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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Tom Bakk Has To Go

Category: 2016
Posted: 05/16/15 13:59

by Dave Mindeman

I'll get myself into trouble here but then what else is new.

This budget fiasco is another prime example of how Minnesota Democrats are so adept at shooting themselves in the foot.

From the beginning, it seems, Gov. Dayton outlined a clear path of how he wanted to proceed on the budget. He declared his must have priorities and left no ambiguities.

However, Senator Bakk, the Senate Majority Leader, seemed to think that a track of his own was acceptable - and often moved forward on things without even consulting the governor's office.

In a session where Democrats should have clearly had the upper hand, the process chosen by Bakk has given the House Republicans a far greater voice then was necessary.

Democrats control 2/3rds of the legislative machinery. If the Democratic Senate majority leader would utilize the governor's office, which should be an ally, to leverage Democratic positions, the House GOP would be at a disadvantage.

But that leverage has not been utilized and three competing paths to a 2016 budget emerged.

Senator Bakk seems to have been acting as though the Governor's office was supposed to follow his lead, rather than the other way around. Bakk has never been a team player. He put the House in jeopardy in the 2014 cycle with a number of end game shenanigans....and placed his Senate office building as a priority above House policy actions.

I keep thinking of Roger Moe in regards to legislative power. Moe knew exactly when to leverage his advantage or gum up the works when at a disadvantage. He was a master at his craft and would love to have had the kind of advantage that Bakk would have if utilized properly.

Senator Bakk may be skillful at pragmatic negotiations, and I admire his staunch union stances, but he has not been a benefit to the general Democratic agenda. I have to question why he is still the leader in the Senate. And let me give you some reasons why...

First, he leads the Senate as a regional leader - not a state leader. I understand the needs of the Iron Range and I sympathize, but his stance on the environment and his willingness to push the Polymet mine, rubs a lot of Democrats the wrong way (and I am among them). He played some primary games with his own Senators in regards to that.

Second, he is NOT a team player. The House Democrats had a majority prior to the 2014 election and Bakk did nothing to help assure that majority. The Senate was not up for reelection and it seems that Bakk considered that a free pass for his own agenda. Which led to some end of session games that were detrimental to minimum wage and the House message. And this year, he has clearly acted against the wishes of his own popular governor.

Third, the MN Democratic agenda is only promoted when it supports or is neutral on the Bakk agenda. In this new budget, there are clearly too many environmental rollbacks. There is not enough emphasis on education. And tax breaks for the wealthy are not challenged enough. Bakk is the reason for all this. If he would stand shoulder to shoulder with his governor, the House would not have the leverage it has gained because of the weak Senate link that Bakk has created.

It is obvious that Bakk still has strong hold on his Democratic caucus. I get that, but don't fully understand the reasons. In a year when this was going to be a transportation session, the final bills do not even include transportation at all. That is a legislative failure. And Bakk is obviously a large part of that failure. And to put this on the agenda for 2016 - a full blown election year is very bad strategy. Republicans gain the upper hand once more.

I probably stand alone, but Tom Bakk should NOT be the Senate majority leader. If the Democratic policy agenda has any chance of moving forward in the future, then Tom Bakk has to go.
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Re: John Bolton and Running For President

Category: 2016
Posted: 05/15/15 09:11

by Dave Mindeman

Oh, by the way, did you know John Bolton is not running for President? If you say, "I didn't know he was thinking about it", you are not alone. And if you also say, "who the hell is John Bolton", you are also not alone.

Bolton is one of those neo-con crazies that espoused (and still espouses) the virtues of the Iraq War. He was undersecretary of state and an ambassador to the UN in the W years....and he is also a general all around jerk.

That Bolton would even have the cajones to think he could run for President shows how far gone the primary process is in the Republican Party. John Bolton should be a relic...a footnote in history. There is nothing he has to say that can possibly be relevant to today's foreign policy. Yet, there he is garnering a press conference for an announcement that tells us he has decided not to run.

If the 2016 election rehashes our participation in the Iraq War, the GOP is going to lose. Jeb Bush has opened the floodgates with his recent gaff on what he would have done in his brother's place. And the idea of John Bolton as a presidential candidate is further proof that Republicans have not come to terms with the greatest foreign policy mistake in history.

I'm kind of disappointed that John Bolton is NOT going to run for President. It would have been a constant primary reminder of GOP failures.

And besides....he had that big fluffy mustache. You can't run for President with a moustache.

It's a rule.

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Sorry Rural Minnesota - You Got Duped By The MN House GOP

Category: 2016
Posted: 04/25/15 21:53

by Dave Mindeman

The Star Tribune finally put some newspaper words that talks about what has been percolating under the surface at the Capitol all session.... the GOP's supposed "emphasis" on rural Minnesota.

The House Republicans, in their cutting zeal, have forgotten that greater Minnesota actually has policies that they want which require investment.

It looks like rural Minnesota is discovering the same tired old MN GOP:

...the centerpiece of the GOP agenda is a $2 billion tax cut plan that has left few resources for those rural-geared initiatives.

And it is not like outstate advocates didn't tell them about their priorities...

Two groups, the Greater Minnesota Partnership and Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, together represent dozens of outstate cities, businesses, chambers of commerce, nonprofits and other groups. As the session started, the two groups released a list of priorities, the top one being $100 million for grants and tax credits aimed at building new housing for middle-income workers in small communities.

At a time of a nearly $2 billion surplus, that seemed like a reasonable request. But has it happened? No.

And then there is broadband. Rural Minnesota needs this upgrade to enhance their ability to keep up in the information age. The Democrats have been working on this, although not at the pace that greater Minnesota has wanted. But guess what, the House GOP CUT IT! At first, under Rep. Pat Garofalo, they completely eliminated the program - but when the grumbling started to get louder, they slipped in an $8 million token to continue funding it...which didn't stop the grumbling.

And greater Minnesota also looked for more help in targeted LGA money for rural cities. Instead, what they got is a House GOP plan to punish Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth (all DFL strongholds) with $85 million in cuts. But did the rural cities get an equivalent bump? Again, NO is the answer as the money was added to the "tax cut pool".

And then there is MinnesotaCare. Republicans have gleefully jumped onto a cutting spree in Health and Human Services which ends the "giveaway" known as MinnesotaCare. But,hey, wait a minute, there is a fact getting in the way....

To pay for its tax cuts, the GOP is pursuing major reductions in health and human services spending. Among those, eliminating MinnesotaCare, the health insurance subsidy program for lower income workers. But that repeal could also wind up hurting rural Minnesota. According to information compiled by the Department of Human Services, the 25 counties with the highest number of MinnesotaCare enrollees per capita all are outstate.

Part of the workings for the Minnesota version of the ACA was a change in how assets were treated in determining eligibility for MinnesotaCare. What this did is allow rural farmers to obtain health care through the MinnesotaCare program. Since farmers can't get coverage via discounted group rates, this allowed them to get affordable coverage via an already in place state program - which has been working.

But apparently the House GOP wants to dump them into that "high risk" pool once more.

And then there is the estate tax cut they are planning. The House GOP believes that farmers would be the biggest beneficiary. However, most of the small rural farmer in Minnesota are already exempt under the current estate tax law - although the big mega corporate farm owners will realize a huge benefit.

Yes, there are some nursing home provisions that will benefit rural areas more than metro - although why they needed to be treated so differently is mystery for the House GOP to explain.

So, after all the rhetoric about how the House GOP was now going to truly meet the needs of greater Minnesota....we find out that these charlatans don't really understand what rural Minnesota actually wants.

Sorry, rural Minnesota, you've been had.
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