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This article confirms my worst fear for St. Cloud State going forward. It’s disturbing because it reports that “Minnesota State’s Interim Chancellor Devinder Malhotra says they are beginning a national search immediately. They are working with a professional firm, AGB Search, and the Chancellor will name a search chair by the end of the week. He says it’s his intention to kick off the search prior to the Thanksgiving holiday.”

A new president who doesn’t know the terrain will require on-the-job training. With St. Cloud State experiencing a financial crisis, the University can’t afford someone whose first steps will be to get to know the communities he or she will serve. As I said in this post, I said “We need a president that will instantly connect with area principals. What’s needed is someone who will sell the University’s programs. It’s imperative to immediately create a positive buzz about the University. There isn’t time for a search committee. What’s needed is someone who’s already familiar with SCSU and someone who’s a no-nonsense person.”

Frankly, MnSCU has screwed up so many appointments that they shouldn’t get the benefit of any doubts. Until they start making smart decisions on the biggest decisions, they should be kept on the sidelines. At minimum, MnSCU should consult with community leaders heavily before making a decision. Further, it’s imperative that our legislative leaders and community leaders be listened to.

We don’t need another pointy-headed academic with a vision for what he wants. Altogether too often, St. Cloud State hasn’t done what the community needs it to do. What’s needed is someone who will rebuild St. Cloud State, not rebrand it. St. Cloud State hasn’t put a priority on rebuilding the University. Fairly or unfairly, people think that they’ve put a higher priority on building new buildings than they’ve put on maintaining great academic programs.

St. Cloud State needs to be responsive and accountable to the city. St. Cloud has been a blue collar city. St. Cloud State hasn’t been a blue collar university. It was predictable that the Wedum project would fail. Then we found out that the administration signed a terrible contract with the Foundation. Building upscale apartments for college students is as foolish as building a condo unit across from a bar.

At what point will the city say ‘Stop making stupid decisions with the taxpayers’ money?’ This is infuriating. What’s more infuriating is the fact that there’s a highly qualified candidate right here in town. This candidate knows the area. Most importantly, he’s got a plan to rebuild St. Cloud State.

Hiring him would help St. Cloud State and MnSCU avoid making another foolish mistake.

If there’s anything certain in life, the saying goes, it’s death and taxes. In St. Cloud, we can apparently add Dan Wolgamott running for political office as a certainty. According to this article, Wolgamott, who has run for Tama Theis’s house seat in HD-14A in 2014, then ran for the open senate seat vacated when John Pederson retired, is now interested in Jim Knoblach’s seat.

Wolgamott issued a statement announcing his candidacy, saying “Career politician Jim Knoblach currently represents the district and is serving his eighth term (15th year) in the state House. Under Knoblach’s watch, the Legislature has failed to get its work done on time for six of those years, each time resulting in a costly special session.”

The perpetual campaigner is denouncing career politicians. That’s rich. Here’s what you need to know about Wolgamott. First, he’s a Democrat first. His constituents come second. He said as much a few years ago when he wrote an op-ed, saying that he’d vote to raise the gas tax if that’s what his caucus approved. Next, Wolgamott’s talk about bringing people together is just that — talk. I don’t doubt that Wolgamott brings Democrats together. I’m totally skeptical, though, that he’d lift a finger to bring Republicans and Democrats together.

I don’t have to speculate whether Jim Knoblach would bring Republicans and Democrats together. I have verifiable proof that he’s frequently brought Republicans and Democrats together. The most recent example that I wrote about was in 2015, when he was part of Speaker Daudt’s budget team that put together a bipartisan budget agreement with then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk. Of course, Gov. Dayton and other high-profile liberals sabotaged the agreement.

The good news is that Chairman Knoblach persevered, which led to the Daudt-Bakk budget eventually passing during a special session. There’s no reason to think that Wolgamott would stand up to the DFL leadership. He’s a hardline progressive that would’ve voted to create MNsure.

Finally, here’s another part of Wolgamott’s statement getting into yet another race:

Status-quo politicians like Jim Knoblach continue to stack the deck against hard-working, middle-class Minnesotans, prioritizing wealthy donors and corporate special interests instead of working families.

Wolgamott is as cookie-cutter as they come. There’s nothing that says he’d be a leader. If you went to the dictionary for the definition of a career politician, here’s what you’d find:

Yesterday, I got my weekly e-letter update from my state representative, Jim Knoblach. Jim wrote “The 2017 Health Care Emergency Aid and Access bill is on track to soon reach the House floor for a full vote of the body after Democrats delayed passage last week. While the governor’s proposal provides immediate relief, House Republicans offer a plan that not only provides short-term aid, but includes reform to improve the long-term outlook. The House Republican position is that both relief and reform are necessary. As important as it is to lessen the burden now, it also is crucial to make sure we don’t end up in this same unfortunate situation next year.”

Last night, I attended the SD-14 fundraiser, which Jim attended, too. We talked briefly about what he’d written in his e-letter update. Basically, Jim explained that the bill Republicans are pushing includes premium relief but it also includes other features, too. For instance, it provides the ability for a person receiving life-saving care from a hospital or clinic to stay with that clinic until that treatment is finished.

I told Jim that that’s the right thing to do. People suffering through a life-threatening situation don’t need the disruption of changing health care providers.

Other legislators attended the fundraiser, too. Most of them were hopeful that Gov. Dayton would sign the bill once it got put together in conference committee.

This St. Cloud Times article reports that Dan Wolgamott “will formally request a recount after the canvassing boards of Stearns, Benton and Sherburne counties and the state have certified the election results.” Wolgamott was defeated by Jerry Relph in the election to see who would represent SD-14 in the State Senate for 2017-2021.

According to the article, “Wolgamott said he would request the recount ‘to ensure that our voting process was as fair and accurate as Minnesotans expect it to be.'” The truth is that he won’t win. If Mr. Wolgamott doesn’t know that, then it’s a good thing he wasn’t elected because he isn’t smart enough to represent SD-14.

Seriously, it’s impossible to make up a 142-vote margin in a race where 37,000 votes were cast. When King Banaian was elected to represent HD-15B in November, 2010, he initially won by 10 votes. That triggered an automatic recount. In the recount, Dr. Banaian gained an additional 4 votes. Carol Lewis, his opponent that year, gained 1 vote, meaning that Dr. Banaian officially won by 13 votes, not 10.

In 2014, Jim Knoblach defeated Zach Dorholt by 69 votes. Dorholt didn’t bother asking for a recount, probably because he knew it was a lost cause.

To be fair, it’s entirely possible that the DFL powers-that-be might’ve ordered Wolgamott to request a recount because the majority of the Senate potentially hangs on the outcome to this race.

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I’ve said repeatedly that the DFL’s tethering to the truth is loose at best. This pro-Dorholt LTE proves that the DFL, collectively, is incapable of logic, too.

I know that because the LTE says “Zach will fight for health care that’s affordable and works for all of us. He works in the mental health field. He knows and understands mental health and will fight for health care that meets the needs of those living with a mental health disorder. There is much work to be done in our current health care system, but Zach is ready for the challenge.” Perhaps this person isn’t in frequent touch with events in St. Paul. Perhaps this person is just dishonest. Perhaps this person isn’t capable of connecting the dots.

Whatever the reason for her not reaching the right conclusion, the truth is that Dorholt voted for MNsure, which is giving farmers and other small businesses huge health insurance premium increases, narrow networks, fewer choices of insurers and unaffordable deductibles. Dorholt is the person who’s given us this crisis.

What part of that suggests that Dorholt “is ready for the challenge” of fixing what he and the DFL broke?

This LTE suffers from the same disappointing detachment from reality as the first LTE. Check this paragraph out:

He has said “I am running because I have always had a passion for those left behind, for those purposefully or unintentionally left out, for those who live in the “shadows” of life, because ever since I was a kid I could identify with and empathize with them. I could understand them. I knew if their voice could be heard, understood and represented… we would all do better.”

Where was this compassion for people when the DFL debated the forced unionization of in-home child care providers? They lobbied the legislature for almost 24 hours, telling the DFL that they didn’t want to be represented by AFSCME. These businesspeople repeatedly told DFL legislators, Dorholt included, that they opposed the bill.

Dorholt voted for the forced unionization of these businesspeople anyway. He didn’t hesitate when he plunged the button and told these women that he knew better. That was the last weekend of the 2013 session. Also that session, Dorholt voted for major tax increases on farmers and warehousing operations. He did that despite their constant lobbying against the tax increases. Then he got criticized by several businesspeople after the session. The next February, Dorholt voted to repeal the tax increases he’d just voted to create.

That November, his constituents fired Dorholt for not representing them. That November, his constituents fired him because Dorholt represented the DFL leadership and the DFL’s special interest puppetmasters, not them.

This November, let’s remind Mr. Dorholt that we still reject his representation of the DFL leadership and their special interest allies. I’ll be voting for the man with the lengthy list of bipartisan accomplishments, a man who’s done the things that Dorholt only talks about. I’ll be voting for Jim Knoblach.

Monday afternoon, Kirsti Marohn of the St. Cloud Times moderated a debate between the candidates for the candidates for the SD-14 Senate candidates and the candidates for HD-14A and HD-14B. It was the best job of moderating a debate I’ve seen other than the job the Fox News team of Bret Baier, Chris Wallace and Megyn Kelly.

Prior to the event, Ms. Marohn took to Twitter to ask for questions for the debate. I submitted a question, asking “What is the solution to the Obamacare/MNsure crisis? What needs to be done to prevent more insurers dropping out of the individual market?” It was the next-to-the-last question asked. Suffice it to say that it provoked the sharpest answers of the debate.

Dan Wolgamott, the DFL-endorsed candidate for SD-14, said “Let’s take a look at who actually raises the premiums and that’s the insurance companies and why is that? Well, it’s because the long-term costs of health care are prescription drugs, an aging population and high cost services such as the emergency room. So those are the real long-term costs but we’ve got to take immediate action to help these families who are in these situations. So we need to provide immediate relief through more tax subsidies to expanding eligibility for those so we can offset the rising costs of those premiums.”

That isn’t a solution. It’s barely a patch for a single year. The reality is that insurance companies are losing tens of millions of dollars nationally. If they can’t make money selling their product, they’ll quit selling their policies on the individual market. It’s that simple.

Zach Dorholt’s answer was even more extreme:

We have to remember that when we chose to opt into MNsure, we received Medicaid expansion dollars and those directly impacted the people I work with as a counselor. I work with people who live with serious and persistent mental illness, many of whom were kicked off of a program called General Assistance Medical Care by then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty and many of those people ended up on the street. Many of those folks ended up costing the system more and that change cost some of those people their lives. If we’re going to be serious about addressing the flaw of the ACA, which is that it didn’t have a public option, and that is very frustrating. We can do that here in Minnesota. There’s three things that we can do: 1. We could pass the Minnesota Health Plan, which would be universal single-payer health care for all Minnesotans. 2. We could create our own public option, which is allowing people to buy into MinnesotaCare and 3, which I think we have to do Day One to address the rising costs of private insurance companies raised, not MNsure. Yes, MNsure is a system that has its flaws and MNsure didn’t raise rates. Private insurance companies raised rates and we need to do something Day One that gives rebates to those people who are stuck in the middle with these high costs.

In other words, Dorholt is for a single-payer health care system. That would ruin the US health care system virtually instantly because the government would set prices. That sounds good until you realize that doctors, clinics and hospitals won’t work without just compensation. Once that’s implemented, doctor and nurse shortages will appear virtually instantly.

Jerry Relph, the GOP-endorsed candidate for the State Senate, cut to the heart of the matter:

I think there’s something that needs to be pointed out here and that is that the reasons why premiums are going up is very simple. The people that were expected to sign up for these programs are not signing up for them. As a result, the people that are drawing on the resource using the insurance are causing the insurance companies to pay out more for medical care and the insurance companies are not receiving the compensation from the healthy people that will offset that cost so we need to look at that.

That’s how the Obamacare death spiral starts. Even though a significant portion of young people are eligible for IRS subsidies or are forced to pay a fine, they still aren’t buying health insurance. That means most of the people who’ve bought health care through the individual market are the patients that have the highest use of medical services.

Jim Knoblach summed things up best:

Well, MNsure is a disaster. We probably had what was the best health insurance system in the United States 4-5 years ago here in Minnesota. Only about 8% of the people in the state didn’t have health insurance. The vast majority of those actually qualified for public health care plans like MinnesotaCare and Medical Assistance. It wasn’t because of MNsure. They were eligible for all those things anyway. But then with the passage of MNsure at the state level and everything that went with it, it really wrecked the system we had. That’s one of the big differences between my opponent and I. Zach voted for this and I never would’ve voted for this.

It’s clear that the DFL candidates aren’t willing to agree with Gov. Dayton and President Clinton. It’s clear, too, that Republicans have a strong grasp of the issue and that they have solutions to fix this crisis.

According to Zach Dorholt’s latest mailer, which is actually paid for by Dorholt’s campaign, “Zach shares our priorities.” It isn’t surprising that he’s making this claim. It’s surprising what he thinks are “our priorities.”

Listed first on Dorholt’s priorities is that he’ll “invest in our schools in Central Minnesota from pre-K to college and bring back the tuition freeze at SCSU.” Next on Dorholt’s list of priorities is to work “with both sides of the aisle to deliver on transportation funding for highways, roads and the Northstar Line.” Last but not least, Dorholt promises to “stand up to special interests in both parties trying to buy our elections by putting a stop to secret campaign contributions from lobbyists and corporations.”

Let’s look at Dorholt’s priorities. The tuition freeze might sound appealing but it’s a PR game. Tuition is frozen but the taxpayers pay for the increased cost of college. If you want to stabilize the cost of college, you have to question the expenses. The first thing that should disappear to make college less costly are things like Senior-to-Sophomore, which gives high school students college credits for classes taught frequently by high school teachers.

That’s terrible for multiple reasons. First, high school teachers aren’t qualified to teach college-level classes in STEM-related subjects. The students get cheated because they’re essentially told that they’re prepared for college after they’ve taken glorified high school classes. Next, S2S classes steal tuition revenue from universities. Top that off with universities with additional expenses but a tuition ‘freeze’.

Tell me how that math works budget-wise for the universities. Tell me how S2S helps prepare high school students for college-level classes.

Next on Dorholt’s priorities is to raise the gas tax. That isn’t what DFL legislators do. It’s who DFL legislators are. Dorholt would also vote to raise the Metro sales tax to pay for Southwest Light Rail. Mr. Dorholt, how will raising the Metro sales tax fix a single pothole in St. Cloud? Why should we raise the gas tax when Republicans already have a plan that will fix Minnesota’s roads and bridges that doesn’t require raising anyone’s taxes?

Finally, Dorholt insists that he’ll fight the evil special interests that are trying to buy our elections. The bad news for Mr. Dorholt is that he’s got a record he’ll have to defend. He’s already voted against in-home child care providers and in favor of the public employee unions, which are bigtime allies of the DFL. When it came time to choose between the people and the special interests that time, Mr. Dorholt chose the special interests.

When the Tax Bill was being debated, local businesses lobbied against the DFL’s tax increases. Mr. Dorholt voted with the DFL and against his constituents. Then he returned home and got read the riot act by his constituents. In 2014, Dorholt voted to repeal part of the tax increases he voted to create in 2013.

If you’re getting the impression that Dorholt isn’t who his mailers say he is, don’t fight that feeling. This is the only candidate in that race who does what his constituents want:

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Based on what he tweeted this morning, Chris Bremseth sounds like a Dorholt supporter. Bremseth’s tweet insisted that Zach Dorholt had “signed a pledged to get big money politics out of St Cloud.” Actually, that isn’t what Dorholt pledged to do. Dorholt’s own communication tells a totally different story, saying “In an effort to reduce the negative influence of outside spending during the upcoming election season, Minnesota House of Representatives District 14B candidate Zachary Dorholt authored a pledge to issue a bipartisan call for outside groups to disclose their donors before spending in the district.”

This is part of the DFL’s political showmanship. It’s substantively meaningless because special interests can (and will) ignore Dorholt’s pledge. It isn’t a coincidence that the item at the top of Dorholt’s priorities page is titled “Political Climate.” Dorholt said “The 2016 elections will be a defining moment in Minnesota politics. We will decide not only who will lead our government, but the manner in which we select them. Are we going to allow shadowy organizations with millions of dollars select our leaders or will we stand up and make sure that all citizens have a proportionate share in our elections?”

That’s laughable and disgusting. Dorholt’s 2014 campaign finance disclosure report shows that he raised $37,709.00, of which $5,675.00 was contributed by Minnesota individuals. Of that $5,675.00 raised in Minnesota, a whopping total of $225.00 came from a St. Cloud resident. That means $32,034 came from contributors in Philadelphia, PA, West Hollywood, CA, Ft. Lauderdale, FL and other places. That means that Dorholt, as an incumbent DFL legislator, raised 0.6% of his money from the city he supposedly represents.

When it came to lobbyists and special interest PACs, Dorholt was well-funded, getting $5,175 in cash contributions from them. Let’s summarize these totals. During the 2014 election cycle, Zach Dorholt, the incumbent legislator, raised $225 from the city he represents while raising $10,875 from other Minnesotans, from lobbyists and special interest PACs.

Why should the people Mr. Dorholt supposedly represents think that he represents them while he raises the overwhelming percentage of his Minnesota contributions come from Twin Cities elites and from lobbyists and special interest PACs? The people Mr. Dorholt supposedly represents shouldn’t pay attention to this PR stunt of a pledge:

Based on how much money the special interests and the PACs support him and how Mr. Dorholt faithfully votes for their agenda, isn’t it safe to say that this pledge is a PR stunt?

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The purpose of this op-ed, written by MnDOT Commissioner Charles Zelle and Met Council Chairman Adam Duininck, is to criticize Jim Knoblach. In the interest of full disclosure, Jim represents me in the legislature. He’s also one of the smartest policy makers in Minnesota. But I digress.

While attacking Chairman Knoblach, Commissioner Zelle and Chairman Duininck made a major mistake by essentially admitting that extending Northstar will be expensive, not just in terms of building it, but also in operating it. Commissioner Zelle and Chairman Duininck admitted it when they wrote “Building out the line involves some up-front costs, including upgrading the St. Cloud Amtrak station to make it ADA compliant; upgrading railroad crossings in St. Cloud; and adding a third track at the Big Lake station to allow trains to stop there. These capital costs along are estimated at up to $43 million, and this doesn’t include the additional funding to operate the line day-in and day-out.”

Why should we extend Northstar at such an expensive price when there’s already shuttle service from St. Cloud to Big Lake? I suspect that the operating costs of the shuttle are less than the operating costs for Northstar. I’m certain, however, that maintaining the shuttle service won’t require $43,000,000 in “capital costs.”

Question for Commissioner Zelle and Chairman Duininck: how many years could the shuttle be operated with those $43,000,000 in capital costs?

Stop that train. Stop that train. It isn’t that the $43,000,000 is the only major financial outlay:

Our $43 million cost estimate also does not include the cost of acquiring right-of-way from BNSF Railway.

Here’s another question for Commissioner Zelle and Chairman Duininck: How much will acquiring that right-of-way from BNSF cost?

Here’s a question for citizens: shouldn’t Commissioner Zelle and Chairman Duininck lay out those costs in an op-ed in a major newspaper?

We want to work with area legislators to find a way to bring Northstar to St. Cloud residents. But that work has to first start by acknowledging the realities and the costs. Minnesotans deserve a real proposal.

The question residents should ask Knoblach is: Does he still support the extension when faced with the reality of the cost?

Actually, the question citizens should ask is whether extending Northstar is worth it at that price. As a lifelong resident of St. Cloud, there isn’t a great uprising of support for extending Northstar. It’s true that a handful of public officials are pushing it but that’s pretty much it.

We don’t need to spend $50,000,000 or more just to give Gov. Dayton another ribbon-cutting ceremony to attend. I don’t speak for Chairman Knoblach but I’ll speak for myself. Spending 10s of millions of dollars on this project is a waste of money.

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The regular session winners list starts in the same place as the special session’s winners list started:

  1. Kurt Daudt — Speaker Daudt quickly became the most liked and most trusted man at the Capitol. After Sen. Bakk ambushed Gov. Dayton on the commissioners pay raises, Gov. Dayton said that he trusted Speaker Daudt more than he trusted Bakk. That set off an avalanche of well-deserved positive press. First, he negotiated a compromise between Gov. Dayton and Sen. Bakk. Speaker Daudt stood firm in rejecting the Move MN/Sen. Bakk/Gov. Dayton gas tax increase. At the end of the regular session, Speaker Daudt was the leader that brought the budget negotiations to a successful conclusion. In the end, he’s the GOP’s biggest hero this session.
  2. Rural Minnesota — Despite Rep. Thissen’s spin to the contrary, this was a positive session for Outstate Minnesota. First, they weren’t hit with a gas tax increase. That would’ve been a major expenditure increase for them because everywhere they drive is distant. They’re also the major beneficiaries of the $138,000,000 funding increase for nursing homes.
  3. House and Senate Republicans — Speaker Daudt and Sen. Hann kept their caucuses in line the entire session. The messaging was crisp throughout. They made sure that overreach was a term that only applied to DFL legislators.
  4. Jim Knoblach — After winning a narrow election victory in 2014, Chairman Knoblach returned to his post as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Everyone knows that it’s a powerful committee. Few understand that it’s essentially the epicenter for putting the budget together. Jim did a great job in putting an acceptable budget together. Though everyone on the GOP side would’ve preferred a smaller budget, that simply wasn’t going to happen with a DFL Senate and Gov. Dayton. Jim didn’t let the perfect get in the way of the pretty decent.
  5. Tim Kelly — Chairman Kelly was the chief architect of the GOP Transportation Bill, which would’ve “repaired or replaced 15,500 lane miles for all roads.”

At the end of the day, Republicans did themselves lots of favors by simply doing their jobs in a very professional way. The DFL heads into the 2016 campaign without a wedge issue to emphasize. All that they’ve got is accusing Republicans of not raising the gas tax and not agreeing with Gov. Dayton on universal pre-K. Good luck with those issues.

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