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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

The Priority Of Business Over People For The MN House GOP

Category: Economy
Posted: 03/07/16 07:08

by Dave Mindeman

The unemployment benefit situation in northern Minnesota reached critical mass some time ago. Gov. Dayton recognized that and wanted to call a special session to address it. But House Republicans blocked the initiative saying that it could wait until the upcoming regular session. No urgency in their mind. They would address it immediately once the session starts.

Alright, the session begins and already the House GOP is playing games with the issue. Now they want to add a tax cut....

The House Job Growth & Energy Affordability Committee passed a bill extending unemployment benefits for Iron Range workers for 26 weeks but included language that would cut taxes for the employers who furnish the state's unemployment trust fund that carries a $1.6 billion surplus.

Is that really necessary? Apparently the House GOP doesn't think this tax cut proposal can stand on its own merits. They have decided that they need to link it to something that Democrats are anxious to support.

This bill is kind of a microcosm of how the two legislative parties think.

First, the Republicans think that the lives of Iron Rangers are a negotiating tool. Northern Minnesota is hurting, but apparently not hurting enough to avoid the partisan games that they love to play.

Democrats believe this is, plain and simple, an urgent matter that is the right thing to do. They have justified reluctance to take money out of the unemployment fund, particularly when the budget surplus has been reduced because of a slow down in economic activity. If another recession were to hit us in the near future, the extra money in the unemployment trust fund would be a valuable resource to keep our budgets strong.

Again, it is about fiscal responsibility. The legislature needs to address the specific needs of its citizens, but it must also look to the future and make sound budget decisions that account for future problems.

In this one bill, you see that the GOP fails the above test on just about every level.

It has become an ongoing manta....the House Republicans have boasted about helping Greater Minnesota. They are the champions for those outside the Metro.

But they have failed to live up to that promise time and again. And with this bill, we have one more example to add.
comments (3) permalink

Daudt's Moment Of Venn

Category: Economy
Posted: 02/26/16 16:59

by Dave Mindeman

At a Forum news service media briefing about the upcoming Minnesota legislative session, Kurt Daudt spouted off....

"I think -- forgive me from using some common sense once in awhile -- that we should look at this like a Venn diagram," he said. "Each one of us has a circle, and somewhere there's a point where those circles overlap. There are some controversial things about some of these transportation plans... and I frankly don't believe someone is going to hold up funding for something -- roads and bridges -- that is so broadly supported, not only by the public but members of our Legislature. And I think people that try to hold that up, at the end of the day, will be blamed for it (not passing)."

Venn diagrams.

Daudt thinks that we should pass what we have in common. Yeah, that probably does make sense - except he decides what that intersection is and that it must be passed on his terms.

Transportation will be the main topic during this session - well at least one of them (I am sure tax cuts have to be part of it - you know, Venn diagram).

But although there is bipartisan agreement that something should be done on transportation, it is the method of funding it that blows up any Venn corollary that Daudt wants to imagine.

If you get to the meat of the disagreements, there are a couple of points of contension.

1. How to fund it. The House GOP has this fanciful argument that you can take money we are already collecting - and which has been promised for other purposes - change its destination to transportation and call it "new revenue". It is absolutely absurd, and Dayton has more than once voiced his frustration with it.

2. Leave out transit. Daudt has said that transit is just too "controversial" (apparently too far outside the Venn diagram inner circle) to be included in a transportation bill. Yet, if Daudt were to look inside his own caucus, he would see members who are getting pressure from within their own districts to fund light rail and buses...not in the future, but now.

Venn diagrams only have value if you are drawing them correctly and with the right information. Daudt thinks that he can feed his own data into it and come out with the result he wants....and then proclaim that it states the obvious.

When Gov. Dayton angrily asserted that Daudt and the Chamber of Commerce were cherrypicking their data, Daudt, again, spouted off...

"To listen to the governor of our state call the chamber -- the association that represents businesses in Minnesota that employ Minnesotans, and do a great job at employing -- to hear him call that a 'hatchet job' when they're literally presenting the facts ... I get really sick of people who want to pit this group of people versus that group of people for their own political gain," he said.

Of course, Daudt "never" pits people against each other. Unions against employers. Educators against parents. Metro against Greater MN. LGBT community against social conservatives. Taxpayers against Government Employees.

Naw. Daudt never does that kind of thing.

Don't see any Venn diagrams explaining that, do you?
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Don't Laugh - A Gas Tax Is Needed Right Now

Category: Economy
Posted: 12/14/15 13:00

by Dave Mindeman

In the big scheme of things, nobody thinks about this anymore. But I am going to try this one last time.

We need to raise the gas tax.

Conservatives will laugh. Liberals will say it's impossible. But the argument can be made that there is no better time or a more urgent need.

Last Friday the Dow dropped 300 points. Why? They were worried about the oil glut. Funny how the big money people get crazy when oil prices rise and when they decline. What exactly do they want? But, getting back to the point, there is an oil surplus at the present time. Gas prices have dipped to their lowest point since the 1970's...(and we did it without Michele Bachmann, I might add...) The North Dakota shale field is shutting down because it isn't profitable to produce when this price is so low. The Arab Oil Cartel continues to pump with abandon trying to force competitors out and manipulate the market. ISIS is dumping oil on the black market and Russia's economy teeters because so much of it depends on oil.

So what does this mean? If the past is any indication, it means Americans will be driving more and buying bigger cars. Which will be a bit ironic since we just made a pledge to reduce carbon emissions by a significant quantity in the Paris accords. A glaring problem with all of that is that we will be driving more on infrastructure that is crumbling.

So in the midst of this economic turmoil, there is a window (a temporary one) of opportunity that could bring in revenue to fix infrastructure in Minnesota by raising the gas tax. We could fund that bipartisan agreed upon need for MNDOT funding of its projects.

The Republican House has shown their derision for a gas tax. So much so, that Governor Dayton and the Senate have already decided it is futile.

But what is the Republican solution? Raiding general fund money targeted for other needs and then borrow the rest. Seriously, does that make sense in a year of budget surplus and with gas prices providing a golden opportunity?

A gas tax at the current time would bring in transportation funding and hopefully reduce gas consumption, at least marginally. This window could close at any time. The Middle East is unstable and oil production could be a target in war or the Cartel could shut everything down again. Yes, the US can now supply more of its needs, but once we start shutting down production capacity, it will take some time to ramp it up again.

So we really need to act now. Fund and fix what we can as soon as possible. A 25 cent gas tax increase would still leave gas prices below what they were last year at this time. Think of the road and bridge projects we could fund with that increase.

And yes, like I said, that could turn the other way....so I would suggest that the gas tax would have to be acted upon each and every year. The tax could be adjusted or eliminated in every legislative session. That would add a lot of politics to the situation - which could be detrimental. But it would also give flexibility that is probably needed.

The Republican House version of transportation funding is patchwork nonsense. You shouldn't be taking money away from budget needs and you most certainly should not be borrowing...it is absurd.

Gas taxes have always been the way to fund transportation. They are user fees. And yes, it is a regressive tax but taking money from other needed projects in a budget seems just as regressive to me.

Gas taxes are not going to raise as much revenue in the future. As more and more people move to hybrids and electric cars and more public transportation develops, gas taxes will cease to be a reliable form of transportation funding.

That window is available now. And the need is now.

Let's raise the gas tax now.
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