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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Minnesota GOP Reps Worried About "Getting the Bacon"

Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 03/04/08 15:50

by Dave Mindeman

Here is another one of those GOP mysteries. I noticed this in our local weekly paper:

Sen. Chris Gerlach, R-Apple Valley, noted that Cedar Avenue Bus Rapid Transit funding was in the Senate bill and expressed thanks. "It kind of left us hanging and scrambling a bit," he said of the funding request not being found in the governor's bill. Gerlach also stressed the need for funding the Dakota County Vermilion Empire Wetland Wildlife Area ? they're looking for $4 million.

Now, it seems to me that the BRT and Vermilion Wetland requests would be classified as special funding line items for a particular district in an omnibus bonding bill.

In other words....earmarks.

Now before I go furthur, I wholeheartedly agree that these items are worthy of moving forward.... it's just the political irony.

Senator Gerlach was worried that these requests were left out of the Governor's proposal. Yet, he expressed "thanks" that the Senate version included them.

What's odd about that picture?

I have heard Senator Gerlach rail against excessive spending...and I am sure we will hear it again. But it is that age old rationalization: If it is a funding request for another district -- it is waste. If it is for "my" district, it is a legitimate need.

Sen. Gerlach is not alone:

Rep. Paul Koering, R-Fort Ripley, complained that a lot of good, local projects of his were left out of the bill. "I'm very disappointed," Koering said.

Ironic that Koering is "disappointed" when the article also points out:

Bonding ? $5 million ? is found in both bills for the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Training Center proposed for Camp Ripley.

As we go forward and you hear the Republicans rail against the "pork" laden bonding bill, I hope you will think about Sen. Gerlach and Sen. Koering....bringing home the "bacon".

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You Could Have Bought Gas Instead

Category: Transportation
Posted: 03/04/08 10:43

by Dave Mindeman

The GOP has a new website (StopDFL.com) to broadcast the ominous and dire future of Minnesota with its new gas tax.

On the left side of the site (in scary font) is this:

Hear the Truth about the DFL's Tax and Spend Record:

Start By Raising The Gas Tax Immediately ? With Additional Increases Phased In During Summer Driving Season. ?Raise the gas tax by 8? cents a gallon by 2014. The increases would be phased in, going up 2 cents next month, another half cent on Aug. 1 and 3 cents on Oct. 1. After that, it would go up half a cent a year for six years. ?. A passenger car owner who drives 12,000 miles a year and gets 22 miles per gallon would pay about $46 a year more in gas taxes.? (Bill Salisbury, ?Legislature OKs Roads Plan,? Pioneer Press, February 22, 2008)

Strangely enough, this is all accurate -- which is unusual for GOP rhetoric these days. But, I don't know about you, but I think they picked the wrong analysis if they want a doomsday scenario.

46 Bucks a year? Less than a dollar a week? That's what I am supposed to be angry about? I can't take my kid to a Twins game for $46. I can't take my family to a restaurant for $46. My cable bill increase is more than that in a 3 month period.

And I'm glad they accurately point out that the gas tax is gradaually phased in over a 6 year period. The first 5 cents won't be fully in place until October 1st. What's your guess as to the regular price of gas by then? If it only goes up that nickel, you would be ecstatic.

They have rotating "fact snippets" about the Transportation Bill and surprisingly, they too, are accurate -- quoting the same Salisbury article from the Pioneer Press.

Realistically, when people actually read the facts, they may be scratching their heads about the shrillness of the GOP rhetoric. There will certainly be increases but I doubt the average Minnesotan will think it gravitates to the GOP level.

I hope Ron Carey and company get their money's worth out of all this. That's a lot of potential gas (including the tax) they could have been buying.

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Pawlenty Mandates Useless Immigration Tools

Category: Immigration
Posted: 03/03/08 03:02

by Dave Mindeman

Governor Pawlenty has been anxious to show his bona fides on immigration. In January he issued an executive order requiring companies to use a system called E-Verify.

As a Star Tribune article from today states it:

Any of Minnesota's 25,000 contractors who do more than $50,000 worth of business with the state must run the names of their new employees through the federal check.

Great idea, except:

A version of E-Verify has been available to employers since the mid-1990s. Hormel Foods Corp., which owns the Jennie-O plant where Olga Marina Franco once worked, has used the system since 1998. Franco is charged with the deaths of four children in the Cottonwood school bus crash.

Franco's application raised no red flags. The system failed.

Concerns about Pawlenty's mandate are not only coming from immigrant rights groups but also from...the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.

"The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce argue the law is too sweeping and the federal data too flawed to be the basis for hiring decisions."

A Federal immigration database system that's flawed? Hmmm...imagine that.

As one employer put it:

"I think most employers really want to be in compliance with the law," said Hartigan, president of St. Paul Brass and Aluminum Foundry, a subcontractor with the federal government. It also is expected to mandate E-Verify for its contractors this year.

"But if we're going to end up firing people because of inaccuracies in the data, that's a problem," he said. "If you dismiss someone who is here legally, you're liable for 'wrongful termination' [of an employee]. It's a sticky question."

How can you possibly enforce a system that is completely broken? You can rant till you're blue in the face, but if you have bad data, inadequate staffing, and not much hope of improvement any time soon....what's the point?

You don't need more enforcement, you need an overhaul. And mandating employers to use a useless system ain't helping.

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