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Saying that Sarah Anderson has picked a good fight with Gov. Dayton is understatement. Anderson got an amendment attached to SF3656, “which includes a provision” that would “utilize excess funds from the Vikings stadium reserve to construct three veterans homes in Montevideo, Bemidji, and Preston.”

It’s amazing that Gov. Dayton would pick this fight. What’s more amazing is that Gov. Dayton is fighting Rep. Anderson’s amendment by saying that “Republicans are stealing the money from a special fund that pays for the new home of the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium.” First, it’s particularly stupid to fight against building these veterans homes “in Preston, Montevideo and Bemidji.”

Gov. Dayton is picking a fight that puts him in opposition to these veterans homes while protecting the Vikings stadium. What’s worse for Gov. Dayton’s argument is that Rep. Anderson issued this statement:

Chair Anderson added that the proposal caps the stadium reserve account at 127% of the state debt service payments on the stadium to protect taxpayers. “Our bills caps the reserve at a level that already exceeds what is financially responsible in order to protect taxpayers. There is simply no excuse for these funds—much of which are generated by charitable gambling by veterans groups at VFW’s and Legions throughout the state—to sit in a government bank account.

After issuing that statement, Rep. Anderson explained the amendment during this press availability:

People won’t have difficulty understanding that there’s more than enough money in the fund to pay the state’s obligation for the stadium plus a healthy reserve fund plus millions of dollars in excess of the reserve fund.

Gov. Dayton hasn’t explained why this money should be used to make the reserve fund for the Vikings Stadium bigger than it needs to be rather than spending this money on 3 veterans homes. I’d love hearing Gov. Dayton and the DFL explain their twisted priorities.

Keeping tens of millions of extra dollars in the reserve fund rather than putting it to good use for veterans is twisted and then some.

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Becky Otto’s “capricious” lawsuit suffered a final defeat today when the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled against her. In their ruling, the Court wrote that “The Constitution … ‘does not expressly detail the duties of the constitutional executive officers’ of state government and are instead ‘prescribed by law.'”

If that sounds familiar, you’ve been reading what I’ve written on the subject. In February, 2016, I wroteArticle 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.

Had Ms. Otto listened to me then, she would’ve saved Minnesota taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. Sarah Anderson, the chairwoman of the State Government Finance Committee, said she was not surprised by the court’s unanimous ruling.

Rather than conceding defeat, Otto issued a non sequitur statement, saying “The Supreme Court has now made clear that the State Auditor has authority and responsibility over county finances, including the authority to conduct additional examinations of a county following a private CPA firm audit, and that the counties are responsible for the costs.” It’s an odd statement considering the fact that nobody questioned whether the OSA had the authority to audit counties.

The fact that it was a unanimous ruling against Mrs. Otto says that it’s quite the public spanking for her. This should get every taxpayer upset:

Republican lawmakers have criticized Otto’s use of taxpayer money to fight the law. A tally last year showed her legal bills at over $250,000.

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The best thing that will be said about Johanna Clyborne is that she won’t be around much longer. Based on her insistence on not cooperating with the legislature, this might be a case of good riddance.

For instance, state “lawmakers blasted a state agency leader Tuesday for not telling them about a report that blamed a former Minnesota IT Services executive for the problems in rolling out a new vehicle licensing system. The report … focused on the performance of Paul Meekin, who held the title of chief business technology officer, blaming him for failing to address known defects prior to the MNLARS launch last summer.”

That’s bad enough but it gets worse. “During the hearing, Rep. Jim Nash, R-Waconia, told IT Services Commissioner Johanna Clyborne that he was concerned that the report surfaced in the media, and he didn’t hear about it from her agency. “If it sounds like evasiveness and looks like evasiveness, it may be evasiveness. I’m just wondering when we were ever going to hear about this report from you, because had it not been for the press, I don’t believe we would have known,” Nash said.”

It went downhill after that:

Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, the chair of the state government finance committee, said she too was left out of the loop. “MNIT is actually under the state government finance purview, and yet you never bothered to call.”

Clyborne, who’s only been on the job for two months, defended her agency’s handling of the report. Clyborne said she told a key lawmaker that the report was completed. But she said no one in the Legislature asked for it. “It would be up to the body to request that information. I would be violating the laws that were put in place by this Legislature had I willy-nilly handed out that information, because it deals with an employee,” Clyborne said.

Apparently, Ms. Clyborne thinks that oversight in the middle of a crisis is a time for business-as-usual. Didn’t she notice that her ship is sinking and people are asking questions? This isn’t a time for business-as-usual. It’s a time for proactively doing the right thing.

She’s been on the job 2 months now. Isn’t it long past time that she starts doing her job?

Friday night on Almanac, Sarah Anderson debated Frank Hornstein about the failed MNLARS system. Saturday afternoon, I got Chair Anderson’s first e-letter update of the new session. The first item in Chair Anderson’s e-letter update was about MNLARS. I’m thankful Chair Anderson took the time to explain the history of MNLARS in the e-letter update.

It said “Ten years ago, the Legislature provided $40 million in funding to replace the mainframe system that manages vehicle and licensing services. Completion of the project was repeatedly delayed and the Legislature poured more money into it to get it up and running. Last summer, the vehicle title, registration, and permits portion was rolled out for use. It quickly became apparent the system was not ready for prime time. Ten years and $93 million later, we are stuck with a system that doesn’t work.”

Chair Anderson continued, saying “On February 21, Governor Dayton asked for another $10 million immediately because MNIT (agency responsible for technology) and the Department of Public Safety miscalculated their budget and are set to run out of funds at the end of March and there are still fixes to be made. This “no questions can be asked” request is not how the Legislature operates. The agencies involved still need to detail how the funds will be spent and whether it will actually fix the problems with the system. At this point, we are told the system will cost around $160 million (four times the original amount) with $20 million in ongoing costs. This is not how government should run.”

Chair Anderson is right. Governance via ultimatum isn’t acceptable. That’s Gov. Dayton’s preferred style at this point with MNLARS. Being the faithful DFL soldier that he is, apparently, that’s Rep. Hornstein’s preferred method, too:

I’ll give the DFL credit for one thing: when the word goes out that they’re expected to defend the indefensible, they all-in. They don’t question orders. Watch Ellen Anderson and Ember Reichgott-Junge insist that Republicans will get hurt in November if they don’t blindly pay for the MNLARS fixes:

Sen. Koch is right. MNLARS is a disaster. For Sen. Anderson and Sen. Reichgott-Junge to insist that Republicans will pay a price for the DFL’s ineptitude is laughable. Eventually, Republicans will appropriate more money. The thing is that they won’t appropriate more money until MNIT gives the legislature a plan for how that money will be used.

If the Party of Big Government, aka the DFL, won’t explain how the money will be spent and lay out a timeline for when each phase of the project will be completed, MNLARS’ failure will fall on the DFL. Anything else is pure spin.

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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.