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Much ink has been spilled writing about the Dayton-DFL pay increases for commissioners. Little of that ink has been used to show how productive and competent these commissioners are. This article repeats the usual talking points on the subject, albeit in a personalized way:

I have always favored public officials being paid what their time and talent are worth. Why should their time in government be worth less than their time in private enterprise where they could earn more? Typically, public officials, including mayors, city councilors, county commissioners and even legislators, are underpaid for the time they spend serving their constituents. They have to spend their own time and money in costly and stressful campaigns just to get elected to serve. Once elected, they are expected to spend their time away from their families attending meetings, listening to constituents and answering phone calls and emails.

My Bloomington council member gets a salary of $12,396. He hasn’t had a raise since 2003, and he deserves one. Private enterprise, which will probably oppose the pay raises, has to pay higher salaries to attract good talent. Look what top executives and middle management earn in private enterprise. Why not pay good salaries to those who work for the government? Public service is honorable, but it doesn’t put food on the table.

All the Republican howling is about increased salaries ranging from $119,517 to mostly $150,000, to a high of $154,992 in five cases. Most of the commissioners haven’t had a pay raise in 10 years. Dayton in a letter to the legislators said that not one commissioner asked for a raise. He also has offered to meet with the Republican caucus to give his side of the story.

First, if Bloomington wants to raise the pay for its city councilmembers, that’s their decision. That isn’t something I’m concerned with. On a scale of 1 to 2,000, how much Bloomington city councilmembers make ranks in the range of 1,950-1,999 for me. That’s if I’m feeling charitable.

As for Mr. Heinzman’s question about why “not pay good salaries to those who work for the government?”, the answer is simple. Most of the commissioners are political hacks. They aren’t hired because they’re productive or competent. I’ve frequently cited Myron Frans as the poster child of commissioner incompetence. I could’ve cited Lucinda Jesson as incompetent just as easily. I cited Heather Carlson’s reporting in this post. Here’s what Ms. Carlson reported:

The recent revelation that the state failed to send out letters to 16,000 low-income Minnesotans seeking medical assistance to let them know their applications had not been processed and they were not covered does not surprise Olmsted County Community Services Director Paul Fleissner.

“Every county has been screaming that we didn’t think notices were going out, and the state kept saying yes, yes, yes, people are just forgetting this. We had a really strong sense that they weren’t and finally it’s been confirmed that they weren’t going to our people,” Fleissner said.

What part of that indicates Jesson is competent?

When progressives talk about people making more in the private sector, are they talking about NPOs that get government funding? Nonprofits technically aren’t part of government in that their CEOs aren’t appointed by the governor. In every other meaningful way, though, they’re part of the public sector.

Republicans could make this a major campaign issue in 2016 if they emphasize the commissioners’ incompetence, not just the outlandish-sized raises

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There’s little doubt that the environmental activist wing of the DFL isn’t concerned about protecting the environment as much as they’re concerned with killing industries. That point is illustrated perfectly in this LTE:

The proposed Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for the Superior National Forest because of copper/nickel/precious metals mining projects was an incredible waste of time brought to everyone by extreme environmentalists.

While we are pleased that U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture officials finally put a stamp of common sense on this issue by saying there is no need for such a far-reaching environmental impact study, here’s what they should have also said to the environmentalists who sought it: “Why are you wasting our time and money to even have to consider this. It’s a frivolous request.”

The PEIS would have been a duplication of what is already being done as far as an environmental impact statement for the PolyMet project near Hoyt Lakes and what will be done for the nonferrous Twin Metals project near Ely and Babbitt.

And the environmentalists who sought the PEIS know that. But they don’t care. They just want to harass and try to delay good projects, which will get the toughest and most stringent review of any mining venture ever in Minnesota.

This isn’t surprising. It’s part of the environmental activists’ tactics. The goal isn’t to win cases. The goal is to keep bringing lawsuits until the company surrenders. Don’t take my word for it. Take it from Gov. Dayton’s first MPCA commissioner. Here’s what he wrote after wearing the investors down:

Along with our allies at the Izaak Walton League of America, the Union of Concerned Scientists and Wind on the Wires, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy and Fresh Energy argued, first in South Dakota, then before the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), that the new plant was a bad idea. Our message was simple: The utilities had not proven the need for the energy, and what energy they did need could be acquired less expensively through energy efficiency and wind.

We kept losing, but a funny thing happened. With each passing year, it became clearer that we were right. In 2007, two of the Minnesota utilities dropped out, citing some of the same points we had been making. The remaining utilities had to go through the process again with a scaled-down 580-megawatt plant.

I titled that post “Attrition, not litigation.” Time has moved on but the environmental activist wing of the DFL remains the same. They still trust in the tactic of wearing companies down until they surrender. They still oppose the miners’ way of life. They still want the miners’ votes. They just don’t want the miners’ agenda.

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I’m not the world’s best predictor but some things aren’t predictions. They’re sure things. I wrote this post to lay out the statistics indicating that the Dayton-DFL cigarette tax increase would hurt Minnesota’s convenience stores. That prediction took less than a month to come true:

“Petro Serve USA” CEO Kent Satrang says the shift to North Dakota was almost immediate. Satrang says the convenience store industry lobbied the legislature for a smaller tax increase.

I wish I could say that these businesses weren’t getting hurt but I can’t. Thanks to the Dayton-DFL cigarette tax increase, they’re getting hurt. Don Davis’ article highlights the situation:

Recent news reports of cigarettes being smuggled into Minnesota come as no surprise.

Dale Erickson, general manager of Henry’s Foods in Alexandria, told Governor Mark Dayton in a March 2013 town hall meeting in Moorhead that a proposed cigarette tax increase would mean Interstate 94 “will become a black market highway” as cigarettes taxed at a lower North Dakota rate would show up in Minnesota. “There is no way to trace the cigarettes,” Erickson said.

Erickson and convenience store owner Frank Orton told Dayton that they would lose business to Fargo, North Dakota stores that collect smaller taxes. “Minnesotans could drive across the bridge to Fargo and buy their cigarettes for $18 less per carton,” Erickson said.

The Dayton-DFL ‘solution’ is as foolish as their tax increase is hurtful:

[S]tate officials say they need $1 million to improve their tobacco law enforcement. Officials say cigarette smuggling costs the state $2.6 million in tax revenues.

Repealing the cigarette tax would help these small businesses that are getting hurt. Unfortunately, that isn’t an option with the DFL. Republicans should refuse to spend a penny on additional “tobacco law enforcement” by saying that we don’t need to tie up the courts with these prosecutions.

If I were writing the title for my LTE on Gov. Dayton’s pay increases to his commissioners, I’d title it ‘The immoral Bakk-Dayton pay increase’ because that’s the perspective they should be viewed through. Here’s my conclusion to the LTE:

Meanwhile, nobody is talking about how the DFL commissioners are overpaid. Myron Frans got a $35,347 raise after telling the Legislature electronic pull tabs would bring in $35 million of tax revenue per year for the Vikings’ stadium. Last year, it generated $1.7 million. Frans was just off by 95 percent. In the private sector, Frans would’ve gotten fired. In the Dayton administration, he got a 40 percent pay increase.

Last week on Almanac, Mary Lahammer interviewed a gentleman who studies salaries. This gentleman, whose name I’ve forgotten, insisted that people with that many employees and that many responsibilities in the private sector would be “presidents, vice presidents or CEOs” and that they’d “get paid twice as much as they’re making” in the public sector.

Let’s examine that statement. The first assumption is that public sector commissioners get scrutinized like private sector CEOs, presidents and vice presidents. They don’t. Once commissioners are confirmed, they’re there until they leave for a consulting job or they screw up like April Todd-Malmlov.

That leads to the first unanswered question: where’s the expectation that upper level management in the public sector are really good at their jobs?

That leads to a second assumption, which is that the incentive for doing a job right in the private sector exists to the same extent that it exists in the public sector. That’s the wrong assumption. It’s wrongheaded thinking. If a CEO makes a big enough mistake, the company he works for loses money, perhaps lots of money. There are consequences to making bad decision in the private sector.

Those consequences don’t exist in the public sector. When Myron Frans totally botched it with the e-pulltab revenue estimate, the money didn’t come from his pocket. It came from taxpayers’ pockets. Not only didn’t he get terminated, he got a $35,000 raise and a new job title.

Incompetence and corruption are tied to each other. In Frans’ case, one led to the other. It’s immoral for a commissioner that incompetent to not get fired. It’s despicable that a commissioner that incompetent got a raise. If Frans were a moral man, he’d tell Gov. Dayton that he didn’t earn the money.

Frans won’t do that. He’ll just keep collecting paychecks he didn’t earn. Shame on Frans, Dayton and Bakk for being that disinterested in protecting the taxpayers’ hard-earned money.

This morning, the St. Cloud Times published my LTE about the Bakk-Dayton fiasco. Post your opinions in the comments below.

There’s little doubt that the feud between Tom Bakk and Mark Dayton is personal. When Gov. Dayton picked Tina Smith as his running mate, he essentially told Sen. Bakk that he was picking her to be the next governor. That’s a job Tom Bakk has coveted for years. He’d checked all the boxes. He’s been loyal to Gov. Dayton. That loyalty and water-carrying apparently didn’t mean much to Gov. Dayton of the Metrocrat Party. When pushing turned into shoving, Gov. Dayton shoved the Iron Range aside and picked Smith.

This editorial is right that it’s personal. It’s wrong in stating that Sen. Bakk took a courageous stand:

And that’s why the Iron Range and all of Greater Minnesota are extremely fortunate at this time to have Sen. Tom Bakk of Cook as Senate Majority Leader. He took a politically courageous stand to get an amendment tacked on to a stopgap spending bill to delay a bad political blunder by the governor — extremely high commissioner raises in one chunk, not even phased in.

Sen. Bakk didn’t make a courageous decision. It was a political decision that did nothing. It sounds courageous to delay the commissioners’ pay increases. It’s the option Sen. Bakk chose instead of taking a principled stand against overpaying these commissioners.

Friday night on Almanac, they aired a segment with an HR type talking about how justifiable it is to pay these commissioners their new salaries. When this HR type said that commissioners were “like presidents, vice presidents and CEOs”, I got irate. When I wrote this post, I highlighted Myron Frans’ incompetence:

For those that don’t remember, Commissioner Frans was the person who accepted as Gospel fact that e-tabs would produce enough revenue to pay off the state share of the Vikings stadium. He was off by a paltry 95%.

In the private sector, Commissioner Frans would’ve gotten fired within minutes. In the Dayton administration, Frans received a $35,000 raise. Yesterday on At Issue, Tom Hauser highlighted the fact that those $35,000 a year raises were more than some Iron Range families make in a year. That’s on top of the fact that these commissioners were already making six-figure salaries.

On that same program, former DFL Chairman Brian Melendez said that these commissioners have lots of responsibilities and, therefore, deserve their salaries. What he didn’t say, though, was that these commissioner did a good job.

If Sen. Bakk wanted to do something truly courageous, he should’ve submitted an amendment that repealed those pay raises. This was Sen. Bakk’s attempt to look like he was doing something without doing anything.

That doesn’t take courage. That just requires fawning media attention.

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Michael Brodkorb’s article is insightful in that it highlights this week’s vote to delay Gov. Dayton’s decision to raise Gov. Dayton’s commissioners’ pay was a sham:

Let’s set the stage for Bakk’s tour de force performance. In 2013, the Minnesota Senate passed legislation – supported by Bakk – which would allow the Governor of Minnesota to set the salaries of commissioners. Dayton supported the legislation and said in a statement, “I have lost outstanding employees because someone else could offer them salaries 50 percent or even 100 percent higher than state government.”

After the legislation was passed, the commissioners received salary increases in 2013 and 2014. I could not find any public comments of concern about the salary increases from anyone, including Bakk. In January, Dayton again exercised the authority granted to him by Bakk and the Minnesota Legislature and he set salary increases to commissioners in 2015. But this time, Bakk cried foul.

As Michael said, this is political posturing. Last night on Almanac, the DFL’s panelists (Ellen Anderson and Ember Reichgott-Junge) attempted to downplay the Bakk-Dayton fight. The Senate vote is phony but the Bakk-Dayton fight is serious.

Here’s hoping that the House passes the Senate bill without amending it. That way, the bill goes immediately to Gov. Dayton’s desk, where he’s promised to veto the bill. After the legislature gets Gov. Dayton’s veto letter, they should immediately bring it up for a vote to override Gov. Dayton’s veto. Article IV, sec. 23 of Minnesota’s Constitution lays out the procedure for overriding a governor’s veto:

Sec. 23. Approval of bills by governor; action on veto. Every bill passed in conformity to the rules of each house and the joint rules of the two houses shall be presented to the governor. If he approves a bill, he shall sign it, deposit it in the office of the secretary of state and notify the house in which it originated of that fact. If he vetoes a bill, he shall return it with his objections to the house in which it originated.

According to this webpage, the bill originated in the Senate:

Senator Bakk moved to amend the Cohen amendment to S.F. No. 174 as
1.2follows:
1.3Page 1, after line 6, insert:
1.4″Page 2, after line 30, insert:

When Gov. Dayton vetoes the bill, Sen. Bakk will have a real decision to make. He can either drop the subject and be exposed as proposing the amendment to provide political cover on an unpopular subject or he can schedule a vote to override Gov. Dayton’s veto. Most importantly, the DFL majority in the Senate will be in jeopardy because the DFL will be exposed as not being particularly bothered by Gov. Dayton’s pay increases to his commissioners.

This was a show-and-tell vote. It was a freebie. It helped DFL senators look like they were doing something without actually doing something. Sen. Bakk’s amendment didn’t repeal Gov. Dayton’s authority to raise his commissioners’ pay. It just delayed part of the pay increase Sen. Bakk and the DFL legislature gave to Gov. Dayton. After all, Gov. Dayton’s commissioners had already received part of their raises long before last fall’s election.

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Sen. Bakk’s controversial amendment to an emergency spending bill has put him in a precarious political position. This article includes some Bakk quotes that indicate he knows he’s put himself in a delicate position:

“If the governor signs the bill he can do whatever he wants to do. All we did was suspend it for a five-month period. I believe the data we’ll see will support what he did,” said Bakk. “In a vote of 63 to 2, it’s obvious people want to see the information. We have some questions to ask. But I don’t doubt for a minute that every single penny is supported by the data he has.”

There’s no doubt that Sen. Bakk knows the commissioner pay raises aren’t popular. With the Senate up for election in 2016, he can’t afford to look too supportive of Minnesota’s public employees. At the same time, he can’t distance himself too much from Minnesota’s public employees because they’re a significant part of the DFL’s base.

It’s impossible to know if Sen. Bakk’s amendment has permanently damaged his already-contentious relationship with Gov. Dayton. It isn’t impossible to know if it’s done significant damage to their ability to work together in the short-term:

“I am confronted with two hostile bodies of the Legislature, one with a leader I believe I can trust,” he said, referring to GOP House Speaker Kurt Daudt, “and one I know I can’t trust” he said of Bakk.

It’s only fitting that the relationship between Gov. Dayton and Sen. Bakk are frosty considering the fact that International Falls is part of Sen. Bakk’s Senate district. Carly Melin didn’t miss the opportunity to walk the tightrope:

Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, said although she supports more competitive pay raises, the increases Gov. Dayton is proposing are somewhat concerning. “I’m not necessarily opposed to any governor making pay raises for their commissioners, but I think we were caught off-guard by the height of these pay raises,” said Rep. Melin. “Most people in private and public sectors don’t get a thirty-percent pay raise overnight.

That’s a fine job of walking the tightrope between taxpayers and the people who support the DFL with their checks and their GOTV work.

Gov. Dayton is pitted against Tom Bakk, a fellow Democrat, in a spitting fight over Gov. Dayton’s pay increase for commissioners:

Gov. Mark Dayton erupted in anger Thursday in a dispute with the DFL Senate leader over a weeks-long controversy surrounding pay raises the governor gave to his cabinet. “To have a majority leader of the Senate come in and stab me in the back and blindside me is absolutely unacceptable,” Dayton said.

Dayton’s ire came after Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk led the Senate in voting to suspend the salary increases for state commissioners. All but two members of the DFL-controlled Senate voted with Bakk in favor of the proposal. The friction between the Capitol’s two most powerful DFLers threatens to cast a cloud over the rest of the 2015 legislative session. The two have tussled before, but Dayton indicated Thursday that their relations now were beyond repair.

Dayton said Bakk, a former ally, has proved himself untrustworthy because he brought forth the salary smackdown without any warning. “I’m confronted with two hostile bodies of the Legislature, one with a leader I believe I can trust (Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt) and one I know I can’t trust,” Dayton said. “I certainly learned a brutal lesson today that I can’t trust (Bakk.) I can’t believe what he says to me and connives behind my back.”

My initial reaction is “Wow!” My next reaction is ‘That’s what happens when a spoiled brat gets criticized.’ From a strategic standpoint, I hope Speaker Daudt brings the Senate bill up for a vote ASAP. When Gov. Dayton vetoes the bill, then the legislature should vote to override Gov. Dayton’s veto.

If House Democrats vote to sustain Gov. Dayton’s veto, Republicans could use that in their 2016 campaign, arguing that the DFL is in the pocket of the government employee unions and not in the favor of the taxpayers. It’s a perfect wedge issue.

More importantly, it’s a positive issue for Republicans because they’d be on the right side of the issue.

Dayton said he will no longer negotiate with Bakk without witnesses.

Bakk declined Thursday afternoon to comment on Dayton’s rebuke but earlier in the day said he had spoken to the governor Wednesday about the options the Senate might have regarding the salary increases. Bakk, DFL-Cook, indicated one of the options he mentioned was delaying the pay hikes through June. “I laid this out,” Bakk said.

I don’t doubt that Sen. Bakk and Gov. Dayton will work together on the budget. That being said, I’m certain that Gov. Dayton’s relationship with Sen. Bakk will be icy:

Dayton said he would veto the entire funding measure, which his administration had requested, if it comes to him with the Senate’s salary-suspension intact. The governor said, unlike the House plan, the Senate proposal would negate his legal authority to increase commissioners’ salaries. He accused Bakk, who ran for governor against Dayton in 2010, of meddling in his administration.

The people already voted and they gave me the authority last fall,” Dayton said. “The balance of power is the legislative and executive branch.”

Gov. Dayton is right. This has been voted on. In fact, here’s a list of DFL senators who voted to give Gov. Dayton that authority:

Sen. Bakk voted to give Gov. Dayton the authority to raise these salaries, then voted to delay those pay increases. Patricia Torres-Ray and Sandy Pappas voted to give Gov. Dayton the authority, too. The difference is that they voted to not strip that authority from Gov. Dayton.

Gov. Dayton’s justification for his pay increases is a novel approach:

Gov. Dayton’s documents show Hennepin and Dakota County administrators make more than Minnesota’s highest paid Commissioners, who earn $154,000.

Hennepin County’s top administrator earns $194,750; Dakota County’s administrator, $165,776. City managers in St. Louis Park, Edina, Woodbury and Eden Prairie all make more than top state commissioners.

So do Department directors in Minneapolis, Bloomington and Hennepin County.

Here’s a partial list:
St. Louis Park Manager – $162,240
Edina Manager – $157,602
Woodbury Administrator – $157,227
Minneapolis Public Works – $156,997
Bloomington Public Works – $156,148
Hennepin County Transportation – $156,000
Eden Prairie Manager – $155,584

In Plymouth, the City manager makes $142,800, about the same ($144,991) as the Minnesota Commissioners of Administration, Agriculture, Civil Rights, Commerce and Labor.

Apparently, Gov. Dayton’s justification for overpaying his commissioners is that poorly run cities and counties are overpaying their employees even worse. Here’s the job description of the Hennepin County Administrator:

The county administrator makes recommendations to the county board, implements its policies, provides leadership to the organization and assures effective delivery of county services.

That’s worth $200,000 a year? That’s insulting. Further, cities and counties that overpay their administrators, directors and managers have to pay for that somehow, most likely with higher property taxes.

That means Gov. Dayton is justifying his pay increases by citing city and county employees that are driving up cities’ and counties’ property taxes. Further, where’s the proof that these cities’ and counties’ employees are actually doing a good job? That’s got to be part of the discussion, doesn’t it?

I won’t even get into that with Gov. Dayton’s commissioners. Myron Frans is the highest paid commissioner at $154,992. Frans is the corruptocrat that accepted the gambling lobby’s estimate that e-pull tabs would bring in $35,000,000 per year, which was supposed to pay for the public’s share of the Vikings stadium. The estimate Frans approved fell just $32,600,000 short of what was needed. Based on his incompetence-to-salary ratio, we’d need to pay commissioners $500,000 a year, not $155,000.

Finally, if these cities want to pay their employees these salaries, then it’s time to question whether they need LGA.

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