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In Gov. Dayton’s State of the State Address, Gov. Dayton talked about the Civil War, then changing the topic to a thinly-veiled reference to transportation:

We are not being called upon to make such extreme sacrifices. Yet, during the remaining six weeks of this legislative session, we will face our own moments of truth: Will we do what is easy, safe, and popular; or will we risk our political lives to preserve this great state for future generations?

In mid-February, Survey USA conducted a poll on which party’s transportation plan Minnesotans preferred. Here’s what they said:

Governor Dayton proposes a sales tax on gasoline, higher driver’s license registration fees. and a higher general sales tax in the 7-county Minneapolis metro area to raise $6 billion over 10 years for new highways, bridges and mass transit. Do you approve or disapprove? Asked of 525 registered voters. Margin of sampling error for this question = ± 4.4%

43% Approve, 51% Disapprove, 6% Not Sure

House Republicans propose spending $750-million on highways and bridges over four years by using some of the state’s budget surplus and other existing funds without raising taxes. Do you approve or disapprove? Asked of 525 registered voters. Margin of sampling error for this question = ± 3.8%

75% Approve, 17% Disapprove, 8% Not Sure

Since that poll was taken, Republicans published their full 10-year proposal. The Republicans’ plan invests $7,000,000,000 in fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges. Clearly, the Republicans’ plan is more popular, which is why Gov. Dayton talked about doing “what is easy, safe and popular” vs. passing the mildly unpopular Dayton-DFL transportation plan. (It’s mildly unpopular in that it’s only slightly underwater in its approval.)

Don’t be surprised if Tom Bakk pulls the plug on Gov. Dayton’s plan. With the Senate being up for election in 2016, he won’t want to force his senators to take too many controversial votes. Sen. Bakk knows how to read a poll. There’s no way he reads the KSTP-SurveyUSA poll and thinks he can enthusiastically support Gov. Dayton’s plan.

Predicting how Sen. Bakk reacts to Gov. Dayton’s transportation bill is speculation. Still, it’s difficult to picture Sen. Bakk walking Gov. Dayton’s plank.

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Dan Wolgamott’s editorial in this morning’s St. Cloud Times sounds like he’s running against John Pederson, mostly because it sounds like he’s Tom Bakk’s puppet. Check these chanting points out:

Our roads are aging, the congestion is getting worse and our state is falling behind on delivering the vibrant transportation options we need. We feel the bumps in our pothole-filled roads and the hit in our wallets with vehicle repairs.

It’s time for us to invest in our roads and bridges, which is why St. Cloud needs better leadership than State Sen. John Pederson. As made clear in two recent articles in the St. Cloud Times, Pederson has some thoughts on the state’s transportation network. As the Republican lead on the Senate Transportation and Public Safety Committee, he could play a vital role in providing St. Cloud the comprehensive transportation investment we need.

Instead, Sen. Pederson backs a plan that not only shifts money away from our schools and services for our most vulnerable residents, but relies heavily on borrowing for our roads and bridges, putting the costs on the state’s credit card. This plan depends on action to be taken by future legislatures. However, there is no guarantee future legislatures will make those decisions. Instead of stability, this is another example of politicians promising something in the future to justify ducking their responsibilities now.

I won’t waste my time refuting the DFL’s chanting points because I’ve already done that. Instead, I’ll pose these simple questions:

  1. Do you want the legislature to raise the gas tax that won’t fix Minnesota’s roads and bridges?
  2. Do you want the DFL to raise the metro sales tax to pay for light rail projects that don’t help fix roads and bridges?
  3. Would you prefer that Republicans create a new fund that focuses exclusively on fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges?

I’m betting that the vast majority of people reading this post will pick the option that focuses exclusively on fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges. I’m betting that because few people care about new light rail projects. I’m betting that because most people care passionately about fixing Minnesota’s potholed roads.

We know that the DFL plan won’t work because it was tried in 2008. The DFL’s transportation plan is the same now as it was then. That plan failed. Why would we repeat that plan and expect different results? Einstein famously said that doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

The GOP plan learned from the DFL’s failed plan of 2008. Shortly after the 2008 tax increase, revenue didn’t come in like it was predicted. The DFL figured it out that more people are buying more fuel efficient vehicles, meaning less gas tax revenue. Then the DFL doubled down on their failed plan of 2008.

Republicans, though, figured it out that a different funding mechanism was needed. That’s why the Republican plan creates a Transportation Stability Fund that “collects existing proceeds from dedicated tax revenues and deposits them into accounts for each of their dedicated purpose.

There are five accounts that would dedicate a combined $3.078 billion over ten years:

  1. Road and Bridge Account: revenue from existing sales tax on auto parts
  2. Metro Capital Improvements Account: revenue from existing sales tax on rental vehicles
  3. Small Cities Account: revenue from existing rental vehicle tax
  4. Greater Minnesota Bus Services Account: revenue from 50% of existing Motor Vehicle Lease sales tax
  5. Suburban County Highway Account: revenue from 50% of existing Motor Vehicle Lease sales tax

In addition to the dedicated funds provided by the Transportation Stability Fund, the Road and Bridge Act of 2015 uses $1.3 billion in Trunk Highway bonds, $1.2 billion from realigning Minnesota Department of Transportation resources, $1.05 billion in General Obligation bonds, and $228 million in General Funds.Mr. Wolgamott’s LTE reads like Move MN’s chanting points. We don’t need another robot supporting the DFL’s failed policies. It also reads like the LTE a candidate seeking Sen. Pederson’s senate seat.

That’s quite a shift considering he ran for Tama Theis’s House seat in 2014.

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Sen. Bakk has a reputation of being a smart political strategist. After reading this post, though, I have to consider updating my opinion on that. Here’s what he said that’s forced me to reconsider my opinion:

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk offered a sharp rebuke of the House Republican budget targets unveiled this week that would offer $2 billion in unspecified tax relief and mostly hold the line on spending. “It’s really not a place we’re gonna start negotiating. I think they’ve gotta get a little more serious with the budget proposal before we’re gonna actually start trading nickels back and forth,” said Bakk, DFL-Cook.

Senate DFL budget targets will be released Friday at 9 a.m. Bakk reiterated that the Senate would spend more than the House GOP proposal, but less than the budget plan of Gov. Mark Dayton, while putting more money in reserve than either.

Bakk said DFL Senators have received emails from health care and education groups this week, worried the House budget targets would slow spending below inflation and require program cuts. “The governor raised a lot of expectations of the advocacy groups, so some of them are gonna be a bit disappointed, but I expect they’re gonna feel better than they felt when the House targets came out,” Bakk said.

A DFL politician promising the special interests the world isn’t surprising. That’s a DFL tradition. What’s surprising is that Sen. Bakk admitted that in an on-the-record situation.

Frankly, that isn’t the brightest thing to do.

Sen. Bakk thinks that handing out goodies to all of the DFL’s special interest groups is good politics. To a degree, it is. To a large extent, though, it’s foolish. Doing things that help families is a smart thing. Promising handouts to special interests, though, tells families that they aren’t important to the DFL.

If Republicans were smart, and the jury’s still out on that, they’d start asking their neighbors if they want their politicians favoring special interests with their hands out or if they’d rather support politicians who worried about their neighbors and co-workers.

The DFL is the party of the special interests. That’s their identity. It’s time for Republicans to force the DFL to defend their habit of supporting the special interests, especially when the DFL’s special interests are hurting Minnesota’s economy.

Let’s ask Minnesotans if they think it’s ok for a sitting congresswoman to say that it’s ok to hurt an entire region’s economy. Similarly, let’s ask Minnesotans if they’ll continue supporting a political party that’s more attuned to the wants of the special interests rather than families’ needs.

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This article is a perfect illustration of the DFL’s doublespeak:

DULUTH, MN (NNCNOW.COM) — One Minnesota Congressperson is blasting the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for its new wild rice plan. After intense criticism from Iron Range Lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton, the MPCA said on Tuesday that the agency is updating its standard to account for new science.

Sen. Tom Bakk and others have been pressuring the state agency to waive or eliminate the ten standard; a standard that threatens the Iron mining industry, according Sen. Bakk and Iron Range Representatives Carly Melin and Jason Metsa.

But U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum told NNC on Wednesday that the state should not be lowering water quality standards to “cater to any industry” such as the mining industry.

The Minnesota Congresswoman, who represents St. Paul and surrounding suburbs in Congress, also wrote a letter to the United States EPA Administrator, urging the EPA to oppose Minnesota’s effort to lower the state’s current water quality standards and to protect wild rice waters.

“Our protections for water quality should be based on sound environmental science – and nothing else. The science in the state’s proposal is questionable,” Rep. McCollum said in a statement. “One of the scientists whose work was used said he was “truly shocked” by the proposal and called it “scientifically indefensible.” “If our water quality standards are lowered and our waters are harmed – it will be impossible to ever restore them. We do not get any do-overs on environmental protection,” she said.

The first thing Rep. McCollum said that’s noteworthy is that Minnesota shouldn’t lower its water quality standards because we shouldn’t “cater to any industry”. That’s right, Betty. We don’t want no stinking industry in Minnesota. Industries are worthless except for creating good paying jobs.

Another thing she said was that Minnesota’s water quality standards “should be based on sound environmental science.” Apparently, Rep. McCollum thinks that she’s the expert on the subject. If she doesn’t think that, she’d pay attention to the MPCA’s study.

I agree that water quality standards should be determined by “sound environmental science”, not by suburban politicians or environmental activists. We shouldn’t trust someone who taught social science in high school, either.

The fact is that Betty McCollum has painted herself into a corner. First, she told us to base our water quality standards on verifiable scientific standards. A paragraph later, she’s portraying herself as an expert on the environment even though she taught high school social science.

I’d just say that I wouldn’t trust a high school social science teacher when it comes to talking about the environment.

Yesterday, I wrote that Rep. Thissen reflexively criticized the Republicans’ transportation proposal. This post will show how Sen. Bakk’s math doesn’t add up. Here’s what Sen. Bakk said about the Republican transportation plan:

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL- Cook, said constitutionally-dedicated funding, like the gas tax, is a better approach for transportation. Bakk said the House Republican plan to use general fund revenue could too easily be undone by the next Legislature.

“There’s just no guarantee that roads and public infrastructure are going to continue to be a priority once you’ve put them in the mix of having to compete with everything in the state budget,” Bakk said. “I think it’s unlikely that transportation competes in that environment in the next budget cycle.”

First, the DFL essentially raised the gas tax unilaterally in 2008. That tax, we were told, would solve our problems. I wrote this post in 2008. It turns out that that “constitutionally-dedicated funding” plan didn’t fix anything, which proves that Sen. Bakk is full of it.

Why trust a guy who promised a solution that didn’t work the last time? It’s foolish to trust people who’ve failed us before. That’s what Bakk did. There’s also no reason to trust Sen. Bakk, especially after he said that “There’s just no guarantee that roads and public infrastructure are going to continue to be a priority once you’ve put them in the mix of having to compete with everything in the state budget.”

Under the GOP plan, those sales taxes on lease vehicles, auto parts and car rentals wouldn’t be part of the general fund. They’d be part of the Transportation Stability Fund. The only way that changes is if the DFL would vote to take money out of that fund to pay for other things that they want.

If Republicans hold their House majority and retake their majority in the Senate, they could put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2018. If that passed, then the Transportation Stability Fund would become constitutionally dedicated fund.

Finally, beyond Sen. Bakk’s shaky math, it’s shameful that the DFL is ignoring their constituents. According to KSTP’s latest poll, 75% of Minnesotans oppose raising the gas tax. What part of that doesn’t the DFL understand? Perhaps the better question is this: Does the DFL care what their constituents want? I’m not certain they do. At minimum, I haven’t seen proof that they care about their constituents, though there’s tons of proof they care about their special interest allies.

In fact, there’s ample proof that that’s all the DFL cares about.

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Based on this article, Minnesota is headed for war in 2016:

House Republicans have been working on a plan that doesn’t raise taxes but would dedicate the revenue from several existing taxes to fix road and bridges. But state Rep. Tim Kelly, chair of the House Transportation Committee, isn’t ready to say how much it will cost.

Kelly, R-Red Wing, said his plan would use some money from the state’s $1.9 billion budget surplus. He also wants to borrow some money, and dedicate a portion of existing tax revenue to transportation. Those taxes may include the sales tax on auto parts as well as taxes on leased vehicles and rental cars, which together raise about $200 million a year.

The GOP plan would dedicate additional revenues to fix roads and bridges without raising taxes. The DFL has a dramatically different approach:

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said he doesn’t support dedicating tax revenue to transportation that now goes to the general fund. Bakk said using general fund revenue for transportation projects is a bad idea because lawmakers will always put a higher priority on education and health care than on roads and bridges.

“Those investments will always get delayed,” said Bakk, DFL-Cook. “So the challenge of trying to craft a transportation bill that relies on general fund spending is we can cobble a budget together for this two-year budget cycle, but after the 2016 election, a new Legislature is going to come in here and they’re going to have their own priorities.”

Not surprisingly, the DFL’s plan includes a massive middle class tax increase. According to the DFL’s own table, this massive middle class tax increase would cost the middle class $1,315,000,000 a year. That isn’t GOP spin. That’s the DFL’s own estimate.

Normally, Sen. Bakk is pretty good at reading the political tea leaves. This time, it looks like his political radar is failing him:

Even though his plan spends much less than Dayton and Senate Democrats, Kelly said the Republican proposal is more popular, according to recent poll from KSTP-TV and Survey USA.

“The biggest difference, of course, is where the revenue is coming from,” Kelly said. “As we lay out our plan, the state of Minnesota is going to help us out because we had a 75 percent approval on just our basic plan. When we see this, it’s going to go 85 percent.”

If Sen. Bakk want the 2016 election to be fought over transportation, he’ll be the minority leader in 2017. It’s that simple.

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The only thing missing from the Bakk-Dayton transportation press conference was a picture of them kissing after making up. True to form, Gov. Dayton said at least one thing that’s utterly laughable:

Gov. Mark Dayton didn’t mince words Thursday when it came to the House Republican transportation plan, calling it “fiction.”

“All we get from House Republicans and even Senate Republicans is whack at this and whack at that, and rant about this and rant about that,” Dayton told reporters. “There’s nothing coming forward except a slice of the surplus and a double dose of make-believe.”

This coming from the buffoon who published this side-by-side comparison of his plan vs. the Republicans’ plan:

Check out this BS from the table:

In January, Governor Dayton introduced a straight-forward, honest proposal to make long-overdue investments in our aging, under-funded transportation system. The Governor’s proposal would honestly address our state’s $6 billion road and bridge deficit over the next ten years, fix 2,200 miles of state roadways and 330 bridges, provide nearly $2.4 billion for local road and bridge improvements, and invest $2.9 billion in Greater Minnesota and Metro Area transit improvements.

By contrast, the transportation proposal introduced by Republicans in the House of Representatives would fix just 40 miles of local roads over the next four years.

According to Gov. Dayton’s own document, his tax increase, most of which will be paid for by the middle class, will be $13,150,000,000. By comparison, his tax increase from 2013 was $2,100,000,000 for the current biennium.

For all of his “tax the rich” rhetoric, Gov. Dayton’s history is that he’s raised taxes on the middle class far more than he’s raised taxes on “the rich.” The numbers that he’s published verify that statement. Gov. Dayton’s transportation taxes (roads, bridges and transit) are a bigger tax increase than his 2013 tax increase. His 2013 tax increase increased revenues by $1,050,000,000 per year. The Dayton-DFL transportation tax increase is projected to raise transportation taxes by $1,315,000,000 per year.

With a $2,000,000,000 surplus and over $1,000,000,000 in the state’s rainy day fund, there’s no justification for a middle class tax increase, especially a middle class tax increase of this size.

Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt said last week that the expanding budget surplus should mean a gas tax hike is off the table. After Dayton’s Thursday news conference, House Transportation Chair Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, said he plans to release the details of the House GOP proposal this month.

Kelly declined to say how much it will spend but said it will likely include money from the surplus, some borrowing and dedicating existing tax revenues from auto parts, rental cars and leased vehicles. “These are real dollars,” Kelly said. “This does mean investment into transportation and it does not mean a tax increase.”

Dedicating existing tax revenues from “auto parts, rental cars and leased vehicles” makes more sense than raising taxes on the middle class. Redirecting existing taxes to pay for fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges is infinitely better than raising taxes on the middle class.

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Thursday afternoon, Gov. Dayton sent out an email highlighting their transportation plan. Saying that their math is questionable is being charitable in the extreme. Here’s what I’m talking about:

In January, Governor Dayton introduced a straight-forward, honest proposal to make long-overdue investments in our aging, under-funded transportation system. The Governor’s proposal would honestly address our state’s $6 billion road and bridge deficit over the next ten years, fix 2,200 miles of state roadways and 330 bridges, provide nearly $2.4 billion for local road and bridge improvements, and invest $2.9 billion in Greater Minnesota and Metro Area transit improvements.

By contrast, the transportation proposal introduced by Republicans in the House of Representatives would fix just 40 miles of local roads over the next four years.

That’s BS. First off, the Dayton-DFL plan would raise taxes by $6,000,000,000 over the next 10 years. The Dayton-DFL plan doesn’t focus on just roads and bridges, though. A significant portion of that tax increase comes in the form of a sales tax for the 7-county metro area which is dedicated to transit projects.

That means the Dayton-DFL plan raises taxes dedicated to roads and bridges by $450,000,000 a year for 10 years. The initial Republican plan called for spending $750,000,000 over the next 2 years. All of that money is dedicated to fixing roads and bridges. The final GOP plan will likely jump to $1,250,000,000 for the next 2 years. If that’s what the GOP plan calls for, that means Republicans will spend $400,000,000 more on fixing roads and bridges over the next 2 years than the Dayton-DFL plan will spend.

I’d love hearing the DFL’s explanation on how they’ll spend less money fixing roads and bridges over the next 2 years than Republicans but they’ll fix 55 times as many miles of roads as Republicans. That’s with an asterisk, too. According to the Dayton-DFL email, the DFL allegedly will fix 2,200 miles of state roadways and 330 bridges. According to the Dayton-DFL email, Republicans will only fix 40 miles of roads.

I might’ve been born at night but it wasn’t last night. This chart is pure fiction or it’s proof that the Dayton-DFL transportation plan is a massive middle class tax increase:

Check out this statement:

Would invest $785 million per year over the next 10 years to repair and replace state and local roads and bridges.

If that’s accurate, that’s $7,850,000,000 worth of middle class tax increases over the next 10 years. Earlier in the email, Gov. Dayton said that his proposal “would honestly address our state’s $6 billion road and bridge deficit over the next ten years.” According to the chart, they’d spend nearly $8,000,000,000 on fixing Minnesota’s roads. Which is it?

The $7,850,000,000 figure is 31% bigger than the $6,000,000,000 figure. They can’t both be right.

The difference, I suspect, is a significantly bigger middle class tax increase.

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If I were writing the title for my LTE on Gov. Dayton’s pay increases to his commissioners, I’d title it ‘The immoral Bakk-Dayton pay increase’ because that’s the perspective they should be viewed through. Here’s my conclusion to the LTE:

Meanwhile, nobody is talking about how the DFL commissioners are overpaid. Myron Frans got a $35,347 raise after telling the Legislature electronic pull tabs would bring in $35 million of tax revenue per year for the Vikings’ stadium. Last year, it generated $1.7 million. Frans was just off by 95 percent. In the private sector, Frans would’ve gotten fired. In the Dayton administration, he got a 40 percent pay increase.

Last week on Almanac, Mary Lahammer interviewed a gentleman who studies salaries. This gentleman, whose name I’ve forgotten, insisted that people with that many employees and that many responsibilities in the private sector would be “presidents, vice presidents or CEOs” and that they’d “get paid twice as much as they’re making” in the public sector.

Let’s examine that statement. The first assumption is that public sector commissioners get scrutinized like private sector CEOs, presidents and vice presidents. They don’t. Once commissioners are confirmed, they’re there until they leave for a consulting job or they screw up like April Todd-Malmlov.

That leads to the first unanswered question: where’s the expectation that upper level management in the public sector are really good at their jobs?

That leads to a second assumption, which is that the incentive for doing a job right in the private sector exists to the same extent that it exists in the public sector. That’s the wrong assumption. It’s wrongheaded thinking. If a CEO makes a big enough mistake, the company he works for loses money, perhaps lots of money. There are consequences to making bad decision in the private sector.

Those consequences don’t exist in the public sector. When Myron Frans totally botched it with the e-pulltab revenue estimate, the money didn’t come from his pocket. It came from taxpayers’ pockets. Not only didn’t he get terminated, he got a $35,000 raise and a new job title.

Incompetence and corruption are tied to each other. In Frans’ case, one led to the other. It’s immoral for a commissioner that incompetent to not get fired. It’s despicable that a commissioner that incompetent got a raise. If Frans were a moral man, he’d tell Gov. Dayton that he didn’t earn the money.

Frans won’t do that. He’ll just keep collecting paychecks he didn’t earn. Shame on Frans, Dayton and Bakk for being that disinterested in protecting the taxpayers’ hard-earned money.

This morning, the St. Cloud Times published my LTE about the Bakk-Dayton fiasco. Post your opinions in the comments below.