Sen. Lourey Afraid to say “Obama” and “Care” in the Same Sentence

June 6th, 2010

In the commentary on the Legislative session written by Sen. Tony Lourey (DFL – Kerrick) and published in the local weekly papers, he states that the Legislature fought hard for federal funding for early enrollment in medical assistance (MA). Sen. Lourey further states that this would bring an additional $1.4 million to the state, but the Governor refused this position because he is seeking higher office.

Truth is, what the Democrat majority in the Legislature wanted, and what the Governor was opposed to, is an early opt-in to ObamaCare. The federal health care monstrosity, under the compromise reached at the end of session, will take effect in Minnesota when the Governor decides to opt in. The $1.4 billion of federal money Lourey says will come in from this will most surely be swallowed up by a huge expansion of benefits paid out to more people dependent on the public entitlement system.

This sets up a major issue in the Governor’s race this fall. The Democrat candidate, if elected, will surely choose to opt in, whether it’s Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Matt Entenza or Mark Dayton. Tom Emmer, like Governor Pawlenty will likely choose to not opt in.

In the meantime, Sen. Lourey will avoid the phrase “federal Health care” or “ObamaCare” like the plague.

But let’s face it. That’s basically what it is.

“Halftime” at the Minnesota Legislature

April 4th, 2010

Members of the Minnesota House and Senate went home last Monday for their Easter/Passover break. They return Tuesday. In terms of legislative days they are more than half done with the 2010 Legislative session. In terms of number of votes and the heaviest lifting of balancing the budget, they are not halfway there. At any rate, this point in the session could be considered “halftime”.

In the first half of the 2010 Legislative session, three noteworthy things happened. Each one of them gave House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher (who is a DFL candidate for Governor) a chance to show her leadership skills, and she failed at each opportunity.

The first is the capital investment (or borrowing bill, or debt bill, or whatever you want to call it) “bonding bill”. Democrat leadership in the House and Senate, true to form, passed a larger borrowing package than Governor Tim Pawlenty preferred. The $1,000,000,000 monstrosity sailed through the House and Senate, and the conference committee worked out the differences. Before the House voted on the conference committee report, House Republican Leader Kurt Zellers moved to reject the conference committee report and send it back to conference committee. This motion failed and the Democrat-led House and Senate each voted to pass the conference committee report and send the bill on to the Governor.

Except Democrat leadership had second thoughts and took the unusual action of not sending the bill on to the Governor. They decided to put the conference committee back to work as a “working group”. Their job was to put a couple projects in the Governor wanted so he would be less likely to veto the whole bill. This strategy worked to some extent, but the Governor used his line-item veto authority to cut about $300 million worth of projects out of the bill.

The second major action by the Legislature in the first half of the 2010 session was the general assistance medical care (GAMC) fix. Last year, the Governor had unalloted money the Legislature had appropriated for this program that provides medical care for the poorest of the poor. Unfortunately, GAMC was an inefficient program that was growing at an unsustainable rate. This year Democrats passed legislation to restore this money without any reform to the program, and the Governor vetoed the bill. Speaker Kelliher made the decision to bring the bill up for an override vote in the House in spite of the fact a bipartisan group led by Rep. Erin Murphy (DFL – St. Paul) and Rep. Matt Dean (R – Dellwood) was close to working out an innovative solution.

House Majority Leader Tony Sertich (DFL – Chisholm) stated on the House floor that there were only two choices. Either override the Governor or let the Governor’s veto stand. Democrats failed at getting the 2/3 vote necessary to override, so the Governor’s veto stood. Within a couple days, the group working on a compromise announced they had a deal.

Eventually a bill came forward to change GAMC into a more efficient program that provides better health care to the poor at less cost to the taxpayers. So much for Sertich’s “there are only two choices” philosophy. Speaker Kelliher knew the bipartisan group was close to a deal before she allowed the override attempt to come up. She could have waited until another solution to come forward. But the override attempt was shameless pandering to her DFL base to win votes in her quest for her party’s endorsement.

However, the real winners were House Republicans. By sticking together, they prevented the veto override, and put forward much of the final package. They showed that Republicans are not the party of no, and that they care that the poorest of the poor get the medical care they need.

The third major action by the Legislature was the “balancing” of one-third of the budget deficit. A bill was passed that provided funding, or in most cases, cut funding to state agencies and programs. Democrat leadership took the low hanging fruit in the first half of the session. However, this bill did not address K-12 education or Health and Human Services, which combined, comprise most of the budget.

Democrats will brag to their constituents back home that they solved one-third of the deficit. However, they are setting up for one of three things (or a combination of these things) to happen. They will either have to cut K-12 education, cut nursing homes or raise taxes. Now some Democrats are willing to cut K-12 educatoin. Some Democrats are willing to cut nursing homes. However, very few Democrats are averse to raising taxes. Except in an election year like this one, they may be gun-shy. But do they really want to hold the line on taxes, just to risk alienating their core constituencies in the teachers’ union or the welfare rights crowd? Again, this leaves Speaker Kelliher in a precarious position.

Some speculate Democrats will quickly pass budget cuts to these areas without a tax increase and adjourn sine die, leaving the rest to Governor Pawlenty. If he signs them into law it’s all on his shoulders since it’s a waste of time sending him a tax increase bill, the philosophy goes. But the Governor still has the power to call the Legislature back into special session, saying the Legislature didn’t finish its work.

This remains to be seen. But the harsh reality is that it’s much tougher to be in the majority and have to make the difficult decisions than be in the minority and criticize the decisions that are made, like Democrats did during the last budget deficit.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am an employee of the Minnesota House of Representatives with the Republican Caucus. This website is not paid for nor operated by any legislator, legislative caucus, candidate or political party. Opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the website administrator, and not necessarily those of any legislator, legislative caucus, candidate or political party.

The Truth About Glo-bull Warming Money

March 6th, 2010

Glubull warming (or “climate change” as it is now called) skeptics have been painted as being on the side of the debate with the money. You know. Oil companies. Exxon-Mobil. They bring their big money to the argument and use it to out shout the scientific “evidence” that “climate change” is real and caused by human activity.

But this article on the ABC Austrialia website paints a very different story. Sure enough, Exxon-Mobil put some $23 million into questioning the idea of man-made globull warming, and questioning the wisdom of controlling our productivity so we can emit less carbon. But that $23 million pales in comparison to the billions and trillions spent on “research” and confirmation of the globull warming alarmist theories. Even Exxon itself spent $100 million for Stanford’s Global Climate and Energy Project, and $600 million for Biofuels research.

The U. S. Government spent $79 billion on climate change research and technology since 1989. The Australian government spent $13 million on one quick ad campaign called “Think Climate Think Change”. These figures do not include money spent by other governments.

 Money put into “carbon trading” has reached $130 billion annually.

There are no grants to research the skeptics’ side. There is no “Institute of NaturalClimate Change”. And like a true grassroots movement, most globull warming skeptics have a day job, and don’t have time to do the research.

Believe what you’ll believe about climate change, but when someone tells you the big money is behind the skeptics, you now know better.

Pogemiller: “We never cut off debate here.”

February 28th, 2010

Really. He said it.

Monday night. February 22, 2010. When the Senate was waiting for the House to send the conference committee report on Minnesota’s version of the debt-laden porkulus bill over, Republican Leader David Senjem wondered aloud that if the Senate breaks for recess while waiting for the bill, would there be opportunity for debate when the Senate is called back to order.

In response, Senate majority leader Larry Pogemiller (DFL – Minneapolis) stated emphatically, “We never cut off debate here.” Laugher erupted, which even included a chuckle from Senate President James Metzen (DFL – St. Paul). The look on Pogemiller’s face was priceless.

Of course, the Truth Detector has to give Sen. Pogemiller a “pure bull” for his statement. One only has to go back to the last day of the 2009 session when Senate Democrats jammed through an enormous tax increase bill at the last minute, knowing it would meet its demise with Governor Tim Pawlenty’s veto pen. Because the clock was ticking toward the constitutional deadline, the Senate Democrats cut off debate and forced a vote under the vocal objections by Senate Republicans.

There was also 2004, when, rather than allow then-Sen. Michele Bachmann offer a constitutional amendment preserving traditional marriage, the Democrat majority shut off the lights and the microphones.

Pure bull, Sen. Pogemiller, and the people know better.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am an employee of the Minnesota House of Representatives with the Republican Caucus. This website is not paid for nor operated by any legislator, legislative caucus, candidate or political party. Opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the website administrator, and not necessarily those of any legislator, legislative caucus, candidate or political party.

Why Procedural Motions Sometimes Matter

February 28th, 2010

When making a judgment on legislators, most individuals and interest groups focus on the “big votes”. In other words, the vote on an entire bill rather than an obscure amendment, or a vote to override a veto rather than a procedural motion. Most often, votes on procedural motions are split down party lines, and usually ignored by parties and interest groups. However, when Minnesota’s version of the debt laden porkulus bill was considered this past week, there were very important procedural motions in the House and Senate that should speak very loudly and clearly about how the Democrat majority in both Houses of the Legislature are playing games with the taxpayers’ credit card.

On Monday, February 22, 2010, the debt bill came back to the House from the House-Senate conference committee for repassage. Republican Leader Kurt Zellers moved to reject the conference repoert and return the bill to conference committe. The motion failed, mostly along party lines, and the conference committee report was adopted and the bill was repassed and sent to the Senate. In the Senate, Sen. Warren Limmer (R – Maple Grove) made the motion to reject the conference report and return the bill to the conference committee. Again, the motion was defeated mostly along party lines. The conference committee report was adopted and the bill was repassed and sent to the Governor. 

Or so we thought. That’s what usually happens to a bill that passes both bodies of the Legislature. However, the Democrat leadership, re-thinking the prospect of a borrowing bill at the Sham-wow price of $999,999,000 getting vetoed in its entirety by the Governor, then hung onto the bill and put the conference committee, now known as a “working group” back to work.

Capitol insiders don’t remember this kind of maneuvering happening since early statehood days when a bill to move the capitol to St. Peter mysterously disappeared.

Democrat leadership could have just listened to the minority concerns that the bill was too large and would be vetoed by the Governor. But they instead opted to defeat the motions by Republicans to reject the conference report. Rather than admit that Republicans are right, Democrat leadership chose to be the ones in control and use a procedure rarely, if ever, used to keep their debt bill from getting vetoed.

This cannot be good for House Speaker Margaret Anderson-Kelliher’s (DFL – Minneapolis) reputation as a leader as she seeks her party’s endorsement for Governor.

Representatives from the East Central Minnesota area voting with Democrat leadership were Tim Faust, Jeremy Kalin, and Gail Kulick Jackson.

Rep. Bill Hilty joined Republicans in voting to send the bill back to conference committee and voting against final passage of the bill. Let’s not kid ourselves. Rep. Hilty didn’t suddenly become a fiscal conservative. He voted ageinst final passage because the bill did not contain the tens of millions of dollars for the Moose Lake Sexual Offender Program expansion in his district.

Rob Eastlund (R – Isanti) was excused from this late evening session and did not vote.

In the Senate, Sen. Lisa Fobbe and Sen. Rick Olseen, both Democrats, sided with their leadership on these votes. Sen. Tony Lourey (D – Kerrick) sided with Republicans, presumably for the same reasons as Rep. Hilty.

Democrat leadership can talk bipartisanship all they want, but if they continue to stonewall the minority, even when they know they’re right, their talk of bipartisanship will fall on deaf ears.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am an employee of the Minnesota House of Representatives with the Republican Caucus. This website is not paid for nor operated by any legislator, legislative caucus, candidate or political party. Opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the website administrator, and not necessarily those of any legislator, legislative caucus, candidate or political party.

Are Democrats Opposed to Private Sector Jobs?

February 14th, 2010

It is typical when a chief executive gives an address to the Legislative branch that the response by the live audience is very partisan. For example, when a President gives the state of the union address, members of his party will applaud at all the appropriate places in the speech, and if the point is particularly poignant, they will stand and cheer. Conversely, members of the opposing party, while usually polite, will remain silent when most of the applause lines are delivered, unless it’s a point that nearly everyone can agree with.

So when Governor Tim Pawlenty delivered his state of the state address, I was not surprised when Democrats refused to applaud in response to the Governor’s calls to reduce spending, and to get Minnesota out of the top ten in the nation for tax burden.

However, one obvious applause line that everyone should have agreed with, was when the Governor talked about the need to create private sector jobs. But when he delivered this line, and the right side of the House Floor where Republicans were seated applauded, the left side where Democrats were seated was nearly silent.

Nothing much surprises the Truth Detector anymore, but on this one the Truth Detector says, “Are you kidding me?” Are Democrats really opposed to private sector job creation? Are Legislative Democrats  that beholden to public employee unions that they don’t dare publicly approve of private sector jobs? Where do they think the money to pay public employees comes from?

The Truth Detector says Minnesota’s financial mess will not get straightened out with the current Legislative leadership  in charge of things.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am an employee of the Minnesota House of Representatives with the Republican Caucus. This website is not paid for nor operated by any legislator, legislative caucus, candidate or political party. Opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the website administrator, and not necessarily those of any legislator, legislative caucus, candidate or political party.

Dayton Proposes to Raise Taxes; No Spending Cuts

February 14th, 2010

Former U. S. Senator Mark Dayton

When former U. S. Senator Mark Dayton announced his intention to run for Governor of Minnesota last month, he proposed to raise taxes on the top 10 percent of income earners, which he claims will bring in an additional $3.8 billion in a two-year biennium. At the same time, he claims, according to this Minneapolis Star Tribune article, that he “whatever I can, whenever I can, wherever I can to bring new jobs to our state.” Maybe someone should tell him that taxing job proviers more is not the way to attract them to our state.

The Truth Detector gives Dayton some credit for his honesty in his complete love of government bureaucracy, as he gives no indication that he would cut or streamline government at all. He only wants to raise taxes and spend more.

Dayton, like many other tax-and-spend advocates, cite the Tax Incidence Study to claim that wealthy Minnesotans pay a smaller percentage of their disposable income in taxes than middle income or lower income folks. This is where the Truth Detector has to give Dayton a “half-truth”, because every time Dayton and his taax-and-spend allies bring this up, they fail to tell the whole story.

Yes it’s true that high income earners pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes, according to the Tax Incidence Study. This is because the study takes into account regressive taxes (those that fall most heavily on the poor and middle class), such as gas taxes, property taxes, sales taxes and alcohol and tobacco taxes. The income tax (which is very progressive in Minnesota) hits high income earners very hard.

The part of the story that is not told is the part that makes the most sense, if one takes a few seconds to think about it. High income earners pay a smaller percentage on almost everything, when compared to folks who make a more modest income. Think about it! Utility bills, food, clothing, car payments, groceries. It may not seem fair to a lot of people, but high income earners have more money at thier disposal for life’s necessities than middle-or-low income earners. Of course, their tax burden will be a smaller percentage, when factoring in all taxes.

The other part of the story that the tax-and-spend crowd will refuse to tell is that liberals in the Legislature have been effective at raising regressive taxes in recent years, such as the gas tax, and the additional sales tax for the arts and outdoors. These are regressive taxes that are disproportionately paid by low and middle income folks. So they made that tax system in Minnsota more regressive, and now they cry about how unfair it is that the rich aren’t paying their fair share, so let’s sock it to them by raising the income tax!

And politicians like Dayton, who probably never had a private sector job, have virtually no capacity to make government smaller.  Heaven help us if he or one of his ilk become our governor for the next four years.

She’s No Lady, She’s a Member of Congress

January 27th, 2010

I couldn’t let any more time pass before the Truth Detector comments on the bruhaha from last week’s joint radio appearance by Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R –  Minnesota) and Sen. Arlen Specter (D – Pennsylvania) in Pennsylvania.

As you may recall, Specter was a moderate Republican Senator until after the 2008 election that swept Barack H. Obama and a near filibuster-proof majority for the Democrats in the Senate. Specter’s re-election was coming up in 2010, and, seemingly reading the tea leaves at the time, he decided to change parties with the hopes of grabbing a plumb committee chairmanship while increasing his chances of re-election.

But how quickly the political winds change. Merely a year later, Democratic fortunes have reversed, and Specter, who historically gets re-elected by comfortable margins, is in the re-election fight of his life. Last week’s radio appearance with Bachmann may not have helped his chances.

Bachmann and Specter were vigorously debating the Democrats’ health care proposal. Specter asked Bachmann what she voted in favor of. When Bachmann answered in generalities, without naming a specific bill, Specter was not satisfied. The moderator called on Specter to respond, while Bachmann continued to press her point. Specter, frustrated by being interrupted, told Bachmann to “act like a lady.” “I’m treating you like a lady, so act like one.”

Bachmann later said she felt like she was being treated like a child.

 While Bachmann is no stranger to fallout from making erratic statements, the political fallout this time, fair or unfair, will fall on Specter. Specter has since apologized directly to Bachmann, which may limit the political fallout as far as he’s concerned. Let’s face it. Specter’s comments had shades of sexism. Had he been paired with a Congressman (Mike) Pence, a Congressman (Jeff) Flake, a Congressman (John) Kline or any other male member of Congress, does anyone believe Specter would have asked any of them to “act like a gentleman”?

Now, whenever two or more politicians are gathered in one place and asked to express their opinions, interruptions can be expected. But whether Specter realized it at the time, his insinuation that Bachmann is not a lady has a ring of truth to it. I’ve written on this blog before about people close to me who have been trampled on by Bachmann’s stilettos. Figuratively, of course, but the fact is Bachmann is capable of being downright rude and tacky, especially when it comes to promoting her own political  career. (BTW, if she were a man, I would give the words, “rude”, “tacky” or even “ungentlemanly” equal time here.)

So while the Truth Detector says Specter couldn’t have said what he said to a more deserving person, the Truth Detector also says whatever political fallout Specter suffers because of it also couldn’t happen to a more deserving person. He may pay the ultimate price for switching parties out of political opportunism this November. Because of his comments last week, female voters in Pennsylvania just might make sure of it.

CPT Ben Wiener Urges Participation in Precinct Caucuses

January 27th, 2010

Another letter from CPT Ben Wiener has been added to the “Letters from a Soldier” page. Click on the link, if you dare to be challenged to attend precinct caucuses and township elections!

Can Scott Brown Pull off a Massachusetts Miracle?

January 17th, 2010

Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown

Election Day in Massachusetts is still a couple days away. Anything could happen. But all indications are pointing to Republican State Senator Scott Brown shocking the world with a “Massachusetts Mriacle“.

Not more than a couple weeks ago, it was still assumed that the Democrat would win the special election to fill, what even Fox News is still calling, “Ted Kennedy’s seat”. Massachusetts Democrat attorney general Martha Coakley had a double-digit lead in the polls in this bluest of blue states. Among registered voters who affiliate with a major party, Democrats outnumber Republicans three to one. The people of Massachusetts haven’t sent a Republican to the U. S. Senate since, well, no one can remember when.

Then the perfect storm started to happen. Coakley apparently had thought that it was enough to be the Democrat on the ballot. And in Massachusetts, it usually is. But this is 2010. She was aloof, staying out of the public, not wanting to shake hands and look voters in the eye.

Then came the debate moderated by David Gergen. In the context of the U. S. Senate about to vote on federal health care “reform”, about Gergen asked Brown how he could go to the Senate and vote against it in the Kennedy’s seat. Brown shot back and stated, with all due respect, of course, that the seat does not belong to the Kennedys, nor does it belong to the Democrats. It’s the people’s seat. Whether by accident or by design, Brown was able say in a few seconds what people have been trying to say at town meetings all across the nation since last summer. 

Only time will tell whether Brown’s response will be as memorable as vice-presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen’s “You’re no Jack Kennedy” to Dan Quayle. The sidebar that no one mentions is that Bentsen and presidential candidate Michael Dukakis lost that election. As I write this, that 1988 presidential election and that quote by Bentsen had both Kennedy ties and Massachusetts ties (Dukakis was a former Massachusetts governor).

As Coakley and her campaign saw the race getting uncomfortably close, she had to start going negative in her messaging in an attempt to reduce public favor with Brown. But it didn’t help when someone’s spell-checker broke down when producing an attack ad against Brown. The Coakley campaign misspelled “Massachusetts”. (If nothing else good comes out of this special election, amateur bloggers like me will have learned how to spell “Massachusetts”.

Brown clearly has the mojo at this point in the race. Prior to January 5th, Coakley generally had double-digit leads in the polls. However, four of the last six polls (since january 7th)  released publicly have Brown leading (one of the two polls that have Coakley leading was conducted by a Democrat-leaning organization). 

How did Brown, a Republican in an extremely blue state, capture so much support? I’ll borrow a couple sentences from this Time article, as I think they stated it well:

“Given the often contrived and polarizing conflict that dominates the cable-TV landscape, it would be easy, on the outside looking in, to slap a Tea Party label on Brown’s supporters. But most of those lunging for his hand were not lunatics from the fringe, merely Democrats and Independents feeling bruised, ignored and taken for granted by people in power.”

Coakley is now calling in the big guns to campaign for her – a far cry from just getting her name on the ballot as a Democrat and coasting to Washington. Former President Bill Clinton has visited Massachusetts, and Barack H. Obama is scheduled to visit today. (Word was Obama’s advisers carefully calculated the risks and rewards of campaigning for Coakley – can he afford to show up for a candidate who might lose? In the end, they chose to send him there on a Sunday, a notoriously slow news day.)

Win or lose, Brown has already pulled of something that most people just a few weeks ago thought not possible: a competitive race in Massachusetts. Again, as Time puts it:

But, in a sense, Scott Brown has already won; not simply for his party, Republican, but for any candidate across the landscape who looks toward a volatile November with the message, “It’s our turn.”

In a couple days well know whether Scott Brown just won, or really won.