Republican 2020 Vision, Hindsight or Foresight

Minnesota Report

Yesterday’s, press conference by the Republican Senate majority discussed much of what they had done in the past legislative session and more what they would like to do during the 2020 session. The issues and initiatives advanced by Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-09, Nisswa) were targeted right toward the Republican rural, conservative fiscal and social base.

He began his presentation highlighting the $650 million in tax reductions for the state’s middle class, passed in the last budget and called for a complete exemption for all Social Security payments from state income tax. He also discussed state conformity from $20,000 annually to the federal amount of $200,000 for depreciation of Agricultural land found in Section 179. He then turned to affordable healthcare premiums, noting Minnesota has the lowest in the country and called for pharmaceutical transparency. He then shifted to a discussion about the problems in the Department of Human Services and drew a direct connection to MNLARS.

In education, he called for closure in the Achievement Gap and “Real” School Choice and private vouchers, while also opposing the push for a Constitutional Amendment for education outcomes because it would create a liability for the state. Later, while noting concerns in Greater Minnesota about using public transit in the Twin Cities he emphasized increases in gang violence and public safety concerns and advanced an idea of considering a tie between this and LGA funding while also placing it first before Criminal Justice Reform. Finally, he addressed a bonding bill that reflects more recent ones of $825 and $988 million compared to the $2.5 billion being discussed by Governor Tim Walz (DFL-MN).

This showed his solid grasp of the wide range of topics his caucus is seeking to address in the bonding bill for the 2020 legislative session. Additionally, regarding the budget surplus he supports giving it back to taxpayers in some form of tax relief and there was a point made about his proposal for a license tab fee holiday.

One of the last questions asked was in regards to PolyMet and the decision by the lower court to deny two permits and he pointed out during the Polar Vortex last winter on 10% of the energy produced came from renewable sources and referred to radical environmentalists preventing jobs from Northeastern Minnesota.

Nearly, all of these issues are well spelled out on the Republican Caucus website.

It is always a good idea to know what the other side is interested in prior to the different sides being in the heat of the battle.

Tackling the Transportation Funding Problem

Minnesota Report

Face it, roads, bridges, transit and all forms of transportation fixes and improvements all cost significant amounts of money. Republicans are calling for the use of some cash for projects rather than creating long-term obligations through state bonding. Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-09, Nisswa) did acknowledge the cost of borrowing now was cheap, but also a reduction in the overall amount was fiscally beneficial to the state.

This money could only come from the current state budget surplus, but logically the $1.5 billion in one-time money will not stretch very far if it is going in multiple directions.

We still believe one-way to fund transportation in the future is to establish a fee collection from commercial operators based on a mileage system. Because these users of our transportation system are more frequent users and thereby create a greater negative impact.

As we have said before there is a viable alternative funding source.

Because most ridesharing and delivery services are all app-based they have an onboard GPS tracking system that can show the actual mileage rates and hence could easily afford a user-based fee system. If it were to be based on a model similar to the Minnesota Gas Tax then 2/3rds would go to the state and 1/3rd to the municipality. If this type of fee were in place at $.09/mile a significant revenue source for both state transportation and municipal road projects could be built. A study is currently underway at the MN Department of Transportation to access some of these issues. http://www.dot.state.mn.us/distancebaseduserfee 

The additional cost of a $2.5 million bonding bill is only penciled out at $200 million over 20 years and that is a very solid investment in our collective needs. The main areas being discussed on both sides appear to be around roads and bridges, higher education and wastewater infrastructure. The problem is much of these below the surface issues have been deferred for many years and we have sarcastically called for a “Deferred Maintenance Bonding Bill” before. The number of things deferred is sizable and the longer these needs are unmet the great the costs will be to either fix the problem or replace the structure altogether.

The question is when will a sizable amount of money be targeted at this problem, which is perpetual. The overall problem is no legislator has ever lost an election for not voting for a bonding bill.

Klobuchar’s Presidential Fundraising Numbers

National Elections

Early reports about US Senator Amy Klobuchar’s (D-MN) Presidential fundraising numbers at $11.4 million. We thought these warranted a bit of scrutiny to see how well she faired from within Minnesota compared to the rest of the nation.

Overall, her Amy for America campaign has raised $18,469.983.23 with $5,905,097.83 or 44.89% coming from Minnesota. These amounts Include Primary and General election dollars. In Q3, excluding General election earmarks, because candidates need to get past the Primary in order to spend General Election monies, and contributors can max out at $2,100.00 for each, she had begun to build some momentum from the debate stage you can see the surge in her support across the nation.

Her totals in Q3 for Primary contributions show $4,316,380.24 with only $415,279.66 or10.65% coming from Minnesota.

Since Minnesota sits at 14th when it comes to per capita income and these comparative numbers show some interesting elements, of course, the bulk of the state contributors’ resident in Hennepin County.

MN Congressional Districts: Will there be Seven or Eight?

Minnesota Report

With 2020 being a Census Year, and at the forefront of a “Stub Election” our term for the two-year state senate elections at the end of the decade, due to redistricting Minnesota has the chance to determine its own political fate. Currently, all that is available are projections, estimations, and speculations about how many people in the Land O’ 10,000 Lakes will stand up and be counted.

As we have noted in a previous article The Biggest Challenger to Minnesota in the US Census Contest is Wisconsin the “Cheeseheads” have bested us and the rest of the nation in the last two counts. Its doubtful any sports like challenge will take place between our two states because the Republican-controlled legislature has failed to provide the Badger State with any resources to count themselves. We may win this go-round by default.

This means our state will succeed regionally, but unless there is a significant local effort we may lose out to Alabama. In 1990, our competition was Arizona, and in 2000, it was Missouri, which in both instances we prevailed and those states both lost a Congressional seat. This meant Minnesota had the smallest Congressional Districts in the nation.

State Demographer Susan Brower is stating our projected trend is leaning toward a loss of a seat, but one thing is clear the numbers are finally determined by actual counts and not speculations. Because Minnesota has only shown a participation rate in the low 80’s in each of the last counts we can clearly shape our own future.

Many census-taker jobs are open and they are actively seeking applicants while providing a competitive wage. https://2020census.gov/en/jobs/job-details.html

It is worth noting the various maps of our congressional districts over the last three decades to show how dramatically they have changed.

Passing of a Behind the Scenes Moveable Force in the SOS

Minnesota Report

We attended the visitation for former Deputy Secretary of State Elaine (Voldness) Voss last evening. Today, at 11:00 AM services are taking place at Peace Lutheran Church in Coon Rapids. We had the opportunity to listen to great stories from Former Secretary of State Joan Anderson Growe (DFL-MN) and another key staffer later Ramsey County Elections Manager Joe Mansky about how the office actually ran during Voss’ tenure. She was clearly one to reckon with.

Checks & Balances Publisher Shawn Towle developed a great deal of his political knowledge early on through many conversations with Voss who provided clear insight on how the Minnesota political process actually works.

Growe and Strudevant Scribing a Book

Minnesota Report

Former Secretary of State Joan Anderson Growe (DFL-MN) 1975-1999, the second woman to hold the position, and former Star Tribune Columnist Lori Strudevant are crafting a book for the Minnesota Historical Society due out in August. We are expecting an interesting retelling of many stories about significant changes in Minnesota’s election procedures that set the stage for many changes nationwide.

Items to Consider Regarding DFL Senate Leadership Discussion

Minnesota Report

   VS   

The DFL Senate Caucus had a meeting set for tomorrow, which was postponed by Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-03, Cook) after an email announcement by Senate Assistant Minority Leader Susan Kent (DFL-53, Woodbury) of her intent to challenge for the leadership position. We understand there is a request for dates for the caucus requested from members and they already have a retreat scheduled for February 1, 2020. We have spoken with members of the caucus and are informed the leadership conversation is a “family matter” being discussed among the DFL Senate Family. If this is family matter then the decision will be whether or not to continue as a patrilineal group or become a matrilineal group.

The DFL Senate Caucus is in a serious position being three votes short of the majority. The 2020 election is majorly significant because with a DFL governor, the state House if held, being solidly in DFL hands, the Senate if turned means holding all levers of power the DFL decides the redistricting maps for both Congress and the state legislature. The 2020 state Senate elections are paramount and because they are only for a two-year term, these “Stub Elections” will have substantial impact for the next decade.

When Bakk first became minority leader in 2011 after the 2010 election, his caucus represented 30 of the 67 seats. They regained the majority in 2013 following the 2012 election with 39 votes. The DFL lost it again after the 2016 election resulting in a 33-vote minority starting in 2017. Then the loss in a Special Election after the appointment of Sen Tony Lourey (DFL-11, Kerrick) to head DHS resulted in the current three-vote differential of 32-35.

The dynamic changes in the Senate over the last decade are quite significant. We would like to highlight a couple of noteworthy items for people to consider.

  • 32 members will decide, but 17 members voting in the same manner will determine.
  • There are 5 rural members, 9 urban members, and 18 suburban members.
  • 10 of the members are women and 3 urban and 7 suburban.

Now, very few things are monolithic in politics especially DFL politics, which is often best described as herding cats. The fact remains the bulk of the political power in this caucus resides in the hands of the largest group the suburbanites and if they moved in a single direction as a block they can make the final call. Kent, as a member of the largest block, could have an advantage due to regional and gender demographics, but Bakk is a tough negotiator and the rise in suburban seats has taken place under his guidance. Kent did help bring about the DFL Majority with her election over Sen Ted Lillie (R-53, Woodbury) in 2012.

Kent as the challenger, appears to be like a regular suburban soccer mom, with a slight southern drawl, but with a Sally Field demeanor. Now, we don’t mean the Field of Flying Nun or Smokey and the Bandit fame, but rather the Academy Award-winning actress of the Norma Rae variety.

The question will be which leader will the caucus want to bring them into the majority and provide the voice of their caucus leading into the new decade.   

Revenue Forecast Shows a Significant Surplus

Minnesota Report

The Office of Management and Budget released the Revenue Forecast today showing a $1.332 billion surplus. When the legislature reconvenes on February 11th, they will wait for the February Forecast to set their legislative priorities. https://mn.gov/mmb-stat/000/az/forecast/2019/budget-and-economic-forecast/nov19-final-report.pdf

The economic outlook is expected to take a downturn showing the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) idiocies in decline out to 2023. Minnesota is still seen to be outpacing the national average.

Much of the surplus is realized from the following:

Forecast expenditures for education aid programs are down $54 million (0.3 percent) from previous estimates but are partially offset by an additional appropriation for safe schools supplemental aid of $30 million that was activated when FY 2019 closed with a general fund balance that was higher than projected at the end of the legislative session. Total health and human services (HHS) spending is projected to be down $97 million from end of session estimates largely due to lower enrollment in Medical Assistance. These savings, along with $51 million (4.3 percent) lower projected debt service, are partially offset by increases in property tax aids and credits, the implementation of two additional contingency appropriations in FY 2020-21, and the carryforward of unspent appropriations

As is our tradition we inquired as to the size of the state’s debt capacity and learned we have a 3.5 billion availability, though we doubt the Senate Republicans will support anything over a billion. https://mn.gov/mmb-stat/000/az/forecast/2019/budget-and-economic-forecast/debt-capacity-forecast.pdf

Exposing a Fraud

Minnesota & National Report

The second week of Impeachment Hearings will continue to dominate our television stations, resulting in many conversations amongst pundits and continue to expose the political divides in our society. The series of testimonies from the various people willing to testify, some in direct violation of the counter orders from the White House, are all leading to proving Donald J Trump (R) is a fraud.

As the rhetoric shifts from investigations by a foreign country to charges of bribery, which is a term found in the Impeachment clause in the US Constitution, Article II, Section 4 “The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” we gain more insight, but the question is when will Trump’s defenders see the evidence in the same light?

The discussions on FOX are far different than those on PBS, CBS, NBC, CNN, and MSNBC. It is curious how the same information is viewed so drastically different through a partisan lens. Republicans are nearly all in lockstep coming to the aid of Trump and we can see no other reason than blatant partisanship.

The loss of Trump means lost judicial appointments, more trade woes, and a destabilized foreign policy. The religious tenants being invoked seem to resemble the adage “hate the sin but love the sinner.” The moral turpitude lies a and misrepresentations of fact are far too easily overlooked by the sycophants.

Our nation is at odds because their side refuses to believe the truth as presented and discounts what is shown at each turn only to protect the particular person in the position. In order for the United States of America to become whole once again will require the loss of the narcissistic pretender and fraud. He has admitted his wrongdoings and flaunted it before people and he needs to pay the highest price as a traitor to this country.

Truth is taking a backseat to partisanship. Trump’s Mojo isn’t rising it’s headed in a southerly direction.

The Truth Behind Ranked Choice Voting

Minnesota Report

Now that the 2019 elections are over in St Paul, we sought information from interim Elections Director David Triplett on what actually transpired and received the following answers to our questions. Additionally, we have a spreadsheet of all of the votes cast in the precincts of Wards One and Six. We understand that if Question 4 were to be implemented it would slow the system down significantly.

Again, we will point out in Ward Six the high number of Inactive Votes, meaning these people did not vote for more than one person and because that person was not one of the final two candidates, they played no role in the end result and effectively were disenfranchised. One other reality, which we have learned anecdotally is a number of people did vote for the same person multiple times on the ballot, which is no different than bullet balloting.

2019 St Paul Election Results by Precinct (This is an Excel Spreadsheet)

In Ward One the total of Unassigned Votes was 9.067% and in Ward Six 18.43%. Why does anyone who believes in democracy support a system where as much as 18.43% of the voting population has their votes cast aside?

Triplett’s answers are in bold.

  1. Why aren’t the results of the city election readily available in a fashion so that a voter will know what the results of their own elections are after the application of vote distribution through Ranked Choice Voting on Election Day? They are. We post unofficial results on Election night. If a reallocation or recount is required, we schedule it promptly and provide those results as promptly as possible (Wednesday afternoon this year). For this election, we executed two reallocations and reported results following the transparent and public process described in the Saint Paul ordinance for ranked voting by the end of the same business week. The scheduled canvass of the vote was not affected by this. We follow all laws and ordinances that govern processing or ranked voting.
  2. Why doesn’t the machinery the county purchased have that capacity? No system – including the one used in used in Ramsey County – is currently certified by the MN OSS for Ranked Voting.
  3. What would it entail both financially and technologically to make the unofficial vote totals available ASAP? We are making the unofficial vote totals available as soon as possible. When the reallocation was complete on Friday, we posted the results to rcelections.org. We posted results for 2nd-6th choice on the website on Wednesday.
  4. I understand these machines have the capacity to take a digital image of each ballot, which would potentially enable the ability to count the votes in the Ranked Choice Voting fashion, why wasn’t this done? State law only allows for ballot images to be used to count write-in votes (8230.1530). We have no legal authority to do anything else with the images.
  5. Three of the major arguments for Ranked Choice Voting were lower costs over a Primary, majority election results, and higher voter participation. Are these being met? In our experience, many factors come into play for every election. All past election results and data are available for viewing and research at RCElections.org & MNVotes.org
    1. What are the costs of a Primary vs RCV? Each event is different. Generally speaking, administering a primary costs about $2,500 per polling place for a city election, this does not include AB or VR costs not associated with opening the polling places.
      1. Do these numbers include an ongoing education program? Ramsey County does not have any ongoing educational efforts for Ranked Voting. We continue to use the materials that were developed for the initial rollout of RCV which Saint Paul paid for. If so, what is that cost specifically? Is it budgeted to have an education program every election? If so is that a cost paid for by the city of St Paul?
      2. What is the cost of a hand count? Our staff’s time and election judges’ wages are the additional costs for the hand count reallocation. This varies based on the scale and time required to reallocate. An early estimate for the two reallocations from this past Friday is $2,600 to pay 18 election judges for 8.5hrs of work to conduct the reallocation.
  • Again, what is the cost of technology improvements and what will the ongoing costs be? We currently have no plans to change our technology based on RCV. Should the SoS certify our system, it’s something we could explore with officials from the City of Saint Paul.  
  1. Who should be expected to pay for the costs of RCV the county or the city? The City of Saint Paul covers the cost of their elections.

What is necessary for you to do your job better and more efficiently? I’m proud of the job our experienced staff and dedicated election judges do. We use every election as an opportunity for continuous improvement to make the next one run more efficiently.

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