Exclusive Q&A with U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen: Putting Minnesotans, U.S. economy first

The Ripon Advance is a daily publication that provides news, information and updates on and about our elected leaders, their work within government, and their ideas and initiatives on public policy. The following is an excerpt from an interview with U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN) published by the Ripon Advance on August 1,2018.

Paulsen.JPGWhat has been the biggest legislative success you’ve had?

Helping write and pass the first overhaul of the tax code for the first time in 31 years is making our economy boom again. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve created 1.3 million new jobs and unemployment is at its lowest level in nearly 20 years.

For the first time ever, we have more jobs than job seekers. And, consumer confidence and small business optimism is at near-record levels. Millions of Americans are getting bigger paychecks, better benefits, pay raises and special bonuses. We’ve even seen American companies reverse course and reinvest here at home instead of sending jobs overseas.

While tax reform might be the highest profile accomplishment, I’m proud of the bipartisan progress I’ve played a role in to stop sex trafficking.

How have you prioritized Minnesotans’ top concerns about the U.S. economy?

As chair of the Joint Economic Committee, I have an entire team of economists that are validating the results of tax reform, including a growing, competitive economy.

I’m placing a special emphasis on bringing Minnesota small businesses and industry leaders to Washington to share their real world perspective and stories with my colleagues.

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Edina Curriculum Change: Mediocrity not Excellence

mediocrity_excellence.jpgThe Edina Public Schools have a goal to become a world class institution. Monday, July 16, 2018 the school board voted on curriculum for the PreAP 10 Language Arts class. They decided on mediocrity instead of excellence.

The curriculum of PreAP 10 Language Arts class has been under criticism for more than a year. Over the past school year, the school administration has listened to teachers, students, and parents with a goal of revising the curriculum. The result was an improvement. More writing assignments were added and two of the core books were replaced. An in-depth article about the curriculum change was published in the Sun Current before the vote. 

Parents felt this did not go far enough. The Lexile scores averaged 880, significantly below the state standard for 10th grade of 1080-1330. The administration said that other Minnesota schools used these same texts and those schools also had Lexile scores below the state standard. They felt their curriculum was good enough.

Parents proposed changing 3 books in the curriculum to improve the Lexile scores to the state standard. The administration rejected those suggestions.

Board members were given a choice of keeping the discredited curriculum or voting for the revised curriculum. Ellen Jones, Amir Gharbi, Erica Allenburg, and Leny Wallen-Friedman deferred their judgement to the expertise of the teachers and approved the curriculum. Matthew Fox was unable to attend. Owen Michaelson and Sarah Patzloff opposed the curriculum because they felt there were better options available.

In my opinion the School board is supposed to set goals and standards and not just accept what the school administration tells them is possible. In this instance, most of the school board fell short of their duties.

Paulsen - The Adult in the Room

The race between 3rd District Representative Erik Paulsen and millionaire liquor heir Dean Phillips presents some interesting contrasts for voters’ consideration in this year’s off year election.

Paulsen_at_Convention_395x432.jpgFirst of all, Phillips is in complete lockstep with his fellow DFL politicians in regards to the 2017 tax reform act, bemoaning them as deficit expanding “Tax Cuts for the Rich”, while Paulsen rightly sees them as super fuel for an economic growth machine and tax revenue builder that continues to embarrass its critics, day after day and year after year. What Congressman Paulsen gets, and Dean Phillips doesn’t, is what Ronald Reagan tried to tell us years ago; “Business doesn’t PAY taxes, it COLLECTS them!”.

Any business, no matter what its form, is really nothing more than a “pass-thru” entity. It buys some form of raw material, employs both labor and capital to make something from it, and then sells the resulting product or service to whoever is willing to pay for it. The excess of sales over costs, or profit, goes to expand and grow, buy more labor and capital, and then to compensate the owners and risk takers who created and continue the enterprise into the future.

When any government arbitrarily confiscates a portion of that excess of sales over cost, the business will have no choice but to collect the tax from the several constituent groups that it serves. It collects the tax from consumers in the form of higher prices, from employees in the form of lower wages and fewer benefits, from the owners in the form of lower dividends, and most tragic of all from the community at large in the form of fewer new job opportunities.

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Paved MN Valley River Bottoms Trail - Open House July 18

Flooded_River_Trail_example_June_29.jpgEditor note:  Bloomington residents and SD49 members who care about the environment should attend the DNR Open House Wednesday, July 18 (THIS WEDNESDAY), 6- 8 PM, at Bloomington City Hall to ask questions about this proposed trail.

As previously reported  here, against all common sense and FEMA guidance the MN DNR is preparing to pave 12 miles of trail, 10 feet wide, along the Minnesota River Bottoms, in a flood plain. In 2014 the state legislature passed a partial-funding resolution that required a paved trail.

A local group “Save the River Bottoms” is working to stop that habitat destruction, while supporting modest improvements along the current gravel and woodchip trail. A significant concern is that flooding routinely would wash-out a paved trail, similar to sections photographed this spring. Photo credit: Taylor Forsyth

Bloomington resident and trail-user Ellen Rohe attended the first DNR Open House in June, and provided the following information and insights:

After attending the DNR open house on June 14 regarding the MN State Trail in the southern border of Bloomington along the MN River I left with mixed feelings. It was great to see so many people come to the open house.

Resized_River_Open_House.jpgIt was good to finally see a “complete” plan from the DNR as to where exactly they are proposing for the paved path to go. They still do not have complete funding or an actual estimate of cost for maintenance.
It is sad to know that our own city officials and staff have felt it necessary to not be honest with the citizens who have asked questions.

Example…This has nothing to do with the city. We do not get a say in any of it.
Well most of the property belongs to the City of Bloomington so I would say they do have a say in it.

The DNR does not have full funding for the entire 12 miles so they plan on starting in 2019 to begin paving the segment from Old Cedar to Lyndale Ave. They plan on requesting future funds to complete segments through legislature and whenever there is a spare dime they will put it towards completing the paving west of Lyndale. There’s still no mention of the funding for the bridge to go over 9 Mile Creek, although the remainder of the 1.7 million that they currently have would more than take care of this cost.
This will NOT be a true transportation corridor since it will not be plowed in the winter. So therefore, there will be no transportation dollars going towards this project.


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The Board of the Edina City School District publicly expressed its concern in a 2016 letter to the Mayor and City Council that the District is being negatively impacted by the Edina City’s Tax Incremental Financing scheme for the Grandview development.

Grandview_2_TIF_District.JPGWhat exactly is Tax Increment Financing (TIF)?

Enabled by the state legislature since the 1970s, TIF is a means that local city and county governments can use to fund developments that might not otherwise be afforded "but for" the TIF supported infrastructure financing. Given that the development of a property will increase its value, the property taxes flowing from that property will also increase. In a defined “TIF District”, the taxes on the increase in property value (Tax Increment) over the original property valuation would be diverted to the developing agency for use in building and maintaining infrastructure.

TIF might be seen as beneficial for Edina taxpayers: no need to raise local taxes to fund a large scale commercial project. Of course, such projects in Edina are bound to substantially increase in value, which means a large chunk of future property taxes will flow to the city’s development agency (the Edina Housing and Redevelopment Authority, or HRA) until the project is “decertified” or 26 years passes, whichever comes first.

Why is the Edina School District concerned? Fully 50-to-55% of the incremental taxes levied on each of Edina's TIF Districts are diverted from the school district. Edina has five TIF Districts (Pentagon Park, Southdale 2, Grandview 2, 66 West, and 50th & France). This tax revenue instead will flow into Edina’s HRA.

Edina School District has been conducting a referendum about every third year to make up revenue needs, a portion of which was from TIF levies diverted to the HRA. The bonded debt obligation reported to the Secretary of State Minnesota for the school district in the application for State approval of the 2015 referendum was estimated to be $780,000,000. TIF bypass has contributed to this mountain of debt.

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SD49 Republicans Active at Convention, Ready for Campaign

Small_Day_1_Randy_Sutter_Wayne_Wenger__Max_Rymer_Doug_Seaton_Noah_Harber.jpgThe delegation from Senate District 49 was strong and actively engaged in last weekend’s convention. Twenty-six (26) delegates and 17 alternates attended, with all getting time on the convention floor. Several SD49 delegates also filled volunteer roles for Registration, Tellers and Staff support during the convention.

Convention_Floor_Pic_2018_1.jpgTo get a sense of what the convention was like, the picture to the left, taken from the front table, represents less than half of the convention attendees. The SD49 delegation is seated in the middle rear of the picture. And the photo below, taken from above the convention shows about 3/4 of the attendees, with the SD49 delegation at the lower right corner. Small_convention_floor_Jeff_Johnson_speaking.jpgLarge screens on either side of the center stage ensured that all attending had excellent views of those speaking.

The convention Co-Chairs, Sen. Michelle Benson and Rep. Jim Nash set the tone and kept the formal processes moving promptly throughout the weekend. Sen. Benson’s opening remarks centered on “A little kindness goes a long ways.” And she reminded all to be forgiving of other delegates, candidates & their families, especially in these days of social media. Rep. Nash’s greeting: “Thank-you, proud taxpayers,” concluded with “I’m sure you could be just as proud for half the taxes.” Both were recognized with an ovation of thanks as the convention wrapped up.

Small_Day_1_Waiting_to_start_Heather_P_and_Steve_Curry.jpgIt should be noted that delegates and alternates pay their own convention registration, travel, hotel and meal expenses. It can be a significant sum when the convention is in a vacation-destination such as Duluth, and similarly a financial commitment for others in years when the convention is in the Metro area. Small_Lighthouse_at_sunset_from_Lakewalk.jpgMany attendees brought along family who were able to enjoy a mini-vacation sightseeing in the area, despite near-record cool temperatures.

Co-chairs Wayne Wenger and Randy Sutter were appreciative of the positive attitude and the general willingness of participants to share the opportunity to be involved and vote in many of the endorsement contests.


Edina Schools Should Give "All for All" a Time Out

by Wayne Wenger

education-2107914_640.jpgA small group of teachers presented a manifesto to the Edina School Board at the last meeting, May 21. Teachers wanted to continue the divisive, failed “All for All” program in our schools. I have included at the end of this article the resolution submitted by representatives of the teachers to the School Board. The School Board will meet June 18 to discuss it. I do not support this resolution.

Whether you agree with me, or not, please let the school board know your thoughts before June 18, 2018. To email all the Edina School Board members, use this address: schoolboard@edinaschools.org.

What follows are my personal opinions.

I ask the Edina School Board not to continue the “All for All” program. The goal of Edina Public Schools should be academic excellence. Students should be taught how to think, not what to think. I am sure that the teachers are sincere, but their ivory tower racial focus does not reflect that of the Edina community. “All for All” has polarized and divided our school and community like nothing else in my 40 years in Edina. I ask for you to give “All for All” a time out.

“All for All” has not worked and test results show it. Consider:

• MCA math test scores of South View Middle School 8th grade students was ranked first in 2008 and now ranks 37th .
• MCA math test scores of EHS 11th grade students ranked 2nd in 2008 and now ranks as the 13th.
• MCA math and reading test scores for black and African American students have declined during the “All for All” program. Initially only 30% were proficient in math. This has declined to 14.6% proficient in math. Reading results initially showed 51.7% proficient, but this has declined to 40% proficient. These results are unacceptable and have been getting worse.

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The Sarah Patzloff Complaint: An Attempt To Silence?

Censored_Speech.jpegMany Edina residents are aware of the recent Edina School Board action involving the Edina School Board Vice Chair Sarah Patzloff. Most of the details of this kerfuffle were withheld from the public and continue to be withheld.

Our understanding of the matter has come from media reports. At its root is an essay written by Edina High School (EHS) 10th grade English teacher Jackie Roehl about the Pre AP English class taught at EHS. Finding the content and implications concerning, Patzloff posted excerpts of the essay in a private Facebook group. She shared her personal feelings, describing Roehl's philosophy as “frightening”.

When it comes to teaching AP English classes, Roehl's essay promotes the liberal and divisive views promoted by the Pacific Education Group (PEG) and the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education (NVA). Roehl's essay suggests that AP English class should center on instructing students on social justice, identity politics, critical race theory and to eradicate “White Privilege”. Roehl explained in her essay that the AP English classes should “Help explore issues of race and racism because their own white racial identity is invisible to many and they reduce racism to something that happened in the past to other people”. As recent events have demonstrated, many Edina parents don't see that as the purpose of AP English class.

An unknown individual filed a complaint about Patzloff's Facebook comment (that certain portions of Roehl’s essay were “frightening”). The Edina School Board started a disciplinary review of Sarah based on that complaint. The Board hired an outside law firm to investigate the complaint. Patzloff retained a lawyer to defend herself. The incident culminated in a board meeting May 8th, 2018 at 7:00 pm. Over 150 concerned Edina residents showed up in support of Patzloff.

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Edina High School PreAP English 10

Are Academic Standards Being Compromised to Promote Social Justice in Edina Schools?

For several years, a group of Edina parents has been concerned about the content of the PreAP English 10th grade class at Edina High School. At an Edina School Board meeting this Spring, 2 students and 7 parents discussed concerns regarding the current PreAP 10th grade English class. One parent said the class didn’t meet Minnesota academic standards because the required readings were at a 5th grade level.

I asked the school board to provide me a list of the required readings for that class to see if this was true. This is an attempt to separate fact from fiction.

Required readings:

Title Author Lexile Level Reading Level Comments
Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe 890 4-5 grade Covers the impact on Africa of European colonization in the late 1800s
Night Elie Wiesel 570 2-3 grade An autobiography about the Holocaust
Persepolis Marjane Satrapi 380 below 2nd grade Growing up in a Marxist family in Iran during the Islamic Revolution -- a comic book
The Road Cormac McCarthy 670 2-3 grade A father and son in a post-apocalyptic world
The Color Purple Alice Walker 670 2-3 grade A black woman in the 1930s who suffers incest and rape before becoming a woman who can be loved and respected.

Lexile scores measure the complexity of books and tries to match reading level with book level. 9th-10th grade scores range from 1050-1335. 6th– 8th grade scores are 925-1185. 4th – 5th grade scores are 740-1010.

Content also matters. While many of these are rated at 2nd – 3rd grade, the content of these books is appropriate for older students. Vocabulary also matters, as does grammar, and the ability to understand and analyze complex ideas and texts.

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Legislative Update by MN House Republicans

On Saturday, April 21, the House Tax Committee posted legislation (HF 4385) simplifying Minnesota’s tax code to fully benefit from recent federal tax reform and provide additional tax relief to middle-class Minnesotans. In addition to tax conformity, the centerpiece of our bill is a historic second tier income tax rate reduction.

MN_Capital_in_Snow_527x672.jpgAs a result of House Republicans’ proposal, more than 2.1 million Minnesota filers will benefit from a tax cut in tax year 2018. Highlights include:
•   Helping middle-class Minnesotans keep more of what they earn by cutting the second tier income tax rate from 7.05% to 6.75% by tax year 2020. This would mark the first income tax rate reduction in Minnesota since 2000.
•   Lowering taxes for people at all income levels by increasing the standard deduction from $13,000 to $14,000.
•   Protecting families by preserving a state personal and dependent exemption of $4,150.
•   Encouraging affordable homeownership by allowing a state-itemized deduction of up to $30,000 in property taxes.
•   Supporting hometown businesses and farmers by reinvesting extra revenue from corporate tax changes into Section 179 conformity and overall rate reductions.

In contrast to House Republicans’ proposal to simplify and reduce taxes, a new analysis conducted by the Minnesota Department of Revenue shows that tax changes proposed in the governor's supplemental budget would raise taxes on Minnesotans of every income level, and make Minnesota's tax code more regressive.

Federal tax reform presented a significant opportunity to simplify our state tax code. House Republicans’ goal from the onset was holding as many Minnesotans harmless as possible and preventing headaches for filers next year. Paired with surplus dollars, our proposal delivers broad tax relief to the middle-class including the first income tax rate cut in nearly 20 years.

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