Eyes on Hennepin County: 2021 Budget Tops $2 Billion

Editor note:  A Hennepin County group with a mission to communicate important County information sent out the following this past week:

Hennepin_County_Commissioner_Districts.jpgIf you live in Hennepin County and pay property taxes to the County, this message is for you.

Do you know that the 2021 budget for Hennepin County is $2.2 billion? Yes, the word is billion! According to a listing of their Revenue Sources, 39.7% of those billions comes from the property taxes which you and I pay.

Like many Hennepin County residents, do you feel that you are overtaxed? Too few of us are paying attention to how the County spends our tax dollars.

Hennepin County is divided into 7 Districts with one County Commissioner serving each District. These 7 Commissioners make the decisions on how your tax dollars are spent.

Do you know which District you live in and who your Commissioner is? You may want to introduce yourself, especially since you are an important funding partner! Click this link[Find your commissioner | Hennepin County] to see the detailed map and the 7 Commissioners who are currently serving

Do you know that Commissioners are elected? If you voted in the November election in 2020 and you lived in District 1, 5, 6, or 7, you had the opportunity to vote for one of two candidates listed on the ballot in your District.

The Hennepin County Commissioners meet on Tuesday afternoons at 1:30pm. They are currently meeting virtually, and the public is welcome to attend to learn about issues that are being discussed and where money is being spent. Click here for more information

We plan to send out information on a regular basis to let the residents of Hennepin County know more about how the County operates and how your tax $ are being spent.


Bloomington Overreach Continues

How will voters get to know council candidates before the municipal elections this fall? Bloomington has made no announcements as to when public attendance at City Council meetings will resume. For the time being, we can get a sense of how our current council members think and how they vote by listening in on their sessions online.

Three Bloomington Councilmembers are up for election this November. Nathan Coulter (At- Large) and Patrick Martin (Ward IV) have announced their intention to run for re-election. To our knowledge, Jack Baloga (Ward III) has not yet made his intentions known. This election will be conducted through Ranked Choice Voting for the first time.

The recent council debate to phase out the sale of flavored tobacco products in Bloomington is illustrative. Mike Hanks, of the Sun Current, wrote an article posted on May 6 that reported that the Council voted not only to prohibit the sale of flavored tobacco products and e-cigarettes at the end of this year, but to also prohibit new licenses from being issued in the city. Bloomington is the first to implement such a ban in Minnesota

Four councilmembers (including Nathan Coulter) voted for the ban, while two (including Patrick Martin) voted against it. Jack Baloga was not present. The split essentially mirrored the testimony of Bloomington residents and business owners.

All of the councilmembers recognized that reducing the consumption of tobacco and e-cigarettes by young people is of value. However, Patrick Martin noted that there are only a limited number of dedicated tobacco product stores in Bloomington. They are open to adults only and do not have other means of generating revenue to support their business. The ban would arbitrarily deprive these business owners of the ability to sell otherwise legal products without compensation. And it would do nothing to prohibit the sale of these products in cities and towns around Bloomington.

Shawn Nelson expressed his concern that the city’s plan was going too far. He pointed out that adults have the freedom to smoke, even if it risks their long-term health.

Nathan_Coulter.jpgThis argument did not sway Nathan Coulter. Having made the personal decision that tobacco use is bad, he had no hesitation to impose that decision on others. He dismissed the point that e-cigarettes may help smokers quit, saying there was evidence that they have negative consequences. He was not bothered that the city’s restrictions directly interfere with the free market. He held that the City had a responsibility to protect the health of its residents. It did not concern him that they could simply drive to stores in a neighboring city to buy their tobacco or e-cigarettes.

One could argue that this is evidence of smoker suppression, that it will impose undue hardship on the poor, minorities, and the elderly who live in Bloomington, but discussion along these lines was not reported in Mike Hank’s article.

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Reps. Nash and Hertaus Provide Candid Views of Legislative Session

Nash-Hertaus.jpgRep Jim Nash (R, Waconia) and Rep. Jerry Hertaus (R, Greenfield) answered a number of questions during the Pints & Pent-up forum on April 14. This is a continuation of an article in our last newsletter.

On the Governor’s emergency powers: Rep. Nash -- the people do not have a voice right now. When the turkey flu struck, the legislature showed how quickly it could respond. Walz right now believes that he is the only one that can make these decisions. The legislature has been effectively muted.

On the status of taxes on the Paycheck Protection Program loans: Rep. Nash -- DFL House leaders will likely hold with taxing forgiven PPP loans as taxable until the very bitter end of session. They will then trade it away for something they want really badly. We have no idea what it is going to be.

Rep. Hertaus – our DFL colleagues have great ambitions. At the session start, the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee instructing the members that the budget in this new biennium would be reimagined with equity in mind. They brought forth a $52.4 billion budget proposal that is a 9 percent increase in spending, part of which requires an increase in revenue. They know it has no chance of passing in the senate, but they will hold out on the PPP loan taxes until the very end because they know it is so near and dear to every Republican legislator.

Jerry predicted that it will not get resolved and will result in special sessions. This has happened before, when Gov. Dayton vetoed the budget. The stalemate continued until late June and the end of the MN fiscal year. Then he realized that licenses couldn’t be renewed, including liquor store licenses, and July 4th was coming up. Dayton finally signed the very bill he refused to sign seven weeks earlier. Beer settled the budget issue then. This time, you might want to stock up.

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Kranz to Testify to Senate Committee on Ranked Choice Voting

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Kathy Kranz, Bloomington Resident and Co-Chair of Senate District 50 Republicans, has agreed to testify before the Minnesota Senate’s State Government Finance and Elections Conference Committee when it resumes this coming week. She will speak to one provision - regarding Ranked Choice Voting - in House File 1952, an omnibus bill covering the operation of state government.

I appreciate the opportunity to address the proposed ban on Ranked Choice Voting provision of this bill.

As a constituent, I would like to address three things for you to think about:
1) The misleading conclusions of Jeanne Massey of FairVote Mn
2) The blatant opportunities for collusion and voter manipulation
3) Your ability and responsibility to stop RCV in Minnesota

While Jeanne Massey, Exec Director of FairVote Minnesota provided the perceived virtues and misleading constitutionality of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), you are not told that the court case she refers to never opined on the constitutionality of RCV itself (IRV at the time), but merely that the particular facial challenge of Mn Voters Alliance was not sufficiently presented in this case to win their argument. MINNESOTA VOTERS ALLIANCE v. FairVote Minnesota, Inc (2009).

Ms. Massey is not entirely forthright when she says RCV is popular and widely accepted. Last year, Bloomington voters passed a Charter Committee-defeated RCV ordinance by a mere 96 votes which was less than 0.2% of all registered voters in Bloomington. Hardly a ringing endorsement from the fifth largest city in Minnesota. In fact, the fourth largest city, Duluth rejected RCV soundly by a 3-1 margin back in 2015.

Now FairVote and, by its local extension, FairVote Minnesota, is systematically picking off Charter-run communities one by one with the goal of state and national implementation

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MN Election Reforms, Emergency Powers and Free the Growler

Nash-Hertaus.jpgRep. Jim Nash (R, Waconia) and Rep. Jerry Hertaus (R, Greenfield) provided their unique perspectives of being Republican legislators in the DFL-controlled Minnesota House during a 90-minute Pints & Pent-up forum on April 14.

Rep. Nash is the Assistant Minority Leader in the House. He is also the chief author of the “Free the Growler” bill. Rep. Hertaus is the Republican lead on the Property Tax Division Committee and has authored various election reform measures.

The two representatives joined the forum after a long day remotely attending a House Ways and Means Committee meeting. The free online networking event started with Reps. Nash and Hertaus making a few remarks.

Jim Nash led off by noting that there are so many weird and bad things going on in St Paul that Republicans feel like they are fighting things off more than they are actually advancing the ball.

Jerry Hertaus mentioned that his election reform bill tried to
• return early voting to 10 days before election day,
• limit absentee ballots to a few excuses, including those serving in the military, working out of state, and having some medical incapacity,
• eliminate opportunities for ballot harvesting

He tried to attract bi-partisan support by adding the carrot of restoring the rights of convicted felons to vote on release from jail rather than after they have completed probation. It would take away the chance that poll workers might illegally allow a formerly incarcerated individual to vote. If you are in prison, you cannot vote. If you are out of prison, you can vote. Yet his bill did not get a hearing in the committee.

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DFL Omnibus State Government Bill Loosens Election Safeguards

MN_House_Committee_Meeting.jpgThe DFL leadership in the House has introduced their Omnibus State Government bill. This bill ignores the need to increase integrity in our elections and makes it even easier to vote without an I.D. in Minnesota. This bill also:

  • Allows felons to vote.
  • Allows individuals to assist an unlimited number of people inside the voting booth.
  • Gives the Minnesota Secretary of State the ability to spend money with NO legislative oversight.
  • Expands vote-by-mail.
  • Has state government automatically register people to vote.

This legislation is a Democrat wish-list of election law changes. Rather than making the election process more secure, it increases the opportunity for voter fraud in Minnesota.

Representative Drazkowski (R, Mazeppa) authored amendments to add security and integrity to the election process. They require voter I.D. and provisional ballots in Minnesota elections. 


Preparing For Redistricting in 2022

MN_Congressional_Districts_Map.jpgThe population of the United States shrinks, grows, and shifts around dynamically. This presents a challenge, as the U.S. Constitution (Section I, Section 2) requires that each Representative in Congress represent an equal number of citizens. The process of adjusting and realigning the population blocks that vote to elect our representatives is called “redistricting”.

In 1929, Congress capped the membership of the U.S. House of Representatives at 435.  In 1941, it adopted the current formula for reapportioning those House seats.

Monday, April 26, the Census bureau released information indicating that MN would keep its 8 Congressional Districts. Reapportionment, or redistricting, takes place every decade following the conduct of the national census. Seven states (Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming) currently have only one Congressional seat, due to their low population. Montana will gain another seat, the remaining 6 states will still have only one. For some of the other 42 states, the latest Census data will lead to the loss or addition of Congressional seats and the redrawing of Congressional District boundaries.

Minnesota also reapportions its state senate districts based on the Census data. Congressional district and senate district boundaries may be adjusted to rebalance their populations to be within 10% of the other congressional and senate districts. When a senate district boundary is adjusted, its associated house districts are also adjusted to be in relative alignment.

 

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Did You Know? You Worked Until April 25 for MN

Vehicle_Registration_Tax_Increase.jpgThe Tax Foundation has released its latest “Tax Freedom Day” rankings. This is the day when workers have earned enough to pay their taxes for the year.

Even before any of the DFL's proposed tax increases would be put into play, Minnesota comes in at #46. We work until April 25th just to pay our taxes. This is later than residents in ultra-liberal California and Massachusetts!

Minnesota is currently sitting on over $1.6 billion in over-collected taxpayer money. That is on top of another $2.4 billion dollars of over-collected money that is sitting in a special reserve fund. In addition to this, the federal government is showering Minnesota with another $8 billion in funds from the American Rescue Plan. Despite this, Democrats in the House still want to raise taxes on Minnesotans by another $1 billion.

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Bloomington Council Considers Ban of New Storage Facilities

Nathan_Coulter.jpgDuring their April 5 remote meeting, the Bloomington City Council was scheduled to discuss a new requirement that self-storage facilities allow for a 500-ft setback from residential properties. However, at one point, the discussion turned to a total ban any further such facilities.

The April 15 edition of the Bloomington-Richfield Sun Current quoted Mayor Tim Busse saying, “If we believe there are enough storage units in the city of Bloomington, then let’s just say there’s enough storage units within the city of Bloomington and they’re prohibited according to our zoning code.”

Interestingly, none of the discussion recorded by the Sun Current included any mention of the occupancy rate of Bloomington’s existing self-storage units.

Councilmember Jenna Carter reported that she had “heard from plenty of people – they do not want to see another self-storage unit or facility go up in Bloomington.”

Councilmember Nathan Coulter (pictured here) was not ready to implement a ban. Coulter, who is running for re-election, said, “I’m all for addressing community concerns. I’m all for doing what we really say we want to do. But I think we need to do it in a thoughtful way, and pushing something like this and saying we’ll just figure it out as we go. I’m just really, really not comfortable with that.”

One immediately wants to ask where Coulter was when the Council voted to put Ranked Choice Voting on the ballot without having any idea what the ordinance would require. Amid the pandemic emergency, the Council rushed to approve a ballot question, despite the lack of approval of the Bloomington Charter Commission.

Ironic that Coulter demonstrated more caution regarding an ordinance affecting self-storage facilities than he did approving a ballot question that will affect the future of our municipal elections.

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DFL Omnibus Bills Push $2.5B in New Taxes and Fee Hikes

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Minnesota has a projected surplus of more than $4 billion. Yet DFL legislators in the House have released their Transportation Omnibus bill that would hike transportation taxes and fees by more than $1.5 billion over the next four years.

None of the proposed Transportation tax and fee hikes have been heard in committee this year. They just appeared in the omnibus bill.

What is included?

• Linking the gas tax to the Highway Construction Cost Index. Result: a five-cent per gallon increase over four years -- $350 million of new taxes
• Half percent increase in the Metro Sales tax to pay for light rail and other transit -- $916 million of new taxes over four years
• Increases in registration and tab fees, and an increase to the Motor Vehicle Sales tax – hundreds of million in new taxes and fees

The DFL House also dropped their omnibus Tax bill last week. In addition to the $1.5 billion tax and fee hikes in the Omnibus Transportation bill, the Tax bill raises taxes by another $1 billion. At a time when businesses are suffering from Gov. Walz pandemic restrictions, the DFL bill will not fully protect businesses from tax hikes on forgiven loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The federal government gives, the state government is eager to take away.

Despite the state budget surplus and billions of dollars more coming from the federal government, the DFL House wants to raise more taxes on business and families. Republicans are trying to provide relief to businesses and families facing a slow economic recovery, but the Democrats are holding the relief hostage in their push for more than $1 billion in unnecessary tax increases.



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