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To: Kurt Daudt, David Hann
From: Gary Gross
Subject: Transportation negotiations

Considering the fact that rank-and-file Minnesotans have stated emphatically that they won’t cheerfully accept another tax increase, GOP leadership in the Minnesota legislature shouldn’t attempt to strike a deal with Gov. Dayton and DFL leadership that includes a gas tax increase. Period. Tax increases are totally off the table. If Gov. Dayton wants to throw another hissy fit, that’s fine. The GOP should record Gov. Dayton’s hissy fit and upload it to YouTube.

There are some things Speaker Daudt and Sen. Hann should forever keep in mind during these negotiations. Here are the things that they shouldn’t forget, in order of importance:

  1. The last time the DFL pushed a gas tax increase, they promised it would solve our underfunding of roads and bridges for the next 20 years. That was 2008. It’s 2015 and they’re back, this time insisting that a significantly bigger tax increase is needed. Don’t double down on the DFL’s failure.
  2. The GOP plan is popular. Insist that the DFL adopt the GOP plan or face a major advertising campaign from now through Election Day. Tell them that every vulnerable DFL legislator in the House and Senate will be targeted with advertising that tells their constituents that they voted for a gas tax increase.
  3. You’re building trust with Republican activists and independents by being straight shooters. Don’t throw that away by agreeing to a transportation compromise that includes a gas tax increase. Accepting a tax increase will be seen as a betrayal. That will lead to Republicans losing the House and the DFL holding the Senate in 2016. (Remember the disaster the last time the DFL controlled the House and Senate and held the governorship?)
  4. Keep pressure on the DFL by addressing the press anytime they’re available. Remind them that the DFL’s last transportation bill was a failure. Remind them, too, that 75% of Minnesotans agreed with the GOP transportation plan and that 51% of Minnesotans rejected the DFL’s plan.

It’s important to constantly switch the conversation away from transportation. Constantly drag the conversation back to fixing Minnesota’s potholed roads and highways. Outside the Twin Cities, it’s difficult to find a dozen transit advocates. Outside the Twin Cities, it’s impossible to find a person who’s happy with Minnesota’s potholed roads.

Play to those facts. Portray the DFL as who they are — the political party who listen to the special interests and the lobbyists while reminding them that a) Republicans listened to their constituents before the session started and b) Republicans are still listening to their constituents by refusing to raise gas taxes.

I’m more than a bit surprised after reading this post about Sen. Bakk’s latest transportation plan. Check this out:

In January, Gov. Mark Dayton and DFL lawmakers rolled out comprehensive transportation plans and talked about how urgent it was to do something this year. Republicans held up their hands and said there was no rush.

Times have changed. On Wednesday, it was Senate DFL leader Tom Bakk raising the specter of delaying a transportation bill for another year. “Transportation probably doesn’t have to happen,” Bakk said Wednesday.

While the Legislature has to pass a finance bill to keep the Department of Transportation operating, lawmakers are under no obligation to approve billions of dollars in new spending as both Democrats and Republicans want to do.

Both chambers have rolled out comprehensive transportation packages spending billions of dollars over the next decade on roads, bridges and mass transit. The threat to just go home and not pass a comprehensive transportation bill could be aimed at increasing the Senate’s leverage in final negotiations with the House — potentially forcing Republicans to make more concessions than they want to in order to get a deal.

Republicans passed a bill that fixes Minnesota’s roads and bridges, which is Minnesotans’ highest priority. Because they did their job, Republicans just have to insist that the DFL leadership pass a sensible transportation plan. Then Republicans can remind voters that they listened to the voters before crafting a bill that put Minnesotans’ highest priorities first.

Then the GOP can remind voters that Sen. Bakk and the DFL acted like spoiled brats throwing a temper tantrum. Anyone thinking that that attitude will play well in outstate Minnesota isn’t too bright. The old cliché that you can’t beat something with nothing certainly applies in this instance.

If Sen. Bakk and the DFL insist on pushing an unpopular tax increase down Minnesotans’ throats, they’ll hand the Senate majority to Republicans on a silver platter. First, doing nothing isn’t an option. Next, doing something unpopular isn’t an option, either. Finally, throwing a temper tantrum while doing nothing is a short path from the majority to minority party status.

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The past 4 years have provided Minnesotans plenty of proof that the DFL is the party of corruption. Simply put, the DFL will do anything to increase or regain political power. During the 2012 campaign, 13 DFL state senate candidates coordinated their advertising campaigns with the DFL Senate Campaign Committee, which is illegal. Republicans filed a complaint about the DFL’s campaign committee hijinks. The end result was the DFL Senate Campaign Committee getting fined $100,000, the biggest fine in Minnesota campaign history.

Unfortunately, 11 of those 13 DFL state senate candidates won their election. In essence, these politicians bought their senate seats. Rather than apologize for their unethical actions, DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin characterized the incident as a nuisance before declaring the need to get back to governing. That makes sense in Chairman Martin’s world because this was just a financial transaction to him.

DFL State Sen. Jeff Hayden is tangled up in multiple messes, starting with the corruption that shut down Community Action of Minneapolis. He’s also had ethics charges filed against him for pushing the Minneapolis school board into funding a program run by his friends and associates.

I’m not surprised. The DFL is as interested in providing oversight of their political allies’ nonprofits as Hillary is interested in turning over Bill’s email server.

During the final days of the 2013 session, hundreds of in-home child care providers of all political persuasions descended on the Capitol to tell the DFL not to pass the forced unionization bill. Mike Nelson and the DFL waged war on these women, essentially telling them that they knew what was best. On June 30, 2014, the US Supreme Court told Mike Nelson and the DFL that their legislation was unconstitutional.

Mike Nelson, the DFL and AFSCME didn’t care about the Constitution. They didn’t care that private employers weren’t public employees. Mike Nelson, the DFL and AFSCME just deemed private small business owners public employees. That’s because their first concern was accumulating political power. That’s why the DFL sided with the special interests. That’s why the DFL didn’t pay attention to women they simply disagreed with. They only cared about their big money benefactors.

The DFL’s cronyism knows no limits. Senate Minority Leader Hann’s op-ed shows how invested the DFL is in special interests:

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

Why should I believe that the DFL is the party of the little guy? The DFL sold out Iron Range families in exchange for hefty campaign contributions from environmental activists. The DFL sold out in-home child care providers in exchange for hefty campaign contributions from public employee unions.

Worst of all, Gov. Dayton’s administration is filled with the DFL’s biggest special interest allies.

Elizabeth Warren loves telling her audiences that the game is rigged. She’s right and she’s wrong. She insists that it’s rigged by Wall Street fat cats. The truth is that it’s rigged by the Democrats’ special interest allies. The truth is that Big Government is just as corrupt as Wall Street.

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House Speaker Kurt Daudt issued this statement after announcing the House GOP transportation proposal:

“Minnesota families rely on our road and bridge infrastructure to get their kids to school and themselves to work. To help them, our goal from the beginning was to refocus transportation dollars on roads and bridges and deliver a real, long-term solution without increasing their tax burden. I’m proud today to unveil our vision for the next decade that achieves our shared goal,” announced Speaker Daudt.

“Republicans have developed a thoughtful solution to adequately maintain and expand our road and bridge infrastructure without raising gas taxes, because Minnesotans can’t afford to pay more at the pump. Our proposal will benefit small cities, rural areas, suburban communities, and elderly and disabled Minnesotans while also making significant commitments to state roads,” said Senate Republican Leader Hann.

“Most Minnesotans count on safe roads and short commutes every day, and our plan focuses on those daily needs. It fills potholes and repairs streets in their neighborhoods and will alleviate congestion on Minnesota roads. Now, Minnesotans have a choice between smart budgeting that dedicates existing transportation taxes to roads and bridges without a tax increase and a plan that raises the gas tax by at least 16 cents per gallon,” added House Majority Leader Peppin.

Predictably, the DFL immediately criticized the plan:

DFLers, in contrast, attacked the Republican plan for shifting money from other sources. “What programs will (Republicans) cut to pay for (money) they are taking from (the) general fund?” Dayton’s deputy chief of staff Linden Zakula wrote on Twitter.

House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, responded that the GOP plan “irresponsibly raids” the general fund. “Unfortunately, the Republican plan is the same old shifts and gimmicks budgeting we’ve come to expect from them. Siphoning money from schools and hospitals and relying on the state’s credit card is no way to fund Minnesota’s transportation system,” he said in a prepared statement.

Here’s my response to Mssrs. Zakula and Thissen: What corrupt programs will the DFL fund with the money that the GOP proposes to fix roads and bridges with? Does the DFL plan to finance more trips for Sen. Hayden? Or would they rather direct money to Community Action? Would the DFL rather funnel more money to MnSCU to sign contracts with their friends to do ‘consulting’ work ?

Actually, Rep. Thissen, putting some things on the state’s credit card is the right thing to do. Why should this generation pay the entire cost for fixing bridges? Shouldn’t subsequent generations pay for their fair share of the cost since they’re going to get a substantial benefit from new bridges? Why shouldn’t younger generations pay for some of the cost of lane expansions?

There’s nothing wrong with paying for road repairs with current money. Maintenance is a short-term proposition. Fixing potholes is something that’s done annually. Widening State Trunk Highway 23 to 4 lanes from St. Cloud to Foley is a one-time thing. That’s something that should be paid for by multiple generations.

Finally, it’s interesting to watch the DFL immediately insinuate that Republicans want to “siphon money from schools and hospitals.” It didn’t matter to Rep. Thissen that there’s literally no proof that Republicans want to do that. In fact, there’s proof that Republicans don’t want to do that.

That’s irrelevant to Rep. Thissen. The truth isn’t relevant to him because it’s about frightening people with baseless allegations. It isn’t about having an honest debate based on reality. Simply put, the DFL is the Fearmongering Party.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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According tho this article, Gov. Dayton and Sen. Bakk are whining because Republicans refused to vote on a bill without knowing what’s in it:

Dayton and DFL leaders have rushed to pass the measure to ensure the largest number of Minnesotans can take advantage of more than $50 million in retroactive tax relief by April 15. Senate DFLers used a rare procedure to try to speed passage by a day, but Republicans in the minority used their limited muscle to delay the vote until Friday.

Earlier in the week, Dayton chastised Senate DFLers for not passing the measure swiftly enough. On Thursday, Dayton and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, joined together to direct their wrath at Republicans.

“There is no good reason for Senate Republicans to block the bill’s passage,” Dayton said. If Republican legislators force any further delays, “they will be solely responsible for denying income tax cuts to thousands of Minnesotans.”

Yesterday, Sen. Bakk whined that not getting his office building would leave the Senate homeless:

“To think that the Senate is going to give up all this space and just be kicked out on the street. That’s just not going to happen. And we just don’t understanding why the House hasn’t acted in some urgency,” Bakk said.

Today, it’s Gov. Dayton whining that the GOP said no to voting on a bill they haven’t read. ‘Trust me’ won’t cut it. The GOP has an affirmative obligation to know what they’re voting for before voting on something. Senate Minority Leader David Hann summed it up perfectly:

“Just because Gov. [Mark] Dayton and the Democrats had a meltdown this week doesn’t mean the Senate should set aside our rules and rush this important tax bill,” said Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie. “There’s an old saying: Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”

Sen. Bakk held the Tax Repair Bill hostage as a bargaining chip to get approval for his office building. That’s why Gov. Dayton criticized him in a public press conference. Nos Gov. Dayton and Sen. Bakk are complaining that Republicans want to read the bill before voting on it.

Republicans did the right thing. The Tax Repair Bill got its first committee hearing Thursday morning. If the roles were reversed, isn’t it likely that Sen. Bakk and Gov. Dayton would be whining about Republicans jamming legislation down the Democrats’ throat without letting them read it?

Of course they’d be whining. In fact, they’d have a legitimate right to complain about that.

This is just Dayton’s and Bakk’s attempt to deflect attention away from Bakk’s attempt to play a stall game to get his office building. Bakk was humiliated publicly for playing games with the Tax Repair Bill. Since then, he’s been playing defense for playing political games.

This is what DFL ‘leadership’ looks like. First, the DFL plays political games. Next, people criticize the DFL for playing political games. When doing the right thing is the DFL’s only option, they try playing games by not letting the Senate read the bill that they’re supposed to vote on.

Finally, when Republicans insist on readng the bill before voting on it, the DFL ‘leadership’ whines that Republicans are holding up the legislation that Sen. Bakk didn’t want to vote on until he got his Palace for Politicians. That isn’t leadership. That’s gamesmanship.

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Thursday, Speaker Thissen and Sen. Bakk sent a letter to Rep. Daudt and Sen. Hann asking for bipartisan support during the upcoming special session. Thursday afternoon, Rep. Daudt and Sen. Hann pledged their support in a hand-delivered letter:

We received your letter regarding a proposed Special Session. Our top priority is to provide disaster relief to the eighteen counties included in the disaster relief declaration signed by President Obama. We have a rich tradition of supporting Minnesota counties and nothing should stand in the way of Minnesotans receiving the support they need.

Republicans will support the disaster relief proposal. That said, they didn’t stop with just their support:

Furthermore, in an effort to help hardworking farmers and all Minnesotans, it is critical that we repeal your equipment repair tax and your warehousing tax. Governor Dayton has publicly stated that he supports repealing both of his new taxes.

Rep. Daudt and Sen. Hann didn’t stop with that, instead choosing to remind people what the Democratic legislature did this past session:

Republicans are ready to fix the mistakes Democrats made in the last session and provide the needed disaster relief funds.

Clearly, Republicans will use the counterproductive Dayton/Bakk/Thissen tax hikes as a weapon in next year’s campaign. Republicans must have proof that this issue is hurting Democrats, especially in swing districts. I suspect it’s hurting Gov. Dayton, too, partially because he’s trying to change history, partially because he’s dramatically changed his tune.

This special session will be all about disaster relief. Part of it will focus on providing federal disaster relief funds. Part of it will focus on repealing part of the Democrats’ disastrous tax increases.

Whether it was Senate Minority Leader David Hann or House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, a common theme emerged from interviewing them: that the DFL overreached in a variety of ways.

Sen. Hann said the prime example of the DFL’s overreach was the DFL’s tax bill, citing the fact that “the bill raised taxes by $2.1 billion” to eliminate a $627,000,000 deficit. During their St. Cloud press conference, Sen. Hann said that most of the $400,000,000 in “property tax relief” was actually increased LGA to cities and counties.

In the past, big city mayors like Duluth’s Don Ness, Minneapolis’s R.T. Rybak and St. Paul’s Chris Coleman have used their LGA to increase spending rather than lowering property tax rates. There’s no reason to think that that habit won’t continue.

Rep. Daudt said that the DFL’s tax increase will be spent on the DFL’s special interest allies. Rep. Daudt said the deficit could’ve been solved without the DFL’s massive tax increase. He further stated that the job creation would slow as a result of the DFL’s tax increase. Rep. Daudt said unemployment wouldn’t skyrocket as a result of the tax increase. Rather, he said that Minnesota job creation would soon hit a self-imposed ceiling.

Another major DFL initiative that exemplified the DFL’s special interest overreach was the childcare unionization push. Rep. Mary Franson cited a law firm’s study of the NLRA, aka the National Labor Relations Act, which showed the DFL/AFSCME/SEIU bill to be illegal:

Federal law mandates that it is an unfair labor practice for an employer to “…dominate or interfere with the formation or administration of any labor organization or contribute financial or other support to it…” 29 U.S.C. 158 (a)(2) Yet the legislation purports to create a framework to form a union of employers and business owners and as such, is directly contrary to Section 8(a)(2)’s prohibition against employer interference financial contribution to a union.

The DFL voted for a bill that’s heading for the courts because it violates federal law. The DFL pushed this bill and Gov. Dayton will sign this bill because the DFL is owned, at least in part, by the public employee unions. In fact, Rep. Mike Nelson admitted that the bill is payback to the DFL’s special interest allies:

WCCO INTERVIEWER: Is this the governor saying ‘thank you’ to the unions that helped get him elected?
REP. NELSON: There’s probably some of that. You thank the people and you try to work for the issues that the people that support you.

This wasn’t a priority for Minnesotans. It isn’t even a priority for in-home child care small businesses. This legislation was a high priority for the DFL’s public employee union allies. Without the unions’ contributions and GOTV operations, the DFL’s legislative campaigns would be severely damaged.

Most importantly, the DFL’s policies won’t strengthen Minnesota’s economy. Their policies will weaken Minnesota’s economy. The DFL’s epitaph will include their oversized tax increase that paid off their special interest allies.

Gov. Dayton’s budget is mostly about radically increasing taxes on every Minnesotan:

Gov. Dayton’s budget will raise taxes on everyone. Sen. Hann chided Gov. Dayton, saying that he’d raise taxes on the wealthy when, in fact, he’s raising taxes on everyone with a major sales tax increase. Rep. Daudt noted that Gov. Dayton’s math and logic are flawed, saying that his budget “includes $3.7 billion in new taxes and $225 million in spending cuts.”

Throughout the campaign, Gov. Dayton said that “the rich” weren’t “paying their fair share” and that he’d take a balanced approach to the budget in terms of spending cuts and new taxes. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that “$3.7 billion in tax increases” is significantly more than the “$225 million” in spending cuts.

The reality is that Gov. Dayton lied about taxes in his stump speech. He knew that he was proposing a massive sales tax increase.

Rep. Daudt highlighted the fact that unemployment dropped from 7% to 5.5% during GOP control of the legislature. It isn’t likely that the DFL legislature and Gov. Dayton will create many more new jobs.

Sen. Hann asked a great question when he asked how raising taxes on a person will benefit that person. That’s the question that the DFL can’t answer. Then again, they aren’t worried about doing what’s right. They’re worried about paying off their special interest allies with our money.

Sen. David Hann, the leading health care expert in the Senate, just told Gov. Dayton the health care exchanges called for by the Affordable Care Act won’t get examined until after a new congress is sworn in:

In his letter, Dayton said that Democrats and Republicans share the responsibility for creating a Minnesota exchange, or else the state will be forced to accept a federal model for how the marketplace should function.

“By working together, we can make this project non-partisan and maximize its benefits for all Minnesotans,” Dayton wrote, suggesting that action is needed since the U.S. Supreme Court in June upheld the constitutionality of the health law.

But Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, responded that “there is nothing more partisan than this health care law given the way it was passed.” No Republicans voted for the measure when it was passed by Congress in 2010.

“Most people don’t like this law,” Hann said. “As a practical matter, the Legislature will not be in session until January…Let’s give the public a chance to weigh in on this during the next election.”

What Sen. Hann is saying is that exchanges won’t get a hearing until a new president and new Congress have a chance at repealing the Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Hann also let it be known that talk of bipartisanship with regards to implementing provisions in the Affordable Care Act aren’t going anywhere after Democrats shoved it down Americans’ throats without their consent.

Now that Democrats don’t have the ability to shove wildly unpopular legislation down the American people’s throats, their tone changed from I won to ‘Let’s work together in the spirit of bipartisanship.’

It’s refreshing to hear Sen. Hann essentially say that the bipartisanship will start after the new Congress and new president repeal the Affordable Care Act.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see Gov. Dayton attempt to establish these exchanges via executive order. He’s tried implementing things that way before. The good news is that the courts slapped him down before for attempting to enact legislation without subjecting the bill to legislative scrutiny.

If there weren’t strings attached to the exchanges through the Affordable Care Act, they’d be a fine idea. Since these exchanges have to comply with the minimum requirements of the federal government, things like providing free contraception coverage would be required of these exchanges.

Minnesotans would reject that without hesitation. So should the legislature.

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