Archive for June, 2017

I’m quickly getting addicted to Alpha News’ reporting. This article is a great example of the work Alpha is doing. They’re doing reporting on things we’d never see in the Strib or other newspapers.

What other newspaper has written about the impact the collapse of CTIB, aka the Counties Transit Improvement Board, is having on the cost of the SWLRT? Anders Koskinen’s article is truly an eye-opener. In it, Koskinen wrote that, according to “the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, ‘the cost of constructing a new 6-lane Interstate highway [is] about $7 million per mile in rural areas, $11 million or more per mile in urban areas.'” Further, Alpha reports that it costs “about $1.25 million per mile” to “mill and resurface a 4-lane road.” Finally, Alpha reports that it costs “about $4 million per mile” to “expand an Interstate Highway from four lanes to six lanes.” Later in the article, Koskinen wrote that the per-mile cost of building a mile of the SWLRT is “$128.14 million.”

That’s only part of the story. The other part of the story is that the “project will cost a total of $1.858 billion and construct just 14.5 miles of new rail for the Metro Green Lines.” That’s before factoring in the fact that Hennepin County’s “contribution totals roughly $656.65 million, about 35 percent” of the SWLRT project. That’s assuming that the federal government picks up its $929,000,000 portion of the tab for SWLRT. That’s far from a certainty at this point.

Apparently, the Dayton administration thinks that SWLRT is never too expensive. Such type of thinking is frightening. To people in outstate Minnesota, spending $128,140,000 per mile of SWLRT can’t be justified, especially when it costs $1,250,000 per mile to resurface a 4-lane road. According to my trusty calculator, MnDOT could resurface almost 1,500 miles of road for the cost of building the SWLRT.

Guess who supports SWLRT:

I guess he thinks he hasn’t hurt our wallets enough through Obamacare. The time to stop SWLRT is now.

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This article announcing Gov. Dayton’s appointing of a new chairperson of the Met Council highlights the possibility of that appointee facing pushback when her committee hearing is held.

According to the article, “The Met Council has new leadership. On Tuesday, Gov. Mark Dayton announced that current Chair Adam Duininck will step down from his role as head of the Met Council. In his place, Dayton announced the appointment of Minnesota State Rail Director Alene Tchourumoff to head the Met Council.”

Further into the article, Alpha reporter Preya Samsundar reports “Sen. Dave Osmek of Mound, who is expected to announce his candidacy for governor this summer, had been pushing pieces of legislation to reign in, and more recently, abolish the Met Council. On the last day of session, Osmek turned in a 214-page piece of legislation which states, “A bill for an act relating to local and state government; abolishing the Met Council.” Osmek has been pushing for reformation of the Met Council since 2015.”
Sen. Osmek’s credentials as a reformer are high. Jason Lewis’ reformer credentials are pretty high, too. Rep. Lewis is working hard in DC against organizations like the Met Council:

In Washington, Rep. Jason Lewis is also doing his part to ensure the council goes no further. In March, a bill authored by Lewis passed through the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee in the United States House of Representatives.

“Under the rule, the Met Council, a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), could have expanded their boundaries and taxed the suburbs to help fund downtown projects,” Lewis told Alpha News at the time. “We’re protecting the ability of local decision makers to do what works for their own communities.”

Thank goodness for Jason Lewis for protecting suburbs like Prior Lake, Shakopee and Chanhassen. Let’s hope we elect a Republican governor and keep our GOP majorities in the Minnesota House and Senate so we can, at minimum, stop the Met Council’s authority to tax people without representing people.

Right now, the Met Council ‘represents’ Gov. Dayton. They don’t represent the people. Still, they’ve been given the authority to levy taxes. There’s no way that’s right.

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This article adds additional insight into dramatically raising the minimum wage. One of the eye-popping statistics found in this article is that “Last year, New York passed legislation that will raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2018 for almost all businesses in the Big Apple. Schnipper’s Quality Kitchen, a New York burger chain, is already making tough cuts to compensate for this added expense, as The Post reported last week. As Schnipper’s labor costs increase, the burger joint has reduced its workforce by 10 percent. It’s also cut hours for its existing staff and increased prices on the menu.”

This isn’t surprising. It’s predictable. What’s disappointing is that the activists that “promised our poorest workers a living wage. But early evidence suggests that, however well-intentioned, the movement has actually resulted in lower wages and less opportunity.”

That isn’t all. The article also cites the fact that “the minimum wage rose to $12 in New York City for fast-food workers. Since then, job growth has been a sleepy 2 percent, the Employment Policies Institute reported this month.”

The fact that dramatic minimum wage increases are a significant part of the Democrats’ economic plan (especially Bernie Sanders’, Elizabeth Warren’s and Hillary’s plans) should frighten voters. Usually, it’s talked about under the heading of income inequality, which is another way of saying stagnant economic growth. The visceral hatred towards employers in Bernie Sanders’ and Elizabeth Warren’s message is the opposite of Ronald Reagan’s economic message.

Reagan rightly said that you can’t love jobs and hate the employers. Dramatically increasing the minimum wage is the equivalent of hating employers. Those facts are indisputable.

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This article highlights additional parts of Judge Guthmann’s ruling in the Legislature’s lawsuit against Gov. Dayton that don’t sound good for Gov. Dayton.

First, in my post, I highlighted Judge Guthmann’s statement saying that “the public would be irreparably harmed” by being deprived “of a basic constitutional right – a fully functioning Legislative Branch.”

In Judge Guthmann’s injunctive ruling, he wrote “In addition to the parties’ Stipulation that Count I of the Complaint is ripe for decision, the court also finds that the issues presented to the court in Count I of the Complaint are ripe and require a ruling from the court.”

Some Twin Cities pundits have suggested that it’s best that Judge Guthmann order the two sides to sit down and work out their differences. I’ve never agreed with that approach. The constitutional issues are too important. Gov. Dayton’s claims are too reckless. It isn’t possible to reconcile Gov. Dayton’s filings with principles befitting a democracy. If the courts finally rule that Gov. Dayton “has the absolute authority to line-item veto anything for any reason,” it’ll demolish the checks and balances in Minnesota’s constitution.

This article is filled with proof that socialism doesn’t work. Further, it demolishes a key part of the Democrats’ economic message. It says “New research, conducted by economists at the University of Washington, shows that the $13 minimum wage has led to “steep declines in employment for low-wage workers and a drop in hours for those who kept their jobs. Crucially, the negative impact of lost jobs and hours more than offset the benefits of higher wages; on average, low-wage workers earned $125 per month less because of the higher wage.”

This isn’t surprising. Artificially inflating wages hurts people because businesses have to make a profit. When the government makes it more difficult through higher taxes or higher wages, businesses will adapt. The easiest way to do that is employ fewer people.

Later, it’s reported that “The Minneapolis city council will vote on Friday, June 30th at 9:30 am to increase the city’s minimum wage to $10.00 starting on July 1, 2018. By July 1, 2022, every worker in Minneapolis will be paid at least $15 per hour as voted on by the current Minneapolis City Council. One of their stated reasons for doing so is to help Minneapolis employees deal with “rising inflation” which, had any of them bothered to look, has been at 1.2% in 2016 and 0% in 2015. It is also important to note that every person who works at least two hours in any workweek while in the city of Minneapolis will be considered a Minneapolis employee and subject to these ever-increasing minimum wages.”

Why would companies start businesses in Minneapolis? They’d be foolish to. I suspect that companies that are part of the hospitality industry won’t start up there unless they get special concessions.

This article is proof that Rebecca Otto doesn’t understand the constitution. In Brian Bakst’s article, he writes “State Auditor Rebecca Otto will file a petition this week with the Minnesota Supreme Court, asking for review of a law allowing counties to hire private accountants for financial evaluations done. In May, the state Court of Appeals upheld the 2015 law as constitutional in a 2-1 ruling. The majority judges said Otto hadn’t surrendered authority because she retained the power to set standards for audits and could reject audits it found inferior.”

The truth is that Minnesota’s constitution only establishes the office of auditor. The duties and responsibilities of the Auditor are assigned to it by statute. Later in Bakst’s article, he quotes Otto as saying “The courts have affirmed that auditing counties is a core function of this constitutional office, which we’ve been saying all along, and that there is a true controversy here.”

That isn’t being disputed. What’s being disputed is whether those responsibilities were assigned to the auditor’s office through the Constitution or through legislation. A little over 2 years ago, I wrote this post about the auditor’s office. Here’s what I wrote on June 10, 2015:

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?

Those 28 counties have been permitted to hire private auditing companies for quite some time, meaning that Rebecca Otto hasn’t objected to the hiring of private auditors in years. Otto is only selectively opposed to the hiring of private auditors.

Further, from a public policy standpoint, letting counties hire private auditors makes sense. Private auditors do the job quicker and at a less expensive price. Since the auditor’s responsibilities are assigned through statute, not the Constitution, it makes too much sense to not authorize qualified private auditors to perform these audits.

Finally, it’s foolish not to either abolish the auditor’s office as a constitutional office. Wouldn’t it make more sense to move the auditor’s office, the attorney general’s office and the secretary of state’ office into being appointed by the governor? If not, why not?

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Anyone that thinks that Tim Walz’s recent statements will help him get elected is kidding himself. Rep. Walz is a con artist. Those of us in Minnesota know that about Rep. Walz. According to this article, Rep. Walz said “The DNC wanted the message to be the ACA [Affordable Care Act] is working fine and don’t talk about the warts. I said I can’t do that because it’s failing my constituents in a lot of ways.”

Rep. Walz’s statement is transparent in that he’s a) voted for the ACA, b) criticized the AHCA and c) criticized the Senate Republicans’ health care bill. The thing is that Rep. Walz hasn’t lifted a finger to propose a solution that would fix the ACA. It’s one thing to whine about bills. It’s another thing to fix bills that are “failing my constituents in a lot of ways.” This is typical Democrat do-nothing complaining that don’t offer solutions.

I don’t know why Rep. Walz would make a statement like this while he’s running for governor. Saying that the ACA is failing his constituents in a lot of ways is a shortcut to alienating a huge part of the DFL primary voters. RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney-McDaniel criticized Democrats obstruction in this video:

Here’s what she said:

It’s unfortunate because people are suffering across the country. Let’s look at the evolution of this, they passed 30,000 pages of legislation without reading it. They said you could keep your doctor. They said you can keep your healthcare plan. They said it was going to be affordable, and none of that has been true. And now, premiums have doubled across the country, you have insurers pulling out of marketplaces. People are suffering and Democrats are sitting on their hands when they created this problem. Republicans are working together. We have reached out to them, we want them involved in the process. It is unfortunate they have obstructed every step of the way and they are not putting the American people first.

Tim Walz fits that description perfectly. He voted to create this crisis, then voted multiple times against fixing the problem. Here’s the video of Rep. Walz whining about the ACA without offering a solution to fixing it:

I can’t picture a way for Walz to win the DFL gubernatorial primary. Until now, he’d been predicted to be the DFL frontrunner. I’ve got to think that his criticisms of the ACA will hurt him with primary voters.

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Judge John Guthmann might’ve given Minnesotans a hint as to how he would eventually rule on the legislature’s lawsuit against Gov. Dayton. Judge Guthmann ordered the “state budget chief to take all steps necessary” to fund the legislature.

In issuing that order, Judge Guthmann said “Absent (temporary) relief, the public would be irreparably harmed through the deprivation of a basic constitutional right —a fully functioning Legislative Branch.” That sounds to me like Judge Guthmann is leaning in the legislature’s direction. Gov. Dayton’s attorneys had argued that the “Governor has explicit and unqualified authority under the Minnesota Constitution to veto any line item of appropriation. The Minnesota Constitution authorizes the Governor’s line-item vetoes, without any qualification as to the Governor’s subjective intent or purpose.”

In his ruling, Judge Guthmann said that “the public would be irreparably harmed” by being deprived “of a basic constitutional right – a fully functioning Legislative Branch.” I said earlier this week that the line-item veto was a tool that might be used to shape budgets. Further, I wrote that doesn’t compare in importance to depriving the people of a basic constitutional right to representation.

This lawsuit shouldn’t have been needed. Gov. Dayton should’ve signed last year’s tax relief package. Vetoing that bill demolished Gov. Dayton’s credibility. That veto led to the GOP legislature to play hardball with Gov. Dayton this year. Thankfully, this was the last budget session Republicans will have to deal with Gov. Dayton.

Frankly, Gov. Dayton’s last day can’t come soon enough.

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John Jasinski’s op-ed in the Owatonna newspaper is hard-hitting and to the point. The point that caught my eye the most was when Sen. Jasinski said “But the biggest problem is the precedent it sets: if the governor’s decision is allowed to stand, then every future governor will effectively be able to hold the Legislature or Supreme Court hostage until they get everything they want. Imagine a governor withholding funding to the courts over a ruling they didn’t like. Gov. Dayton’s veto has opened that door.”

Think of the power that precedent would give a (God forbid) Gov. Thissen or Gov. Erin Murphy. Minnesota would turn into an autocratic state almost immediately. Let’s remember that Rep. Thissen already verbally abused paid staffers. Imagine what he’d do if the courts ruled in Gov. Dayton’s favor and Thissen became governor. It’s a frightening thought.

Another of Sen. Jasinski’s points came when he said “We also won’t be able to have session, so every urgent project will face another year without funding. Want Highway 14 to get done? Thanks to the governor’s action, we won’t be able to provide any more money for it until 2019. That goes for any other road, bridge, or infrastructure project, or any law that needs to be fixed.”

Gov. Dayton’s latest temper tantrum essentially stops the state for 2 years, though you wouldn’t know it if you got your information from the Twin Cities media’s reporting:

Gov. Dayton agreed to this budget, including the tax relief. He intended to veto this tax package just like he vetoed the tax relief package he agreed to last year. Gov. Dayton even accused Republicans of “political blackmail.” If anyone’s playing political blackmail, it’s Gov. Dayton. He agreed to the budget. Now, he’s trying to get Republicans to renegotiate major parts of the tax relief package.

Thank God Gov. Dayton won’t preside over another budget session. Every group of taxpayers is paying more taxes. Minnesotans aren’t getting more services for those additional taxes, either. It’s time he retired and spent more time with his family.

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In his lawyers’ briefs, Gov. Dayton’s arrogance shines through in stunning, repulsive fashion. This article highlights both sides’ arguments.

Let’s start with the arguments that Gov. Dayton’s attorneys made. In their filing, Gov. Dayton’s attorneys said “The Governor has explicit and unqualified authority under the Minnesota Constitution to veto any line item of appropriation. The Minnesota Constitution authorizes the Governor’s line-item vetoes, without any qualification as to the Governor’s subjective intent or purpose.”

Technically, that’s true. Then again, no right is absolute. Each right must pass a balancing test. That’s why rights don’t come “without any qualification.” It’s arrogant for Gov. Dayton’s attorneys essentially argue that a governor’s right to shape appropriations through the governor’s line-item authority is more important than the people’s right to representation. The line-item veto is a budget tool, nothing more. If the line-item veto disappeared, governors would have one less tool to shape budgets. If the legislature disappeared, the people would lose their representation. It isn’t difficult to argue that the people Losing their right to representation is infinitely more important than giving governors an additional budget tool.

The Legislature’s argument is that “Without injunctive relief, Plaintiffs are unable to fulfill their constitutional obligations, will not be able to represent their constituents, and the People of the State of Minnesota are deprived of their constitutionally-mandated voice in the administration of their government.”

If Minnesota governors lost the line-item veto, they’d lose a budget-shaping tool. If the people lost their right to representation, democracy would immediately disappear. In filing their brief, Gov. Dayton’s attorneys are arguing against democracy. In filing their brief, the Legislature’s attorneys argue for full-throated democracy.

If the court get this one wrong, the judges that sided with Gov. Dayton should be immediately impeached and removed from office.

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