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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

House GOP Thinks Transportation Funds Are Monopoly Money

Category: Transportation
Posted: 01/27/15 10:19, Edited: 01/27/15 10:22

by Dave Mindeman

There is a very strong annoying truth about Minnesota transportation. Fixing roads and bridges cost money. Republicans and Democrats tend to agree on that, but where the money comes from has a divergence from reality. At least with one of the parties.

Governor Dayton proposed a very reasonable and overdue transportation package yesterday. It had a huge spending component - which we need - and it had a method to pay for it - increased user taxes (I could use the word fees, but we all know it is the same thing, even when Gov. Pawlenty tries to draw a distinction).

The taxes, of course, drew the ire of the Republican controlled House. They wailed and moaned about the "burden" on Minnesota taxpayers. How it was all so unnecessary. Now, they were not denying the need for the transportation spending - and they didn't even argue much about the spending figures being totally off base. Of course, they themselves couldn't possibly go along with such exorbitant spending and taxes. No - no - uh, uh.

Dayton proposed raising taxes on wholesale gas to pay for the roads and bridges that the cars buying that gas would have to use. He also proposed hiking car license fees. Again, fees on cars that use the roads. And he also proposed a hike in the metro sales tax for transit. Metro taxes for metro use. Not greater Minnesota. Fair, fair, and fair.

What the House Republicans have offered is vastly different. They have a multi-year proposal that is basically one time money taken from other sources, and the surplus (which really isn't even enough to cover one year's worth of need) and patch it. Like a patch on a flat tire. It doesn't fix anything, it just gets you back to where you started.

Its funny, but transportation needs don't go backwards. The older roads and bridges get, the more fixing they need and the more expensive it gets to do it. You can "patch" it all, but the need is still there. It may cost more to do it right, but it will also last longer and be less of a burden to future budgets. And because the needs are ongoing, you also need stable revenue streams. A flow of user taxes that continue without year after year revisits. A budgetary source that allows MNDOT to plan and make the necessary expenditures.

And as for transit - Dayton is willing to concede that transit is more of a metro issue than for outstate Minnesota. And he has always expected the seven county metro to pay its own way when it comes to the revenues for transit. But House Republicans want to play the versus game. It is greater Minnesota vs. the Metro. Don't let the Metro get transit revenue - give all of it to roads and bridges in outstate Minnesota, where "our" constituents live.

The issue isn't a versus problem. It is a community problem. We need to do both - to walk and chew gum - to fix and build. That is why Dayton's proposal is correct. He looks at the needs of the state as a whole - he doesn't look for trade-offs.

House Republicans continue this farcical meme that "greater Minnesota" is being shortchanged by the Democrats. Even though it is Republicans that block and cut LGA, block health care for rural hospitals, block broadband upgrades, and allow property taxes to increases for farmers and small businesses.....and yes, they have blocked past attempts to fix roads and bridges all over the state.

We need to make a dramatic move in transportation. For greater Minnesota, for suburban Minnesota, for the Metro....for everyone in this state. Dayton has proposed a comprehensive plan. And if we want to keep this great state economy going, then we need to make sure the means to transport those goods and services is capable of handling the job.

I'm not sure what kind of future the House Republicans are looking at. Sometimes I think they never look more than one political cycle ahead. It is all about winning the next election - and not really about greater Minnesota or anyone else in this state.

Transportation costs money. The Dayton proposal pays for it. Make it happen.
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John Kline Has Not One, But Two Challengers For 2016

Category: John Kline
Posted: 01/26/15 18:16, Edited: 01/26/15 18:25

by Dave Mindeman


by Dave Mindeman

Here we are. It's still only January (over 21 months away from the 2016 election) and Congressman John Kline already has TWO challengers to his re-election campaign.

One comes from within his own party - David Gerson. This isn't something new; Gerson has already run twice to wrestle the GOP endorsement away from Kline. The only thing notable about this time around is that he is making his intentions known much earlier than before. Worth some observation, but otherwise not really relevant --- yet.

But the other announcement is a little more surprising. A St. Jude's Corporate executive, Angela Craig, has announced her intentions to seek the DFL endorsement for 2016. She has already stepped away from her VP position in HR to make this run, although she will still stay with the company in a lesser management position.

A few things to note.

1 - Ms. Craig has virtually no political experience. This is good in some ways- bad in others. Her only foray into politics is being a Precinct Chair in Eagan..a position she took on in 2013 - so very recent. Her only other connection is that she and her spouse (Cheryl Greene) held a significant fundraiser for Rep. Laurie Halverson of Eagan. A political novice against the ultimate political animal, John Kline is a tough match-up. However, she also has some long term experience in the other political game of climbing the corporate ladder.

2 - She is gay.... and that is something John Kline has never dealt with very well in a general sense. Oh, we know how he feels about gay marriage and gay rights in general (he's against all of it), but he seems awkward in dealing with it in a political way.

3 - Corporate Exec in the Medical Device Industry. I find that very interesting, which makes me very interested in her political stance on the Medical Device Tax. I would assume, as an executive in the Med Device industry, that she favors its repeal - and that position is not an unusual Democratic position in this state. After all, all 10 of our Representatives are now on record as favoring that repeal. What is more important is the position she takes on the ramifications of that repeal. Because the revenue from the Med Device Tax is one of the financial pillars that pays for Obamacare. Will she insist on some kind of revenue offset? or will she just insist on the repeal and leave that multi-billion dollar hole in ACA financing? Those are questions that need to be answered.

4 - Women Winning Board Member. Craig is on the WomenWinning board, but only recently. The website notes her as a board member since 2014. But I would assume that she would not make this announcement unless WomenWinning was fully on board for support. That is also significant.

There are other questions which will be answered in due time. Does she plan any self financing? Does she have a significant financial network in place? Has she developed any political networking over the past few years? And what are the feelings of other Medical Device Companies execs and board members about her candidacy?

All of that is fodder for another day. But the fact that challenges to Kline are coming out of the gate so early will make 2016 an interesting challenge for our favorite corporate shill, John Kline.
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The Movie'Selma' - And Its Modern Message

Category: Voting
Posted: 01/26/15 12:21

by Dave Mindeman

I saw the movie "Selma" last night - powerful movie, I recommend it to all. In the opening scene, Oprah Winfrey plays a middle age black woman sitting in an empty waiting room. A white clerk calls her name and she steps forward with her paper work. She is going to register to vote. She hands the clerk the papers and says - "I have it right this time" - to which the clerk sneers and replies that he will be the "judge" of that.

After glancing through the papers, he looks up and says, "recite the preamble to the US Constitution". An exercise that I and a lot of people would have trouble getting through. But the woman recites it verbatim. Not satisfied, the clerk asks another question...."how many county judges are there in Alabama" - again, she gives the correct answer. The clerk, looking a little frustrated, stares at her and gives a final challenge - "name 'em". The woman looks down at the floor, takes her papers back and simply walks away, while the clerk smiles smugly.

We seem to have forgotten the obstacles that were put in the way of African-American voters. We forget that in Selma, in 1965, black voters outnumbered whites, but the voter rolls were 99% white and 1% black.

After the Selma protests, which resulted in the deaths and beatings of people simply wishing to legally attain their right to enter a voting booth, Lyndon Johnson and Congress were almost shamed into passing the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.

But, really, how far have we come?

The Supreme Court seems to have decided that we have come far enough. They struck down the special provisions that forced southern states to allow equal access...(just think about that a second - we had to pass a law to allow our own citizens to be able to vote in a democracy). The Supreme Court (at least 5 members of that court) believe that discrimination in voting is a thing of the past...an archaic remnant of times long past.

But what does the evidence tell you?

In state after state, new laws, new obstacles, are being placed in the path of citizens who simply want to pull a lever and indicate their preference on the leaders that get chosen. Voter ID laws are the new poll tax...the new questionairre....the new paper work maze.

Somehow, we have allowed politicians to pick the voters instead of the other way around.

It isn't blatant discrimination like we had in the 1960's South. But it is still discriminatory obstruction. It is still a targeted attempt to disenfranchise whole groups of people.

I have never understood why there is this fear that allowing everyone to exercise the democratic right to vote will somehow instigate some intolerable outcome.

It is a democracy, is it not? We still believe in the "will of the people" do we not?

Selma is a powerful reminder of what we have had to endure to insure the right to vote. But it is also a powerful reminder that we cannot let those same obstructionist demons find their way into our system again.

The Voting Rights Act needs to be renewed - and maybe it is time that we "vote" in a Congress that understands the need for those rights and is willing to protect those rights forever.
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