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Last night, the House passed the Road and Bridge Act of 2015 by a 73-59 vote. Speaker Kurt Daudt put things succinctly in this statement:

“Minnesota families rely on our road and bridge infrastructure to get their kids to school and themselves to work. The House Republican majority has listened to Minnesotans and worked toward a solution that provides immediate repair to roads in their communities. Furthermore, with the passage of the Road and Bridge Act of 2015, we have delivered a real, long-term solution without increasing the tax burden on middle-class Minnesotans,” said Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown).

Republicans won the majority in the House thanks to the promises they made of focusing on outstate Minnesota. Contrary to Ellen Anderson’s inside-the-Twin-Cities perspective, outstate Minnesota doesn’t care about transit. In February, Anderson participated in an Almanac Roundtable discussion. During that debate, Anderson said that Republicans better jump on board with transit funding because “outstate Minnesotans love their transit, too.”

Anderson is either lying through her teeth or she’s dumber than a sack of hair. At this point, that’s a close call. But I digress.

Seriously, when it comes to transportation, outstate Minnesota doesn’t give a rip about transit. The Republican plan focuses on Minnesota’s transportation needs. The DFL’s plan focuses on the transportation lobbyists’ wish list. If Republicans want to keep control of the House and take back control of the Senate, they should stick with their transportation plan.

House Transportation Committee Chair Tim Kelly hit the nail on the head with this statement:

“With this bill, House Republicans are offering a workable, common sense solution to our transportation funding debate,” said House Transportation Committee Chair Tim Kelly (R-Red Wing), chairman of the Minnesota House Transportation Finance Committee. “We were able to prioritize roads and bridges in the fiscally responsible manner that Minnesotans wanted and expected.”

Rep. Kelly is right. There isn’t a great groundswell of support for transit. There’s less support for a gas tax increase than there is support for transit funding.

If Sen. Bakk wants to give the GOP a majority in the Senate in 2016, all he needs to do is keep pushing a major gas tax increase. According to the February KSTP-SurveyUSA poll, 75% of Minnesotans support the Republican plan. If Sen. Bakk wants to force his vulnerable members to vote for an unpopular tax increase that’s supported by only 18% of Minnesotans, he’ll hand the majority of the Minnesota Senate to Republicans on a silver platter.

It’ll be interesting to see how transportation plays out. Gov. Dayton is pretty much forced to fight for transit funding. Sen. Bakk is pretty much forced into fighting against increased transit funding because forcing outstate DFL legislators to vote for a package of major transportation tax increases will sink his majority status.

Gov. Dayton’s attention to detail is inspiring. What other governor would pay attention to umlautless road signs late in the budget session? Here’s what I’m talking about:

Gov. Dayton didn’t know that the Vikings stadium bill had a provision in it that allowed the Wilfs to sell personal seat license but Gov. Dayton knows that the Lindstrom highway sign doesn’t have the proper umlauting.

Gov. Dayton didn’t know that the 2013 Tax Bill that he negotiated with the DFL legislative leaders included a sales tax on farm equipment repairs but he’s ordered the umlautless signs to be fixed ASAP. Minnesotans will sleep easier tonight knowing that Gov. Dayton’s attention to detail is unsurpassed:

In a new executive order issued Wednesday, Dayton demanded his state’s transportation authority “reinstate the use of umlauts on roadway signage, when appropriate.”

“Nonsensical rules like this are exactly why people get frustrated with government,” Dayton said in an accompanying statement. Dayton said he was inspired by the troubles faced by the relatively small city of Lindström, which bills itself as “America’s Little Sweden.” “Even if I have to drive to Lindström, and paint the umlauts on the city limit signs myself, I’ll do it,” Dayton vowed in his clearly emotional statement.

That’s stunning. Getting upset because road signs don’t have umlauts where they’re appropriate isn’t just a little deranged. That’s a ‘the cheese has slid totally off the cracker’ moment. Not everyone agrees with me, which is stunning by itself:

Business Insider reached out to Lindström City Hall for comment on the executive order. City Administrator John Olinger applauded the governor’s change, which he said would allow local signage to better reflect the city’s history.

At least someone other than Gov. Dayton will sleep better tonight thanks to Gov. Dayton taking decisive action.

The DFL is opposed to not raising every Minnesotan’s taxes. The Dayton-DFL transportation plan would impose a tax increase on everyone who owns a vehicle. It would also impose a tax increase on everyone in the 7-county metro area via a sales tax increase. The 7-county sales tax increase is collected from anyone buying things in Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott and Washington counties. The sales tax revenue collected, however, mainly gets funneled into transit projects in Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

The Move MN plan isn’t focused. It wants to raise taxes on everyone to pay for this list of items:

Any plan that prioritizes everything doesn’t prioritize anything.

Minnesotans are imploring politicians to fix their roads and fill their potholes. The Republican plan focuses their attention on that. In fact, the Republican plan essentially told transit lobbyists that they’re on their own. That’s a bit of an oversimplification but it isn’t an outrageous oversimplification.

If I polled Minnesotans what they wanted their money spent on this session, bike trails and pedestrian infrastructure wouldn’t break the top 25 items. It just isn’t a priority. It wouldn’t be surprising if that same imaginary poll found that transit projects in the 7-county metro area would be a priority for a plurality of voters in Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

Predictably, the DFL is outraged by the Republicans’ plan. It’s predictable because Republicans listened to Minnesotans’ priorities while the DFL listened to transportation lobbyists. The DFL opposes redirecting the sales taxes away from the general fund.

The question Minnesotans should ask DFL legislators is straightforward. Why should taxes collected on vehicles and auto parts not be part of the solution for fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges? Another question that would be appropriate to ask is why those sales taxes are being directed at anything from funding corrupt organizations like Community Action of Minneapolis to funding MnSCU’s Central Office to paying for outrageous pay raises for Gov. Dayton’s commissioners.

Follow this link for more on this subject.

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In Gov. Dayton’s State of the State Address, Gov. Dayton talked about the Civil War, then changing the topic to a thinly-veiled reference to transportation:

We are not being called upon to make such extreme sacrifices. Yet, during the remaining six weeks of this legislative session, we will face our own moments of truth: Will we do what is easy, safe, and popular; or will we risk our political lives to preserve this great state for future generations?

In mid-February, Survey USA conducted a poll on which party’s transportation plan Minnesotans preferred. Here’s what they said:

Governor Dayton proposes a sales tax on gasoline, higher driver’s license registration fees. and a higher general sales tax in the 7-county Minneapolis metro area to raise $6 billion over 10 years for new highways, bridges and mass transit. Do you approve or disapprove? Asked of 525 registered voters. Margin of sampling error for this question = ± 4.4%

43% Approve, 51% Disapprove, 6% Not Sure

House Republicans propose spending $750-million on highways and bridges over four years by using some of the state’s budget surplus and other existing funds without raising taxes. Do you approve or disapprove? Asked of 525 registered voters. Margin of sampling error for this question = ± 3.8%

75% Approve, 17% Disapprove, 8% Not Sure

Since that poll was taken, Republicans published their full 10-year proposal. The Republicans’ plan invests $7,000,000,000 in fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges. Clearly, the Republicans’ plan is more popular, which is why Gov. Dayton talked about doing “what is easy, safe and popular” vs. passing the mildly unpopular Dayton-DFL transportation plan. (It’s mildly unpopular in that it’s only slightly underwater in its approval.)

Don’t be surprised if Tom Bakk pulls the plug on Gov. Dayton’s plan. With the Senate being up for election in 2016, he won’t want to force his senators to take too many controversial votes. Sen. Bakk knows how to read a poll. There’s no way he reads the KSTP-SurveyUSA poll and thinks he can enthusiastically support Gov. Dayton’s plan.

Predicting how Sen. Bakk reacts to Gov. Dayton’s transportation bill is speculation. Still, it’s difficult to picture Sen. Bakk walking Gov. Dayton’s plank.

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During Gov. Dayton’s State of the State Address, he insisted that the state of the State was good:

For right now, we have a rare moment of great opportunity. The state of our state is good. Not everywhere. Not for everyone. But overall, Minnesota is doing better than it has for some time, and Minnesota is doing better than most other states.

That’s spin. This is reality:

According to the Getting Prepared report by the Office of Higher Education, 28 percent of Minnesota’s 2011 high school graduates were required to take remedial courses when entering college. Together these students spent $9 million in tuition just on remedial classes – covering K-12 material that taxpayers already funded. The problem affects students from across the state, from affluent suburbs to rural communities to the Twin Cities’ largest districts, but students of color and low-income students are most deeply affected.

When 1-in-4 high school graduates take remedial classes upon entering community college, that says K-12 schools have failed these students. What’s worst is that, according to the Office of Higher Education’s report, these problems affect “students from across the state, from affluent suburbs to rural communities to the Twin Cities’ largest districts.”

That means this problem isn’t confined to students languishing in impoverished inner city schools. It’s happening across the state. Rep. Thissen said that the DFL had made “historic investments” in education. That’s proof that the DFL’s education motto is still intact. FYI- DFL’s education motto is ‘more money, bigger achievement gap, less accountability.’

When one-fourth of MnSCU’s community college students need to take remedial courses, the state of Minnesota’s K-12 program isn’t good. It’s bleak. It need to improve. That won’t happen without a change in policies and leadership.

Thursday night, Gov. Dayton delivered his annual State of the State Address. True to the DFL’s creed, there’s something in there for each of the DFL’s special interest groups. True to the DFL’s creed, there’s a ton of spin in Gov. Dayton’s speech. Here’s a perfect example of that spin:

At the other end of the education continuum, higher education: the University of Minnesota, the MnSCU colleges, and universities, and state financial aid for students are equally deserving of increased support. In 2013, the legislature approved a $249 million increase in higher education funding for the current biennium. That increase, however, only replaced the $246 million reduction enacted in 2011.

In real, inflation-adjusted dollars, state support for higher education in FY 2012 dropped to its lowest level in over thirty years. No wonder tuitions have been forced higher and higher in both systems, causing Minnesota students to graduate with the fifth highest average debt loads in the country.

That’s just dishonest. One of the reasons why tuitions “have been forced higher” is because MnSCU presidents and the MnSCU Central Office have spent outrageously on consultants and administrators. Couple that with the reckless fiscal mismanagement in years past, mostly in the name of pursuing lofty-sounding visions or outright legacy-building and it isn’t surprising why tuitions have skyrocketed.

Pitting students and parents’ budgets against university presidents’ and MnSCU administrators’ wish lists isn’t the best way to build a better Minnesota, though it’s the fastest way to pay off one of the DFL’s strongest special interest allies.

To show how misguided Gov. Dayton’s policies are and how blindly the DFL will follow Education Minnesota’s instructions, check out how Gov. Dayton, the DFL and Education Minnesota are cheating Jazmyne McGill:

Despite meeting all of the requirements for a diploma, I had to take a class in college that covered material I had already passed in high school. Worse, this class wouldn’t earn me any credit toward a degree, although I had to pay full tuition for it.

Coming from a low-income family, I did not have the extra money to take a class that wouldn’t count toward my degree. Minnesota’s college graduates already carry one of the nation’s highest student debt loads and repay their loans at an above average rate. Yet remedial classes saddle students with additional debt, don’t earn them degrees, and deter them from completed their degrees – at a time when an increasing number of Minnesota jobs require post-secondary education.

Jazmyne paid hundreds of additional dollars for a class Education Minnesota told her she’d satisfactorily passed. That’s the definition of educational theft.

Rather than verifying whether the K-12 or higher ed money is producing excellent educational outcomes, the DFL just keeps returning for more money for a system that’s failing Minnesota’s youth. Cheating Minnesota’s students isn’t acceptable — except if it’s Education Minnesota cheating students while the DFL are running things. Then it’s apparently fine.

Finally, check out the transcript. It’s traditional Dayton in that it’s filled with terrible punctuation and grammar. Thank God he hired the best speechwriters, then gave them big raises. Spending lots of money, then not paying attention to whether it’s being spent wisely isn’t proof that government is treating its taxpayers wisely. It’s proof that the DFL cares more about their big government allies than they care about the taxpayers.

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The Duluth News Tribune’s Our View editorial highlights Gov. Dayton’s attempt at slick advertising:

The governor’s bonding bill — er, sorry, Dayton and his staff even came up with a far-more-fetching name: “jobs bill” — has little to no chance of going anywhere. And that makes all the effort to get it ready and proposed, as well as the ballyhooed rollout, all that more curious. Anyone with even a hint of cynicism may have smelled politics at play.

The proposal has little to no chance of passage because such a bill has to originate in the House, and the House this year is led by Republicans who not only aren’t DFLers like Dayton, they’ve made it quite clear they have no plans for such a proposal right now.

Among other reasons for pause, it’s just not the right year. Bonding bills, or jobs bills, if you wish, typically are the products of even-numbered years’ sessions. This session has to be all about passing a budget, which the law requires, and passing a transportation bill, which our crumbling, too-long-overlooked highways and bridges demand. Republicans and DFLers, including Dayton, are far apart on those priorities and others and can spend the remaining weeks of the session compromising and working together with the good of all Minnesotans and their pocketbooks first and foremost in their minds.

That’s insulting on multiple fronts. When Republicans unveiled their Transportation Bill, one of the first complaints that the DFL made was that the GOP plan borrowed money while running up the credit card bill to pay for future road and bridge projects. I said then that putting a multigenerational bridge repair project on Minnesota’s credit card was totally justified because multiple generations will be using the bridge that’s getting repaired.

The DFL, led by Rep. Paul Thissen, criticized that approach. That’s frightening considering the fact that Thissen’s voted for bonding bills that paid for ‘important’ infrastructure projects like repairing gorilla cages at Como Park Zoo or a sheet music museum in southern Minnesota.

Based on the DFL’s actions, it’s apparent that the DFL thinks it’s fiscally irresponsible to pay for transportation infrastructure projects with the state’s credit card but it’s prudent to pay for frivolous projects like museum and zoo repair projects with the state’s credit card.

Bonding bills aren’t “jobs bills.” That’s just Gov. Dayton’s and the DFL’s slick advertising name for them. A high percentage of the projects in the average bonding bill pay off special interest constituencies. If you want to give these types of bills an honest name, let’s call them “the special interests’ appeasement bill.” Either that or let’s call them the “special interests’ pay-off bills”.

This year, let’s give them this name: dead on arrival.

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In a stunning development, the DFL has promised it’ll never raise the gas tax again to fix Minnesota’s roads and bridges. Let the parsing begin. Actually, the DFL didn’t make that promise this session. That’s what they promised in 2007-08. Back then, Sen. Steve Murphy, then-chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, promised that passing a nickel-per-gallon gas tax increase would be the only tax increase they’d need to fix “Minnesota’s crumbling roads and bridges” for the next 25 years.

Just 7 years later, Gov. Dayton is back, insisting that “Minnesota’s crumbling roads and bridges” require a 6.5% wholesale gas tax increase. The DFL and Move MN support Gov. Dayton’s plan. This time, they aren’t promising this will be the last tax increase they’ll ask for to fix Minnesota’s roads and bridges. Instead, this is what the DFL is saying to rationalize their latest tax increase:

“I don’t relish having to raise the revenues needed to start fixing 25 years of deterioration and deficiencies in Minnesota’s transportation system,” Dayton said.

It’s interesting that Gov. Dayton totally ignored the $6.6 billion tax increase the DFL imposed on Minnesotans in 2008 in the name of fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges. It isn’t surprising but it’s definitely interesting.

What’s really happening is that the DFL is settling an old promise with their transportation special interest lobbyists. Their transit activists expected to get paid when Mark Dayton was governor and the DFL had majorities in the House and Senate. It’s likely that the DFL’s transit activists were told that an income tax increase and extending the sales tax to farm equipment repairs and warehousing services were the DFL’s highest priorities.

It’s likely that they were told they’d be first up on the tax increase list in this session. Clearly, they didn’t expect the House Republican majority to tell the transit activists to get their money from the local communities where the LRT corridors run through.

That’s the worst possible news for transit activists because it’s tougher for city councilmembers to justify raising taxes for transit projects.

Republicans shouldn’t consider raising the gas tax this year. First, it’s a proven failure. The DFL will be back in just a few years for another tax increase because this tax increase, they’ll say, wasn’t enough. (It never is.) The difference the next time they ask for a tax increase, they’ll be able to say that Republicans better vote for this one because they voted for the last one.

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This Strib article is an excellent piece of reporting in that it explains what the Met Council is:

“It’s not about simply griping about allocation of transportation or parks money or housing in any given particular funding cycle,” said Dakota County Commissioner Chris Gerlach.

“We look at it and say, there is a fundamental problem with the way the Met Council functions. You think it’s one thing, but it’s really not,” Gerlach said. “You think that a Met Council is made up of 16 individuals and a chair appointed by various districts and therefore you have a diverse group that is going to advocate for the region. It’s not that at all. What it is, it’s a state agency.”

I can’t disagree with Gerlach’s statement. The Council is appointed by the governor. Political appointees don’t work on the behalf of these counties. In this instance, they work for Gov. Dayton and the DFL’s special interests. The Met Council either needs to be changed or gotten rid of.

Counties still aren’t happy, though. Four years ago, they were angry enough to take their case to the Transportation Department, which eventually affirmed, via a letter, that the current makeup is legal. That 2011 letter is still used by the Met Council to justify its decisionmaking process.

Changing the Met Council’s board would require a change in state statute; several proposals pending in the Legislature would examine the issue. The way the Met Council operates is extremely rare: A 2010 report paid for by the Federal Highway Administration found that 94 percent of organizations like the Met Council are made up of elected officials.

A government agency that doesn’t answer to the people is unaccountable. I wouldn’t trust them.

Of course, Gov. Dayton is upset because he didn’t pay attention to what’s happening:

Dayton ‘appalled’

Quarrels between cities and suburbs about how to spend public dollars are as old as the cities and suburbs themselves. But the decision by the four counties to hire a federal lobbyist, before checking with the governor, is viewed by Dayton as a nuclear option.

“It’s really, really reprehensible on their part to be sneaking off to Washington behind the back of, I don’t know if the people on the Met Council were aware of it, but at least behind my back,” Dayton said. “And then come to the state of Minnesota for funding for their projects and the like? If we have a disagreement within our family, then the place to resolve that is within our family. To go out to Washington behind our backs and trash our situation here in Minnesota, and denigrate Minnesota in front of federal authorities, and try to turn the federal government against Minnesota is really, really irresponsible. I’m appalled to just learn this.”

First off, this isn’t just a fight “within our family”:

WASHINGTON – Four suburban Twin Cities counties say they are agitated with the way the Metropolitan Council is making decisions and have hired a federal lobbyist in hopes of gutting the regional planning organization’s appointed board of directors. The lobbyist, who represents Anoka, Carver, Scott and Dakota counties, will work to make the case to the U.S. Department of Transportation that the Met Council, the seven-county regional agency whose 17 members are appointees of Gov. Mark Dayton, is violating a federal rule by distributing more than $660 million a year without appropriate input from elected officials.

Secondly, it isn’t these counties’ fault that Gov. Dayton is frequently asleep at the switch. It’s time to either restructure the Met Council or tear it all down.

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This video shows how little provocation it takes to get progressive totalitarians in a tizzy:

This week’s big flashpoint moment came from Indiana, when a progressive ‘reporter’ played into the storyline that Indiana’s RFRA law was horrible. John Hinderaker’s post is must reading on the subject:

Yesterday Minnesota’s governor, Mark Dayton, joined the chorus of denunciation: “‘I abhor the actions taken by the Legislature and governor of Indiana,’ Dayton told the Star Tribune.” Dayton, like a number of other governors, says he is considering a ban on official travel to Indiana. So Minnesota’s bureaucrats may no longer be able to take junkets to Terre Haute.

The hysterical reaction to Indiana’s law can only be described as insane. As we noted here, there is a federal RFRA that governs federal laws, 19 states have their own RFRAs, and ten other states have adopted the “strict scrutiny” standard of the Indiana statute by judicial opinion. Governor Dayton is perhaps unaware that Minnesota is one of those ten states. Hill-Murray Fed’n of Teachers v. Hill-Murray High School, 487 N.W.2d 857, 865 (Minn. 1992); State v. Hershberger, 462 N.W.2d 393, 398 (Minn. 1990).

Today, Michael Barone’s article offers this explanation for what’s at stake:

The Indiana law is substantially identical to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed by Congress by a near-unanimous vote in 1993 and signed with brio by Bill Clinton. It was a response to a Supreme Court decision upholding an Oregon drug law against members of the Native American Church who had claimed their religion requires drug use.

RFRA sets up a balancing test, to be employed by courts. Government cannot enforce a statute requiring people to violate their religious convictions unless it can demonstrate a compelling interest in doing so, and proceeds to do so by the least restrictive means possible.

This is in line with longstanding American tradition. The First Amendment, ratified in 1790, guaranteed Americans the “free exercise” of religion. The Framers knew that their new republic included Quakers, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, atheists, even perhaps a few Muslims. They wanted all to be free to live, not just worship, but live, according to their beliefs.

There’s little doubt that this week’s firestorm is purely political. These LGBT organizations know the laws on the books, though I can’t say the same about Gov. Dayton. As Barone says, RFRAs impose “a balancing test” for the judiciary to follow in determining whether the government can limit a person’s right to live out their religious beliefs. What RFRAs do, too, is tell government that they must use the least most intrusive remedy if they can demonstrate a “compelling interest” in limiting a person’s right to practice their religion.

This isn’t new. As Mr. Barone highlights, this “is in line with longstanding American tradition.” I’d hope that the judiciary wouldn’t take a sledgehammer to people’s religious rights. Apparently, that’s the remedy these LGBT activists want.

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