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Sen. Bakk has a reputation of being a smart political strategist. After reading this post, though, I have to consider updating my opinion on that. Here’s what he said that’s forced me to reconsider my opinion:

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk offered a sharp rebuke of the House Republican budget targets unveiled this week that would offer $2 billion in unspecified tax relief and mostly hold the line on spending. “It’s really not a place we’re gonna start negotiating. I think they’ve gotta get a little more serious with the budget proposal before we’re gonna actually start trading nickels back and forth,” said Bakk, DFL-Cook.

Senate DFL budget targets will be released Friday at 9 a.m. Bakk reiterated that the Senate would spend more than the House GOP proposal, but less than the budget plan of Gov. Mark Dayton, while putting more money in reserve than either.

Bakk said DFL Senators have received emails from health care and education groups this week, worried the House budget targets would slow spending below inflation and require program cuts. “The governor raised a lot of expectations of the advocacy groups, so some of them are gonna be a bit disappointed, but I expect they’re gonna feel better than they felt when the House targets came out,” Bakk said.

A DFL politician promising the special interests the world isn’t surprising. That’s a DFL tradition. What’s surprising is that Sen. Bakk admitted that in an on-the-record situation.

Frankly, that isn’t the brightest thing to do.

Sen. Bakk thinks that handing out goodies to all of the DFL’s special interest groups is good politics. To a degree, it is. To a large extent, though, it’s foolish. Doing things that help families is a smart thing. Promising handouts to special interests, though, tells families that they aren’t important to the DFL.

If Republicans were smart, and the jury’s still out on that, they’d start asking their neighbors if they want their politicians favoring special interests with their hands out or if they’d rather support politicians who worried about their neighbors and co-workers.

The DFL is the party of the special interests. That’s their identity. It’s time for Republicans to force the DFL to defend their habit of supporting the special interests, especially when the DFL’s special interests are hurting Minnesota’s economy.

Let’s ask Minnesotans if they think it’s ok for a sitting congresswoman to say that it’s ok to hurt an entire region’s economy. Similarly, let’s ask Minnesotans if they’ll continue supporting a political party that’s more attuned to the wants of the special interests rather than families’ needs.

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This article is a perfect illustration of the DFL’s doublespeak:

DULUTH, MN (NNCNOW.COM) — One Minnesota Congressperson is blasting the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for its new wild rice plan. After intense criticism from Iron Range Lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton, the MPCA said on Tuesday that the agency is updating its standard to account for new science.

Sen. Tom Bakk and others have been pressuring the state agency to waive or eliminate the ten standard; a standard that threatens the Iron mining industry, according Sen. Bakk and Iron Range Representatives Carly Melin and Jason Metsa.

But U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum told NNC on Wednesday that the state should not be lowering water quality standards to “cater to any industry” such as the mining industry.

The Minnesota Congresswoman, who represents St. Paul and surrounding suburbs in Congress, also wrote a letter to the United States EPA Administrator, urging the EPA to oppose Minnesota’s effort to lower the state’s current water quality standards and to protect wild rice waters.

“Our protections for water quality should be based on sound environmental science – and nothing else. The science in the state’s proposal is questionable,” Rep. McCollum said in a statement. “One of the scientists whose work was used said he was “truly shocked” by the proposal and called it “scientifically indefensible.” “If our water quality standards are lowered and our waters are harmed – it will be impossible to ever restore them. We do not get any do-overs on environmental protection,” she said.

The first thing Rep. McCollum said that’s noteworthy is that Minnesota shouldn’t lower its water quality standards because we shouldn’t “cater to any industry”. That’s right, Betty. We don’t want no stinking industry in Minnesota. Industries are worthless except for creating good paying jobs.

Another thing she said was that Minnesota’s water quality standards “should be based on sound environmental science.” Apparently, Rep. McCollum thinks that she’s the expert on the subject. If she doesn’t think that, she’d pay attention to the MPCA’s study.

I agree that water quality standards should be determined by “sound environmental science”, not by suburban politicians or environmental activists. We shouldn’t trust someone who taught social science in high school, either.

The fact is that Betty McCollum has painted herself into a corner. First, she told us to base our water quality standards on verifiable scientific standards. A paragraph later, she’s portraying herself as an expert on the environment even though she taught high school social science.

I’d just say that I wouldn’t trust a high school social science teacher when it comes to talking about the environment.

During his interview with MPR, Gov. Dayton experienced a brief flash of lucidity:

Gov. Mark Dayton is siding with U.S. Steel in a battle over water pollution standards for the company’s taconite facility in Mountain Iron. In an interview with MPR News, Dayton said the existing sulfate standard aimed at protecting wild rice is out of date, and pushing it could be catastrophic for northeastern Minnesota.

As the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency prepares to release new environmental standards, U.S. Steel is lobbying the Legislature to delay the implementation of a clean water standard aimed at protecting water where wild rice grows.

The existing state standard prevents companies from discharging more than 10 milligrams of sulfate per liter of water. But company lobbyists and Iron Range legislators say the standard is too low. With his latest comments, his strongest to date on the long-running debate, Dayton is joining that group.

“Some people will say, ‘you’re going to abandon the standard,'” Dayton said. “But if the standard is obsolete and it’s not validated by current science and information, then to stick with it and close down an industry isn’t really well advised.”

The MPCA just issued this draft proposal:

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is proposing that rather than relying on a single sulfate level for all wild rice waters, sulfate levels should be calculated for each wild rice water, based on location-specific factors. In coming to this conclusion, the MPCA studied how sulfate affects wild rice. The study, which began in 2012, found that:

  1. In the sediment in which wild rice is rooted, sulfate from the water above is converted to sulfide by bacteria.
  2. Higher levels of sulfide in the sediment create an environment that is less hospitable to wild rice.

However, certain factors change the rate at which sulfate is converted to sulfide. Most significantly, higher levels of iron can lead to less sulfide, and higher levels of organic carbon can lead to more sulfide.

To take these variables into account, the MPCA developed an equation that can determine a sulfate level that will protect wild rice for a specific water body. The agency proposes collecting sediment samples in wild rice stands, measuring the iron and organic carbon concentrations in the sediment, and then plugging the data into the equation to calculate a protective sulfate concentration for that particular wild rice water.All of the environmental organizations are protesting these findings because it strips them of another of their anti-mining arguments. They aren’t happy campers over this draft proposal. These environmental organizations were licking their proverbial chops over this:

Dayton said the sulfate standard is outdated and has rarely been enforced since it was first established in 1973. U.S. Steel’s Minntac plant was facing the new standard as it renewed a decades-old permit, something U.S. Steel said would cost hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrades.

Then Gov. Dayton stepped in.

It isn’t that Gov. Dayton had a change of heart. It’s that he knows pissing off the Iron Range means Tina Smith, his Lieutenant Governor, will lose the DFL gubernatorial campaign to Tom Bakk in 2018. Gov. Dayton can’t have that. That’s part of his lackluster legacy.

This article should finish debate over whether the legislature should raise the gas tax. This is stunning:

The governor and Transportation Commissioner Charlie Zelle may have shared the same message at the podium in Mankato — promising that passage of a $10.7 billion funding program will translate into a green light for 600 specific projects across the state, including Highway 14.

The message was far different, a “yellow” light at best, from Department of Transportation headquarters in St. Paul. When some of the metro counties expressed heartburn about the lack of representation for their priority projects on “the list,” we learn from a MnDOT spokesman that the 600 projects on Dayton’s list are merely “examples of the kind of work that we would do with the new transportation funding.” We were told that “if new funding is approved, there will be a planning process at MnDOT to program improvements. During that time, there will be ample opportunity for cities and counties to make the case for projects that aren’t on the list.”

On March 6th, I wrote this post to include some statistics from an email sent by Gov. Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith. It included this information:

Notice that it said that the Dayton-Smith plan “would fund over 600 road and bridge projects statewide in the next 10 years.” It didn’t say that Gov. Dayton’s list were “examples of the kind of work that we would do with the new transportation funding.”

It’s time for Gov. Dayton, the DFL and Move MN to stop lying to us about what this gigantic middle class tax increase would pay for. We’re taxed too much already.

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Gov. Dayton and the DFL are insisting on spending $330,000,000 on railroad safety to prevent oil car derailments/fires. This article shows how short-sighted the Dayton-DFL plan is:

With a throng of officials from towns dealing with the headaches of heavier train traffic behind him, Dayton called it “totally unacceptable” that railroads would oppose contributing more money to the state’s safety efforts. The governor and other fellow DFL lawmakers have proposed a series of tax increases and annual fees on railroads to upgrade railroad crossings and ease congestion across Minnesota.

As usual, Gov. Dayton is removing all doubt that he’s a blithering idiot. Railroads are already spending $500,000,000 on safety improvements in Minnesota. Further, the Dayton-DFL plan isn’t a solution, though Rep. Paul Marquardt isn’t bright enough to figure that out:

“That is the responsibility of the railroad,” Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, said of improvements.

These improvements don’t do anything to solve the underlying problem, which is to free up rail capacity to transport agricultural products to market. The only way to do that is to build more pipelines, which the DFL is unwilling to do. Gov. Dayton and the DFL aren’t willing to do that because the anti-fossil fuel activists won’t tolerate the building of pipelines. That’s because they’re the dominant wing of the DFL.

The only way to improve railroad safety is to stop shipping oil on trains. I’ve yet to hear of a grain car derailing and exploding. Oil should be transported via pipelines because it’s the safest way to transport oil to the refineries.

I can’t emphasize this point enough: Money spent on railway safety won’t be efficiently spent if oil is shipped by railroad.

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Senate Minority Leader David Hann’s op-ed highlights the DFL’s culture of corruption and incestuousness. First, there’s this pattern of DFL corruption:

  1. The DFL Senate campaign committee was fined $100,000 last year for cheating with 13 DFL Senate candidates during the 2012 election.
  2. The DFL Legislature, with Dayton’s signature, spent $90 million on an unnecessary new office building, bypassing the normal process and allowing no public hearings.
  3. DFL Sens. Jeff Hayden and Bobby Joe Champion were accused of bullying the Minneapolis school board into funding a program run by their friends and associates. Hayden is also the subject of an ongoing ethics complaint that he received free trips and other inappropriate perks while serving as a board member for Community Action of Minneapolis, a government-funded nonprofit.
  4. DFL Sen. David Tomassoni attempted to take a job as a lobbyist for the Iron Range city association, even though he is a sitting senator representing part of the Iron Range.
  5. The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) was exposed for underwriting a business whose main client was Dollars for Democrats, an organization set up to help Democratic politicians win elections.
  6. Department of Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman refused to investigate the misuse of public funds at Community Action of Minneapolis because of “political” concerns surrounding the executive director of the organization and his financial support for Dayton. By the way, Rothman used to be the treasurer of the DFL Party.

Apparently, there’s no definition for conflict-of-interest in the DFL’s dictionaries. Then there’s the incestuous nature of the Dayton administration:

Dayton recently awarded his commissioners salary increases as large as $30,000 each. He gave the chair of the Met Council an $86,000 increase — and the beneficiary just happens to be married to the governor’s chief of staff. One of Dayton’s deputy chiefs is married to a top official at Education Minnesota, the teachers union. Another Dayton staffer is married to the chair of the DFL Party.

Apparently, the DFL in Minnesota doesn’t think government of, by and for the people is worthwhile. It’s clear from the Dayton administration’s incestuousness that the DFL believes in government of, by and for their special interest allies. Why should Minnesotans living in Lindstrom, Little Falls and Litchfield think that the Dayton administration’s budget prioritizes their needs. Minnesotans living in Wadena, Willmar and Winona shouldn’t think that the Dayton-DFL budget puts a priority on their needs.

There’s plenty of proof that there’s plenty of plundering happening in St. Paul and Minneapolis. With the exception of David Tomassoni, all the other corrupt DFLers are from the Twin Cities. That’s because they’re the metrocentric party of corruption.

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The DFL’s full court press for “transportation” is nothing more than the DFL’s attempt to increase spending on transit projects. There’s no question whether the DFL wants another middle class tax increase. This article highlights how the DFL’s transportation activists push for transit funding:

Someone asked why the draft update of the state’s rail plan seems to put extending Northstar commuter rail to St. Cloud on the back burner behind other rail corridors that wouldn’t have as high of ridership. Zelle said that while Dayton supports Northstar and thinks it should have been built to St. Cloud in the first place, he is skeptical there will be any federal funding for intercity rail projects.

That’s relatively mild compared with this in-your-face LTE about the ‘need’ to expand Northstar:

Now is the time to push again for Northstar for the following reasons:

  • The economy is on the upswing.
  • We have a new member of Congress, Tom Emmer.
  • The transportation bill is up for renewal this spring in the U.S. Congress.
  • The Homeland Security bill is up for discussion.
  • Minnesota has a budget surplus of a billion or more dollars.
  • The sequestration law and review will likely increase defense spending, i.e. troop transportation.
  • Northstar creates economic development, especially housing.

I believe Northstar should come to St. Cloud and go beyond, heading north to Little Falls, Camp Ripley and end at Brainerd — Camp Ripley because of military needs and Homeland Security issues and Brainerd as an entry point for the lake and resort industries.

The Brainerd area could see the development of a privately owned shuttle service to get visitors and lake residents off the Northstar on Friday afternoons and evenings. What a blessing to the environment if we could reduce the thousands of automobiles on U.S. Highway 10, Minnesota Highway 25 and on Interstate Highway 94 on Friday and Sunday afternoons.Northstar isn’t what’s needed. In fact, it’s a hindrance, not a benefit. What’s needed is money to fix Minnesota’s roads and bridges. That means cutting funding for things like Northstar and the Southwest Light Rail project. Those projects won’t help goods get to markets. They’ll help implement the Met Council’s goal of a transit-driven state transportation system.

Several years ago, before Northstar came to Big Lake, we had a grassroots group called “All Aboard” that lobbied for Northstar at the Minnesota Legislature. “All Aboard” had great community support including the veterans hospital; St. Cloud Hospital; colleges and universities including St. Cloud State University, St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict; trades and labor; chambers of commerce; and other local businesses.

Now, with the establishment of the “Greater St. Cloud Community Priorities” we have the broad support to get the ball rolling or the “train rolling.”

The thought that there’s a groundswell of support for Northstar is BS. There’s a handful of go-along-to-get-along people who support expanding Northstar. Finding a transit activist in Brainerd, Little Falls or Rice is virtually impossible. Finding a dozen Northstar activists in St. Cloud is difficult at best.

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The only thing missing from the Bakk-Dayton transportation press conference was a picture of them kissing after making up. True to form, Gov. Dayton said at least one thing that’s utterly laughable:

Gov. Mark Dayton didn’t mince words Thursday when it came to the House Republican transportation plan, calling it “fiction.”

“All we get from House Republicans and even Senate Republicans is whack at this and whack at that, and rant about this and rant about that,” Dayton told reporters. “There’s nothing coming forward except a slice of the surplus and a double dose of make-believe.”

This coming from the buffoon who published this side-by-side comparison of his plan vs. the Republicans’ plan:

Check out this BS from the table:

In January, Governor Dayton introduced a straight-forward, honest proposal to make long-overdue investments in our aging, under-funded transportation system. The Governor’s proposal would honestly address our state’s $6 billion road and bridge deficit over the next ten years, fix 2,200 miles of state roadways and 330 bridges, provide nearly $2.4 billion for local road and bridge improvements, and invest $2.9 billion in Greater Minnesota and Metro Area transit improvements.

By contrast, the transportation proposal introduced by Republicans in the House of Representatives would fix just 40 miles of local roads over the next four years.

According to Gov. Dayton’s own document, his tax increase, most of which will be paid for by the middle class, will be $13,150,000,000. By comparison, his tax increase from 2013 was $2,100,000,000 for the current biennium.

For all of his “tax the rich” rhetoric, Gov. Dayton’s history is that he’s raised taxes on the middle class far more than he’s raised taxes on “the rich.” The numbers that he’s published verify that statement. Gov. Dayton’s transportation taxes (roads, bridges and transit) are a bigger tax increase than his 2013 tax increase. His 2013 tax increase increased revenues by $1,050,000,000 per year. The Dayton-DFL transportation tax increase is projected to raise transportation taxes by $1,315,000,000 per year.

With a $2,000,000,000 surplus and over $1,000,000,000 in the state’s rainy day fund, there’s no justification for a middle class tax increase, especially a middle class tax increase of this size.

Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt said last week that the expanding budget surplus should mean a gas tax hike is off the table. After Dayton’s Thursday news conference, House Transportation Chair Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, said he plans to release the details of the House GOP proposal this month.

Kelly declined to say how much it will spend but said it will likely include money from the surplus, some borrowing and dedicating existing tax revenues from auto parts, rental cars and leased vehicles. “These are real dollars,” Kelly said. “This does mean investment into transportation and it does not mean a tax increase.”

Dedicating existing tax revenues from “auto parts, rental cars and leased vehicles” makes more sense than raising taxes on the middle class. Redirecting existing taxes to pay for fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges is infinitely better than raising taxes on the middle class.

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Thursday afternoon, Gov. Dayton sent out an email highlighting their transportation plan. Saying that their math is questionable is being charitable in the extreme. Here’s what I’m talking about:

In January, Governor Dayton introduced a straight-forward, honest proposal to make long-overdue investments in our aging, under-funded transportation system. The Governor’s proposal would honestly address our state’s $6 billion road and bridge deficit over the next ten years, fix 2,200 miles of state roadways and 330 bridges, provide nearly $2.4 billion for local road and bridge improvements, and invest $2.9 billion in Greater Minnesota and Metro Area transit improvements.

By contrast, the transportation proposal introduced by Republicans in the House of Representatives would fix just 40 miles of local roads over the next four years.

That’s BS. First off, the Dayton-DFL plan would raise taxes by $6,000,000,000 over the next 10 years. The Dayton-DFL plan doesn’t focus on just roads and bridges, though. A significant portion of that tax increase comes in the form of a sales tax for the 7-county metro area which is dedicated to transit projects.

That means the Dayton-DFL plan raises taxes dedicated to roads and bridges by $450,000,000 a year for 10 years. The initial Republican plan called for spending $750,000,000 over the next 2 years. All of that money is dedicated to fixing roads and bridges. The final GOP plan will likely jump to $1,250,000,000 for the next 2 years. If that’s what the GOP plan calls for, that means Republicans will spend $400,000,000 more on fixing roads and bridges over the next 2 years than the Dayton-DFL plan will spend.

I’d love hearing the DFL’s explanation on how they’ll spend less money fixing roads and bridges over the next 2 years than Republicans but they’ll fix 55 times as many miles of roads as Republicans. That’s with an asterisk, too. According to the Dayton-DFL email, the DFL allegedly will fix 2,200 miles of state roadways and 330 bridges. According to the Dayton-DFL email, Republicans will only fix 40 miles of roads.

I might’ve been born at night but it wasn’t last night. This chart is pure fiction or it’s proof that the Dayton-DFL transportation plan is a massive middle class tax increase:

Check out this statement:

Would invest $785 million per year over the next 10 years to repair and replace state and local roads and bridges.

If that’s accurate, that’s $7,850,000,000 worth of middle class tax increases over the next 10 years. Earlier in the email, Gov. Dayton said that his proposal “would honestly address our state’s $6 billion road and bridge deficit over the next ten years.” According to the chart, they’d spend nearly $8,000,000,000 on fixing Minnesota’s roads. Which is it?

The $7,850,000,000 figure is 31% bigger than the $6,000,000,000 figure. They can’t both be right.

The difference, I suspect, is a significantly bigger middle class tax increase.

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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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