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In Part I of this series, I highlighted the Times’ sloppiness with basic facts. In this post, I hope to highlight the wishful thinking found in the Times’ article. Here’s the first bit of wishful thinking in the Times’ article:

In addition to leading the Legislature to shore up transportation funding, Dayton should give serious consideration to tax reforms aimed at making Minnesota’s business climate more competitive with other Upper Midwest states.

That’s pure fantasy. The last 2 years, we were afflicted with a DFL legislature and a DFL governor. They could’ve done anything they wanted to do. They chose not to implement “tax reforms aimed at making Minnesota’s business climate more competitive with other Upper Midwest states.” Instead, the DFL legislature and Gov. Dayton worked together to pass tax increases on “the rich” because, in their own words, “the rich” weren’t “paying their fair share.”

With the Times explicitly stating that they want Gov. Dayton to continue and with the Times implicitly stating that they’d prefer keeping a DFL legislature, why would anyone think that the DFL would repeal the tax policies the DFL governor and the DFL legislature just implemented?

This statement is frightening:

The past four years leave little doubt that under his leadership, the state’s budget situation has stabilized.

While government is fat and happy, families that don’t live in southeastern Minnesota are getting hit with skyrocketing health insurance premiums and unaffordable deductibles. The Times’ preference that government funding is stable while families struggle is perplexing. Government’s first priority should be to put in place policies that get government out of the way so businesses can do what they do best: create prosperity. Gov. Dayton’s administration and the DFL have specialized in telling families they know what’s best for them.

When the DFL legislature passed the bill forcing unionization on child care providers and Gov. Dayton signed it into law, Gov. Dayton and the DFL told those small business ladies that they knew what was best for them. When the DFL legislature passed the legislation enabling the creation of MNsure and Gov. Dayton enthusiastically signed it into law, Gov. Dayton and the DFL told Minnesota families that Minnesota families weren’t smart enough to make informed decisions on what they needed for health insurance.

The Times’ endorsements this year have emphatically stated, albeit implicitly at times, that they believe government knows best. It’s apparent that the Times thinks its readers aren’t that bright:

Plus, while he’s certainly been aided by DFL majorities, he’s also demonstrated an ability to compromise. Look no further than scuttling proposals involving major sales tax reform along with repealing the minor ones that did pass in 2012.

The only reason why the DFL repealed the tax increases they enthusiastically passed is because not repealing them would’ve led to a political bloodbath this election. Their decision didn’t have anything to do with compromising. It had everything to do with saving their political hides after they’d overreached.

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In the St. Cloud Times’ endorsement article where they endorsed Mark Dayton, they made some sloppy statements that simply aren’t factual. Here’s one of the Times’ sloppy statements:

Republican challenger Jeff Johnson’s strongest arguments seem rooted more in attacking Dayton than detailing exactly what government programs and priorities he would change and cut.

The Times apparently didn’t interview Commissioner Johnson. In fact, it isn’t clear that they even visited Commissioner Johnson’s campaign website. If they had, they would’ve gotten this important insight into Commissioner Johnson’s agenda:

I will initiate a top-to-bottom audit of the programs that Minnesota taxpayers fund. We will celebrate those that can prove they produce the results we claim to want; we will end those that cannot. From the first day I am in office to the day I leave, I will work to put government back into its place as a servant of the citizens, not their master.

Apparently, the Times hasn’t figured it out that you can’t list programs and departments that will be dramatically changed until you’ve initiated “a top-to-bottom audit” of state government programs and departments. Finding out which programs and departments are working and important is the essential first step. Apparently, the Times didn’t grasp the importance of that first step. Either that or they just weren’t interested because they’d already decided that they were endorsing Gov. Dayton. This statement is laughable:

Yet those details are important amid his broad push for lower taxes and less regulations.

Actually, those details aren’t important at this point. It’s only important to tell voters that government won’t waste their money like the Dayton administration has. It’s only important to highlight the ways that the Dayton administration has spent money foolishly. This statement is driven either by total ignorance or blind partisanship:

Plus, unlike Dayton, it’s hard to see compromise emerging from his rhetoric and record.

At last week’s debate, the candidates were asked by Don Davis how they could work with the other party. Gov. Dayton’s answer was highlighted in several articles as essentially being ‘I can work with the other side as long as I have a DFL legislature.’ During his answer, Gov. Dayton launched into a lengthy diatribe about how Republicans’ ideas were unreasonable, which forced him to work only with the DFL.

How is that proof that Gov. Dayton will work out compromises with the GOP? In fact, we have proof that he won’t work with Republicans. Gov. Dayton intentionally shut state government down while rejecting Republicans’ lights-on bills that would’ve kept government open. Gov. Dayton wouldn’t even keep transportation projects going even though those projects have little or nothing to do with general fund revenues.

Check back later today for Part II.

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The biggest takeaway from the Strib’s latest Minnesota Poll article is that Jeff Johnson has cut Gov. Dayton’s lead in half:

Gov. Mark Dayton maintains a lead over Republican Jeff Johnson in a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll, but Johnson gained some ground while Dayton’s support stayed flat.

The poll taken Oct. 20-22 shows Dayton leading Johnson, 45 percent to 38 percent, with Independence Party candidate Hannah Nicollet at 5 percent. In September, the poll showed Dayton at 45, Johnson at 33 and Nicollet at 1 percent. With Election Day just over a week away, the DFL governor has shown a consistent polling advantage.

More Minnesotans also now say they have made up their minds about the race, with 10 percent still undecided, compared to 20 percent five weeks ago. They would have to break in large numbers for Johnson if he is to overcome Dayton’s lead.

Jeff Johnson is still fighting an uphill fight. Still, he’s got to be happy that he’s closing the gap while he’s getting better name recognition.

Johnson’s campaign has leveled charges of incompetence against Dayton, and spokesman Jeff Bakken said the Star Tribune poll shows Johnson has room to catch up and pass Dayton amid a national political climate that Republicans see as favorable. “All the momentum in this race is on Jeff’s side, and the result is going to come down to turnout,” Bakken said. “And in the midterm election in this political environment, we like Jeff’s odds.”

The DFL’s GOTV operation is generally thought of as being superior to the GOP’s GOTV operation. This election will tell the tale of whether those reputations are deserved or not. It wouldn’t surprise me if the GOP’s GOTV operation performed better than expected.

Today marks the start of the final sprint to the finish line. Thanks to these poll results, it’s likely to be an interesting finish.

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In September, Mark Dayton insisted that PreferredOne’s leaving MNsure was competition in action:

Gov. Mark Dayton says a key provider’s decision to drop out of the state-run health exchange is competition in action.

The Star Tribune is reporting it’s nothing of the sort:

Sometime after the insurer PreferredOne submitted its proposed rates for the first year of the MNsure exchange, state regulators asked the company to consider lowering the numbers. Ultimately, the insurer responded with “a total rate decrease of 37 percent,” according to a July 2013 letter from an outside actuary to the company. Those final rates were the lowest in the Twin Cities, and across the country, in many cases, and helped Preferred­One to grab nearly 60 percent of the MNsure business.

Now, those subscribers face an average premium increase of 63 percent if they stay with PreferredOne, a yo-yo scenario that health policy experts say points to the challenge in setting prices under the federal health law. The big swing also suggests that the low prices were out of step with the reality of the business.

Dayton’s dishonest numbers, combined with his disdain for competition, have caused Minnesota insurance prices to skyrocket. Dayton’s dishonest health insurance numbers were always dishonest. Now it’s verifiable.

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Whenever a DFL politician talks about major construction projects, whether it’s the Sandpiper Pipeline project or the PolyMet Mining project, they always say these 6 extra words:

“We need to do this right.”

This time, the politician was Al Franken and the project he was talking about was PolyMet. Unfortunately, Sen. Franken loves using the environmental activists’ code words. Here’s a perfect example:

The Minnesota Democratic senator, who is in a re-election contest with Republican challenger Mike McFadden, spoke about the copper/nickel/precious metals venture during an interview at the Mesabi Daily News Monday morning. The senator said he believes “a vast majority of Minnesotans want to see those (PolyMet) jobs … no question about that.”

Franken said he has regularly been in touch with PolyMet officials. And he has also heard from critics of the project. “One thing I’m very aware of is that we haven’t done this before here,” the senator said. “But boy, can I understand how people are frustrated” about the nine years of environmental review. “Believe me that’s not lost on me.”

Franken said he aligns himself with the Iron Range Legislative Delegation on the issue — “Get it done based on the science.”

“Get it done based on the science” is code for ‘let’s let the environmental activist organizations drag this out with lawsuits, PR stunts and propaganda wars’. DFL politicians are experts at that. DFL politicians like Sen. Franken and Rep. Nolan are professionals when it comes to looking like they’re doing something while dragging their feet.

That’s what they’ve both done since getting to DC. Nolan voted for HR 761, then promised environmental activists that he wouldn’t vote for it again if it came back for final passage:

Northern Minnesota is known for its great fishing, so perhaps it’s fitting that tracking 8th District Congressman Rick Nolan’s position on a bill that deregulates the mining industry and fast tracks the permitting process for PolyMet is a bit like watching a fish flopping around on a dock: first he’s against it, then he’s for it and now he once again opposes it, this time promising to vote against the legislation if it “comes anywhere near close to becoming law.”

This weekend, Nolan told Tom Hauser that he voted to streamline the permitting process. Sen. Franken couldn’t say that because he hasn’t lifted a finger to make PolyMet a reality. Nor has he done anything to streamline the permitting process in the future.

Instead, Dayton, Franken and Nolan have worked hard to walk a perilous tightrope. Dayton, Franken and Nolan have to appear to be friends of the miners without overstepping the environmental activists’ boundaries.

The PolyMet supplemental draft environmental impact statement is currently in the comment review phase, which Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr said earlier this month should be completed in early-2015.

If the project receives a certificate of adequacy from the SDEIS, permits can follow, with construction beginning. The venture is projected to create 360 permanent jobs, hundreds more spin-off positions and more than 2 million hours of construction.

“We’ve got an incredible deposit of minerals,” Franken said. “But if this had been done too soon and it was tainted and the watershed contaminated, it would be mitigated for decades or centuries. And what would that have meant for the second or third project?”

Throughout this process, environmentalists have portrayed mining companies as deadbeats that destroy the environment, then skip the country while taxpayers foot the cleanup bill. They’ve also portrayed mining companies as thugs who love destroying the environment in their lust for big profits. This is dishonest.

That isn’t what happens. These companies have a history of following the rules. They have a history of doing things right.

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I’ll risk saying this but the professional political punditry needs to get start seeing things through a policy impact perspective, not through a ‘will it play politically’ perspective. During this morning’s gubernatorial debate, Gov. Dayton said that he’s long advocated for a single-payer health care system.

What was the collective reaction from the professional political punditry? Crickets. No big deal. Keep moving.

The government, whether we’re talking about the Obama administration or the Dayton administration, is incapable of handling anything that complex. In too many instances, it’s incapable of handling fundamental responsibilities.

That professional political pundits think it isn’t a big deal to advocate for a system that’s never worked anywhere because that’s been his standard answer is shameful. Style points seem to matter more than character, policy impacts and what’s best for Minnesota.

It’s time to tune out the professional political pundits because they’re too interested in election outcomes. Unfortunately, they aren’t interested enough in policy outcomes. Jeff Johnson’s policies will make life better in Minnesota. Unlike Gov. Dayton, Jeff Johnson will fight to build the Sandpiper Pipeline because that’ll free up railcar space so farmers can get their crops to market. That makes life better for hard-working Minnesota farmers. Unlike Gov. Dayton, Jeff Johnson will fight to open PolyMet because that’ll create hundreds of good-paying jobs. That’d make life significantly better for miners and mining communities.

Apparently, these things don’t matter to the professional political punditry from both sides of the aisle. Their tweets didn’t speak to what’s best for Minnesota. They just spoke to who won or lost based on game-changing moments and style points. That isn’t responsible journalism. That’s the type of partisanship that’s rotted our institutions and corrupted the political process.

If Republicans retake the House of Representatives and Gov. Dayton gets re-elected, Republicans will have a mandate because they spoke about issues. Gov. Dayton will have retained his title but he won’t have a mandate because he hasn’t spoken about what he’d do in his second term.

The DFL isn’t the party of no. They’re the party that won’t say no to their special interests that are driving Minnesota’s economy into the ground. Ask an Iron Ranger if they’re better off now than when Gov. Dayton took office. If they’re honest, they’ll say they aren’t. Their median household income has increased marginally. The percentage of people living below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) grew by roughly 50%.

Health insurance premiums have skyrocketed. It’s virtually impossible to get changes made to policies to include or drop people from coverage. Still, Gov. Dayton insists that “it isn’t perfect” but that it’s getting better. Once a month, if not more often, we hear of another MNsure-related disaster.

Meanwhile, the professional political punditry insist that Gov. Dayton is winning because Jeff Johnson didn’t have that big game-changing moment. With all due respect, these political junkies are missing the point. Jeff Johnson has been solid. He’s provided sensible solutions to Minnesota’s biggest problems. Gov. Dayton has been dismissive, arrogant and utterly incompetent. He’s Minnesota’s version of Jimmy Carter.

It’s time to ignore the political junkies because they’re worried more about gamesmanship than doing what’s right for Minnesota. While we’re at it, it’d be great to get rid of the incompetent in the Governor’s Mansion, too.

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This article is rather enlightening:

“I learned some important lessons from him. First of all, the importance of a job to someone who doesn’t have one. My job as governor is to do everything I can to provide jobs for the people of Minnesota, those who are unemployed, those who are underemployed, to those who want better opportunities for those young people from Bemidji High School who were here and are going onto college and need a better job environment when they graduate.”

Dayton says, “Whatever I can do to make a difference and to be proactive” will frame his administration.

“It’s easy to say no to this and no to that and no to everything, but Perpich said, ‘What can I do?’ to try to make a difference. I hope I can follow in those footsteps. I won’t be building chopsticks factories or visiting castles in Switzerland. Rudy had, as the French said about [de Gaulle], the faults of his virtues and the virtues of his faults. We all have our faults, and we hope for a lot more virtues than faults.

First, let’s highlight the fact that Gov. Dayton isn’t being proactive in providing “jobs for the people of Minnesota, those who are unemployed” and “those who are underemployed.” In February, 2011, Gov. Dayton thought underemployment was a problem along with unemployment. Gov. Dayton in 2014 gets testy when Commissioner Johnson talks about Minnesotans who are underemployed.

When did Gov. Dayton determine that underemployment wasn’t a priority?

Next and most importantly, why isn’t Gov. Dayton interested in being proactive about mining jobs? He hasn’t lifted a finger to make PolyMet a reality. Don’t unemployed miners deserve a proactive governor who’s doing everything possible to create great paying jobs? Is Gov. Dayton only interested in being proactive when his environmental activist allies give him permission?

Finally, it’s interesting hearing Gov. Dayton talk about “hucksters who promise chopsticks factories” as though they were Republicans in 2014 while admitting that Gov. Perpich brought the chopsticks factory to Hibbing in a 2011 interview.

Comparing Perpich’s chopsticks factory with PolyMet is intellectual absurdity. The chopsticks factory went bankrupt in less than 3 years. PolyMet would create 360 mining jobs that would be there for a generation.

Clearly, Gov. Dayton hasn’t thought this stuff through. Clearly, Gov. Dayton hasn’t figured it out that his silence is giving dishonest environmental activists implicit permission to protest PolyMet, which they’re doing.

Will voters let Gov. Dayton off the hook for being a proactive jobs governor for the Twin Cities but an inactive jobs governor for the rest of Minnesota? It’s important to find out the answer to that question because that’s who he’s been.

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After last night’s bombshell polling data from Minnesota’s Eighth District, the next questions are quite logical. First, when will the DCCC and Nancy Pelosi’s PAC pull their money from the Mills-Nolan race? Second, when that money is pulled, where will it be spent?

The conventional wisdom is that the money pulled from Nolan’s race would be spent on Collin Peterson’s race. I don’t think that’s what they’ll decide. They’ve already pumped millions of dollars into the Westrom-Peterson race. It hasn’t hurt Westrom a bit. Next, they’ve thrown everything at Torrey, including the proverbial kitchen sink. Torrey Westrom keeps gaining. In fact, Torrey will campaign tomorrow with Mike McFadden:

McFadden knows that his message sells in the Seventh. He’s campaigned with Torrey before, too. It’s obvious that they feed off each other and complement each other nicely. Why would Pelosi’s superPAC or the DCCC shift money into that situation?

Finally and most importantly, a little money pays for tons of ads in the 7th. How much more money does Collin Peterson need to win that race? People know Peterson because he’s finishing his twelfth term. If the first and second ad buys didn’t put Peterson over the top, why would the DCCC think that the third and fourth ad buys will? Known commodities are known commodities. If they don’t sell right away, they won’t jump off the shelf later.

Pelosi’s superPAC and the DCCC have other seats that need propping up. Nolan’s seat is history. He’s an ancient candidate whose policies are from the 1970s. There’s nothing that indicates he’ll catch fire in the last 2 weeks.

Peterson has a better shot at winning but that’s because he’s frequently won with over 60% of the vote. He’s either popular and heading for victory or people have tired of him and he’s heading for defeat. There isn’t a middle ground with him.

Ken Martin, the DFL, Steve Simon, Gov. Dayton and Sen. Franken are watching these races. That’s because they know their races are based, at least partially, on doing well in these districts. If Nolan and Peterson lose, Gov. Dayton’s, Sen. Franken’s and the DFL’s path to victory gets complicated fast.

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I predicted that Gov. Dayton would attempt to deflect criticism from the bogus health insurance premium rate increase report. I was right:

Republican Jeff Johnson seized Thursday on new insurance data to accuse Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton of lying about how much health premiums will increase for coverage next year.

Johnson said the Dayton administration is lowballing the medical premium estimates for political advantage. Dayton shot back that Johnson is ignoring that people are free to shop around for the best deal and said his charge demonstrates a rival who “gets more desperate by the day.”

Gov. Dayton’s response was predictable. In fact, I predicted it. Gov. Dayton’s dismissive attitude won’t sit well with Alycia Reidl. Here’s what she told the MNsure Board of Directors:

“You’ve got to remember, the majority of consumers who have individual health insurance policies did not buy them through MNsure,” says Alycia Reidl of the Minnesota Association of Health Underwriters. “Most of them are outside of MNsure at this point, and they haven’t received their renewals yet. As they start to receive them, they’re going to understand they have significant increases facing them.”

Reidl made that point to the MNsure Board at their first meeting since the new MNsure rates were announced. She told them many Minnesotans now have the mistaken notion their rates will go up only 4.5 percent. Instead, Reidl says they’re likely to get “sticker shock” when they see their increases. “The increases that are happening are putting our clients in a really difficult situation which is putting us in a difficult situation as the bearer of that news,” Reidl told the MNsure Board.

Gov. Dayton’s dismissiveness is only exceeded by his dishonesty. The Minnesota Association of Health Underwriters are experts on the size of rate increases because they’re working with it every day. By contrast, Gov. Dayton has shown that he doesn’t know what’s in the bills he’s signed. If I’m forced to choose between Alycia Reidl or Gov. Dayton on the issue of trust, that’s an easy decision. Hint: I wouldn’t trust the sitting governor of Minnesota as much as I’d trust Ms. Reidl.

The administration’s 4.5 percent average leaves out PreferredOne, a dominant player in MNsure last year that isn’t selling policies through the exchange this year. Details that surfaced Wednesday show its customers could see up to 60-percent premium increases if they want to keep their policies and buy them away from the exchange for 2015.

Gov. Dayton is fond of saying that PreferredOne “‘misjudged the market'” last year by offering lower costs than bigger competitors in an attempt to gain market share.” Whether that’s true or not, the reality is that PreferredOne’s rates are going up in a big way. Minnesotans will experience sticker shock when they get their renewal notices.

Commissioner Johnson should be asking Minnesotans who’ve seen their new rates for 2015 if they’re feeling the Dayton-DFL middle class squeeze. I’d remind people that Republicans didn’t vote for MNsure, which means the double-digit increases they’re seeing are Gov. Dayton’s and the DFL’s fault. They passed it. They own this disaster.

Gov. Dayton can make petulant child-like comments insinuating that Jeff Johnson isn’t being honest. What Gov. Dayton can’t do is hide from MAHU’s well-documented numbers. Those numbers show how expensive health insurance is through MNsure. Gov. Dayton’s hissy fits won’t change those facts because facts are stubborn things.

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When Gov. Dayton’s Department of Commerce announced MNsure’s rate increases, skeptical statements poured in. State Senate Republicans put together this interactive map to spread the truth that Gov. Dayton’s Department of Commerce wouldn’t. KSTP’s Tom Hauser says people are justified in worried about big health insurance premium spikes:

With great fanfare earlier this month, Minnesota Department of Commerce officials announced Minnesota would continue to have among the “lowest health insurance rates in the country.” They were referring to health insurance sold through MNsure, which they said would only increase an “average of 4.5 percent.”

That modest increase was immediately met with skepticism by Republican opponents of Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration. However, the health insurance industry is also throwing cold water on the notion that Minnesotans will see rates go up just 4.5 percent. Whether buying insurance in the MNsure system or through the private market, for most Minnesotans reality will not match the rosy 4.5 percent “average increase.”

“You’ve got to remember, the majority of consumers who have individual health insurance policies did not buy them through MNsure,” says Alycia Reidl of the Minnesota Association of Health Underwriters. “Most of them are outside of MNsure at this point, and they haven’t received their renewals yet. As they start to receive them, they’re going to understand they have significant increases facing them.”

Reidl made that point to the MNsure Board at their first meeting since the new MNsure rates were announced. She told them many Minnesotans now have the mistaken notion their rates will go up only 4.5 percent. Instead, Reidl says they’re likely to get “sticker shock” when they see their increases. “The increases that are happening are putting our clients in a really difficult situation which is putting us in a difficult situation as the bearer of that news,” Reidl told the MNsure Board.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Here’s another part of that iceberg:

When Gov. Dayton says that Minnesota’s health insurance rates are the cheapest in the nation, it’s important to highlight the fact that, though that’s true, it’s after three-fourths of the people received rate increases while transitioning from the policies they liked to Obamacare-approved policies. The next logical question would be about how big those premium increases were. You ask. I’ll deliver:

According to that graphic, 28.3% of people surveyed got rate increases of 11-20%. Another 30% of the people got rate increase ranging between 21%-30%. Another 15% of people got rate increases of 31%-40%. Those statistic don’t fit with the bill’s title of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it here. When the ACA kicked in, most everyone’s premiums spiked. That means that Minnesota’s premiums are the least terrible premiums in the nation. They’re a better grade of terrible.

Jeff Johnson is calling on Gov. Dayton to apologize for lying to Minnesota about the rate increases:

“A few weeks ago, Mark Dayton stood before the press and flat-out lied to Minnesotans. Dayton’s claim that MNsure rates are going up an average of just 4.5% next year is completely bogus, and he knows it. I call on Governor Dayton to come clean and apologize to Minnesotans for lying to us. Enough is enough.”

I’m predicting that Gov. Dayton, or one of his paid shills, will release a statement saying that Commissioner Johnson’s accusations are the actions of a desperate candidate who’ll say anything in his attempt to win an election. Commissioner Johnson, I’d have a statement prepared to respond to Gov. Dayton’s unresponsive response. Here’s what I’d put in that statement:

Gov. Dayton, why are you accusing “Alycia Reidl of the Minnesota Association of Health Underwriters” of lying? In the days ahead, our campaign will be releasing stories from families throughout Minnesota who will verify MAHU’s report.

Minnesota doesn’t need a governor who won’t admit that MNsure, Obamacare in Minnesota, is an unmitigated disaster. Minnesota needs a governor with integrity and fresh ideas that will take Minnesota in the right direction.

I’m being charitable by saying Gov. Dayton’s Commerce Department used slippery math in the MNsure rate increase report. Gov. Dayton’s actions inform us that he isn’t a man of integrity. He’s a man just hoping to get past November 4th.

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