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It’s indisputable that Gov. Dayton fights harder for golden parachutes for his political appointees than he’s fought for tax relief for farmers, veterans, students with student loan debt and small business owners. In fact, it’s indisputable that Gov. Dayton and the DFL have fought hard to increase commissioners’ pay.

Think about this: Gov. Dayton and the DFL passed legislation that gave Gov. Dayton’s commissioners pay raises that sometimes exceeded $30,000 a year. Then Gov. Dayton illegally gave 3 of his political appointees more than $75,000 in severance packages. Katie Clark-Sieben’s pay raises increased her salary by $60,000, then she received a $33,750 golden parachute when she left government to pursue other interests. Meanwhile, the DFL legislative leadership has been quiet as a mouse about the severance packages.

Thankfully, Republicans Speaker Daudt and Rep. Sarah Anderson aren’t letting go of this. Speaker Daudt released this statement, saying “Once again, Governor Dayton has disrespected taxpayers and used their money to inappropriately reward his top officials who are already making six-figure salaries. Today’s report highlights the importance of House Republicans’ role as a check and balance on Democrats’ wasteful spending.” Speaker Daudt’s statement also included this:

House Republicans are calling on Governor Dayton to explain unauthorized taxpayer-funded severance payments after a report emerged Tuesday that his administration awarded nearly $80,000 to state employees who voluntarily departed. The most generous severance agreement, awarded to a former Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, came on the heels of massive taxpayer-funded pay increases authorized by Governor Dayton. This commissioner was previously a top staffer on Dayton’s campaign for governor in 2010.

The DFL’s actions are insulting on multiple levels. First, the DFL’s priorities aren’t Minnesota’s priorities. The last time the DFL ran St. Paul, they passed a bill that paid for the $90,000,000 Senate Office Building. They passed another bill that gave $30,000 pay raises to high-profile political appointees. Those aren’t priorities for many Minnesotans.

This year, Gov. Dayton apparently decided that the $30,000/yr. pay raises weren’t enough for his cronies. This year, Gov. Dayton threw his cronies a $75,000 bone in the form of golden parachutes. This year, Gov. Dayton pocket vetoed a tax bill that would’ve provided $550,000,000 worth of tax relief for veterans, farmers, students and small businesses.

What’s stunning is that the DFL won’t answer questions about this:

A spokeswoman for the DFL Senate Majority said Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and Senate State Governments and Veterans Budget Division Chair Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids, said the two legislators would not comment on Dayton’s decision to offer severance to political appointees.

Then there’s this:

It isn’t clear why Sieben, Phillips and Wright were given a severance. Eight other commissioners who also left voluntarily during Dayton’s time in office didn’t receive severance pay.

Apparently, the trick to getting ahead in Minnesota is to make campaign contributions to Gov. Dayton’s campaign, then cash in when he appoints you to a cushy job in his administration. If you’re a blue collar worker, though, you’re SOL with the Dayton administration. They’ll only fight for certain types of white collar workers.

Keep this in mind when you go to the polls: The DFL won’t fight for you if you’re a blue collar worker. They’ll only fight for white collar government workers and the special interests.

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In mid-June, Gov. Dayton pocket vetoed a tax relief bill that would’ve provided tax relief to lots of middle-class people, which I wrote about here. The editorial I quoted got it right when it said “when Gov. Mark Dayton pocket vetoed HF 848 which would’ve provided significant tax relief to the citizens of Minnesota, it sort of felt like something major was lost. Gone was tax relief for veterans, gone was tax relief for small business owners, gone was a tax break for farmers, gone was a tax break for the residents of Houston County who live in Minnesota but work in Wisconsin, gone was the forgiveness of interest paid on debt on the new school building.”

Gov. Dayton didn’t hesitate in vetoing this tax relief for farmers, veterans, small businesses and students. There’s something else that Gov. Dayton didn’t hesitate in doing. Gov. Dayton didn’t hesitate in paying his political appointees huge severance packages. Republicans are demanding that Gov. Dayton rescind those severance packages. Gov. Dayton, through his mouthpiece, has refused:

State law explicitly authorizes severance of up to six months’ salary for senior-level state employees, who make more than 60 percent of the governor’s salary, when they leave state service. We offered severances of up to three months’ salary to three agency heads, as the law expressly permits. The governor made those decisions, and in his judgement the circumstances justified those severances. Gov. Pawlenty used the same statute to authorize severance payments of $73,552 for two senior-level state employees. House Republicans are desperately trying to place a fig leaf over their failure last session to pass the bills that Minnesotans really need: a correctly-written tax bill, statewide building projects, and improved highways, roads, bridges and public transit.

WCCO’s Pat Kessler highlights this important difference:

MMB documents show Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty paid out $75,552 in severance checks to two state workers in 2005 who were not political appointees. One former employee, an administrative law judge, got $26,478. Another, a legislative audit manager, got $47,097.

They weren’t political appointees. They were public employees with lots of time on the job. Speaking of which, “Republicans say the law allows severance only under strict conditions, one of which is 10 years of service before becoming eligible. Republicans say the law allows severance only under strict conditions, one of which is 10 years of service before becoming eligible.”

The moral of this is that Gov. Dayton killed tax relief to farmers, veterans, students buried with student loan debt and small businesses without hesitation. By comparison, he’s fighting hard for illegal severance packages for his political appointees. It’s apparent that Gov. Dayton’s priorities aren’t Minnesota’s priorities.

Finally, it’s worth noting that the DFL legislative leaders, who spout off about all kinds of silly subjects, are silent about this. It’s just more proof that the DFL isn’t the party of the little guy … unless they’re government employees.

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Rebecca Otto knows that she doesn’t stand a chance of winning her lawsuit on appeal. If she thinks she has a fighting chance, then she’s too stupid for public office, especially statewide office. Despite that, Ms. Otto is fighting on, with the taxpayers’ money of course. She’s appealing the straightforward ruling because she’s a sore loser.

It’s impossible to fight on when the ruling states “The Legislature has the power to modify the State Auditor’s duties under State ex rel. Mattson v. Kiedrowski. Modifying who does the initial audit does not transfer her core functioning of auditing counties.”

The Constitution creates the office of State Auditor, aka OSA. It doesn’t assign it its responsibilities. Every constitutional office is told by the legislative and executive branch what its responsibilities are with one exception. The Constitution spells out the governors’ authorities and responsibilities. The responsibilities of the attorney general, the auditor and the secretary of state are spelled out by the legislative branch — without exception.

Sarah Anderson is the chair of the House State Government Finance Committee. She issued this statement that spells things out perfectly for taxpayers:

It’s unfortunate for Minnesota taxpayers that Rebecca Otto is choosing to continue this ridiculous and frivolous lawsuit. Further attempts to overturn this bipartisan law amount to an exercise in futility coming at the expense of Minnesota taxpayers and counties.

What’s obvious is that Ms. Otto is fighting this fight because she’s fighting for the members of the public employee unions that will lose their jobs once counties hire CPA firms to do the audits rather than being forced to pay for unionized auditors. There’s an old saying that goes ‘if you always rob Peter to pay Paul, you’ll always have Paul as an ally.’ Ms. Otto wants the public employee unions to forever be her ally.

This is important information, too:

To date, Minnesota taxpayers have been forced to pay at least $220,000 in legal fees thanks to Otto’s legal challenge, in addition to the tens of thousands in legal fees incurred by the counties named as parties in the lawsuit.

Why would Ms. Otto appeal this ruling knowing that she’s costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars and counties tens of thousands of dollars? Does she care that little about the taxpayers?

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Rebecca Otto has been threatening to file a lawsuit against a bill signed into law by Gov. Dayton. Apparently, Ms. Otto isn’t too bright in terms of the law and Minnesota’s Constitution. Article V of Minnesota’s Constitution talks about the executive branch of state government. Specifically, it says “The executive department consists of a governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, auditor, and attorney general, who shall be chosen by the electors of the state. The governor and lieutenant governor shall be chosen jointly by a single vote applying to both offices in a manner prescribed by law.”

Nowhere in Article V, Section 1 does it outline the duties of the State Auditor. That’s properly left up to the legislature and governor to determine through state statutes. If the court sides with Ms. Otto, it will be clear proof that the DFL has turned them into a super-legislative body.

Rep. Sarah Anderson, the chair of the House State Government Finance Committee, issued a statement, saying “Just one day after the nonpartisan Office of the Legislative Auditor’s report was released on county audits which definitively stated that it is within the legislature’s power to define the duties and authority of the Office of the State Auditor, State Auditor Rebecca Otto has decided to waste taxpayer dollars to file a frivolous lawsuit against the State of Minnesota and a select group of counties,” said Rep. Anderson. “The legislature acted in a bipartisan manner last session to expand the options counties have for their audits to save local governments and taxpayers money, as well as expedite the audit process. This lawsuit has no merit, and I am disappointed it will come at the expense of hardworking Minnesota taxpayers.”

This is important:

On February 3, 2016, the nonpartisan Office of the Legislative Auditor released their report on county audits done by the OSA. Here are several key highlights from that report:

The Minnesota State Legislature has always defined the duties and authority of the State Auditor

Jim Nobles is a serious man. When he says that the legislature “has always defined the duties of the State Auditor”, it’s because he’s thoroughly researched the Constitution and state statutes. From a legal standpoint, Nobles’ research is probably air tight. Then there’s this:

  1. 34 percent of counties stated they were not satisfied with the cost of OSA audits
  2. The 2015 law change allows for price competition while still giving the OSA significant authority to continue to ensure that all audits meet certain standards and to hold counties accountable in how they spend public dollars
  3. 32 percent of counties said that audits done by OSA were not timely, and many expressed frustrations that the reports came too late to be useful in saving taxpayer dollars for their annual budget process

That’s poison from a political standpoint. It just isn’t surprising.

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It’s looking like Rebecca Otto will file a lawsuit to prevent private auditors from conducting audits:

State Auditor Rebecca Otto Wednesday reiterated her determination to take a recent change to her office’s responsibilities to court unless legislators repeal the new rules in a special session. “They’re going to have a special session and they can deal with this then,” Otto told MPR News host Tom Weber. “If they choose not to, they’ve made a choice. If they don’t want to [spend money on a lawsuit], they should take care of it in a special session.”

Gov. Dayton and Ms. Otto have gotten uppity about this. David Schultz has chimed in, too. Here’s my question to that trio: Where in Minnesota’s Constitution does it outline the State Auditor’s responsibilities?

I’ve read Article V. That’s where the Constitution establishes the office of State Auditor. Nowhere in Article V does it list the auditor’s responsibilities. Article V, Sect. 3 outlines the governor’s responsibilities. That’s the only constitutional officer whose responsibilities are defined in Minnesota’s Constitution.

Since the legislation passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Dayton doesn’t attempt to abolish the State Auditor’s office, there isn’t a constitutional issue. The office is still intact. It’s just that the auditor’s responsibilities have changed. Here’s where things get tricky for the DFL.

Twenty-eight counties currently have the right to hire private auditors. That carve-out isn’t in the Constitution, meaning that changed through the passage of a state statute. If that change can happen through passing a state statute, why can’t other changes happen via state statute?

Otto argues the move is unconstitutional, and that it stands to gut her office.

Ms. Otto will lose that fight. Here’s why:

Anderson’s plan extends that option to all Minnesota counties, though it preserves Otto’s authority to double check private audits.

Sarah Anderson’s plan changes Ms. Otto’s responsibilities. It doesn’t eliminate Ms. Otto’s responsibilities, which is the linchpin constitutional argument.

If Rep. Anderson’s legislation sought to eliminate the State Auditor’s constitutional office, that legislation would be DOA. When the Treasurer’s office was eliminated in 1998, it was done with a constitutional amendment.

That doesn’t guarantee that the courts will do the right thing. Unfortunately, there are too many liberal jurists who either don’t understand the Constitution or they implement their policy preferences. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen in this instance. If it does, however, then it’s time for voters to vote out the justices that don’t follow the clear language of the Constitution.

Not even justices are above the law.

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Thanks to Rebecca Otto’s hissy fit, Gov. Dayton won’t call a special session unless the legislature agrees to repeal a law they passed and he signed. Bill Hanna criticizes Otto in this article:

Now the governor is saying he will only sign off on a final deal if House Republicans remove a provision from a government funding bill that would give counties the option to have audits done by the private sector rather than the State Auditor’s Office.

So now a bill with a provision that the governor OK’d and signed into law is possibly holding up a special session because Dayton wants it removed from the measure, even though he put his Mark Dayton on it.

Gov. Dayton signed this provision into law last week. This week, he wants the provision repealed during a special session. In fact, he’s insisting that it be repealed before he calls a special session. What’s likely to happen, IMHO, is that Speaker Daudt will tell Gov. Dayton that that’s off the table. I also think that Speaker Daudt will stage a mini-campaign that highlights the facts surrounding this provision.

Why not have some options for counties? Cities and school districts already have auditing choice. Why should counties be held as wards of the State Auditor’s Office on this issue if they choose otherwise?

“It’s going to give them a cost savings and hopefully give them faster results on their audits, two of the complaints that we’ve heard from counties as far as the state auditor goes,” said Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, who is an advocate for the change.

Bill Hanna makes an astute observation:

So State Auditor Otto is having a tantrum over something that would make for better policy for Minnesotans and trying to hold up a final end to a ludicrous session. And the governor, rather than giving her a time out, is in agreement.

It’s time for Gov. Dayton to revisit Planet Earth instead of residing on Planet Dayton.

Rep. Sarah Anderson issued this statement about the DFL’s tax increases:

Dear Neighbors,

As a kid, you dreaded hearing the phrase, “other figures sold separately,” at the end of a toy commercial. It meant you weren’t really getting what you were seeing on the TV. That’s kind of how I feel about the upcoming special session in September.

Shortly after session ended in May, I heard some Democrats say they wanted to repeal the business to business taxes included in the final tax bill. However, when the opportunity to stop the bleeding from this tax came upon us with the proposed special session, we only got the “other figures sold separately” line. This refusal to correct a “bad tax policy” means Minnesota will lose businesses and the jobs these businesses provide along with consumers being forced to pay more for products.

The B2B tax on storage and warehouse services alone could cost our state over 7,000 jobs. Four states who tried the warehouse tax repealed it within six months. One state repealed it in two days.

Today, we heard from former Democrat Speaker Margaret Kelliher asking the Legislature to repeal the telecommunication tax. It is estimated this tax will cost our state 3,300 jobs. I agree with the former Speaker that we need to take action now and repeal all of the business to business taxes. See her comments here: http://kstp.com/article/stories/S3134462.shtml?cat=89

It’s not just jobs we stand to lose; every Minnesota family will pay more for groceries, medicine, personal care products, and much more. The Department of Revenue study notes that families will pay more when new business tax increases are passed on to consumers. In fact, this same study shows that the people who earn the least amount of money will pay the most for the $2.4 billion in tax and fee increases passed by the Democrat-controlled Legislature and Governor’s office.

Though the Democrat leaders announced today that they won’t fix this problem in the September special session, my Republican colleagues and I will continue to encourage them to correct this huge mistake. We cannot afford to lose any more jobs and we should not force higher prices on already struggling families.

The DFL imposed huge new tax increases this session, including a telecommunications equipment sales tax, a farm equipment repair sales tax, the warehouse sales tax and a gigantic cigarette tax increase.

I wrote here about Speaker Kelliher’s call for repealing the telecommunications equipment sales tax. I wrote here about Gov. Dayton, Speaker Thissen and Sen. Bakk breaking their promise to farmers. I wrote here about how the cigarette tax is hurting convenience stores, especially in the Moorhead area. This morning, Rep. Mary Franson confirms the damage being done to convenience stores in this tweet:

met with a wholesaler in my district this week. C-stores along border struggling.

Gov. Dayton and the DFL have made overtures towards green energy companies in an attempt to lure them here from other states. Unfortunately, they’re punishing companies already operating in Minnesota. Playing favorites with the economy is what helped drive the US economy into the Great Stagnation. Apparently, Gov. Dayton and the DFL didn’t learn. Apparently, they think that they can follow the same pattern and get better results. That’s either foolishness or arrogance. Either way, it’s counterproductive, which is what Gov. Dayton’s and this DFL legislature’s reputation should be.

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