CONTRIBUTORS TO STATE POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEES (PAC’s) MUST BE DISCLOSED.

Like most other people, I am frustrated with elections and government outcomes linked to hidden agendas. The prime reason I am running for State Representative is to make a difference in restoring healthy government. Rich contributors are secretly funding PAC’s that defame State candidates. Manipulation of the voter turnout comes with television and radio advertisements and weekly mailings made just before the elections. All of us should know who that money came from, how much was contributed, how much money spent, and on what.

Voters’ choice of candidates should be based on facts and debates. Causing voter confusion, doubt, discouragement, frustration and anger is a form of voter fraud when PAC contributors hide themselves and their agendas. It is not free speech.

I support the DFL proposed Disclosure Act to amend the State Constitution that would end secret contributor funding of PAC’s. See

http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/dflpdf/1bf78472-c747-477e-ac46-2f1df8127933.pdf

http://kstp.com/politics/house-dfl-proposes-crackdown-on-dark-money/4038783/

http://www.duluthnewstribune.com/opinion/columns/3948039-lawmakers-response-disclose-act-common-sense-way-shed-light-dark-money

http://www.mintpressnews.com/campaign-finance-disclosure-laws-states-need-shine-light-dark-money-politics/200927/

 

MONEY MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO CONTROL OUR NATIONAL DEMOCRACY.

In a 5-4 split, the 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission U.S. Supreme Court Decision opened the door to unlimited corporation, union and, ultimately, individual election spending. The key point was that corporations had the same free speech rights as natural people. The Court’s also said that people would not lose faith in our democracy. Repeated polls show 80% of people contacted feel this unlimited campaign money corrupts elections and government. These polls show that people feel democratic government works best when we are all political equals, not when a few can drown out the voices of the rest.

To maintain a healthy Democracy, we have to abolish corporate personhood. The U.S. Supreme Court Decisions in United Citizens and McCutcheon rulings must be repealed. Super PAC and Big Money in politics must be killed. If we do not directly confront this corporate/government fraud, corporate welfare and rampant income inequality will continue until the National Debt causes a massive worldwide economic disaster that will end well-being for every person.

A State Representative, of course, has limited ability to change the national political will reinforced by Corporate Robber Baron through their TEA-Party extremists. But, the battle must be started now to change the course of history if we are to survive.

When elected, I will reintroduce Minnesota SF17 resolution in the House requesting the U.S. Congress to propose a U.S. Constitutional Amendment. If Congress does not propose an amendment, Congress will be requested to call a constitutional convention to propose an amendment clarifying that protected rights under the Constitution are the rights of natural persons and not the rights of artificial entities. This resolution also requests such amendment also state that spending money to influence elections is not speech under the First Amendment.

In other states, this resolution has had bipartisan support.

 

MINNESOTA STATE GOVERNMENT NEEDS TO BE REORGANIZED

VOTING MACHINES MUST BE REPLACED. Current machines are too old and too unreliable. More voting machines need to be added to the current inventory and quick response stock needs to be available to be brought to those precincts where voting times exceeds 15 minutes.

ELECTION PERIODS MUST INCLUDE THE 10 DAYS PRIOR TO THE DATE OF THE GENERAL ELECTION. This would provide more weekend time for those who cannot vote at establishing election polls during a one day time period due to work, child care, obligations or any other reason arising during that one day time period.

RESEARCH BY THE MINNESOTA SECRETARY OF STATE’S OFFICE MUST BE FINISHED IN FIVE (5) YEARS THAT WILL PROVIDE ID SECURE, USER-FRIENDLY, VOTER OPTIONS TO CAST BALLOTS FROM HOME OR ANY SECURE OTHER LOCATION. Full implementation must take place as soon as possible and in any case not to be greater than five (5) years beyond this finished research of the Minnesota Secretary Of State’s Office.

ANY PERSON LIVING IN MINNESOTA SHALL HAVE THE RIGHT TO VOTE. If the 30-day residency status, age and competency requirements are satisfied, this will include anyone regardless of legal status such as incarceration.

ALL ELEGIBLE VOTERS MUST VOTE. Failure to vote shall have the same penalty as the failure to carry health care insurance.

INITIATIVE AND REFERENDUM MUST BE ESTABLISHED BY A STATE CONSTITUIONAL AMENDMENT. With the procrastination, obstructionism and brinksmanship of partisan politics that has plagued State government for the last 20 years, the argument of “cooler-heads” government does not hold water. If a minimum number of residents choose to initiate a law by petition, that proposed law shall appear on the next ballot for majority voter approval or disapproval. If any current law deserves repeal or amendment, the same petition process for ballot approval or disapproval shall appear on the next ballot for majority approval or disapproval.

RANKED CHOICE VOTING MUST BE ESTABLISHED. Election Ballots shall give voters the choice of numbering candidates for office from 1st choice, 2nd choice and 3rd choice. The Minnesota Secretary Of State’s Office shall calculate such points voted on a ballot given to each candidate to determine a winner. This will counter the activism of extremists who undermine the characteristics of good democratic government based on compromise.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAWS MUST BE REFORMED. An average amount shall be established for each candidate for office with any amount above that to be refunded to the Minnesota Campaign and Finance Reporting Office. The intent will be to get candidates out to actually meet and talk to their constituents. Public Subsidies shall be provided in a determined amount up to the average amount established. Until such PAC’s are killed, PAC’s shall be completely transparent with a filing fee of 25% of all money spent by a PAC paid to the Campaign and Finance Reporting Office.  In addition to that fee, any candidate having media attacks of any kind launched by that PAC shall be entitled to 25% of the cost of that PAC attack from that PAC to counter that attack.

SINGLE PURPOSE BILLS MUST INCLUCE THE COSTS OF SUCH BILL. The omnibus method of financing government shall be aboloshed.

ALL BILLS AND AMENDMENTS MUST BE COMPLETED ONE (1) WEEK BEFORE THE ENDING OF THE LEGISLATIVE SESSION. For representative democracy to work as intended, and for transparency to restore and maintain public trust, any out of site deal-making by a limited few must be abolished.

CORPORATE LOBBYING MUST BE REINED IN. Any lobbyist representing any non-government or non-citizen corporate entity or its franchise business shall “clear the deck” and not be present or initiate legislator contact during the last two (2) weeks of a legislative session.

I will author and/or support legislation that will accomplish any or all of these proposals.

 

MINNESOTA STATE GOVERNMENT SHALL MAINTAIN EMPLOYEE NUMBERS ADEQUATE FOR THE TASKS REQUIRING SERVICE SUPPORT.

No state agency can outsource employment of any other state or country. State contracts shall be awarded to those businesses that do not outsource labor to any other state or country.

State agencies must employ staff at livable wages beginning at $17.00/per hour. State government shall not be required to explain why its employment policy is established to be competitive with the private sector.

  

HEALTH CARE INSURANCE PREMIUMS AND DEDUCTIONS MUST BE REDUCED TO   MAKE REAL COVERAGE AFFORDABLE.

Economic growth for Main Street depends more on reducing the costs of health care insurance than any other job development strategy. While the Affordable Care Act has a high moral value in providing health care coverage for almost everyone, the compromise came at a high price. Health care insurers were allowed to charge 15-20% administrative fees on inflated costs and getting bonuses by denying deserved coverage to insured individuals. Pharmaceutical companies could charge what they wanted for medications.

It is time for our State government to quit apologizing for being a strong player in a fair market system. It should create a fair market with market competition for both insurance and medications.

In 2014, the Minnesota Department of Health defined the breakdown of key industry providers of health care coverage in Minnesota: Self-insured employers that hire HMO-type insurance companies such as Blue Cross/Blue Shield to serve as third party administrators: 37.6%; Fully insured employers and individuals: 23.0%; Medicare: 16.5%; Medicaid/MinnesotaCare that also contract with HMO-type insurance companies to serve as third party administrators: 16.0%; Uninsured: 5.9%; and Tricare Veterans insurance: 1.1%

To run State Government like a business:

1. Full Medicaid services from direct State funding must be shifted back to the Counties. Necessary funding to staff the services must be included to eliminate costly HMO management fees. This would allow tax savings while better serving the working poor, elderly, mentally ill and disabled. The authority of the State Auditor’s Office to audit counties must be restored for proper oversight. Government has to adjust its business plan like any smart business when supplies or services become unaffordable, unreliable, or untrustworthy, such as with the exorbitant HMO management fees.

2. Republicans must not be allowed to eliminate MinnesotaCare as they voted to do last year. I would support expanding it to include more of the working poor, most living in rural Minnesota. As examples, individual income qualification would be raised from $23,540 to $32,400 and a family of 4 from $48,500 to $66,700. This will cost $68 Million. Since 70% is paid by federal subsidies, only $20.4 million need be covered from State surplus funds. This would free more money for insured people to be spent at main street businesses to grow the rural economy.

3. MNSure insurance for businesses and individuals cannot continue to sustain premium and deductible increases. If the SHOP (Small Business Health Options Program) cannot find realistic, affordable coverage for Small Businesses, I will support a sweeping change to include all of these people under the MinnesotaCare program. If individuals outside other coverage cannot find an affordable plan, I would also support making MinnesotaCare an option for these people.

4. I would support revising the large employer obligations for employee health insurance by measuring industry averages of health care plan costs as measured against that employer's costs. Higher cost plans would incur an employer Cadillac tax. Affordability for employees would be determined by a sliding scale paycheck to paycheck tax credit immediately applied as computed after that employee’s monthly premium deduction. This would help people avoid these upfront deductions that cause budgeting hardships during most of the year waiting for some vague end-of-year tax credit.

5. Dental costs are unreasonble and unaffordable. I would support Dental plan coverage under Medicaid, MinnesotaCare, MNSure and employer based plans to also cover orthodontics, crowns and implants. Sliding scale deductibles would be based on income levels for the various plans. I would support expansion of the University Of Minnesota School Of Dentistry providing services to those needing affordable dental work. An example is the U’s mobile dental health clinic that had helped fill at-risk student’s needs but is currently left unfunded. I would support total school tuition forgiveness for dentists dedicating 10 years providing affordable dental care to those areas where it is not available.

6. I would support a cost-plus formula for reimbursing services provided by hospitals and medical clinics. Particularly available have been too many rural hospitals and clinics have lacked the ability to negotiate reimbursement rates with insurers to cover required care services. This would provide a bottom line calculation that would end the unsustainable write-offs of uncollectible care costs that too many hospitals and clinics now experience.

7. I would support minimum salary rates of certified home care workers and licensed staff with built in annual cost of living adjustments comparable to area health care services. It is becoming extremely important that enough qualified employees be attracted to health care fields to allow the disabled and elderly to remain in their homes or other lower care-level living arrangements for as long as possible. Continuing rural labor shortages also require continuing higher salaries for nursing home and medical care workers if adequate staff levels are to be maintained for these essential services.

8. I support the proposal by DFL Representative Paul Thissen to divide the State Department of Human Services into five separate agencies. Any smart business manager knows that you can only effectively manage so many departments before serious problems arise. And that is exactly what is happening now. While this probably would likely require a federal waiver for reorganization, I would support the agency administering the health care and medical service payment system saving the 15-20% HMO fees. In addition, I would support a federal waiver to give this agency authority to shop low cost pharmaceuticals directly from domestic or foreign drug manufacturers. These medications could then be made available to any statewide provider or distributor of care, medications or medical supplies such as the local pharmacy.

9. The State Budget has to account for potential shortfalls. While a substantial part of this responsible government plan for State health care will be covered by the cost shifting of cost savings, premiums, deductibles, tax credits and federal subsidies paid to this more sustainable approach, a smart business plan has to account for funding shortfalls. I would support a constitutional amendment revising the Legacy fund amendment to rededicate much of those monies. As example, too much land is being removed from tax rolls purchased for outdoor habitat. It should instead be reinvested in a sustainable health care system.

10. As an alternative to any or all of the above, the health care industry could be run like public utilities and as nursing homes are now. The strength of State government in a fair market system is to level the playing field for everyone by using smart statewide regulations to assure reliable, affordable services for everyone. Health care is a human right and State government does not need to accept the free market requirement that health care and insurance activity have rights to churn up profits guaranteeing a minimum 8% return for their 401(k) investors.

 

END THREATS TO STOP FUNDING LOCAL GOVERNMENT AID (LGA’s).  

This is the clearest example of how the Republicans from the suburban ring around Minneapolis and St. Paul chairing key committees use that power to economically dominate the rest of the State. The complex LGA formula measures the taxing capacity and revenue needs of rural cities. The purpose is to ensure basic tax fairness to provide the same level of services and quality of life statewide. While 65% goes to rural cities, most of the cities left without LGA funding from this formula are the wealthiest cities in this Republican suburban ring.

The LGA has been pared back more than $1 billion since 2003 while property taxes are up over 60% to pay for services like police protection, fire protection, public works, parks and recreation and all of the other services. When the Democrat controlled Senate tried to add a modest $45.5 million to the 2002 LGA funding levels, the Republican controlled House cut $84 million from the LGA program targeting the inner cities of Duluth, Minneapolis and St. Paul which badly need more funding for public works. Despite a large State Budget surplus and LGA’s being only 2.5% of the State General Fund, LGA funding was left frozen at 2013-2014 levels.

If Republicans were able to completely cut the current State budgeted LGA amount of $519,398,012, District 1B towns would look very, very different. With local leaders reluctant to increase taxes more than bare minimum, towns would turn into wastelands.

The Minnesota Department of Revenue summary of Local Government Aid (LGA) certified for 2016 is as follows:

                                                     City                                Certified 2016 LGA Amount

                                                  Beltrami                                             $ 23,677.00

                                                  Brooks                                               $ 30,279.00

                                                  Climax                                               $ 55,569.00

                                                  Crookston                                     $ 3,592,006.00

                                                  East Grand Forks                         $ 2,486,905.00

                                                  Erskine                                            $ 123,204.00

                                                  Fertile                                              $ 293,439.00

                                                  Fisher                                                $ 92,833.00

                                                  Fosston                                           $ 576,450.00

                                                  Gully                                                  $ 16,270.00

                                                  Lengby                                              $ 21,232.00

                                                  McIntosh                                         $ 223,510.00

                                                  Mentor                                              $ 35,244.00

                                                  Nielsville                                           $ 23,809.00

                                                  Oklee                                              $ 125,328.00

                                                  Plummer                                           $ 57,201.00

                                                  Red Lake Falls                                $ 587,490.00

                                                  Trail                                                     $ 1,550.00

                                                  Winger                                               $ 41,640.00

                                TOTAL DISTRICT 1B LGA AMOUNTS          $ 8,407,639.00

I talked to several City managers and City finance officers about how property taxes would be affected if LGA’s were totally cut from the State General Fund with no cuts in services:

 East Grand Forks would have to raise its current tax levy amount of $3,837.287 (39.7% of its general fund) to cover the lost LGA amount of $2,486,905 (25.7% of its general fund). Business property tax increases were not included in this calculation since they have a special State tax revenue funding support as a border city to keep East Grand Forks businesses competitive with Grand Forks. But for a homeowner of a $100,000 home, for example, the annual real estate taxes would increase from $612.41 to $1,010.03.

Crookston would have similar experience. Its current levy tax base is $3,402,000 (39.0% of its operations supported by levy/aid). The lost LGA amount of $3,592,006 (41.2% of its operations supported by levy/aid) has to be covered by increasing the levy tax base. The increase in annual real estate taxes for a $100,000 home in Crookston would go from $555 to $1,504. A $100,000 business would have an increase in its annual real estate taxes from $833 to $2,258.

Fosston, along with all the other towns each with their own levy rates, would have a same experience. Its current levy tax base is $311,831 (19.7% of its Budgeted Governmental Funds). The LGA amount it would lose is $576,450 (36.5% of its Budgeted Governmental Funds). Annual real estate taxes on a $100,000 home in Fosston would increase from $205 to $600. A $100,000 business would see annual real estate taxes increase from $327 to $958.

It is important to also know that State Department of Revenue 2016 certified LGA’s for townships totaling $420,023 for District 1B taxpayers living out of the above cities of District 1B. This includes $69,364 for the 17 of 21 townships from Pennington County, $298,893 for Polk County and $51,766 for Red Lake townships. These amounts range from a high of $9,629 to a low of $68 based on a formula factoring in agriculture land, population and other factors. For District 1B taxpayers, the per capita range is from $15.00 to $40 increased annual property taxes without these LGA’s.

With this kind of tax burden increase, economic growth and job creation would suffer greatly. This would be a horrendous increased tax burden for people on fixed incomes, which includes almost everyone lucky enough to get a cost of living increase in their paychecks.

The single most important State strategy to reduce business taxes, homeowner taxes and rent increases is to make substantial increases to LGA’s. Government run like a smart business has to have a good strategic sense of where to invest State tax revenues back into the rural economy for the benefit of main street economics.

 

EDUCATION MUST BE SUPPORTED AT ALL LEVELS.

1. PRE-K IS A WIN-WIN INVESTMENT TO DEVELOP THE RURAL ECONOMY.

It has been shown that 4-year-old youngsters learn better throughout their entire lives when they have a jump start before starting kindergarten as 5-year-olds. This early orientation allows them to be better grounded in the educational processes the rest of their lives. The average reading and math proficiency ratings for District 1B schools would be improved in turn providing students with better choices for higher level schools. Better educated people are better qualified for available jobs and international competition. These better paying jobs pay taxes paying that can reduce the growth of State taxes because they do not need the safety net programs required to provide basic necessities. THAT IS A WIN.

This must be universal pre-k. Scholarships for pre-k are a fantasy in search of the reality of where parents in rural areas cannot find qualified pre-k schools. Tax credits mean up-front costs of perhaps $7,000 or more that cannot be afforded by low-income families. Vouchers may be open to a Constitutional challenge of fairness. If any local School District has space limitations to offer pre-k, the law should be crafted to allow combining pre-k with kindergarten as once practiced in country schools. THAT IS A WIN.

Parents freed from child care can join the local job market. This will ease the shortage of qualified workers for main street businesses throughout District 1B. Already working parent will save as much as $13,000 in child care expenses. Working parents with paychecks will ease dependence on safety net programs required to provide basic necessities and will become taxpayers paying their fair-share of taxes. THAT IS A WIN.

The District 1B Child care provider shortage such as in Crookston can be greatly eased. Tax credits given parents for child care will not be as necessary to ease that tax burden paid for by other taxpayers. THAT IS A WIN.

2. A QUALIFIED WORKFORCE MUST BE CREATED BY FULL INVESTMENT IN TUITION FREE 2 YEAR COLLEGES FOR ONGOING, LIFELONG TRAINING.

3. THE 40/60 RATIO OF STUDENT TO SCHOOL FUNDING FOR MINNESOTA STATE COLLGES AND UNIVERSITIES (MSCU) AND THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA MUST BE RESTORED.

Monies for this investment can be raised several ways:

   -Partnership with businesses and Corporations could fund the various science, technology, engineering and math that are required courses to create the needed, qualified employees;

  -Larger amounts from the State general fund could be dedicated to colleges and universities;

  -The Legacy amendment funding could be re-amended to invest in colleges and universities for a better return on investments from this revenue flow;

  -and, the criminal justice system must be reformulated to better handle nonviolent offenders. Those monies reinvested in colleges and universities benefiting students as well as offenders. There would be substantial immediate ongoing social and economic benefits to taxpayers, families and individuals in giving this the earliest possible attention.  

4. SCHOOL FUNDING FOR MINNESOTA DISTRICTS MUST BE STABILIZED AND EQUALIZED.

School District K-12 funding is unfair. The wealthy suburban School Districts have no problem in funding their programs due to a wealthy tax base. The results easily show in the proficiency ratings and ACT and SAT college readiness scores of rural versus suburban ringed districts.

I would support that School District no longer be dependent on any kind of local property tax levy funding but on monies from the State general fund determined by a formula similar to the LGA’s. To attract more qualified teachers, industry labor market wages should be equalized to make school districts competitive for people in the various disciplines. State tax monies supporting this approach would come from the usual sources of revenue generation as well as the other potential sources suggested above.

5. BANKRUPTCY PROTECTIONS MUST BE FULLY RESTORED FOR ALL STUDENT LOAN BORROWERS AND THEIR CONSIGNERS.

Student debt is a crisis that must be dealt with immediately. The U.S. Constitution requires an equal protection of the law amendment to restore full bankruptcy rights to students and any cosigners of school loans. To allow rights of bankruptcy for other kinds of individual or corporate debt, yet bar student lenders or their consigners from those same rights, is a most wrongful application of equal protection of law.

If elected, I will author a resolution requesting the U.S. Congress propose a U.S. Constitutional Amendment clarifying equal protection provisions of law to include all the rights of bankruptcy. And if Congress does not propose such an amendment, Congress will be requested in this resolution to then call a constitutional convention for a U.S. Constitutional amendment to give all individuals with student loan debt unrestricted equal bankruptcy protection rights against any kind of creditor.

 

IMPLEMENT A FAIR PROPERTY TAXATION OF AGRICULTURAL LAND THAT BALANCES THE ROLLER-COASTER AFFECT OF FARM INCOME.

Everyone’s survival is dependent on the reliable production of food at affordable prices. Farmers gamble on costs of production, weather and competitive markets to earn enough profit to stay in business. If they are to suffer from boom-or-bust times, food costs will also affect main street boom-or-bust food prices.

Minnesota farm property taxes had steeply risen due to a parallel rise in land values. A 2015 map of Polk County tillable market values per acre with percentage increase of value shows this reality. For example, Nesbit Township just east of East Grand Forks has the current highest per acre market value of $6,459 in Polk County after an increase of 5%. Just to the north, Keystone Township had a 20% increase in per acre value while 16 of 58 other townships had 15% increases in per acre value.

The results are that the value of agricultural land has increased 266% with increased property taxes of 175% over that last 10 years. For the same period, all other property types had an increased market value of 28% with a tax increase of 51%.  

Tax payments are dependent on farm profitability from market conditions. On the one hand, several years of good weather have created a surplus in farm commodities depressing markets. Low oil prices created with fracking technology has created a surplus of oil reserves depressing oil prices leaving oil producing countries less money to spend on international trade. With our own oil independence and strong economy, the value of the dollar has raised making our farm commodities more expensive for decreased demand in soft international markets.  

State tax policy has to account for market conditions in creating a fair tax burden for farmers.

Republicans have proposed a complete exemption of agricultural property from School District tax levies. That is fine for the wealthy suburban ring of Districts whose funding is well supported by other property types. For rural school Districts with a large part of the tax base coming from agricultural land, that is a serious amount of money that other property taxpayers will have to pick up and pay, or further lose ground on quality education.

There are three ways to value property taxes: Replacement Value; Market Value; and Productivity value. Replacement value is not relevant to agriculture land since creating more land is not possible. Market value has been inflated with money from investors based on the return during boom years. For that reason, I would support an agricultural income productivity formula and one that does not include the lagging affects of CRP payments.

While this approach does add volatility to the property tax system, at least some of that volatility can be stabilized by adjusting the regressive State tax system towards a fairer tax system. After calculations to remove all kinds of tax deductions from gross incomes, Minnesota has the 7th fairest State effective income tax structure in the nation. It is still regressive with the lower 95% income tax payers paying an 11.4% effective tax rate while the top 5% income tax payer pay a 10.5% effective tax rate. It should also be noted that the lowest 10% of wage earners pay a 26.4% effective tax rate balanced against the costs of any assistance programs they may receive.

Protecting food production with smart tax policy is a good State investment against market fluctuations. Higher effective tax rates for the top 5% income tax earners for a neutral progressive-regressive tax system should not be a problem since those incomes come from the economic benefits of living in Minnesota with all the quality of life also provided.

 

ESTABLISH A PROGRESSIVE EFFECTIVE TAX SYSTEM THAT CREATES AN AFFECTIVE FLAT TAX SYSTEM.

People at the lowest 10 percentile of income earnings pay an effective tax rate of 24.5% while those at the top 10 percentile of wage earning pay an effective tax if 10.5%. A tax system must be enacted that adjusts those inequities where the effective tax system slightly favors those at the lower wages that do not benefit as much from the Minnesota employment experience.

Corporate welfare must be phased out. Tax breaks, subsidies and loopholes must be modified over a period of ten (10) years to provide a level playing field between all taxpayers.

 

IMPLEMENT A SMART APPROACH TO PROMOTING GUN SAFETY AND FREEDOM.

A minimal specific tax must be placed on gun purchases, similar to that other specific taxes on items such as alcohol and taxes. The use of such tax will fund public service announcements that educate the public on guns, gun defense and law enforcement interaction. This education will target the reality of gun defense and how to maximize safety outcomes.

Limited liability sanctions must be implemented to protect law enforcement and individuals who engage in defense with guns in order to maximize safe outcomes short of the death of any other individual.

 

MINNESOTA’S CRUMBLING ROADS AND BRIDGES NEED TO BE FIXED.

More than half or Minnesota’s state highways are over 50 years old while 40 % of bridges are over 40 years old. A comprehensive transportation package is needed to maintain a healthy main street economy.

MNDOT currently has been allowed to only budget maintenance and a few priority projects where the system is inadequate and unsafe. Farmers, unions and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce have made statements supporting increased funding to fix Minnesota roads and bridges to support economic activity. If we are to run State Government like a smart business, we should be making strong investments in road repair and upgrades, and bonding for all State capital investments such as the Higher Education Asset Preservation and Restoration backlog and water and wastewater public works projects, when interest rates are low.

User fees generated by motor fuel, motor vehicle registration, and vehicle sales taxes are the prime State highway and road financing. This is leveraged by federal highway funding.

It is estimated that poor roads cost Minnesota motorists $1.2 billion every year in extra vehicle repairs ($396 per motorist). Minnesota businesses spend an extra $232 million per year on freight transportation due to traffic congestion.

Minnesota motorists are taxed 27.60 cents per gallon of motor fuel. The average annual savings a Minnesota motorist was getting when the cost per gallon of gasoline dropped to $2.42 was $660. The projected prices for motor fuel are to remain low for at least the next 2 years.

The other alternative to motor fuel taxes would be to sell the contracts for road maintenance to corporations. In turn, they would charge road tolls, perhaps every 10 miles like they do in some other states, for driving along the section of highways they maintain that could cover the costs of maintenance and repair.

I would support whatever reasonable motor fuel taxes determined necessary for smart MNDOT investment in road and bridge maintenance, repair, and renovations. Smart investment, however, that would place roads and bridges on firm financial footing into the foreseeable future would be 12 cents per gallon at the $2.00/gallon level.

But of course the TEA-Party Republican demand is “my way or you don’t get the highway.”

 

THE STATE NEEDS TO PASS WORKFORCE HOUSING TAX CREDITS SO BUSINESES CAN EXPAND IN GREATER MINNESOTA.

A big issue is affordable housing in those areas that has less than a 4% vacancy rate. Economic growth without qualified employees is tough. For low income employees and retiring elderly that have the fewest resources, housing is a heavy cost burden. For low income parents, affordable and stable housing plays a critical role in childhood outcomes.

While both housing grant programs such as those administered by the Minnesota Housing Finance Administration should receive expanded levels of funding, a Workforce Housing Tax Credit is market oriented for private investors. A state incentive to directly incentivize their involvement would help jump-start local markets to build workforce housing.

With a 33% refundable tax credit, knowledgeable investor stakeholders are leveraged. This program is well suited for areas that need workforce housing but lack the local government capacity or knowledge to create workforce housing. With investors receiving the tax credit directly, more units can be created because there is less money lost through local government administration

I would support the proposed $30 M per year that would create about 3,600 units in each of those years the program was funded.       

 

RURAL MINNESOTA BROADBAND INTERNET CONNECTION IS STILL INCOMPLETE.

 A 2010 Minnesota Statute mandated that all Minnesota residents have access to 10-megabit-per-second (Mbps) download speeds and 5 Mbps upload speeds by 2015. This followed from The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) that established several broadband initiatives with $7.2 billion in funding. Both included grants and loans to businesses in underserved rural areas that could improve the connection speeds in those areas. But the costs of building connections for businesses and homes in the rural areas triple in comparison to the suburban areas. Any matching funds the State legislature makes available helps solve that return on investment issue.

The purposes of both the Federal and State laws were to foster economic growth and deliver enhanced education for schools and libraries. Distance learning for those attending colleges and universities for degrees would help create qualified employees right in those rural areas. Broadband would provide opportunities for local businesses and government to hire qualified employees working from other locations. Statistics show a rural workforce vacancy rate of 4.6% for qualified workers could be better adjusted to match the 3.2% vacancy rate of the metro area. Broadband could ease that disparity.

Business transactions such as commodity trading in the state, national and international marketplace would be almost instantaneous. Another benefit for an aging, rural population would be health care with a doctor sitting in an office diagnosing a person sitting in their home. Prescriptions without doctor office visits could be provided from the pharmacy much quicker to maintain health.  Public safety services would be better served with high speed internet connectivity. Farmers would be able to depend on the reliable guidance of their GPS units in tractors, harvesting and other machinery to stay on course when planting, tilling and harvesting their fields.

Over 99% of all households in the 7-county metro area have access to broadband services that meets the States goals. In rural Districts, roughly 1 in 5 homes lack high-speed connections. In District 1B, the townships of Sandsville, Farley, Brislet, Helgeland, Brandt, Angus, Tabor, Northland, Sullivan, Keystone, Euclid, Belgium, Parnell, Fanny, and parts of Fisher, Lowell, Crookston and Gentilly do not have broadband connections. The source for this is a 2015 Department of Employment and Economic exhibit.

Despite Republicans saying they initially supported this State wide effort. That was until the suburban ring of Republican Districts all got their broadband connections. The House Republican chair of the broadband oversight committee now says, “We’re burning through money to provide premier internet service to a small number of people. It’s fiscal insanity…it’s in the State’s best interest to get high-speed bandwidth to as many people at the lowest cost possible.”

I will support the current, modest DFL proposal of $100 million to continue expanding broadband in the rural areas of Minnesota.

 

TRAIN TRAFFIC THREATENS PUBLIC SAFETY IN RURAL MINNESOTA.

Nobody denies the importance of trains to the rural economy. But too often it’s like trying to get along with the bully on the block. Everything is just going to be their way.

Current Railroads operating in District 1B are Burlington Northern Santé Fe (BNSF), Canadian Pacific/SOO (CP) and a short line operating from Crookston called the Minnesota Northern (MNN).

In District 1B, as well as other areas, there are a number of heavily used crossings or blind crossings that are accidents waiting to happen. Time after time there are reports of people injured or killed at these kinds of crossings. A beet truck driver was killed north of Fisher several years ago. Bus drivers with kids onboard have to repeatedly make these crossings. Any personal mistake at any time at these unimproved highway-rail grade crossings often has a huge social and economic cost well beyond the loss of some equipment.

MNDOT has identified 326,170 residents who live within a half-mile and are within harm’s way when hazardous materials roll through. Any failure of equipment, or accident, especially at the wrong place and time can have a devastating social and economic loss beyond the loss of some equipment, homes, and pollution.

I would support funding and mandates to improve highway-rail grade crossings. Clearing these crossings of obstructions, modifying the approaches, or installing safety signaling devices will significantly lower any risk from driver inattention.

Republicans voted against highway-rail grade crossing improvements.

 

WOMEN MUST BE PAID THE SAME EARNINGS AS MEN FOR THE SAME WORK.

This is a matter of most basic fairness. Men who have mothers, sisters, wives, girlfriends or daughters yet support free market discrimination to pay women less than men for doing the same work should be held politically, publicly and socially accountable to each of these women.

Minnesota government units use The Hay Profile Method of job evaluation. This system is based on evaluation of job content meaning the kind and level of work assigned to a position. Evaluation includes position purpose, types of duties, knowledge, skills and abilities to perform the job, consequences of error, degree of autonomy of authority, complexity of decision-making, staff and budget dimensions, and scope of the job – broad or narrow.

I would support legislation putting the burden of proof duty on any defendant in any gender based job discrimination suit that is not based on a commonly accepted job evaluation method such as the Hay Profile Method.

 

SMART CHANGES TO MINNESOTA’S CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM SCREENING AND EVALUATION CAN REDUCE THE COSTS OF INCARCERATION.

Over the past 25 years, Minnesota’s jail incarceration rate has soared by 150% and Minnesota prison population had grown about 3 Times from 3,182 in 1990 to more than 9,000 in 2015. The jail incarceration rate is the result of harsher punishment and other penalties to the State’s criminal justice system passed by state lawmakers.

Punishment works for the most part on those of us who are law abiding and just make a mistake, but it does not work so well for the general criminal offender population. Punishment does not change many of the problems, deficits and impairments that characterize the offender population.

Accurately distinguishing between those we should rightfully fear and those who just make us mad is important to correctly determine who should be imprisoned. For those others, problems need to be addressed and what resources are necessary to effectively change their behavior.

The effort to curb drunken driving is just one example. Besides the economic ruin of low income people dealing with the frustrations of being trapped at the low end of the income by education, skills or bad luck, a DWI conviction just adds to that downward push. After nearly a decade of the DWI crackdown, the policy accounts for an additional 700 state inmates costing $23 million for incarceration alone. Whether working solutions and resources such as ignition inebriation safety locks, bar and lounge black lists, leg bracelet location bands and alcohol abstinence drugs should be considered and funded as appropriate to circumstances.

Part of the prison population increase can be explained by a series of laws to crack down on drug users and dealers. Whatever you may think about the credible dangers of recreational drugs such as marijuana, legitimate questions can be asked how that particular drug is more dangerous than smoking cigarettes, alcohol consumption or pain killing prescription opioids drugs, the later too often causing addictions leading to heroin and amphetamine use by too many others.

Ignoring the personal tragedies from those individuals stamped for life as felons, the drug-crime inmate population nearly tripled to 2,200 between 1998 and 2005. No matter what the current 2016 statistic would be for prison drug-crime inmates, the projected cost for those 2,200 would be about $72.3 million or more.

The social and economic costs of recreational drug-users have to be considered. If these people cannot successfully have their records expunged of such a felon arrest even with the current state policy on “ban the felony box” on job applications that many employers ignore, their opportunities to again become fully engaged, productive people paying chances go way down and their chances of repeat offenses vastly increase.

If State government is to be run like a smart business, the business plan on just this policy alone has to be carefully reconsidered. Perhaps State policy should consider the experiences of Oregon and Colorado to regulate the market quality of marijuana and apply adequate levels of taxation to cover the costs of rehabilitation and education of those caught in that situation as well as possible tax generation to fund other State needs out of the general fund.

Another factor contributing to swelling prison populations has been violators of prison release terms. In 2015, one-third of prison admissions and another 28% were for probation violation of jail incarceration. Some are for conviction of new crimes, but others are for technical terms of their release such as failing or refusing a drug test. That’s a lot of State tax monies spent on something that is not working so well.

There has been no legislative agreement on policy changes to fix this problem. In the meantime, the prison population is set to keep rising and the State will continue to rely on the jails which Department of Corrections (DOC) officials and advocates agree is not an ideal permanent fix. Individuals in jail, like the Northwest Regional Corrections Center (NWRCC) jail, have less access to constructive activities and programming. They are just kind of sitting there with nothing to do.

And the NWRCC jail is almost full at 184.5 average inmates a day with 49.16 % male and 35.39 female. Of a 200 cell capacity and available staffing, 185 occupied cells are considered full capacity to keep gender separation requirements and other factors observed. With the preference of area law enforcement and county attorneys against “catch and release” that puts subjects of their arrests back on the street, NWRCC full capacity is likely to be challenged filling all 200 beds.

While a beginning has been made during the 2016 Legislative Session, much more reform work still remains. I will work with Democrats or Republicans on finding policy solutions to this problem.

 

THE STATE NEEDS TO SUPPORT SMALL BUSINESS STARTUPS AND ENTREPRENEURS.

Starting and running a small business is complicated. If anyone has the courage to risk their time and investment in starting and/or running a business, the State should reach out with the tools and resources it has to help these individuals succeed.

Help with succession planning is also important. Too often a business faces closure, not because the business is failing, but because there is not a successor when there is no family member who wants to take over the business. The State policy should be to help match rural business owners with business managers looking to buy and run their own business.

I fully support the current DFL proposed legislation called “The Next Generation Main Street Act.” The many provisions of this Act will help unwind the complications to create and maintain a healthy main street business.

 

BOND INVESTMENTS IN STATE GOVERNMENT MUST RECOVER AND REPLACE ASSETS THAT HAVE BECOME OUTDATED AND DILAPIDATED.

Responsible government means making smart bond investments in State assets that have been neglected due to budgetary mismanagement. TEA-Party Republican voodoo economic policies intended to shrink government has wasted necessary assets that did not get timely maintenance.

Sound fiscal management allows $3.5 Billion every 2 years. And yet we find that TEA-Party Republicans feel the most they can do is breathlessly afford somewhere between $600 and $900 million ending the legislative session to no allow light rail transit amendment to allow a sales tax increase for the democrat controlled inner city to fund the Eden Prairie light rail transit. That tactic threatens to lose almost $900 million in Federal funding that would provide low cost, pollution free, transportation for low income metro workers.

Irresponsible TEA-Party approach to bonding also affects District 1B. East Grand Forks cannot afford wastewater treatment plant replacement without massive user fee increases. That is the same for a planned partnership with Grand Forks for a clean water treatment plant.

Fosston and Polk County has had $8.5 million invested in the first stage of updated the landfill and incinerator. Another $9.5 million has now been left unfunded by TEA-Party Republican bonding inaction. That decision will now lose 7.5 jobs for Fosston after other construction jobs now will be lost. More money is user fees will be required to ship waste and recyclables to the suburbs to be processed by TEA-Party supporting companies.

 

IT IS NO POINT IN BEING ANGRY ABOUT GOVERNMENT WHEN YOU VOTE FOR TEA-PARTY REPUBLICANS THAT CREATE THAT GOVERNMENT.

AND WHO REALLY ARE PATRIOTS: PEOPLE WHO JUST DON’T VOTE OR TEA-PARTY REPUBLICANS OUT TO DESTROY GOVERNMENT?  

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