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According to the Minnesota Morning Watchdog, Tom Emmer got a shot of good news from last night’s precinct caucuses:

6th District Congress (97% Reporting):

Tom Emmer with 67.7%, Rhonda Sivarajah with 17.7%, Phil Krinkie with 10.1%

Only 4.3% of caucus voters were undecided. While this straw poll isn’t binding, it can’t be ignored. Rhonda Sivarajah can’t be happy finishing 50 points behind Emmer. Phil Krinkie can’t be happy that he finished almost 60 points behind Emmer.

I’d be surprised if CD-6 delegates will be impressed with Commissioner Sivarajah’s or Rep. Krinkie’s showing. At this point, I’d argue that both face steep uphill fights to win the endorsement. I’d also argue that the odds of Tom Emmer winning a first ballot endorsement victory seem more likely this morning than they were a week ago.

In other straw poll news, Marty Seifert, Jeff Johnson and Dave Thompson appear to be heading for top 3 finishes in the gubernatorial straw poll. With 96% of precincts reporting, Seifert had 28% of the vote, followed by Dave Thompson with 26% and Jeff Johnson with 17%.

That’s got to put a smile on Sen. Thompson’s face. With a strong finish like that, Sen. Thompson can credibly tell potential contributors that his message is popular.

Marty Seifert has to be pleased, too. He can credibly tell potential contributors that he’s got the experience, organization and name recognition it’ll take to defeat Gov. Dayton.

While this wasn’t the strong showing the Johnson campaign was hoping for, Jeff Johnson must still be considered a top tier candidate. He’s got a solid fundraising team. He’s managing his resources well (he’s got the most cash-on-hand of the candidates) and he’s got a terrific record of being a fiscal conservative.

This couldn’t have been the night that Kurt Zellers was hoping for. Finishing a next-to-last 6th place with 8% can’t instill confidence in potential campaign contributors or in potential delegates.

Based on the results of last night’s U.S. Senate Straw Poll, it’s looking like it’s down to a 2-person race. With 96% of precincts reporting, Julianne Ortman led Mike McFadden by a 31%-22% margin. Finishing in third place was Undecided with 16%, followed by Jim Abeler with 15%.

With that many undecideds and soon-to-be undecided delegates, this is another race to watch.

Last night, I received an email from Jim Kroger, an assistant professor in the Accounting & Business Law department at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Dr. Kroger had studied the campaign finance reports of the GOP gubernatorial candidates.

This post shouldn’t be interpreted as me expressing my preference for who runs against Gov. Dayton. This post is simply about Dr. Kroger’s studies.

Dr. Kroger’s spreadsheet, which doesn’t translate well into WordPress formatting, gives us some basic information. Specifically, it highlights the fundraising per week and the burn rate per week for each of the candidates. At this point, Marty Seifert has raised an average of $26,029 per week while spending $1,842 per week since entering the race in late November. By contrast, Scott Honour has raised an average of $14,142 per week while spending $14,132 per average week.

Kurt Zellers is raising $13,392 per week while spending $9,894 per week. He’s followed by Jeff Johnson, who is raising an average of $7,041 per week while spending an average of $2,091 per week, followed by Dave Thompson, who has raised an average of $4,559 per week while spending $2,673 per week.

Here are some of Dr. Kroger’s observations:

  1. Seifert’s average weekly individual cash contributions of $26,029 exceed Dayton’s average weekly individual cash contributions of $15,327 by $10,702. Presently, in Republican circles, one of the issues that is discussed is which candidate can raise enough money to be competitive against Dayton. Based on this analysis, which seeks to measure each candidate equally based on when they announced for governor, Seifert is by far the strongest fundraiser outperforming Honour by a margin of nearly 2 to 1.
  2. The average amount of cash burned per week by Zellers exceeds the average amount of cash burned per week by Dayton by 143%. The average amount of cash burned per week by Honour exceeds the average amount of cash burned per week by Dayton by 204% (more than double). In Republican circles it is often said that no candidate will be able to fundraise and spend more than Dayton. Based on how fast Zellers and Honour are blowing their cash and what they are burning it on, I would argue that both of their campaigns are wasteful and simply unsustainable on a long-term basis.
  3. Thompson ended the year with $50,283 cash on hand, but he also has unpaid bills of $28,235. This means that he essentially ended the year with approximately $20,000 cash on hand, which is the lowest next to Farnsworth. Given his monthly expenses, I would argue that Thompson’s campaign is either dead in the water or running on fumes. I suspect that his announcement of a running mate was the last gasp as he attempts to gain momentum and save what appears to be a sinking ship.
  4. Zellers has $44,300 or 11% of his total receipts coming from out-of-state; however, I discovered what may be a red flag issue. Zellers received $21,000 from 38 individuals in 8 states (Missouri, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Illinois, Washington, DC, New Jersey, and Florida) and ALL 38 contributors listed Express Scripts, a mail-order pharmacy, as their employer. This raised a red flag in my mind. Is Express Scripts funneling money to Zellers through these individuals? What ties does Zellers have to Express Scripts? What will Express Scripts expect if he is elected? Is Express Scripts trying to skirt lobbyist regulations? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but it presents an interesting puzzle.
  5. Honour has $295,847 or 48-58% of his total receipts coming from out-of-state. It is 48% if you include his $101,000 loan to himself in total receipts and 58% if you exclude it. 189 of 368 total contributions to Honour’s campaign are from people outside of Minnesota and, in some cases, outside the United States (Singapore and London). 51% of all individuals contributing to Honour’s campaign are not Minnesotans. I counted 13 contributions from Beverly Hills, CA, 29 from Los Angeles, CA, and 16 from New York City. It appears that bankers, lawyers, and even an actress are the ones who think Honour would make a good governor. If you disregard the $295,847 that came from outside of Minnesota and the $101,000 loan that he gave himself then he only raised $217,919 from Minnesotans, which is less than both Johnson and Zellers. Further, the deep pockets that he tapped from outside of Minnesota often gave $4,000 so they cannot contribute again. I would argue both that Honour is not supported by the people of Minnesota and that his campaign is likely not sustainable due to fundraising concerns and wasteful spending. Having exhausted his out-of-state deep pockets and squandered the money, he must now look to the people of Minnesota or himself to fund his campaign. He ended the year with $14,251 on hand. I would argue that Honour’s campaign is more akin to the campaign of Farnsworth or Thompson and that Honour is nearly dead in the water or running on fumes.

Whether Dr. Kroger’s opinions hold up is subject to the test of time. Another thing that’ll require additional scrutiny is whether Marty Seifert can continue at his current fundraising pace. If he can, then he’ll be a formidable opponent for Gov. Dayton. Jeff Johnson’s figures aren’t gaudy but his burn rate is under control. That will matter over the course of a long campaign.

Each of these candidates would be a significant improvement over Gov. Dayton. It’s difficult to have faith in a politician who doesn’t know what’s in the bills he’s signed and negotiated.

Finally, tonight is precinct caucus night in Minnesota. If you want to shape this election, there’s no better place to be tonight than at your local precinct caucus. If you’ve never attended a precinct caucus, you’ll want to attend. It’s the best place to let your voice be heard. If you don’t know where your precinct caucus is being held, follow this link, then enter your zip code. It’s just that simple.

A federal judge dismissed 2 lawsuits in-home child care small businesses filed after Gov. Dayton signed the bill into law. Here’s part of what the judge wrote of the dismissal:

Chief Judge Michael Davis wrote the “plaintiffs express a fear that, one day, there may be a certified union for family child care providers who accept State subsidies and that, one day, such a union may decide to impose a fair share fee on nonmembers of the union… Plaintiffs request that the Court peer into a crystal ball, predict the future, and then opine on the constitutionality of a speculative scenario…Courts may not give such advisory opinions. Plaintiffs’ claims are not ripe.”

Gov. Dayton issued this statement on Judge Davis’ dismissal:

I am very pleased that both lawsuits seeking to prevent child care providers from deciding for themselves whether or not to form a union have been dismissed by the Chief Judge of the United States District Court. I believe that working men and women should have the right to vote on forming a union, and that the Court’s decisions will permit such an election to be held.

Gov. Dayton’s victory might be temporary. The judge didn’t say the small business leaders’ lawsuit was without merit. He simply said it wasn’t ripe. That’s something echoed by the plaintiffs’ attorney Doug Seaton:

He’s dismissed the case but he’s dismissed it on the basis that nothing is ripe, nothing has happened yet in his view. We think enough has happened so the judge can decide and he shouldn’t dismiss the case but because of that part of the decision it’s possible that our evaluation will be- we’re better off to wait until there’s a filing by AFSCME or some part of the process in the election takes place and then it’s very clear- it is ripe. So that would be one avenue to re-file after a matter of time and developments or directly go to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to file an appeal of this decision.

Hollee Saville, one of the leaders of the anti-unionization fight, issued this statement on Judge Davis’ dismissal:

This is NOT over! We believe the Judge has erred and are considering our options to appeal or refile as the election process proceeds, but this challenge is not over. We remain convinced that home child care providers are not subject to unionization by the state under this statute.

Providers, PLEASE register to accept CCAP NOW so that you would get a vote.

We still need help adopting licensed family child care providers for mailings (any amount makes a difference) and will need help calling eligible voters soon, since we’re sure that AFSCME will present their 500 cards soon.

PLEASE visit www.MinnesotaFamilyChildcare.com to see how you can help.

At the heart of this fight is whether a legislature can write legislation that changes a private sector employer into a public sector employee without the employer’s consent. If the court rules that legislatures have that authority, then there’s nothing that legislatures couldn’t do.

As for Gov. Dayton’s statement, he’s intentionally omitting a pair of important points. First, legislatures shouldn’t have the right to call for a vote when existing federal legislation prohibits that vote. Also, legislatures shouldn’t have the right to write legislation that says private sector employers aren’t private sector employers. That’s what the DFL’s bill essentially does.

Finally, the DFL is playing with political fire with this issue. Anti-unionization activists are upset with the DFL for essentially throwing them under the bus to pay off the DFL’s political allies. The DFL stepped on a political landmine with this. Passing this legislation is motivating voters to vote against the DFL.

UPDATE: Here’s how Sen. Dave Thompson responded to last night’s child care ruling:

“On Sunday, July 28, 2013, The Honorable Michael Davis issued an order dismissing claims against Governor Mark Dayton pertaining to the childcare unionization legislation that was passed and signed into law during the 2013 legislative session. Of course, I am saddened by the decision, but am glad Judge Davis left the door open for the childcare providers to re-assert their claims at a later date.

“It is sad that these independent business people must work through the courts to try and stop the impact of this damaging law. This is what happens when elected officials put political interests ahead of the people. Governor Dayton and Democrats in the legislature have chosen to reward campaign contributors and union bosses while at the same time bullying childcare providers, most of whom are self-employed women.

“Rest assured if I am honored to be your next governor, I would make it a priority to repeal this ill advised and harmful law. This is an example of special interest politics at its worst, and Minnesotans should not stand for it.”

Here’s a quick quiz for voters: when was the last time the DFL didn’t side with their special interest allies?

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For years, teachers have been double-dipping their pension accounts. Once again, the St. Paul Teachers’ Retirement Association is asking for another bailout of their pension plan while selling it as a reasonable fix to the situation. It isn’t reasonable to the taxpayers. It’s a rip-off.

A proposal is expected to be introduced in the Minnesota Legislature in the next two weeks.

The goal is to close a projected $16.7 million per year gap between what the fund needs each year and what it actually brings in.

“This is a problem that’s easier to remedy now than 10 years from now,” said Paul Doane, the association’s executive director. “I’m convinced this is a major step forward that will help both the long-term solvency and sustainability issue.”

It’s imperative that the remedy include 3 things. First, it’s imperative that the fix end the defined benefit plan. Next, it’s imperative that retire-and-rehire programs stop ASAP. Finally, it’s imperative that early retirement be eliminated. Here’s why it’s imperative the retire-then-rehire program is stopped:

The fund estimates it could get another $3.4 million by increasing employee and employer contributions by 1 percent for each and modifying early retirement and return-to-work policies.

Under the proposal, retirees would have to wait six months before they can return to a job with the district, up from 30 days now. And, if they make more than $46,000 after they return, they would lose some pension benefits, which are now set aside and paid out after returnees leave the district.

TRANSLATION: Retire-then-rehire programs are costing taxpayers millions of dollars in pensions.

What’s fair about telling private sector employees that they’re getting hit with a tax increase to pay for a teacher to retire when they’re 55, then start collecting a pension, then go on a month-long vacation before getting a cushy consultant’s job? That’s the system as it currently exists.

Why should taxpayers be funding a pension fund so public sector employees can retire when they’re fifty-something, especially when it’s a defined benefit pension plan?

There’s a fight brewing on this crisis. This provides a good glimpse into the bailout fight:

Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, who will sponsor the House version of the bill, said this proposal is “fair, appropriate and prudent.”

She noted that St. Paul Teachers received no state aid from 1987 to 1993. The state provided $22 million in annual aid to help the former Minneapolis teachers’ pension fund reduce its shortfall before it merged into the state’s larger Teachers Retirement Association pension fund.

But Thompson rejects the idea of using taxpayer dollars to shore up the fund while many private-sector workers are scaling back their own retirement plans because of the market downturn. He said the proposal is especially unpalatable because its proposed benefit increase negates the higher contributions from employees.

“In a nutshell, the St. Paul Teachers’ Retirement Fund is looking for a net increase in benefits, with the state acting as a guarantor of their investments,” he said. “In this economy, that’s really asking a lot.”

Rep. Kahn’s reply exposed the system’s flaw when she said that St. Paul teachers didn’t receive any state aid from 1987 through 1993. The first pertinent question is “why should Minnesota taxpayers bailout a St. Paul public employees pension plan”? The thinking should’ve been that a pension plan that’s underfunded at a time when the economy and stock market are going strong has a major structural flaw.

The response back then should’ve been to either insist on major structural reforms or let the teachers and trustees run the pension into bankruptcy. Overpromising isn’t a virtue. It’s a curse.

Sen. Thompson is right in saying that it’s wrong to ask taxpayers to fund a bailout that would improve benefits for people in the St. Paul Teachers’ Retirement Fund. With people living longer, increasing benefits isn’t sustainable. That means this pension fund will need another bailout a decade from now.

How’s that fair to private sector taxpayers?

Follow this link to read more on the subject.
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I wrote here that Rep. Ward’s bill went too far in eliminating the basic skills test for teacher licensure. In that post, I highlighted the difference between SF547 and HF171. Rep. Ward’s bill eliminates testing for reading, writing and math skills. Sen. Bonoff’s bill keeps that requirement.

This morning, this PiPress editorial has a simple message:

[M]inimum standards for all teachers are a common-sense expectation for our schools. Lawmakers should insist on them.

The PiPress editorial notes that the minimum standards test isn’t perfect. They note, however, that lawmakers are insisting on accountability:

Rep. Andrea Kieffer, a Woodbury Republican who sponsored the 2012 teacher-testing bill, said she has added her name to a House bill to address some of the issues, but as far as repeal is concerned, “I have to ask, ‘Why?’ ” she told us.

“Teacher effectiveness is the No. 1 factor in academic success,” Kieffer said. If a teacher has trouble with basic grammar, spelling or math, “should they be teaching our kids in the classroom?”

Based on Rep. Ward’s legislation, it’s apparent that Tom Dooher, the president of Education Minnesota, thinks passing the test isn’t important. Rep. Kieffer isn’t the only legislator who’s pushing for teacher accountability:

The public “expects accountability,” said Sen. Dave Thompson, a Republican from Lakeville, who said he would be very disturbed “if this ends up being repealed and all of a sudden the whole concept of a basic skills test goes away.”

Rep. Ward’s legislation would repeal the basic skills test. That isn’t the right direction. That’s taking Minnesota students, parents and other taxpayers in the wrong direction.

If Rep. Ward is going to be Tom Dooher’s puppet, then his constituents in Brainerd need to send him the message that he isn’t representing their views.

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Recently, Rep. Drazkowski joined Sen. Thompson in introducing legislation that would put a right to work constitutional amendment on November’s ballot. The thought of giving workers the opportunity to say no to unionization is initially appealing. After additional thought, though, it’s apparent that first impressions aren’t right impressions.

First, adding a right to work constitutional amendment to the ballot will attract alot of special interest money to Minnesota. Why would we want to add another lightning rod to the ballot to drive DFL turnout?

Policywise, I get what’s appealing about right to work. It shrinks unions’ political power, something that’s badly needed considering the rash of nasty behavior by SEIU and AFSCME.

It’s plain wrong to force people into a union and to pay union dues. That’s why I opposed Gov. Dayton’s attempt to force child care small businesses into unions.

The marriage amendment is a lightning rod already. Millions of dollars of special interest money will be spent to defeat it. Millions more will be spent to justify it.

Do we really need this election decided by the left’s special interest money?

The best way to do this is to bide the time until 2014, when we’ll defeat or scare Gov. Dayton into not running again. Then the legislature can pass a right to work bill without flooding the election with millions of special interest influence.

It’s important that legislative consesrvatives make wise strategic and tactical decisions this election cycle. With their majorities hinging on turnout, GOP legislators need to pick their fights wisely.

In this instance, it’s important to choose not to fight this fight.

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Gov. Dayton is chafing at the notion that GOP legislators will push reforms aimed at creating jobs and restoring election integrity:

The Republican rush to the ballot has drawn the ire of Dayton and legislative Democrats. Dayton can’t block lawmakers from putting proposed amendments on the ballot, and he’s been scathing as he considers the prospect of a November ballot packed with conservative aims.

“My concern about constitutional amendments except in very, very rare circumstances is that the design of our government is to have the legislative branch work in consultation and cooperation with the executive branch. There has to be a collaboration there, an agreement,” Dayton said.

That’s a joke. Rep. Thissen, Sen. Bakk and Rep. Winkler have been pictures of obstructionism. Let’s remember that Rep. Thissen and Sen. Bakk were the obstructionists that triggered the shutdown:

Gov. Dayton rejected the GOP’s counterproposal, saying “However, I can not agree to both a tobacco bond issuance and a school shift, neither of which are permanent revenues.”

There were no additional revenues in Gov. Dayton’s initial proposal. That means someone, possibly Sen. Bakk or Rep. Thissen, got to him. Or maybe it’s that Tina Smith, Ken Martin or Michele Kelm-Helgen got to him and forced him to break his promise and back away from his initial offer.

That isn’t all they sabotaged. They didn’t lift a finger in terms of drafting a set of redistricting maps:

Sen. Bakk once went as far as saying that he “wouldn’t know why” the DFL would make a budget proposal of their own. (Because it would show you aren’t being obstructionists, Sen. Bakk.) The DFL legislature, both in the House and Senate, refused to create redistricting maps. Instead, they offered to have hearings around the state this summer in the hopes of “putting together a bill that Gov. Dayton can sign.”

Gov. Dayton, does that sound like the type of leadership that’s interested in “consultation and cooperation”? I think not. Then again, Gov. Dayton’s veto of the legislature’s redistricting maps wasn’t a picture in bipartisanship.

The DFL, like their national brethren, call for bipartisanship and collaboration when they’re the minority party. When they’re the majority party, they’re about ignoring the GOP.

The DFL is horrified by the thought of real election integrity. Voter fraud cases are frequently reported by the alternative media, though that isn’t reported by the Agenda Media.

As for creating jobs, Sen. Dave Thompson has announced that he’ll introduce a right to work constitutional amendment. The reason why that’s a job creation amendment is because right to work states have greater job creation rates because companies like the idea of not hassling with unions.

Here’s what Sen. Thompson recently wrote:

EMPLOYEE FREEDOM
I am excited to tell you that I intend to author the employee freedom, or right to work constitutional amendment. States that allow employees to work for anyone without being compelled to join a union or pay union dues are leading the nation economically. But even more importantly, no American should be forced to join a group or pay dues to a third party in order to have a job.

Adding to what Sen. Thompson said, here’s what the NILRR wrote about job creation rates:

Moreover, the Right to Work job-growth advantage has continued to be unusually wide even since the nationwide recovery began to gather steam in 2003. Between 2003 and 2005, aggregate private-sector job growth in forced-dues states was just 2.3%. Meanwhile, private-sector jobs in Right to Work states increased by 4.9%, or roughly 120% more.

Federally-sanctioned forced union dues have predictable economic consequences. Among them are Big Labor’s use of rigid work rules and cultivation of the “hate the boss” mentality to cement its power over employees.

Right to Work laws protect the freedom of both private- and public-sector employees to keep and hold a job without forking over dues or fees to a union that is recognized as their “exclusive” (actually, monopoly) bargaining agent.

There are places where unions aren’t just good, they’re essential. I’m thinking specifically about the coal miners union. That union is essential in guaranteeing miner safety.

When unions first formed, most of them were private sector unions. Most were used to negotiate wages from large corporations who had the upper hand. The vast majority of today’s jobs are in small- and mid-size businesses.

There’s more competition between these sized businesses, both for customers and for talented personnel. That competition, not unions, creates opportunities for employees.

The reality is that DFL legislators and Gov. Dayton will be obstructionists because they’d rather talk about “Gov. Dayton’s amazing jobs bill”, aka Gov. Dayton’s bonding bill. (The quote is from Carrie Lucking from the Jan. 13 Almanac roundtable discussion.)

In the past, I’ve called bonding bills debt bills as often as I’ve called them stimulus bills. They don’t improve Minnesota’s business climate but they’re a great way of bringing the pork into downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis through new transit projects or studies.

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Apparently, the Strib’s Jim Ragsdale hasn’t figured it out that the child care unionization story is dead, killed by the child care business owners themselves. In this morning’s paper, Ragsdale essentially runs interference for AFSCME and the SEIU:

These providers are not covered by state labor law applying to public employees, a House researcher concluded, and might also be outside of federal labor law applying to private employers. But Sojourner said that while organizing them does not fit into the traditional union model, “it fits easily into the broader sense of what a union can be.” With declining union membership, he said, the traditional model “ain’t working too well.”

Unions like the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union, which are leading this drive, are experimenting with new models. One unanswered question is whether this initiative would allow providers to independently decide whether to associate or whether they would be forced to do so by a majority of their peers.

Many people join together for mutual benefit, even people who battle unions. And everyone would agree that a good child care provider is a priceless family asset. This debate over an issue so close to home may cause Minnesotans to look again at what a union is, and what it could be.

Perhaps he didn’t know it but Ragsdale wrote why child care businesses should reject unionization when he said this:

With declining union membership, he said, the traditional model “ain’t working too well.”

The only people who benefit from unions are the less-than-outstanding members of their profession. What incentive do teachers have to excel? Fran Tarkenton points out the illogic of the unions in this WSJ op-ed:

Some reformers, including Bill Gates, are finally catching on that our federally centralized, union-created system provides no incentive for better performance. If anything, it penalizes those who work hard because they spend time, energy and their own money to help students, only to get the same check each month as the worst teacher in the district (or an even smaller one, if that teacher has been there longer). Is it any surprise, then, that so many good teachers burn out or become disenchanted.

What positives would AFSCME or the SEIU bring to the child care business owners? Wouldn’t the right lobbying organization help these business owners more than AFSCME or the SEIU? Might there be a better solution to whichever problems are afflicting child care businesses? This exchange suggests there is:

This was at the core of an exchange between Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, and St. Paul child care provider Lisa Thompson, a union supporter, at a recent committee hearing.

“You’re a self-employed person,” said Thompson. “You set your rates…you can compete on price, on hours…who’s the oppressor?”

Lisa Thompson cited “our frustrations at the regulatory level,” meaning state and county licensing agencies, and allowed that “in many cases,” government is the “oppressor” for providers.

“Well, on that I suspect we agree,” said Thompson, the assistant Senate majority leader.

Based on Sen. Thompson’s reply, wouldn’t Ms. Thompson be better off having Sen. Thompson write legislation that improves Minnesota’s regulatory environment? Yes, unions can theoretically negotiate those things into a contract. When that contract expires, those provisions expire with the contract.

Why wouldn’t Ms. Thompson talk with Sen. Thompson to put the force of law behind the regulatory issues she says need improvement? Reforming Minnesota’s regulatory system is long overdue. Republicans announced during the special session that a major part of their agenda would be to pass “Reform 2.0″.

With a simple piece of legislation, we could put this forced unionization issue to rest without child care businesses having unionization forced down their throats.

Other than unions with dwindling membership and political influence, who could be against that?

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The Winners:
Minnesotans in general, Minnesota businesses, Steve Gottwalt, Amy Koch, Kurt Zellers, Dave Thompson, King Banaian, Keith Downey, GOP freshmen

The Losers:

Mark Dayton, AFSCME, MAPE, AFL-CIO, Paul Thissen, Tom Bakk, Ryan Winkler, State Parks, Contractors

Minnesotans escaped without a major tax increase, initially aimed at “the rich who weren’t paying their fair share”, then aimed at cigarette smokers of all income levels. They’re also getting some nice reforms that will help in future budget negotiations.

Minnesota businesses still pay too high an income tax but at least it isn’t getting worse. With this settled for at least another 2 years, businesses can breath a sigh of relief.

Steve Gottwalt and Dave Thompson emerged as the next generation of GOP leaders thanks to Sen. Thompson’s stout-hearted defense of conservative principles and Rep. Gottwalt’s seizing the moment to push Gov. Dayton into settling the shutdown. These gentlemen deserve high praise for being great spokesters/legislators for conservative principles.

King Banaian and Keith Downey are winners because they stood their ground on important reforms to state government’s makeup and King’s priority-based budgeting reform of the budgeting process. These gentlemen have proposed legislation that would change how government operates and how it spends money. These aren’t tiny considerations.

Speaker Zellers and Leader Koch deserve credit for keep the troops unified. It wasn’t difficult picturing scenarios where moderates could abandon the GOP on this or that vote. That they didn’t is a testimony to their whip operations and their leadership.

GOP freshmen were clear winners. Without their principled steadfastness, I’m certain that this outcome wouldn’t have happened. Despite Sen. Bakk’s criticism of GOP freshmen, they were certainly one of the driving forces behind holding things together at a time when things could’ve fallen apart.

The biggest loser was Gov. Dayton. He lost on his signature issue. Initially, Gov. Dayton wanted to raise taxes on the rich. After getting defeated on that, he tried settling for shaking down whoever he could shake down. Both attempts were defeated.

While I can’t say Republicans came out smelling like a rose, I won’t hesitate in saying that Gov. Dayton got alot less of what he wanted than the GOP got of what they wanted.

Rep. Thissen and Sen. Bakk, the House and Senate Minority leaders, definitely lost. It isn’t coincidence that the two offers where Gov. Dayton dropped his demands for tax increases happened when Rep. Thissen and Sen. Bakk weren’t in the room. They were the real villains behind the shutdown. Had this duo not been part of the negotiations, there wouldn’t have been a shutdown. This agreement says that their agenda was thoroughly rejected.

Rep. Ryan Winkler definitely lost, too. When he predicted that Republicans would cave, he stiffened Republicans’ resolve. From that point forward, there wasn’t even a slight possibility of the Republicans accepting a tax increase. From a GOP standpoint, we should thank him for his being a loose cannon and for uniting the GOP legislature.

Public employee unions took the biggest hit of this standoff. They were on the defensive much of the time. When they tried going on the offensive, their ideas were rejected. When they tried ambushing King Banaian and John Pederson on the SCSU campus, they couldn’t even fill the theater a fifth of the way full.

Unfortunately, the losers weren’t limited to politicians who tried ignoring the will of the people. Unfortunately, this unnecessary shutdown hurt state parks, tourists, bars and building contractors. Each suffered from the shutdown, with the construction industry and state parks being particularly hard hit through no fault of their own.

I can’t repeat this often enough or emphasize it vigorously enough. This shutdown wouldn’t have happened if Rep. Thissen and Sen. Bakk hadn’t put taxes back into Gov. Dayton’s final pre-shutdown proposal. If they hadn’t interfered, construction projects wouldn’t have lost a month of construction time, state parks would’ve stayed open and 22,000 state employees wouldn’t have gotten furloughed.
Gov. Dayton isn’t guiltless. Anything but. Gov. Dayton could’ve instantly rejected Sen. Bakk’s and Rep. Thissen’s tax increase demands. That would’ve stopped the shutdown before it started.

When the dust settles, both parties’ activists will be upset. Some might be downright dispirited. That’s understandable. Both had won a generational victory, the DFL by electing their first governor since 1986, the GOP by winning the Senate for the first time ever.

The difference going forward is which party has the more appealing policies. At this point, that’s the Minnesota GOP. I’ve only touched on a few of the reforms that Republicans passed and that Gov. Dayton vetoed. If they do a good job highlighting those reforms this summer and, if necessary, during next year’s campaign, I’m confident that people will keep the gavels in their hands.

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This morning, I had an interesting thought about Arne Carlson. The media is so eager to tout him as a senior statesman for the Republican Party, mostly because he’s supposedly a moderate. I don’t buy the fact that Arne Carlson is really a Republican, much less a moderate Republican.

I know he couldn’t identify with mainstream Republicans because he’s never identified himself with them. Let’s remember that spending increased by 56% during his 8 years in office. That’s 7% per year or 14% per biennium. That’s perfectly in line with what the DFL has historically done. Let’s remember that the initial budget passed by the DFL majority passed in 2007 would’ve increased spending by 17% for the 2008-09 biennium.

How is that significantly different than what Arne did each year for 8 years?

To settle this fight once and for all, I’m proposing that there be an hour-long debate during the state fair at the grandstands. Let’s have Ed Morrissey, Mitch Berg, Dan Ochsner and Tom Hauser as moderators. I’m also proposing that the debate be between so-called senior GOP statesman Arne Carlson and Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dave Thompson.

The debate would be a great service to Minnesota because these moderators are straight shooters who fit comfortably within the mainstream of Minnesota politics.

In addition to holding it at the State Fair, let’s have someone subsidize a live video feed for the internet for those who can’t make it to the fair. That person or company can recoup some or all of their money through advertising revenues.

I don’t want this to be Arne vs. a retired GOP legislator. I want Minnesota to see the difference between politicians that once were considered moderate Republicans vs. a current conservative that’s been recently mischaracterized as a far right conservative by Eliot Seide.

Let’s let Minnesota decide which person’s views are more in line with their policies, priorities and beliefs.

Let’s make it happen.

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