senate Finance Committee hearing.

The next portion of Bill Salisbury’s article is particularly humorous:

With that statement, he broke ranks with Democratic-Farmer-Labor legislative leaders, who have carefully avoided mentioning the possibility of tax increases.

But Pawlenty and other Republican leaders expect DFLers to call for more taxes — after they spend several weeks showing how painful the governor’s spending cuts would be. He proposed eliminating health care benefits for 84,000 Minnesotans and sharply reducing state funding for cities, counties and state colleges and universities.

“I think what they’ll do is make the case that my budget is inadequate in some regards, and then, surprise, surprise, they’ll come out with a tax-increase proposal,” Pawlenty said Monday.

Several important points must be made:

  • The DFL won’t put out their own budget even though they’ve conducted hundreds of hearings when the Legislature wasn’t in session. Democrats held the hearings. Democrats have listened to testimony. Democrats have been paid thousands of dollars of per diem. Despite all that, we don’t know what benefit those hearings have given Minnesota’s taxpayers. The only thing we know is that the Senate Democrats either haven’t gotten anything done or they’re being secretive about what they got accomplished.
  • Since taking the majority of the House, Democrats haven’t proposed anything that will bring prosperity and sustained job growth to Minnesota. Democrats proposed growing the size of existing safety net programs. Democrats have proposed hundreds of millions of dollars in here-today-gone-tomorrow jobs through bonding bills. They just can’t bring themselves to cutting taxes so increase entrepreneurial activity.
  • By refusing to propose a plan that counts on robust entrepreneurial activity, Democrats paint themselves, and all Minnesotans, into an economic corner.

The conclusion that’s inescapable is that Democrats don’t think in terms of prosperity and capitalism. It isn’t difficult to make the case that Democrats think more about raising taxes, pandering to their union special interest groups even if that means being protectionists.

Democrats like Steve Murphy haven’t had an original thought in ages. Democrats like Steve Murphy are agents of the status quo. They don’t think of big picture things. Instead Democrats think in terms of stop-gap policies that get us from year to year.

It’s time Minnesotans rejected the Democrats’ stop-gap policies. It’s time Minnesotans gave a closer look at the Republicans’ plans for prosperity and reform.

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Senate Republican Leader Dave Senjem issued this statement on Assistant Majority Leader Tarryl Clark’s unwillingness to take tax increases off the table:

“With all due respect, Senator Clark’s refusal to rule out raising taxes should serve as a warning to Minnesotans that Senate Democrats will likely attempt to raise taxes on families and small businesses to solve the growing budget deficit.

Now is the worst time in state history to raise taxes. Even the Obama administration is proposing tax cuts, not tax increases. Minnesota Democrats are out of touch with their legislative proposals to increase taxes.”

Saturday morning, several people, including St. Cloud Chamber President Teresa Bohnen, told the attending DFL legislators not to raise taxes on small businesses. It wouldn’t be the first time that Democrats said “no, no, no” to tax increases in November and December, then said “yes, yes, yes” to tax increases in March.

Considering Tarryl told Tom Hauser “that maybe we could figure out how to save about $500 million”, it’s becoming more apparent that Democrats are planning on tax increases to play a major role in balancing the budget.

Let’s remember, too, that Demmocrats were relying heavily on the stimulus bill to balance the budget. Now that that legislation appears headed for a major rewrite, it appears that Democrats are left with fewer options daily.

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The Senate GOP has issued the following statement:

SENATE REPUBLICAN LEADER CALLS ON SENATE DFL TO RELEASE DETAILS OF SENATE EXPENDITURES AS REQUIRED BY RULES

(St. Paul) – In a speech on the floor of the Minnesota Senate, Senate Republican Leader David Senjem (R-Rochester) today called on the Senate DFL Caucus to immediately comply with the rules of the Minnesota Senate and release a copy of Senate expenditures to members of the Committee on Rules and Administration.

“The budget deficit is getting larger and larger by the minute and we should be examining ways to cut the expenses of the Minnesota Senate and spend less of the taxpayers’ money,” said Senjem.

Section 51.5 of the Permanent Rules of the Minnesota Senate states:

“By the 15th day of April, July, October, and January of each year, the Secretary shall submit a detailed report of Senate expenditures during the previous quarter to the Committee on Rules and Administration.”

Public records indicate that a report of Senate expenditures has not been provided to members of the Committee on Rules and Administration as required by the Senate’s rules in numerous years.

Earlier this session, members of the Senate Republican Caucus attempted to cut the expenses of the Minnesota Senate by offering amendments to reduce the postage allotment for each member and banning taxpayer-funded travel.

With transparency being the rule that the Obama administration is promising to live by, the Senate DFL should follow their national party’s leader and release this information.

I’d further add that both the House and Senate should enact whatever laws are required to provide total transparency to their constituents.

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After his election, President-Elect Obama told congress that he wanted a stimulus bill on his desk the day after his inauguration. This fall, the DFL said that we needed a bonding bill ASAP to create or keep jobs. A week into Minnesota’s legislative session, the DFL isn’t showing visible signs of putting such a bonding bill together, undoubtedly because they’re waiting for President-Elect Obama’s pork-laden stimulus package.

After Gov. Pawlenty’s State of the State Address, with the state’s and the nation’s economies supposedly in crisis, the DFL leadership adjourned the House and Senate until late next week to attend Barack Obama’s inauguration. I certainly don’t begrudge the DFL for wanting to participate in that day’s festivities. What I’ve got problems with is their not getting more things done thus far.

It’s also not just their travels to DC. That isn’t the only travelling they’ve got planned. After they return, Gov. Pawlenty will submit his budget. Immediately following that, the DFL has announced that they’ll be travelling around the state to hear 5,000 new ideas on how to fix the deficit.

Every adult who isn’t comatose has seen this deficit coming for months. Why couldn’t each of these DFL legislators been out and about asking these questions instead of travelling to meetings in St. Paul?

BTW, these legislators wouldn’t have been collecting their $96 per day per diem. That couldn’t be it, could it? They’re far too altruistic, right?

I just finished participating in a blogger conference call with Senate Minority Leader Senjem, Andy Aplikowski of Residual Forces and Derek Brigham of Freedom Dogs. Andy asked my favorite question of the conference call when he asked “If they’re travelling around the state asking for solutions for these problems, shouldn’t we replace them with people who have the solutions?”

Everyone got a hearty laugh out from that question. Obviously, we should expect leaders to provide solutions to the important problems facing us. That indicates that the current DFL leadership team isn’t leading.

They’re just travelling, perhaps in search of appealing solutions.

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It isn’t a secret that Gov. Tim Pawlenty enjoys being called a ‘Walmart Republican’. Now he’s using some principles that Walmart has used for years to balance Minnesota’s budget. Here’s his latest attempt to find cost savings for Minnesota’s budget:

Make way for Bucky Gopher and Goldy Badger.

With a few inevitable Vikings/Packers jokes thrown in, the governors of Wisconsin and Minnesota said Tuesday they are looking at ways to combine operations such as purchasing and technology to save money in the face of budget deficits projected at around $5 billion in each state.

The Upper Midwest neighbors will look at such steps as volume purchasing of the 600,000 tons of road salt they use each season; Wisconsin’s borrowing Minnesota’s helicopters for deer counts; and combining operations in areas such as licensing and call centers.

“Even though both states individually have great strengths, we think that if we can combine together, we can increase the likelihood of overcoming and getting through these enormous challenges ahead of us, ” said Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who quoted legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi in a spirit of cooperation.

This follows his proposal to help create savings within Minnesota’s education budget:

Under the Minnesota K-12 Shared Service proposal, school districts and charter schools will be able to pool their purchasing power for information technology, food services, supplies and equipment, operations, transportation, and other goods and services.

Thus far, Pawlenty has proposed several ways to reform government. He isn’t the only Republican who’s looking for, and finding, cost savings. Sens. Ray Vandeveer, Amy Koch and Dave Senjem have proposed cost savings within the Senate’s operating budget. Tom Emmer has been the most prominent Republican in finding cost savings, though he isn’t the only one proposing ways to save money without cutting services.

In other words, state GOP legislators have combined with Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty in hunting down savings in an effort to minimize the hurt of a $5,000,000,000 deficit.

Gov. Pawlenty’s cost-saving proposals are making a mockery of Tarryl Clark’s statement on At Issue With Tom Hauser:

Hauser: You can talk about reform all you want but reform inevitably ends up meaning that some people that are getting state services now won’t be getting them after this reform, whether it be in HHS, whether it be in education, early childhood, any of those things.

Tarryl: Sure, and an estimate, a good estimate would be that maybe we could figure out how to save about $500 million.

Just because Tarryl thinks that we’ll be fortunate to find $500,000,000 of savings doesn’t mean that Republicans have to agree with her. Thus far, the most noteworthy thing I’ve noticed is that Republicans are aggressively proposing intelligent reforms that will save a significant amount of money.

This isn’t an attempt to sugarcoat the pain that will be part of balancing the budget. It’s an attempt to highlight the fact that Republicans are doing their utmost to find savings throughout the budget to lessen the need for dramatic cuts that impact delivery of important government services.

There’s undeniable proof that Republicans are taking this opportunity to re-invent government. Their proposals are showing what their priorities are, too.

One thing that we should be mindful of is that some proposals won’t be helpful. Anyone who’s been part of brainstorming sessions knows that those sessions invariably produce some clunker ideas. The first step in innovation is brainstorming. The next step is refining and combining those ideas into something coherent and valuable.

It’s important that we recognize the fact that we can’t get to Step 2 if we don’t look for innovations. It’s also important that we refrain from saying that the DFL doesn’t have any innovations. It’s fair to say, though, that the GOP has led on reform issues thus far. That’s thanks in large part to the things that Gov. Pawlenty has proposed.

Republicans are shrinking the budgetary pain by increasing the innovative gains. Thank God for their leadership on this issue.

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Tuesday, Tommie ‘The Commie’ Ruckavina said that “You won’t find hardly anybody at the Capitol that is saying that we’re gonna solve this just with spending cuts or by re-inventing government or whatever. Everyone knows that we’re gonna have to raise revenue.” Fortunately, Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem sees it differently: “You don’t grow jobs by increasing tax burden…This is the worst time in history to raise taxes.”

This video outlines the DFL’s proposal to “raise revenue”:

Everyone paying an income tax surcharge regardless of income isn’t just regressive. It will pour cold water on a struggling economy, too. It will take money out of small businesses’ pockets at a time when we need them to create jobs and generate prosperity.

This proposal is particularly awful because (a) it would take money away from families when they need it the most and (b) take money away from businesses who need the money to invest in their businesses and create jobs.

Rep. Ruckavina’s statements are disheartening. We’re barely a week into the session and he’s saying that they need to raise taxes. Rep. Ruckavina said this before committees have held hearings identifying wasteful spending. Rep. Ruckavina said this before a hearing was held trying to identify ways to re-invent how government delivers services.

To their credit, the Senate GOP is off to a fast start, proposing several things to save money. Unfortunately, the Senate DFL is off to a plodding start. They’ve voted down every GOP cost-saving proposal.

I hope that GOP activists recognize that the House and Senate GOP are proposing reforms and looking for ways to save the taxpayers’ money. GOP state legislators bear no resemblance to Senate Republicans in Washington. It’s a night and day difference.

Now that state GOP legislators are acting like fiscal conservatives, it’s time to start supporting them. It’s time to work hard in getting their message out. Most importantly, they’ve given us reason to get excited about the GOP.

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