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Former DFL legislators on Friday night’s Almanac Roundtable panel exemplified the best definition of DFL shovel-ready jobs. I’m betting they didn’t notice but Ember Reichgott-Junge and Mindy Greiling talked themselves into circles, thanks in large part to Amy Koch’s spot on analysis of the state of Minnesota’s economy.

Sen. Koch rightly highlighted the fact that, while Minnesota’s unemployment rate was low, Minnesota’s economy was still underperforming. Prior to her observation, Ms. Reichgott-Junge talked about how Minnesota’s economy was strong and that the unemployment rate was lower than the national average.

That’s when Sen. Koch said that, despite the low unemployment rate, people aren’t feeling good about the recovery because many Minnesotans are working 2 jobs and their wages don’t equal what they used to make. Sen. Koch then talked about the woman with an MBA working “as a barista at Starbucks” isn’t feeling the recovery. She said that, “while being a barista is a fine job”, the woman with the MBA would rather be working in her area of expertise.

At that moment, Rep. Greiling jumped in, saying that “that’s why I think Democrats will get credit for raising the minimum wage.” She explained that people will be grateful for getting a pay raise so they can pay their bills.

Summarizing this exchange up, Ms. Reichgott-Junge insisted that Minnesota’s economy is going gangbusters even though women with MBAs are working a part-time job at half the wages they made when they were working in their career path. Never fear, said Rep. Greiling. Those women should be greatful that these women with MBAs who used to make $25/hr. who had to accept a job paying $7.25/hr. are now making $8.00/hr.

Nothing says recovery like getting a 75-cent/hr. pay hike at a part-time job after making $25/hr. in a full-time job in your career field.

Sen. Reichgott-Junge insists that Minnesota’s economy is a source of pride for the DFL, then Rep. Greiling chips in by saying that people that got displaced from their high-paying, full-time jobs can now find part-time work that pays them the new minimum wage.

Give these DFLers credit. They brought their shovels to the set Friday night. They were prepared to spread the DFL’s bullshit of economic prosperity no matter how many circles they talked themselves into.

The reality is that the Dayton-DFL economy is flailing and failing. It’s ‘working’ in the Twin Cities because 21,523 new government jobs are mostly located there. It’s failing in outstate Minnesota, where job creation has been minimal, if not non-existent.

Why shouldn’t voters in Alexandria, Brainerd, Willmar, Redwood Falls, Park Rapids, Bemidji, Thief River Falls, Moorhead and the Iron Range vote against the DFL? They aren’t better off now than they were 4 years ago. In fact, Iron Rangers are significantly worse off now, thanks mostly to the environmental activist wing of the DFL.

It’s time for Republicans to start talking about the DFL’s economic failures. It’s time they started highlighting the fact that Minnesota’s economy is stagnating. The Dayton-DFL deficit is a matter of when, not if.

The Dayton-DFL policies are hurting private sector, outstate job creation. The Twin Cities are doing ok but the rest of the state is hurting. Apparently, that’s how Gov. Dayton and the DFL measure success.

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2011 was possibly best known as a year where both political parties lost the respect of voters. On the presidential election front, it was a year of great turbulance, with conervatives first courting Michele Bachmann, then Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich. After a brief dalliance with liberal Ron Paul, it looks like they’re finally giving Rick Santorum a look.

Clearly, people don’t trust the supposed prohibitive frontrunner, Mitt Romney. Despite his protestations, people have noticed that he’s still defending the indefensible, which is the individual mandate and Romneycare. People haven’t noticed that Mitt went further on climate control than this administration’s EPA has gone.

Though it wasn’t a great year for Republicans, it was a worse year for Democrats. While it’s true that polling doesn’t reflect that yet, they were rocked by scandals galore. They spent alot of political capital they didn’t have defending Operation Fast and Furious, MF Global, Solyndra and the NLRB’s attempted overreach.

When the ads start flying, people will find out that the U.S. Senate didn’t do anything, including passing a budget or passing any bills that helped the American people. In addition to not passing a budget, the Democrat Senate attempted to prevent the start of the Keystone XL Pipeline to appease their political allies in the militant environmentalist movement.

Minnesota politics mirrored some of the messes of the national stage, though we didn’t have any scandals that actually killed people like Operation Fast and Furious did.

Obviously, the last month have hurt the Republican Party of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Senate. Tony Sutton, Michael Brodkorb and David Sturrock resigned their positions as chair, vice-chair and secretary-treasurer of the party after allegedly piling up $2,000,000 in financial obligations.

The Amy Koch scandal rocked the Capitol like nothing else in recent political history.

With that said, the DFL had an ugly year, too, starting with Gov. Dayton needlessly laying 23,000 state employees off for most of July. It isn’t fair to heap all the blame on Gov. Dayton, though he’s certainly deserving of the title of being Minnesota’s unemployment governor.

Minority Leaders Paul Thissen and Tom Bakk sabotaged a budget deal on the last day of the 2010-2011 biennium that would’ve kept government open. Though I admit that sabotage is a provocative word, it’s entirely fitting in this instance, especially considering the fact that Gov. Dayton had agreed to a deal without tax increases before Mssrs. Bakk and Thissen sabotaged it.

The DFL legislature certainly could be described as a do-nothing bunch except when they were sabotaging budget deals or supporting the forced unionization of small businesses. They didn’t lift a finger to drawing a set of redistricting maps. That’s disgusting since almost $200,000 was allocated to the House DFL and Senate DFL for redistricting software, the specialized workstations, the plotters, the printers and the redistricting specialists.

Meanwhile, MMB Commissioner Jim Showalter, one of the political hatchetmen in Dayton’s cabinet, put together a document insructing Gov. Dayton’s commissioners that the House GOP budget included a 9% across-the-board spending cut. That same document said that the Senate GOP budget included an 8% across-the-board spending cut.

With hatchetmen like Jim Showalter and saboteurs like Rep. Thissen and Sen. Bakk, the DFL certainly didn’t do anything to earn the public’s trus.

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Yesterday, I wrote this post citing the statements from Sen. Majority Leader Amy Koch, Sen. David Hann and Sen. Mike Parry. Here’s a quote I received from in-home child care provider Hollee Saville:

It sounds like the judge agrees that Governor Dayton overstepped his authority by signing this executive order and we’re hopeful that our freedoms will be affirmed by the judge at the January 17th hearing. This is about self-employed business owners being forced to unionize through a vote that they did not want and one in which more than 7,000 out of 11,300 were not allowed to express their opinions.

It’s been more than a full-time job working to educate providers about the facts; the providers pushing for unionization are paid union employees, but we’ve been SPENDING our own money to get the truth to providers and the public. We already have so many awesome organizations working for us; I hope that providers who think they don’t have a voice reach out to other providers and these associations so they can see how we can all work together to improve the lives of childcare providers and the children for whom we care, all without the costs and detriments of unionization.

The unions certainly have pounded the message that they’re the only people who can successfully negotiate with these independent businesses’ best interest at heart.

Think of how silly that sounds. When’s the last time that unions’ highest priority was a business’s best interest? Better yet, has there been a time when the unions’ highest priority was a business’s best interest?

Annette Meeks of the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota issued this statement:

Today’s developments are great news for the scores of childcare providers from across Minnesota who have worked tirelessly to preserve their independence and fight against a coercive and intrusive unionization scheme by the governor and labor unions.

For the past year, the Freedom Foundation has worked alongside providers who have asked for nothing more than to be left alone by the unions and by state government. Instead they’ve been targeted by an unwanted, unwarranted, and unfair campaign by union operatives. We’re pleased that, at least for now, that campaign is on hold.

Instead of looking for ways to reward his labor allies at the expense of small businesses and families, perhaps now the governor will focus instead on pro-growth policies and improving our state’s economic climate.

Gov. Dayton and the unions pursued this with the same disregard for what the people wanted as President Obama pursued Obamacare. In-home child care providers didn’t welcome this development. A handful of the state’s 11,300 in-home child care providers wanted it but it certainly wasn’t something that the majority of them wanted.

That’s why Gov. Dayton attempted to rig the vote:

About 2,300 of the providers are organizing with Council 5’s Child Care Providers Together. That includes providers in Hennepin, Ramsey and St. Louis Counties, and most other counties in the northern two-thirds of the state. SEIU is organizing providers in other parts of the state.

Getting people in Ramsey, Hennepin and St. Louis counties to sign a unionization card isn’t exactly difficult. It’s substantially more difficult to get signatures in stoic central Minnesota. That’s why Gov. Dayton limited the voting to 4,287 child care providers.

Here’s the statement issued by the Minnesota Free Market Institute:

Why are the childcare owners a legitimate target of public unions? They are not state employees or employers–and there is no common or single employer to collectively bargain against as they are employed by parents, not the state. This is crazy stuff but the unions have already succeeded in other states so we have to take this seriously.

I heard Gov. Dayton say that we and other opponents were against elections (apple pie, children, and his new puppy. You get the idea). Yes, we are against elections that are not lawful.

Let’s suppose that a majority of licensed chiropractors (or dentists or doctors) wanted to unionize so they could get higher subsidies for patient care and other benefits from the state. Would that be lawful? Of course not—and those professionals would fight to fend off any union campaign just like these daycare providers have done. But childcare providers do not have paid lobbyists working for them—they are busy taking care of children and running their own businesses. The last thing they need is a knock on the door from their local AFSCME or SEIU rep.

(We keep hearing stories about union organizers coming during lunch or other busy times—pretending that the union card is just for information, rather than signing “yes” to join. Really ethical behavior. Shows a lot of respect for these busy business owners. My advice? Call the cops and report them as trespassers.)

SEIU and AFSCME have been pictures of unethical behavior. And yes, it’s been documented multiple times. AFSCME and the SEIU don’t care about the child care providers. They want what they want when they want it.

Everything that needs to be said about how popular this is is shown by the fact that the DFL didn’t issue a statement on Judge Lindman’s ruling. As of 7:30 am Tuesday am, their last news post was about the budget forecast. Ditto with the Alliance for a Better Minnesota’s website.

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One thing that’s become clear in the hours following the end of the state government shutdown is that DFL legislators didn’t offer many constructive ideas for fixing the budget problem. Their leadership, especially Rep. Thissen, the House Minority Leader, didn’t offer an alternative budget. They only offered criticism of anything the GOP offered. A great example of the DFL’s criticism is Rep. Thissen’s statement released after the session:

Today, the Republicans will impose their beg-borrow-and-steal budget on the people of Minnesota.

Republicans had not 1, not 2, but 7 opportunities to agree to a better budget, a budget that actually solves the state deficit now, has the support of a vast majority of Minnesotans, and defends middle class families. Republicans could have supported the Governor’s plan that cut $2 billion from state government and asked millionaires to pay their fair share.

However, the Republicans refused every single attempt at a fair budget, forcing this borrow-and-spend non-solution on the people of Minnesota in order to end a painful government shutdown.

The lengths to which this Republican majority will go to protect corporate special interests and the richest of the rich are astounding. Their budget forces the state to beg from seniors and the disabled with draconian budget cuts, borrow money to temporarily fill the deficit with one-time funds, and steal from our children’s future by expanding the K12 school shift.

Minnesota loses with this budget. In 2 years, we will face another massive deficit while in the meantime middle class families will pay more and get less. The only winners today are the defenders of the unworkable status quo. The winners are the millionaires and special interests who are given yet another Republican break.

At no point during the session, during the shutdown or the special session did Rep. Thissen or other members of the DFL leadership offer a positive alternative. Their only suggestion was more. More taxes, more spending, more borrowing. The dirty little secret is that the DFL school shift would’ve shorted school districts more than the Republican shift will do.

By contrast, Republicans passed a long list of reforms that will reduce the size of the state workforce, bend the health care cost curve down, review government agencies to determine whether they’re still serving a useful purpose, whether they should be restructured or eliminated altogether.

The list of GOP reforms is lengthy to the point that it’ll take time to read through it and sort it according to impact.

Comparing the positive impact that GOP reforms will have with the DFL’s nonexistent list of positive contributions is a night-and-day difference.

The only objective evaluation of the parties is that the difference in productivity is stark. It’s that simple.

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One thing that’s getting clearer by the day is that the shutdown should be blamed on Sen. Bakk and Rep. Thissen. In tonight’s conference call, Michael Brodkorb was asked whether Sen. Thissen and Rep. Bakk talked Gov. Dayton out of his initial June 30 offer where he took his tax increases off the table.
Brodkorb said he could confirm that Sen. Bakk and Rep. Thissen were in the room when Speaker Zellers and Leader Koch returned to say that they’d accept Gov. Dayton’s offer. At that time, Gov. Dayton said that he’d changed his mind and that tax increases had to be part of the final solution.

It’s important to remember that Speaker Zellers and Sen. Koch returned only 45 minutes after Gov. Dayton’s initial offer. The only thing that’d changed was that Sen. Bakk and Rep. Thissen weren’t in the room when Gov. Dayton made his initial offer but they were there when he’d reversed himself.

Brodkorb then said that “The only thing that Sen. Bakk and Rep. Thissen had done since the start of the session was cash paychecks. You can quote me on that.”

That squares with other reports from the Capitol.

Another thing that was confirmed tonight, though not through the conference call, is that DFL legislators weren’t playing constructive roles in the negotiations. It’s been confirmed that DFL legislative leaders have tried defending the status quo.

That isn’t playing well with the GOP leadership. They’ve been on a mission to get as many reforms accepted in the final budget package as possible. Thus far, the reports are that the GOP negotiators are succeeding.

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This afternoon, I heard the disturbing word that a couple of Gov. Dayton’s commissioners didn’t get the memo that Gov. Dayton isn’t opposed to all reforms and policies. He’s just opposed to policies like banning cloning and Photo ID.

What I’m told is that a couple of Dayton’s commissioners are insisting on keeping in place the policies from the previous administration. Based on comments made by Gov. Dayton, Speaker Zellers and Leader Koch on Almanac last night, a number of reforms are very much up for consideration.

If Gov. Dayton’s commissioners reject reforms like King Banaian’s Sunset Commission and priority-based budgeting, then this deal should collapse. Furthermore, they should expect to be blamed for the deal collapsing.

Perhaps it’s that they simply didn’t get clear instructions. Perhaps it’s because they’re getting their instructions from Sen. Bakk and Rep. Thissen, the men who caused the shutdown. Perhaps they’re just being obstinant.

Whatever is causing Gov. Dayton’s commissioners to reject the GOP’s reforms, it must stop ASAP. PERIOD. Which reforms make it into the final bill is negotiable. Whether GOP reforms make it into the final bill is settled.

I’d further add that DFL legislators better vote for these reforms. In report after report, article after article, the word is that DFL votes will be hard to come by. They’ve got the authority to do that.

Should they opt to vote against King Banaian’s priority-based budgeting bill or his Sunset Commission bill, they’d better expect to run face-first into advertising telling voters that they voted against making agencies justify their spending once every 4 years. They’d better expect to run face-first into advertising saying that they voted for maintaining the status quo structure of government.

Like I said, that’s their right but they’d be foolish exercising that right that way right after the electorate rejected status quo government. I’ll just add that this isn’t a passing fancy with conservatives and TEA Party activists. This is a hill worth fighting on.

I would’ve said fighting and dying on but I’m confident that I’ve got more than enough support statewide to avoid fighting and dying on this important hill.

The American Experiment put this list of reforms together that should be considered:

Education Finance (HF934)

  • Early Graduation Achievement Scholarship Program (Art. 1, Sec. 6)
  • District and Charter School and School District Grading System and School Recognition Program (Art. 2, Sec. 5)
  • Teacher Evaluations (Art. 2, Sec. 20)
  • Enrollment Options for Students at Low-Performing Public Schools (Public school transfer option only as private tuition option is almost certainly controversial) (Art. 2, Sec. 33)
  • Literacy Incentive Aid (Art. 2, Sec. 51)
  • Implementing a Performance-Based Evaluation System for Principals (Art. 2, Sec. 56)
  • Report; Recommendations for Increasing Schools’ Financial Flexibility (Art. 2, Sec. 58)

Education Policy (HF1381) School Districts’ Joint Operation and Innovative Delivery of Education (Art. 2, Sec. 47)    

Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Finance (HF1010) Evaluation of State and Local Water-Related Programs, Policies, and Permits (Art. 4, Sec. 50) 

Higher Education (HF1101) Payments for Meeting Three of Five Performance Goals (Art. 1, Sec. 4, Subd. 3) 

HHS Finance (SF760)

  • Electronic Benefit Transfer Card (Art. 1, Sec. 10
  • Community Health Center Grants (Art. 2, Secs. 21 and 24)
  • Evaluation of HHS Regulatory Responsibilities (Art. 2, Sec. 29)
  • Long-Term Care Contribution from Community Spouse (Art. 3, Sec. 7)

Medicaid Payment Reform:

  • Payment for In-Reach Community-Based Service Coordination [ER User Care Coordination] (Art. 5, Sec. 37)
  • Health Care Home Coordination with Social Services for High Need Patients (Art. 5, Sec 46
  • Hospitalization rates and Subsequent Hospitalizations Included as Managed Care Performance Targets (Art. 5, Sec 47)
  • Automatic Enrollment in Managed Care for Persons with Disabilities w/ Opt Out (Art. 5, Sec 49)
  • Managed Care Provider Payment Withhold (Art. 5, Sec. 50)

Minnesota CHOICE Medicaid Waiver

  • Reimplementation of funding for Coordinated Care Delivery Systems, assuming adequate funding/federal match (Art. 5, Secs. 57,58, 59)
  • Healthy Minnesota Contribution Program (Art. 5, Sec. 66)
  • Plan to Coordinate Care for Children with High-Cost Mental Health Conditions (Art. 5, Sec. 77)

Studies on More Cost-Effective Treatment for Medicaid:

  • Specialized Maintenance Therapy (Art. 5, Sec. 79)
  • Benefit Set Options (Art. 5, Sec. 80)
  • Reducing Hospitalization Rates (Art. 5, Sec. 81)
  • Medicaid Fraud Prevention and Detection (Art. 5, Sec. 82)
  • Wound Care Treatment (Art. 5, Sec. 83)

My Life, My Choices (Art. 6, Secs. 1 and 43)  

Simplification of Eligibility and Enrollment Process (Art. 5, Sec. 18)    

Jobs and Economic Development Finance (SF887) Monitoring Pass-Through Grant Recipients (Art. 2, Sec. 2) State Government Operations (SF1047)

  • Sunset Advisory Commission to review state agencies and advisory committees (Art. 3 Sec. 2)
  • State employee competition for state business (Art. 3, Sec 26)
  • State Agency Value Initiative Program (Art. 3, Sec. 27)
  • Require performance measurement to be “outcome-based and objective” (Art 3, Sec 29)
  • Zero-based/outcome-based budgeting (Art. 3, Sec. 32)
  • Employee gainsharing system (Art. 3, Sec. 35)
  • MN Pay for Performance Act/Human Capital Performance Bonds Pilot Project (Art. 3, Sec. 36)
  • Public employee-based pay based on performance appraisal (Art. 3, Sec. 47)
  • State Building Efficiency (Art. 3, Sec. 61)
  • Fleet Management Improvements (Art. 3, Sec. 62)
  • State Employee Efficient Use of Health Care Incentive (Art. 3, Sec. 64)
  • Tax fraud Prevention and Detection (Art. 3, Sec 67)
  • Strategic Sourcing Request for Proposals (Art. 3, Sec. 68)
  • Consolidation of Information Technology Services (Art. 4)
  • Minnesota Accountable Government Innovation and Collaboration Act (HF1579)

I know that a number of these reforms are dead in the water while there’s a DFL governor in office. Still, alot of these reforms are so common sense that they shouldn’t be viewed as partisan issues. For instance, what justification can be made for not making state agencies justify every penny that they’re spending? If that issue got polled by KSTP-SurveyUSA, I’d bet it’d get supported by 75+ percent of the people. If they polled the Sunset Commission reform after explaining what it was, I’d bet that 75% of people would support it, too. It’s just too logical not to be included in the final bill. It’s time that Gov. Dayton’s commissioners and DFL legislators, especially Sen. Bakk and Rep. Thissen, got the memo that their attempts to sabotage the deal won’t be taken lightly. There’s a reason why Gov. Dayton cancelled the last part of his trip and agreed to the GOP’s budget. Gov. Dayton agreed to the GOP budget because it’s much more popular than is getting reported. If the DFL wants to head into an election year on the wrong side of alot of important reforms, that’s their choice. It just isn’t a bright choice.

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The Winners:
Minnesotans in general, Minnesota businesses, Steve Gottwalt, Amy Koch, Kurt Zellers, Dave Thompson, King Banaian, Keith Downey, GOP freshmen

The Losers:

Mark Dayton, AFSCME, MAPE, AFL-CIO, Paul Thissen, Tom Bakk, Ryan Winkler, State Parks, Contractors

Minnesotans escaped without a major tax increase, initially aimed at “the rich who weren’t paying their fair share”, then aimed at cigarette smokers of all income levels. They’re also getting some nice reforms that will help in future budget negotiations.

Minnesota businesses still pay too high an income tax but at least it isn’t getting worse. With this settled for at least another 2 years, businesses can breath a sigh of relief.

Steve Gottwalt and Dave Thompson emerged as the next generation of GOP leaders thanks to Sen. Thompson’s stout-hearted defense of conservative principles and Rep. Gottwalt’s seizing the moment to push Gov. Dayton into settling the shutdown. These gentlemen deserve high praise for being great spokesters/legislators for conservative principles.

King Banaian and Keith Downey are winners because they stood their ground on important reforms to state government’s makeup and King’s priority-based budgeting reform of the budgeting process. These gentlemen have proposed legislation that would change how government operates and how it spends money. These aren’t tiny considerations.

Speaker Zellers and Leader Koch deserve credit for keep the troops unified. It wasn’t difficult picturing scenarios where moderates could abandon the GOP on this or that vote. That they didn’t is a testimony to their whip operations and their leadership.

GOP freshmen were clear winners. Without their principled steadfastness, I’m certain that this outcome wouldn’t have happened. Despite Sen. Bakk’s criticism of GOP freshmen, they were certainly one of the driving forces behind holding things together at a time when things could’ve fallen apart.

The biggest loser was Gov. Dayton. He lost on his signature issue. Initially, Gov. Dayton wanted to raise taxes on the rich. After getting defeated on that, he tried settling for shaking down whoever he could shake down. Both attempts were defeated.

While I can’t say Republicans came out smelling like a rose, I won’t hesitate in saying that Gov. Dayton got alot less of what he wanted than the GOP got of what they wanted.

Rep. Thissen and Sen. Bakk, the House and Senate Minority leaders, definitely lost. It isn’t coincidence that the two offers where Gov. Dayton dropped his demands for tax increases happened when Rep. Thissen and Sen. Bakk weren’t in the room. They were the real villains behind the shutdown. Had this duo not been part of the negotiations, there wouldn’t have been a shutdown. This agreement says that their agenda was thoroughly rejected.

Rep. Ryan Winkler definitely lost, too. When he predicted that Republicans would cave, he stiffened Republicans’ resolve. From that point forward, there wasn’t even a slight possibility of the Republicans accepting a tax increase. From a GOP standpoint, we should thank him for his being a loose cannon and for uniting the GOP legislature.

Public employee unions took the biggest hit of this standoff. They were on the defensive much of the time. When they tried going on the offensive, their ideas were rejected. When they tried ambushing King Banaian and John Pederson on the SCSU campus, they couldn’t even fill the theater a fifth of the way full.

Unfortunately, the losers weren’t limited to politicians who tried ignoring the will of the people. Unfortunately, this unnecessary shutdown hurt state parks, tourists, bars and building contractors. Each suffered from the shutdown, with the construction industry and state parks being particularly hard hit through no fault of their own.

I can’t repeat this often enough or emphasize it vigorously enough. This shutdown wouldn’t have happened if Rep. Thissen and Sen. Bakk hadn’t put taxes back into Gov. Dayton’s final pre-shutdown proposal. If they hadn’t interfered, construction projects wouldn’t have lost a month of construction time, state parks would’ve stayed open and 22,000 state employees wouldn’t have gotten furloughed.
Gov. Dayton isn’t guiltless. Anything but. Gov. Dayton could’ve instantly rejected Sen. Bakk’s and Rep. Thissen’s tax increase demands. That would’ve stopped the shutdown before it started.

When the dust settles, both parties’ activists will be upset. Some might be downright dispirited. That’s understandable. Both had won a generational victory, the DFL by electing their first governor since 1986, the GOP by winning the Senate for the first time ever.

The difference going forward is which party has the more appealing policies. At this point, that’s the Minnesota GOP. I’ve only touched on a few of the reforms that Republicans passed and that Gov. Dayton vetoed. If they do a good job highlighting those reforms this summer and, if necessary, during next year’s campaign, I’m confident that people will keep the gavels in their hands.

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A day after Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch outlined the GOP legislative accomplishments during the 2011 session, Senate Minority Leader Bakk wrote a factually-challenged temper tantrum. It didn’t take long for Sen. Bakk to start misleading readers:

How can we ever hope to end our state’s costly and painful government shutdown if only one side of the negotiating table is willing to compromise?

That was the question I was left asking myself after reading the recent commentary pieces from Republican Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and House Majority Leader Matt Dean.

In those pieces, Sen. Koch and Rep. Dean repeated a familiar Republican mantra: the only way we can end this government shutdown is if Gov. Mark Dayton submits to the all-cuts budget approach favored by Republicans.

First, the fact that Sen. Bakk continues to mischaracterize the GOP budget as an “all-cuts budget” is shamefully dishonest. Sen. Bakk wants us to think that the biggest budget in state history was created by cutting spending, then cutting spending some more.

Next, it’s disgraceful and dishonest for Sen. Bakk to ignore the steady stream of reforms passed by the GOP legislature. From Dan Fabian’s permitting reform to alternative teacher licensure to King Banaian’s priority-based budgeting reform to the establishment of a Sunset Commission to Keith Downey’s long overdue government staffing reform, the GOP legislature dealt with key reforms that will make Minnesota more business friendly while making state government more responsive to their customers.

Just last week, he even offered to take any income tax increase of the table, offering instead a $1-a-pack tax, er, fee, increase on cigarettes to help spur negotiations and end the shutdown.

I thought Gov. Dayton’s goal was to make the rich pay their fare share. Wasn’t the state’s tax code unfair for middle class families and the working poor. This cigarette tax increase hits the working poor and the unemployed the hardest.

I’d argue with Sen. Bakk that Gov. Dayton’s cigarette tax increase proposal is a step in the wrong direction. I’d further argue that it’s quite revealing in that it says Gov. Dayton’s highest priority is to continue spending at unsustainable rates.

Agreeing to keep spending increases on autopilot is what Minnesotans throughout the state voted against last fall. If Republicans voted for increasing spending recklessly, they’d be betraying the will of Minnesota voters. No thanks with that.

This paragraph is based more on Sen. Bakk’s dishonesty than on anything else:

Among other items, Republicans are demanding cuts to public school funding to pay for private school vouchers, taking away collective bargaining rights from state workers, and even criminalizing life-saving stem cell research at the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic.

Demanding? Seriously? If Sen. Bakk expects Minnesotans to believe that BS, then he apparently thinks that Minnesotans aren’t too bright. Mentioned might be the more accurate verb in that situation. For Sen. Bakk, though, characterizing Republican proposals in low-key, accurate terms isn’t what’s needed to scare people.

At this point, that’s all the DFL has. That and their incessant whining about the need to compromise. Compromise isn’t what’s needed. Getting it right is. Getting it right means that the budget agreed upon balances the budget while including enough pro-growth provisions to make Minnesota a more business-friendly state.

You can’t find those things in Gov. Dayton’s budget, partially because it’s difficult finding Gov. Dayton’s budget, at least one with details.

The two Senate leaders’ op-eds are radically different. Sen. Koch’s op-ed is filled with the GOP legislature’s achievements. Sen. Bakk’s op-ed is filled with mischarcterization after mischaracterization.

If Sen. Bakk insists on mischaracterizing Republicans’ proposals, then it’s time to eliminate him from the negotiations. He’s the problem, not the solution.

The governor and Democrats believe we need to cut spending and make major reforms as we cope with the largest budget deficit in state history. But we firmly believe the Republican’s all-cuts budget goes too far and does too much damage to our state.

That’s pure BS. The DFL voted against every major reform Republicans put on the table. En masse. The DFL voted against reducing the size of spending increases. Why should we think that they’ll vote for spending cuts?

Sen. Bakk might get DFL activists to believe that schtick but it isn’t something that most people will buy into. More importantly, more Minnesotans are on the Republicans’ side than are on the DFL’s side.

It’s time for the DFL to start siding with Main Street Minnesotans rather than siding with their GOTV/campaign contribution special interest allies. If the DFL stays wedded to their special interest allies’ wishes, this shutdown will be a long one.

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Admitting that OLA doesn’t usually get involved in legislative branch affairs, Legislative Auditor James Nobles nonetheless issued a stinging rejection of MAPE’s complaint that Speaker Zellers’ and Sen. Majority Leader Koch’s letter to MAPE employees.
First, here’s what Sen. Koch and Speaker Zellers wrote in their letter:

As Speaker of the House and Majority Leader of the Senate, we want to personally let you know that we do not want a government shutdown. Our best opportunity for resolution is in the next 72 hours. This is a serious time for you, for us and for our state.

The budget that passed the Minnesota Legislature in May spent $34 billion. It represents a 12% increase over the $30 billion this same tax structure brought in for the past two years. If we include the $2.3 billion of federal stimulus dollars that supplemented our current budget during the recession, this $34 billion budget represents a 6% increase in spending. All without raising taxes.

The governor vetoed all but the agriculture budget. He originally wanted to spend $37 billion, and later revised his budget. However, he has yet to provide key details for each part of that budget.

Since the governor vetoed the Legislature’s budget bills, we have made three substantive compromises. We funded K-12 education, public safety and courts at the governor’s requested levels; withdrew our request for tax cuts; and allocated additional resources to higher education, environment, and flood and disaster relief. All were rejected by Governor Dayton.

We also asked to be called to special session, something only the governor can do – so that we can pass bills and avoid an unfortunate, unnecessary and potentially costly shutdown. The Governor has said he will not call a special session.

Here’s what Jim Monroe said in his complaint about Speaker Zellers’ and Sen. Koch’s letter:

Today, State Representative Kurt Zellers and State Senator Amy Koch sent out what many of our members have termed an inappropriate, ‘political’ letter to state employees. Speaker Zellers, do you not remember that it was Representative Keith Downey, a member of your caucus, who said that when it came to the state workforce, it is important to ‘starve the beast?’

Do you both not remember that throughout the recent legislative session, your members, in both houses, continually attacked hard-working, dedicated state employees by authoring and passing bills that cut state employees’ jobs, wages, healthcare and pensions?

We support Governor Dayton and do not trust what tricks your party will pull during a legislative session. Leadership is about compromise and fairness for the common good, not ideology that allows the rich to get richer. You are jeopardizing our members’ livelihoods and financial well being by not compromising with Governor Dayton.

Senator Koch and Representative Zellers, make no mistake about it; our members believe to their core that the budget impasse and upcoming shutdown rest squarely on your shoulders.

First things first. The Zellers-Koch letter isn’t political in nature. It’s simply an update on the legislative process. As such, Speaker Zellers and Leader Koch were well within their bounds of using the state government email system. That’s the conclusion Mr. Nobles determined:

Both the House and Senate policies make general declarations that their email systems should be used for legislative business and matters of concern to the House and Senate (although, like the Executive Branch policy, they allow for limited personal use.) The policies call on members and staff to exercise good judgment and common curtesy in sending emails.

Certainly, using the legislative e-mail system to tell AFSCME or MAPE workers they should vote for or against someone would be a clear violation of campaign finance laws. I’d expect the legislative email policy to conform to campaign finance laws.

The email that MAPE complained about didn’t advocate for a candidate. It didn’t even advocate for state employees to support the GOP budget in whole or in part.

It’s telling that MAPE got upset that a benign email was sent telling state employees what the legislature has done.

It’s absurd to think that legislators don’t have the right to tell anyone in the state what they’ve done. I’d argue that it’s their responsibility to keep people informed.

This is MAPE acting as part of the propaganda arm of the DFL trying to make it sound like the GOP is being unethical. That just got shut down because Jim Nobles ruled that Speaker Zellers and Leader Koch acted within the boundaries established by previous legislatures.

MAPE can’t make this stick because the policy established by the legislature is sensible and doesn’t conflict with other laws. I don’t even think that a hyperpartisan person Jim Monroe thinks that Speaker Zellers and Leader Koch did anything wrong.

In fact, I’d bet that Monroe is worried that the rank-and-file are finding out what the legislature really did as opposed to hearing the spin that they’ve heard from union leadership. If rank-and-file union members hear how the government was shut down when it didn’t need to be, I wouldnt’ be surprised if they started questioning leadership.

I’d submit that that’s what MAPE was most worried about. If people stop walking in lock-step with leadership, which I think is starting to happen, leadership’s credibility will disappear instantly.

Thanks to Jim Nobles’ report, rank-and-file MAPE members have reason to question their union’s leadership. If that happens, this shutdown impasse will essentially be history.

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If the DFL wanted to write something blaming the shutdown on the GOP legislature, they wouldn’t need to change much from this MPR article. This smacks of total hypocrisy:

Koch says Dayton met briefly with leaders as they discussed the K-12 bill but she said they did not try to negotiate an overall budget agreement that would end the state government shutdown that began seven days ago.

Republicans have also renewed their call for Dayton to call a special session so the Legisalture can pass a bill that would partially fund state government.

“Forty-nine of 50 governors have solved budget issues,” Koch said. “The governor is the CEO of the state. We need him to step up and lead.”

When pressed, Koch was forced to acknowledge that state legisatures of all types have also finished their work. Koch also refused to say whether GOP leaders would present a budget offer to Dayton. Instead, she insisted that Republicans won’t support a tax increase to close the budget gap.

“If the governor still has his tax increase proposal on the table then that hasn’t changed that,” Koch said.

The meeting comes one day after Dayton presented a budget offer to GOP legislative leaders. One option in his offer is a temporary income tax surcharge on people with an annual salary of $1 million or more. The other option would be to increase taxes on cigarettes by $1 a pack. Both of those plans also rely on a surcharge on hospitals and HMOs and further delaying payments to schools.

Dayton said Republicans would have to present a budget offer if they don’t like his ideas.

First, I don’t have a problem with the media pressing Sen. Koch or Speaker Zellers on details. They’re adults who take care of themselves. What I have a problem with is the Potted Plant Media not challenging Gov. Dayton and his administration on what specific budget cuts they’re proposing.

If they can’t put the alleged budget cuts onto a spreadsheet, they literally don’t exist. They’re figments of Gov. Dayton’s imagination. Based on Sen. Koch’s and Speaker Zellers’ letter to Gov. Dayton, it sounds like Gov. Dayton’s budget cuts have never been more than figments of Gov. Dayton’s imagination. Here’s the key portion of their official letter to Gov. Dayton:

In addition, your budget fails to deliver a complete budget. You have not released a detailed budget that includes both revenues and spending priorities since March 21. You continue to state that you are cutting more than $2 billion in spending; however, we have concerns that you are including additional revenue increases in your spending plans and your information is still incomplete. Without complete information, we can not adequately evaluate your proposal. We again ask that you provide a list of your spending reductions.

It’s disappointing to find out that Gov. Dayton hasn’t submitted a detailed spending cuts plan since mid-March. This is proof that Gov. Dayton isn’t in charge of this process.

If Gov. Dayton doesn’t want to be a failure again, he needs to start doing the nuts and bolts types of things that prove he isn’t just a press release governor. At this point, that’s all he is. At this point, too many members of the Potted Plant Media don’t have the will to make Gov. Dayton accountable for his actions.

If Sen. Koch and Speaker Zellers hadn’t released this information, the Twin Cities media would’ve continued repeating the Dayton administration line about taking a balanced approach.

It’s time for the public, especially the unions, to demand that Gov. Dayton put his plan on paper. Until then, his ‘plan’ is nothing more than today’s press release.

That might fly if you’re a U.S. senator but it doesn’t work if you’re governor. In the Senate, you can take entire terms off without people noticing. As governor, you’re expected to lead.

Gov. Dayton, it’s time you either led or got out of the way.

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