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Archive for May, 2011

What DFL activists did after the final Saturday of the session was despicable. What they did after the marriage amendment is described in this email:

What became unnerving was that last night as we moved closer to the vote they got louder and faster. There was one woman who screeched every time the main doors opened. Made me long for a pair of socks. It was an experience I will remember a long time. Especially seeing the backs of the state troopers–as they lined up shoulder to shoulder to keep the crowd from touching us. And the screaming, “Shame! Shame!” at us. Doesn’t really go with earlier in the evening when they were singing Amazing Grace, and shouting “No Hate”. Of course, they seemed to think it was perfectly loving to scream “Bigot” 10 inches from my face and spit on one of the other reps. (By the way, he has MS, walks with a cane and is a little slower. No hate, right?

I’ve omitted the name of the legislator because they’ve received tons of venomous emails. I won’t add to this legislator’s hate mail.

The Republican legislator in question is Rod Hamilton. As described in this email, Rep. Hamilton walks with a cane because he has MS. Because of his MS, he couldn’t follow the path that the other GOP legislators took because his knees can’t bend enough to take the steps. Because of his MS, Rep. Hamilton must take the elevator to go from the House Chamber to other meeting rooms on other floors.

This is disgusting and then some. Let’s remember that Rep. Hamilton was the sole Republican legislator to walk that hall, that Rep. Hamilton walks with a cane and with a noticeable limp. That’s the man that these DFL activists spat on.

That wasn’t enough for these DFL activists. Instead, they got the other GOP legislator’s face and screamed “Bigot!!! Bigot!!!”

If there’s anything that’s almost as despicable as DFL activists spitting on Rep. Hamilton over a policy dispute, though admittedly a deeply personal policy dispute, it’s the way DFL that DFL legislators came and left the House floor.

Because of the DFL activists’ noisemaking, the doors were shut to allow debate. I’ve learned from several other GOP legislators that DFL legislators made a habit of leaving the House Chamber by way of the closed doors. When those doors opened, which is mandated when a legislator leaves the Chamber, the DFL legislators would take their sweet time walking through the door.

I’m told that the reason why DFL legislators did that was to give the DFL’s activists plenty of time to hurl invectives at GOP legislators. I’m told that this went on throughout the debate.

Let’s be clear about things.

1. The DFL’s activists’ actions were the most vile actions of this sordid episode. Their actions will be remembered years from now as the actions of lunatics and hatemongers.
2. The DFL legislators’ aiding the DFL activists’ actions were despicable, too. These legislators should be criticized and rebuked on the House Floor for assisting lunatics spew their hate. There is no place in politics for the DFL’s craven actions.
3. The DFL’s media apologists should be ashamed for not reporting the DFL’s despicable behavior.

Finally, when talk started over putting a question on the ballot on Minnesota becoming a right to work state, Gov. Dayton told rabid crowds that he wouldn’t let Wisconsin come to Minnesota, refering to Gov. Scott Walker’s stand against public employees’ excessive pensions.

Gov. Dayton was partially right in that the right to work constitutional amendment didn’t make it onto the 2012 ballot. He couldn’t be further from the truth, though, in that the intimidation tactics utilized by Wisconsin’s union thugs were used by the DFL gay rights activists the night of the traditional marriage debate.

In that very real sense, Wisconsin’s disgusting behavior moved to Minnesota. The DFL should be very ashamed of themselves for their behavior and the behavior of their activists.

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Thanks to Mitch’s post about Sen. Chamberlain’s email exhortation, we now have a clear picture of what’s at stake with this budget. We also have the facts that the DFL haven’t gotten right since the budget debate started. Here’s the statistics that the DFL haven’t used but that MMB has confirmed:

Some facts:

1. $30.1 billion – Mn dollars spent during 2010-2011 biennium
2. $34 billion – Our balanced budget proposal to the governor. this is the amount in the checkbook.
3. $37 billion – the governor’s budget proposal
4. Revenue projected to increase by 8.5% next budget cycle
5. $400 million increase in K-12
6. Almost $600 million increase HHS spending
7. All other areas receive CUTS and reforms

Mitch makes this important observation:

The worst thing is that his budgets will continue the “autopilot” for budget increases, with no end in sight.

Which means that in the next biennium, “the rich” will be everyone earning over, who knows, maybe $75,000? There will be no way for revenue to keep up with spending…

I agree with Mitch’s observations because that’s the conclusion that simple math directs you to. In years watching the DFL in St. Paul or Democrats in DC, one inescapable truth is evident: that the gap between more and enough doesn’t shrink. In fact, it seems at times that it widens.

There’s another important point that’s important to make. The DFL merry-go-round of raising taxes to pay for more spending is like watching a short-tailed dog chase its tail. The harder it tries, the more elusive its objective seems to be.

That translates to Minnesota’s budget battles. California, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey and New York tried the path that Gov. Dayton wants to take us down. The good news is that Michigan, New Jersey and New York decided to get off that path. The bad news for their people is that California and Illlinois haven’t learned that lesson yet.

It’s tragic that Gov. Dayton hasn’t figured out basic economics. Especially in a recession, imposing confiscatory tax rates to close a deficit never works. How many times has California raised its tax rates? How’s that worked in solving their budget crisis?

Mark Dayton wants to raise the top tax bracket by 40%. Raising the top rate from 7.85% to 10.95% represents a 39.49% increase. At a time when our neighboring states are holding tax rates steady or cutting taxes, Gov. Dayton is insisting that Minnesota implement a major tax increase. In fact, Gov. Dayton’s insistence is so vehement is so steadfast that he’s willing to shut the government down into 2012:

Dayton said Tuesday that he will not “surrender” to Republicans’ demand that he cut the budget down to their level, and he was “pessimistic” about a resolution. Republicans got the word at the private breakfast.

“He [said he] would hold out through a special session, through a shutdown, for a tax increase,” said Deputy Majority Leader Geoff Michel, R-Edina. He said Dayton told them “he would hold out until 2012 for a tax increase…that’s exactly what he said.”

Thus far, the DFL’s argument has been one of fairness. They haven’t talked about how raising taxes will strengthen Minnesota’s economy. They’ve also argued that raising taxes will balance Minnesota’s budget.

It’s imperative that Republicans continue to fight against Gov. Dayton’s tax increases and expose the truth about the DFL’s policies and the DFL’s lies.

Yes, I intentionally said lies. A perfect example is Ken Martin’s lie last Friday night on Almanac. During a heated back-and-forth between Chairman Martin and Michael Brodkorb, Martin repeated the DFL’s oft-repeated lie about the Republicans’ all-cuts budget.

Michael’s response was like that of a mongoose killing a cobra. He demolished Martin’s lie by highlighting the fact that Sen. Cohen said in late March that the GOP budget is the biggest in state history:

SEN. COHEN: We’re going to be passing a budget that it billions and billions and billions and billions of dollars and at a level that we’ve never done before in the history of the state. The 12-13 budget will be $34.33 billions of dollars in general fund dollars taxed to the citizens of Minnesota. The 10-11 budget two years ago was $30.171 billion, I believe.

So the difference is over $4 billion, I believe. The largest state general fund budget ever, ever, ever, in the history of the state of Minnesota.

As Michael highlighted with his reply, it’s impossible to cut yourself to the biggest budget in state history. It’s mathematically impossible.

Thus far, the DFL’s legislative ‘plan’ has been to sit on their hands while complaining that the GOP’s budget doesn’t properly fund [fill in the blank] and it doesn’t make “the rich pay their fair share.”

In the final debate of the 2004 presidential election, the moderator asked Sen. Kerry how his foreign policy would be substantively different from President Bush’s. He used his alloted time complaining. President Bush waited patiently for Kerry to finish his reply before nailing Sen. Kerry. President Bush said that “a laundry list of complaints isn’t an agenda.”

The DFL is following in Sen. Kerry’s footsteps almost step-by-step. They didn’t put a budget together. They refused to support Gov. Dayton’s budget. Minnesota’s taxpayers were sent a massive bill by the House and Senate DFL for redistricting hardware, software and personnel. Minnesota’s taxpayers got ripped off because the DFL didn’t even bother putting a redistricting map together even though it’s part of their constitutionally mandated responsibilities.

To add to the irony on redistricting, Sen. Bakk waited until the last Saturday of the session to announce that DFL legislators wouldn’t be creating a set of redistricting maps. Sen. Bakk then said that the legislature should scrap the work that the GOP had done, hold public hearings across the state, then drawing maps “that have bipartisan support” when they return in February.

The inescapable lesson from this session is that, for the most part, the DFL refused to live up to its responsibilities, whether we’re talking budgets or redistricting.

Let’s use Sen. Chamberlain’s budget statistics, Sen. Bakk’s and Sen. Cohen’s statements on redistricting and the budget respectively to make the case that the DFL is the party of whining do-nothings who refuse to live in the 21st Century.

Shame on the DFL for their inaction and their ideological rigidity. Following their lead isn’t just foolish. It’s irresponsible and possibly dangerous.

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For at least the third time since Gov. Dayton vetoed the GOP’s balanced budget, the St. Cloud Times published this LTE that’s long on propaganda and devoid of rational thought. These paragraphs are particularly annoying:

Certain politicians would rather keep their donors happy than request them to also pay their fair share of taxes. It is simply unfair.

A state shutdown not only affects more than 10,000 state employees, but many businesses that depend on those people being employed and spending their money at their businesses.

I wonder which “certain politicians” Ms. Hoagland is refering to. Rather than be put on the defensive, let’s ask why DFL legislators have refused to reform higher ed. The MnSCU headquarters in St. Paul is particularly overbloated. The IT department employs 174 people, many of which would be considered upper or middle management if they were employed in the private sector. I’m guessing that at least 20% of IT’s employees fit that description. According to the first page of this organizational chart, 2 people are employed as vice-chancellors. Four people are directors in the IT department. On the third page of the organizational chart, there are 5 directors. According to the fourth page, 9 supervisors report to two directors.

That’s before talking about MnSCU’s Academic and Student Affairs Department having 7 vice chancellors, 22 directors and 11 administrators amongst its 80 employees. In other words, 50% of MnSCU’s Academic and Student Affairs personnel are either upper management or middle management positions. How much money is enough to finance the MnSCU office’s cronyism? Why don’t DFL activists complain about that type of cronyism?

All because no one can agree on a good budget that will serve all Minnesotans equally. We are a middle class family, and according to recent studies, we pay the highest percentage of our income in taxes here in Minnesota, yet we seem to have the smallest voice.

Thoughtful people have agreed on a “good budget.” Gov. Dayton vetoed it because the DFL’s special interest groups won’t let him cut their sacred cow budgets. Why isn’t Ms. Hoagland complaining about the DFL’s Texas-sized ranch filled with their special interest sacred cows? Apparently, that’s ok with Ms. Hoagland.

What’s disappointing is that Ms. Hoagland hasn’t figured out that raising taxes hurts Minnesota’s ability to compete with neighboring states. Protecting sacred cow special interests limits Minnesota’s ability to compete with neighbors, too.

Gov. Dayton vetoed 9 budget bills, most of which contained reforms that would’ve put Minnesota on the glidepath to sustainable budget surpluses. When Gov. Dayton shuts down the state while he holds us hostage for his tax increases, the simple inescapable truth will be that the legislature did their job. Another inescapable truth will be that Gov. Dayton will have vetoed a balanced budget.

Shame on Gov. Dayton for his reckless decision. Shame on Ms. Hoagland for her propagandizing.

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I hadn’t thought about giving out this award prior to this article, but if ever there’s a justification for creating a ‘You’ve gotta be shitting me award’, this is it. First, it’s important to hear what caused the disagreement:

“We always keep our trees trimmed back because you don’t want to worry about them hanging down in the way,” said Sales, a church member.

The church was fined $100 per branch cut for excessive pruning, bringing the violation to $4,000.

“I just couldn’t believe it when I heard about it,” Sales said. “We trim our trees back every three years all over our property, and this is the first time we have been fined.”

I was going to post a photo of these beautifully manicured trees but the newspaper was selling them for a minimum of $3.95. That’s when I invoked the universally-recognized BITE ME clause. Just to prove that they’re a benevolent bunch, the city of Charlotte gave the Albemarle Road Presbyterian Church this option:

The fine will be dropped if the church replaces each of the improperly pruned trees, said Tom Johnson, senior urban forester for city of Charlotte Land Development Division.

Excuse me? Charlotte has an urban forestry department? Charlotte must’ve properly funded the city’s functions like public safety, maintaining roads and keeping the roads repaired. Charlotte must’ve still had money left over after all that. Otherwise, they’d never have paid for a fully staffed urban forestry department. Governments never spend money on frivolous things, right? It’s not like other cities have spent $500,000 on artistic drinking fountains, right?

UPDATE: Follow this link to get the Lady Logician’s take on the matter.

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While reading the first few paragraphs of Dane Smith’s op-ed, I thought he was just being sarcastic. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. He’s totally serious about this policy perscription:

Here’s the deal: Rather than raising “taxes,” we establish a major new “impact fee,” a creative variation of Pawlenty’s health impact fee (HIF) on cigarettes in 2005.

We could call this new revenue source the “inequality impact fee” (we could nickname it the “Iffy”).

Or perhaps something that produces a friendly and lovable acronym, such as the “Saving Minnesota’s Unity and Reinvestment Fee” (SMURF).

As much as I appreciate sarcasm, it’s impossible for me to think that this solution has a snowball’s prayer in hell of garnering serious support.

One of the things that Smith isn’t factoring in is that 2005’s political landscape is dramatically different than 2011’s. The TEA Party didn’t exist. The deficit that year was $160,000,000,000. This year’s deficit will hit $1,650,000,000,000, ten times the size of 2005.

Playing too-clever-by-half games like Mr. Smith’s proposal aren’t popular. We The People want to be treated like adults, not like children deserving to be there there’d.

Another feature that would sweeten the appeal would be earmarking SMURF proceeds to schools and public education, from early childhood through college and workforce development, freeing up money to help avoid the deep proposed cuts for other programs, such as health care and economic security for the aged and for low-income families.

Education arguably is not only the most popular and sacred function of state government for moderates and progressives, but it’s also a clear benefit to business owners, and conservatives have vowed to hold overall education funding harmless.

Mr. Smith’s attempt to persuade us that MnSCU is a fine-tuned, smooth-running machine doesn’t fit with the facts. MnSCU is riddled with troubling facts, starting with poor decisionmaking, then continuing with an overbloated headquarters staff payroll, then finishing with missed opportunities caused by the poor decisionmaking by MnSCU presidents.

If Smith wants to revise his comments to say that a properly run higher ed system benefits business owners, then I’ll agree with him. Until then, I couldn’t disagree more forcefully.

Growing consensus exists, led by business thinkers, that our future economic health depends on better early childhood education, on more widespread higher-education completion by young adulthood, and particularly on reducing the gap in education achievement between racial groups and income groups.

This sounds identical to the stuff I heard when I was in high school. The theory then was that those who didn’t get their degree were destined to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars less over their lifetime.

While it’s true that people who got degrees in hard subjects like economics, business, chemistry and similar subjects, it’s equally true that those whose degrees in soft subjects like Social Responsibilities, Multicultural or Women’s Studies are trapped as degreed unemployables.

Until MnSCU starts eliminating the soft degrees and starts emphasizing the types of degrees that add value to Minnesota’s, and the nation’s, economies, people defending ‘higher ed’ from a generic standpoint should be ridiculed by the general population.

Rest assured that I’ll consistently highlight the foolishness embedded in the MnSCU and the U of M systems. Free passes are for hallways and lectures, not for college degrees or academic decisions.

Mr. Smith should visit MnSCU headquarters, scrutinize their organizational charts and decide whether MnSCU is a help or a hindrance. The professors that I’ve talked with think MnSCU is either ineffective or that it’s a joke.

If Mr. Smith wants higher ed to have a greater impact on Minnesota’s economy, which I’d totally welcome, then it’s time for both sides to work together to fix a broken system that isn’t helping students, businesses or taxpayers.

It’s long past time to eliminate many of the bricks and mortar higher institutes of education and replace them with online campuses. It’s only a matter of time. Minnesota should be at the leading edge of both offering online degrees and eliminating bricks and mortar campuses.

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The first thing I thought after reading Lori Sturdevant’s latest column is that she’s as oblivious to maintaining economic competitive with our neighboring states as Gov. Dayton is. She’s also willing to take MMB’s projections as though they were etched in stone tablets atop Mount Sinai.

Based on this information, that’s rather foolish:

The MMB spreadsheet ‘reports’ that the House GOP budget calls for 10% across-the-board reductions. Further, the MMB spreadsheet ‘reports’ that the Senate GOP budget calls for 9% across-the-board reductions. This spreadsheet isn’t saying that about specific departments. It’s saying that each line item is getting hit with a 10% cuts. K-12 education gets hit with a 10% cut, as does Corrections, the MPCA, the PUC, Agriculture, DEED or any other department.

Now that we’ve recorded Commissioner Showalter’s incompetence, let’s look at Ms. Sturdevant’s column, starting with this:

Despite all the talk about reforming government operations to “bend the cost curve down,” the GOP-approved budget would lead to a $1.2 billion state deficit in 2014-15.

Let’s remember that this MMB said that Minnesota would sign contracts with companies to find unpaid taxes, then have those companies not find any unpaid taxes. Why on God’s green earth would the state sign contracts that paid these companies whether they find additional taxes or not? Clearly, those contracts would be performance-based. If they don’t find the money, they don’t get paid.

That’s just one example of how the MMB is corrupt. Another example is their claim that Rep. Keith Downey’s 15 by 15 legislation, which would reduce Minnesota’s state workforce by 15% by 2015, would actually cost, not save, money.

Here’s what MMB projects the 2014-15 deficit to be if Gov. Dayton’s budget is enacted:

But the GOP budget’s deficit in 2014-15 is slightly larger than the $1 billion that would remain under Gov. Mark Dayton’s original budget plan.

First, Gov. Dayton’s original plan was scrapped minutes after the February forecast was released. Next, MMB is scoring the tax increase as though companies’ and individuals’ behaviors won’t be affected by Gov. Dayton’s tax increases or by real world factors like North Dakota telling Minnesota’s workers and businesses that they’ve cut income, corporate and property taxes and that their budget is running a surplus because their unemployment is 3.3%.

Thinking that Minnesota’s companies can’t be enticed by North Dakota’s low taxes, booming economy and limited government is foolish. Likewise, it’s foolish to think that Minnesota’s entrepreneurs won’t flinch when faced with Gov. Dayton’s major tax increase, Minnesota’s floundering economy and the Dayton administration’s hostility towards mining and energy concerns.

Everything about North Dakota tells entrepreneurs that they’re open for business. Almost everything about the Dayton administration’s approach says the opposite.

The Republican method involves capping government spending and issuing vouchers for the purchase of private health insurance to low-income people. That method would reduce state spending. But it does little about medical prices or the number of people needing care.

The GOP plan is strikingly similar to the Medicare Advantage plan that’s coming in way under budget than regular Medicare is doing. If the DFL wants to argue that Medicare Advantage isn’t positively affecting health care costs, let’s have that debate.

The vetoed GOP health care spending bill cuts a big $1.6 billion from the forecasted health and human services (HHS) base for 2012-13, and would take another $1.1 billion from the forecasted base in 2014-15.

The key word in that paragraph is forecasted. The DFL made a habit of writing budget bills with outrageous budget tails that didn’t have anything to do with reality.

Let’s remember that the budget tails included in the last budget Gov. Pawlenty signed called for a budget of $39,000,000,000. That’s a shockng budget after the 2010-11 budget spent $30,171,000,000 according to Sen. Cohen. For those keeping score at home, that represents a 22.6% increase in state spending. That’s before factoring in that the HHS budget was given a substantially bigger increase than the rest of the budget.

Driving much of this debate is the DFL’s insistence than any cut or any reform would destroy the finely-tuned, smooth-running machine that is Minnesota state government.

The thought that Minnesota state government is a finely-tuned, smooth-running machine isn’t absurd. It’s utterly laughable.

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If competing states were to draw up a plan that chased jobs and companies from the state, the Dayton budget and Gov. Dayton vetoing key reforms would certainly be part of that plan. Let’s start with Gov. Dayton’s vetoing GOP reforms. A good place to start is examining Rep. Rich Murray’s op-ed:

We continued to get the sense that Gov. Dayton and his staff had refused to even read the bills we’d crafted over the past few months. Lawmakers were especially disappointed that all of the common sense reforms that we worked hard to enact, provisions that would not only make government more efficient but would save Minnesota’s taxpayers millions of dollars, were basically ignored.

Keith Downey’s 15 by 15 legislation was criticized as proof that Republicans hated “working people.” The DFL knows that that isn’t even remotely close to the truth but that’s their lie and they’ve stuck with it.

The DFL’s opposition to Rep. Downey’s legislation was predictable. The DFL had to oppose Rep. Downey’s legislation to please their union special interest allies. If Gov. Dayton signed that into law or if DFL legislators supported that legislation, union support would evaporate. That’s something that the DFL can’t afford ever.

King Banaian’s priority-based budgeting reform legislation was vetoed, too. King’s bill would’ve dramatically improved Minnesota’s budgeting process, both from a taxpayer standpoint and from a getting-government-spending-under-control standpoint.

King’s legislation has the audacity of telling Minnesota government that they have to justify the spending that they’re requesting. They’re being told that autopilot budgeting is over, that the bureaucrats will be reminded at budget time that they work for Minnesotans, not vice versa.

At the beginning of the year, the Legislature began session with the goal of proposing a nearly $32 billion budget, which is what Minnesota spent during the last budget cycle. Gov. Dayton responded with a budget that spent more than $36 billion and included a multi-billion dollar tax increase to pay for it.

The Legislature later responded with a compromise move to the middle of both proposals by passing a balanced budget of $34 billion that does not raise taxes.

Gov, Dayton moved his number down to $35.8 billion and insisted the Legislature pass a $1.8 billion tax increase on Minnesotans to make his numbers work. The full House debated his proposal, and opposed it by a 73-60 margin. Despite this, the Governor is criticizing the Legislature for not compromising further and for refusing to raise taxes on Minnesotans.

During his Friday night debate with Michael Brodkorb on Almanac, DFL Chairman Ken Martin said that “Republicans started with a $34,000,000,000 budget and finished with a $34,000,000,000 budget.” To put it gently, Rep. Norton’s op-ed shows that the DFL chairman didn’t get his details right. I’m shocked.

Gov. Dayton insists on a major tax increase. He’s said that the Minnesotans he knows are “better than that”, inferring that it’s patriotic to pay higher tax rates. Let’s highlight the fact that North Dakota is recruiting workers from Minnesota:

North Dakota’s governor and commerce and tax commissioners, among other state officials, recently launched a full-scale recruiting mission in the North Star state. They are seeking engineers, electricians, IT pros, machine operators, health care experts and anyone else who wants a job, so long as they don’t mind relocating.

“We are in such a wonderful position over here right now,” said North Dakota Commerce Commissioner Alan Anderson. “But we have a 3.3 percent unemployment rate…So we have to either get some more folks coming back home or get more coming across the state line to share in the opportunities.”

In the Twin Cities, North Dakota officials have dined with business leaders and brought in 40 businesses to interview 350 Minnesotans at a job fair in Minneapolis. They also have tapped Minnesota’s colleges and universities for hiring leads.

Look at the list of jobs that North Dakota’s employers need: engineers, electricians, IT professionals, machine operators and medical experts. Those aren’t low-end burger-flipping placeholder jobs. I’m certain that most of those jobs pay at least $25 per hour, with engineers and medical experts making well in excess of that.

The current DFL legislature insists that raising taxes won’t hurt Minnesota’s competitiveness. They’re either lying or they’re incredibly ignorant. In addition to the great jobs available in North Dakota, there are other things that will appeal to Minnesotans:

North Dakota’s ambassadors dangle carrots, emphasizing their state’s budget surplus and recent cuts the governor made to personal, corporate and property taxes.

I can’t argue that the oil, natural gas and coal-mining booms haven’t had a tremendous impact on North Dakota’s economy. That’s obvious. What’s equally obvious, though, is that North Dakota’s economic blueprint extends far beyond those industries.

I wrote months ago that 13 of North Dakota’s 15 biggest employers are in the health care industry. That’s very forward-looking. By comparison, Gov. Dayton’s and the DFL’s plan looks to the 1970s and 1980s for its blueprint.

It’s impossible to think anything other than that North Dakota’s commitment to mining is the exact opposite of Minnesota’s ongoing hostility to PolyMet and its past hostility to Big Stone II power plant.

In North Dakota, they’re committed to building a multi-faceted, mining- and technology-based economy. Minnesota isn’t. North Dakota’s legislature and governor are committed to limited government that’s cut income, corporate and property taxes. Minnesota’s governor isn’t.

How can the DFL and Gov. Dayton say that they want to raise taxes on Minnesota’s job creators when North Dakota will gladly welcome them with lower income, corporate and property taxes? Raising taxes isn’t just stupid economic policy. It’s economic suicide.

If Minnesota wants to see its economy dramatically shrink over the next decade, they should rally to Gov. Dayton’s and the DFL’s budget while rejecting the GOP’s reforms. They should raise taxes on Minnesota’s employers. They should remain hostile to Minnesota’s mining companies while partnering with militant environmentalist organizations like MEP and the MCEA.

Maintaining Minnesota’s environmental policies while raising taxes and running multi-billion deficits for the forseeable future should make North Dakota awfully appealing.

On the other hand, if Minnesota wants to become economically viable again, Minnesotans have to reject the DFL’s hostility to industry, the DFL’s free-spending habits and their tax-first mentality. Most importantly, they must embrace the GOP’s commitment to limited, reformed government that’s friendly to entrepreneurs and low taxes.

Finally, I’ll just ask this: How many North Dakota residents are worried whether businesses are paying their fair share? I’m betting that North Dakotans couldn’t care less about that. I’m betting that they only care that their economy is booming and their bank accounts are bulging.

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There are many flaws with Gov. Dayton’s budget but the thing I’m waiting to hear is an explanation for why a tax increase on productive people is needed to pay for extending a government model that’s filled with wasteful spending.
This morning on @Issue With Tom Hauser, Matt Entenza and Ember Reichgott-Junge argued that Gov. Dayton’s positions were likely to prevail because a) he’s got the bully pulpit and b) Republicans will change their evil ways the minute the public starts criticizing them.

NEWSFLASH TO ENTENZA AND REICHGOTT-JUNGE: The public weighed in last November on this. That’s why Republicans control both chambers of the legislature for the first time since senators started disclosing their political affiliations.

I’ve been digging into MnSCU’s programs, its bureaucratic infrastructure, its campus locations and numbers. Gov. Dayton, Rep. Thissen, Sen. Bakk and Rep. Winkler insist that there isn’t a ton of unjustified replication in MnSCU. The unjustified replication translates into unjustified spending in the Higher Ed budget.

When I scrutinized MnSCU, I found a substantial amount of questionable policies and expenditures. Why do we need a gazillion schools scattered throughout the state? Why do a bunch of community colleges have multiple campuses offering identical degree offerings? Why does the MnSCU HQ need the staffing levels they’ve currently got?

The DFL is playing its annual inane game of saying Republicans are fighting to protect “the rich” who “aren’t paying their fair share” while never defining what a fair share is.

It’s time to tell Minnesotans that the DFL is the defender of a) status quo policies, b) cronyism in St. Paul government and c) unjustifiable spending within the MnSCU and Higher Ed budgets and throughout the various departments.

The Republican Party of Minnesota started going on the offensive this week. It’s off to a strong start, especially with the drubbing that Michael Brodkorb put on DFL Party Chair Ken Martin on Almanac Friday night. That’s when Michael told the watching audience that the Republicans had a) raised spending by $4,000,000,000 for the 2012-13 biennium and b) passed the biggest budget in state history.

Spinmeisters like Rep. Thissen, Rep. Winkler and Sen. Bakk continue to call the Republicans’ budget an all-cuts budget while ignoring statements made by Rep. Winkler, Sen. Cohen and Sen. Bakk that Republicans substantially increased spending after making their initial budget proposal.

Rep. Winkler chided Republicans because their budget changed from spending $32,000,000,000 early in the session to $34,000,000,000 after the February forecast. It’s impossible to credibly say that Republicans haven’t moved from their initial proposal, though that’s what Rep. Winkler, Ms. Reichgott-Junge, Mr. Entenza and Chairman Martin are saying now.

Chairman Martin still hasn’t lost his ABM touch, saying on Almanac that “Republicans started with a $34,000,000,000 budget and ended with a $34,000,000,000 budget.” That’s the dishonesty that ABM is famous for. Republicans started at $32,000,000,000 because the November forecast predicted a $6,200,000,000 deficit.

Let’s remember the relative jubilation caused by the improvement reported in the February forecast. That’s when it was announced that the deficit was ‘only’ $5,030,000,000.

The next step in the GOP’s campaign is to start highlighting the flood of reforms that Gov. Dayton vetoed. When Gov. Dayton vetoed the GOP budget, he didn’t just veto the appropriations. Gov. Dayton vetoed those important reforms when he vetoed those bills. That’s unconscienable.

Let’s remember that the DFL fought against downsizing government, saying that downsizing proved that the GOP hated working families. Republicans don’t hate working families. They just aren’t willing to give public union employees special treatment that hurts the rest of Minnesota’s pocketbooks.

During her debate against Matt Entenza, Laura Brod highlighted something that can’t be overemphasized, namely that it isn’t possible to continue increasing spending by 15+ percent per biennium. The taxpayers won’t put up with that type of raiding of their wallets.

Make no mistake about this: The DFL’s claim that they’re only taxing the “richest 2%” is hogwash. Their tax increase will affect workers, too. These workers will either get hit with paying a greater share of their health insurance premium, accept a lower pay increase or get told that their employer won’t be offering as good a health insurance policy as before.

That’s how businesses operate during struggling times.

The DFL knows that but doesn’t have the guts to tell people that their tax-the-rich scheme will hurt the middle class more than it’ll hurt “the rich.”

The DFL apparently doesn’t unnderstand that we’re competing with other states, especially North Dakota. If we don’t reform government and eliminate the waste from our budget and reduce taxes, there will be a serious brain drain over the next 10-15 years.

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This week, Gov. Dayton’s commission issued recommendations that should be ridiculed. According to this PiPress article, that’s precisely what Rep. Pat Garofalo did:

The basic per-pupil aid that supports Minnesota schools should increase 23 percent, local referendum levies should be relied on less, and the state should invest in all-day kindergarten for low-income children, according to recommendations released Thursday by a panel appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration.

The group billed its report as “a blueprint for education funding for the 21st century,” but it was dismissed Thursday by a Republican leader in the House as “delusional” given the state’s $5 billion deficit.

As soon as we find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, we’ll be able to do this,” said Patrick Garofalo, chair of the education finance committee.

The report was released just as Dayton and Republican legislators gear up to negotiate new deals on the education and other spending bills Dayton vetoed Tuesday, but Garofalo said he doesn’t expect the document to have much influence on the conversations.

We have a $5 billion deficit. Grow up and get serious,” he said.

Increasing state funding of K-12 education by 23% isn’t sustainable. In fact, thinking that state government should even attempt this says everything we need to know about Gov. Dayton’s seriousness. HE ISN’T!!! It doesn’t even make sense policy-wise.

These recommendations should be filed in the nearest trash can ASAP. What’s puzzling is figuring out why the DFL committee’s recommendations are published now. It isn’t like they’ll get any sort of serious consideration from the legislature or Main Street Minnesotans.

They understand that the DFL’s recommendations are beyond impossible. They understand that the DFL’s recommendations are foolish and can’t be paid for.

The DFL’s recommendations prove that Gov. Dayton surrounded himself with progressives who couldn’t find Minnesota’s political mainstream with a GPS and an ample supply of ethanol for their Prius.

Like this commission, Gov. Dayton is driven more by ideology than by what’s best for children and is sustainable financially. The Dayton budgeting method figures out what they want first, then figuring out how to pay for it.

These recommendations are worth reading through.

Among the specific recommendations:

  • Set general education formula allowance for 2013 at $6,290 per pupil, up from the current $5,124;
  • Give schools that provide free all-day kindergarten state funding for the portion of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals;
  • Roll $400 per pupil of operating-levy revenue into the general education formula;
  • Establish a grant program to reward schools that show high growth in student achievement;
  • Expand a quality rating system for early education;
  • Reduce charter school lease aid;
  • Allocate integration funding based on the number of students of color in each district.

That anyone thinks we have the money for this is stunning. That anyone thinks that this is good fiscal policy is alarming. Chairman Garofalo’s opinions are worth reading, too:

Garofalo said the integration funding change, in addition to being bad policy, is unconstitutional because it would confer a benefit based exclusively on race. “We’re going to give you more money based off what race you are?” he said, calling the idea “mind-numbingly stupid.” Cassellius said the integration funding change came from a legislative auditor’s report and that race is already taken into account in allocating the money. Garofalo also described the plan as “pretty anti-charter school,” given the lease-aid reduction, along with increased share of special-education costs, and he predicted it would hit the suburbs especially hard with property tax increases.

Early in the session, Chairman Garofalo’s opinions and observations were measured. That proved that Chairman Garolfalo isn’t a bombthrower. For him to make these types of statements means that the policy isn’t mainstreet. Gov. Dayton has proved that he isn’t a policy wonk. Instead, it’s apparent that he’s a rigid progressive ideologue. Mitch Berg wrote months ago that Gov. Dayton is anti-charter school:

So for many parents in the Twin Cities, charter schools have been a lifeline, a place where their kids aren’t just numbers on a school district spreadsheet, where they have some input into how the school works. The vast majority of parents in inner-city charter schools are, ironically, minorities. Most are below the district income averages. Mark Dayton wants to slash state funding to charter schools. His budget plan (both of his tries at a budget plan, actually) will slash lease aid payments to charter schools. This is a huge financial hit. When people throw around figures like “it costs $11,000 a year to teach a student in this district”, remember that public districts can float bonds to build their school buildings, as well as get extra money from special local school tax levies. Charter schools are forbidden by (a stupid) state law from spending their money on buying buildings. The state allots a certain amount of “lease aid” to charter schools, which helps them rent space. Dayton wants to slash this aid. It may or may not affect well-heeled schools in tony suburbs. But it will shred poor inner city charter schools.

It’s appalling that this supposedly independent commission recommendations included shredding an important part of charter school funding. Shame on these mind-numbed idiots for doing what Gov. Dayton and EdMinn wants, which is to gut charter schools. Gov. Dayton and Commissioner Cassellius can argue otherwise but it’s pretty obvious that they’re on a mission from EdMinn to demolish charter schools. Chairman Garofalo is right. It’s time for Gov. Dayton and Commissioner Cassellius to “grow up and get serious” about what’s best for Minnesota’s government education system. Technorati: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday morning, I was alerted to this post written by MN2020’s John van Hecke. Here’s the first thing in the article that caught my attention:

Just because a statement is made with great certainty and conviction does not mean that it is correct. Rep. King Banaian’s commentary regarding the impact of Governor Dayton’s income tax proposal is a case in point.

Rep. Banaian is mistaken when he asserts that “almost half of all S-corporations and partnerships file at the top individual income tax rate.” Nowhere near half of these filers are affected by the current top tier rate. Moreover, individuals file individual income tax returns; businesses do not. Only six percent of tax returns for individuals that report positive income from owning or investing in S-corporations, partnerships, and sole proprietorships would be affected by the Governor’s proposed fourth tier income tax. Even for these individuals, only the portion of taxable income in excess of $250,000 (married joint filers) would be subject to the tax increase.

I’ve talked with King about this issue more than a few times so I was pretty sure that he’d been misquoted by van Hecke. That doesn’t mean that I’m accusing him of outright lying. I’m not doing that.

Wanting to clear this up, I emailed King to find out what he was basing his statement on. Later Thursday, King supplied me with this website. Page 3 contains information that refutes Mr. van Hecke’s statements. Here’s the information that King was refering to:

The percentage of returns with positive pass-through income increases at the higher income levels for the new top bracket in the 2009 legislative proposals. For example, 42 percent of the returns in the new top bracket proposed in House File 2323 had positive passthrough business income.

King augmented that information in his email:

HF2323 in 2010 session (Lencewski) was an omnibus bill that called for higher taxes, that would have put a 9% individual income tax on married couples for income over $250k which covers the range of the Dayton tax bracket.

Pass-through income does not include sole proprietorships.

I would have added, had I the time to put this in an op-ed, that 70% of small businesses hire nobody, but most of the employees of small businesses are in those few that are posting large positive pass-through income. What matters is not how many firms are being hit by the higher tax, but how many employees of those firms are being hit by it. 70% of pass-through income of S-corps and partnerships would have been subject to the Lencewski/Dayton tax rates (see graph on p. 18)

It’s clear that the difference between Gov. Dayton’s tax increase and Rep. Lenczewski’s tax increase is the top marginal rate, with Gov. Dayton’s top rate being 1.85 percentage points higher than Rep. Lenczewski’s top rate of 9.1%.
Here’s another part of van Hecke’s article that he’s wrong about:

In attempting to justify conservatives’ large cuts to Local Government Aid, Rep. Banaian argues that these revenue sharing cuts will not contribute to property tax increases. He’s wrong. Research from non-partisan House, Senate, and Revenue Department staff concludes that for every dollar cut from Local Government Aid, property taxes will increase by about 50 cents and funding for public safety, street maintenance, snow removal, and other city services will be cut by 50 cents.

The history of the last decade confirms the conclusions of these non-partisan researchers. Real per capita city property taxes have soared since 2002, despite the fact that real per capita city spending has fallen. How can this be? In response to huge local aid cuts, local governments have been compelled to both increase property taxes and cut local budgets.

van Hecke’s argument is actually a non sequitur argument in that this research assumes that things will continue operating with the same policies that they’re currently operating with. That’s a reasonable assumption if you’re dealing with liberal/progressive mayors but it’s a foolish assumption if you’re dealing with innovative mayors in outstate Minnesota.

I’ve written before about St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis’s system. Here’s what I wrote Dec. 30, 2010:

Reforming the regulatory and litigation systems will make Minnesota a more business-friendly state. Apparently, that isn’t something that van Hecke is interested in. He’d rather argue that exercising spending restraint and making government serve the people instead of the government dictating to the people what it needs are policies that only the unenlightened could believe in.

The good news for Minnesotans is that the GOP legislative majority is asking the right questions of government:

[Rep. Matt] Dean said lawmakers will also overhaul state agency budgets: “We’re going to be saying [to state agencies], ‘Let’s justify your budgets. Let’s go through them. What are you currently doing that you need to stop doing? What are you currently doing that you need to do less of? And what aren’t you doing that you need to start doing?’”

These are the right questions to ask. They’re similar to Mayor Dave Kleis’s questions on determining funding: Do’s, Don’t’s and do differentlys. To summarize, if it’s needed, fund it but don’t spend a penny more than you have to, if it isn’t needed, don’t fund it, and if it needs to be funded but you recognize inefficiencies in the department, do things differently.

Citizens should demand that their mayors, city councilmembers and county commissioners adopt Mayor Kleis’s methodology. If they did, they’d be in a substantially stronger position financially than they’re currently in.

Interestingly, I wrote that in a post refuting a similar claim from…drum roll please…John van Hecke.

This is the closing to van Hecke’s article:

Governor Dayton offers a smarter way forward. We can mitigate further cuts to education, transportation, public safety, infrastructure, services to the disabled and elderly, and other public services simply by asking the wealthiest two percent to pay state and local taxes at a rate closer to what other Minnesotans are paying. This approach will be better for Minnesota businesses and fairer for Minnesota taxpayers.

I’d argue that Gov. Dayton’s approach is the exact wrong approach. Gov. Dayton’s approach apparently is to figure out how to fund government first, then think about how government can use the tax code to pick economic winners and losers. That approach essentially says that you get to keep more of your money if you do what the government tells you to do.

Conservatives offer a different approach, one that’s based on putting in place policies that will create a dynamic economy, then figuring out how to fund essential government services and letting a person’s ideas, talent and hard work determine economic winners and losers.

Mr. van Hecke apparently hasn’t figured out that a strong economy solves a plethora of today’s budgetary problems. That’s something that my 3 legislators get. John Pederson, King and Steve Gottwalt all appreciate the things that a strong private sector economy produces.

I wish I could say the same about MN2020 and Mr. van Hecke.

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