Chanting Points Memo: LGA Cuts Are Killing Minnesota! (Part 1)

I wrote about it yesterday:  the regional left wants to make Governor Pawlenty’s cuts to the “Local Government Aid” program a major issue in the campaign.

If there is any justice – and if Minnesotans can read numbers – it should backfire badly on the DFL.

I wrote yesterday about a piece in Twin Cities leftyblog MNPublius written by Jeff Rosenberg, which led:

As Tim Pawlenty tries to walk into the sunset, he’s got one small problem: He’s left Minnesotans a complete mess.

He went on to quote heavily from a WCCO TV report that showed how grievously cities around Minnesota are suffering because of Governor Pawlenty’s cuts to LGA.

We’ll address the “cuts” later in this series. 


But for today, let’s just talk history. 

“Local Government Aid” was a scheme hatched in the late sixties and early seventies.  There are really two ways to look at it:

“Political Welfare” – Just as “welfare” in its purest, most generally-accepted form seeks to put a safety net over the abyss of poverty, and “corporate welfare” tries to help businesses create jobs in communities that might not otherwise exist (often for good reason), LGA started out as welfare for cities; the state’s taxpayers would subsidize the less well-off parts of the state by redistributing wealth from the parts of the state that were prospering.  At that time, of course, it was the wealthy metro area  subsidizing relatively poor outstate Minnesota.  

But forty years of DFL mismanagement have turned the major cities – Minneapolis, Saint Paul and Duluth into fiscal basket cases; outstate Minnesota is holding its own; the suburbs, especially the Twin Cities’ booming southern and western ‘burbs, are absolutely booming.

And like the original intentions of the personal and corporate welfare systems, Minnesota’s political welfare system, Local Government Aid, has been perverted far outside its original scope.

Which means LGA really more closely resembles…

Money Laundering: Originally intended to give small, poor outstate governments and schools a hand, it now subsidizes DFL-dominated city governments to a vastly disproportionate degree.  And it allows those city governments to diffuse the accountability for their own wasteful, featherbedded spending.

Look at it this way:  A city spends 10 million dollars.  They want to spend fifteen million dollars.  What do you suppose is going to be an easier pill to shove down the city’s taxpayers’ throats?

  • A 50% hike in property taxes?
  • No change in property taxes, and a five million dollar subsidy gotten from the state’s three million taxpayers?

Because when you’re a politician, the best kind of accountability is the kind you fob off on someione else.

And while the DFL caterwauls about the losses that LGA cuts have supposedly inflicted on the cities, the numbers show a very, very different story;  LGA cuts have been far outstripped by property tax hikes.

More, including numbers – lots and lots of numbers – tomorrow.

Too Far

The Supreme Court of Minnesota (SCOM) sent Minnesota’s government into a tizzy a few weeks ago when they tossed Governor Pawlenty’ s unallotment – his legal line-item veto – of  billions in spending in the previous budget.

Via NewsQ, Senator Julianne Ortman says the SCOM swerved into activism in throwing out the unallotment – and the decision was based on politics:

In the courts’ analysis, and to justify their preferred result, they reasoned that the language of the [unallotment] statute was ambiguous. They implied a condition into the statute that didn’t exist, holding that unallotment may only be used after the Legislature and governor have already adopted a balanced budget.

Apparently Chief Justice Magnuson’s majority believed its decision would resolve the current disagreement between the governor and Legislature, but it had no such result. The 70-year-old statute was the agreed-upon method between Minnesota’s executive and legislative branches for resolving an impasse like the one we have just seen: the House and Senate DFL leadership could garner enough votes to pass a revenue-raising bill, but they could not muster enough votes to override the governor’s veto. The unallotment statute was one tool available for breaking an impasse — one that many disagreed with in these circumstances, to be sure, but a tool we cannot live without.

Members of Minnesota’s judicial branch should never have inserted their views into the issues between the political branches. These judges over-reached their own constitutional authority, which is restricted by the Separation of Powers Clause, Article III, Section 1, which provides that no branch can usurp or diminish the role of another branch.

Our system is such that there  could be consequences…:

If his actions were heavy-handed or overly political, voters in the next election could hold accountable those who supported his actions. If voters agreed, as I did, that the governor’s use of unallotment was absolutely necessary in response to our state’s historic economic and financial crisis, then they could act accordingly in 2010. Instead, the court got political.

Which would involve people – and the media – paying attention to what the SCOM does.

Just A Hunch

I got the strangest sensation last week.  I haven’t had this sensation in the longest time.  Maybe a brief flash in 2000, but it wasn’t quite the same thing.

The DFL realizes that they’ve got nothing.

The Strib referenced Ben Smith in Politico this morning, saying that…:

Pawlenty appears to have run the table on the Democratic majorities in both of the houses of the legislature, forcing them to drop plans for new surcharges and scrap their top priority, an expansion of federal and state-funded health care for some of the state’s poor. They also enacted spending cuts that a court recently ruled Pawlenty could not make himself.

He will complete his two-term tenure at the end of this year having fulfilled his pledge not to raise taxes, with his approval ratings in positive territory, and having largely avoided the pragmatic compromises that often bedevil governors in polarized party primaries. His success gives him the accomplishments to match his conservative rhetoric, and set a high bar for other ambitious governors facing budget crises of their own in this lean year.

“We have some pretty clear values and principles in mind that we adhere to and when it relates to those core values and principles we don’t compromise on,” Pawlenty told POLITICO in an interview Monday after what he said was two hours of sleep on each of the two previous nights. “When it comes to issues around the role of government taxes and amounts of spending and other things, those are core values and principles by which we set our compass, and we stay strongly on that course and we battle.”

It’s a good piece.  You should read the whole thing. 

Perhaps the crux is right here; Pawlenty seems to have aversion-trained the DFL:

“Democrats have always known that a tax increase means a veto. As a result, there has been a grudging acceptance among Democrats that any package negotiated with the governor will not include tax increases,” Nelson said.

And this put the last piece into the (possibly completely-spurious) puzzle.  Maybe it’s just me, of course – but over the course of the past few weeks, it feels as if the Minnesota DFL has run out of gas.  They seem tired, like a boxer that’s gone a few rounds too many – as, in the legislature, they have, squandering four straight legislatures of prohibitive majorities but getting turned back by Governor Pawlenty at every juncture.

And if you’re a DFLer, after having beaten your head against a wall for four different sessions, culminating in agreeing to spending cuts that the Minnesota Supreme Court had just sent back from unallotment – snatchign political defeat from the jaws of a dubious legal victory – what do you have to look forward to?

A summer duking it out in a primary between a failed Speaker of the House, a former Senator that’s a laughingstock of the entire nation, and a former State senator who’s a pariah in his own party (not to mention Tom Horner who, ostensible former affiliations aside, is a moderate Democrat in policy terms, and who will draw away many, many more DFL than GOP votes). 

And when you pick from among those three deeply-uninspiring choices, you’ll stepping out into a hurricane; a GOP candidate not only at the head of an energized party out for four years of payback, but well-sited to bring in a huge chunk of the “Tea Party” vote.

It’s showing in a lot of ways; the DFL is skulking quietly away from the debris of the budget session tossing a few pro forma “Cold Omahas” and “we deserve betters” around; their big response to the Emmer campaign so far is to chant that he’s an extremist and to avoid any actual discussion comparing policy like a vampire avoiding sunlight.

Politics is cyclical; being a Democrat today must feel a bit like being a Republican (as distinct from a conservative) in, say, 2006; out of energy, out of ideas, needing a huge intellectual jumpstart.  Oh, they’ll pull something together for the campaign, but you can practically feel the fatigue.

 It won’t last forever, of course.

Not that we can’t try.

It’s Paté. Honest.

A political consultant’s main job, if you think about it, is to try to convince as many people as possible that a crap sandwich is really made out of paté and bread.

We’ll come back to that.

The weekend’s big brouhaha in re the Minnesota state budget was over the proposal to dump low-income Minnesotans from our own state system into Obamcare, so that Minnesota could cover more able-bodies single adults, among many other budgetary issues.

Pawlenty held tough.

So, as a matter of fact, did GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer (with emphasis added by me):

First of all, we should be grateful to Governor Pawlenty for once again protecting Minnesota families and businesses from tax increases. Economic recovery in Minnesota will come faster because we had the strength to hold the line on taxes.

But any recovery will be stopped in its tracks if the next governor “opts in” to Obamacare early by enrolling thousands of Minnesotans onto the federal health care roll at irresponsibly high costs, ignoring Minnesota’s nation-leading reforms in health care delivery.

With this deal, the next governor will have that power. I am announcing today I will not use it if elected this November. I also challenge my opponents (including Speaker Kelliher, who pushed for this power in closed-door negotiations) to tell Minnesotans where they stand on this issue immediately.

Emmer, in fact, voted “no” on this shift.

Now, let’s return to that opening thought about political consultants.

Tom Horner, the former “Republican” consultant, is running for governor under the “Independence” Ventura Party banner.  He released this statement:

The budget deal negotiated by the Legislature and Governor Pawlenty is a reflection of Tom Emmer’s Minnesota with the DFL leadership’s seal of approval…Instead of facing up to the hard choices, legislators have created a budget deficit that will be as much as $9 billion in the first year of the new governor’s term. 

In other words, “It’s paté!”.

Seriously – while the DFL is chanting “Horner is going to take votes away from Republicans”, read this…:

Minnesota needs a goverrnor who is willing to make the hard choices to honestly balance the budget and invest in job creation, education and innovation, even if that means the next governor only serves one term. That’s the commitment I’m making. Emmer and Kelliher have made it clear that their political futures are more important than Minnesota’s economic future.Could Minnesota’s current budget have been balanced honestly and without gimmicks? Absolutely, but the process had to start at the beginning of this legislative session, not in the 11th hour. A balanced budget would include revenue from broadening the sales tax base; repealing some of the $11 billion in tax expenditures that go mainly to the wealthy; and, increasing the tobacco tax. A Racino would raise additional dollars while giving Minnesotans who gamble the security of casinos that are publicly regulated.

…and show me a Republican who actually belongs in the party – someone who favors limited government, prosperity, low taxes – who would vote for any of this…


Things Go Better With Talk

Today, the Northern Alliance Radio Network brings you the best in Minnesota conservatism from 9AM-3PM.

  • Volume I “The First Team” –  Brian and John or some combination thereof kick off from 11-1.
  • Volume II “The Headliner”Ed and I follow from 1-3PM Central.  Today we’ll be interviewing Governor Pawlenty in the 1PM hour, and GOP-endorsed gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer in the second hour.   Tune in pronto!
  • The King Banaian Show! – King is on from 9-11 on AM1570, Business Radio for the Twin Cities!  We’re broadening the franchise; two stations, now!
  • And for those of you who like your constitutionalism straight up with no chaser, don’t forget the Sons of Liberty, from 3-5!

(All times Central)

So tune in to all six hours of the Northern Alliance Radio Network, the Twin Cities’ media’s sole guardians of sanity. You have so many options:

  • AM1280 in the Metro
  • streaming at AM1280’s Website,
  • On Twitter (the Volume 2 show will use hashtag #narn2)
  • UStream video and chat (at or at UStream).
  • Podcast at Townhall, usually by Monday
  • Good ol’ telephone – 651-289-4488!
  • And make sure you fan us on Facebook!

Join us!

All Hail The King!

The DFL on Monday voted for an epic tax hike (disguised, per usual, as negotiation) in the middle of an epic recession/depression.

The answer – the real answer, anyway – is to toss every single DFLer responsible for this vote out this November.

My friend and longtime radio colleague King Banaian is trying to do just that up in House District 15B in Saint Cloud, against Larry “Haw” Haws.   King responds to his opponent’s vote for the tax hike (emphasis added):

“Last night my opponent voted to increase taxes on small businesses and what he considers wealthy Minnesotans,” Banaian said. “The last Economic Update from the Finance Department cited consumer confidence and sentiment being ‘mired’ at low levels and ‘lingering employment concerns, slow wage growth, and tight credit are likely to inhibit household spending until 2011.’ Even if you believe Minnesotans don’t pay enough, this is a terrible time to raise taxes.”

“But we do pay enough. The DFL bill that Rep. Haws voted for would give Minnesota the 4th highest marginal tax rate in the country on incomes of $200,000. Higher rates in California have done nothing to cure their budget problems. Why does Larry Haws think this is a good example to emulate?”

“The answer to every DFL problem is to look at small businesses as an ATM from which they can cover their need for more money. They have enough; the real need in Minnesota is to reduce spending, not raise taxes. Rep. Haws had the opportunity to balance the budget by ratifying Governor Pawlenty’s spending reductions but voted against that. When I get to St. Paul, we will set priorities that do not ask already-generous Minnesotans for more,” Banaian concluded.

Or as another conservative candidate might say, we need to stick the budget in a vise and “drill baby, drill”‘.

I’ll await word from the Strib on exactly how King’s position is “extreme”.

(Via Gary @ LFR)

RINO By Association?

I peeled this bit out of my liveblog, since I think it’s worth a discussion on its own.

One of the tempests in the teapot last night; a group of “liberty” members of the party were tweeting merrily away that Norm Coleman and that noted moderate Vin Weber were making phone calls on behalf of Tom Emmer.  Now, among the purist/libertarian wing of the party, Norm (and Pawlenty, for that matter) are anathema, because they’re just not pure enough.

Of course, absolute purism and fifty cents will get you a cup of coffee; politics means compromise.  Did Norm and Governor Pawlenty always make the right compromises?  Perhaps not – but you have to be in office to be have an imperfect record.

But here’s a question I’d like to ask (if only rhetorically) to the “Emmer’s a RINO because Norm’s calling for him crowd”; which of Norm’s objectionable policies do you believe Emmer subscribes to, merley because Norm is making calls on his behalf?

Or is this just the most ofay attempt at guilt by association – policy by association, really – that I’ve ever seen?

Feel free to leave an answer in the comments.

Liveblogging The Convention, Day 2

4:58 – Seifert announced his retirement.  I say he runs for CD7 if Byberg doesn’t win.  I think it’s a swell idea.

4:55 – I was back on the floor casting my ballot when Seifert conceded.  Incredible class act.

Emmer is on stage now – it took me that long to get back to the press pit.

He’s speaking now. Great acceptance.

Only real question – how many “angry white male” references will the press and leftyblogs snif about?

4:40 – Results in:

  • One “No Endorsement”
  • Three Undecided
  • 22 Blank
  • Seifert – 876 (43.8%)
  • Emmer – 1118 (56%)

Needs 1199 to endorse.  Seating for third ballot.  Back in a flash.

4:33 – Second ballot results coming out – after Carol Molnau!

4:21 – Still waiting.  Whip count says Emmer up 2-3 votes in CD4.  We’ll see.

3:35 – Change in the report d/t computation error:  Emmer 52.6, Seifert 42.5 is the new official count.

Next ballot now.  Heading to the floor.

3:00 – First ballot results are final:  53-43 Emmer. Herwig, Haas and Davis are off the ballot (none got more than percent, by my count).    Emmer is currently 126 votes shy of the endorsement.  Fifteen minutes til the next ballot.  Bill Haas is coming back to the stage.

Haas has, as I (verbally) predicted, tossed his votes to Seifert.  All 26 of them.

Now Leslie Davis – with six votes – is on stage.  “Rivvizend stakely cash more excusiwavbay.  Yatukka wiveabengay, extortinga file cuz he cknows I’m here”.  No endorsement.

Herwig up next:  Throws his votes, also, to Seifert.  36 of them.

2:56 – Reading results.  Seifert just topped 40% as we plod thorugh the Eighth district – so we’ll definitely have a second ballot.

2:47 – They’re still reading results.  We’ve been through CDs 1,2,4,5 and 6; Emmer is up by a bit, but the 7 and 8 should  both be strong for Seifer.

2:29 – I just got back off the floor, after the usual irritating rules squabbles.  They’re reporting votes a BPOU at a time.


Scoop here:  CD4 hasn’t reported yet, but Emmer took the 4th by 89 to 60 out of 152 allowed ballots.  That’s a better ratio than he had at the CD4 convention.

1:27 – I’m told Davis said if he’s not endorsed, we face “unparalleled misery”.  Let’s just say he’s not got the crowd wrapped around his finger.

1:17 – I’m sorry – it’s actually Leslie Davis.

1:16 – Michael Savage is onstage now.  He’s not close enough to the mike.  First Ringer; “someone didn’t take their non-drowsy pill”.  Hard to hear him.

:14 – Bill C, out on the floor, says it looks like Emmer 3:2.  Chad the Elder says he figured 60-40.  Mark Buesgens says three ballots – but then that’s his job as a campaign leader.

1:10 – Leo Pusatieri tweets “Larry Haas makes Phil Herwig look absolutely dynamic”.  Sad to say, it’s true.

12;56 – Haas on stage now.  Alone.  No organization.  Halting speech.  Gotta be tough to follow Emmer and Seifert’s shows…

Chad the Elder wonders “what makes someone carry on a campaign like this?  No chance, no support…is it ego?  Or what?”  I note that Haas has an actual track record of implementing conservative principles in government.  First Ringer – “He’s the credible fringe candidate”.

12:55 – Larry Colson says the Emmer floor demonstration says crowd feels like 55-45 Emmer.  Floor demo passion looked way in Emmer’s favor.

12:52 – Emmer floor demonstration carrying on.  I’m gonna say it looks like Tom has a slight edge.

12:50 – Emmer shoots fireworks as he leaves stage.  Good thing they didn’t play “Once Bitten Twice Shy”.

12:49 – “Say yes to lower taxes, to leave more money in the pockets of people who earn it!”

12:45 – Shouting out to Annette Meeks – “She literally wrote the book on conservative government”.

12:44 – Emmer talking now.  Kevin Ecker thinks crowd looks 55-45 Emmer.  We’ll know soon enough.

12:32:  Seifert left stage with his mass of supporters.  Emmer video running now.  Or is it Leslie Davis? No, it’s Emmer.  Trying to count the duelling crowds is difficult.

Emmer hitting on the family thing – seven kids.

Hitting on principles.

First Ringer has joined me on bloggers row.  “Vote for Emmer or the kids get it”.

Video ends with tagline – “now’s the time to be done with politicians as usual.

Brian Sullivan on stage to give the nomination.

12:15 – Browser crashes hard jus tin time for Phil Krinkie to introuce Marty Seifert.  Marty on stage now.  His organizaiton is showing, for better (boots on floor) and worse (all those frankly dumb hit pieces).   He’s hittting his rural roots hard.  Not sure if that’s a big winning tack in a year with statewide issues uniting us all.  We shall see.

12:05 -And still talking.

11:55 – Snuck away to a standup with Michele Bachmann.  She is studiously avoiding endorsing anyone.

11:45 – Phil Herwig is talking.

11:44 – Rumor has it that someone “really big” is going to introduce Emmer.  Rumor is passing around that there’ a “higher degree of security” than for, say, a congressperson.  There’s talk of Palin, but nothing is confirmed.  Pure rumor mill.

11:34 – Kolls – “Anyone ready to endorse a governor?”  Huge round of applause. Hopes up…

…but all we get is a credentials report.  Still – almost time to head back to the floor to vote.

11:05 – Governor Pawlenty is on stage now.  “Fortunate Son” is the song.  I’m waiting for some leftyblogger to mewl about the “irony” of it, understanding neither the term nor the song…

He opens by thanking the First Lady.  Drew a huge round of applause.

“Ironic that we’re meeting here just a few weeks after “tax day” – or as Democrats call it, “Christmas”.  Hammering on Dems’ spending mania.   “Bailouts – 700 billion.  Increase in deficit – 2 trillion.  Republicans elected in November – priceless”.

Notes that he’s the only governor in the US to sign concealed carry…twice.  “More people have been killed by the Hiawatha Light Rail line than concealed carry!”

Good speech to a friendly crowd; his last as governor, as he noted.

10:48 – Chip Cravaack – endorsed candidate in CD8 – talks.  He’s a former Navy helo pilot.  Dan Severson is a former F18 pilot.  Funny how the Dems have shut up about how important it was that Republicans serve in the military than in 2008, when Steve Sarvi and Ashwin Madia’s service was a dispositive sign of incontestible virtue.

10:35 – I’m back in the Press Pit.  I plan on dividing my time pretty widely about the place today; I’ll be doing some media, blogging, and occasionally sprinting back to 66B to vote – whenever we get around to it.

I had the pleasure of meeting Rep. Mark Buesgens in the walkway between the Party platform and the Press Pit.  Had a great chat with him; he’s an occasional SITD reader (thanks, Mark!), and he notes that bloggers play a vital role; “peole have been getting dumbed down for too long; blogs make people think!”.  I’m flattered.

Looks Like We’re Gonna Need A New Attorney General

Attorney General Lori Swanson has declined the Governor’s request to join the states sueing to stop Obamacare:

She pointed out in her letter to him that Pawlenty can always file his own friend-of-the-court brief to side with the states fighting the law.

That prompted this response from Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung: “Governor Pawlenty intends to participate in this litigation.” He refused to comment on whether the governor would file a friend-of-the-court brief supporting lawsuits filed by other states, hire his own lawyer or participate in some other way. “We are going to consider our options,” McClung said in an e-mail.

Hopefully that option includes finding someone to run for Attorney General to get the statist fossil Swanson out of there.

Yes, I said statist:

In rejecting the call for Minnesota to file a lawsuit, Swanson, in a written opinion, said Congress has wide latitude to pass laws to tax and spend and to regulate interstate commerce.

“Health care — which comprises over one-sixth of our country’s economy — substantially affects interstate commerce,” Swanson said. “The United States government has been involved for years in many aspects of health care, including Medicare and Medicaid.

“Interstate Commerce” has been the trojan horse that’s enabled the socialization and overregulation of far too much of our economies and lives, ever since FDR’s administration essentially repealed the Tenth Amendment seventy years ago.

Now we know what side Lori Swanson is on.

So we got any lawyers out there, MNGOP?

The Endless Chain Of What-Ifs

One of the big political “stories” last week was the “threat” letter sent to thirty-odd US state governors, including Governor Pawlenty.

The City Pages’ “Blotter”  caught part of the “story’s” big problem;

[The putative senders’] agenda: “The Restore America Plan is a bold achievable strategy for behind-the-scenes peaceful reconstruction of the de jure institutions of government without controversy, violence or civil war.”

The letter’s message: Resign in three days, or we’re coming to get you.

Big whoop, Pawlenty told the AP.

And as much as I’ve bagged on the sloppy, trite, meaningless nature of most of the post-Steve-Perry City Pages existence, it’s here that they do a bit of due diligence that most of the rest of the Twin Cities media would have done well to emulate; they did some checking – or, to be accurate, they quoted some people who had some some checking:

And maybe with good reason. Mother Jones magazine traced the group’s Web site owner via a readily-available Internet domain search engine:

Turns out and are registered to one Clive Boustred of Soquel, California–a British-educated former South African soldier with an apparent knack for “anti-terrorist warfare,” computer consulting, and conspiracy theorizing. The sites–and the “group”–appear not to have existed before he registered them, about two months ago.

In other words, “Guardians of the Free Republic” are no more a “movement” than, say, “Citizens for a Supine “Safer” Minnesota”.

So kudos to the City Pages; they didn’t buy the hype.

Which is more than we can say for much of the media.  I tuned into National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” last Friday.  And Saturday.  They carried the story with breathless credulity, noting that an FBI agent had noted that the “real threat” wasn’t so much from GotFR, but from  people who “might” be inspired to copy them, or follow through on the “Threat”. 

In other words, according to a chunk of the media and Barack Obama’s government, the opposition to President Obama is loaded with people who’d just loooove to start tossing governors from office without waiting for elections.

Which is, again, the meme we were talking about last week; the Administration, media and left’s (pardon the rare and difficult triple-redundancy) are trying to portray all dissent from Obama as teetering on the edge of extralegal depravity.

Who Says Cutting Taxes Can’t Help

Among the DFL’s “Happy To Pay For A Better Minnesota”-chanting clacque, you rarely see much sympathy for tax cuts; suffice to say that once Obamacare kicks in, we won’t see any for a long, long time.

But when it comes time to try to save jobs, suddenly, even the hardest-core DFLers get religion; Governor Pawlenty just signed a series of tax exemptions intended to try to keep the Saint Paul Ford plant open.  The plant is scheduled to close next year; the law would incent Ford to retrofit the very old plant to build vehicles other than the Ranger pickup.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, who’s often been at odds with Gov. Tim Pawlenty over cuts in state aid to cities, applauded the governor for signing the bill later this morning.

Said the mayor:

“This legislation gives Saint Paul the means to do our part in protecting the workers at the Ford Plant. As Ford continues to look at their options, this bill stands as evidence that the City of Saint Paul, and its world class workforce, are ready to work with them in any way we can to keep this plant open.”

That’s right, Mayor Coleman.  Just imagine how many businesses would come to Saint Paul if all our taxes were lower!

Les Lucht, a good friend and Ford employee, writes at Ademocracy to thank everyone involved:

Little background on the plant is over 90 years old, The machines are over 25 to 30 years old.
It would cost about 1 billion to clean up the site. And the City and State will lose more than 90 millions dollars in taxes. Beside other business nearby will close additional taxes loss of one to two millions in loss of taxes. Plus another 750 unemployed employees, loss of more tax dollars.

Southern state have got federal aid to get job there. mainly auto companies. And to keep them.

I’m opposed to state subsidies on principle, and a tax cut that Peter gets but Paul doesn’t is pretty much a selective subsidy.  But Lucht is right; the market for big auto plants is like the market for stadiums; governments at all levels have skewed the market by being in the game so very deeply.

Can Minnesota Shoot Itself In The Foot?

Over at Minnesota “Progressive” Project, a writer named “MNBearBud” plaintively asks “Can Minnesota Elect a Bold Progressive Governor in 2010?

It’s a mash note for

As I have been helping out at a couple different DFL Conventions in the past couple weeks I have been hearing something that kind of disturbs me. The following quote is a paraphrase of several like it that I have heard.  “Minnesota is not ready for a bold progressive Governor, we need a nice slow moderate progressive.”  

I find this remark to be quite interesting given the present state of affairs with Gov. Tim Pawlenty running what used to be a great Minnesota right into the ground.

[So far “into the ground” that our unemployment rate is better than most of the nation in the midst of the Great Depression “Recession”.  But I digress – Ed.]

Our State Legislator can pass progressive bills, but they get stopped in their tracks by the Governor’s office. This is exactly what happened with GAMC. Yet, as much as people want progressive change, there are those who think that a bold progressive guy like John Marty just cannot be elected Governor. I am going to the State Convention as an alternate delegate for John Marty and I stand by that decision.  

The plea is something I hear from a lot of “progressives”; “why can’t we have another Elmer Anderson or Floyd Olson, and have him now?”

Well, the answer is simple.  No, Minnesota will not have a bold “progressive” governor this go-around.

Here’s why:

  • The term is wrong.  “Progressivism” isn’t progress; it’s statism.  It’s glopping the deadening morass of government onto the life of our state.  I know – I’m nitpicking terminology.  I’m doing it for a good reason.  “Progressivism” as practiced by the MNDFL isn’t progress; it’s back to the thirties.
  • But language-nerd nit-picking aside, sure – it’s possible a “progressive” might get elected.  The conventional wisdom tells us that a conservative just can not win the governor’s race in Minnesota this year.  Just like the conventional wisdom said that Skip Humphrey and Roger Moe would win the governor’s race, that Erik Paulsen ran too far to the right to win the Third, and that Michele Bachmann’s goose was cooked in 2008.  So it’s possible that a “progressive” might win the gubernatorial race. 
  • But if he or she does, he or she will not be “bold”.  He or she will be fighting hard to float an agenda, because the MNGOP is going to either take back a chamber this year, or come very close.  The progressive will likely be a fairly timid one, by necessity.
  • And while I said above that it’s “possible” the DFL could win this year, that’s just prudency beating optimism.  The GOP, even in this most miasmically-blue state, has a tailwind this year.  Obama is chasing the independents away from the left, although Twin Cities liberals, stricken with Pauline Kael syndrome, might not see it in their daily lives.   The DFL field – Marty, R.T. Rybak, Mark Dayton, Tom Rukavina, Margaret Anderson-Keliher, Paul Thissen, and Matt Entenza – are the people behind our serial multi-billion-dollar deficits, borne of the DFL’s extended orgy of irresponsible spending.  Their answer – heap more taxes on the peasants to keep the lords in Saint Paul fat and happy – is flying with fewer and fewer Minnesotans.  And both GOP candidates are not only well-placed to ride that wave, but one of them will be on the ground, running at the head of a newly-energized MNGOP and tens of thousands of newly-minted tax hawks in the Tea Party movement, during the first week of May, while the Minnesota  “Nude Thugs In The Shower” party will face three months of duking it out until the primary (because the DFL party endorsement, other than in great Democrat years like ’06 and ’08, is a traditional kiss of death).   Will it be enough to put “the Conventional Wisdom” to the pike yet again?  We’ll see.
  • And just look at the Nude Thug lineup:  Marty? Rybak? Dayton?  Rukavina?  Anderson-Kelliher?  Thissen? Tom “Baby Got” Bakk?  Entenza?  I’m sure there’s a genetic engineering project out there that might be working on building a less-interesting, less-inspirational person than any of these, but scientists say results are years away. And the DFL is melting down almost as fast as the national Tic party is; four years of being unable to overcome the leadership of a lone governor has made them ornery and peevish.  And ornery and peevish don’t win elections.  But the DFL message, no matter which DFLer burbles to the top, is going to be “I’ll spend more, I’ll raise taxes more, and I hated Governor Pawlenty more still!”  I don’t think that’s going to be a winner this year.
So no.  Minnesota might end up in November with a tax-hiking, free-spending, purple-jacketed DFL drone in the Governor’s mansion this fall (although I and an awful lot of Republicans will be working overtime to prevent that) – but he or she will not be “bold”.  He

Rhetorical Paxil

Dave Mindemann sounds depressed:

I wonder if Pawlenty even wants to help anybody. He doesn’t care about the poor…we got that loud and clear. He’s playing games with the bonding bill, which means he is in no hurry to help with jobs. He reversed himself on climate change, which means he doesn’t give a rip anymore about the environment.

Let’s see, where to start?  The Minnesota taxpayer already pays for some of the best benefits in the United States, so much so that they attract people to move here.  There is plenty of wiggle room downward.

The bonding bill was larded with pork, and “cared about” mostly government jobs and swag for the construction unions.

And lots of people are reversing themselves on “climate change“; indeed, pretty soon the remaining Warmers will be like those Japanese soldiers who held out in the jungle for thirty years because they refused to believe Hirohito would ever surrender.

So buck up, little camper. Governor Pawlenty cares about all us poor schmuck taxpayers (remmeber us?) who are already getting sucked dry by our wortheless, spendthrift cities and counties.

Glad we could settle that.

The Fiscal Monkey On Our Backs

I’m willing to go back and forth with people who favor the so-called “high-tax, high service” model of government.

“Mighty big of ya, Berg!”

Well, no – that’s how democracy works; we each go out and plug for our various positions, and at the end of the day some sort of compromise gets reached.  One of the ways we plug for our positions it to nominate, endorse and vote for candidates that reflect our positions; the more of them we get into office, the more amenable the final compromise will be to “we”. 

Now, the pr0-tax, pro-“service” crowd has two conceits that not only drive me nuts, but really make rational debate about taxes, spending and “services” impossible.

  • The “Happy to Pay for a Better Minnesota” meme.  It was a sign that started popping up around Minnesota back about the time Governor Pawlenty started cutting Local Government Aid to balance the budget (when the legislature couldn’t do it).  I won’t say “the meme is dumb” – but it is misleading.   It has little to do with paying for a “better Minnesota”; it’s all about making sure government never, never does without.
  • The “If you oppose taxes, you support firing cops and letting the streets go unplowed” meme.  It frames the argument so that by opposing any government spending – $50,000 drinking fountains, overlapping “Human Rights” departments, green roofs, yellow bikes, city trash collection – you oppose all government spending.  It’s a fairly childish manipulation.

The issue, by the way – for everyone on the right except perhaps the most anarchic of libertarians – is not “all government or no government”.  It’s “make sure that people come before government when doling out fiscal security”. 

Which bothers the tax and spend crowd, for whom all well-being seems to come through gobvernment. 

Dave Mindemann at mnpACT seems to have gotten his mellow harshed by a GOP flyer questioning some spending proposals:

There is a flyer floating around Eagan this past week. It is prepared and paid for by the Republican Party of Minnesota as an “independent expenditure”. The one I got hold of is directed at Senator Jim Carlson….it says;




Senator Jim Carlson is wasting your tax dollars on these items in the DEBT BILL?

–$2 million for the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

–$11 million for the Como Zoo Gorilla & Polar Bear Upgrade

–$15 million for the St. Paul Ordway

–$22 million for the Minneapolis Planetarium

Call Senator Carlson today….It’s time to end Wasteful Government Spending!

 Now, we know that’ll act on Dave Mindemann – who, I think it’s fair to say, favors a “high tax, high spendign, high “Service”” model of goverhment – like a red cape in front of a bull. 

So, this is the Republican definition of waste? We apparently shouldn’t keep up the cultural and affordable family venue part of our economy? If we are not going to maintain the Como Zoo, then scrap it. I want the Republicans to go on the record. They want Como Zoo to be torn up and plowed under. Give the animals away. Sell the land and tell everyone that this free family venue is no longer worth the bother.

Someone get the lad some smelling salts and tell him to get a grip.

I live in Saint Paul. I’ve taken my kids to Como many, many times.  It’s one of Saint Paul’s little hidden treasures – and it’s a freebie!  It’s a freebie because of me, the Saint Paul taxpayer!  The walkways, the veterinarian, the food they throw to the seals – I pay for it!  So I feel not the slightest compunction about taking my kids there; I did my part.  I agree to do my part of it, every time I pay my Saint Paul property tax bill, among many many others (including state and federal taxes). 

But the appropriation in question isnt’ one to run the whole zoo; it’s to remodel the Gorilla and Polar Bear exhibits.  Not “run the zoo or tear it down”. 

To call the issue “remodel the gorilla/polar bear facilities or tear down the zoo” is inflammatory, obtuse and, worse, dishonest.

And at a time when Minnesota and Saint Paul are hurting (largely due to the profligacy of the DFL-controlled legislature), would it kill the polar bears and gorillas to wait a year or two, in their utterly adequate current facilities?

Ditto with the other line items in the flyer.  The Sculpture Garden and the Ordway are all built, paid for, and running just fine with what they have.   They could use some upgrades, sure – what couldn’t?  The Planetarium is a little different – it would replace a perfectly good planetarium torn down when Minneapolis built its boondoggle of a Central Library.  But do they each need millions from the public coffers in mid-recession?

Make the Ordway take care of itself. Let those ticket prices skyrocket out of reach for the average Minnesotan.

One wonders if Mindemann has tried to take a family to the Ordway lately.  Ticket prices are out of reach for a helluvva lot of Minnesotans.

And as for the Minneapolis Planetarium? …Not surprising these days, but as a person very interested in astronomy, it is a shame that Minnesota can’t support an educational opportunity like this.

A “person very interested in astromomy” might also note that the Twin Cities has several other planetaria – from the U of M to Como High School 0-  that should be able to bridge the gap until it’s make economic sense, perhaps, to replace the old Minneapolis one.

And, again, the issue isn’t “appropriate the money now or do without forever“; it’s “maybe these are appropriations that can wait until we’re not in a freaking recession.

Yessir, we need to get that 10 ton gorilla out of the room all right, except it is not at Como. That gorilla is Republican hypocrisy and it resides quite visibly at the Capitol in St. Paul.

 The only primate in the room is the howler monkey that’s shrieking “give us our money or tear everything down!”.

Someone call animal control.

Much Ado By Association

I’ve spent much of the life of this blog – eight years, now – railing against the evils of smearing by association. 

It’s a particularly slimy tactic in the hands of the not-very-bright, on all sides of the putative political aisle.  Being a conservative, I bag on particularly egregiously stupid examples from the left (like this, that, the other thing, this, and of course this), but of course it’s not limited to a party.  Much.

Still, there are those from whom we expect better.  Or like to think we do.

Erik Black at the MinnPost – the dean of Minnesota political reporters (or, I guess, one of a classroom full of deans, once you add in Pat Kessler, Mary LaHammer and Bill Salisbury), makes noises about also rejecting the whole stupid game in this piece about the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which Governor Pawlenty will be attending:

In February, Gov. Tim Pawlenty will take his undeclared campaign for the Republican presidential nomination back to Washington, D.C., for the Conservative Political Action Conference. CPAC, as it is always called, is a  major annual gathering of conservatives and an opportunity for Repub candidates and might-be candidates to strut their stuff before various elements of the party base (although CPAC, which is put on by the American Conservative Union, is technically non-partisan).

Among the co-sponsors of the conference one finds a name one hasn’t heard much since the mid-20th century — the John Birch Society. As a refugee from that century, I can tell you that when your mom and I were kids the “Birchers” (I use the term I grew up using and mean no offense by it) were a leading symbol of right-wing extremism.

Of course, “right wing extremism” is a term that’s more or less lost all meaning, largely because of the efforts of the news media of which Eric Black has been a part for his entire working life.  I joke about it; “if a fiscal-conservative socially-libertarian constitutional originalist orders a pizza in the woods and no liberal is there to hear him, is he still an extremist?”, I ask, constantly, when people refer on the left and in the media (pardon, as always, the redundancy) to everyone from Tom Tancredo to (this makes me mildly dizzy) Tim Pawlenty as “extremists”. 

But Black, being all responsible, rejects the whole stupid game.

Or…does he?

So this is an obvious set-up to play the always popular “dissociate yourself” card. Under the rules of that card game, everyone involved in CPAC (including Pawlenty, as a speaker) has to repudiate the Birchers or be tainted by association with the most extreme thing the group ever said or did. It’s fun and easy to play (see Barack Obama and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright) but also stupid and demeaning (ibid). A letter-writer to the Strib played the card early this week, asserting that Pawlenty’s attendance would amount to an endorsement of Bircher views.

Well, so far, so good – although I think it’s fair to observe that the MinnPost is no better than the rest of the left-leaning mainstream media at focusing attention on the right’s fringe players; the nutcase with the racist sign at the Tea Party, the stars-‘n-bars-flying redneck at the Second Amendment rally, the Tenth Amendment’s long-dead associations with slave-owners-rights.

But Black is better than that.  Isn’t he?

I actually did inquire of the spokester for Pawlenty’s undeclared campaign whether the governor might want to comment on whether his willingness to speak at an event co-sponsored by the John Birch Society implied any association between his views and theirs, but the calls and emails (over several days) received no reply.

And why would that be?  Because Black works for an organization that is pretty up-front about working for the “enemy?”  Or merely because the very question is, to quote Black himself in the context of this very issue, “stupid and demeaning?”

Still, I cannot bring myself to play the card.

Am I overly cynical, or do I detect a silent, implied “when did the Governor stop beating his wife?” in Black’s repudiation of the whole “stupid, demeaning” issue?

Because if there is no story there – if there is no evidence throughout Pawlenty’s career of any sympathy, overt or otherwise, for the Birchers – then why write about it at all?

I was surprised and interested to learn that the John Birch Society was still in business. But, as this recent NYTimes where-are-they-now feature indicates, they are still kicking, based in Grand Chute, Wis., (near Appleton, Oshkosh, Green Bay), still believing in what its leaders call a satanic conspiracy to take over the world.


So what?

Black gives a brief lesson on the history of the Birchers – they’re anti-UN, anti-Communist, and have espoused some pretty wacky things over the decades – and then cuts to what passes for his chase:

So, back to the present. If Tim Pawlenty wants to be president, he certainly must say what he thinks the U.S. relationship to the U.N. should be, but he doesn’t have to start from any particular that he agrees with the long-standing JBS position just because he spoke at a conference co-sponsored by the JBS.

Right.  Especially since “sponsorship” is a come-one, come-all thing, as opposed to an implication that a “sponsor” has any special ideological traction:

Of course, Pawlenty is no more implicated in JBS’s beliefs than any of the many other speakers, which includes other leading undeclared presidential candidates such as Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich. Mike Huckabee was scheduled but has canceled. Sarah Palin was invited but has declined. The current list of speakers, co-sponsors and exhibitors is available here.


So – the story is…what?  That no candidate needs to apologize for being at an event sponsored (in tiny measure) by a splinter group that nobody’s taken seriously since the Johnson Administration?

Why, that’d be like saying that one needn’t discount the opinion of Mark Dayton, Margaret Anderson-Kelliher, Steve Kelley, John Marty and Taryll Clark even though none of them have renounced the activities of International ANSWR (who are involved in much left-wing agitation), since none of them have expressly shown sympathy for America’s last Stalinist fringe group.  It’d be another “why did you stop beating your wife” moment.

Pawlenty needs to improve on that showing more than he needs to repudiate the John Birch Society, but he really needs to return my calls anyway.

To answer a question that Black himself considered “stupid and demaning?”

Just curious.

Grudge Match

Over at his new gig at Politics in Minnesota, former City Pages and Minnesota Independent reporter Paul Demko – who is as a rule one of the smarter bloggers in the regional Sorosphere, and I promise you I don’t mean that in the “Jessica Simpson is smarter than Anna Nicole Smith” sense of the phrase, so don’t go there – has what he believes is bad news for Governor Pawlenty:

Fewer than 5 percent of likely Republican voters want Gov. Tim Pawlenty to be the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, according to a new Zogby poll.


You mean, the same Zogby that said Martha Coakley was still winning  the Massachusetts special election the day before the vote was held?

The same Zogby that might be the only poller in the business with a worse record, and a better record at telling Demcrats what they want to hear, than the Star/Tribune’s “Minnesota Poll”?

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was the most popular choice, with support from just over 22 percent of those surveyed. Tracking closely behind was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who was the top pick of nearly 20 percent of likely Republican voters.

Pawlenty is just shy of five points, says Zogby, who is presumably out golfing with with Senator Coakley, helping OJ find the real killer.

A seemingly grim sign for Pawlenty’s presidential prospects: He received less support than Massachusetts Sen.-elect Scott Brown (5.2 percent). On the plus side, he topped former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (3.9 percent). Of course, those difference are statistically meaningless.

Of course, the polls a year before the 2008 election showed Barack Obama a 27 point dog to Hillary Clinton, too. 

W’e’ve got almost three years ’til the election.  And while I’m far from throwing my gear on the Pawlenty bandwagon, crowing about Pawlenty’s showing at this point smacks more of sour grapes over Minnesota’s current legislative situation than detached analysis.

Brown’s numbers will drop down to where a junior senator’s should be (unless he gets himself deified by the media, like a certain former junior Senator);  Romney and Palin have the same two years of campaigning to do that Pawlenty does. 

Anything can happen.  And this is going to be one hella exciting couple of years.

Where Have You Gone, Pat Anderson?

Our state turns its lonely eyes to you.

Especially when hearing from the current occupant of your old office, Rebecca Otto – a skirt so empty she could sit in for Betty McCollum without anyone knowing the difference.

Otto is bagging on her boss, Governor Pawlenty (and apparently trying to make it appear as if she’s done something in her four years in office), claiming that his unallotment of Local Government Aid has caused property taxes to “soar”, according to Jeff Rosenberg:

State Auditor Rebecca Otto has released the 2008 Minnesota City Finances Report, which has some pretty damning evidence of Tim Pawlenty’s financial mismanagement and the impact it has had on our local governments.

Otto’s report shows that over the last 10 years, as state government and federal government have cut aid to cities, a proportional increase in property taxes has followed. “Governor Pawlenty’s no-new-tax mantra, which is a actually a no-new-state-tax mantra, has really impacted Minnesota families,” said Auditor Otto.

Which is, of course, palpable balderdash.  Cities have been accelerating their spending over the past generation, confident that they’d be able to launder their spending through the state’s LGA program, and committing atrocities against accountability like financing Police and Fire through state aid (which cities don’t directly control, except via lobbying and the endless whining we’ve been subjected to) while paying for fluff like Human Rights departments and convention and visitor bureaus with property tax money, the stuff they actually control.

Some say that cities need to cut their budgets. The report points out that when adjusted for inflation, city expenditures have decreased by 7 percent between 1999 and 2008.

What else has decreased, by vastly more than seven percent, since 1999 (or rather in the past three years)?  Something on which cities base much of their funding?  It’s an integral part of the term “property tax”?  I don’t wanna keep seeing the same hands, here.

Although this report highlights cities instead of school districts, it seems very timely to me, considering Pawlenty’s efforts to take money from our local governments to pay the state’s bills. Throughout Pawlenty’s entire tenure, he has played a shell game by making the state’s finances look better at the expense of our local governments, then blaming our cities and school districts for raising taxes, a game that continues to this very day.

Which makes perfect sense, if history for you began in 2002 (and Jeff’s a young fella, like all those MNPublius hYpStRz, so for him it might well have).

But the shell game began almost forty years ago, when the State of Minnesota essentially created the LGA program to allow local governments to launder their expenditures through the state, to conceal their spending by making the more-productive, more frugal, more pragmatic parts of the state pay for the money pits.  Back then, it involved a wealthy Twin Cities paying for an ageing, scrimping outstate; today, it means thriving third-tier suburbs and mid-sized cities subsidizing Minneapolis and Saint Paul.

And making those governments fend for themselves, and holding them accountable for a generation or two of profligacy, is going to be a very good thing, eventually…

…once people see past the media/DFL/regional leftysphere spin on the subject.

This blog doesn’t “endorse” politicians – doy, who cares what a bunch of bloggers think? – but getting Rebecca Otto out of office is an absolute essential.

Governor Pawlenty is Way Off Track

…and so too should be the plan to spend billions, that we don’t have by the way, on a high-speed link to Chicago.

According to the plan, freight and passenger rail 20-year capital costs could range from $6.2 billion, with nearly two-thirds of that provided by federal, state and local government. The Twin Cities-Chicago line is expected to top $1 billion alone.

The plan was ordered last year by the state Legislature, well before a scramble erupted in many states to push their own high-speed rail plans. That was triggered by the infusion of $8 billion in federal stimulus money specifically earmarked for such rail lines nationwide.

Ah yes, the ubiquitous stimulus “dollars.” A misnomer if ever there was one, as they should be called the stimuless “debt.” There are no dollars, and wasting money on what will amount to be a string of empty tin cans traveling the tundra at high speed will stimulate nothing but the sugar-plum dreams of liberals spending other people’s money to build their little fairy tale world.

We can count on the Gov to lay down across the tracks and stop this nonsense, right?

Gov. Tim Pawlenty, previously not a big advocate of high- speed rail, endorsed the Twin Cities-Chicago route last spring.

[sound of scratching record]

Not so much.

Funny thing is, we already have a high-speed link to Chicago.

Its called an airport.

…where by the way, we just spent a mountain of cash on to add another runway

I’ve seen flights as cheap as $25 to Chicago this year.

The Minnesotan that can’t afford a flight has no business in Chicago.

The Chicagoan that can’t…I’d just as soon he stay down there.

The Affliction That Dare Not Write Its Name

The big Minnesota story du jour is about Mark Dayton’s “coming out” last week about his long battle with depression.

Bob Collins at MPR addresses the issue:

Former Sen. Mark Dayton revealed in a Sunday column that he’s suffered from alcoholism and depression. It’s now an issue in his quest to become governor. In politics, there’s often a price to be paid for honesty.

On Sunday afternoon, a Star Tribune reporter asked Dayton for more details of his admission, but Dayton reportedly said such details are “private.

Few affliction can kill a candidacy faster than mental illness.

And it’s perhaps a shame that that’s true.  Depression manifests itself in a lot of ways; it’s not infrequently linked with people who are highly intelligent, creative and capable.

In 2002, an advocacy group called the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance released a poll that showed that 24 percent of all Americans would not vote for a political candidate with a mood disorder, according to the Washington Post. An equal percentage said they “might not vote” for such a candidate.

And I’m not one of them.  It’s not the illness; it’s how one deals with it.  George W. Bush is a recovering alcoholic; while his presidency had its faults, they had nothing to do with his illness; the depraved reaches of the lefty fever swamp said more about themselves than about Bush when they claimed he was “obviously” drinking again.  

I’m less concerned about Dayton’s depression than I am about his history of alcohol abuse; he’s been treated at least once.  But again, it’s the results that count.

There are many reasons not to vote for Mark Dayton for governor;  he espouses the same tax-and-spend statist liberal philosophy that has gotten so many other states into deep trouble in this recession; he will tax Minnesota business even closer to the stone age than the current Legislature has; his record in elective office – as Senator and State Auditor – has been uniformly awful; even the liberal lapdogs at Time magazine called him one of “America’s Five Worst Senators“.   He’s an ineffective poltiicians with a dismal record at leadership.

That being said, I hope he stays in the race; his money and connections will drag the DFL’s decision process all the way to next September, if he wants them to.  This is good.

The Star Tribune’s following up on Dayton’s acknowledgment, however, now raises another question in the governor’s race. Should all current candidates now be asked if they’re being treated for any illness or have ever been diagnosed for it?

If people believe that it’s none of our business, then Dayton’s mistake — politically speaking — was in being honest.

Well, I’m suspecting his “mistake” was being a DFLer; the timing of the story tells me (and I say this with no information to back it up – just a hunch) that one of his DFL rivals for the nomination was about to move a big story on the subject; what better time to jump ahead of a hit piece than Christmas weekend? 

Again, that’s just conjecture.

What’s less speculative is the Twin Cities’ media’s disingenuity in covering the “story”.  This is a media market where every aspect of Michele Bachmann’s personal and legislative lives, from her speeches to her choice draperies to the supposed inner workings of her marriage and family are virtually a cottage industry among the local mainstream (to say nothing of lefty “alternative”) media.  It’s a place where the antics of Morgan Grams became front-page news at precisely the moment they had to be to affect his father Rod’s defense of his Senate seat against Dayton (even though Grams hadn’t had custody of the boy in many years).  Where misinformation about Norm Coleman’s apartment was unquestioningly accepted and reprinted during the past Senate race.   Business connections between GOP stalwart Tim Commers and Governor Pawlenty and then-State Auditor and current GOP gubernatorial candidate Pat Anderson got pored over by everthing the Twin Cities media had, looking for a scandal they just couldn’t quite find.

But Mark Dayton’s behavior, and the broad outlines of his medical condition, have been fairly well-known for years among the Twin Cities media.  Scott Johnson wrote about this almost six years ago – and we spent an hour on the Northern Alliance Radio Network back in 2004 talking about the subject, which Scott wrote about again this past weekend:

At a charity auction in 1994 or so I won the opportunity to have Dayton take me and a friend to lunch at the Minneapolis Club. The lunch occurred toward the end of Dayton’s tenure as the Minnesota state auditor. At lunch we argued politics and found nothing on which to agree. The lunch was extremely unpleasant because Dayton seemed to be unable to disagree agreeably. Dayton nevertheless put me on his Christmas card list for roughly the next five years.

Over those five years Dayton used his Christmas cards to discuss the dissolution of his two marriages, his entry into rehabilitation for alcoholism and related therapy issues. His psychiatric challenges were no secret to the many people on Dayton’s Christmas card list, including virtual strangers like me.

In its story today, the Star Tribune reports: “People who have worked closely with Dayton or within the [Minnesota Democratic Party] said they have long known the former senator struggled with mental health issues.” Later the story adds: “Opponents — and even some supporters — have long whispered of his possible struggle with mental illness.”

This was, indeed, the basic outline of the hour we – Scott, John Hinderaker, Brian Ward and I, if memory serves – spent talking about the subject – in 2004

Now, if Scott Johnson – a person who was at that time a person of no great media consequence, seven or eight years before Powerline made him a meta-celebrity – knew the whole story, and it’s been fairly general knowledge that everyone, but everyone close to him knew even more, then – given the Twin Cities’ media’s rigorous punctuality in investigating every wart, burp and exhalation from some other politicians, why is the “story” only now getting out?

So I have two questions:

  1. What did the Twin Cities media, especially those who cover politics full-time, know?  And when did they know it?  And why was it never deemed newsworthy?
  2. There was a time when the media informally swore off covering politicians’ private lives; it was a sort of unwritten agreement, which meant that President Kennedy could squire Marilyn Monroe around the White House with impunity, among many other things.  Fair enough; so why has that unwritten agreement survived so long with favored DFL politicians, when it was tossed under the bus over two decades ago for the GOP?

You know what’d be cool?  If we had a media that’d ask these questions…of the media!

Early Handicapping

Mark McKinnon at The Daily Beast indulges in the wonk’s favorite weekend pastime – putting together lists.

This one – the top ten GOP contenders.

He’s got Mitt at the top of the list, followed by Palin and Pawlenty.  Not a bad start.

Moving down the list, though, you get the impression he’s trying to gin up some discussion (and apparently it worked, since I’m linking him…).

4. John Thune

If he would run, John Thune could be the Bob McDonnell of the 2012 GOP field.

In a field as deep with center-right conservatives, John Thune is impressive – but in a field where “center-right” includes Romney, Pawlenty, I see Thune – a freshman Senator, let’s not forget – being far down the crowd.  

5. Mike Huckabee

Put a fork in him. While I agree with McKinnon – the clemency decision on Clemmons, who got a life-plus-life sentence for crimes committed when he wasn’t even of legal age; statistically, it wasnt’ a bad bet, although that’s no comfort for the families of the four cops he allegedly killed.

Much worse, in a just world?  He’s no more fiscally conservative than George W. Bush was.

6. Joe Scarborough

Make it stop.

Next – evidence that McKinnon spends too much time among wonks:

7. Haley Barbour

Don’t laugh. Haley’s as wily a fox as anyone out there prowling the political countryside these days. He’s smart, strategic and has been around the rodeo a very long time. Sure he’s a caricature of the classic Southern politician: old, large, white, honey-lipped, and a former lobbyist to boot. But if voters are really tired of Obama, they’ll be looking for the mirror opposite of the man occupying the Oval Office. And that would clearly be Haley.

Barbour is a highly-qualified candidate; he’s an opposite of Obama in more than just the cosmetics that seem to enthrall McKinnon.  He’s a blazingly capable executive; he’s accomplished things – his record as governor of Mississippi stands next to Romney’s and Pawlenty’s in their states.

But is he the opposite of Obama?  Not in the way voters, especially voters who’ve genuinely soured on Obama or Republicans who want to right the ship, will care about.

8. Newt Gingrich

It will never happen.  Please stop talking about it.

9. Mitch Daniels

Daniels has been an extraordinarily successful and effective governor in Indiana, a state that has been recently more blue than red. A no-nonsense, tell-it-like-is conservative, Daniels cruised to re-election by 18 points last year when Obama was winning the state.

I’d not thought about Daniels much – and I think his name recognition is, if anything, lower than Pawlenty’s (and Governor Pawlenty’s been working hard on raising his, in a way Daniels has not, at least at this point in the campaign, for what that’s worth, which isn’t much).

But here, I think McKinnon’s onto something:

10. Rick Perry

The only real question about Texas Governor Rick Perry is why he hasn’t been on any lists until now. He’s already the longest-serving governor in Texas history and may be headed for his third term next fall. Veteran Texas political observer Paul Burka makes a compelling case for why he should be considered:

1. Unlike Huckabee, Romney, and Palin, he is still in office.
2. He is the longest-serving governor in Texas history.
3. He is governor of the biggest red state that sends the most delegates to the Republican convention.
4. He has the best conservative record of any contender.
5. He has assiduously courted key figures in the Republican establishment.
6. The Murdoch news empire loves him. He is the beneficiary of puff pieces in The Wall Street Journal and softball questions on Fox News.
7. He has an extensive fundraising apparatus in Texas that is capable of raking in enough cash to make the race, and he is now in charge of finance for the Republican Governors Association, giving him access to the GOP’s big national donors.
8. He has not one but two strong messages. The first: Washington is corrupt to the core and out of touch with Main Street. The second: the Texas economic miracle.
9. He was quick to understand the significance of the tea party movement and attended many of the early gatherings.
10. With rare exceptions (such as the HPV vaccine controversy), he almost never deviates from the conservative line.

We can go on from there: he’s got huge cred among the Tea-party (aka “Real American”) crowd, and he’s got two-plus successful terms as governor of a huge state.  He’s a “Tenther”, who exudes just the right tinge of “don’t tread on me” that a big chunk of this country wants (and gets from Sarah Palin), combined providing an undeniable conservative alternative that, with a little work, can convince the center to move right (rather than vice versa – which is what people like Huckabee and Scarborough are all about).

Perry’s moved onto my personal long list over this past month or two.

Beyond that?

Watch List:

• Ron Paul: Where are you? The environment is ripe for a libertarian like Paul to stir the tea party pot in 2012.

When you can have a Rick Perry – who brings most of the “libertarian”, and none of the “loose cannon”, why even mess with Paul?

• Jeb Bush: The first son of George H.W. Bush was supposed to be the 43rd President. He is widely respected by conservatives and it’s unlikely, but not impossible, that he could be the 45th, or 46th. And there’s always his telegenic Hispanic son, George P., who could keep the job in the family as 47.

Let’s give this generation a rest, and maybe give P at shot at it someday.

Party Integrity For We, But Not For Ye

Remember before the ’08 election, when the left and media (pardon the redundancy) stood, like Captain Renault, and bellowed “I’m shocked, shocked, that you would enforce an ideological purity test” (against the “Override Six”,  six GOP legislators that stabbed Governor Pawlenty in the back and voted to overrride his veto of a huge spending bill, thereby handing control of the state’s finances over to a bunch of irresponsible, wanton DFLers)?

Either does the DFL.  They are in the process of trying to expunge bad-think from the Mother Party (emphasis added):

Minnesota’s leading state-worker union is endorsing [Debbie] White, a Winona City Councilwoman, for the House District 31A seat Pelowski now holds, said a spokesman for AFSCME Council 5. But a top Winona DFLer, Sen. Sharon Erickson Ropes, said she’s backing Pelowski.

The dueling endorsements fuel an emerging intra-party battle among DFLers in District 31A, which covers the cities of Winona and Houston and southern Winona County.

AFSCME officials and Pelowski traded jabs Wednesday, each accusing the other of lying about the union’s endorsement screening process. AFSCME leaders also took aim at Pelowski for opposing a tax increase to balance the state budget in 2009.

DFL to its minions:  “YOU VILL CLOSE RANKS”.

(Via Gary Gross at LFR)

Unintended Consequences, Predictable Reactions, Part I

Tony Kennedy, writing in the Strib last week, addresses the latest charter school “crisis”:

Minnesota’s charter school movement, which sparked a national rethinking of public schooling nearly two decades ago, has been infected by an out-of-control financing system fueled by junk bonds, insider fees and lax oversight.

“Out of control”.

Interesting bit of hyperbole, there.  One might almost say it’s “unjournalistic”.

The vast majority of Minnesota’s charter schools putter away, doing their workadaddy hugamommy job of teaching kids, in rented quarters around the state.

Given the cost of rental property, especially in the Metro area, many charter schools gravitate toward low-rent warehouse, industrial and “incubator” space.  The western part of the Midway – full of low-rent office and warehouse buildings – is home to many charter schools; half a dozen are clustered within a few blocks of Fairview and University.  The rental space is affordable and up to code, generally – although if you’re used to public school spaces, to say nothing of showcases like Saint Paul’s Arlington High School, it’ll feel like you’re at a school set up in the garage.

And so some charter schools look for a home of their own, if you will, for reasons not a whole lot different than renters become homeowners; to have a secure home base; to be able to plan without the wacky exigencies of leasing; to have a “home”.

So some charter schools have found a way to own their own buildings.

It took some doing, of course – because state law forbids it, at least directly:

State law prohibits charter schools from owning property, but consultants have found a legal loophole, allowing proponents to use millions of dollars in public money to build schools even though the properties remain in the hands of private nonprofit corporations.

That’s one of those “tomayto-tomahto” things.  Another way to phrase it – arguably more fair and accurate – would be “state law prohibits charter schools from owning property, but they have found a legal loophole, allowing proponents to, in effect, rent their own schools from shadow corporations they set up to build and operate the property”.

The key to making it all work is the state’s lease aid program, which was created 11 years ago to help spur competition in public education by offering rental assistance to groups promoting alternatives to district schools. In the beginning, many charters were located in dumpy strip malls and received no real-estate grants.

But the once-obscure program has snowballed into one of the fastest growing expenses in the state, with building projects receiving little of the vetting that typically accompanies other public works.

It works like this:  the charter school’s governing board starts or affiliates with a company that, on the one hand, supervises construction and, on the other hand, floats a bond issue to pay for the building. 

Now, when a public body – say, the City of Minneapolis – floats a bond issue, they go into it with a certain amount of collateral; the city owns snowplows, artistic drinking fountains, computers, police cars, City Hall and other things that can be hocked to make the payments on the bond.  More importantly, they have taxing authority, meaning that if things get tight they can jack up taxes to make sure the payments get made. 

Big corporations, likewise, have collateral to put up against bonds they might float.  Not “taxes” per se, which is why corporate bonds are a little less popular and secure – a lot less secure in the case of, say, General Motors, after the Obama administration overturned contract law to make sure the unions got paid ahead of bondholders. 

But I digress.

Now, if you’re a tiny little entity – say, a barber shop – you can float a bond issue, presuming you jump through a few legal hoops.  Of course, most people won’t invest in your bond, since you have no collateral other than a Barbasol jar and some chairs, and you can’t raise taxes.  But entities somewhere in between the barber shop and GM can float bonds.  They have less revenue and fewer assets than Fortune 500 corporations; they have more than the corner barber shop; they can’t raise taxes on anyone.  So the bonds are a little, maybe a lot, secure an investment than a municipal or big-corporate bond.  Hence bond buyers expect more interest.

Now, the problem is that since the eighties, and the Michael Milken scandal (which, in those innocent days before Enron and Bernie Madoff, was considered a big scam), these bonds have had a name; a very pejorative name.  A name that the media uses for them as a sort of shorthand – perhaps not understading what it means, or perhaps understanding it perfectly but shooting for that whiff of pejoration that they need to sell the papers (and, perhaps, fulfill the mission that the story’s sources intended fulfilled):

In the past decade, 18 charter schools have been built with $178 million in junk bonds, with financing costs on some projects chewing up nearly a quarter of the funds raised. Twelve more charter schools have taken steps to buy or build facilities, and the state projects annual spending on lease aid to reach $54 million in 2013, up from just $1.1 million in 1998.

“Junk bonds”. 

The technical definitino of “junk bond” is a bond that isn’t rated by any of the big ratings services – Moody’s or Standard and Poor.   It doesn’t mean – to someone in the bond business – that a bond is bad, or good for that matter; merely that it’s un-rated.  Of course, rated bonds are generally considered safer than unrated ones – which is why the unrated, “junk” bonds have to pay higher interest. 

In a sense, “Junk Bonds” are no different than subprime mortgages; they are a way for a group that can’t ordinarily float a bond issue to get financing; the interest is higher and the terms are worse than the more-secure bonds – municipals and the like – but that’s how the market deals with getting financing to less credit-worthy people and organizations.  The only major difference is that nobody is requiring the Federal Government to pay for “junk” bonds that default.

But to “the American street”, the term “Junk Bond” has a corrosive connotation.  Now, I’m not sure if the Strib’s Tony Kennedy knew this – but I’m going to suggest that whomever his “sources” are on this story do. 

It’s not only unwarranted, but it paints charter schools with a brush that slops plenty of paint over onto regular schools, transit districts, water and soil commissions, and municipal governmetns.  Joe from Como Park – a person with considerable in-depth professional knowledge of how local government and bonding works, and who wrote to me under an assurance of anonymity – emailed me about the article:

…look at any small-town municipal bond for a fire station or sewer plant or for that matter, any school district building bond.  Local governments routinely pay hefty fees to financial consultants to help them with the bond process, people like the Ehlers firm mentioned [in the Kennedy article].  Bond financing is a highly regulated jungle of red tape and the people who know how to navigate it are worth their hire.  Criticizing charter schools for paying the same sort of consultant fees that school districts routinely pay for the same services is sheer gall.

People who know how bonds work, know that.  Most of Kennedy’s audience are, unfortunately, not part of that particular “in” crowd.

So why the concern?  Besides the money I mean?

Well, here’s one reason:

State lawmakers are frustrated by the building boom. Since 2000, at least 64 public school buildings in the metro area closed because of declining enrollment. Charter schools are responsible for recruiting away some of those students.

Voila; it’s the competition.  Charter schools are an example of “school choice”; parents are choosing; the district systems are losing.  The establishment sees that parents are fleeing; their response is to try to put a bookhself in front of the escape hatch.

“When district schools are closing, should we allow charter schools to build new buildings?” said Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, who was cleared in 2001 of legislative ethics charges for voting to boost lease aid even though he personally received the funds from a charter school he helped start. “These are being built with 100 percent state moneys, but who is minding the store on using that money well?”

More importantly, and disturbingly, Abeler was one of two members of the “Override Six” cleared by voters for voting to overturn Governor Pawlenty’s Tax Bill veto.  I don’t know Rep. Abeler’s voting record as re charter schools, but I’m going to guess from his statement above that he’s doing his best to stay nice ‘n tight with the Minnesota Federation of Teachers (please correct me if I’m in error). 

“Out Of Control” and “Junk Bonds”; that’s two inflammatory, almost disinformatory terms used so far to describe the charter school building boom in this piece.  Why not go for the trifecta?

Jim Markoe, a board member of both St. Croix Prep and the building company, said the insider payments were cleared by bond lawyers involved in the deal.

“Everybody has done everything morally, ethically and legally, and I’ll stand by that until the day I die,” Markoe said.

Sen. Kathy Saltzman, D-Woodbury, chair of the Minnesota Senate Subcommittee on Charter Schools, said lawmakers had no idea charter school insiders were taking such large fees on building projects.

“If they have enough lease aid to do bond deals that pay salaries or one-time bonuses to insiders, obviously they are getting more lease aid than they need,” Saltzman said.


It has such ugly connotations these days.  It was “insiders” that brought us the Savings and Loan collapse, the Enron debacle, the “backdating” scandal at local corporate giant United HealthGroup, and on, and on.

And the fees involved?  Issuing bonds is complex – as complex as a hundred mortgage closings all in one deal.  Attaching assets, taxes and collateral to what amounts to an otherwise-unsecured IOU – which is basically what a bond is, whether it’s issued by the United States Treasury or Kickapoo Creative Arts Charter and Construction – takes some fairly critical, and rare, expertise, both financial and legal.   Like getting a smooth house closing, or sueing a corporation, it’s not something that can be left to chance, or amateurs; professionals cost money.

On Wednesday, we’ll finish going through Mr. Kennedy’s piece.

And on Friday, we’ll take the concept of  “insider” a step further, and try to discuss Mr. Kennedy’s sources for this story, and their motivations.

Pawlenty: Balz To The Walz

Remember the key dictum in Media-Republican Party relations – which is such a truism I may codify it as another Berg’s Law: any Republican can be “the good Republican” , until they’re a threat to the Democrats.

So the piece the other day by Dan Balz in the WaPo might actually be good news for TPaw, in a backhanded way; if you interpret it that way, it means he is a contender the Dems are nervous about:

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is widely regarded as one of the Republican Party’s rising national leaders. The runner-up to Sarah Palin to be John McCain’s vice presidential running mate, he is a conservative whose blue-collar roots, amiable personality and two terms as governor of a traditionally Democratic state would seem to make him a natural to help his party attract the kind of swing voters who are always fought over in presidential elections.

So far so good.

But the Pawlenty who has stepped onto the national stage in recent months has said and done things that have other Republicans wondering about his instincts and his sure-footedness as a prospective 2012 presidential candidate. Pawlenty could learn from the earlier mistakes of one of his potential rivals for the GOP nomination, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

Last week, during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program, Pawlenty was asked repeatedly whether he welcomed Sen. Olympia Snowe, the lone Republican to vote for the Senate Finance Committee health care bill, in the GOP.

And he ducked it.

Because it’s a stupid, stupid question.  Tim Pawlenty has no say over whom the voters of Maine send to Congress and under what label.

At a time when some conservatives are insisting on purity within the ranks and others say the party must truly be a big tent, Pawlenty ducked the question. He hemmed and hawed, but couldn’t bring himself to say “yes” — suggesting that he believed “no.”

What Pawlenty should have said was “get real, Scarborough.  “Purity” and “Big Tent” are both abstract ideals that don’t exist in the real world, and those (invariably) unnamed Republicans on both side are talking about abstruse principles of “purity” and “inclusion” that mean very little to real voters.  What we need – and I plan – to talk about is making conservatism speak to those in the middle.  Which is, indeed, how I became first the nominee, and then governor, in my state; convincing voters, after decades of irresponsible spendthrift DFL and pseudo-DFL governors, that fiscal resoponsibility was a good thing.  So – is that “purist”, or is that “big tent”, you over-promoted gasbag?”

(I’ll forgive Pawlenty for leaving that last bit out).

Balz’ big problem seems to be that Pawlenty – whom Balz labels a “conservative” early in his piece – says and does things that are “conservative”:

Most recently, he endorsed Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman over Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava in New York’s 23rd congressional district, but he acted only after former Alaska governor Sarah Palin had turned the special election into an intraparty test of strength.

Pawlenty said there is no deliberate effort to move to the right. “In general, I’ve governed as a conservative in Minnesota, so being conservative isn’t like a new development or a revelation,” he said.

Now, let’s step back a bit.  Balz thesis is that Pawlenty, in saying things that deliberately court the resurgent conservative movement, is acting like Mitt Romney.

Romney, of course, was accused of being a stealth liberal for having socialized medicine in Massachussetts, among other things; being nearly the sole Republican in office in a state can, and usually will, mean “non-conservative” stuff has to happen.   Pawlenty’s conservatism has flaked around the edges under the pressure from two DFL-controlled chambers in the Legislature; he’s had to adapt, giving way on some peripheral issues (ethanol subsidies) while staying largely true to the big-picture (holding the line on tax cuts and, as much as reasonably possible, the budget).  He’s had to compromise, which is why it’s called “politics” and not “dictatorship”. 

Balz eventually cuts to what passes for a chase – the comparisons with Romney:

Still, there is something Romneyesque in all this. Four years ago, Romney lurched to the right in preparation for his presidential candidacy. He did it on social issues, where his prior support for abortion and gay rights left him vulnerable on his right flank.

Right.  Romney put on the Big Bad Conservative suit to go for the nomination.

But if you can say one thing about Governor Pawlenty, it’s that he’s never “lurched”.  The closest we’ve come is the 2002 nomination race against Brian Sullivan, where he had to put aside his pragmatic, legislative persona (he’d been the House Minority leader) which was slightly moderate by nature and necessity, and run to the right to get the nomination from Brian Sullivan.

Since then – for seven years – Pawlenty has been very consistent on a policy and rhetorical level – which is pretty astonishing, considering the changes in the Minnesota legislature since he took office (in 2002, the GOP controlled the House and made it close in the Senate; today the MNGOP is in the minority in both chambers).

Pawlenty has a consistent record of opposition to abortion and gay marriage. In his case, he appears to be catering to the conservative, populist anger on the right, which is challenging the party establishment and attacking Obama in sometimes extreme language.

The real risk for Pawlenty, as Romney learned in his unsuccessful 2008 campaign, is losing his true voice and his authenticity.

Answering that particular bit requires accepting a few yawning gaps in reason.  First, that opposition to Obama is primarily rooted in “anger”.  There is anger, to be sure – but the vast majority is a thin veneer of pique atop a mass of reasoned disagreement.  Obama’s tax and spending proposals will be ruinous; the healthcare reforms will destroy our healthcare system; the President’s foreign and war policy is pusillanimous.  One may be angry or reasonable in addressing this – or a little bit of each.

Second – that it’s “inauthentic” for Pawlenty to acknowedge this.  It makes no sense; it’d be akin to asking John Kerry to ignore all that post-2000-Florida-recount angst.  No serious person suggested it – because it’s a stupid idea. 

But for a Republican to acknowledge anger, to the media as represented by Dan Balz, means to be consumed by it, as if conservative thought is an on-off switch with only the bandwidth for one message. 

And John Kerry said Republicans were bad with nuance…

That’s the kind of politician Pawlenty has been up to now. The question is whether, at a time of turmoil within the Republican Party and with a need to raise his own profile, he can prepare himself for a possible presidential campaign without sacrificing the best qualities that brought him to this point in his career.

Dan Balz probably doesn’t realize it – but he’s showing Pawlenty’s best qualities for the job.  He’s just still looking at it from Joe Scarborough’s perspective.

And that’s always a mistake.

That Specious, Erroneous Sense Of Inevitability

The primary mission of society is to keep goverment at all levels supplied to its satisfaction.

Well, no, that’s absurd.  Or at least, so think most of us.

But to Jeff Van Wychen of MN2020 – writing an “op-ed” at the MinnPost?  Maybe not co much:

Since last December, Gov. Tim Pawlenty has unilaterally cut state investment in Minnesota’s counties by $144 million using his unallotment authority.

Let’s strive for accuracy here; Governor Pawlenty has cut spending.  Government doesn’t “invest”, except in the most gauzy, metaphorical sense of the term. 

 After the 2010 unallotment announced in June, general purpose state aid to counties in 2010 will be nearly 20 percent less than the amount certified to counties in 2008 and nearly 29 percent less than the 2002 aid amount. And this is before taking into account inflation and growth in county population.

Which, depending on your point of view, means one of two things:

  1. Counties are getting screwed
  2. Given inflation (which is another word for “increases in salaries and costs of living”) and population growth, counties’ abilities to raise their own money for their own spending has risen.   

But in Minnesota, we are saddled with a fuzzy, soft-focus myth; the “Minnesota Miracle”.

In the late sixties, Minnesota was a sleeping giant whose alarm clock was ticking toward “wakey-wakey” any way you sliced it; while outstate Minnesota was poor and underperforming, we had a highly-educated, stable, hard-working population, a top-flight university, immense natural resources, and a powerful industrial, manufacturing, technological and management culture (centered in the thriving Twin Cities metro area, in which much of the state’s wealth was concentrated).   Minnesota was poised for growth, and would likely have grown immensely without government intervention.

And so the state embarked on an epic program of social engineering, redistributing money from the Twin Cities (which at the time were the state’s success stories) to Greater Minnesota.  “Local Government Aid” was the vehicle of this redistribution; it set government – led, we must point out, by a coalition of gigantistic DFLers and a Republican minority even more cowed by decades of post-New-Deal politics than the GOP in the rest of the nation – up as the regulator for a massive money shift…

…which was coupled by the establishment of almost unfettered power in the state’s urban cores, the Twin Cities and Duluth.  DFL leveraged their immense power, and the financial oomph of immense money-laundering, accountability-obscuring engine that was LGA, to turn the state’s major cities into spending engines and social engineering laboratories; the Twin Cities became warehouses for the poor, and welfare-state hothouses that, inside a generation, because net consumers of resources, even given the frequent booms – the sixties, the eighties, the nineties – that swept the region.

During that time, successful feckless DFL administrations used the LGA shell game to jack up spending to unprecedented levels, without having to be accountable via directly taxing their own (few remaining taxpaying) constituents to pay for it.

And then, to balance a budget knocked askew by generations of DFL profligacy, Governor Pawlenty told the counties “start passing your costs directly to your consumers, rather than laundering it through the state”. 

Which brings us back to Van Wychen:

While some reduction in county aid was inevitable given the size of the state’s budget deficit during the FY 2004-05 biennium, the scale of the cuts forced deeper budget cuts on counties than state government made. Thus began a trend by which Pawlenty shifted the state’s budget problems disproportionately to counties (along with cities and towns) and property taxpayers.


What would be “proportionate”?  The obvious answer – to those not cursed with a Democrat’s innumeracy – is for a county to provide 100% of what it spends. 

Minnesota politicians have been bred out of the “local accountability” business, though.

There have been two major effects of the cuts in county revenue imposed by the state over the last eight years. First, county budgets have shrunk. Total real per capita county revenue is projected to drop by 7.1 percent from 2002 to 2009, which is greater than the decline in state revenue net of transfers to local governments. This is an indication that the budget balancing measures taken by the state have hit counties harder than they have hit state government.

Alternate explanation, for those who don’t believe “funding government no matter what the consequences” is the proper mission of government; counties have had to adjust their spending to account for reality – that they are less able to fob their profligacy off on the state.

A disproportionate share of the state’s budget problems have been shifted on to local governments, causing property taxes to increase at the same time that funding for local services and infrastructure falls.

No, Jeff Van Wychen; a disproportionate share of the counties’ budgets were pushed up to the state to finance an epic DFL power grab; the curtain’s been cast aside, and the counties are having to deal with reality. 

Responsible state leadership is needed to honestly deal with the state’s fiscal mess rather than merely shifting the problem to counties, cities, and schools.

Better idea;  responsible leadership is needed at all levels – especially the gabbling, spendthrift State Legislative level, but also at the counties, cities and schools – to stop treating the taxpayers’ wallets as entitlements.  Keeping government running is not the primary goal of a free people.