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Contrary to what this SC Times editorial says, St. Cloud legislators should vote against the DFL’s pork-filled bonding bill. When you factor this information into the equation, it’s the right thing to do:

Not quite so clear-cut are a mix of additional projects statewide proposed to be paid for with cash lawmakers want to pull from the state’s projected budget surplus.

Unlike the bonding bill, any negotiated bonding deal using this money requires majority votes only, meaning the DFL controls the outcome.

Dayton’s surplus-funded list totals about $126 million. The Senate plan pushes $200 million. And the House plan sits at $125 million, although House DFL leaders have talked of increasing that amount.

If the DFL insists on spending $200,000,000 of one-time surplus money in addition to the $850,000,000 bonding bill, then Republicans should vote no without hesitating. If the DFL wants to be that fiscally reckless, let them explain their actions. Republicans shouldn’t provide political cover for DFL legislators.

The Senate plan provides $11 million for a parking ramp near the center. Plans released earlier from the House and Gov. Mark Dayton both provided $11.56 million, which equates to full funding for the ramp. Obviously, full funding is preferred. Regardless, inclusion in all three plans is the best sign yet that the state will finally contribute to this vital regional project.

There’s no question that the St. Cloud business community and St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis want this project. Similarly, there’s no question whether the DFL’s additional nonbonding spending is a deal breaker, especially in light of the fact that none of the bonding bills includes much money for filling Minnesota’s potholes or fixing Minnesota’s bridges.

A bonding bill that prioritized fixing Minnesota’s potholes and bridges would be a worthwhile investment. It’s impossible to sell Minnesotans that a bill that’s mostly about funding convention centers and renovating the Ordway isn’t a Minnesota priority.

That’s why voting no on the current proposal is imperative.

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Tuesday morning, GOP legislators, led by House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt and Senate Minority Leader David Hann, visited the St. Cloud Regional Airport to discuss the just-ended session. After brief presentations by Daudt and Hann, they opened things up for questions.

Rep. Daudt first noted that the DFL legislature raised taxes by “$2.1 billion” and fees by another $300,000,000. Sen. Hann and Rep. Daudt both talked about not needing that tax increase to solve a $627,000,000 deficit. Both legislators spoke about the need to spend money more wisely, with Sen. Hann noting that the DFL didn’t include any reforms in their budget or policy bills.

When asked about the $400,000,000 in property tax relief, Rep. Jennifer Loon verified that most of the relief came in the form of increased payments to cities and counties. When asked if LGA payment increases helped cities like Duluth, St. Paul and Minneapolis just spend more rather than provide property tax relief, Sen. Hann and Rep. Daudt said that there’s a history of that. Adding to that, Sen. John Pederson said that, while the DFL was screaming about people’s property taxes going up, St. Cloud’s property taxes were actually going down.

Another piece of legislation that was brought up was the energy bill. The bill passed in the House but, ultimately, it didn’t pass in the Senate. Still, it’s almost a guarantee that the DFL will bring it up early in 2014. Sen. Pederson said that one of the Senate DFL’s selling points for the legislation was that it would lower electric rates. Republicans questioned that talking point by asking why northern Minnesota needed the carve-out if their rates were dropping.

The most chilling part of the press conference was hearing Teresa Bohnen, the president of the St. Cloud Chamber of Commerce talk about how businesses are hurting and that the tax bill won’t help with that. Afterwards, Rep. Daudt said that businesses are planning ahead for the tax increases. He then said that that’s why job growth is slowing down. Rep. Daudt said that we won’t see a spike in unemployment but that we’re likely to see job creation stagnate.

The other point they made was that, while the middle class won’t get directly hit with tax increases, the middle class will get hit with higher priced products as a result of the tax increases on “the rich.” Rep. Jeff Howe said that the warehousing tax will trigger higher prices, adding that that tax increase “wasn’t well thought out.”

This Strib op-ed is about as whiny as I’ve read in recent years. It also isn’t credible. Here’s a sample from the op-ed:

The recent exchange between Gov. Mark Dayton and some community members in a discussion about increases in legislative pay (“Dayton says forum crowd in Shakopee was ‘juvenile,’?” May 1) illustrates a common problem.

In Minnesota and across the United States, government is continuously cited as something terrible, and members of an opposing party are fair game for insults and ridicule.

First, the treatment Gov. Dayton received was mild. I’ve watched the video. The crowd didn’t erupt. They mildly expressed their displeasure with Gov. Dayton’s policies. Second, government is immoral, not evil, when they spend money foolishly. Like when a city spends $50,000 each for 10 artistic drinking fountains, rather than $60,000 total for the drinking fountains. It’s worth noting that, after spending $500,000 on the artistic drinking fountains, R.T. Rybak had to lay off police officers.

In short, elected officials will get respected when they don’t spend the taxpayers’ money foolishly or make decisions that are counterproductive.

This won’t happen:

So disrespect of government officials seems to be at an all-time high. Perhaps it is time to lower the level of our rhetoric and raise the level of respect for our democratic government by acknowledging that those elected to office were supported by a majority of voters.

If this were put into practice, union stewards’ heads would explode. Their thugs’ tactics would have to stop. In 2011, I covered several townhall meetings hosted by Sen. John Pederson, Reps. King Banaian and Steve Gottwalt, including one at the Haven Township town hall. Public employee union member after public union member berated these elected officials. They were treated like human piñatas. In my opinion, Sen. Pederson, Rep. Banaian and Rep. Gottwalt had earned the right to respond in kind. They didn’t.

A month later, prior to the shutdown but after the session, Sen. Pederson and Rep. Banaian were invited to a union event to explain their votes on the budget. It’s important to note that the unions contacted them the afternoon of the event. It’s important to note that neither legislator attended the ambush (my words). It’s noteworthy that the unions had 2 empty chairs on the stage of the Atwood Theater. The event organizers then told the audience (the theater was less than one-third full) that Sen. Pederson and Rep. Banaian couldn’t be bothered to attend, omitting the part about them not getting the invitation to the event until that afternoon.

It’s getting tiresome to have people who want to grow the private sector economy while limiting government to the things it’s supposed to do per the Constitution are vilified while people who want government to do everything are applauded for their compassion.

Gov. Dayton, the DFL legislature and the DFL’s special interest allies haven’t hesitated in vilifying conservatives at every opportunity. They’ve gotten personal, too. They’ve accused Republicans of being racists because Republicans disagreed with President Obama’s policies.

Suggesting that conservatives hate government and think it’s evil is spin. It’s also highly inaccurate. Conservatives just want government to live within its means. Conservatives want to know that the taxpayers’ money is being spent wisely. They don’t want to hear about drinking fountains that cost $50,000 each. They don’t want to hear about universities spending taxpayers’ money on events that teach women how to have better orgasms.

The people attending the Shakopee town hall are tired of DFL politicians taking their taxes for granted. They expressed that frustration loudly because their other attempts went unnoticed. If politicians ignore the people, it’s only natural that the people will use whatever way works to get heard.

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When Gov. Dayton visited St. Cloud Tuesday night, he said that he wouldn’t raise taxes on the middle class. That’s a verifiable lie. His budget includes increases in the metro sales tax and the cigarette tax. Both taxes are regressive taxes, meaning they’ll hit the middle class and the working poor harder than they’ll hit 1-percenters.

Appearing on Ox in the Afternoon, Sen. John Pederson said that he’s the ranking minority member on the Senate Transportation and Public Safety Committee. He’s also the ranking minority member on the Finance- Transportation and Public Safety Committee. As a member of the Senate Transportation Finance Division, he got a fiscal note on the Senate’s proposed .75% metro sales tax increase. That fiscal note said that it would raise $300,000,000 a year, all of it dedicated to metro transit projects.

That tax will hit the middle class and the working poor the hardest.

That’s before talking about Gov. Dayton’s 94-cent-per-pack cigarette tax increase, which hurts convenience store operators:

Convenience store owners challenged a cigarette tax hike proposal by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton at a town hall meeting earlier this week, Minnesota Public Radio reports.

The retailers said that the governor’s plan to raise the cigarette tax by 94 cents a pack will send their customers to bordering North Dakota.

“When you lose those tobacco customers, those guys and gals that come in every single morning and get their coffee, their pop, they buy their gas, they buy their car washes…we’re all of a sudden looking at running our business on 75%-60% of our customer base. And that’s pretty tough to do,” said Frank Orton, owner of 15 convenience stores.

Dayton said the tax is designed to deter smoking, though he told Orton that he is willing to consider adding tobacco products to legislation that equalizes taxes for businesses located along state borders.

“If people can go across the river and buy their cigarettes in Fargo for whatever less the tax difference is it’s obviously undermining the intent of our raising the tax at all because they can just go over there and not be affected by it,” Dayton said.

Gov. Dayton is utterly clueless. People driving across the Red River to North Dakota or crossing into Wisconsin or Iowa is the totally predictable outcome to his proposal. Though this wasn’t the intent of the legislation, that’s the predictable outcome of raising taxes.

In that article, Gov. Dayton admitted that people change their behavior when taxes get raised. What’s galling about that is that he apparently thinks that businesses that can relocate to other states won’t move if he raises income taxes. According to this article, St. Cloud Chamber of Commerce President Teresa Bohnen has proof he’s wrong:

St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce President Teresa Bohen says she’s recently talked with four local companies who say they may have to transfer their investments to other states, if the Governor’s plan goes through.

That’s a polite way of saying they’ll move if their taxes get raised.

One thing that came through clearly from Tuesday’s meeting was that Gov. Dayton and his supporters think of businesses as second class citizens. That attitude was clear this week. It was clear when Gov. Dayton addressed the State Chamber of Commerce gathering in St. Paul 2 weeks ago.

That’s after they applauded Gov. Dayton for pulling his sales tax increase from his budget proposal. Gov. Dayton then went on a hissy fit tirade, saying that businesses weren’t paying their fair share, that they were essentially getting a free ride.

In addition to being dishonest, Gov. Dayton apparently isn’t the brightest bulb in the DFL chandelier. If Minnesota’s businesses start expanding in other states as a direct result of Gov. Dayton’s and the DFL’s tax policies, their move will undercut whatever growth is happening right now.

Gov. Dayton hasn’t made economic growth his highest priority. Apparently, tax fairness is Gov. Dayton’s and the DFL’s guiding principle. They apparently haven’t learned that a rising tide lifts all ships and that a growing economy benefits everyone.

That’s a sad day in Minnesota.

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I didn’t see this coming. I’m totally surprised that the St. Cloud Times endorsed all 3 GOP legislators from SD-14:

Three-term Republican Rep. Steve Gottwalt is the best fit for this solid conservative district.

In his six years in the House, Gottwalt has developed a keen grasp of the state’s health and human services programs, which is why he chairs the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee. He has helped lead substantial reforms despite his penchant for divisive rhetoric. His social conservatism also fits the district well.

District 14B is likely a toss-up as evidenced by incumbent GOP Rep. King Banaian’s 10-vote victory over DFLer Carol Lewis in 2010.

Given an effective first term, Banaian deserves re-election. He authored the Sunset Commission law and helped college students with textbook prices. His expertise in economics also is a strength.

Voters have a tough choice between incumbent Republican Sen. John Pederson and DFL challenger Jerry McCarter. Both are well-intended but both are too tightly bound to partisan ideologies in an obviously moderate district.

Pederson, an ardent voice for business, developed a reputation as a good listener and advocate for regional trails in his first term so he gets a very slight edge.

It isn’t that I disagree with the Times’ endorsement of John, Steve and King. It’s that I didn’t see this coming.

It’s worth pointing out that John Pederson, Steve Gottwalt and King Banaian have lengthy lists of accomplishments. They accomplished these things without sacrificing their conservative principles.

The bigger point to these endorsements and the endorsement of the GOP candidates in SD-13, is that the GOP is well-positioned to win all 6 seats. Couple that with a likely sweep of seats in SD-15 and Central Minnesota is well-positioned to look dramatically different than it did going into the 2010 election.

Back then, Michele Fischbach, Dan Severson, Steve Gottwalt and Mary Kiffmeyer were the Republicans representing SD-14, SD-15 and SD-16. DFL legislators representing those districts were Larry Hosch, Tarryl Clark, Larry Haws, Lisa Fobbe and Gail Kulick-Jackson.

If the dust settles the way I think it will, Michelle Fischbach, Jerry O’Driscoll and Jeff Howe will represent SD-13, John Pederson, Steve Gottwalt and King Banaian will represent SD-14 and Dave Brown, Sondra Erickson and Jim Newberger will represent SD-15.

That’s quite a dramatic change from 4 years ago.

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Monday night, Michele Bachmann celebrated the grand opening of her St. Cloud Victory Office with 75-100 of her most passionate supporters. After Rep. Bachmann’s brief speech, several veteran activists were asked about the growing storyline that Rep. Bachmann is losing support.

The Bachmann supporters unanimously said that they haven’t seen proof that that’s happened. They did say, though, that they’ve seen the stories. One supporter said that he enthusiastically supported Rep. Bachmann because “she’s never abandoned her principles.” Another supporter said that it wouldn’t surprise anyone if this was part of a DFL whispering campaign.

Another supporter identified himself as a local businessman. He said Mr. Graves hurt himself badly by attending a fundraiser hosted by Barney Frank. This businessman said that that event would probably cost Graves 5 points of support with Sixth District voters.

The businessman said that Graves’ biggest selling points prior to the Frank fundraiser were his claim that he isn’t a cookie-cutter Democrat and his business background. Those vanished when he attended Frank’s fundraiser because Franks, in the minds of most businessmen, is the man who caused the credit crisis that’s still hurting the housing market.

He’s also seen as one of the most liberal congressmen in DC.

Neither of those things will help Graves with Sixth District voters. Bachmann defeated a liberal Tarryl Clark in 2010 by a 53%-40% margin. This year, Jim Graves is portraying himself as a moderate, just like Sen. Clark did. This year, the Sixth District is more conservative than in 2010, keeping this an uphill climb for Michele Bachmann’s opponent.

That was a plausible argument prior to his fundraiser with Frank. Now that argument isn’t plausible.

During her brief rally speech, Bachmann touted the campaigns of local legislators like Sen. John Pederson, Rep. King Banaian and House District candidates Jim Newberger and Jeff Howe. Howe is a retired military veteran running in an open seat created by Rep. Larry Hosch’s retirement. Newberger is running in a new district created by this year’s redistricting.

Rep. Bachmann wasn’t bashful about her goal of making the Sixth District a “DFL legislator-free district.”

Newberger and Howe are expected to help with making Rep. Bachmann’s goal a reality.

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Jerry McCarter is challenging State Sen. John Pederson in SD-14. A substantial part of McCarter’s message is anchored in the state government shutdown. In fact, he’s told SC Times political reporter Mark Sommerhauser that it’s a major reason why he ran:

McCarter, who’s running against Sen. John Pederson, R-St. Cloud, says the shutdown was part of what spurred him to run for Senate.

Based on what I’ve seen of him in interviews and debates, McCarter appears to have ingested the entire ABM/DFL talking points playbook. Here’s an example:

“Like a lot of people, I found [it] unnecessary, politically motivated, and I think it damaged the state’s image long-term,” he said.

I wrote here that Gov. Dayton shut state government down. Included in the post is the link to the negotiation documentation showing Gov. Dayton and the GOP legislature had agreed to sign an agreement limiting the June 30 special session “to passing a ‘lights on’ extension of funding for all current operations and obligations of state government until 11:59 of July 11, 2011.”

The GOP legislature didn’t reject signing that agreement. Gov. Dayton did. Whatever DFL candidates say, the indisputable fact is that Gov. Dayton and the DFL rejected the GOP’s plan to keep the state government open.

Gov. Dayton’s arbitrary decision to shut state government down hangs on his head and on Rep. Thissen’s and Sen. Bakk’s heads.

On his campaign website, McCarter says that he’s experienced at bringing people together. FYI- That’s a standard feature on DFL candidate websites. That’s DFL happy talke, something that they’re attempting to exploit.

The problem with that in McCarter’s situation is that, as a conservative freshman GOP legislator, Sen. Pederson got Gov. Dayton, the most liberal DFL governor in Minnesota history, to sign 21 bills that Sen. Pederson authored.

For all of the DFL’s happy talk about bringing people together, the GOP have the history of accomplishments.

More important than bringing legislators together is the fact that GOP legislators have listened to their constituents and kept their promises.

The state government shutdown apparently isn’t resonating with people. It’s equally important to note that GOP legislators keeping their promises, creating jobs while balancing the budget without raising taxes is resonating with voters.

If Mr. McCarter sticks with this strategy, which is likely, he’ll have difficulty connecting with voters.

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Jerry McCarter, the DFL-endorsed candidate opposing Sen. John Pederson, said something jaw-dropping at Friday’s candidate forum. That forum was sponsored by the St. Cloud Chamber of Commerce.

Here’s a partial transcript of what McCarter said:

First of all, I think we have a much more progressive tax system than other states do. But, you know, we’ve got a marketing problem. You know, when you have marginal rates that are among the highest in the country, it’s not good marketing. We need to play with those numbers…

High marginal tax rates don’t represent “a marketing problem.” They present an economic problem. Combining high tax rates with regulatory uncertainty is like poison to the economy. Entrepreneurs won’t put their capital at risk unless they know they’ll get a solid return on their investment. Mr. McCarter’s priorities page is interesting reading, especially this part:

Fair & Equitable Taxation As a practicing accountant for three decades, Jerry understands Minnesota’s tax code. The entire tax code needs to be restructured to make it fairer and more equitable. Low-income and middle-class taxpayers should not pay a higher percentage of their incomes in state and local taxes than those with higher incomes. He believes a full assessment of the tax structure is in order.

TRANSLATION: I support tax increases on “the rich” because they aren’t “paying their fair share.” Mr. McCarter apparently isn’t in grasp of the facts, either.

I’m told that, during another part of the questioning, McCarter said that Minnesota is heading in the wrong direction. When it was Sen. Pederson’s turn to speak, Sen. Pederson said that unemployment dropped and median household incomes rose the past 2 years.

If Mr. McCarter wants to argue that creating jobs and rising incomes are proof that Minnesota is heading in the wrong direction, he’s welcome to argue that.

It’s difficult picturing Mr. McCarter winning if he thinks making “the rich pay their fair share” will grow jobs, that high marginal tax rates are a PR problem and that creating jobs and rising incomes are proof that Minnesota is heading in the wrong direction.

Sen. Pederson has earned bipartisan respect from the standpoint that he’s regarded as one of the most prepared legislators in St. Paul. Having lived in St. Cloud all my life, I know that that’s something people appreciate from their legislators.

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If there’s anything that people ay about Alida Messinger’s organizations, it’s that they’re fighting to prevent fresh ideas into the debate of solving Minnesota’s problems. This op-ed is the perfect example of that:

The “better option” would have been to close tax loopholes that let big corporations hide profits overseas.

The “better option” would have been to ask the richest of the rich to pay the same in taxes as middle-class St. Cloud families.

The “better option” would have been to provide sustainable funding to schools to plan for the future, not force them to constantly wonder where the next dollar or job will be cut.

The “better option” would have been to put kids first, not corporations, special interests, which means middle class families lose.

It’s interesting that nowhere in ABM’s list of “better options” did they include finding that taxpayers’ hard-earned money being misspent. For instance, ABM didn’t talk about this:

House Majority Leader Matt Dean (R-Dellwood) is doing his own inquiry into how the Minneapolis Public Schools spends it money after reading this Star Tribune report. The story revealed Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson’s decision to award $270,000 in retroactive raises to central office administrators at the same time the district cut more than 100 jobs, including 52 teaching positions.

Wouldn’t reining in this type of abuse be a better option than just pouring money into EdMinn’s black hole? Who can justify the termination of 52 teachers to pay for a $270,000 retroactive pay raise “to central office administrators”?

The reality is that Matt Dean and the GOP were the only legislators that highlighted this abuse of the taxpayers’ money.

ABM certainly won’t highlight that because part of their funding comes from EdMinn. EdMinn won’t highlight that because ABM provides them with political cover.

ABM certainly didn’t highlight the fact that Gov. Dayton proposed borrowing more money from the K-12 budget than the GOP budget called for:

MBD offer 6/30/11

  • Shift school aid payments from 70:30 to 50:50 (-$1.4 Billion)
  • Increase per student formula by $50 per student to pay for the cost of additional borrowing costs (+ $128 million)

It’s interesting speculating why ABM didn’t highlight Gov. Dayton’s proposal to borrow $1.4 billion more from cash-strapped school districts than the GOP plan proposed. The last thing the DFL wants highlighted is their proposal that would’ve put schools in a more difficult financial situation than the GOP plan. That’s because DFL matriarch Alida Rockefeller-Messinger essentially has operational control of both the DFL and ABM. She’s pledged to spend lots of money to buy Gov. Dayton a DFL legislature. This is the description of ABM at the bottom of their op-ed:

The alliance is an online advocacy and communications organization focused on securing major advances in progressive public policy for Minnesota.

First, the Times published that disclaimer in bold print. Next, ABM isn’t “an online advocacy and communications organization.” They’re a propaganda factory that’s disinterested in the truth. Here’s proof of that:

Settle in high flying corporate executives, because Tom Emmer’s Minnesota is going to be more fun than your last trip in a golden parachute. Here in Tom Emmer’s Minnesota, we believe that paying for good schools and hospitals is the job of the unwashed masses. That’s why the slightly regressive taxes of the past have been replaced by a massively regressive tax code in Tom Emmer’s Minnesota. In Tom Emmer’s Minnesota, we don’t even care if you have your interns set up post office boxes all over the world to avoid paying your taxes. Even if those funds would go to fund nursing homes and other medical facilities, in Tom Emmer’s Minnesota we want nothing to get in the way of the gobs and gobs of money coming your way, not even fair play. Rest assured, my very rich friend. This isn’t just a one-time deal. You can trust that in Tom Emmer’s Minnesota, solid investment in good schools, nursing home facilities, clean lakes, fixing roads or health care for “regular folk” will never get in the way of your extreme wealth and stealthy tax maneuvering.

That’s typical ABM work product. It’s the rule, not the exception. That’s before talking about the outright lies propagated by ABM’s affiliate, the Alliance for a Better legislature. Here’s a lie from ABM Executive Director Carrie Lucking:

“We must remember the extremism that caused legislative Republicans to reject fair compromises on the road to the state shutdown,” Carrie Lucking, Executive Director of the Alliance for a Better Minnesota said. “Now, Republicans are threatening another shutdown, even as our schools borrow millions of dollars just to stay afloat and homeowners and renters pay higher and higher property taxes.”

The GOP isn’t threatening another shutdown. They’re committed to keeping the promises they made to the people in 2010. The GOP proposed a balanced budget that didn’t raise taxes. When asked if the DFL legislature would propose a budget, Sen. Bakk replied “I don’t know why we would.” Further, the communications between the GOP leadership and Gov. Dayton shows that Sen. Bakk and Rep. Thissen rejected agreements between Gov. Dayton and the GOP leadership that would’ve prevented a government shutdown.

Finally, these communications verify that Gov. Dayton rejected a GOP lights-on bill that would’ve kept the government operating until a final agreement was reached. ABM and their partners in propaganda specialize in lying. The documentation proves that.

The notion that they’re just simple citizen activists is disgusting. Denise Cardinal and Carrie Lucking are paid to spin the DFL’s agenda in the most positive light possible. Why doesn’t ABM admit that they’re funded by the Dayton family, PEUs like the SEIU, AFSCME, EdMinn, AFT and MAPE, and militant environmentalist organizations like the MCEA, MEP and Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness?

Shouldn’t ABM admit that they oppose changes to a government model that was antiquated in the 1990’s? The past 2 years, they’ve fought against K-12 education reform, permitting reform, budget reform and downsizing government. ABM insists on fighting against changes that would save taxpayers money if it means saving PEU jobs. ABM won’t hesitate in fighting against changes in government if it means their special interest allies will lose leverage in the courts.

That’s because MCEA and other like-minded organizations can’t win in the court of public opinion. They can only win through the courts. ABM’s diatribe is highly publicized propaganda. They won’t admit the truth because the truth is their enemy. That’s irrefutable because their quotes betray them. It’s that simple.

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When John Pederson, Steve Gottwalt and King Banaian scheduled Friday night’s town hall meeting at St. Cloud’s Public Library, they had no way of knowing that public employee unions were planning on disrupting it. Things didn’t get ugly immediately but it didn’t take long before things got out of control.

The first question of the night was directed at Dr. Banaian, the economist, not Rep. Banaian, the Minnesota House member. Here’s the statement and question: “Study after study has shown that right-to-work lowers wages for all workers. Is this true?” Banaian said that there are many studies on the subject but no conclusive evidence in either direction, in the minds of labor economists.

After that, the meeting went downhill fast. When Rep. Gottwalt attempted to respond to a different question posed by a union member, a different union member interrupted, asking “Are you wearing your legislator’s hat or your Coborn’s hat”? When Rep. Gottwalt replied that he’s no longer employed by Coborn’s, the man who interrupted quickly apologized.

That was the first time union members in the audience interrupted. It certainly wasn’t the last time. In fact, union members in the audience made interrupting the rule, not the exception.

In fact, the most confrontational moment came when Rep. Banaian was answering another right-to-work question. Jerry Albertine interrupted, saying “Don’t sit there with your hairspray and your tie, you’ve never worked labor, and say you know what the unions are about.”

That was a statement Rep. Banaian forcefully responded to, saying that he’s a college professor who’s paid union dues to the IFO for over a quarter century.

There were approximately 100 people in the room, with approximately 60-70 of those people union members. AFSCME had a strong presence at the meeting. AFSCME was clearly visible in their bright colored logo on the back of their windbreakers.

Several times, Rep. Gottwalt mentioned how union members, many of whom are nurses, have told him that they want the choice of whether to be in a union or not. At one point, a person in the audience suggested that Rep. Gottwalt was lying, saying that it was convenient that these union members didn’t have names and that they wouldn’t come forward.

Rep. Gottwalt said that Friday night’s union antics are why they haven’t come forward, saying that they don’t want to deal with the unions’ retribution to those ‘wandering from the faith’.

The meeting lasted a little over an hour. During that time, 2 questions were asked about Photo ID, another question asking for a law requiring a legislative panel review whether legislation was constitutional and one question about the closing of the Aviation Program at St. Cloud State.

Another gentleman asked about the the possibility of a constitutional amendment ballot question for an Initiative and Referendum system and about Sunday licquor sales. All other questions were about a potential right-to-work constitutional amendment.

If not for the presence of St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis, the meeting could’ve taken a nasty turn. That’s attributable to the unions’ disruptive, disrespectful behavior.

The unions quickly turned the event into an us vs. them confrontation. They quickly turned it inot a 1 percent vs. the 99 percent confrontation. They came armed with their predictable chanting points. They came intent on citing each of those chanting points. They didn’t come to discuss. They came to start a full-fledged confrontation.

They succeeded in that last point, though it’s safe to say that they didn’t change anyone’s mind on the issues they cared most about.

BTW, about the townhall meeting I mentioned in the title: it never had a chance. This was a union pep fest, pure and simple.

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