Will Bakk Building Put DFL Back Out of Power?

While Minnesota DFLers controlled state government the past two years, they have done some very constructive things:

  • TRULY BALANCED BUDGET.  Unlike their GOP predecessors, DFLers balanced the budget without relying on irresponsible gimmicks and shifts, and they paid back public schools for the money the GOP shamefully “borrowed” from them.
  • TAX FAIRNESS.  The DFL also restored a bit of tax fairness to an unfair system, by increasing taxes on the wealthiest Minnesotans who were paying a lower percentage of their income in taxes than other citizens.
  • 5 G’s.  Importantly, DFLers didn’t get bogged down with issues associated with “the five G’s” — gays, guns, gambling, God and gynecology — which tend to dominate under GOP control.  DFLers enacted marriage equality swiftly and efficiently — a very historic and important achievement — then moved on to other important non-G business.
  • ALL-DAY K.  DFLers passed universal all-day kindergarten.  While that’s not the first education investment I’d prioritize, it is a constructive move, and a publicly popular move.
  • JOBS AND INFRASTRUCTURE.  The DFL authorized and funded a long list of needed capital improvement projects that are rebuilding Minnesota’s deteriorating infrastructure and putting long-suffering construction workers back to work.
  • NO DELAYS OR SHUTDOWNS.  Finally, the DFL got its work done on time, and didn’t shut down state government, as the previous GOP-controlled Legislature did. DFLers mostly governed like grown-ups.

That’s a very nice body of work for the DFL to showcase to voters.  They should be proud of it.

If DFLers lose control of all or some of state government, it likely will have had to do with environmental factors they can’t change , such as low DFL constituency turnout in a non-presidential election and an unpopular Democratic President.  Their policymaking performance will not be their biggest political problem.

Minnesota_Senate_office_buildingBut there is at least one policymaking unforced error that is making things a bit more difficult for the DFL — the DFLers authorization of a new Senate office building.

The new Senate office building project is nowhere near as wasteful as Republicans claim.  It also is nowhere near as necessary as Senate DFLers claim.  But one thing is indisputable:   The political optics of the project are bad for the DFL during the election season.

Attack_mailing_PDF__1_page_Most voters won’t do a comprehensive financial analysis of whether DFL leaders are doing a good job stewarding their tax dollars.   They will judge fiscal stewardship based on an isolated example or two.  Republicans are working overtime to make sure that the Senate Office Building is the example voters use to make their judgement.

The Senate office building works well for the GOP on a political level.  First, the building is built for legislators by legislators.  On its face, that seems self-serving and arrogant to many voters.  Minnesotans don’t take kindly to self-serving and arrogant.

Second, this is not a pole building, and therefore can be made to seem extravagant.  The building renderings strike me as modest, responsible and utilitarian, but demagogues are making the Senate office building seem like something akin to Emperor Nero’s Domus Aurea.

The issue is obviously being overblown by Republicans.  This project represents only a small fraction of the entire state budget, and the argument for the building is strong, if you actually take the time to study and consider it.  But at-a-glance, voters perceive the building to be self-serving and extravagant, and Republicans realize most will voters only consider the issue at-a-glance.

In what is likely to be a close non-presidential election with little room for error, the DFL legislators can’t afford many unforced errors.  Choosing this year to build the new Senate office building is one very big unforced political error.

– Loveland

GOP Senators Offer Compromise Design For New Senate Office Building

Saint Paul, MN — Minnesota Republicans today revealed an alternative design for a new office building to serve as home to state senators and their staffs.

Minnesota_Senate_Office_Building-2Republicans have been critical of a $63 million building design backed by Senate DFLers and Goverrnor Dayton.  They say the design is too lavish, such as plans for a reflecting pool and more space than senators currently occupy in the State Capitol Building.

Today Senate Republicans put forward a compromise design.   Senator Michelle Fischbach (R-Paynesville) said she was aware that some citizens have come to believe that GOP legislators only criticize others’ proposals, without offering constructive alternatives of their own.

“This is a great example of Republicans being reasonable, constructive, and innovative,” said Fischbach.

Fischbach said she and her colleagues retained King Oscar Designs, an architectural firm in Monterey, California that is known worldwide for making efficient use of space.  An artist’s rendering of the alternative office building was released today by Senate Republicans at a State Capitol news conference.

Strom_Senate_Office_Building_rendering-2“We removed the elitist elements from the DFL-backed design, such as windows, space not being occupied by bodies, and ventilation systems,” said Oscar Pilchards, Chief Architectural Officer at King Oscar.  “It’s a classic design that is much more streamlined, sustainable and efficient than the previous design.”

Fischbach stressed that the alternative plan represented a sincere effort to meet Senate DFLers half way.

“In the spirit of compromise, we did include a modified version of the skylight that our Democrat friends wanted, and are heating the structure with 100% body heat, a renewable energy source,” said Fischbach.

The Republican caucus proposed to name the building after David Strom, a former Taxpayer’s League of Minnesota lobbyist who has been named by City Pages as Minnesota’s “Best Villain” for his stanch conservative advocacy.  However, several members of the Senate Republican caucus were said to be outraged by that decision, noting that they believed Strom was too liberal for such an honor.

For their part, DFL Senate leaders were not impressed with King Oscar’s alternative plans.

“Frankly, it stinks,” concluded Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Duluth).

Note:   This post is absurdist satire, I think.

Note:  This post was also featured in Politics in Minnesota’s Best of the Blogs.

Will There Be Payback for the Bakk Brodkorb Broadside?

WCCO-TV’s Pat Kessler tweets that Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Virginia) wants to reduce Republican payrolls because of the over $200,000 in legal expenses associated with the contested firing of  Senate staffer Michael Brodkorb after Brodkorb had an affair with Bakk’s predecessor, then Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch.

 This raises Golden Ruley questions, such as: Continue reading

Can Minnesota Leaders Stop The Death of the American Dream?

If the new DFL-controlled Legislature dares to raise the minimum wage, strengthen the social safety net or make the state tax system more progressive, reporters will surely characterize the moves as political payoffs to DFL constituencies.  Mainstream news reporters have fallen into a habit of covering policymaking like it is nothing more than a politically motivated auction of gifts for special interest.

To be sure, those policies help traditional DFL constituencies, and political motives are very much in the mix.  But beyond crass vote-buying, there is also a pretty darn good reason  to help low- and middle-income Minnesotans.

Minnesota is increasingly becoming a land of haves and have nots.  From the late 1990s to the mid-2000s, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes that poorest Minnesotans have seen their incomes decrease by 3%, the middle quintile has experienced a 2% decline, and the wealthiest have enjoyed an increase of about 6%.  Therefore, Minnesota’s income inequality gap has been growing. Continue reading