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This LTE from Carolyn Nieters contains the obligatory DFL lie. Ms> Nieters fulfilled her obligation to the DFL by saying “I saw in the news that House Republicans like Rep. Jim Knoblach proposed investing exactly zero dollars of our $900 million surplus toward education for our community. Zero! Yet their plan includes doling out tax giveaways to the richest Minnesotans.”

If I got paid $20 each time a DFL politician or activist made that accusation, I’d be Donald Trump wealthy. Last May, I spoke with Rep. Greg Davids, the chairman of the House Taxes Committee, about his tax bill, which I wrote about here. When I contacted Chairman Davids to respond to Gov. Dayton’s statement about tax breaks for “millionaires and billionaires”, he said “My bill does not do that. Eighty percent goes to individuals. Tax relief is for the middle class…. My tax bill is tax relief for the poor and middle class.”

First, Ms. Nieters should be criticized for thinking that increasing spending on anything should be paid for with one-time money. That shouldn’t happen. Period. That money should either be rebated back to the people or used to fix Minnesota’s roads. Next, Ms. Nieters either doesn’t know that this is a supplemental budget or she knows and hides that fact from readers.

Last spring, Kurt Daudt and Tom Bakk negotiated a bipartisan budget agreement. That agreement included a significant increase in education spending. Is Ms. Nieters suggesting that we ignore Minnesota’s roads and bridges to pay for additional education funding? If that’s her plan, about the only people who’d agree with her are members of Education Minnesota.

Then there’s this BS:

After a decade of shifts and gimmicks, with students facing crushing college debt and the need for things like pre-K for our youngest learners, we are going to give away our surplus to those who already have the most wealth and power?

Ms. Nieters, did you even bother reading Chairman Davids’ tax bill? If you insist that you did, then you’re either lying or you need lots of help in remedial math and remedial reading. Nowhere in Chairman Davids’ bill does it offer a windfall for “those who already have the most wealth and power.” That’s either a figment of your imagination or you’re just lying.

It’s worth noting that the surplus has shrunk by $1,000,000,000 since last session. The February, 2015 forecast had a projected surplus of $1,900,000,000. In December, 2015, that had shrunk to $1,200,000,000. Now it’s shrunk to $900,000,000. (Apparently, the booming Dayton economy is a myth, too.)

After the DFL legislature passed the biggest tax increase in Minnesota history and Gov. Dayton signed it into law, capital flight from Minnesota accelerated. This study verifies that with IRS statistics.

It’s time to reject the DFL’s failed policies. It’s time to criticize the DFL for their web of lies, too.

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The purpose of this op-ed, written by MnDOT Commissioner Charles Zelle and Met Council Chairman Adam Duininck, is to criticize Jim Knoblach. In the interest of full disclosure, Jim represents me in the legislature. He’s also one of the smartest policy makers in Minnesota. But I digress.

While attacking Chairman Knoblach, Commissioner Zelle and Chairman Duininck made a major mistake by essentially admitting that extending Northstar will be expensive, not just in terms of building it, but also in operating it. Commissioner Zelle and Chairman Duininck admitted it when they wrote “Building out the line involves some up-front costs, including upgrading the St. Cloud Amtrak station to make it ADA compliant; upgrading railroad crossings in St. Cloud; and adding a third track at the Big Lake station to allow trains to stop there. These capital costs along are estimated at up to $43 million, and this doesn’t include the additional funding to operate the line day-in and day-out.”

Why should we extend Northstar at such an expensive price when there’s already shuttle service from St. Cloud to Big Lake? I suspect that the operating costs of the shuttle are less than the operating costs for Northstar. I’m certain, however, that maintaining the shuttle service won’t require $43,000,000 in “capital costs.”

Question for Commissioner Zelle and Chairman Duininck: how many years could the shuttle be operated with those $43,000,000 in capital costs?

Stop that train. Stop that train. It isn’t that the $43,000,000 is the only major financial outlay:

Our $43 million cost estimate also does not include the cost of acquiring right-of-way from BNSF Railway.

Here’s another question for Commissioner Zelle and Chairman Duininck: How much will acquiring that right-of-way from BNSF cost?

Here’s a question for citizens: shouldn’t Commissioner Zelle and Chairman Duininck lay out those costs in an op-ed in a major newspaper?

We want to work with area legislators to find a way to bring Northstar to St. Cloud residents. But that work has to first start by acknowledging the realities and the costs. Minnesotans deserve a real proposal.

The question residents should ask Knoblach is: Does he still support the extension when faced with the reality of the cost?

Actually, the question citizens should ask is whether extending Northstar is worth it at that price. As a lifelong resident of St. Cloud, there isn’t a great uprising of support for extending Northstar. It’s true that a handful of public officials are pushing it but that’s pretty much it.

We don’t need to spend $50,000,000 or more just to give Gov. Dayton another ribbon-cutting ceremony to attend. I don’t speak for Chairman Knoblach but I’ll speak for myself. Spending 10s of millions of dollars on this project is a waste of money.

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Suffice it to say that Gov. Dayton’s trip to Ely last week was controversial. While visiting the Range, Gov. Dayton met with RAMS, aka the Range Association of Municipalities and Schools. RAMS peppered Gov. Dayton with questions and opinions. Steve Giorgi, RAMS executive director, asked the most pointed, pertinent, question, asking “Why would a company want to come to Minnesota and invest hundreds of millions of dollars?”

While that was the most pointed question of Gov. Dayton’s trip, it wasn’t the only uncomfortable moment for him. Another uncomfortable moment happened when Giorgi “presented Dayton with 17 resolutions passed by area governments, all seeking that Dayton reverse course, [which] argued that the decision could also have a chilling effect on other mining operations in the region, even taconite mining.”

Predictably, Gov. Dayton fought back, saying “I’ve told both of my commissioners to proceed as expeditiously as you can (on PolyMet). I view that project very differently, because of its location, than Twin Metals.”

TRANSLATION: The environmental activists that fund the DFL’s campaigns weren’t happy with Gov. Dayton when he waited until he couldn’t wait any longer to take a position on PolyMet. When he finally made the right decision, Gov. Dayton knew that he had to oppose Twin Metals because he couldn’t risk alienating the environmental activists that dominate the DFL.

This is heartbreaking:

“These kinds of opportunities are few and far between,” said Chisholm Mayor Michael Jugovich, touting a Twin Metals project that promises several hundred jobs. “This is the mecca for mining. We do it better and safer.” Jugovich said too many Iron Rangers, including his own children, have to leave the area to find sustainable employment.

That shouldn’t happen. The people of the Range are industrious and hard-working. Not maximizing that talent is virtually criminal. The DFL, especially the IRRRB, has squandered that talent.

That’s the definition of foolish.

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Bill Hanna’s article about Friday’s agenda says everything about who Gov. Dayton and the Metrocrat wing of the DFL listen to. Gov. Dayton and the Metrocrats take their orders from the environmental absolutists that fund the DFL’s campaigns. That’s why this afternoon’s meetings will get passionate.

Gov. Dayton better be prepared to hear lots of things that he won’t like hearing.

The only item on today’s agenda will be “Gov. Dayton’s decision three weeks ago to not allow the Department of Natural Resources to authorize any access or lease agreements for mining on state lands.” It’s a little ironic that today’s Ely City Council meeting is getting held at the IRRRB offices in Eveleth. Predicting that there’s a better chance of Gov. Dayton getting criticized during the meeting than there is a chance that he’ll receive a hero’s welcome doesn’t require Nostradamus. Here’s why it doesn’t require great prognostication skills:

The state would be turning away millions of dollars of just exploration work based on a pre-emptive emotional appeal by Gov. Dayton regarding the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness watershed rather than a DNR assessment based on science and facts.

There’s a fair amount of distrust of the DNR on the Iron Range. There’s more distrust in the declarations of an out-of-touch governor from the Twin Cities.

Gov. Dayton is coming north for a couple reasons. First, he wants to explain why he’s stopping the Twin Metals mining project without a serious scientific study to determine whether it can be done without harming the environment. Good luck with that. The other reason he’s visiting the Range is to tamp down this type of political unrest:

Public comment in Iron Range newspapers was overwhelmingly against Dayton’s decision.

That included a letter to the governor from former DFL Rep. Joe Begich of Eveleth, who said he was “shocked” by the decision. He also said, “…. as I have traveled in our area, I can’t believe the solid Democrats who are saying they are voting Republican. Will this be your legacy?”

A longtime Range DFLer, who is now political wavering, said the Begich letter was especially telling. “If the DFL loses Joe Begich, it would lose the Range,” she said.

I wrote about Rep. Begich’s op-ed in this post. The message of my post is that today’s DFL isn’t anything like Rudy Perpich’s DFL. Perpich’s DFL actually fought for the Range’s blue collar workers. Today’s DFL is more of a white collar bunch than anything else.

When Gov. Dayton meets with the people of the Range, he’ll see firsthand the difference between Metrocrats and Rangers. I hope he won’t be too traumatized.

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The unspoken theme of this editorial is that the Iron Range is getting tired of hearing the DFL’s litany of broken promises to the Iron Range.

The editorial states if “you had really been that determined and passionate about extending the benefits, you would have called a special session last November or December on the issue and not cluttered the discussion and debate two other items.” That’s its way of saying that their readership thinks Gov. Dayton played politics with the Range’s unemployment benefits rather than doing the right thing and that they’re tired of Gov. Dayton’s duplicity.

Later in the editorial, it says “The Iron Range received a lot of promises from the federal government when Boundary Waters Canoe Area legislation was passed in 1978, many of which have been broken. One of those promises was to allow mining and logging outside the Boundary Waters. And now, governor, you are trying to break that promise.”

I won’t declare that the Range will make a dramatic change and start electing Republicans on a region-wide scale. I wish that would happen but I’m not predicting that. What I’ll say is that it’s apparent that the Iron Range isn’t the enthusiastic monolith that it’s been in the past.

When it comes to mining, the Mesabi Daily News doesn’t pull its punches. Their editor, Bill Hanna, hasn’t hesitated in calling Democrats or Republicans out if they’ve stepped out of line with the mining industry. In this editorial, the Mesabi Daily News didn’t pull its punches with Gov. Dayton, starting with them saying “Gov. Mark Dayton reached out to the Iron Range in an editorial page guest column last week and tried to defend the indefensible — his decision to not allow the Department of Natural Resources to enter into any Access Agreements for mining operations on state lands.”

Follow this link to read Gov. Dayton’s op-ed. Rather than siding with mining, Gov. Dayton’s defense hit the Range with another gut punch. The Mesabi Daily News wrote “The governor gets another F-minus in his explanation and attempted justification of that decision, which also graded out as an F-minus when it was announced on March 7.”

While they didn’t quote Gov. Dayton’s op-ed, I’m fairly certain that MDN is upset with Gov. Dayton’s statement that “I believe the best approach is to respect the invisible, but very real, boundary that was established almost 40 years ago, which permits mining activities within the existing industrial footprints on the Iron Range, and prevents them within or adjacent to the Boundary Waters. People who can accept that division will be able to at least co-exist, if not actually cooperate.”

Here’s what MDN thought of Gov. Dayton’s statement:

Here’s what the governor’s declaration by fiat basically said:

  1. NO to Twin Metals Minnesota, we don’t want you. But we do thank you for the $400 million you’ve invested already in our state. The greenbacks are appreciated.
  2. NO to mineral exploration on state lands, even through the state Executive Council approved the leases.
  3. NO, I don’t trust my own Department of Natural Resources to thoroughly do its job of due diligence and review of Twin Metals’ proposals.
  4. NO to scientific-based environmental review process of copper/nickel/precious metals mining. That would make too much common sense.
  5. NO to citizen participation. The extremist preservationist groups and their supporters, many of them from the Twin Cities area or out of state, know what’s best. They are my kitchen cabinet on this issue.

Rather than calling these environmental extremist groups part of Gov. Dayton’s “kitchen cabinet,” I think it’s more accurate to call them part of his Board of Oligarchs. Here’s the definition for the word oligarchy:

a form of government in which all power is vested in a few persons or in a dominant class or clique; government by the few.

He’s represented the environmental activists who fund the DFL’s campaigns. It’s indisputable that a significant portion of the DFL wants mining shut down regardless of what the facts say. I’ve written about Conservation Minnesota’s Mining Truth website more times than I’d prefer to. I’ve repeatedly highlighted the distortions published by CM through MT. Those organizations should be part of Minnesota’s Hall of Shame in terms of disinformation.

I’ll close with MDN’s closing paragraph because they’ve stated it perfectly:

On second thought, we grade it F-minus-minus.

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According to this article, Sen. Bakk has put together reform legislation that eliminates legislators as official final decision makers on IRRRB appropriations. If Sen. Bakk’s legislation passes (it isn’t submitted yet), it ” will return the board to an advisory role to the governor and remedy concerns raised in the Legislative Auditor’s report.” That would eliminate the OLA’s constitutional concerns.

It wouldn’t eliminate the Iron Range delegation as ‘advisors’ to the IRRRB, which is the IRRRB’s biggest problem.

Sen. Bakk is spinning things by saying that “the language change will address that issue because the board will then be advisory, which would mean board members/legislators would not have the final say in decisions.” From a constitutional standpoint, that’s fine but it doesn’t address the overarching problem.

The Iron Range delegation are the overarching problem. Over the past 20 years, the Iron Range delegation voted for legislation, sponsored by Rep. Tom Rukavina, that “allowed the board to bypass the governor.” Rep. Rukavina retired in 2012. The IRRRB should be mothballed ASAP, too.

It’s indisputable that some of the projects that the IRRRB funded have produced positive results. Still, that isn’t saying that they’ve done a good job. The IRRRB hasn’t. I wrote here about how the Iron Range doesn’t really have a middle class. According to the IRRRB’s website, the “IRRRB’s mission is to promote and invest in business, community and workforce development for the betterment of northeastern Minnesota.” Based on their own website, they’ve failed miserably.

Fixing the IRRRB’s constitutional issues is the least of the IRRRB’s problems. With 20.6% of the people in Hibbing and 26.5% of the people in Virginia living below the Federal Poverty Level, aka FPL, it’s difficult to argue that the IRRRB has worked “for the betterment of northeast Minnesota.” In fact, I’d argue that it isn’t difficult to argue that the IRRRB hasn’t come close to strengthening northeastern Minnesota’s economy.

Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results. It’s foolish to think that the Iron Range delegation will do something constructive as ‘advisors’ when they didn’t do anything constructive when they had final say on spending.

Friday night, Mary Lahammer’s article for Almanac, which starts 17 minutes into this video. She should be ashamed for airing such a dishonest article. The opening shot in the article shows a group of people singing “I’m gonna let it shine” while holding placards that say “FOR-PROFIT PRISONS ARE IMMORAL. BAN PRIVATE PRISONS. #StopCCA”

Rev. Brian Herron was captured on film saying “Why aren’t we here talking about resolving the disparities? Why aren’t we here talking about prison reform? Why aren’t we here talking about how we uplift people and uplift communities? Why are we here to do more damage? It ain’t right.”

Later, Joe Broge, a corrections officer at Stillwater State Prison said “I’ve talked to a number of inmates who spent time there and it is, without exception, a horrible facility and when they come to Stillwater Prison and say that they’re glad they’re there, that tells you something.”

First, the thought that Officer Broge thinks it’s wise to set public policy based on the input of criminals is frightening. Why would we want prisons designed that meet the prisoners’ approval? (I suspect that Officer Broge is just doing his best to vilify the CCA facility in Appleton. I don’t think it has anything to do with serious policymaking.)

As bad as those things are, though, they pale in comparison with what Tom Roy, Gov. Dayton’s Commissioner for the Department of Corrections, said during his testimony. Commissioner Roy said “The notion that we incarcerate people for profit, for corporate profit, is, I think, the antithesis of America.”

That’s an intellectually dishonest statement. When I wrote this article, I included this legislative language from HF3223:

(j) The commissioner, in order to address bed capacity shortfalls, shall enter into a contract to lease and operate an existing prison facility with a capacity of at least 1,500 beds located in Appleton, Minnesota.

Commissioner Roy knows that CCA would lease the facility to Minnesota’s Department of Corrections and that the Department of Corrections would staff the facility. Further, Commissioner Roy knows that CCA wouldn’t have anything to do with the operation of the facility.

Here’s the questions I have for Commissioner Roy:

  1. Is leasing a private building to hold prisoners “the antithesis of America”?
  2. How is leasing a building owned by a private company the antithesis but spending $100,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money morally justifiable?

Here’s my question for Mary Lahammer: How could you stand behind an article that’s more DFL spin than facts? Ms. Lahammer should be ashamed of herself for not questioning the propaganda contained in this article. It’s a pathetic excuse for journalism.

Though they’ll deny it, there’s indisputable proof that ABM, aka the Alliance for a Better Minnesota, hates the Iron Range. The indisputable proof is found in their opposition to mining on the Range. Joe Davis, ABM’s Executive Director, issued this statement on the House passing an unemployment extension bill for laid-off Iron Range workers. It said “Families on the Range could have gotten help weeks or months ago, but Speaker Daudt said they could wait while Republicans dragged their feet trying to get a tax cut for businesses in exchange. This political gamesmanship is representative of the Republican agenda that puts big businesses and the wealthy first, instead of working Minnesotans.”

Sen. Bakk isn’t a stranger to playing political games. In 2013, Sen. Bakk put funding for a new Senate Office Building in the Taxes bill that had to pass. What’s worse is that it happened near the end of session and without the public getting the opportunity to testify against Sen. Bakk’s initiative. Further, the fight between Gov. Dayton and Sen. Bakk that Speaker Daudt had to referee last year is proof that Sen. Bakk couldn’t be trusted. Sen. Bakk promised to do unemployment insurance reform after the House passed the unemployment insurance extension. There’s no reason Speaker Daudt should’ve trusted Sen. Bakk. Gov. Dayton didn’t trust Sen. Bakk last year:

For Dayton, it is not about cronyism, it is about trust. He said that he trusts House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, more than he does fellow Democrat Bakk, although he also said he and Daudt often do not agree politically.

Trust isn’t about whether you agree with another person. It’s about whether you think the other person is being straight with you. Here’s the official definition of the word trust:

reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.

Here’s the official definition of agree:

to have the same views, emotions

There’s little reason to trust Gov. Dayton or Sen. Bakk. There’s little reason to trust ABM either. Their lobbying efforts have consistently undermined (pun intended) the Iron Range’s way of life.

Yesterday, DFL activists stopped a meeting of the Public Safety, Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee that was debating HF3223, a bill that would give Tom Roy, currently the commissioner of the Department of Corrections, the authority to negotiate a lease with a company called Corrections Corporations of America. This article contains nothing but spin.

For instance, the article says that “African American mothers, young people and pastors” compared the prison system with “modern-day slavery.” They used this argument to talk “about the evils of CCA, and racial disparities in sentencing and incarceration.”

This type of spin is dishonest to its core. The CCA facility in Appleton, MN, has been empty since 2010. CCA doesn’t operate prisons in Minnesota at this time. That means that the protesters’ complaint against a prison system that these activists criticized while shutting down the hearing are publicly owned and operated prison systems.

Here’s the heart of these activists’ complaint about HF3223:

(j) The commissioner, in order to address bed capacity shortfalls, shall enter into a contract to lease and operate an existing prison facility with a capacity of at least 1,500 beds located in Appleton, Minnesota.

It can’t get much more straightforward than this. Tom Roy, Gov. Dayton’s commissioner of the Department of Corrections, shall sign a lease with CCA, then fill that empty facility with prisoners. Since the Department of Corrections has a contract with AFSCME, it’s assumed that Commissioner Roy will staff that prison with guards who are members of AFSCME.

Saying that these misguided activists’ arguments were incoherent is understatement:

Minneapolis NAACP head Nekima Levy-Pounds and other testifiers who opposed the bill said it didn’t matter that the state would operate the facility — it was still doing business with a private prison vendor. “Who we do business with is just as important as the business we do,” Levy-Pounds said. “Doing business with the CCA is like doing business with the devil, because their practices are diabolical.”

“You cannot put my kids, my grandkids, in jail to save 350 Caucasian jobs in Appleton,” Darnella Wade shouted, adding lawmakers should instead invest in daycare, education and other measures that improve quality of life rather than giving millions to a private prison corporation. “This is abuse.”

“When you open a prison, you’re going to fill it, and it’s going to be filled with black and brown bodies,” testified the Rev. Brian Herron of Zion Baptist Church. “Why are we having discussions about building an economy on the backs of black and brown lives?”

Rev. Herron, the reason why the legislature is debating this is because prisons are filling up. If a higher percentage of people stopped breaking the law, there wouldn’t be an overcrowding problem. Further, it’s insulting to think that the legislature is considering this bill because they want to build “an economy on the backs of black and brown lives?” Then there’s the somewhat more sane side of this argument:

“We vehemently oppose the opening of the prison in Appleton,” testified Stillwater Corrections Officer Joe Broge, a member of AFSCME Local 600. “We simply do not have the logistical support to operate another facility that’s four hours away.” He said correctional officers are already understaffed and stretched too thin, without adding another prison to the mix.

Question to the protesters: Is your chief complaint that Minnesota’s legal system is broken? Is it that prisons are understaffed? Or is it that it’s both?

Simply put, yesterday’s DFL protest showed how incoherent their thoughts on this issue are.

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