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ABM is launching another ad campaign, this time to push Gov. Dayton’s universal pre-K initiative across the finish line. Predictably, ABM’s latest campaign is filled with dishonesty:

“Minnesota Republicans — especially in the House — need to be held accountable for putting corporations ahead of working families’ priorities,” says Alliance for a Better Minnesota Executive Director Joe Davis. “The GOP repeatedly pushed for special treatment for big business, but shortchanged our schools.”

Here’s how Catharine Richert dropped the hammer on ABM’s BS:

Of course, this being politics, the story the Alliance for a Better Minnesota is trying to tell in its ads is more complicated than that. House Republicans and Senate Democrats agreed to put $400 million more into K-12 education. Dayton wants $150 million more than that to fund pre-kindergarten in public schools, and says he will veto the bill as a result.

TRANSLATION: ABM omitted the part about Republicans and Democrats, specifically, Kurt Daudt and Tom Bakk, agreed to this budget last Friday. ABM’s ad campaign doesn’t mention that the DFL Senate voted down Gov. Dayton’s proposal 2 weeks ago. I’ve written repeatedly about Dayton’s unwillingness to accept a bipartisan rejection.

Education experts like Art Rolnick, a former member of the Federal Reserve of Minneapolis, have criticized Gov. Dayton’s plan:

Rolnick, now a policy fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, has made researching early childhood education a big part of his life’s work. He argues that the earlier kids start a good education, the better off they will be in life. But he doesn’t back the governor’s universal preschool plan for 4-year-olds.

“It’s not cost effective,” Rolnick said. “There’s a much better way of doing this.” Rolnick prefers an existing scholarship program that pays for needy children to attend Head Start, a child care facility or a public school program that meets quality standards. He said Dayton’s plan is misguided because it would subsidize early education for all kids rather than target low-income children who need early education the most and are the least likely to have access to it.

Gov. Dayton’s had the entire session to build support for his plan. That clearly hasn’t happened. This article highlights why Gov. Dayton’s proposal likely won’t pass:

Some school districts indicated to the House Education Finance Committee that they don’t have space to add “basically an entire new grade in our public school system,” its chair, Rep. Jenifer Loon, an Eden Prairie Republican, told us.

There’s concern about facilities, equipment and transportation, she said. “There may be money the governor is proposing per pupil, but there’s no money there to help districts if they have to build classrooms,” for example. “That’s a huge cost that would largely fall on local property taxpayers.”

That’s a gigantic property tax increase waiting to happen. Then there’s this:

“The high return to the public is in investing in our most at-risk children,” Rolnick said. In the study that made him a national leader in the fields of child development and social policy, “we got an 18 percent inflation-adjusted return when you invest in our most at-risk kids.”

Such findings, it’s been suggested, run counter to committing a broad stream of resources to serve all children.

Plus, says Rolnick, we now have evidence from St. Paul’s Promise Neighborhood that a key approach — an emphasis on preschool scholarships — is closing the achievement gap between white students and their peers of color.

This is documented, indisputable proof of what works. Dr. Rolnick wants to solve a problem. Gov. Dayton wants to pay off a political ally. I’ll pick solutions to difficult problems over paying off political allies with terrible policies every time.

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At the end of each legislative session, each chamber’s leaders issue statements on what did or didn’t get accomplished. Predictably, there’s quite a difference of opinion. Check Rep. Thissen’s statement out:

House DFL Leader Paul Thissen released the following statement:

“I would grade this session an ‘F.’ House Republicans failed to pass a transportation bill when this was supposed to be the transportation session. They failed to freeze tuition for Minnesota’s students despite our $2 billion budget surplus. They failed Greater Minnesota, ignoring broadband, oil train safety, and local property tax relief. They failed to get their job done on time, chaotically passing a jobs bill with no public input or debate. And they refused to negotiate with Governor Dayton, forcing a special session over their insistence on underfunding Minnesota’s earliest learners.

What makes this session’s failures so disappointing is the golden opportunity that Republicans have wasted- all to protect corporate special interests. With a growing economy and $2 billion surplus, we had the opportunity this session to provide greater economic security to hardworking families, fix our state’s roads and bridges, make college more affordable for students, and take needed strides to ensure all of Minnesota’s earliest learners have the chance to get ahead.

We should have done much better for hardworking Minnesotans, but Republican failed to deliver results.”

Compare that with Sen. Bakk’s statement:

Saint Paul, Minn.—Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) released the following statement regarding the end of the 2015 legislative session.

“Tonight the legislature passed the final components of a two-year budget to keep Minnesota moving forward. Protecting MinnesotaCare from elimination, $138 million for nursing homes, and important new investments in education were significant accomplishments for the DFL Senate.

The last five months, we have seen what divided government looks like. Many bills this session passed the Senate with strong bipartisan support. However, the challenge presented by divided government immobilized many promising, critical initiatives.

I, and many Minnesotans, am particularly disappointed we were unable pass a comprehensive transportation bill this session. I will work tirelessly to pass a comprehensive transportation bill with stable funding during the 2016 legislative session. I will also work to dedicate portions of the projected budget surplus to investment in education and property tax relief for all Minnesotans,” Bakk said.

Last Friday night on Almanac, Sen. Bakk’s positive tone spoke volumes about how he felt about the budget he’d just negotiated with Speaker Daudt. He said “We didn’t get everything we wanted but we got everything we need to keep Minnesota moving forward.”

Thissen’s statement sounds like the type of political statement that an out-of-touch Twin Cities Metrocrat would write, which is what it is.

Expanded broadband isn’t a high priority for Greater Minnesota. Fixing Greater Minnesota’s pothole-filed roads are their highest priority, followed by building the Sandpiper Pipeline project to free up railcar space. Greater Minnesota understands that oil train safety, as defined by the DFL, isn’t the solution. Building pipelines is the solution, plus it kills 2 birds with one stone. First, pipelines are the safest way to get oil from Point A to Point B. Second, pipelines free up rail space for agricultural products.

Metrocrats like Thissen, though, don’t approve of that because the environmental activist wing of the DFL don’t approve of fossil fuels. The DFL’s record proves that they do exactly what their special interest masters tell them to do.

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This video shows that Lt. Gov. Tina Smith is driving the DFL’s shutdown train:

Check out this partial transcript of Lt. Gov. Smith’s interview with WCCO’s Esme Murphy”

ESME MURPHY: Not all lieutenant governors are at the negotiating table. You, as I understand, have been. What has happened with the Majority Leader here, Sen. Bakk? I mean, obviously, a very fractured relationship earlier in the year and the previous spat. The Governor called Tom Bakk a “conniving backstabber who couldn’t be trusted.” What does he have to say about him now?
LT. GOV. SMITH: Well, you know, I think it is the…um…at the end of the session, there is always lots of personal interaction back and forth. I have to say, sitting at the table with Sen. Bakk and the Speaker the last 5 days, there was no animosity at all, very little personal animosity. It’s just a fundamental disagreement.

Lt. Gov. Smith later said that “it’s really just a matter of getting the Republicans to support it.”

That’s a telling interview in that it shows how much authority Tina Smith has. The rumors that she’s really been the one running the day-to-day operations of the office were virtually confirmed when it was established that she was at the table. Yvonne Prettner-Solon certainly wasn’t given that type of authority.

She was picked to push Dayton over the top in the 2010 DFL primary by bringing in Range votes. After that, she was treated like a potted plant. Tina Smith had more authority over legislative priorities as Gov. Dayton’s chief of staff than Prettner-Solon had as the lieutenant governor. Isn’t that exceptionally odd?

That isn’t the only oddity in Gov. Dayton’s office. Bob Hume is married to Carrie Lucking, Education Minnesota’s Policy Director. Hume joined “the Mark Dayton administration as a senior communications adviser.”

With Smith planning on replacing Dayton as governor some day, there’s no way she’ll fight Education Minnesota, especially when important players in the Dayton administration has strong ties to Education Minnesota.

Sunday night, Republicans started pushing back hard, saying that Gov. Dayton had 4 months to make his case for universal pre-K. They highlighted the fact that the DFL Senate defeated the Dayton-Smith-Education Minnesota bill a month ago.

Rest assured that Education Minnesota will push their legislators hard until and through the end of session. Smith saying that it’s really a matter of getting Republicans on board verifies the fact that Education Minnesota will push DFL legislators until they crack. It’s just a matter of time before Education Minnesota and Tina Smith get the DFL to crack. That will prove beyond a doubt that the DFL is a wholly owned subsidiary of Education Minnesota.

Republicans should stand strong against the coming PR battle. First, they should highlight the fact that they negotiated in good faith to reach a bipartisan budget agreement. Next, they should tell Gov. Dayton that they won’t budge on universal pre-K that requires school districts to build new school buildings, mandate class size and staff-to-student ratios, parent participation requirements and coordinate professional development with community-based early learning providers.

Demand that the DFL explain how they’ll pay for those things. Specifically, ask them if they’re planning on raising taxes to build new schools to meet the class size and teacher-to-student ration requirements or if it’s another unfunded mandate that the DFL will dump in school districts’ laps.

I’m betting that the DFL focused so intently on getting the legislation passed that they haven’t identified the hidden costs associated with universal pre-K.

If there’s a government shutdown, Tina Smith’s, Gov. Dayton’s, Paul Thissen’s and Education Minnesota’s fingerprints will be all over it…again.

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Gov. Dayton continues to insist that he’ll veto a bill that doesn’t fund universal pre-K. Though he’s been the point person, the personality in front of the cameras, on this issue, Gov. Dayton has had plenty of support from Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, House Minority Leader Thissen and Education Minnesota. This Pioneer Press article puts the blame for this impasse at the legislature’s feet while exempting Gov. Dayton, Lt. Gov. Smith from recriminations:

Dayton, who claimed he was cut out of the final deal-making, said he would not sign the education bill that lawmakers planned to send him. The deal doesn’t adequately fund the state’s education needs, the governor said.

“I’ll say it again and I’ll say it again and I’ll say it again: I’m going to veto $400 million because it’s wrong for the people of Minnesota, for the parents of Minnesota, for the schoolchildren of Minnesota. It’s wrong,” Dayton said early Saturday. The Democratic-Farmer-Labor governor said the state should increase state funding for E-12 education by a minimum of $550 million, $150 million more than the Legislature is willing to spend.

The governor had significant support for his demand. Several DFL senators, nearly five dozen DFL House members and the DFL Party all said Dayton is right to push for more education funding. “I still think we should do and can do better,” said Senate Assistant Majority Leader Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport.

FYI- This officially verifies that the DFL has declared war on Sen. Bakk and outstate Democrats. This is now officially the Metro DFL, with Tina Smith and Paul Thissen leading this new party.

I wrote this post to highlight what’s wrong with the Dayton/Tina Smith/Paul Thissen/Education Minnesota universal pre-K plan:

  1. the elimination of the school readiness program;
  2. requiring that 4-year-olds be in school longer than other students;
  3. limited facility resources;
  4. mandatory class size and staff-to-student ratios;
  5. parent participation requirements;
  6. requiring that early childhood teachers be paid comparable to K-12 teachers;
  7. coordinated professional development with community-based early learning providers;
  8. requiring school districts to recruit, contract and monitor early childhood programs for fiscal and program quality.

What’s wrong, Gov. Dayton, is shoving a program down school districts’ throats that requires them to dramatically increase staffing levels, build bigger schools to accommodate additional students and pay pre-K teachers virtually the same as K-12 teachers.

But the powerful Education Minnesota teachers union, which would add members if pre-K became universal, as well as many education experts say the cost is worth the result. They say it would mean better outcomes for students, particularly minorities who have lagged behind Minnesota’s white majority.

TRANSLATION: We want our cut. We’re the DFL’s GOTV operation and we demand our payoff.

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The best news from the Capitol this weekend is that transportation conference committee members have given up on reaching a grand bargain:

With a grand transportation compromise all but dead, lawmakers on Saturday moved to pass a so-called “lights-on” bill to fund the Department of Transportation next year.

Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis said that unless “something incredible happens, say the clouds parting and heavens starting to sing, which I hope happens before midnight on Monday,” the best lawmakers can hope for in transportation is minor changes and spending. Just in case that miracle does occur, the conference committee the issue will stay open until late Monday waiting for an unlikely deal by senior leaderships. But in the meantime, the lights-on proposal seems likely to become law.

The proposed measure does include a collection of smaller spending items and policy proposals, including:

  1. $140 million in trunk highway bonds for rerouting Highway 53, for $12.1 million in debt service
  2. $5 million for Greater Minnesota Transit
  3. $5 million for rail grade crossing safety
  4. $12.5 million to help small cities with fewer than 5,000 residents with their roads
  5. An increase in the fine for repeat texting-while-driving offenses to $225
  6. Changing the distribution of County State Aid Highway funds such that 68 percent is based on construction needs and 32 percent on that county’s share of motor vehicles registered. The current formula is 60 percent and 40 percent respectively.

This all but officially ends consideration of the gas tax until 2017. There’s no way Sen. Bakk will bring the Dayton-DFL tax increase up in an election year. Sen. Bakk might be a Democrat but he isn’t foolish. He’ll push a tax increase if he’s got the political cover. This year’s dynamic (DFL Senate, GOP House right after a major tax increase) has people tired of tax increases. If Move MN and Brian McDaniel could’ve talked a couple Republicans into voting for a gas tax increase, Bakk would’ve gone forward with it.

The thing that’s got to have the DFL worried is that next year’s session will be the bonding and policy session. Republicans will have tons of time to push their transportation bill. It’ll get tons of headlines, too, because it’ll be the highest priority item on the agenda. With the transportation bill being the first legislation that the House will pass, they’ll be able to ask why the DFL hasn’t started debating the House transportation bill.

One of the safe members of the DFL, like Scott Dibble, will likely chief-author a bill but that won’t go far. Vulnerable DFL legislators will vote against it because they can’t afford to vote for a Dibble bill.

Once that’s dispatched, Republicans will ask why the DFL is opposed to the Republican bill. Eventually, that’ll turn into a lit piece in every vulnerable DFL senator’s district. Considering the fact that Minnesotans have made this their highest priority since 2013, they’ll be fired up to vote for people who support the Republican plan.

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The Bible says that a house divided cannot stand. I’ve never known that to be wrong, which means the DFL is heading for a collapse. The DFL, or more specifically Tina Smith, has declared war on Tom Bakk and the state of Minnesota. Whenever there’s a press conference, Tina’s right there, acting as Dayton’s keeper. Here’s proof of the Metro DFL’s turning on Sen. Bakk:

Tina Smith clearly controls the Metro DFL. It isn’t surprising, then, that the Metro DFL has put its stake in the ground over half-day universal pre-K even though studies show it isn’t great policy. Customized pre-K plans are cheaper and they produce better results. Look at all of the requirements the Smith-Dayton-DFL plan imposes on program operators:

  1. the elimination of the school readiness program;
  2. requiring that 4-year-olds be in school longer than other students;
  3. limited facility resources;
  4. mandatory class size and staff-to-student ratios;
  5. parent participation requirements;
  6. requiring that early childhood teachers be paid comparable to K-12 teachers;
  7. coordinated professional development with community-based early learning providers;
  8. requiring school districts to recruit, contract and monitor early childhood programs for fiscal and program quality.

That reads like a union contract, not education legislation. How much money would be saved if “early childhood teachers” weren’t “paid comparable to K-12 teachers”? Why does the Smith-Dayton-Metro DFL legislation mandate “class size and staff-to-student ratios”?

What’s happening here is that Education Minnesota is pushing for a mandatory program that a) all parents have to use, b) requires teachers to be paid union scale wages and c) requires new schools to be built. That isn’t a program built for “the kids.” It’s a program that’s “for Education Minnesota.”

If I had $10 for each tweet I’ve seen this weekend that talks about this program being for the children, I’d be wealthy. Tina Smith, Paul Thissen and most Metro DFLers are machine politicians. Their agenda is focused on satisfying their special interest allies. They aren’t focused on solutions. They’re about doing whatever they need to do to gain and maintain power.

When Sen. Bakk pulled his stunt about Gov. Dayton’s pay raise for department commissioners, he started a civil war within the DFL. Tina Smith and the Metro DFL haven’t forgiven him for that. Gov. Dayton certainly hasn’t. He’d rather bury the hatchet and leave the handle sticking out than forgive Bakk.

During his first term, speculation spread throughout the Capitol that Dayton’s chief of staff ran things, not Gov. Dayton. Tina Smith was Gov. Dayton’s chief of staff.

Smith worked in marketing for General Mills, ran her own marketing firm, and served as a Vice President of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.[3] She served as Chief of Staff for Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, and as senior advisor and Transition co-chair for Dayton’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign. Dayton appointed Smith as chief of staff when he took office in 2011.

When Dayton’s running mate from 2010, Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon, announced she would not seek re-election, Dayton passed over better-known political officeholders, citing Smith’s work on shepherding the new Minnesota Vikings Stadium through the legislature, as well as her work on supporting the Destination Medical Center Project with the Mayo Clinic and the City of Rochester, MN.

Smith and Thissen were the people who talked Gov. Dayton out of accepting a deal that would’ve prevented the state government shutdown. Sixteen days later, Gov. Dayton signed the budget that Tina Smith and Rep. Thissen told him not to sign in June.

If there’s another shutdown, it’ll be because Smith and Thissen will have gotten to Gov. Dayton and given him terrible advice…again. In 2011, the Republican negotiators were different (Amy Koch and Kurt Zellers) but the DFL negotiators were the same (Gov. Dayton, Tina Smith, Sen. Bakk and Rep. Thissen). This time, Sen. Bakk negotiated a bipartisan deal with Speaker Kurt Daudt. Gov. Dayton, Lt. Gov. Smith and Rep. Thissen are still pushing policies that appear to be driving us into another shutdown.

That isn’t surprising. It’s just disappointing.

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I’m planning on spending a ton of time at this computer Saturday…if the negotiators and conference committees start churning out the budget bills. I’ve heard that several conference committees, including the Higher Education conference committee will meet this morning. Now that Speaker Daudt and Sen. Bakk have agreed on the budget targets, conference committees should be able to put bills together relatively quickly. The big unknown is whether Gov. Dayton will attempt to throw another monkey wrench into the Daudt-Bakk agreement.

Regardless, this figures to be a great weekend of politics…if you like hurry up and wait.

Most everyone with a pulse who’s watched Minnesota politics remembers the outright feud that erupted when Sen. Bakk sabotaged Gov. Dayton’s proposed pay raise for his commissioners, which I wrote about in this post. This is how icy things got between Gov. Dayton and Sen. Bakk:

Dayton said he will no longer negotiate with Bakk without witnesses.

Bakk declined Thursday afternoon to comment on Dayton’s rebuke but earlier in the day said he had spoken to the governor Wednesday about the options the Senate might have regarding the salary increases. Bakk, DFL-Cook, indicated one of the options he mentioned was delaying the pay hikes through June. “I laid this out,” Bakk said.

A month later, Sen. Bakk and Gov. Dayton essentially said that they’d kissed and made up. Most reporters took them at their word. I pretty much accepted it in the sense that they weren’t going to cause political mischief for each other. I didn’t think they’d ever forgive and forget.

Based on this week’s negotiations, the budget agreement that Speaker Daudt and Sen. Bakk worked out and Gov. Dayton’s attempt to sabotage their deal, I’m thinking that Gov. Dayton and Sen. Bakk didn’t kiss and make up. I think that they relish the thought of getting the better of each other. I think they’ve buried the hatchet…in a Garth Brooks sort of way:

Here’s the lyrics to the refrain of Brooks’ song:

We bury the hatchet
But leave the handle stickin’ out
We’re always diggin’ up things
We should forget about
When it comes to forgettin’
Baby, there ain’t no doubt
We bury the hatchet
But leave the handle sticking out

The question left unanswered is whether the DFL will stop squabbling long enough to prevent a government shutdown. Speaker Daudt has shown the ability to govern, which was a big question at the start of the session. The new question is whether Gov. Dayton and Sen. Bakk are capable of acting like adults long enough to govern.

Thus far, that’s far from a sure thing.

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Earlier tonight, I wrote this post that said a budget deal had been reached. This picture of Sen. Bakk and Speaker Daudt seemed to confirm that a deal had been reached:

Since then, though, Gov. Dayton has tried sabotaging the deal. Here’s the first tweet I saw announcing his opposition to the deal hammered out at his mansion:


Thankfully, some people are relatively sane:


Others are trying to pay off the special interests:

In an exclusive interview with the Pioneer Press Friday night, Gov. Mark Dayton said lawmakers reached their budget deal without checking with him and stood by his demand that they give early childhood through high school funding at least $550 million more over the next two years.

“If I’m not able to agree to anything that’s in there, including the E-12, I do not take responsibility any more than either of them for the fact that we couldn’t reach an agreement,” Dayton said as he closed out a long day of negotiations at the governor’s residence.

Now that’s a shocker. Gov. Dayton saying he isn’t taking “responsibility” for something. Minnesota, this is why Gov. Dayton was given the title of being the worst senator in the United States Senate. The House and Senate rejected Gov. Dayton’s universal pre-K proposal. Gov. Dayton’s response to the bipartisan rejection was to insist on an additional $550,000,000 for the K-12 formula:

The governor said he had few objections to the budget plan as lawmakers laid it out other than its level of education spending. “I won’t accept anything less than $550 (million),” for education, he said. “If they agree to that….I’m not aware of anything else that could stand in the way of the overall agreement.”

That means Gov. Dayton is willing to shut down the government because the legislature won’t increase K-12 funding that Gov. Dayton first proposed tonight. What type of lunatic would attempt to pull a stunt like that at the eleventh hour?

If there’s a shutdown, it’s because Gov. Dayton engineered it at the eleventh hour. That isn’t statesmanship.

That’s acting like a spoiled brat.

UPDATE: Speaker Daudt and Sen. Bakk agreed to spending targets. Follow this link to find out more about the agreement.

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It sounds like we’ll avoid a state government shutdown:

After five days of closed-door negotiations, Minnesota’s top lawmakers said Friday evening that they have come to an agreement on state budget targets, in a deal that keeps MinnesotaCare intact and, as of yet, does not include transportation and tax initiatives.

“We are as close as we can possibly be to having an agreement,” DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said as he addressed reporters alongside Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt. A spokesman for Gov. Mark Dayton said he is reviewing the offer.

Bakk said they will review the numbers Friday night before specifics are released. The Legislature is expected to suspend the rules to allow committees to work through the night, starting immediately. Daudt said his key priority was to get the work done so the legislative session would wrap before its Monday at midnight deadline. “It’s going to take some breakneck work over the next three days to get that done, but we feel like we’re there,” Daudt said.

Looking back at this week, not finishing on time simply wasn’t an option, especially with a $2,000,000,000 surplus. All sides would’ve lost, though I think the DFL would’ve had a tough time ‘winning’ the PR fight.

Still, there were signs early in the week that the DFL, especially Gov. Dayton, was planning on sabotaging the efforts in search of legacy accomplishments like universal pre-K and another tax increase. At this point, it looks like there’s a fight forming for transportation and taxes for next year’s session. That’s a fight Republicans should relish.

While Republicans haven’t won on their middle class tax cut initiative, they’ve won on the issue of raising the gas tax. That isn’t happening. I can’t imagine that there’d be much of an appetite for raising the gas tax next February for the DFL, especially when it’s just months before the general election. At that point, I can’t picture Sen. Bakk wanting to touch that hot potato, especially considering the fact that he’s hinted that we don’t really need a new transportation plan.

UPDATE:
Gov. Dayton appears to be attempting to blow up the deal with last-minute demands on K-12 Education funding and universal pre-K. Apparently, Gov. Dayton isn’t interested in doing the right thing.