Minnesota Budget Projection Updated: $1.6B Surplus


Government_Must_Yield_sign.jpgMinnesota's February Budget forecast was released Feb 26 by Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) showing a $1.6 billion surplus for the 2022-2023 biennium. This is a significant improvement from the $1.3 billion deficit that was projected in December.

The surplus was driven primarily by a $456 million decrease in state spending on education and health care, and $1.423 billion greater-than-expected from tax collections. The forecast does not include any of significant federal funding expected to be passed by Congress in the coming weeks.

House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) issued the following statement:  “Minnesota’s economy is bouncing back, and will continue growing if we let it. Unfortunately, Democrats will continue pushing for completely unnecessary tax hikes that would hurt struggling businesses and families. Raising taxes will slow our economic comeback, and make it harder to bring back jobs and paychecks to where they were before the pandemic. We know the Governor’s tax hikes will not become law this year, and we can save ourselves weeks of headaches if the Governor and Democrats acknowledge that now. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and work together to pass a responsible budget without raising taxes.”

Rep. Anne Neu Brindley (R-Chisago County) and Rep Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) held a news conference to react to the budget news, and provide a prebuttal to the Gov. Walz/MMB news conference. You can watch a replay of that news conference as a Facebook video.

News reports indicated that Governor Walz will push ahead with tax increases.

Minnesota government has all the money it needs. With a $1.6 billion surplus and a budget reserve of more than $2 billion, there's no reason for Gov. Walz and Democrats to continue pushing harmful tax hikes. This surplus ensures that we can take additional steps to help families and businesses who are still hurting from the shutdowns over the past year, including exempting PPP loans from state taxes.

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Time Magazine and the Continuing Challenges to Election Integrity

Time_Magazine_Election_Outcome_Engineered.jpgTens of millions of voters across the country are concerned about irregularities with the 2020 electoral process, while Democrats tell them to move along and accept the results - "nothing to see here."

A recent article in Time magazine comes to a different conclusion. It claims that during 2020 there “was a conspiracy unfolding behind the scenes...the result of an informal alliance between left-wing activists and business titans" to influence the outcome of the election. This "handshake between business and labor [was] just one component of a vast, cross-partisan campaign..." The Time article posits that people in positions of power and influence engineered the outcome of an election in order to reach a desired goal.

The article also reveals that a "well-funded cabal of powerful people, ranging across industries and ideologies, working together behind the scenes to influence perceptions, change rules and laws, steer media coverage and control the flow of information." Last-minute election rule changes made unilaterally by judicial and executive branches (rightfully the domain and responsibility of state legislatures) have led to doubts and concerns for tens of millions of Americans across the country.

If some of the outstanding concerns regarding the 2020 election weren't troubling enough, Democrats at the national and state levels are currently working to permanently remove electoral safeguards and transparency from the voting process.

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SD49 Elects New Exec Committee, State Central Committee Delegates

Louis_TIggas_Convention_Chair_and_SD49_Treasurer.jpgSenate District 49 held its 2021 convention on Saturday, February 20, as a remote meeting. Eighty-three (83) delegates and alternates registered, and 72 signed-in to participate. All who participated were able to vote during the convention.

Co-Chair Russ Burnison convened the convention shortly after 10 am. Louis Tiggas (pictued at left) once again chaired the meeting and kept the proceedings on track through its completion just after 1 pm.

Doug Wardlow joined the convention by video. He has officially declared as a Republican candidate to run against Keith Ellison for MN Attorney General in 2022. Sen. Mark Koran, candidate for MNGOP Chair, also appeared via Zoom. Joel Quinnell spoke on behalf of the current MNGOP Chair, Jennifer Carnahan, who is running for re-election.

Jim_Bowen_SD49_Convention_Zoom_Gurujpg.jpgKey business at the convention was the election of the SD49 Executive Committee officers and State Central Committee delegates and alternates. Congratulations to:

• Russ Burnison and Joel Quinnell (Co-chairs)
• Louis Tiggas (Treasurer)
• Leah Hollenbeck (Secretary)
• Randy Sutter (Communications Chair)
• Louis Dennard, Lynn Hovde, Dennis Hogan, Anna Lima, and Sarah Patzloff (HD49A Vice Chairs)
• Jim Bowen (pictured at right), Steve Curry, Lane Hersey, Julia Tate, and Pam Tucholke (HD49B Vice Chairs)
• Russ Burnison, Louis Dennard, Joel Quinnell, and Randy Sutter (State Central Delegates)
• Michael Barg, Carol Brumwell, Molly Cronin, Larry Frost, Carol Kerr, John Metil, Marty Probst, Vince Riehm, Shirley Schaff, Louis Tiggas, and Wayne Wenger (State Central Alternates)

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MN Department of Health Wants Personal Data for COVID Vaccine Access

Sen._Karin_Housley.jpg

The Walz administration’s roll out of a COVID-19 vaccine availability tracking website crashed on its first day. Minnesota senior citizens are still confused as to where to go to get vaccine injections. Now, the Department of Health wants to improve their ability to target Minnesotans by asking irrelevant and invasive questions.

Sen. Karin Housley (R-Stillwater), pictured at left, chaired a meeting of the Senate Aging and Long-Term Care Policy Committee on February 24 to ask Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm about those questions. As reported by AlphaNews, a state-issued vaccine sign-up form asks such questions as “employer, job title, race and ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation, first language, physical and emotional condition, and type of residence”, all before requesting age.

Sen. Carrie Ruud (R-Breezy Point) asked, “Why do you need to know the gender and sexual preferences of seniors to give them a vaccine?” Housley also pointed out that the form requires the user to agree that the information they provide may become public data.

Malcolm claimed that the Department of Health has made “tremendous strides in immunizing in long-term care settings and now in community settings.” Sen. Housley replied that “the program has been chaotic and ever-changing from the beginning.”


Public Hearing of Bloomington’s Ranked Choice Voting Ordinance set for March 22

Ranked_Choice_Voting.jpgBloomington staff intended to seek initial City Council reaction and input on the draft Ranked Choice Voting ordinance at the City Council’s Monday, March 1 meeting. No public inputs are expected to be solicited at this meeting.

The staff will then draft the version of the ordinance that will be subject to a public hearing on Monday, March 22. The draft ordinance can be found on pages 302-311 of the March 1 meeting packet. The draft indicates that the language of the ordinance is based on similar ordinances in other Minnesota cities that have adopted ranked choice voting.

The most notable policy issue will be the number of candidates the voter may rank for each office. The draft proposes allowing voters to rank their top three choices for each office. The City Council may direct another threshold during the March 1 meeting, as the number of ranked candidates will impact ballot clarity and ease of use for voters.  It will also have an impact on tabulation procedures and the time it will take to tabulate final results.

In addition to reviewing components of the ordinance and seeking Council feedback, city staff will also share a general overview of plans for voter education and outreach surrounding ranked choice voting during the March 1 meeting.

Bloomington residents concerned about Ranked Choice Voting should plan to be part of the City Council meeting Monday, March 22.


Senate District 50 Holds Convention

sd50facebookcover.jpgOn February 27th, a large and active group of local Republicans from Bloomington and Richfield gathered in person with facemasks and social distancing to elect State Central Committee Delegates and Alternates. The main purpose of the Convention was to determine local Delegates and Alternates who will vote for the next Chair of the Minnesota Republican Party at the State Central Convention on April 10, 2021. The Convention additionally elected the Senate District 50 Executive Committee which includes 4 new members from Bloomington and 3 from Richfield.

Senate District 50 Republicans have welcomed Bloomington residents who have left the DFL because of riots and excessive city overreach such as Ranked Choice Voting. The highlights of the Convention included local issue discussion and the importance of financial oversight and transparency at every level of the Republican Party.

Invited speakers included State Senator Mark Koran and  MN GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan who are running for the State Party Chair, as well as Candidates Doug Wardlow for Attorney General and Phil Parish for Minnesota Secretary of State. Senate District 50 Republican Delegates learned more about Bloomington City Council Candidates Paul King known for his famous fund-raising popcorn and Ric Oliva who has served on the Bloomington School Board.

Kathy Kranz and Jim Lund, SD50 Co-Chairs 


Edina Superintendent Search Survey Open until Mar 4

Edina_Public_Schools.JPGJohn Schultz, the superintendent of Edina Public Schools, recently announced his intent to retire at the end of the 2020-21 school year.  Schultz is leaving one year into his three-year contract. He is the second senior school administrator to announce the intention to leave in the past year. Assistant Superintendent Bryan Bass will be leaving to accept the position of president of De La Salle High School in Minneapolis.

The Edina School Board is mounting a search for Schultz’ replacement.  They have contracted with a superintendent search firm, School Exec Connect, which counts former Edina Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Dragseth as one of its consultants. 

The school board also sent out an email to some members of the community sharing a Superintendent Search Survey.  It is not clear that the school board email went to everyone in Edina.  However, the survey is open to all Edina residents.  The purpose is to determine the challenges, strengths, and goals of the district, and what characteristics or skills are important in a superintendent. The survey closes Thursday, March 4.

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Walz Calls Pushback “the Cancer in our Country"

Walz_calls_those_who_disagree_A_Cancer_on_Our_Country.jpgGov. Tim Walz has included in his 2021 budget proposal a “SAFE Account,” a $35 million slush fund specifically intended for local governments should they need emergency backup in times of violent demonstrations or escalating civil unrest.

Early in February, the MN House committee on public safety voted to advance Walz’s proposal along party lines.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-East Gull Lake) quickly came out against this set-aside. The Wadena Pioneer Journal quoted Gazelka saying, “I don’t want to give a dime to the city of Minneapolis. The city council there wants to defund the police.” A spokesperson for Senate Republicans said Minneapolis currently owes $137,000 in unpaid mutual aid agreement bills.

Legislative Republicans consider the proposal a “bailout” for a city that has understaffed its police department and should be responsible for paying for any mutual aid that they might need on their own.

Walz, the DFL governor who unilaterally imposed control over the state during the pandemic without consulting the legislature, accused Republicans of seeking to divide rural Minnesota from the metro with their rhetoric. “This is the cancer in our country,” Walz said on February 3. “This is about dividing. This is never about trying to unite together.”

Sen. Gazelka responded the next day, expressing his surprise and disappointment in the words Walz chose and saying that Walz was the one sowing division.

Minneapolis already gets Local Government Aid, or LGA. LGA is the funding allocated to local governments by the legislature every year for police and fire departments, among other local costs.

Sen. Gazelka also pointed out that the governor does have at this fingertips the National Guard and the Highway Patrol. The Governor was certainly quick to call them out when he thought that there would be an insurrection at the Minnesota Capitol on January 20.


Kiffmeyer Going Toe-to-Toe With Simon On Election Integrity

 

Kiffmeyer_and_Simon.jpgMinnesota Senator Mary Kiffmeyer (R, Big Lake) continues to voice the concerns of state voters who have had questions about Secretary of State Steve Simon’s administration of elections, especially regarding voter identification and provisional ballots. Simon appears to increasingly take these questions as personal attacks.

There is perhaps no one better to question how Simon has performed his duties to ensure election integrity in Minnesota. Kiffmeyer served as Secretary of State from 1999 to 2007. She is currently the chair of the Senate Government Finance and Policy and Elections Committee. Kiffmeyer has been particularly pointed in her questions about voter identification and provisional ballots, both of which Simon has opposed.

The relationship has been civil until recently. Sen. Kiffmeyer believes that it is important to raise all of the questions that constituents have, and that Secretary Simon has an obligation to answer them.

Rather than address questions about election procedures that might appear to offer opportunities for voter fraud, Simon has increasingly dismissed such questions as rehashing of past elections and unproven allegations of ballot harvesting.

How testy have the exchanges gotten? Peter Callaghan reported in a February 2 article in MinnPost that Simon wrote to Kiffmeyer that “some people (including elected officials) have chosen to wield conspiracy theories and misinformation in an attempt to undermine public confidence in our election system. … Those attempts are dangerous for our democracy. I hope you’ll join me in loudly and publicly identifying and debunking such corrosive fantasies.”

He also called the allegations of a tainted election “foolish and irresponsible.”

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Authoritarian Tactics From DFL Leadership Aim to Stifle Dissent, Free Speech

 

Black_and_White_silence_speech_caricature-5123999_640.jpgThe mask has slipped from the DFL in the last month as evidenced by various attempts to punish Republicans who dare to question irregularities in the recent elections. House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL - Brooklyn Park) is under fire from Republicans for pushing a narrative in which the MN Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was investigating several Republicans who spoke at a political rally at the MN Capitol in St. Paul on January 6.

Speaker Hortman did pledge on Jan. 11 to open an investigation as to "whether there were members of the Minnesota House of Representatives who advocated for, incited or supported acts of domestic terrorism" and publicly acknowledged on Jan. 13 that the BCA was investigating the Jan. 6 MN rally.

The MN Department of Public Safety recently released a statement acknowledging that there was no criminal activity at the Jan. 6 MN rally and that any statements were protected political speech. Speaker Hortman's reaction? That "speech has consequences". Unsurprisingly, it seems that Speaker Hortman's support of the First Amendment ends where you disagree with her.



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