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minnesota_state_capitolAt least, that seems the readily apparent interpretation, to me.

Minnesota Management and Budget commissioner Myron Frans held a state Capitol news conference Wednesday to say the budget proposal Dayton released in January and updated last month is fiscally responsible, while the House and Senate GOP plans are not.
“The Legislature’s math just does not add up,” Frans said.
Frans accused Republican leaders of using “fuzzy math,” as well as “phony savings” and delayed payments to pay for a large tax cut bill. He suggested many of the bills could be headed for vetoes if not altered.
Frans highlighted several examples in the finance bills for Health and Human Services and State Government.
“The legislative budget bills we have seen are not serious attempts to govern Minnesota,” Frans said. The bills are designed to be talking points to start negotiations with the governor from an imaginary position, a made up starting point if you will.”

And here’s an example of that “starting point.” Legislators in the Party of Trump actually have the gall to call it the “Minnesota Way.” They should be saying the “ALEC Way.”

The Minnesota budget blueprint produced (March 20) by majority House Republicans seeks hefty tax cuts and aims to pare down expected costs in publicly subsidized health and welfare programs.
GOP leaders said their framework would deliver long-overdue tax relief given a sizable state budget surplus. The plan would make $1.35 billion in tax cuts the next two years with the details to come later.



Let Republicans Kill the Filibuster

by Eric Ferguson on April 7, 2017 · 0 comments

Republicans chose to use the “nuclear option” and kill the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. Good. In the short term it lets a extreme right winger sit for life on the Supreme Court to be essentially another Antonin Scalia, and the Republicans succeeded in stealing a Supreme Court seat. Apparently conservatives believe in preserving behavioral norms only when they see short term advantage to it.
But this is a long term benefit to liberals, not conservatives, as the filibuster has benefited conservatives much more than liberals. Note that I said “liberals” and “conservatives”, not “Democrats” and “Republicans”. As your Republicans friends like to say, when trying to claim Democrats are the real racists, lots of Democrats voted against civil rights way back when: a half truth with a half that explains why killing the filibuster is better for liberals. From the end of Reconstruction until the “Solid South” finished switching which party it was solid for in roughly the 1980’s, both parties had conservative and liberal wings. The most conservative element of American politics was southern white Democrats, also called “dixiecrats”, now called “the Republican base”. Conservatives used the filibuster to block anti-lynching bills. Yes, the filibuster made it hard to do anything about lynching during the first half of the 20th century. The civil rights bills of the 60’s might have passed a decade earlier, but didn’t because they were filibustered by a big enough conservative minority.


trump13Note that corporate media still talks in terms of Trump removing “regulations,” not public protections. Even as it continues to use conservative framing like “unborn child” and “tax ‘relief'” at every opportunity. So, no, it’s no surprise that working-class voters would not have known.

But, of course, the “working class” voters who helped elect Trump and the Republicans all voted for this, right? They all clearly understood that electing Republicans meant that their pay and civil rights and job-safety were going to be rolled back so that the giant corporations could pass ever-higher profits to their “investors.” Right?
Of course they did. And they understood that the things our government does to make our lives better would be rolled back so that investor class could get huge tax cuts. Right? Of course they did.


smokestacksThere will be a rally at the Minnesota Capitol today, scheduled to start at 11AM, opposing pro-oil pipeline policies included in the Omnibus Jobs and Energy Bill.

When: (Today), Thursday April 6th at 11:00am
Where: MN State Capitol (basement level) Room B971
What’s happening: The proposed Jobs and Energy Omnibus Bill has a lot of terrible things in it, including 2 changes to state law that would fast track pipelines (including Enbridge’s Line 3) and eliminate some of our most important tools for environmental and social protection. The bill has been approved by the Senate and the relevant committee in the House and is now moving to the House floor for review.
The bill would:
1) Exempt oil and gas pipelines from the “Certificate of Need” part of the permit process. This means Enbridge would no longer have to prove that Line 3 (or other proposed pipelines) are actually needed. The CON process is the state’s only mechanism for rejecting a project.
2) Prevent regulators from considering alternative routes that don’t start and end where Enbridge wants them to. This means that Enbridge would get to define the project based on what’s best for their profits, and the State of MN would no longer be able to consider other routes that could get oil to market with less impact on our land, water, health, and human rights.

The Omnibus Legacy Bill is similarly odious. And potentially disastrous.

Minnesota’s Party of Trump in the legislature is full-on on removing public protections through any means possible. That has little to do with what Minnesota’s residents want (more here), but they don’t care about that.


Shovel-WeathervaneI’m well aware that not all rural voters went for Trump, any more than all urbanites didn’t. Nor are all city dwellers all politically knowledgeable and sophisticated, while all country folks aren’t. I shouldn’t have to note that, but such assumptions seem implicit in too much online discussion of rural issues in politics, including on the progressive left. Anyway:

The people in rural areas who voted for President Trump in droves have much at stake in his proposed budget.
Trump’s budget plan cuts a wide range of federal funding sources, including a water and sewer program that provided more than $200 million to greater Minnesota communities over the last five years.

There’s another, more in-depth article, also on MPR, from about a month ago, looking at some of what’s behind Wisconsin having gone for Trump. It’s well worth a click and read (frustrating though parts of it are), if you’re into this stuff.

Across town, Robbo Coleman leaned over the bar he tends and described a similar political about-face. He held up an ink pen, wrapped in plastic stamped “Made in China.”
“I don’t see why we can’t make pens in Prairie du Chien or in Louisville, Kentucky, or in Alabama or wherever,” said Coleman. “Trump brought something to the table that I haven’t heard or seen before. And if it doesn’t turn out, then, hey, at least we tried.”

Uh, yeah.
A far more substantive factor in what’s been going on in rural Wisconsin is the state having turned over its governance to worthless, corrupt Tea Party extremists in 2010, and not having corrected that since. The last time a lot of people were looking at Wisconsin was 2015, because of Gov. Scott Walker’s much-hyped but short-lived presidential run. But a search for 2016 shows that it still sucks, by the standards of the Upper Midwest, especially when it comes to the sorts of small business start-ups that would be key to any real rural economic renewal.
Voters in rural Wisconsin put right-wingers in charge in 2010, and that’s the biggest reason they’re “left behind.” In Minnesota, promising policy trends from 2013-14 largely ended when Minnesota outstate voters (and urban/suburban non-voters) gave the GOP control of the MN House and, now, the Senate. And in the worst kind of irony, who did country dwellers in both states vote for, for U.S. President in 2016, looking for change for the better? It truly sucks, but there it is.

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Bad Actors and Big Wars

by Eric Ferguson on April 3, 2017 · 1 comment

coat of arms of Hapsburg empire of AustriaApril 6th marks the 100th anniversary of the United States entering World War I. If there’s one metaphor you’ve read in every history of World War I, it was probably “tinderbox”. That’s how the pre-war world is frequently described: “Europe was a tinderbox”, or “rival alliances were a tinderbox”. If someone had asked me about WWI before recently, I probably would have said “something something tinderbox” too. Not now, in a change Trump has already wrought. I occurred to me that it was in a way something worse: two bad actors started the war. There was nothing unavoidable about it. Two people could have stopped it. Yes, two, and how this relates to Trumpworld will likely be guessed by readers before I spell it out, but let’s spell it out anyway.
That’s not to dispute that the European empires weren’t a metaphorical tinderbox, but when weren’t they? Was a balance of power that could crash down in a major war an invention of the early 20th century? We’ve had balances of power between rival states going back to at least the invention of states, and I suspect it goes back to whenever groups of pre-historic humans noticed there were other groups of humans, and found themselves asking how strong everyone was and who were likely enemies or allies. Point being, it’s wrong to think there was something unique in the early 20th century and it had to result in a big war inevitably. Maybe it was inevitable, no way to know, but it didn’t have to happen right then, the way it did. So why did it? What caused such a massive breakdown of global order and the world’s biggest war (pending the next world war, of course)? What went wrong?
What went wrong was two bad actors: Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria and Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany.

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Buffers and mowing in Minnesota farm country

by Dan Burns on March 31, 2017 · 0 comments

Farming_near_Klingerstown,_PennsylvaniaA couple of items. You might call them examples of the (fairly) good and the bad.

With eight months before the first buffer deadline for public waters, the Department of Natural Resources has released its final maps. These maps were finalized after reviewing more than 4,200 public comments and making 2,800 changes. Your collaboration in this process resulted in more accurate maps ready for use.
Most notably, 74 percent of Minnesota’s counties are 60-100 percent in compliance with the buffer law. While this might surprise some, it doesn’t surprise us, as we know Minnesota farmers and landowners are great stewards of our lands. In fact, many farmers and landowners already had buffers in place when the requirement became law. And others have responded to the governor’s call asking them to be part of the solution to clean up our valuable water resources.

A friend’s observation about farmers over-mowing conservation plantings along Highway 169 in Blue Earth County had us looking again at the issue of farmers’ demands to mow state-owned right of ways on state highways. Are some landowners not only making hay off public land–but damaging plantings on state highways for which the public dime has paid?
Our source noted that the forbs (flowering plants) and prairie grasses planted after some work on 169 had been mowed early and often until other grasses took over…
When landowners alongside state-owned road ditches mow early and swipe the bales on land that’s been planted with native seeding, they’re not just taking hay they’re not paying for. They’re also damaging an investment made at public expense.
(Bluestem Prairie)


sulfideFrom this week.

The Campaign to Defend Lake Superior, represented by Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA), joined the Center for Biological Diversity and the W.J. McCabe Chapter of the Izaak Walton League in a lawsuit filed in federal court today. The suit asks the court to overturn the U.S. Forest Service decision to approve the largest land exchange in its history, planned with PolyMet Mining. The land exchange would give PolyMet thousands of acres of critically important wetlands in Superior National Forest, where mining operations would forever destroy the wetlands that form the headwaters of the St. Louis River…
Federal law requires appraisals to reflect the “highest and best use” of public land when determining fair market value. The failure to do so has caused the public to receive less land in exchange and will result in taxpayers being forced to pay PolyMet $425,000 in cash unless the decision is overturned.
(Campaign to Defend Lake Superior)

From early February. The two actions may be consolidated as they make their way through the courts.

WaterLegacy, a Minnesota nonprofit founded to protect the state’s wetlands and wildlife from sulfide mining, filed a complaint (in late January) claiming that the Forest Service violated federal land management laws by selling parts of the forest for way less than what they’re worth.
The Forest Service’s final agreement with PolyMet valued the federal lands at $550 an acre. That is based on a consultant’s study of five Wisconsin and Michigan properties that were sold for timber — not copper-nickel mining.
(City Pages)

I of course wish the plaintiffs very, very well, in every way. Actually, that goes for all of us, since we all have a stake in not seeing northern Minnesota’s land and water poisoned.


Enbridge is quite a corporate citizen

by Dan Burns on March 28, 2017 · 0 comments

oilspillFor some background, here.

Enbridge Energy’s massive property tax challenge may end up costing several northern Minnesota counties millions of dollars. In fact, two counties — Clearwater and Red Lake — could end up refunding more money to Enbridge than they raise annually from all of their property tax payers.
Enbridge has appealed five years of taxes, claiming the Minnesota Department of Revenue unfairly valued its vast pipeline network, resulting in significantly higher payments. The company says a November Minnesota Supreme Court decision in a separate pipeline tax case buttresses its own appeals.
“It’s scary for us,” said Allen Paulson, Clearwater County’s auditor. “If Enbridge wins its appeal, the [tab for the county] will be $7.2 million, and our levy is $6.8 million.”
(Star Tribune)

The article goes on to note that Enbridge had $524 million in net operating profits in Minnesota in 2015. Paying its property taxes here poses a real existential threat to the company, all right.
A stunt like this is actually a symptom. The cause is a generation of corporate execs and lawyers brought up on jejune drivel from the likes of Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand.
The vermin at Enbridge who made this call, and their ilk everywhere, need to be crushed. I don’t know of a fast, effective way of accomplishing that. But more people with progressive opinions actually troubling to vote would be a very good start.


Trump/GOP assault on workers is here

by Dan Burns on March 24, 2017 · 0 comments

childworkAbsolutely despicable. Then again, is there anything about Trump, Lyin’ Ryan, and their minions that isn’t?

While the details of President Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget remain scant, one thing is clear: The Department of Labor will likely be one of the biggest losers. Trump’s budget proposal would cut the department’s funding by $2.5 billion, or 21 percent, which will mean drastic changes for the work the department does…
The 2018 budget details around $500 million in cuts for the department, which likely means that programs for disadvantaged workers, including seniors, youths, and those with disabilities, would be reduced or completely eliminated. The Senior Community Service Employment Program, training grants at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and technical-assistance grants at the Office of Disability Employment Policy would all disappear. Job-training centers for disadvantaged children would be shuttered and funding for more general job-training and employment services would move from the federal budget to states.
(The Atlantic)

The infamous Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) introduced a bill last month which would take Right To Be Exploited national.