Archive for the ‘Taxes’ Category

Senate Majority Leader Bakk’s statements on raising the gas tax are bewildering because they’re inconsistent. Check out what Sen. Bakk told Bill Hanna in mid-January:

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk of Cook, who will have a lot to see in any final road funding bill, echoed Tomassoni’s assessment about road funding.

“There’s tremendous support for fixing roads and bridges. But the funding is never popular,” Bakk said. “I don’t know what the whole thing will look like, but we will have the conversation. We’ve got a serious 20-year problem.”

Here’s what the Senate DFL proposed back then:

Senate DFL: $800 million a year through a gas tax increase at the wholesale level of 6.5 percent a gallon, which would come on top of the current 28.5 cents per gallon gas tax and a metro-only 1-cent sales tax increase, which would raise an estimated $251 million in 2016 for Twin Cities transit costs.

There’s no denying that Sen. Bakk supported raising the gas tax to fix Minnesota’s roads and bridges. Fast forward to Don Davis’ article. Here’s what he’s saying now:

Enter Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk. The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that he says there really is no need to approve billions of dollars in transportation improvements this year. “Transportation probably doesn’t have to happen. … We can kick the can down the road for the next Legislature to deal with. That’s what’s been happening.”

Sen. Bakk better hope that people don’t notice that he’s indicted the DFL with his statement. Since 2007, Republicans had the majority in the Senate in 2011-12. Republicans control the House this year. They also held the majority in 2011-12.

By comparison, the DFL held supermajorities in the House and Senate in 2007-2010. In 2007, the DFL held an 85-49 seat majority in the House and a 45-22 majority in the Senate. After the 2008 election those margins changed to 87-47 in the House and a 46-21 majority in the Senate. Add into that the fact that Mark Dayton was the DFL governor and that the DFL had complete control of the Legislature in 2013-14. Sen. Bakk speaking of kicking the can down the road is indicting himself. They had the perfect opportunity to fix our roads and bridges, then opted to kick the can down Minnesota’s potholed roads.

Sen. Bakk’s spin is bewildering because he won’t stake out a consistent position. That’s proof, in my opinion, that he’s playing a purely political game because he’s caught in a politically difficult position.

That’s what happens when you try to play politics instead of doing the right thing right from the start.

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Last week, I wrote this post about Brian McDaniel’s statements about whether Republicans should give into the DFL’s plans to raise the gas tax. Last week, McDaniel suggested that Republicans should give in on raising the gas tax in exchange for a few shiny trinkets in a larger tax bill. One of the things I highlighted in that point was that raising the gas tax was terrible policy.

In 2008, the DFL raised the gas tax by a nickel a gallon. At the time, they said that would help rebuild Minnesota’s crumbling roads and bridges, “which have been neglected” for years. The DFL promised that raising the gas tax by a nickel a gallon would provide the additional revenue needed to fix Minnesota’s roads and bridges. Now it’s 2015 and the DFL is back insisting that we need to raise the gas tax by 16 cents/gallon to finally fix Minnesota’s roads and bridges. This time, the DFL is insisting that Minnesota’s roads and bridges have been neglected for 25 years.

What the DFL hasn’t talked about is why they didn’t fix transportation when they had a DFL governor and solid majorities in the House and Senate. They insist now that “Minnesota’s roads and bridges have been neglected for 25 years.” That means that they’d been neglected for 23 years in 2013.

This week, McDaniel appeared on At Issue’s Face-Off. Unfortunately, he was singing the same song. Apparently, he hasn’t figured it out that a terrible policy that doesn’t fix the problem is worthless. It’s time for McDaniel to pull his head out of his arse and actually support plans that fix problems.

What’s worse is that McDaniel said that both parties have robust plans to fix the problem. That’s BS. The DFL has submitted a bill but they haven’t passed it. Until the DFL passes their proposal, I’ll think that the DFL proposal is slick-sounding DFL happy talk. Slick-sounding DFL happy talk plus $1,000,000 is worth $1,000,000, not a penny more.

McDaniel is part of the problem vexing St. Paul. He’s too spineless to tell the DFL that their proposal is worthless. That isn’t opinion. It’s verified fact based on the failure of the 2008 Transportation Bill. It’s time McDaniel threw that in the DFL’s face and demanded that they defend the DFL’s failed transportation policies. Ceding as fact that the DFL plan has merit is ceding defeat.

Apparently, McDaniel is more interested in playing nice than he’s interested in fighting for good policies. That’s wrong. Fighting for solutions that improve families’ lives is right. What’s wrong is giving into the DFL’s failed policies in the name of compromise is foolishness. In fact, it’s counterproductive.

Settling for counterproductive policies that don’t fix problems isn’t a virtue. It’s disgusting.

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I’m more than a bit surprised after reading this post about Sen. Bakk’s latest transportation plan. Check this out:

In January, Gov. Mark Dayton and DFL lawmakers rolled out comprehensive transportation plans and talked about how urgent it was to do something this year. Republicans held up their hands and said there was no rush.

Times have changed. On Wednesday, it was Senate DFL leader Tom Bakk raising the specter of delaying a transportation bill for another year. “Transportation probably doesn’t have to happen,” Bakk said Wednesday.

While the Legislature has to pass a finance bill to keep the Department of Transportation operating, lawmakers are under no obligation to approve billions of dollars in new spending as both Democrats and Republicans want to do.

Both chambers have rolled out comprehensive transportation packages spending billions of dollars over the next decade on roads, bridges and mass transit. The threat to just go home and not pass a comprehensive transportation bill could be aimed at increasing the Senate’s leverage in final negotiations with the House — potentially forcing Republicans to make more concessions than they want to in order to get a deal.

Republicans passed a bill that fixes Minnesota’s roads and bridges, which is Minnesotans’ highest priority. Because they did their job, Republicans just have to insist that the DFL leadership pass a sensible transportation plan. Then Republicans can remind voters that they listened to the voters before crafting a bill that put Minnesotans’ highest priorities first.

Then the GOP can remind voters that Sen. Bakk and the DFL acted like spoiled brats throwing a temper tantrum. Anyone thinking that that attitude will play well in outstate Minnesota isn’t too bright. The old cliché that you can’t beat something with nothing certainly applies in this instance.

If Sen. Bakk and the DFL insist on pushing an unpopular tax increase down Minnesotans’ throats, they’ll hand the Senate majority to Republicans on a silver platter. First, doing nothing isn’t an option. Next, doing something unpopular isn’t an option, either. Finally, throwing a temper tantrum while doing nothing is a short path from the majority to minority party status.

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Last night, the House passed the Road and Bridge Act of 2015 by a 73-59 vote. Speaker Kurt Daudt put things succinctly in this statement:

“Minnesota families rely on our road and bridge infrastructure to get their kids to school and themselves to work. The House Republican majority has listened to Minnesotans and worked toward a solution that provides immediate repair to roads in their communities. Furthermore, with the passage of the Road and Bridge Act of 2015, we have delivered a real, long-term solution without increasing the tax burden on middle-class Minnesotans,” said Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown).

Republicans won the majority in the House thanks to the promises they made of focusing on outstate Minnesota. Contrary to Ellen Anderson’s inside-the-Twin-Cities perspective, outstate Minnesota doesn’t care about transit. In February, Anderson participated in an Almanac Roundtable discussion. During that debate, Anderson said that Republicans better jump on board with transit funding because “outstate Minnesotans love their transit, too.”

Anderson is either lying through her teeth or she’s dumber than a sack of hair. At this point, that’s a close call. But I digress.

Seriously, when it comes to transportation, outstate Minnesota doesn’t give a rip about transit. The Republican plan focuses on Minnesota’s transportation needs. The DFL’s plan focuses on the transportation lobbyists’ wish list. If Republicans want to keep control of the House and take back control of the Senate, they should stick with their transportation plan.

House Transportation Committee Chair Tim Kelly hit the nail on the head with this statement:

“With this bill, House Republicans are offering a workable, common sense solution to our transportation funding debate,” said House Transportation Committee Chair Tim Kelly (R-Red Wing), chairman of the Minnesota House Transportation Finance Committee. “We were able to prioritize roads and bridges in the fiscally responsible manner that Minnesotans wanted and expected.”

Rep. Kelly is right. There isn’t a great groundswell of support for transit. There’s less support for a gas tax increase than there is support for transit funding.

If Sen. Bakk wants to give the GOP a majority in the Senate in 2016, all he needs to do is keep pushing a major gas tax increase. According to the February KSTP-SurveyUSA poll, 75% of Minnesotans support the Republican plan. If Sen. Bakk wants to force his vulnerable members to vote for an unpopular tax increase that’s supported by only 18% of Minnesotans, he’ll hand the majority of the Minnesota Senate to Republicans on a silver platter.

It’ll be interesting to see how transportation plays out. Gov. Dayton is pretty much forced to fight for transit funding. Sen. Bakk is pretty much forced into fighting against increased transit funding because forcing outstate DFL legislators to vote for a package of major transportation tax increases will sink his majority status.

This morning’s St. Cloud Times Our View editorial is mostly the type of stuff you’d expect from liberals trying to paint themselves as moderates. There is a section, though, that’s clearly liberal:

Now is the time to (pardon the pun) pave the middle ground between DFL and Republican proposals to stabilize long-term transportation funding.

Dayton’s plan does the most because it spends the most by correctly getting users of the state’s transportation system to pay more in gas taxes. Never willing to raise taxes, House Republicans would rather shift general-fund money into transportation. That’s a bad idea because the next Legislature could shift it back based on its funding priorities.

Instead, Dayton should accept a smaller gas-tax hike to a level that more closely aligns with Republican spending targets. Oh, and just call it a user fee.

I hope the Republicans immediately reject the Times’ proposal. The Times editorial board will rationalize their opinion on the faulty theory that compromise is automatically the right thing. It isn’t. Principled compromise isn’t the wrong thing. Compromise for compromise sake is foolish.

First, I’d argue that We The People should come first. It’s clear that the vast majority of Minnesotans a) prefer fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges and b) don’t want to get hit with another tax increase. That means that the DFL would deserve the political nightmare they’d get in if they tried undoing the GOP transportation plan.

Next, I’d argue that it’s foolish to think that the DFL is interested in good faith negotiations regarding transportation. Move MN, the DFL front group that’s campaigning for a $13,000,000,000 tax increase, has consistently talked about Minnesota’s roads and bridges during their TV and radio interviews. The minute they’re off the air, though, they’re lobbying legislators for raising the sales tax on people in Washington, Dakota, Carver, Sherburne and Anoka counties to pay for transit projects that benefit Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

There’s nothing fair about that. It’s a major rip-off that benefits the DFL’s political base by taxing people more closely aligned with Republicans. If Hennepin and Ramsey counties want increased transit projects, let them pay for those projects. It’s immoral to force people to pay for things that a) they don’t benefit from and b) others benefit from.

There’s another flaw with the Times’ thinking. They say that “the next Legislature could shift it back based on its funding priorities,” which is true. What the Times isn’t taking into account is that people can let the DFL know that they’ll pay a steep political price if they get rid of the Republicans’ plan while replacing it with a plan that’s already been tried and failed.

If we implemented the Republicans’ plan and it fixed Minnesota’s roads and bridges, why wouldn’t the Times praise the Republicans’ plan? Further, why wouldn’t the Times criticize the DFL if they tried getting rid of a transportation plan that’s working?

Finally, Republicans should utterly reject the DFL plan in the strongest words possible because it’s been tried before and failed miserably. Compromising with people who’ve proposed terrible policies isn’t a virtue. It’s stupidity.

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Friday night on Almanac’s Roundtable, Republican lobbyist Brian McDaniel suggested that Republicans should give into the DFL’s transportation tax increases in exchange for other tax relief. First, that’s defeatist thinking. Next, it’s betraying the trust between the people of Minnesota and the Republican Party. Third, it’s terrible policy.

Caving on the DFL’s plethora of transportation tax increases means caving on a fight Minnesotans want Republicans to win. The latest KSTP-SurveyUSA poll showed 75% of Minnesotans supporting the GOP plan of not raising transportation taxes. That poll showed only 18% of Minnesotans supporting the DFL’s transportation tax increases. That’s because Minnesotans of all political stripes oppose transportation tax increases. I’m certain that people that vehemently oppose a transportation tax increase wouldn’t support a $13,000,000,000 transportation tax increase.

Minnesotans spoke clearly in that poll on what they don’t want in this year’s transportation plan. They didn’t speak with timidity. They spoke with clarity and conviction. It’s impossible to mistake the message they sent. To their credit, Republicans put together a plan that Minnesotans called for. They said no to the DFL’s transportation tax increases. Republicans said no to tax increases that increase funding for transit projects that serve hundreds of people a day.

Republicans said yes to a new plan that will work. Republicans said yes to stable transportation funding. They said yes to the Transportation Stability Fund. Unlike the DFL’s failed Transportation Bill of 2008, the Transportation Stability Fund will fund Minnesota’s priorities.

Let’s remember that the DFL promised that the DFL’s Transportation Bill of 2008 would fix Minnesota’s roads and bridges for the next quarter century. Instead, the DFL Transportation Bill of 2008 failed within 5 years. Why would anyone trust the DFL with a history of failure like that?

Minnesotans want their roads widened and their potholes filled. They aren’t imploring politicians to fund more light rail projects. It’s time that Republicans totally reject the DFL’s plan. Compromise is the right response when multiple plans have something positive to contribute to the problem. There’s nothing in the DFL plan that fixes Minnesota’s potholed roads. The chief feature in the DFL’s plan is the DFL’s latest attempt to lift Minnesotans’ wallets.

Voting for a plan that doesn’t fix Minnesota’s roads or fill Minnesota’s potholes isn’t compromise. It’s total capitulation.

It’s time Republicans highlighted the fact that the DFL’s transportation policies have failed before. Republicans should remind people of that fact dozens of times a day. In fact, what House and Senate Republicans should do is tell vulnerable DFL members that they’ll target vulnerable DFL legislators in swing districts if they vote for a transportation plan that includes a transportation tax increase.

It’s time Republicans kept their promises. Further, it’s time Republicans went on the offensive. It’s time the DFL paid a high political price for their failed policies. That time is right now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In a stunning development, the DFL has promised it’ll never raise the gas tax again to fix Minnesota’s roads and bridges. Let the parsing begin. Actually, the DFL didn’t make that promise this session. That’s what they promised in 2007-08. Back then, Sen. Steve Murphy, then-chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, promised that passing a nickel-per-gallon gas tax increase would be the only tax increase they’d need to fix “Minnesota’s crumbling roads and bridges” for the next 25 years.

Just 7 years later, Gov. Dayton is back, insisting that “Minnesota’s crumbling roads and bridges” require a 6.5% wholesale gas tax increase. The DFL and Move MN support Gov. Dayton’s plan. This time, they aren’t promising this will be the last tax increase they’ll ask for to fix Minnesota’s roads and bridges. Instead, this is what the DFL is saying to rationalize their latest tax increase:

“I don’t relish having to raise the revenues needed to start fixing 25 years of deterioration and deficiencies in Minnesota’s transportation system,” Dayton said.

It’s interesting that Gov. Dayton totally ignored the $6.6 billion tax increase the DFL imposed on Minnesotans in 2008 in the name of fixing Minnesota’s roads and bridges. It isn’t surprising but it’s definitely interesting.

What’s really happening is that the DFL is settling an old promise with their transportation special interest lobbyists. Their transit activists expected to get paid when Mark Dayton was governor and the DFL had majorities in the House and Senate. It’s likely that the DFL’s transit activists were told that an income tax increase and extending the sales tax to farm equipment repairs and warehousing services were the DFL’s highest priorities.

It’s likely that they were told they’d be first up on the tax increase list in this session. Clearly, they didn’t expect the House Republican majority to tell the transit activists to get their money from the local communities where the LRT corridors run through.

That’s the worst possible news for transit activists because it’s tougher for city councilmembers to justify raising taxes for transit projects.

Republicans shouldn’t consider raising the gas tax this year. First, it’s a proven failure. The DFL will be back in just a few years for another tax increase because this tax increase, they’ll say, wasn’t enough. (It never is.) The difference the next time they ask for a tax increase, they’ll be able to say that Republicans better vote for this one because they voted for the last one.

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MNGOP Chairman Keith Downey’s op-ed mentions a statistic that needs to be expanded upon:

Most importantly, Schultz never once mentioned the most basic budget facts: State spending on autopilot is scheduled to grow 21 percent over four years, from $34 billion to $41 billion, without spending a dime of the surplus or raising any new taxes. And Democrats have proposed a budget that spends almost the entire surplus — and raises taxes, for an $8 billion, 24 percent increase in spending over four years, from $34 billion to well over $42 billion.

The DFL automatically calculates inflation into their budgets. That’s because, in their way of thinking, that every penny ever appropriated needs to be spent forevermore. It presumes that that money is being spent efficiently and that there isn’t a better way of providing the same service less expensively.

That’s assuming that each agency’s and department’s staffing must increase. The DFL wouldn’t think of eliminating the Met Council or the MnSCU Central Office. In the DFL’s mind, they’re pictures of efficiency and importance. In reality, they’re neither. They’re portraits of inefficiency, cronyism and corruption.

When MNsure was created, the legislature created an oversight committee. It met a couple times, then went silent for months while MNsure imploded. The committee didn’t meet again until after April Todd-Malmlov resigned after taking a 2-week vacation to Costa Rica while MNsure imploded.

The DFL doesn’t believe in oversight. They never have because they don’t think money is ever misspent. Either that or the DFL legislators that think there’s a need for change get bullied by the DFL machine into giving up their reform ideas.

That’s what happened with Gene Pelowski. Everyone knows Rep. Pelowski hates MnSCU. He initially talked a great reform/accountability game while he chaired the House Higher Ed Committee. That changed when it came time to put a budget together. Suddenly, Chairman Pelowski, the reformer, turned a blind eye towards MnSCU. He didn’t even know that Dr. Rosenstone had signed a contract extension that raised his pay by almost $50,000 a year.

If Minnesotans want to continue getting fleeced, all they have to do is keep voting for budget by autopilot. As a bonus, they’ll get a legislature that doesn’t believe in oversight or accountability.

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Harlan Madsen’s op-ed for Move MN in Monday morning’s St. Cloud Times fits Move MN’s habits perfectly. I first wrote about Move MN’s deceptions in this post. This is content from Move MN’s website:

We are calling on the Minnesota Legislature to pass a comprehensive transportation funding solution in 2015 that requires additional transparency and efficiency for current resources.

  1. Be comprehensive to address, roads, bridges, transit, and bike and pedestrian infrastructure.
  2. Equitably balance the transportation needs of Greater Minnesota and the Twin Cities metro area.
  3. Be a long-term, sustainable funding solution that is gimmick-free and dedicated only to fixing transportation.

It’s pretty straightforward. Move MN’s website is filled with talk about bike paths, transit projects and “pedestrian infrastructure.” Their op-eds, though, are all about fixing roads and bridges:

Local roads account for 38 percent of transportation funding. For every dollar dedicated to Minnesota’s highway trust fund, 38 cents is directed to the statewide network of county, city and township roads. That means every new dollar we invest in transportation repairs our local roads too.

Semitrailerfreight traffic is going to multiply on our highways in the next 10 years. Over the next 10 years, freight being moved on Minnesota’s roads is projected to increase by 30 percent. That means more traffic, more wear and tear on our roads.

More than 300 Minnesotans lose their lives on our roads every year. Whether you drive, bike or walk, Minnesota’s roadways still remain a dangerous place. Unfortunately, some of the most simple fixes like median barriers and rumble strips are left unfunded.

Move MN’s op-eds wouldn’t be complete without this type of advocacy:

The task force concluded that without new, sustainable and dedicated funding, our roads and bridges will continue to crumble at an alarming rate; our statewide transit systems will be unable to meet growing demands; and our economy will ultimately suffer from our inability to efficiently move goods, services and people to their next destination.

Move MN clearly isn’t interested in telling the whole truth. The House Republican plan includes a new way of funding road and bridge repairs. The House GOP plan includes a Transportation Stability Fund, which is funded by dedicating the sales tax already paid by auto parts sales, rental cars and leased vehicles. Leased vehicles and rental cars produce wear and tear on highways, roads and bridges. Why shouldn’t those sales taxes be dedicated to fixing roads and bridges?

A Move MN op-ed wouldn’t be complete without this:

Because of decades of delays and inconsistent funding, the poor quality of our roads has caught up to us.

First, the DFL raised transportation taxes in 2008. Back then, Steve Murphy was asked why he was trying to hid lots of tax increases in his bill. Here’s his epic answer:

“I’m not trying to fool anybody,” said Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing…”There’s a lot of taxes in this bill.”

We were told then that that tax increase would fix things. Except that it didn’t. Eight years later, the DFL is telling us that another tax increase, this time twice as big as the 2008 tax increase was, is needed. You’ll forgive me if I think the DFL is lying through their teeth again.

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