Wednesday, December 28, 2011

SD-24 : Rosen's Goal Does Not Meet Our Needs

In the backdrop of the embarrassing spectacle of electing a new Majority Leader for the Minnesota Senate, the Mankato Free Press engaged a few of the Republican Senators that represent the area for their assessment.

Al DeKruif (SD-25) presented a somber tone of the day "When you have something like that happen in mid-term, you have a lot to talk about. ... We had some healing to do."
The MFP wrote
DeKruif, a freshman, said Koch’s downfall made for a difficult two weeks for rank-and-file members of the Senate. “It started out very confusing,” he said of Koch’s resignation as majority leader. “It went from confusing to disbelief. We went through a grieving process, and today we went through some healing.

Julie Rosen, my Senator, offered a discouraging angle ... one that suggested that it was best just to quickly sweep this event under the table ....
We’ll keep (the session) short and sweet and get out there campaigning,” Rosen said.

"Get out there campaigning” ... NO, Senator Rosen, the JOB you were elected to was to participate in GOVERNING - not to be in perpetual campaign mode. Senator Rosen's frankness and honesty was surprising and disappointing. Senator Rosen did not face a challenger in 2010 and most voters will not pay attention to the 2012 Minnesota Legislature elections until after the competitors have been finalized.

Senator Rosen should be focusing more the citizens' needs and the decisions that were made last session.

The Rochester Post-Bulletin printed an OpEd from Tina Liebling, (D-House District 30A) in which she smartly reminds the voters of what happened :

The Republican-controlled legislature’s recently enacted budget pays for operating expenses with money we don’t have — for the first time in Minnesota’s history. The “party of fiscal responsibility” proposed and enacted a budget that borrows $640 million dollars for operating expenses, a debt that will grow to about $1.2 billion by the time we pay it back. This borrowing scheme (which may be unconstitutional) was originally proposed by Governor Pawlenty and rejected by then-DFL legislative majorities. But this year, Tea Party Republicans in control of the legislature were so determined not to raise the income taxes of the wealthiest Minnesotans that they took out a high-interest loan instead.

That’s not all. The Republican majority delayed more payments to Minnesota’s schools with no solid plan to pay them back. This forced two-thirds of Minnesota schools to borrow money to cover operating costs. California — the poster state for fiscal crisis — is the only other state using school payment shifts to finance state deficits.

Despite our current short-term surplus, Minnesota now carries a $4.2 billion debt — to our schools and to investors. And that surplus only includes this two-year budget cycle: When the time comes to set the next budget, costs are again expected to exceed revenues by $1.3 billion, even if we don’t pay back the schools. (That figure doesn’t even include the effect of inflation on costs. If it did, the shortfall would be $2.6 billion.)

Representative Liebling is focused on the JOB that needs to be addressed.

Three credit rating agencies — Fitch, Moody’s and Standard and Poors -- have officially downgraded Minnesota’s credit rating.

The reduction in credit rating has not only a financial impact on the view of the state’s ability to repay loans (albeit at a higher interest rate) but also influences decision-makers on creating, relocating or sustaining jobs in Minnesota. Ultimately the inability to maintain jobs and the tax revenues produced from jobs, will mean lower infrastructure investment, reduced public support for education, and fewer jobs.

To make matter worse, the economic fact is that interest rates tend to move in sync with other interest rates. The downgrade in the state’s rating, therefore, does not just increase the interest rate on Minnesota’s government bonds but also impacts Minnesota families other loan needs — student loans, auto loans, and home mortgages

Majority Leader Amy Koch resignation was her choice but it did expose an area of government spending that was unknown to virtually every taxpayer. Michael Brodkorb was being paid in excess of $90,000 to be a spokesman for the Senate Republicans ... help me out here, but isn't Senator Rosen's salary $31,140 per year ... yet they pay their spokesman almost triple that amount ? ? ? ?

Last January, the Star-Tribune ran a story asking the question whether spokesman Brodkorb was "A man of many jobs, but do any of them conflict?" The article pointed out that his state payroll data beyond his base salary is not public, it is nearly impossible to determine when Brodkorb is operating as a Republican official or a state-paid employee and that "At the Capitol, his salary was less than $54,000 when he was the Senate Republican communications director. When he added the duties as executive assistant to the majority leader, his pay rose to $94,000

Considering how many voters feel that they are TaxedEnoughAlready, focusing on "campaigning" should include explaining the bad decisions that have already been made and what Senator Rosen did to correct them.

While Senator Rosen may want to focus on a new stadium for an extremely profitable business, the next session needs to address how Minnesota's credit rating can be improved.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Shannon Savick Campaign Generates Early Publicity

“When did it get to the point where one party has to win at all cost? We need to have legislators who are willing to work together. Compromise is not a bad word.”

That's the message that Shannon Savick offered visitors to the Faribault County Fair as she introduced herself as a candidate for the Minnesota House.

Savick has the blend of education, work experience, local government experience and common sense that should appeal to voters.

Savick campaign has already received some good publicity in the Faribault County Register and Mankato Free Press.

Reading those stories, one must wonder if Shannon Savick took to heart the OpEd piece that Bob Freyberg wrote in the Mankato Free Press during the shutdown. Mr. Freyberg makes some very good points ... especially the last paragraph ...
"as we approach the next election, please look beyond the image building done by the parties and search for the candidates’ principles, integrity and proven ability to get things done under tough circumstances. We can’t continue to lose millions of state dollars every day as personalities stand in the way of common sense and potential growth."

Yep, common sense ...
Savick was raised in Bricelyn, earned degrees in math and physics at Minnesota State University, then a master’s of business administration from Clark University in Massachusetts.

Twenty years of work experience with Digital Equipment Corporation taught her about manufacturing, negotiations, budgeting and the need to learn what’s most important to the customer.
As the Free Press story expressed : "she also knows what it takes to reach a deal — something that might appeal to voters following the 2011 legislative session.

Besides a successful worklife, Shannon Savick has served on the Wells City Council and as the Mayor of Wells.

Yep, that's what has been missing from the legislature ... not enough people who have worked at city council levels ... learning the art of advancing solutions through compromise.

Yes, that's how you learn to blend the interests of business leaders and community ... to make improvements.

Shannon Savick has expressed a passion that will be tough to beat ... as she has firmly outlined who she will represent in the legislature : “Any legislator who has chosen to protect millionaires and special interest groups in the state instead of children, elderly and disabled should be fired by the voters.”

It's great to have Shannon Savick offer herself as a candidate. The district lines will be re-drawn ... 24-B could become 21-B but early indications are that Good Thunder and Wells will be in the same district ... thus Tony Cornish (R-24-B) will have a serious challenger in 2012 ... and there are plenty of constituents ready for a change.

Monday, May 30, 2011

MN-02 : Kline Eerily Silent on Troops to Teachers Program

Memorial Day should not only be the time to remember those whom have given the ultimate sacrifice in support of our country, but also to recognize that too many veterans are unemployed.

While Congress may be considering a number of proposals (including Senator Amy Klobuchar’s Veterans Employment Act ), there is one program that could be terminated as a result of the zeal to eliminate the federal government spending.

At the heart of the decision-making is John Kline (R-MN-02). Mr. Kline is Chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee but is also a member of the House Armed Services Committee … thus his views on the troops, teachers and jobs will impact the future of the Troops to Teachers Program.
But like so many other issues, Mr. Kline remains silent … no public comment … no press releases addressing the subject … just silence hoping that voters do not pay attention … especially military veterans looking for a new career after active duty service.

The Troops to Teachers Program is not a new program … it was established in 1994. It has proven to be successful as spotlighted in a March 2006 GAO report indicating that over 80 percent of Troops teachers are male and over 25 percent are African American—characteristics that differ from the overall teacher population. Troops teachers were placed in districts designated as high-need on the basis of serving children who qualify for federal assistance. According to the study, about one third of Troops hired reported teaching in the priority areas of math, science, special education, or vocational education. 60 percent of participants reported that they would not have become a teacher without the TTT program. Since 1993, over 12,000 retired members have brought math, science and foreign language expertise to schools through the program.

Sounds like a good program … putting true “Role Models” in the classroom.
However it faces a threat today as blind budget-cutting that seems to be the mindset of the Republican-controlled House ... funding for the Department of Education is an easy target (especially after so many members campaigned on eliminating the Department during the 2010 elections.)
This week, Mr. Kline’s E&W Committee cut 43 education programs. Mr. Kline, who has targeted programs that job training programs specifically, stated At a time when our nation faces a historic fiscal crisis, we must make a concerted effort to reduce federal spending. A necessary step in this process is to eliminate and streamline federal programs.

The TTT program costs …in terms of government spending is modest … funding for the program has declined, from a high of $29 million in FY03 to lower amounts … typically $15 million annually.

The Obama Administration has proposed to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to move it from Education to the Department of Defense. The move to Defense will help ensure it runs smoothly and has no adverse impact on program enrollees while providing .better oversight of program outcomes by simplifying and streamlining program management.

The TTT program has its supporters in Congress … and even improving it … Tom Petri (R-WI) has introduced H.R. 1947 ( the Post-9/11 Troops to Teachers Enhancement Act of 2011) to expand the program, Mr. Kline remains silent … but the legislation has been endorsed by :

The American Legion
The American Military Retirees Association
The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA)
The Military Order of the Purple Heart
The National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE)
The National Education Association (NEA)
The Student Veterans Association

During the last session of Congress, a similar bill was introduced - HR 3943 - which had 171 co-sponsors including Minnesota military veterans Tim Walz (D-MN-01) and Colin Peterson (D-MN-07) … but not Mr. Kline.

Mr. Kline controls the gavel … he wields the power to deny Congressman Petri’s bill a hearing … he controls whether Troops will be encouraged to Teach … Mr. Kline, do the right thing … support the Troops … support Teachers.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

MN-02 : Redistricting Opens Door for Morrow

Multiple Choice Question : Why has John Kline won so convincingly each term ?

A. After years of public involvement in service to local communities on school boards and at the state legislature, he is will known to independent voters that are the true majority of Second District constituents.
B. As a Congressman, he has exerted influence to ensure government funds are properly directed to the district for infrastructure investments (roads, water and sewage systems, etc.) but not wasteful “Bridges to Nowhere”.
C. He’s blanketed the airwaves with commercials citing his accomplishments while participating in a public Town Hall meetings non-stop from Memorial Day until Election Day.
D. The national Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee has never funded the challenger.

Ponder that question for a moment, and consider that the Republican-managed Minnesota State Legislature has approved a proposal that re-shapes the Second District. Media reports indicate that Tim Walz (D-MN-01) will lose a reliable group of voters in Nicollet County that will switch to Mr. Kline’s Second District.

Is this bad news for Congressman Walz or Mr. Kline … depends on how you feel about the issues.

There was a reason why people voted for Tim Walz … it was people like me, a true independent that want fiscal responsible legislators … those Nicollet County voters will now have a chance to “meet” John Kline … and John Kline is no Tim Walz (remember Mr. Kline supported TARP and every Defense project while rejecting any attempt to pay for them). There are plenty of voters in Nicollet County that will want to “meet” the DFL candidate that will take on Mr. Kline.

No doubt Mr. Kline will proclaim his “fiscal hawk” persona but once voters compare the fiscally prudent Tim Walz who has not accepted a pay increase while Mr. Kline has awarded excessive bonuses to his employees … while increasing his staff operating expenses (which Tim Walz has routinely returned to the US Treasury), they will recognize Mr. Kline as a true Washington politician who is motivated with self-promotion at the taxpayer's expense.

Yet, there will be voters that will be pondering the aforementioned “Multiple Choice Question” and look for a candidate that has those attributes … and they may be looking for someone from their local area. It turns out that not only has Tim Walz been elected by Nicollet County voters for the past three elections, but also they voted to have Terry Morrow represent Minnesota State House (23A).

For the record, I have never met Terry Morrow (nor Tim Walz or John Kline), so my observations are from his record and votes.

Terry Morrow just always seemed to be there … for example, when the MN-GOP charted a plane to fly into Mankato to defend their budget cuts which the local media reported, but the local meadia also reported that Representative Morrow was at a ceremony honoring a Minnesota National Guard member who was about to be shipping off to Iraq. When the I-35 Bridge collapsed, Representative Morrow was appointed to the committee to review the incident. When the state legislature wanted to review the best ways to confront the increase in unemployment, Representative Morrow joined the bi-partisan Jobs Task Force.
Clearly, Representative Morrow has the respect of his colleagues for the right reasons ... competancy and caring attitude.

Prior to running for the House, Terry Morrow served on the Saint Peter School Board for several years.
Representative Morrow is currently a member of the House Agriculture, Rural Economies & Veterans Affairs Committee and the House State and Local Government Operations Reform, Technology & Elections Committee, and is also a member of the Finance subcommitteees for the Transportation and Transit Policy and Oversight Division and the Transportation Finance and Policy Division.

As large as the Second District is many voters may not know Representative Morrow … unless they saw the ridiculous attack ads that were run by Take Back Minnesota … while TakeBack Minnesota efforts were successful in converting the legislature to Republican, District 23-A voters overwhelmingly voted to have Terry Morrow represent them in the House.

My answer to the “Multiple Choice question” is D --- the DCCC has not financially supported Mr. Kline’s opponent.

IMO, voters don’t know John Kline … he’s a Washington insider … best known in the District as John “Franked Mail” Kline (after all taxpayers funded the bills to tune of $92,942.59 in 2009 which increased to $125.939.89 in 2010) … meeting constituents are managed with Tele-Town Hall phone contacts which Mr. Kline has noted that traditional town halls “have become partisan battlegrounds,” and because the phone calls can be made any time, it limits organized opposition and disruption. Indeed, if a constituent becomes disruptive during his or her question, the congressman on the other end can simply click them off.”
John Kline is simply an incumbent that the DCCC has not decided to challenge, therefore voters just reluctantly accept him.

IMO, it’s time to start a DRAFT Terry Morrow for Congress movement.
The Second District needs somebody that cares about Minnesota and not Washington.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

McCain Says : It’s Nuts - Kline Eerily Silent

John McCain (R-AZ) and John Kline (R-MN-02) share responsibilities for our nations defense spending as both sit on their chamber’s respective Armed Services Committees … both portray themselves as fiscal conservatives who proclaimed a War on Earmarks … and yet both need to take some responsibility for the growth in defense spending.

Regardless of which party controls the White House, defense spending has grown at unsustainable levels.
Under President Bush, military spending averaged 3.9 percent of GDP.
Under President Obama, it has averaged 4.9 percent—a full percentage point higher.
It is incomprehensible to assume spending under the president who launched the War on Terror is insufficient for even the most hawkish member of Congress. Congress has virtually plenary constitutional power over appropriations, one that is not qualified with reference to its powers in Article One Section Eight of the US Constitution ... the blame clearly falls on CONGRESS.

But these two players are not the same.
On one hand, there is Senator McCain who sees military wasteful spending and takes action … for example, his amendment to terminate funding for the General Electric-Rolls Royce F136 alternate engine while Mr. Kline and his compatriots in the House took the opposite stance. Finally, a stop work order has been issued ending the funding … as previously note, Mr. Kline was eerily silent to recognize this taxpayer victory.

The next battle is MEADS - the Medium Extended Air Defense System. (For more about MEADS, there is a commentary on the MN Political Roundtable.
The Army has decided not to go forward with the missile defense system. Senator McCain said, “It’s nuts.” "The Army wasted an average of $3.4 billion a year on programs that came to nothing" as Senator McCain used MEADS as an example of the failings of Defense Department.

Mr. Kline needs to explain why the MEADS program should not be given a Stop Work Order … there are proven alternatives … such as the Patriot. Consider that the current War on Global Terror has two active theatres … Iraq and Afghanistan … and do you ever hear any talk of the Patriot Missile Defense system ? No … why … the simple answer is because these conflicts are with non-state actors involved in a counter-insurgency campaign and the Patriot is not part of that defense plan.

However, if a missile defense system is necessary, simple math provides the answer … the cost for a single MEADS fire unit will run well over $300 million, while a modernized Patriot fire unit comes in at less than $80 million.

Mr. Kline, do the math … Stop MEADS … Save the taxpayer’s money … there are plenty of us that feel we are TaxedEoughAlready that don’t feel the need to support your friends in the defense industry. The Pentagon is slated to spend $6.5 trillion over the next ten years, please listen to Senator McCain … STOP MEADS.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

MN-02 : Should the Ryan Budget Save the Kline Family Farm ?

John Kline (R-MN-02) issued a press release in advance of his vote in favor of the Paul Ryan (R-WI-01) FY 2012 budget :
“ … hundreds of Minnesotans shared with me their thoughts about better ways to encourage job creation and foster long-term economic growth. The overwhelming majority of constituents told me they have no choice but to make the difficult decisions to guide their families and small businesses through difficult economic times, and they expect Washington to do the same.
This week Congress will vote on a responsible, restrained budget that will help America’s job creators put our nation back to work and secure America’s future by stopping Washington from spending money it doesn’t have. Our budget will cut $6.2 trillion in government spending over the next decade compared to the President’s budget, and $5.8 trillion relative to the current baseline. It also preserves benefits for today’s seniors while strengthening the safety net for our children and grandchildren.”

Already many have focused on the cuts that the Kline / Ryan budget will impact on Medicare and other entitlement programs … yet there has been little discussion about the 33% reduction in outlays for Education (Section 500 of the budget) from FY 2012 to FY 2013 … which would be one that Mr. Kline should be most interested as the Chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee.
Heck, Mr. Kline as Chairman of Education Committee is promoting cuts to Head Start (FY 2012 Budget (GOP Budget) that would have a national impact
• 218,000 low-income children and families would be removed from Head Start.
• 16,000 Head Start and Early Head Start classrooms would close.
• 55,000 teachers and related staff would lose their jobs.
• 170,000 families trying to find jobs or stay employed would lose childcare)
In Minnesota, every county would be affected … as Minnesota’s 35 federally designated Head Start grantees served 16,018 families in 2010.
And Head Start has a proven track record exhibited by :
192% Increase in Language Development
362% Increase in Emerging Literacy
288% Increase in Social Emotional Development
173% Increase in Physical Health and Wellbeing

But this commentary, is not about Education funding or any of the other proposed cuts … but instead what Mr. Ryan and Mr. Kline have protected --- Farm Subsidies.

American taxpayers paid roughly $15 billion in total farm subsidies last year, according to government data including $5 billion in direct payments to farmers accounts. With the farm sector booming—the USDA estimates net farm income this year will be the second-highest in 35 years—direct payments should become an easy target. Iowa State University economist Chad Hart noted that the payments go to farmers regardless of crop price or quality. Most of the payments go to the largest farmers in America given the amount of land they own. From 2002, when the program was expanded, through 2010, the top 10% of recipients received 67% of the funds, according to David DeGennaro, an Environmental Working Group legislative analyst. Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, said the direct subsidies have become indefensible because they don't go to farmers who need them to survive tough times.
Prominent Republicans like Senator Susan Collins (ME) view America’s fiscal problem and offer a solution… “I support the elimination of the ethanol subsidy — that’s worth some $6 billion a year.” Senator Collins added “I think we should cap farm subsidies for wealthy corporate farmers.”
Senator Collins was joined by Chris Coons (D-DE), Jeanne Shaheen (D-VT), Mark Warner (D-VA), Bob Corker (R-TN), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-CT), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), John McCain (R-AZ), Jim Webb (D-VA), Bob Bennet (R-UT), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Mike Enzi (R-ID), Jack Reed (D-RI), Richard Burr (R-NC), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in signing a letter to end the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit.

Targeting farm subsidies is not new … The CATO Institute lists 10 reasons while The Heritage Foundation complains that it subsidies millionaires. Heck, the New York Times editorialized that cutting farm subsidies was an easy one.

In summary, there are a significant number of elected Republican and Democrat leaders, think tanks and newspapers that all embrace the concept of terminating farm subsidies.

Yet, Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's (R-WI-01) blueprint for the fiscal 2012 budget contained a paltry $3 billion per year over the next decade— leaving $120 billion in total expected spending on farm subsidies. Compare that to the outlay for Education which will be cut $23 billion in just FY2013 alone.

So, why would Mr. Kline and Mr. Ryan not raise the ante … that’s a great question … the answer is unknown … but what is known is that Mr. Kline’s Family Farm participates in accepting federal subsidies.

Yes, Mr. Kline the taxpayers expect you to make “the difficult decisions” in these “difficult economic times” but when one group is enjoying a banner year, we don’t expect you to continue to participate in receiving federal subsidies … we expect you to stop reckless Washington spending that benefits to a numerically small but highly motivated group who will fight ferociously to safeguard their benefits ... or as they are also known - your family, friends and supporters.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Kline –vs- Walz : Who Said : Don't do your job, don't get paid.

Within virtual seconds of the House approving legislation, John Kline (R-MN-02) was quick to issue a press release entitled John Kline Supports Bill Ensuring Members of Congress Don't Get Paid During Federal Government Shutdown

“April 1, 2011

WASHINGTON – Congressman John Kline supported the “Government Shutdown Prevention Act” which passed the U.S. House of Representatives today. The legislation would forbid salary payments to be disbursed to Members of Congress or the President during a federal government shutdown.

“American taxpayers shouldn’t be left on the hook funding the payroll of the President or members of Congress during a federal government shutdown,” said Kline.

Semantics and spin presents this statement as Mr. Kline opposing any member of Congress and the President getting paid if there is a federal government shutdown … but read it carefully … “ during a federal government shutdown.”

The legislation that Mr. Kline is referring to is HR 1255 -“Government Shutdown Prevention Act”. While the legislation may be called the “Government Shutdown Prevention Act”, it’s real intention is to “Deem and Pass” HR 1 -Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011 if the Senate does not act by April 6th. The legislation was froth with questions of constitutionality as well as if it adhered to the principles of the Pillars of a New Majority .
Read that discussion on the MN Political Roundtable.

The current salary (2011) for rank-and-file members of the House is $174,000 per year … it’s an annual salary … it’s not a daily or hourly rate … which is why they get paid when they are on “official breaks” when they are campaigning … heck, even if they are ignoring debate invitations while being busy campaigning for other candidates.

The US Senate has already addressed the question of retroactive pay by unanimously approving S 388
(b) Retroactive Pay Prohibited- No pay forfeited in accordance with subsection (a) may be paid retroactively.

But the House has not addressed the question of retroactive pay … in fact, Mr. Kline doesn’t mention that he actually voted against an amendment that would deny retroactive payment of lost wages … that’s a big difference … somehow, I don’t think that neither Mr. Kline nor any member of Congress is going hungry if there is a federal government shutdown … heck, Mr. Kline is accustomed to having lobbyists hosting banquets in his honor.

The amendment that Mr. Kline voted against was offered by Minnesota’s First District Congressman Tim Walz.

Tim Walz speech was concise and succinct. Here are the key comments :
We have an opportunity. The American people did send us here, as you heard on both sides of the aisle, to do a very simple thing--to get the work done and move this country forward. The debate is that there are differences in how to do that. That's the strength of this land. It's democracy. But there is one very strong principle that we can reinforce, that work ethic, that if you do not get your job done, you certainly should not be paid. No middle of the night, no if it passes and goes this way. Very simply, the easiest of things to do: If this Congress after being here 4 months--and I don't care where you put the blame--can't get this done by next week and the government shuts down, there will be no chance of a single paycheck going and no retroactive pay. That's the least we owe those hardworking folks. That's the least that we can do here.

I want to be very clear. I understand the majority is having a problem. They've got a debate happening inside their caucus if compromise is a virtue or a vice. They will work that out and decide, because that's what this debate today was about: Where do we compromise for the good of the American public? I come down on the side of compromise.

But with that being said, if we don't get our work done--and I will do everything in my power to ensure we do not shut this government down--the repercussions are catastrophic for Americans, and not just macroeconomically. Our seniors aren't going to get their checks. We're going to see medical care slowed down to our veterans. We're going to hear from and we have heard from our military commanders that it stresses the readiness of this nation. Our Federal workers and even the hardworking staff here will not receive a paycheck.

How do you go home, to Georgia, to Alabama, to Minnesota, look somebody in the eye and say, We failed because we bickered again but, dang, I'm going to take home that check.

So I tell my colleagues, especially the new Members, if you're a freshman in here, you came with an optimism that should not be able to be beaten out of you. Regardless if you disagree with us with every fiber of your being, the very simple principle that if we can't get this done, let's put skin in the game.

I offer you the rarest of opportunities today, the first time you've had this chance. If you vote ``yes'' on this motion to recommit, it goes to the President today and becomes law of the land, and no one here will be paid. You can look your constituents in the eye and whoever you blame for it, you can say, I'm not getting a paycheck till we fix this.

So I want to be very clear. This is an opportunity, a rare opportunity. You can vote however you want and decide however you want to balance the budget, but do not allow to play games. It is the bright lights of day, the board is going to come up, and you're going to have the opportunity. Not what's in the underlying bill. That doesn't stop from retroactive pay. And that has to pass the Senate. Mitch McConnell and every Republican already voted for my motion to recommit. So you have the chance to say, all right, I disagree with the Democrats on everything in this bill, but I'm not going to go back to Georgia and tell someone I'm picking up a paycheck and then trying to explain, but I voted for it really, but it was a motion to recommit that I didn't agree with and all of this. Nothing. Simple. Seventy-five words. Half page. Don't do your job, don't get paid. No work, no pay. It is very, very simple.

I do not agree with Congressman Walz on every issue … nor on every one of his votes, but on this issue, there should be no debate … Congressman Walz is showing leadership that is sorely missing in Washington.

While it was noteworthy that Mr. Kline awarded his staff very generous bonuses last year, it should be mentioned that Congressman Walz has voluntarily donated Congressional pay raises back to the US Treasury.

The Republicans rule the House … they set the rules including what bills committees hear and what bills get votes, so it is a tragedy that the House Republicans (with the exception of Ron Paul (R-TX-14)) have not advanced Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ-08) legislation … HR 204 Congressional Pay Cut Act. “We are living in tough economic times,” said Congresswoman Giffords. “Everyone is being forced to make sacrifices. Members of Congress can’t ask any American to cut back before we are willing to make some sacrifices of our own. I’m prepared to do that and I want my colleagues to join me. Members of Congress must set an example and there’s no better way to do that than by cutting our own salaries.”

Cutting the salaries of members of Congress is supported by numerous taxpayer groups, like Americans for Tax Reform, Citizens Against Government Waste and the National Taxpayers Union.

Two days after authoring HR 204, Congresswoman Giffords was shot at a “Congress on the Corner” event and has not been available to promote the legislation … shouldn’t the Republican leadership address her bill … instead the Republican leadership wastes precious time (that could otherwise be used to negotiate with the Senate and White House in an effort to keep Government operating) by pushing “Government Shutdown Prevention Act” legislation that even the GOP statement acknowledges that it is not likely to be enacted into law “As with any law, the provisions of H.R. 1255 would only take effect if the bill were approved by the Senate and signed by the president.”

Mr. Kline’s press release typifies a “DoNothing Congress" … that increasling is becoming more expensive and ineffective.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

MN-02 : Kline Eerily Silent After Taxpayer Victory on JSF Engine

It seems that John Kline (R-MN-02) takes every opportunity to alert voters to Washington’s Reckless Spending … but not this week when the Department of Defense issued a stop-work order
DOD Issues Stop Work Order on the JSF F136 Extra Engine Program

The Department of Defense (DoD) today issued a stop work order in connection with the Joint Strike Fighter extra engine program.
The administration and the DoD strongly oppose the extra engine program, as reflected in the President’s fiscal 2012 budget proposal that was recently submitted to Congress, which does not include funding for the program. In our view it is a waste of taxpayer money that can be used to fund higher Departmental priorities, and should be ended now.
The House of Representatives has recently expressed its own opposition to the extra engine in its passage of H.R. 1 including the adoption of the Rooney Amendment which removed all fiscal 2011 funding for this program. In addition, funding for the extra engine was not authorized in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2011, enacted in January. In light of these recent events, Congressional prerogatives, and the administration’s view of the program, we have concluded that a stop work order is now the correct course. The stop work order will remain in place pending final resolution of the program’s future, for a period not to exceed 90 days, unless extended by agreement of the government and the contractor.

Some considered this to be a victory for the TaxEnoughAlready movement that advocate Fiscal Responsible operation of OUR government.

Yes, some did issue press releases …
Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) :
I have long called for the elimination of funding for a second F-35 jet engine which is a wasteful use of taxpayer money," said Senator Collins. "As we begin to tackle the mounting debt, we must eliminate programs like this that are duplicative and unnecessary. I applaud the Secretary of Defense's decision to halt further development of the extra engine."

Congressman John Larson (D-CT-01) I applaud Secretary Gates for following through on his commitment to end the Joint Strike Fighter’s duplicative ‘extra’ engine program,” Congressman Larson said. “This program is the epitome of government waste, one that the Secretary himself referred to as an ‘unnecessary and extravagant expense.’ Today’s decision will save the American people nearly a million dollars a day and bring to close an issue that has been debated in Congress for more than 4 years. I hope that my colleagues will now join me in focusing our attention on more pressing national security matters.

Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) The termination of the alternate engine program is an essential step toward focusing our scarce defense dollars on the programs that will actually help keep America safer, ” Lieberman said. “As American service members fight to defend our freedoms and safeguard human life across the world, I hope that today’s decision will allow Congress to set this long-debated matter aside and move on to the critical business of the American people.”

That’s correct, Republicans, Democrats and Independent members of Congress laud this ending of another example of Washington’s Reckless Spending.

So, how did this happen.
First, let’s give credit to the man who put the nail in the coffin by corralling 47 freshman House members to score a 233–198 vote on an amendment that scuttled the program … Congressman Tom Rooney (R-FL-16)
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of my amendment striking funding for an extra engine for the F-35 fighter Jet to immediately save American taxpayers $450 million dollars.
“It is dubious why Congress continues to fund a program that the Air Force, Navy, the Marine Corps and Department of Defense adamantly state they do not want. Just today, Defense Secretary Gates called the program “an unnecessary and extravagant expense” and stated that this money is needed for higher priority defense efforts. As we decide which cuts to make in our defense, ones that won’t hurt our troops today, this should be at the top of the list.
“Mr. Speaker, the American people sent us here to change how Washington works. This amendment is a perfect opportunity to show your constituents that business as usual in Washington is over. I urge my colleagues to follow through with their promises, to listen to the voters on why they sent us here, and vote to strike funding for this expensive and unnecessary program. Thank you and I yield back the balance of my time.”

Normally, Mr. Kline likes to promote these successes …. but on the F136 alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter, Mr. Kline was eerily silent.

Why because Mr. Kline voted to keep the funding going … as did potential President Michele Bachmann (R-MN-06) and Raymond Cravaack (R-MN-08).

The Pentagon opposed this program … as did the Bush Administration and the Obama Administration, yet Congress kept funding it.

The choice should have been clear … support John Boehner (R-OH-08) whose chief beneficiary, General Electric is a major employer in Ohio … or support Fiscal Responsible spending.

This vote tells voters who are the Faux Fiscal Conservatives that are working for the Washington powerbrokers … who are truly concerned about addressing wasteful spending.

THANKS to Tim Walz (D-MN-01), Erik Paulsen (R-MN-03), Betty McCollum (D-MN-04), Keith Ellison (D-MN-05) and Colin Peterson (D-MN-07) for voting to end this wasteful program.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

How Much Will it Cost for Walz’s Vote on HR 910 ?

The House is rapidly moving forward legislation that could dramatically impact America’s dependence on foreign oil … as one Congressman stated it “could save 1.8 Billion barrels of oil while saving money at the pump.

With legislation of this importance, I am glad that I received a telephone call urging me to contact my Congressman, Tim Walz “to support the passage of the H.R.910 ” -- Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011. The caller quickly confirmed that I was concerned about the rising cost of energy and that “job-killing” regulations must be stopped. I informed the caller that I was concerned about ALL legislation but needed to be informed before I could comment. I asked him if he could tell who the “Sponsor” of the legislation was ? What committees had held hearings on the legislation ? What the Congressional Budget Office report said about the financial implications of the legislation ? And of course, what was the Constitutional authority that was cited for this legislation ?
The caller did not have any of this information … but said the Tim Walz needed to hear from me to support H.R. 910.
I asked him if was calling other states to encourage people to contact their Congressman … Yes, he said he was encouraging people to contact Larry Kissell (D-NC-08), Tim Ryan (D-OH-17), Russ Carnahan (D-MO-03), and others. I said that I would review the legislation and contact Congressman Walz with my view on the legislation but I could not promise him that I would tell him to support HR 910.

Frankly, I was surprised to get a call … after all, I am an independent voter .. having never given a dime to any candidate nor any political party … nor worked on any campaign.

So, who is paying for these calls to be made ? ? ?
According to Maplight, supporters of this legislation contributed to the campaigns of Minnesota Representatives in Congress :
$513,148 – Michelle Bachmann (R-MN-06)
$145,210 – Erik Paulsen (R-MN-03)
$110,050 – John Kline (R-MN-02)
$ 25,500 – Colin Peterson (D-MN-07)
$ 15,050 – Tim Walz (D-MN-01)
$ 11,200 – Keith Ellison (D-MN-05)
$ 2,250 – Betty McCollum (D-MN-04)
$ 1,000 – Raymond Cravaack (R-MN-08)

Obviously, HR 910 is an important piece of legislation to some very important special interests … and those special interests seem to believe that Republicans will understand their concerns.

After seeing the dollars being invested, the next question would be “What’s the facts ? ”.
A quick check of Politifact reveals a FALSE evaluation of the statement that HR 910 will “restrain this regulatory overreach that will restrict oil supplies and cause gasoline prices to rise."

That’s what this legislation is really about … not the the price at the pump, but regulations … as the bill states clearly :
To amend the Clean Air Act to prohibit the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from promulgating any regulation concerning, taking action relating to, or taking into consideration the emission of a greenhouse gas to address climate change …

Simply, this legislation will permanently block the EPA’s ability to limit carbon pollution as the bill expressly repeals EPA’s 2009 greenhouse gas reporting rule.

Essentially, what the Republicans want is inaction … and although it is easy to blame this on the Obama Administration, I am struck by a January 2008 letter written by Stephen Johnson, the former EPA administrator, sent to President Bush.

“A robust interagency policy process involving principle meetings over the past 8 months has enabled me to formulate a plan that is prudent and cautious, yet forward-thinking. It creates a framework for responsible, cost-effective, and practical actions.''
He added that actions to reduce carbon emissions, “should spur both private sector and investment in developing new, cost effective technologies and private sector deployment of these technologies at a large scale.

In an earlier commentary, the benefits and costs were presented :
The EPA values the benefits as :
“Today’s action would yield more than $120 billion in annual health benefits in 2014, including avoiding an estimated 14,000 to 36,000 premature deaths, 23,000 nonfatal heart attacks, 21,000 cases of acute bronchitis, 240,000 cases of aggravated asthma, and 1.9 million days when people miss school or work due to ozone- and particle pollution-related symptoms. These benefits would far outweigh the annual cost of compliance with the proposed rule, which EPA estimates at $2.8 billion in 2014.”

Why would anyone want to delay $120 billion in annual health benefits ?
The costs are estimated at $2.8 billion ... and existing technology will be used ... and many producers are using this technology.

In fact, the EPA proposals are NOT geared toward small business as the Republicans portray …
from July 1, 2011, until June 30, 2013, only new sources that emit at least 100,000 tons of greenhouse gases per year or existing sources seeking to increase pollution by at least 75,000 tons per year will be required to obtain a greenhouse gas permit.
And for the period after June 2013, EPA has said that it would not even consider applying greenhouse gas requirements to facilities that emit less than 50,000 tons of greenhouse gases per year.

Oh, yeah, regarding the Constitutional authority for this legislation, the Republicans cite Article 1 Section 8 Clause 3 which empowers the Congress to : To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States … hmmm … so the Republicans are rejecting a States Rights argument for protecting air quality … interesting … gosh, I would have thought they may have cited Clause 8: To promote the Progress of Science but that would imply that they believe in science.

Interestingly, HR 910 is called the Energy Tax Prevention Act but EPA has no authority to levy taxes, nor does the Agency propose to do so. Once again, another “name” bill that is really a misnomer.

Also, while the Republicans may like to spin this legislation as a response to gas prices, the good folks at Annenberg Public Policy Center have reviewed the claim that the Obama Administration policies are to be blamed for the rise in the price of gasoline … once again, another FALSE claim. A tip of the hat to Penigma for the Factcheck link .

I will send Congressman Walz an email on HR 910 … and I will tell him to vote against the Republican legislation … no matter how much money the special interests may throw at him, it is not forward-thinking legislation.

For our country to reduce our consumption of oil, improvements in technology are needed. The people funding the campaigns to advance HR 910 are doing so that they maintain their current controls over our dependence … it’s no wonder that John Kline (R-MN-02) wants to kill the FreedomCAR … the oil producers sell more gallons with inefficient vehicles.

Oh, yeah, that Congressman who discussed “save 1.8 Billion barrels of oil while saving money at the pump was talking in opposition to HR 910 ... he knows that regulation will encourage investment in "developing new, cost effective technologies and private sector deployment of these technologies at a large scale" ... the Bush EPA Administration knew what to do, but the current Republicans are too busy protecting their special interests.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Remember 9/10/01 – Kline Eerily Silent on Nuclear Safety

The deadly earthquake and tsunamis of March 11, 2011 in Japan resulted in four nuclear power plants in Fukushima Prefecture to be immediately shutdown due to safety concerns about damage sustained and prompted the evacuation of thousands of local residents. Subsequently, Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushima Daini nuclear power plants experienced multiple explosions, threats of leaking radiation, and possible nuclear meltdown.

As the potential tragedy of unthinkable concerns swept the world, this should be just the incentive for American leaders to review the safety of our nuclear industry … and ascertain whether there are ample plans and resources for a potential diasaster.

The debate is not over the future of nuclear energy but instead are we prepared for such an event.

The potential consequences of a nuclear event has been known …. ranging from schoolchildren of the ‘50s practicing “desk safety” to the severe accidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986 which occurred when a handful of known problems -- aggravated by a few worker miscues -- transformed fairly routine events into catastrophes.

As such, when there does not appear to be regular reporting of problems, everyday families assume things are good.
But ignorance is not bliss … as the safety record of the nuclear industry is not as good as it could be.

In 2010, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), reported on 14 special inspections it launched in response to troubling events, safety equipment problems, and security shortcomings at nuclear power plants … such as at Calvert Cliffs (MD), Brunswick (NC), Oconee (SC), Browns Ferry (AL), Kewaunee (WI), Peach Bottom (PA), Indian Point (NY), and Vermont Yankee (VT). At Indian Point, for example, the NRC discovered that the liner of a refueling cavity at Unit 2 has been leaking since at least 1993. By allowing this reactor to continue operating with equipment that cannot perform its only safety function, the NRC is putting people living around Indian Point at elevated and undue risk.

The last time America had to react to a major event was September 11, 2001 … and we learned then that our elected leaders were not focused on the threat.
Just the day before – September 10th -- two of our leaders showed that al Qaeda was not the consideration as it should have been.

The New York Times reported Attorney General John Ashcroft’s “Sept. 10 submission to the budget office, Ashcroft did not endorse FBI requests for $58 million for 149 new counterterrorism field agents, 200 intelligence analysts and 54 additional translators. Ashcroft proposed a $65 million cut for a program that gives states and localities counterterrorism grants for equipment, including radios and decontamination suits and training."

Another example comes from the Vice President. On May 8, 2001, President Bush appointed Vice President Cheney to head a task force "to combat terrorist attacks on the United States." Newsweek reported that when senators "sent a copy of draft legislation on counterterrorism and homeland defense to Cheney's office on July 20." On 9/10/2001, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) tried to get a meeting with the Vice President to discuss plans for homeland security due to the "lights blinking red," as the 9/11 Commission Report put it. Cheney’s Chief –of-Staff, Scooter Libby, told her "that it might be another six months before he would be able to review the material."

The decisions of 9/10 may not have changed the events of 9/11, but it shows the mindset that are political leaders operated under.
Rationalization is inappropriate a response.

It’s for that reason that I am deeply disappointed in the leadership of John Kline (R-MN-02), the Chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee.
Mr. Kline has not offered any public comment on how prepared we are for an event impacting the two nuclear facilites in Minnesota. With over 2.9 million people within fifty miles of the 1974-built Prairie Island facility and the 1981-built Monticello facility, which has the very same model as Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant, the General Electric Mark I reactor, Minnesotans have some concerns.

Workers could be placed in similar situtation as in Japan … yet, Mr. Kline, just as he did during the Massey mine disaster, has remained silent. Just another example, that workers face a greater threat to life at work than in the warzone.

Mr. Kline has offered press releases on other subjects … endorsing budget cuts approved by the Republican-managed House.
Yet, these cuts may cause greater impact than the dollars they potentially save.
The House CR would cuts $1.4 billion from first responder training resulting in a reduction of 46,000 emergency personnel trained in nuclear emergencies.
The bill also cuts various nuclear-related agencies and programs :
Office of Nuclear Energy - $131.8 million
Nuclear Nonproliferation - $ 97.7 million
Uranium Enrichment Decontamination and Decommissiong Fund - $70 million
Domestic Nuclear Detection Office - $ 32.5 million
And others.

Heck, even Forbes questions the wisdom of some of the Republican proposed cuts stating the cuts “would have detrimental impacts on the state of American energy innovation”

The Republican-managed House has been in attack-mode on regulations, ignoring worker’s concerns while offering spending cuts. Mr. Kline is now firmly entrenched as a Washington-powerbroker, leaving Minnesotan families to wonder if there will be enough potassium iodide if needed.

Mr. Kline continues to be a loyal foot soldier and not a Representative concerned about Minneaota workers and families. Heck, Mr. Kline has not even joined Betty McCollum (D-MN-04), Keith Ellison (D-MN-05), and 56 other Congressman in sponsoring a resolution acknowledging the the effects of the catasphere in Japan.

9/11 should have taught us that anticipation and preparation are part of our constant vigil. While the likelihood of a deadly earthquake and/or tsunamis is remote for Minnesota, the threat of a dirty-bomb or internal attack is not. 9/10 should teach us to not be so quick to make budget cuts without considering the consequences.

Mr. Kline, please do the right thing … think of us in Minnesota.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

MN-02 : Kline’s Operating Expenses Increase over 10%

Across the nation, Americans have demanded Washington make tough choices and real sacrifices to get our budget in order and put our nation back on the path to long-term prosperity. The day of reckoning is here, and the time to demonstrate the leadership our country desperately needs is now.
--- John Kline (R-MN-02) March 9th, 2011

Big talk – and a familiar refrain – but Mr. Kline has failed to control the area that he has direct and complete authority for … his Congressional Office expenses.

Essentially, there are two main components of Mr. Kline’s budget … people and operating expenses.
If you have read this commentary, then you know that Mr. Kline was quite generous awarding employee bonuses.
But what about the other areas … some should be standard such as office rent and as such should be stable and somewhat difficult to affect. While others are in his total control, such as travel. How often he sends his staff traveling is entirely within his control (heck, many business promote teleconferencing to minimize travel). In that area, Mr. Kline did well … in 2009, he spent $75,801.69 and in 2010, he spent a slightly lower amount at $72,476.98. Essentially a wash.

OK, so much for the good news.

Not surprisingly, if you read this commentary on the MN Political Roundtable, you are aware that Mr. Kline has a spending problem with printing literature and Franked Mail.
For the year, Mr. Kline’s Franked Mail expense grew from $92,942.59 to $125,939.89 in 2010 --- a 35% increase. Heck, while Mr. Kline refused to participate in any live debates prior to Election Day, Mr. Kline sent out 65,742 pieces of Franked Mail during the last quarter at a TAXPAYER cost of $28,370.
Printing costs was also an “easy way to spend our TAXPAYER dollars”, as it increased over 16% from $36,481.32 to $42,542.28.

Was that worth it?
Mr. Kline won re-election quite easily … campaigning on a message of constraining government spending … yet, he cannot control his own wasteful spending.


For the record, Mr. Kline’s expenses were :
$ 92,942.59 - Franked Mail
$ 937,963.22 – Personnel Compensation
$ 75,801.69 – Travel
$ 77,702.53 – Rent / Communications / Utilities
$ 82,721.46 – Printing and Reproductions
$ 64,909.45 - Other Services
$ 42,542.28 – Supplies and Materials
$ 2,513.37 – Equipment

$ 125.939.89 - Franked Mail
$ 950,941.90 – Personnel Compensation
$ 72,476.98 – Travel
$ 92,725.13 – Rent / Communications / Utilities
$ 96,007.51 – Printing and Reproductions
$ 58,524.71 - Other Services
$ 36,481.32 – Supplies and Materials
$ 3,685.73 – Equipment

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

MN-02 : Pity the Part-time Worker who only got a $1500 Bonus

Does anyone remember these words “The American people are tightening their belts and making tough decisions, and they expect the same of their elected leaders. It is time for Washington to get its priorities straight, put our fiscal house in order, … John Kline June 4, 2010

Well, maybe, Mr. Kline would not want you to know how he put his fiscal house in order … his Congressional staff.

For a little background, please read this.

Well, fast forward … the year is now over and the public is finally able to see how Mr. Kline has “rewarded” his staff …. when the year comes to an end, a Member of Congress has a choice, he can not spend his Member's Representational Allowance to the maximum or return unspent monies to the US Treasury.

In the past, it was not uncommon for Mr. Kline to award $2,000 to $3,000 bonuses … but this year with the focus on the expanding national debt and “overpaid” government workers, what would Mr. Kline do ?

Well …. Let’s look at some of his employees who have a little tenure.

$3000 bonus for his legislative correspondent.

A caseworker is awarded a $3500 bonus (up from $2500 the previous year).

$3500 bonus for his District Office Manager (previous year the bonus was $2000 and $1500 the year before)
… okay, it appears Mr. Kline is rewarding a slightly higher amount this year.

But what about a part-time employee ... she got a $1500 bonus (up from the previous year of $1000 which was up from the prior year's $700 bonus)
… work part time or full time, it appears that Mr. Kline is spending more.

But that’s not all of them.
A Constituent Services representative was awarded a $4,600 bonus plus a 7.4% wage increase.

His Legislative Director earned a $6700 bonus this year (up from $3000 the year before)

The District Director was awarded a $9000 bonus (up from $3000 the year before).

Mr. Kline's Communications Director was awarded a $10,200 bonus which was up from $3940 the previous year (plus a 5.9% increase in base wage.)

Being responsible for salaries on for a Congressional Committee also provides Mr. Kline with an opportunity to award bonuses. For example, his Senior Legislative Aide moved over to the House Education and Workforce Committee ... he got a $8,750 bonus .... while Mr. Kline District Staff shares an employee with the Committee ... she did not earn a bonus on Mr. Kline's Congressional Staff Budget, but the EWC gave her over $9000 .

Mr. Kline certainly can talk about belt tightening but when it comes to his staff, these government worker’s compensation just keeps growing … like the national debt that Mr. Kline has helped increase with his reckless operational spending.

When the Republicans cut this year’s MRA (by about $60,000), every TaxEnoughAlready advocate should be asking why isn’t it more … heck, Mr. Kline has awarded over $40,000 in bonuses to just these few employees.