Special for Senate District 49 * October 15, 2015
The Metropolitan Council is a 17 member regional super-government appointed by the governor and accountable to no one else. The Council has full taxing authority and a new mandate to change housing, transportation and the environment; in short, how you and I live our lives every single day. The prospect of an unelected board of apparatchiks micro-managing how we live is a chilling consequence of the radical expanse of governmental authority.
The Council was founded in the mid-1960s as part of a then-popular move toward “regional planning.” In essence the Council was sold on its promise to make sure that intra-county resources like roads and utilities are developed in a cooperative and efficient manner. As originally conceived, the Council’s charter to encourage efficiency by minimizing duplication among counties made a great deal of sense. After all, it made no sense if Scott County installed a system of waste-water pipes that failed to connect with the waste-water treatment facility maintained by Hennepin County. Over the past half century, however, the Council has gobbled up more and more power, gradually expanding its scope and size. In the process, the Council has gained full taxing authority and has dramatically expanded to the point that, under Governor Dayton, these 17 unknown bureaucrats have virtual plenary power over every single person living within the seven county metropolitan area.
At the end of 2014, the Council adopted its most audacious power grab ever, adopting the innocuous sounding “Thrive MSP 2040.” This plan, reminiscent of the great centralized plans so popular in the former Soviet Union, will dramatically reshape how every person in the metro area lives and gets around. Like other grand governmental programs, the Thrive plan is full of vague and lofty sounding goals. In reality, however, the Thrive plan imposes a host of new ideologically-motivated criteria for municipal control; control that will be the exclusive domain of the central governmental authority unchecked by elected representatives and unaccountable to the taxpayers of the region.Read more
By Katherine Kersten * September 25, 2015
Impositions on municipalities. People moving out farther to find home prices they can manage. Subsidies. Affordable housing that’s not. A mentality of entitlement, not choice. All of this is what we’ll get from our unelected regional government.
The Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area is a great place for ordinary folks to buy a house, put down roots and pursue the American dream. For now — but likely not for much longer.
Today, fully two-thirds of homes in the metro area are affordable to a family of four making $63,900 — which is 80 percent of the 2014 area median income for such a family, according to the Metropolitan Council.
But a new, top-down “housing policy plan” from the Met Council, our unelected regional government, now threatens to drive up housing costs for everyone — ironically, in the name of creating more affordable housing.Read more
By Eric Strobel
A generation ago, electricity was less expensive in Minnesota than in other states. This low-cost energy provided Minnesotans with a significant benefit and was a rare expense break for beleaguered state businesses. If you feel as if you have been paying more and more for your monthly energy bill, that is because you are, a lot more.
The cost of energy in Minnesota has increased 12.5% over just the past eight years compared to an average reduction of 1.5% in the rest of the nation. The primary cause of the price increases was a mandate passed in 2007 which requires all state utilities to generate 25% of their energy production from so-called “renewable energy” by 2025. This is even more aggressive than the federal mandate of 20% “renewable energy” production by 2030. As disastrous as this state mandate is, however, it is made significantly worse by a series of wrong-headed and costly subsidies handed out to so-called “green energy.”
While everyone is in favor of renewable energy, the issue is at what cost to the public will these energy programs be implemented? As Warren Buffet noted, "…we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That's the only reason to build them. They don't make sense without the tax credit." This is also why Bill Gates has said that the costs of reducing carbon emissions with current technologies such as wind and solar power are “beyond astronomical.” Simply put, without massive taxpayer subsidies and mandates, “green energy” is not currently viable.
As an example of the increased costs necessary to support “renewable energy,” Xcel Energy and other electrical providers are required by state law to purchase excess solar energy at retail prices. What this means is that the electrical providers must reduce their own output of less expensive electrical energy and purchase higher-cost solar power at the exact same rate as the electrical providers then charge their customers.
This is called “net-metering” and results in significant increased costs as well as inefficiency at the producer because the available solar power fluctuates depending upon the available sunlight. The effect is that utilities, and naturally their customers, must subsidize solar and other “green energy” by paying more than the market will bear for their products. Of course, the fact that utilities must subsidize their competitors by paying retail prices for electricity that they previously produced at wholesale cost also helps drive up costs.
In addition, because of state energy mandates, utilities must spend more money to promote “green energy” technology. Xcel Energy customers currently are paying a 5% surtax to permit Xcel Energy to promote so-called “renewable energy” programs, a direct tax to every rate payer.
Minnesota’s current energy program, focused on renewable requirements, raises electricity prices yet demonstrates little environmental benefit, especially when compared with other options. The best answer is not more state and federal regulation and taxes on existing energy. It is a sensible environmental policy that embraces an “all of the above” approach to energy usage.
Minnesota's Constitution states that "No law shall embrace more than one subject, which shall be expressed in its title." Our legislature consistently violates this requirement. Why does this harm the voting public?