Sunday, March 28, 2010

MN-02 : Funding Special Education is Available IF Kline Wants It

For years, John Kline (R-MN-02) has voiced complaints about the Federal Government under-funding on Special Education for children with disabilities. The Obama Administration has proposed an increase or $250 million dollars for FY2011. Mr. Kline would like the U.S. Department of Education “increase special education funding by $1 billion for the coming year by decreasing spending on ineffective and low-priority programs.

Now, Mr. Kline is not requesting additional monies but instead cutting other programs. During a House Education and Labor Committee meeting, Mr. Kline suggested $1 billion from the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA) or taking monies from the $1.35 billion funding in the Race to the Top (RTTP) program.

Yet, it was just last month, that Mr. Kline issued a statement committing to an ESEA program that will “work to ensure an excellent education is available to every student in America.”. The initial Race to the Top funding hasn’t even been awarded yet, but the first evaluation of states’ applications resulted in 40 states being eliminated … including Minnesota … one would hope that this means that there are other states that have greater needs than Minnesota.

So, let’s assume that ESEA and RTTP are actually good programs that should be funded, which leads to the question of where to find the additional dollars to fund Mr. Kline’s request for Special Education ?

The answer is simple … Congress enacted a tax cut that went too far and it should be re-instated.
In 2009 the Estate Tax rate was 45% with an exemption if the estate is below $3.5 million. On January 1, 2010, a "one year repeal" of the tax is in place but on January 1, 2011 the estate tax is scheduled to return at a top rate of 55% and the exemption amount is scheduled to drop back down to $1.0 million.
To put it simply, if a single person (note : if it is left to a spouse or a charitable organization, the tax usually does not apply) dies this year and you’re in Paris Hilton status, no tax … but die next year, you pay. In reality, you and I won’t be affect by this but based on past year’s an estimated 15,000 Estates would be affected.

So, Mr. Kline if you want monies for Special Ed, let the Estate Tax rate revert back to last year rates.
Why should the super-wealthy get this break … wouldn’t they feel good to know that their Estate helped children with special needs.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

MN-02: For Kline, Jobs Are Somebody Else’s Problem

The Lie becomes the Truth only when someone comes to Believe It.

John Kline’s recent press release on Jobs focuses on Failure and Washington :
“Day after day, majority leadership tells the American people its policies will create jobs and spur economic recovery. Yet month after month, the jobs report tells us a very different story. Congressional Democrats and White House officials continue to hang their hats on a ‘stimulus’ package that has expanded government instead of employment. Washington has been absent when it comes to promoting policies that will spur strong and lasting private sector job creation.

Say it loud enough and long enough and people will believe it.

Unless they happened to read The Wall Street Journal article that stated : “Thirty-eight of the 54 surveyed economists, not all of whom answered every question, said the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act boosted growth and mitigated job losses”. Or read the Congressional Budget Office report : “Taking into account the slightly faster implementation of certain tax cuts and the slightly slower pace of outlays, CBO now estimates that in the third quarter of calendar year 2009, ARRA’s policies raised real GDP by between 1.2 percent and 3.2 percent, lowered the unemployment rate by between 0.3 and 0.9 percentage points, and increased the number of people employed by between 600,000 and 1.6 million compared with what those values would have been otherwise.”

Ok, but if Kline continues to rant that the stimulus has failed will his audience believe it ?
Well, considering that the stimulus had a number of aspects including tax cuts, the answer is YES based on FrumForum survey which asked “Are Taxes Higher, Lower or The Same As When Obama Was Inaugurated?" and 67% of the respondents said “Higher” while 4% said taxes were “Lower”.
Yet, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation : “last year's $787 billion stimulus bill, enacted with no Republican support, reduced federal taxes by almost $100 billion in 2009 and another $222 billion this year. The Tax Policy Center, a private research group, estimates that close to 90% of all taxpayers got a tax cut last year and almost 100% of those in the $50,000 income range. For those making between $40,000 and $50,000, the average tax cut was $472; for those making between $50,000 and $75,000, the tax cut averaged $522. No taxpayer anywhere in the country had his or her taxes increased as a consequence of Obama's policies."

Hmmm … Lies accepted as Facts … will Mr. Kline reach-out and educate … or continue to blame Washington ?

Yet, it may not be Washington that is the problem but instead the current Congressman who sits in Washington.

Why did Mr. Kline oppose the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act ?

Where’s his press release letting employer’s know of the potential benefits … should it be Mr. Kline or the IRS responsibility to reach out to Second District businesses ?
FYI : So that employer’s don’t have to wait, here is the IRS bulletin which states : Employers who hire unemployed workers this year (after Feb. 3, 2010 and before Jan. 1, 2011) may qualify for a 6.2-percent payroll tax incentive, in effect exempting them from their share of Social Security taxes on wages paid to these workers after March 18, 2010. This reduced tax withholding will have no effect on the employee’s future Social Security benefits, and employers would still need to withhold the employee’s 6.2-percent share of Social Security taxes, as well as income taxes. The employer and employee’s shares of Medicare taxes would also still apply to these wages.
In addition, for each worker retained for at least a year, businesses may claim an additional general business tax credit, up to $1,000 per worker, when they file their 2011 income tax returns.

As a sidenote, to help pay for this legislation is changes to close loopholes in offshore bank accounts … offshore tax abuses rob the U.S. Treasury of an estimated $100 billion each year, reward tax dodgers using offshore secrecy laws to hide money from Uncle Sam, and offload the tax burden onto the backs of middle income families who play by the rules … this has been in the works since it was first introduced by Senators Coleman (R-MN) and Obama (D-IL). Yep, that was back in the days when Republicans would work with Mr. Obama.

It’s long past time for Mr. Kline to stop being leading proponent of the NO faction of the Republican Party (NO means Neo-Con Ostructionist), and outline how he plans to help generate jobs for the Second District.
Let's stop the Lies and partisan negativity ... Let's speak up for JOBS and America instead of bashing it.
Mr. Kline, you are part of Washington and the Second District needs somebody interested in creating solutions.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Earmarks cause rift in Republican family

Having current working relationships with officials at all levels of government is useful in applying for and allocating possible State and Fed grant money as well as accomplishing initiatives that require multiple government levels.

A great campaign theme … yet it is the quandary for Republican candidates this year … promoting access while prominent Republicans, like John Kline (MN-02), are denouncing “earmarks”.
Kline’s press release states his position clearly : “For four years, Congressman Kline has refused to participate in the earmarking process, instead advocating that federal funding decisions should be based on merit, rather than a Member’s seniority, party affiliation, or the committees on which they serve.

One has to wonder if Mr. Kline would have a problem with someone whose campaign emphasizes "working relationship" ?

Yet, it's that "working relationship" that "sets Kathy apart" ... or so says, Kathy Danner's website .
Her bio is : "Kathy is the wife of a Nissan man (meaning that he is employed at Nissan North American Headquarters), mother of two elementary schoolers, caregiver to one tick attracting dog and two over-fed gold fish. : ) She is also the daughter of US Congressman John Kline. Kathy and Ted gave up 2/3 of their combined income to stay home with their first child. They lived on $34,000 a year. Kathy grew up a Marine Corps kid. She is now a thriving WAHM (work at home mom) , an avid gardener, was a discussion Leader and now a member for Bible Study Fellowship International.

Mrs. Danner is a candidate for Williamson TN County Commissioner in the 4th District.

Voters will have to judge for themselves if Mrs. Danner will have any sway with her Father, but the point of this commentary is that earmarks are a source of controversy within the Republican Party.

While Mr. Kline press releases indicate that Republicans are all signing up for his “Pork-free Diet”, that just ain’t happening.

The Senate just voted on banning “earmarks” … and … well, let’s just say that a number of Republicans said NO -- Alexander (R-TN), Bond (R-MO), Bunning (R-KY), Cochran (R-MS), Collins (R-ME), Gregg (R-NH), Hutchison (R-TX), Inhofe (R-OK), Lugar (R-IN), Murkowski (R-AK), Roberts (R-KS), Shelby (R-AL), Snowe (R-ME), Voinovich (R-OH) and Wicker (R-MS). Most interesting is that a number of these Senators will be retiring this year, so if they brought home the “pork” or not, would not affect them at the ballot box.

Lamar Alexander expressed it correctly “I’m not ready to give away the Congress’ right to appropriate money… Under the Constitution, that’s my job.
Senator Alexander knows that “earmarks” only account for roughly two-percent of federal spending. (Note : Last year, Tennessee received more than half a billion dollars in earmarks for 130 projects. Yep, that Tennessee where Mrs. Danner is a candidate for elective office.)
Senator Alexander goes on to say, “But I don’t want that to be the whole discussion about debt reduction, because we could eliminate all the earmarks and we could still be on our way to Armageddon in terms of our national debt.”

Mr. Kline thinks that not participating in “earmarks” is the solution.
NO !
In fact, as Senator Jim Inhofe said prohibiting lawmakers from directing money to their states would give more power to President Barack Obama and the executive agency heads he appoints.

A better solution would be follow Tim Walz (D-MN-01) example getting citizen input in an open, accountable, and transparent appropriations process.

The Walz approach appears to be similar to the one that Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-07) used. She describes it as “The intent of the solicitation was for Members to identify those transportation projects in their districts that should receive funding from the Highway Trust Fund. The potential funding for these projects does not come from the Federal Treasury. Instead, the funds are collected from gas tax proceeds paid by Tennessee consumers dedicated only for the purpose of infrastructure development. As such, High Priority Projects do not increase the federal debt, nor do they create a future obligation for Tennessee Taxpayers. Failure to identify worthy projects in the 7th District would abdicate infrastructure development decisions to bureaucrats who may well spend the funds in ways that don’t meet our district’s needs. Congressman Blackburn, after consulting extensively with local officials and the Tennessee Department of Transportation, believes that her request list better meets 7th District needs than any bureaucratic effort could.

Mr. Kline and House Republicans, who calling for a moratorium on “earmarks”, are pushing a campaign issue … but history tells us that once the new session starts, the moratorium will be over … and for the Republicans, they hope to be in charge, and once again being able to re-establish those "working relationship" with newly empowered County Commissioners.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

MN-02 : Kline Targeted to Support Colorectal Cancer Prevention

As the Healthcare Reform debate trudges on over 50,000 Americans are expected to die from colorectal cancer. These deaths occur because of the lack of early detection and treatment.

We have heard John Kline (R-MN-02) state 80% of healthcare reform has bi-partisan support … well, Mr. Kline, it’s time for you to weigh in on HR 1189 , The Colorectal Cancer Prevention, Early Detection and Treatment Act Sponsored by Representative Kay Granger (R-TX) and Representative Patrick Kennedy (D-RI). Prominent members of the Republican Study Committee are co-sponsors including Rodney Alexander (LA-5), Joe Barton (TX-06), Brian Bilbray (CA-50), Dan Burton (IN-05), Thaddeous McCotter (MI-11), Mac Thornberry (TX-13) and others … as well as Minnesotans Betty McCollum, Jim Oberstar, and Collin Peterson (all Democrats.)

Today, Mr. Kline heard a person appeal from advocates for this legislation asking for his support.

This is the type of legislation that should be a no-brainer. It’s limited in scope, it’s reasonable in dollar amount, and it requires participation by the states. This is not a give-away … this is not government takeover … in fact it conforms to the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution as it will "promote the general Welfare" of the citizens.

The bill would authorize $50 million in funding for grants to public and nonprofit organizations. The grants would be used to carry out programs that will provide vital colorectal cancer screenings, information and follow-up services to those ages 50-64, with a focus on those most at risk, such as poor, low-income, uninsured, underinsured and racial and ethnic minority men and women.
The investment could result in the savings of $15 billion in Medicare … a hefty payback.
The states would be required to provide 1/3 of the funding to get the federal dollars.

Please call (952-808-1213) or email Mr. Kline today and tell him to co-sponsor this legislation.

Monday, March 15, 2010

MN-02 : Kline Fails to Heed Eric Massa Advice

During Glenn Beck’s interview on Tuesday, March 9th, resigned Congressman Eric Massa said “Demand we do one thing in Congress and that's change campaign finance reform, because nothing else matters until we do that. Until we do that, nothing will change. That's my — that to me is the number one issue facing America today. It really is. We won't change jobs. We won't change anything until that is changed.”

Mr. Massa’s demand must have fallen on deaf ears as the next day, there was a fundraiser for Mr. Kline.
No, this was not “hot dogs at the Lakeville VFW” … this was a $1,000 suggested contribution held at a lobbyist’s private home . The home is owned by Bernie Robinson , a partner in The Livingson Group LLC.

So why would The Livingson Group be asking for contributions for John Kline ?

" 'As government grows, unless you're right there to limit it, it can intrude in just about any industry . . . There are agencies that love to do things and acquire new missions. People in the industry better have good lobbyists or they're going to get rolled over.' "– Bob Livingston founder of The Livingston Group, LLC in a Washington Post June 22, 2005 story

The Livingson Group LLC which considers its successes as :
* Multi-year track record of success in obtaining significant funding for transportation infrastructure (waterways, roads, airports, shipyards, etc.) on behalf of local governments and private companies
* Helped to defeat appropriations language that would have been damaging to the business of a large U.S. pharmaceutical company
* Secured tax incentives for client’s coal-to-liquid technology
* Successful advocacy on the Hill and in Administration on behalf of large defense contractor in major purchase of satellite communication firm
* Major appropriations successes in the education area on behalf of public and private universities, as well as innovative learning programs
*Generated $37 million in sales for a comprehensive mathematics instruction program. Marketed all aspects of program, from furniture and computer hardware/software to training and ongoing service for the product
* Secured significant increases in U.S. assistance for several countries
* and many other successes.

In short, what The Livingston Group represents is corporate influence in American politics.

Mr. Kline lambastes “earmarks” as evil. Yet, the bigger problem is corporate influence that leads to potential corruption. Banning all earmarks will not eliminate corruption or influence-peddling. In fact, the most famous recent such scandal involved not a “wasteful local project” but instead was Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA) being convicted for bribery involving funding for the Defense Department. The Jack Abramoff scandal was all about influencing legislation to benefit certain clients.

These clients are not interested in Mr. Kline per se, they are interested in the position that he holds as Ranking Member of the House Labor and Education Committee. They want influence. They want someone to obstruct legislation and Mr. Kline is a major advocate in the NO faction of the Republican Party.
NO are Neo-Con Obstructionists who have no problem with “earmarks” for military funding for F-22 jets that the DOD have never use in Iraq or Afghanistan but want citizens to fear the Federal Government taking over their lives (it's okay for health insurance companies to dictate how long I can recover in the hospital but not my doctor.)

Mr. Kline fits in well there … speaking from Washington … not for Minnesota.
After all, Mr. Kline has spent more years working in DC than his scant time in Minnesota.
Mr. Kline should know better. The Livingston Group did not have fundraisers before for him ... but now that he's in the chair, they want the influence.
Mr. Kline could have - and should have - turned them down ... that would be a stronger stand than his "Pork-Free-Diet" earmark philosophy.

Contrast that with Mr. Kline’s potential challengers in November. Dan Powers is a roofing contractor from Burnsville … running a local business that relies on serving the people is who should be representing the Second District. Or, Shelley Madore who has served her community for over 16 years … spending time listening to the peoples problems and advancing solutions in the Minnesota Legislature ... that is great experience that she will vote for Minnesota's best interests.

With every vote the Mr. Kline makes, the question must be asked : is he voting for Minnesota or is he voting based on what's in the best interest of his old employer's at The Heritage Foundation and his friends at The Club for Growth ?

If the country is going to listen to the people, it’s time to change the entrenched politicians that like saying NO for our needs while saying Yes to the corporate influence and its monies.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

MN-02 : How Many Times Will Kline Say NO to Jobs ?

CSPAN viewers are waiting for the Freudian slip when someone introduces John Kline by stating : “I yield time to my good friend from Minnesota’s Second District, Mr. No.”

As far as jobs are concerned, John Kline is Mr. No.

Last Thursday, the House voted to agree to a Senate-approved $35 billion bill - blending $15 billion in tax cuts and subsidies for infrastructure bonds issued by local governments with the $20 billion in transportation money.
It’s a Jobs bill that met the approval of Republicans Lamar Alexander (TN), Kit Bond (MO), Scott Brown (MA), Richard Burr (NC), Thad Cochran (MS), Susan Collins (ME), Orin Hatch (UT), Jim Inhofe (OK), George LeMieux (FL), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Olympia Snowe (ME), and Roger Wicker (MS) but not Mr. No … err Mr. Kline.
Is it prefect bill ? No, but it’s a good compromise as the Democrats wanted a $50 billion dollar program. It continues a step in the recovery as the economy has shed 8.4 million jobs since the recession began in December 2007. Minnesota has lost over 140,000 jobs including more than 46,000 in the manufacturing sector.

The jobs bill contains two major provisions. First, it would exempt businesses hiring the unemployed from the 6.2 percent Social Security payroll tax through December and give them an additional $1,000 credit if new workers stay on the job a full year. The Social Security trust fund would be reimbursed for the lost revenue. Second, it would extend highway and mass-transit programs through the end of the year and pump in $20 billion for the spring construction season. Third, Small businesses would continue to be able to write off equipment purchases as a business expense.
John McCain’s economic advisor Mark Zandi said the new hiring tax credit could spur creation of about 250,000 new jobs.

Mr. Kline instead of stating why he opposed this bill issued a press release on Friday’s BLS Jobs Report . Kline states : “Washington has been absent when it comes to promoting policies that will spur strong and lasting private sector job creation.

Well, it isn’t that Washington has been absent, it is that Mr. Kline has been absent in pushing jobs programs for the Second District. This is not new … this has been going on for too long. For example, in 2007, Kline opposed the New Direction for Energy Independence, National Security, and Consumer Protection Act that advocated greater energy independence through green jobs that promoted clean renewable energy production. In 2008, Kline opposed extending tax incentives on solar, wind and other alternative energy installations even though Minnesota jobs would be directly impacted. There are companies in his district that could have benefited from Mr. Kline’s involvement. And of course, Mr, Kline opposed the Obama stimulus program … even though it featured tax cuts.

Despite Mr. Kline’s insistence that nothing is happening, it is … the BLS report indicates that “In February, temporary help services added 48,000 jobs. Since reaching a low point in September 2009, temporary help services employment has risen by 284,000. Permanent jobs may not be created until the workweek hours improve … and that is also slowly ticking upward from 33.0 in September to 33.8 in February. Once temporaries are switched to permanent and a forty hour workweek is in place, then new jobs will be created.

That makes the job very difficult for political leaders.
Mr. Kline has taken the road of saying NO to jobs bills and then complaining that jobs are not there.
While others are getting involved … pushing … and making it easier for businesses to expand, Kline complains that Washington isn’t working … forgetting that he is Washington.

Case in point. Senator Al Franken has spoken about the green jobs potential of SAGE Electrochromics located in Faribault (yep, Kline’s Second District.) Senator Franken understands that federal programs often provide the seed capital or gap financing that spark private investments which are extremely important in outlying areas of Mr. Kline’s district.

On the same day that Kline had his press release complaining of the lack of jobs, SAGE Electrochromics announced that it will increase its 100 workforce to 260 employees. This will occur with the assistance of loan guarantee through the U.S. Department of Energy in addition to state and local incentives and result in the construction of a $110 million manufacturing facility. In addition, it is anticipating that more than 200 people will work on the construction project.

Recently, Senator Franken introduced S. 2952 The Strengthening Our Economy Through Employment and Development (SEED) which seeks to reallocate $10 Billion in TARP Funds to job creation in public and private sectors. [NOTE : Mr. Kline voted FOR the TARP legislation.] SEED is modeled after a previous successful jobs program – MEED (Minnesota Emergency Employment Development). The benefit comes in targeting particular groups of the unemployed through the workforce training. Local Workforce Investment Act (WIA) One-Stop Career Centers can recruit employer interest in such programs, match employers with disadvantaged workers who are suitable, and provide supports to increase job retention with the end result in the creation of permanent jobs for the unemployed.
Senator Franken includes extra wage subsidies for employers that hire veterans who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. The SEED Act would create jobs to retrofit hundreds of public buildings, putting people back to work, increasing energy efficiency, and significantly reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

Senator Franken is saying YES to job creation … it’s time that Mr. Kline stop saying NO and endorse this legislation … and for once help the Second District.

Mr, Kline needs to do that now … as soon voters will be looking at the November elections and may noticed that Dan Powers is seeking the DFL endorsement. Dan Powers is a small business owner and as such understands that the Second District needs a Representative that will work for them and not be a mouthpiece for Washington Republicans.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Walz Wants Input on Earmarks, Kline Lets Others Decide

Representative Tim Walz (MN-01) is requesting input on how our tax dollars should be spent.
Walz writes : “Each year, the appropriations process allows Members of Congress to solicit input and ideas from their constituents as to which local projects need federal funds. I intend to request funding this year for projects that will create jobs through investments in southern Minnesota and/or will have a transformative impact on the region.
While I continue to work with my colleagues to rein in the deficit and bring the budget into balance in Washington, it is important to note that Congressional earmarks do not add to the federal deficit. Any funds not reserved for specific projects through the Congressional earmark process would instead be left for federal bureaucrats in Washington to distribute, in accordance with federal law, as they see fit. I support an open, accountable, and transparent appropriations process because I think it is critically important that the people of southern Minnesota have a say in how their taxpayer dollars are spent in our community.
Below, you will see links to all of the qualified applications for federal funding I've received this year. I must make a decision on whether to request funding for each individual application very soon. Before I make my decision, I want to hear from you.

Tim Walz is a true Representative. He is not advocating shadowy spending where special interests get special attention. He wants to hear from all citizens. In fact, Walz goes on to encourage projects that will create jobs and have strong public support. Walz writes : “The more public support from local elected leaders, community officials, and from citizens in southern Minnesota project requestors can demonstrate for a project, the better the chance that I will submit it to the House Appropriations Committee for consideration.”
Further, he writes “I am also interested in projects that are eligible for federal funds through the appropriations process but will not require annual federal financial support to be successful.
Lastly, he is not guaranteeing approval.

That’s a true Representative - open, responsive and concerned with how to best invest in the communities of southern Minnesota.
Contrast Representative Tim Walz, with John Kline in Minnesota’s Second District.
Mr. Kline, the “No” man who seems to be very comfortable in Washington Republican leadership has denounced Earmarks as a waste of tax dollars.
Kline wrote in 2008 “There is no accountability. Members of Congress are not even required to disclose to taxpayers what projects they have requested funding for.

Although Representative Walz is not required, his website and press reporting lists all projects for voters to review the process. Walz writes : “To the best of my knowledge, I am the only Member of Congress who seeks public input on earmark applications before finalizing my request to the House Appropriations Committee. I am committed to this unprecedented transparency because I believe the best decisions are well-informed decisions.

Why doesn’t Mr. Kline do that ?
After all, as Representative Walz stated “Any funds not reserved for specific projects through the Congressional earmark process would instead be left for federal bureaucrats in Washington to distribute, in accordance with federal law, as they see fit.

It’s Mr. Kline’s failure to be involved in the appropriations process that has contributed to Minnesota being a donor state. The Tax Foundation rates Minnesota at the bottom - #46 writing : “Minnesota taxpayers receive less federal funding per dollar of federal taxes paid compared to the average state. Per dollar of Federal tax collected in 2005, Minnesota citizens received approximately $0.72 in the way of federal spending. This ranks the state 46th highest nationally and represents a decrease from 1995 when Minnesota received $0.78 per dollar of taxes in federal spending (44th highest nationally). Neighboring states and the amount of federal money they received per dollar of federal taxes collected were: North Dakota ($1.68), South Dakota ($1.53), Iowa ($1.10) and Wisconsin ($0.86).

Mr. Kline has taken a self-promoting political slant that he belongs to an elite group of 22 members of Congress that are opposing “earmarks”.

That type of elitism is bad for Minnesota. Mr. Kline could be as open, transparent and responsive as Representative Walz and investigate and promote projects that will grow jobs and improve Minnesota. Not all "earmarks" are wasteful government spending ... an effective Representative will make good decisions and spend our money wisely.

So, if you think that Highway 14 (Minnesota’s most deadliest highway) should be included in a federal appropriation, click here and tell Representative Walz (or any other project that might involve infrastructure investment such as water, sewer, road, etc.) … likewise, if you don’t think that a project should be included, I am sure that Representative Walz would want that input.