Mr. Dahle Goes to St. Paul


Archive for February, 2010

Raiding the Piggy Bank

February 28, 2010 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Economy, Environment No Comments →

Imagine Junior working and saving for years, pocketing part of the money he earns on his paper route, hoping to squirrel away enough money for a down payment on his college education. That’s a nice story until Dad breaks open the piggy bank to skim off some funds that he says aren’t being used.
The same story is being played out in the Minnesota state budget. Workers forward part of their hard earned pay into dedicated funds only to see the Governor raiding their piggy banks to transfer the money to the General Fund. Last year the Governor proposed eliminating the Health Care Access Fund and transferring all provider tax revenues into the general fund. Why should the Health Care Access Fund serve as a slush fund to pay for projects unrelated to health care or to balance the state’s budget?
This year we learned the Governor’s supplemental Budget was to transfer $267,000 from the snowmobile dedicated account and another $400,000 from the ATV account to the General Fund. Only after organized outrage from these groups did the Governor back down from that proposal.
Electrical contractors are seeing a $1.5 million transfer from the Construction Codes and Licensing Division’s continuing education fund to the General fund. These dollars were paid for by electrical contractors from across the state to offset costs related to education courses, seminars and registration fees for necessary ongoing and required training.
Pick up the daily paper and you will read more of the same. The Star Tribune reported today the Governor’s supplemental budget calls for $1.2 million to be taken from the state’s Water Recreation Account – funds generated by the 860,000 boaters in the form of fee and boat registration – and transferred to the General Fund. Projects that include boat ramps and canoe and boat route management get axed.
More and more of our dedicated funds are not finding their way to their original and intended purpose. Those paying into these various funds are left holding a broken piggy bank with less incentive to continue paying. They are angry and rightfully so. Allowing this practice is a dangerous precedent and will lead to further raiding of our dedicated accounts.

GAMC Override

February 26, 2010 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25 No Comments →

Yesterday, the Minnesota Senate voted to override the Governor’s veto of a bill that would basically eliminate General Assistance Medical Care. There are numerous reasons why the Senate feels this is the right thing to do. Among them:
• The Governor’s veto of the GAMC will take away health care for 85,000 poor and very sick Minnesotans.
• The legislature’s plan maintains coverage for 50,000 more people than the Governor’s plan also for a longer period of time – sixteen months (Legislature) vs. one to six (Governor).
• The Governor’s plan will cost $254 million to cover 21,000 GAMC recipients. Our proposal will cover 85,000 Minnesotans for $252 million.
• Our plan cuts costs through smart reforms and better cost sharing. The Governor offsets the cost of his plan by eliminating health care coverage for more than 20,000 working Minnesotans. This bill is cost neutral and does not raise taxes.
• The Governor’s veto will cost thousands of hospital jobs across the state and force hospitals to shut down programs or close their doors. Failure to provide prescription drugs and care for some of those suffering mental illness could lead to jails becoming the access point for health care.
• Those on the program make less than $8000/year. Thousands of those using GAMC are Veterans.
The House will take up the bill on Monday. They had bipartisan support on the bill’s first vote there a last week. An override would mean three Republicans would need to stick with their first vote. Simply put – this is the right thing to do for thousands of the poorest and sickest Minnesotans.

GAMC Smackdown

February 19, 2010 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Health Care No Comments →

I first learned of the Governor’s veto of the GAMC (Government Assistance Medical Care) program when I picked up the newspaper off the front porch this morning. I was more than disappointed. The elimination of the GAMC program, effective April 15th, will mean nearly 35,000 extremely low income adults will be without basic physical and mental health care at any given time. Most are men (60%), most struggle with mental illness and/or chemical dependence (70%), many have chronic disabilities (40%), and are homeless (25-40%). Many of the adults who qualify for GAMC are living on $203 per month (maximum $677 per month). This is nowhere near enough income to pay for basic necessities or health insurance premiums.

I had hoped the Governor would sign this bill. Controversial or even costly aspects of the bill were removed to accommodate some of the concerns of the Governor. The bill passed the House and Senate with bipartisan support garnering a 47-16 vote in the Senate and a 125-9 vote in the House, however, House Republicans say they are not interested in an override meaning a lot of votes would flip-flop should the bill be revisited.

The life of a community and the measure of our moral fiber as a people depends on the way we treat those who are most vulnerable. We can count pennies in our attempt to balance a budget, but we should never lose sight of the human community we hope to create. Failure to do so is the ultimate morning headline.

Town Meetings

February 18, 2010 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Event, Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25, Le Sueur County, Scott County, Sibley County No Comments →

I will be holding several town meetings this coming Saturday, February 20. I am interested in hearing your concerns about the budget, policy, or any other issues you may have. If you cannot make one of the town meetings this Saturday, I will be holding several others at locations around District 25 over the next month or so. I hope to see you there.

LeSueur Town Hall Meeting
10am LeSueur City Library
118 Ferry Street, LeSueur

Belle Plaine Town Hall Meeting
Noon Belle Plaine Public Library
125 West Main Street, Belle Plaine

Arlington Town Hall Meeting
3:30pm Arlington City Hall Chambers
204 Shamrock Drive, Arlington

As always, feel free to contact me at the Capitol. I can be reached at 651 296-1279 or [email protected]

Uncommon Civility

February 14, 2010 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25 No Comments →

As we celebrate President’s Day, we pay tribute to two of our greatest Presidents: George Washington, for bringing the country together following the Revolutionary War, and Abraham Lincoln, in large part for his efforts to keep the union together during one of the darkest periods in our history, the Civil War.
Both Presidents knew the importance of civility and the importance of cooperation. Washington warned of the dangers of a two party system while Lincoln appointed some of his sharpest critics to his own cabinet. Today, we can only dream of such cooperation and collegiality.
Recently, Carleton President Rob Oden, while speaking to faculty, staff, and community members, shared a story of such civility. His retelling of the story, a true story, is a prime example of the kind of civility we can only hope for as we work to iron out our differences and find solutions to the political, economic, and social problems that face us.
The story begins with the consolidation of the Northfield High School, a move that was typical of many Minnesota high schools in the 1950’s. When the consolidation process was concluded, it was clear that there was insufficient space in the older high school building for the new incoming students. An addition had to be built. The school superintendent, Erling Johnson, agreed with the architect that the only economical way to expand the high school was to construct a new wing on the east side of the high school which would mean the closing of College Street.
Mr. Leal Headley, who lived near College Street, was a prime mover in the Northfield Improvement Association. Mr. Headley and other members of the Association complained that closing College Street would compromise the adjacent Central Park and the ultimately, the Association sued to keep College Street open.
The meetings and judicial hearing surrounding the suit began in Northfield, moved then to District Court in Faribault, and eventually made their way to the Supreme Court. The school district won the case before the Supreme Court, and College Street was ultimately closed.
But the real point of the story is as follows. Before each hearing, in Northfield, in Faribault, and before the Supreme Court, Leal Headley called Superintendent Johnson and asked him if he might like a ride to the meeting. Mr. Johnson accepted, and for every meeting, over an issue which burned in Northfield and which might have divided entire neighborhoods and ended many friendships, Leal Headley collected Erling Johnson and off they went in Mr. Headley’s Buick to the various meetings.
This is collegiality. This is respect for opposition. And this is civility as rarely seen or heard anywhere. On this President’s Day, let us all recall the story and let us work to continue to find common ground, agree to disagree, and recognize opposing opinions. Let us work to practice uncommon civility even in the face of disagreement in a way that would make Lincoln and Washington proud. Better yet… in a way that would make Leal and Erling proud.

The Answer is : Justice O’Connor

February 10, 2010 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25 No Comments →

OConnorQuestion 10. Ronald Reagan appointed the first woman to the Supreme Court in 1981. Name this Associate Justice: A. Ruth Bader Ginsberg B. Madeleine Albright C. Sandra Day O’Connor D. Joan Growe

Today I had the pleasure of meeting the answer to Question 10 of one of my Civics quizzes, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. She spoke at the Minnesota One Conference, a legislative retreat I attended with House and Senate colleagues at the Humphrey Institute on the University of Minnesota campus.
I have long been an admirer of Justice O’Connor, and it was a thrill to hear her speak. She was interesting, to-the-point, insightful, and with a dash of humor. While her luncheon speech was brief, she made clear her support for the merit selection of judges. She believes it is the best way to choose judges and keep them independent, saying it is hard for judges to remain impartial knowing their decisions will influence how long they keep their jobs. She said that the money being spent by people running for the judiciary in states that don’t have merit selection is causing people to trust judges less.
One of the questions asked of the retired justice was her opinion of the recent Supreme Court decision which allows corporate money to flood the election process. She said she doesn’t like to comment on the current court’s decisions, but she did make a point to say she had written the prior decision that they overturned.
Over the last several years, open elections of judges in other states have raised serious questions about whether such elections have preserved a “fair and independent” judiciary. In 2006, candidates for the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama spent $8.2 million in their collective campaigns. In 2004, the race for one seat on the Illinois Supreme Court cost $10 million.
The League of Women Voters of Minnesota believes Minnesota should adopt a system of merit selection and retention elections for Minnesota’s judges. The League supports initial appointment to the judiciary by the Governor from a list a candidates provided by an impartial nominating commission. A judge’s performance is evaluated at the end of his or her term by a broadly based and nonpartisan evaluation commission, whose results are made available to the public. Based upon the information provided, voters choose to retain or not retain a sitting judge.
Thanks, Justice O’Connor… for stopping by. You have given those of us in the legislature some serious food for thought. And I couldn’t agree more.

2010 Session Begins

February 04, 2010 By: Kevin Dahle Category: Kevin Dahle MN Senate District 25 No Comments →

Today was the start of the 2010 legislative session. The Minnesota Senate has laid out an ambitious agenda focused on balancing the state’s budget and growing new jobs in Minnesota.
In November, Minnesota finance officials released the state’s most recent economic forecast, which showed the state faces a projected $1.2 billion budget shortfall in the current two year budget cycle. The report states that lower than expected income tax revenue – caused by the sluggish economy and high unemployment – are responsible for 70 percent of the shortfall.
Even more troubling, the forecast showed the fiscal problems for the state will only worsen in the next biennium. During the 2011 Legislative Session, the state is expected to face a budget deficit of $5.4 billion, even before considering inflation. When inflation and other spending pressures are factored in, the projected deficit could top $8 billion.
The legislature will be moving quickly to pass a series of bills aimed at jump starting the state’s economy including:

• A bipartisan capital investment package that will make statewide investments in colleges and universities, transportation projects, and other public infrastructure. The bill would put thousands of Minnesotans back to work during the upcoming construction season, and support long-term economic development in every region of the state.
• A series of bills designed to spur private investment in the state, including an angel investment tax credit that would offer tax incentives to investors who provide capital to start-up companies in emerging industries, such as the biosciences and renewable energy.
• A broader jobs package, supported by labor and business organizations, designed to stimulate the state’s “vertical construction” industry, which includes construction and rehabilitation of residential, commercial, and industrial infrastructure.

Passing the capital investment bill, a jobs bill, and tackling the budget shortfall with an eye on the long term budget solutions will be the main focus of the session. It will be difficult but necessary work.