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If Greg Davids’ op-ed illustrates anything, it’s that Gov. Dayton isn’t a competent decisionmaker. Actually, Rep. Davids’ op-ed proves another thing. It proves that MNsure’s administrators and DHS bureaucrats are essentially worthless:

DHS and MNsure are simply shrugging their shoulders at the problem. “It’s not MNsure’s job to send the notices,” said one of many highly paid MNsure spokespersons. Part of the DHS response was that the mistake was “not made by a DHS employee, so we can’t answer that one.”

That’s a way of saying ‘we aren’t taking responsibility for MNsure’s failures.’ The problem is a MNsure problem caused by the MNsure website’s frequent failings. DHS should be in the loop on this, too. They’re the people processing the applications.

This ties into something that Jim Nobles, Minnesota’s legislative auditor, spoke about in January. I wrote this post about Nobles’ observations:

Nobles also said he would look into the effects of the May contract amendments. “It’s certainly something that I will pursue very vigorously to find out what triggered that decision,” Nobles said when the amendment was brought to his attention. “What exactly did it mean? Who exactly was…doing the project management?”

MNsure hasn’t been run properly from the start. The fact that the mild-mannered Jim Nobles is questioning who’s in charge should frighten people.

Saying that Rep. Davids “engaged in ‘reckless fear-mongering’” by demanding answers from Gov. Dayton is irresponsible. There’s nothing irresponsible about it. Rep. Davids, like the other 200 people serving in the legislature, is supposed to make sure that the government isn’t pissing people’s money away.

Unlike Gov. Dayton, though, Rep. Davids takes that responsibility seriously.

For more than a year, my colleagues and I have offered helpful solutions and constructive criticism to MNsure on many things, from data privacy to communicating our constituents’ problems with the failed website. Very few have been heeded, and the results keep getting worse.

It’s time for Minnesotans to replace Gov. Dayton and Speaker Thissen. They’re at the heart of this problem. They talk about bipartisanship when they’re in the minority but they’re into my-way-or-the-highway politics when they’re in charge. Thanks to that attitude, Minnesotans are getting hurt.

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Jay Kolls’ article highlights the Department of Human Services’ incompetence:

The Minnesota Department of Human Services sent 3,000 letters to homes of MinnesotaCare recipients who may have received incorrect monthly billing statements after they applied for health coverage through MNsure, the state’s new health care exchange. The letter tells those recipients the bills may have been wrong for several months, but they encouraged those clients to keep paying the bills anyway.

It’s ironic (and infuriating) that the Department of Human Services quickly sent out letters to MinnesotaCare applicant to keep paying their insurance premiums but they’re still working on sending out the letters to people who applied for MinnesotaCare but didn’t submit all of the paperwork that’s required for application approval.

Put a little differently, Dayton’s Department of Human Services wants its money ASAP but it isn’t that interested in getting MinnesotaCare applicants insured.

That’s a terrible priority to set.

State Sen. Michelle Benson, (R) Ham Lake, sits on the MNsure Legislative Oversight Committee. She says the MNsure vendors still play a role in this problem even though the billing is handled by DHS.

“If a private company told its clients to keep paying monthly health insurance premiums even if they might be incorrect, the Minnesota Department of Commerce would come in and clean house,” Benson said.

In addition to the Department of Commerce getting involved, it isn’t a stretch to think that Lori Swanson, Minnesota’s Attorney General, might start an investigation if a private company did this.

MNsure representatives did not want to do an on-camera interview with us because DHS handles all of its billing practices.

DHS officials also declined to comment on-camera but issued a statement that says, in part, “We are working with our IT staff and MNsure vendors to correct these issues, and MinnesotaCare coverage for those households remains in place.”

It isn’t surprising that the Dayton administration didn’t want to answer KSTP’s questions. They’re probably thinking that the last thing they want is to subject themselves to tough questions about a difficult situation.

With MNsure certain to not work again when this year’s open enrollment period begins and with the Dayton administration’s incompetence still manifesting itself, it’s a matter of whether Minnesotans will accept this level of incompetence. If they don’t, this won’t be a good year for Democrats.

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This video shows that Gov. Dayton and the DFL don’t want Minnesotans to know that they’re getting hit with a big spike in their health insurance premium until after the election:

Here’s Alycia Reidl’s testimony to the MNsure Board of Directors. Ms. Reidl is the president of the Minnesota Association of Health Underwriters in Minnesota:

I have a very simple message and a very simple request, which is that agents within Minnesota think it is imperative, very important, that the rates be released as early as possible to allow consumers to make decisions about what’s best for themselves and their families coming into 2015. We also believe that it affects small employers in a very significant way. We’re seeing average increases in the 30% range for small employers. I’ve seen some as much as 100% and they’re trying to make a decision about what’s the best coverages for their employees should they continue to offer group coverage going into 2015.

Now we don’t want that to happen. Let me assure you that it’s not any agent’s goal to have a small employer drop its coverage but with the rates and the disparity between small group and individual, it’s a real conversation that’s happening. And without knowing what the rates are going to be for 2015, and a significant number of small employers renewing on December 1st, they are in a position of not being able to make educated decisions for themselves and their employees.

The difference in cost for an employee, if they stay on their group plan, could be 50%, maybe 60% higher and so we ask MNsure to support that rates be released as soon as possible and certainly not waiting until November 15.

If rates are going to be that much higher, it’s understandable why Gov. Dayton and the DFL don’t want the rates released until after the election. Gov. Dayton and the DFL know that they’ll be swept out of office in November if people realize that the plan that the DFL legislature passed and that Gov. Dayton signed is ripping them off.

Two or three weeks back, Sarah Walker was part of the Almanac roundtable discussion. During that appearance, Ms. Walker lied through her teeth, saying that people were “getting better insurance at a cheaper price” than prior to MNsure. Ms. Reidl’s testimony verifies as fact that rates are already skyrocketing.

I broke this story on June 30. I’ve followed up on the story since then, including with this article.

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Bill Hanna’s article apparently touched a nerve with Ken Martin, the chair of the DFL. Check out Martin’s testiness:

Martin, in a telephone interview on Saturday that got testy at times, said the issue has nothing to do with PolyMet or investments.

“It’s about transparency in politics and government. And I don’t begrudge anyone for investments. I don’t care if it would be a DFLer, a Republican or someone with the Green Party … she was late in filing her disclosure statement and should not have been,” Martin said.

Of the 42 candidates who have filed for the state’s constitutional offices, only Housley and Sharon Anderson, who is seeking the GOP nomination for attorney general, missed the filing deadline.

Housley has since made her disclosure filing and said missing the deadline was just an honest oversight. “It was in my outbox and never went out. It’s there now,” she said in the PIM story. Housley said her stake in PolyMet is only about $300.

But Martin said emphatically the amount is not the issue. “It doesn’t matter how much. What matters is she didn’t have full disclosure as required on time,” he said in the MDN interview.

So why was PolyMet the only business Martin mentioned in the news release regarding Housley? “Again, this has nothing to do with PolyMet,” he said emphatically.

Then why was PolyMet cited in his news release? “I don’t care what company it was or what industry. What matters is the company is regulated by the State of Minnesota and she had not disclosed her investments.”

But why PolyMet? What about other companies? “I don’t know if she has investments in any other companies regulated by Minnesota. Researchers went through her last statement (filed as a state senator) and PolyMet popped out to them,” Martin said.

Martin’s diatribe was triggered by his getting trapped talking about a subject he wishes would disappear entirely. Further, this isn’t about transparency. If transparency mattered to the DFL, DFL legislators wouldn’t have coordinated campaign expenditures with the DFL in 2012:

The Minnesota campaign finance agency on Tuesday slapped the Minnesota DFL Senate campaign with a $100,000 fine improperly coordinating 2012 campaign mailings with candidates.

The result of investigation and settlement talks that lasted more than a year, the fine is one of the largest ever levied in Minnesota for campaign violations. The penalty stems from candidates and the party committee violating rules that ban coordination between independent spending and what is controlled by a candidate.

Apparently, Chairman Martin didn’t think transparency was important then:

“Ultimately, it is best to set this distraction aside and allow our members to focus on governing,” Martin said.

Karin Housley omitting a $300 invenstment got Martin’s attention but the DFL getting hammered with one of the biggest campaign fines in Minnesota history is “a distraction”? But I digress.

Notice Martin’s evasiveness when Hanna asked why he singled out PolyMet. Here’s a revealing insight into Martin’s behavior:

Martin made it clear in the MDN interview he has grown increasingly “fed up” with both sides of the issue.

Martin’s wish is that he didn’t have to ever deal with this issue because it’s a can’t-win issue for the DFL. It’s something Hanna notes in his article:

PolyMet is a controversial and touchy subject politically for the DFL Party on the Range, which has been a traditional bastion of Democratic support in elections. But there is a widening political chasm on the issue this election year.

The extreme environmental wing of the party both on the Range and in the Twin Cities, which has great influence among activists, is strongly against PolyMet and other copper/nickel/precious metals venture in the works, such as Twin Metals Minnesota near Ely and Babbitt. And some are against all mining or even exploration drilling.

Martin knows that Rick Nolan will likely lose his congressional seat if the Iron Range doesn’t overwhelmingly and enthusiastically support Nolan. Further, he knows that Gov. Dayton and Sen. Franken will be in the fight of their political lives if they aren’ enthusiastically supported by the Iron Range.

The truth is that this issue might split the DFL into tiny pieces. That’s the best explanation of what triggered Chairman Martin’s diatribe. He got testy with Bill Hanna because he’s seeing a brewing crisis for the DFL on the Range. The other explanation for Martin’s diatribe is because he isn’t used to reporters questioning the DFL. He’s gotten used to getting the red carpet treatment.

That won’t work this time because people on the Range are tired with the DFL’s ‘lip service support’ of the Range. They’re demanding authentic support, not just lip service support.

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If there’s anything that Sen. Franken and Gov. Dayton can’t defend, it’s the inevitable health insurance premium increase waiting for Minnesotans. Here’s what Sen. Franken said about the ACA on the one-year anniversary of the signing:

Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) “In Its First Year, The Affordable Care Act Has Made It Easier And Cheaper For People All Over The Country To Get Quality Health Care.” Franken: “In its first year, the Affordable Care Act has made it easier and cheaper for people all over the country to get quality health care … I’m particularly proud to say that a provision I fought successfully to include in the law is already reining in health care costs for working families.”

(Press Release, Sen. Franken’s Statement On One-Year Anniversary Of Health Reform, Sen. Al Franken (https://www.franken.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=1403), March 22, 2011)

Here’s what Gov. Dayton said while signing MNsure into law:

Gov. Mark Dayton: “Today we are taking a major step forward to improve the quality and affordability of health care for the people of Minnesota.” (Press Release, 1.3 Million Minnesotans to Benefit from New Health Insurance Marketplace, Gov. Mark Dayton (http://mn.gov/governor/newsroom/pressreleasedetail.jsp?id=102-56566), March 20, 2013)

Here’s what I reported about health insurance premium increases:

This morning, in an exclusive interview with Examiner.com, Plombon went into detail about what’s happening with insurance premiums. What Mr. Plombon said is that some people who get their insurance through the small group market are renewing their policies. Thus far, Advantage 1 has seen these clients’ premiums increase from as ‘little’ as 30% to as much as 106%.

Gov. Dayton’s and Sen. Franken’s statements are wildly out of touch with reality. This statement is particularly out of touch with reality:

In its first year, the Affordable Care Act has made it easier and cheaper for people all over the country to get quality health care.

First, HealthCare.gov and MNsure still aren’t working. That’s before talking about all the people whose policies were canceled. The ACA didn’t make it easier to buy health insurance. Further, the ACA didn’t make health insurance cheaper. The ACA, aka Obamacare, caused health insurance premiums to spike. In light of these facts, it’s difficult to believe that the bill’s name is actually the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The stats show that health insurance isn’t less expensive with Obamacare. The report commissioned by the MNsure Board of Trustees proves that the website is still dysfunctional.

Minnesota can’t afford clowns like Al Franken and Mark Dayton. Their policies have cost Minnesota families millions of dollars.

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Thursday night, Ken Martin made the mistake of getting into a Twitter fight against Luke Hellier about health care. Predictably, Martin went straight for the DFL’s chanting point of saying that Minnesota has the cheapest insurance rates in the nation.

Being the bashful man that I am, I jumped into the fight, saying that Martin didn’t say that Minnesota’s insurance premiums were cheap. Martin said they were the cheapest in the nation, which is a comparitive statement. Here’s the exchange:

To be fair, Carly Melin favorited Chairman Martin’s tweet. In the interest of full disclosure, my tweets were favorited a half dozen times. That silliness aside, the important point was made that Obamacare/MNsure is expensive on a multitude of fronts. Let me count the ways.

First, MNsure is expensive because the Dayton administration has already spent $160,000,000 on a failed website. That’s just the tip of a Titanic-sized iceberg. It’ll cost tens of millions dollars more to get MNsure fully functional.

Second, MNsure is expensive because it created another level of bureaucracy on top of Minnesota’s Department of Human Services. Again, Minnesota’s taxpayers are getting hit for a bureaucracy that isn’t providing anything of value.

Third, insurance premiums are going up, costing Minnesotans money they don’t have.

Let’s talk, too, about how many people are insured now vs. how many were insured in 2012. According to Steve Gottwalt, then the chair of the House Health Care Reform Committee, 93% of Minnesotans were insured in 2012. Additionally, 60% of the people who weren’t insured then were eligible for taxpayer-subsidized health insurance.

In 2012, 4,929,000 people were insured. Of the 371,000 people who were’t insured, 60% were eligible for taxpayer-subsidized insurance. That’s another 222,600 people who could’ve been covered, meaning 5,151,600 people would’ve been insured in a state with a population of 5,300,000 at the time.

A simple ad campaign in 2012 could’ve brought the insured rate up to 97.2%.

Here’s why that’s significant. First, the advertising campaign wouldn’t have cost $160,000,000. Next, we wouldn’t be stuck with a website that doesn’t work. Third, there’s virtually no chance that the advertising campaign wouldn’t have helped get more people insured.

In terms of which system is better, that isn’t a fair fight. The system that we had prior to Obamacare/MNsure was light years superior to what we’re stuck with now.

If the DFL wants to stick with their 95% are insured/Minnesota has the cheapest rates in the nation mantra, Republicans should clobber them with the statistics I just used.

Chairman Downey, let’s make a point of telling people what they already know. Let’s tell them that families can’t afford Obamacare’s expensive health insurance premium increases. Let’s highlight the fact that MNsure a) is dysfunctional and b) won’t work right unless we’re willing to spend tens of millions of more dollars. Let’s have Ken Martin and Carly Melin defend those things.

MNsure/Obamacare is a winner for Republicans if we make the important arguments. It’s time we started consistently making those arguments.

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According to this article, insurance premiums will be going up — way up:

Julie Brunner is the Executive Director of the Minnesota Council of Health Plans, which is the professional association for the HMOs that offer health coverage through MNsure. Brunner recently told a University of Minnesota symposium that she would “not be surprised if the health plans increased their rates by 8, 10, or even 12 percent.”

Gov. Mark Dayton tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS he would be disappointed by such a large percentage increase in premiums, but the governor pointed out Minnesota still has the lowest rates in the country and that his goal is to keep it that way.

This isn’t surprising. I reported here that MNsure rates for people renewing through the small group exchange were seeing shocking high rates:

This morning, in an exclusive interview with Examiner.com, Plombon went into detail about what’s happening with insurance premiums. What Mr. Plombon said is that some people who get their insurance through the small group market are renewing their policies. Thus far, Advantage 1 has seen these clients’ premiums increase from as ‘little’ as 30% to as much as 106%.

Gov. Dayton and the DFL keeps repeating the part about Minnesota has the “lowest rates in the country.” It sounds great initially but it doesn’t mean much. People won’t care how we rank nationally if the rates are expensive.

If the rates are expensive, which they’ll certainly be, people won’t care where we rank as a state. They’ll care that they can’t afford health insurance. This part should worry Democrats, too:

Minnesota does not allow public disclosure of rate negotiations by law. University of Minnesota Professor Larry Jacobs says the public will start to get a very good idea of what the rates will be long before the November elections, even though the political strategy appears to indicate elected incumbents want the new rates withheld until after the elections.

Republicans aren’t worried about getting the political blame for the high rates because they didn’t vote for MNsure. Furthermore, they don’t have control over when the rates are released because Minnesota government is run exclusively by Democrats.

If Democrats get caught before the election trying to hide the rates for purely political purposes, they’ll get hurt by that desperate attempt. At the end of the campaign, Republicans will have repeatedly told Minnesotans that the DFL opted out of a system that was working quite well in order to implement a system a) that cost $160,000,000 to build, b) that’s expensive and c) unreliable.

That isn’t the type of trifecta that wins elections.

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It’s bad enough that AFSCME is intent on forcing a unionization vote down child care providers’ throats. What’s worse is that the person overseeing the election is owned by AFSCME:

Governor Dayton appointed Josh Tilsen to be commissioner of the Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS) in Feburary 2011. As BMS commissioner, Tilsen administers union elections, resolves collective bargaining disputes, and oversees labor mediation and arbitration activities. He is paid more than $95,000 per year by the State of Minnesota for this full-time role.

In addition to Tilsen’s full-time work as BMS commissioner, he also maintains an outside consulting business, acting as an arbitrator for the Iowa Public Employment Relations Board (PERB). According to the official Iowa PERB website (updated March 25, 2013), Tilsen’s per diem is $1,200. Notably, the office phone and fax number they list are Tilsen’s official BMS numbers in Minnesota. In addition, under “Current Employment/Associations that could cause a conflict,” it lists “None.”

That’s just part of it. There’s more:

Tilsen’s case in particular, though, seems riddled with real or potential conflicts of interest. While Tilsen technically consults for the State of Iowa, he is paid in part by labor unions, as both parties to arbitration cases share the cost of the arbitrator. To that point, according to U.S. Department of Labor records, Tilsen was paid $7,451 last year by AFSCME Council 61. Meanwhile, as Minnesota’s BMS commissioner, Tilsen oversees union elections and helps resolve union disputes involving AFSCME affiliates. As such, one has to ask: How can a fulltime, government official who collects income directly from a labor union be expected to act as an impartial referee of labor disputes?

While this isn’t illegal, it’s more than suspect. Jeff Johnson, the MNGOP-endorsed candidate for governor, made this statement on the matter:

“Mark Dayton uses his office to pay back his union campaign contributors, and apparently his Commissioner in charge of dealing with unions is in their pocket as well,” said Jeff Johnson.

“This is a gross conflict of interest. Commissioners have a full time job and are paid a handsome full-time salary by the taxpayers. They shouldn’t be doing outside work in any case, and certainly shouldn’t be taking paychecks from the people they are supposed to regulate,” Johnson said.

“This is just another example of Dayton’s sacrificing the interests of Minnesotans to those of his campaign contributors,” Johnson concluded.

It isn’t a stretch to think that Democrats side with their special interest allies more frequently than they side with Minnesota’s families. In fact, that’s their identity.

At this point, it’s reasonable to question the upcoming election’s integrity.

First, Tilsen needs to recuse himself. Second, Gov. Dayton needs to put back in place Gov. Pawlenty’s policy of prohibiting commissioners from having a side job. Third, the legislature should look into whether other commissioners in the Dayton administration are consultants. If other commissioners are consulting, they need to quit ASAP.

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Heather Carlson’s and Brianna Jett’s reporting is damning to the Dayton administration. According to their reporting, Lucinda Jesson, the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, was notified that people weren’t getting notified that the state needed more information to process their applications for MinnesotaCare:

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.

Gov. Dayton and Commissioner Jesson were either incompetent or disinterested in making sure the workarounds actually worked. Either way, the Dayton administration let 16,000 applicants down because they didn’t do what they were supposed to do.

Some of these 16,000 applicants have been without health insurance for 6 months. Some have accumulated significant personal debt through no fault of their own.

The process to send out the letters was supposed to be fully automated, but it still requires manual workarounds. The lack of letters sent was a known issue in January, but late last week the problem was not resolved and many people still did not know that their applications were incomplete. Often, more information was needed such as verification of income, citizenship or tribal membership.

Gov. Dayton’s and Commissioner Jesson’s inaction and inattentiveness is unacceptable. Why did’t DHS verify that these letters would be sent before the end of January? It’s disgusting that nobody verified that important step.

Fleissner said the failure of the state to send out the letters is just the latest in a string of software problems related to the state’s healthcare exchange.

“It’s incredibly frustrating,” Fleissner said. “It’s wearing (county employees) out, to be honest with you. It’s been disheartening just because any time you are in a job you want to have the right tools to do the job, and we don’t have the tools right now.”

Gov. Dayton pushed hard to create MNsure. Unfortunately, he’s been as disinterested in verifying that MNsure was working as he was excited in pushing for its creation. Governing isn’t just signing bills. That’s just the first step. Governing requires people actually verifying that the things required by those laws are being followed. If nobody is interested in verifying that these things are happening, then government collapses.

This should end any possibility that single payer should be considered. Single payer requires the government to do everything, including paying the customers’ bills. Based on what we’ve seen in both St. Paul and DC, does anyone think that government is capable of handling that responsibility?

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It’s hard to take Mark Dayton seriously anymore. With the list of crises that he’s created, with the help of a DFL legislature, growing seemingly exponentially, it’s hard to view him as competent. The latest crisis is the MinnesotaCare/MNsure crisis, which everyone is reporting on. Here’s the Pioneer Press’s article explaining the latest crisis:

At least 16,000 low-income Minnesotans never received letters telling them that the state needed more information on their MNsure applications for health insurance, and many possibly are still uninsured.

State officials disclosed the mistake on Wednesday and blamed the problem on human error.

The notices were supposed to tell the applicants to provide more information to qualify for the state’s Medical Assistance program, but the notices were never sent. The applicants applied through MNsure, the state’s new health insurance exchange, but their eligibility for the low-income assistance couldn’t be automatically verified.

Reaction to this mistake was harsh, with Rep. Greg Davids’ letter setting the tone:

Here’s the key part of Rep. Davids’ letter:

Minnesotans have always gone above and beyond to provide an affordable safety net for neighbors in need. Now, not only do these people not have any means for paying medical expenses, many have been accruing significant debt to pay for medical care out of pocket and likely face federal penalties for not having health insurance through no fault of their own.

Moreove, your disinterest in addressing any of these issues beyond the most superficial treatment has exposed taxpayers to unimaginable financial liability. Last week, the first lawsuit was filed against the state because of MNsure. A Cottage Grove man believes he was wrongly denied MinnesotaCare coverage because of flaws in HHS and MNsure. He is seeking reimbursement for over $2,100 spent on medical care while waiting in limbo for your administration to fix the systemic failures at HHS ad MNsure.

This administration’s history of incompetence is the lengthiest in recent Minnesota history. This information won’t reassure anyone that the Dayto administration is learning from its mistakes:

Future notices will be generated automatically by the information technology system. But the functionality for this isn’t yet available from the exchange. So, earlier this year the state Department of Human Services adopted a workaround process that broke down in February.

“The result of folks not getting this notice is that they’ve been in this pending status for some number of months, as many as six, waiting for some indication,” Johnson said.

Saying that the workaround process didn’t work is understatement. If this had happened during the first year of the Dayton administration, people might’ve given the Dayton administration the benefit of the doubt. They’ll be less forgiving because it happened 3 years into Gov. Dayton’s term. At some point, somebody needs to ask Gov. Dayton what the late Earl Weaver would ask umpires:

Time was, the Baltimore Orioles’ manager was Earl Weaver, a short, irascible, Napoleonic figure who, when cranky, as he frequently was, would shout at an umpire, “Are you going to get any better or is this it?”

With Gov. Dayton, I suspect the answer isn’t (a). Gov. Dayton won’t be getting any better. The disasters that we’ve seen, the crises that’ve happened on Gov. Dayton’s watch, are what we should expect from him.

Gov. Dayton’s name ID is off the charts. His incompetence is well-known. Let’s remember that Time Magazine picked him as one of the worst senators at the time. Here’s a reason why:

Dayton has passed few bills partly because some are too liberal for the Republican-controlled body, including one that would have created a Department of Peace and Nonviolence.

Minnesotans foolishly elected Dayton in 2010. Hopefully, they’ll recover from that act of irrationality and elect someone competent this time.

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