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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Commissioner Pay Raises & Republican Hypocrisy

Category: Economy
Posted: 07/02/15 17:17

by Dave Mindeman

It would seem that the MN Republicans are going to have an election discussion about Gov. Dayton's push for increases in Commissioner salaries. But if they insist on doing that, then let's make sure we have all the facts.

1. If the GOP was so concerned about this, why did they allow a window (July 1st) for the governor to do it? In fact, they legislated it that way (the House GOP voted for it). Why didn't they just slam the door entirely early in the session - they had that option. Heck, they even had Bakk's support.

2. From a StarTribune article: Before the increases, Minnesota commissioners were making less than their counterparts in most states, according to an analysis by Minnesota Management and Budget from data compiled by the Council of State Governments. Fourteen of 15 commissioners were paid at or below the 50th percentile; eight were below the 25th percentile. The raises push Minnesota salaries above the median.

The comparison with other states shows that Minnesota has been lagging far behind other states in paying people for "executive" type positions. It took these large raises to catch up - and now that the legislature has taken back control of these salaries, there won't be any further raises for the foreseeable future.

3. Direct comparisons with our neighbors were not favorable either.

North Dakota had at least 10 cabinet-level positions that paid more than Minnesota commissioners before the raises and six jobs that will still be paid more than in Minnesota. Most Wisconsin commissioners were paid slightly more than Minnesota's before the Dayton raises but now would be paid less.

4. The Republican strategy is clear. Even though Dayton is not on the ballot and it was his decision to raise the salaries, Daudt attempts to blame the DFL legislators for this government "failure" - even though the vote on the parameters by which Dayton acted was completely bipartisan.

Frankly, I think Dayton showed tremendous courage to go ahead with these planned increases. We will attract highly competent people to do this important work and solidify the salaries for the future. Future governors (Republican or Democrat) will thank him for it.

The most important takeaway from this is that the MN GOP compares these raises to the "hard working" Minnesota families who don't have the opportunity for such raises....the same MN GOP that fought and continues to fight increases in the minimum wage....and promotes tax relief for the wealthy which the middle class has to pay for.

The Republican hypocrisy in all this is the true election issue.
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Medical Marijuana: Doctor Timidity & Red Tape Need To Go

Category: Economy
Posted: 07/02/15 05:33

by Dave Mindeman

Today the Medical Marijuana law took effect and patients could now get their medication. However, very few people are eligible because doctors are reluctant to get involved and the law is so very restrictive.

As to the restrictions, I feel that Minnesota's legislature was much too timid in regards to the writing of this law. They kept watering down the availability until we have come to the point that the medicine is not going to get to the people who need it fast enough.

But I am particularly disappointed with Minnesota's physicians. I understand that there is ambiguity in regards to State and Federal law - and there might be a certain risk to get into the middle of this-- I think it is minimal but it is still there.

But what I find particularly disturbing is the complaints from doctors about loss of control. As I understand it, the doctors evaluate their patients for eligibility in the program and then hand their patients over to the program for actual treatment. Yes, the doctors do not have much control about the patient treatment once the patient is in the program, but if they are not happy with the outcome they can encourage their patient to drop out and return to the doctor's course of treatment.

You have to wonder how different the doctors would be assessing the marijuana program if it had a Big Pharma company promoting these medications.

Viagra type advertising....doctors given lunches and paid seminars to consider the treatment...sales pitches from hard sell representatives. You know, the kind of thing they are used to dealing with.

You have to wonder how different the program's fortunes would be under that type of promotion.

This program deserves to move forward. It's not like we have a drug that has never been tested in humans. We know the side effects...we know what it will do. A multitude of opinions have been posted about it.

What is needed now is a chance for this program to succeed or fail on its own merits. We do not need to get hung up on speculation or innuendo. We have patients who desperately want to give this a chance. They want the opportunity to try this treatment. They want to take the risks. They want to see the outcomes directly.

The red tape and the doctors need to get out of the way and let the treatment begin.

The patients, the ones that are directly affected, are clear about this.
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Apparently Rep. Garofalo Thinks Sen. Bakk Needs Defending

Category: Economy
Posted: 06/10/15 22:06

by Dave Mindeman

I don't usually respond to specific comments directed at me, even when they are particularly nasty. I accept that as par for the course.

But I do think it is worth responding to this twitter reply from Rep. Pat Garofalo.....

#mnleg 2015 Session: Never has so little, been done by so few, with such a weak window of transparency.

Rep Pat Garofalo;@PatGarofalo
.@newtbuster - Your hatred for rural DFLers (specifically Iron Rangers) is getting tedious. Develop a new narrative.

Apparently Garofalo has been reading my commentary on Sen. Bakk because otherwise that reply would make no sense in response to the tweet that it answers to.....so maybe he will be reading this as well.

But let's talk about this a bit.

First of all - I don't hate "rural DFLers (specifically Iron Rangers)". As I recall, Governor Dayton made a comment that "some Republicans hate public education"....which sent them into a public snit and a demand for an apology.

I won't ask for an apology because the GOP uses this type of "hate" rhetoric all the time - they only object to it when it refers to them from the other side.

So let's move on.

It is interesting to see House GOPers defending the Senate DFL leadership in regards to this session. It is obvious that they agree with my point that Leader Bakk and his inner circle helped the House GOP in moving their agenda. Garofalo defends them as "allies".

And that has been my point all along. It is not an attack on rural DFL legislators. It is not an attack on Iron Rangers. It is an acknowledgement that the Senate leadership was not backing its own governor and embarked on a personal agenda that did not serve the interests of the Party as a whole.

As for the regional issues of the Iron Range, I only disagree with them on one issue. Mining. But that one issue has been a hard one to navigate. I fully understand that they want to help an economically depressed area, but why does it have to be only about mining?

I believe that the real natural resource in that area is the Boundary Waters. A pristine natural area that has so much potential for tourism, habitat, and water supply. I may be wrong, but I don't think the notion of adding 350 jobs coupled with a risk of chemical runoff into that water table is a fair trade off.

If Polymet can find an eco-friendly way to do it, then I happily join them in their quest. But they have shown this state that they prefer a legislative work around rather than the hard work of finding the environmentally sound approach.

And therein lies one of my problems with Senator Bakk. He uses his position for regional gain, rather than working the Democratic Party as a whole.

But that is not my only beef with Senator Bakk (and again, this is not some vendetta against rural DFLers or Iron Rangers in particular). Senator Bakk holds a position that can serve Democratic progress. If he had stood with the Governor during the session....if he had not circumvented his own caucus in making deals.....if he had not wasted political capital on an ambush of the Auditor's office...if he had not, in the dark of night, patched that sulfide waste amendment into the environment bill....maybe, just maybe, we could have accepted some of his dealings.

But he just went too far.

I appreciate rural issues. I grew up on a farm. I understand Greater MN's need for broadband. I understand how the MNSure rules actually benefited farmers unable to get insurance at group rates. I understand how the buffers that Gov. Dayton has requested need to have a lot of farmer input to be acceptable. I understand how rural hospitals and rural nursing homes are in need of more than the average state help. And I understand how roads and bridges and transit are just as important in rural areas as they are in the metro.

But I never saw very many of those rural needs addressed by the House GOP that pledged to do so....promised to do so.

I also appreciate Iron Rangers. The Iron Range is a Democratic base. My environmental beef with the Iron Range is with the mining companies - not the workers....not the region. I don't have a problem with their need to protect hunting and fishing rights. To find a means to grow their economy. To increase the transportation funding for a sprawling, mostly rural area that needs state help in that regard.

And the needs in the metro match the needs of Duluth. The educational needs of UMD match the needs of UMN-Twin Cities (UMD is going to hold a particular place in my heart because my recently graduated son is going to attend the Swenson College of Engineering at UMD this fall.)

I do not "hate" rural issues or Iron Range issues. I support finding solutions that satisfy all concerned.

But I cannot accept the back room deals and the ambush of Democratic office holders that have marked the tenure of Senator Bakk.

The House lost a number of rural seats in the last election. But few, if any, were in the Iron Range. Yes, we need to address rural issues, but frankly, I think Democrats have always addressed those issues better than what the House did in their current "pledge to help" session.

I understand the need for Garofalo and his cohorts to make this a rural vs metro division. They only understand politics that divide people.

I want leadership that works for the entire state. That engages in political negotiation out in the open. That encourages input from all sides. That meets state needs head on and in the present, rather than kicking it down the road on borrowed money.

That is what my narrative has been....and I'm sticking to it.
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