Thursday, October 23, 2008

Late October 2008

Schedule: On October 14-16, I participated in three candidate forums and attended a House DFL Caucus fundraising event. On Monday, October 20th, I visited a group of senior citizens in Shoreview and the Home of the Good Shepherd in North Oaks.

On Tuesday, October 21st, I visited South Metro Sort & Recycle in Shakopee for a demonstration of grinding equipment for post-consumer asphalt shingles. Asphalt manufacturers have been recycling post-industrial shingles into asphalt for roads at a rate of 5% for some years. Now they are working on using tear-off shingles from roofing companies. If we could recycle 156,000 tons of tear-off shingles in the metro area a year, it would save $12 million a year in road construction costs because shingles have 25% asphalt cement.

On Wednesday, October 22nd, I participated in a candidate forum at Island Lake Elementary School on education. In the evening, I attended a presentation at the Freshwater Society in Excelsior. The Freshwater Society just issued a great report, "Water is Life: Protecting a Critical Resource for Future Generations," about our groundwater supply. (See their report on-line.)

On Thursday, October 23rd, I attended a meeting of the Municipal Legislative Commission (MLC), where I received an award for my legislative work promoting property tax relief for suburban homeowners through the Property Tax Relief (PTR) program. (See picture at left with Mayor of Woodbury.) The MLC is a group of second-ring Twin Cities suburbs, including Shoreview. The Commissioner of the Department of Revenue came to talk about prospects for a budget deficit next year. The meeting was at the corporate headquarters of Great River Energy (GRE) in Maple Grove. The GRE building is a platinum LEED-certified building, which means that it has a lot of environmentally-friendly components. They use a rainwater cistern to collect water from the roof, then use it for flushing toilets. They also use water from a stormwater pond for watering the landscaping. The building uses 90% less water than comparable buildings. (See the link above for more details!)

Constituent contacts: Shoreview constituent concerned about data privacy for newborn DNA screening program at MN Department of Health; Lino Lakes resident about groundwater protection issues; Shoreview resident disagreeing with my St. Paul Pioneer Press endorsement; Lino Lakes resident asking what the Freedom Club PAC is; North Oaks and Shoreview residents asking for state action against renegade ATV riders; Circle Pines resident concerned about U of M's tuition plan for the next two years

Friday, October 17, 2008

Negative Mailing Fact Check #2

The Freedom Club PAC just sent out a second mailing this week suggesting that I would like to tax people out of their homes through property tax increases. The postcard cites four votes that support this contention.

Well, this is more bunk. The votes include two amendments offered by the Republican minority to a tax conformity bill (HF3201) final passage to HF3201 on March 3, 2008, and one amendment on the omnibus transportation bill (HF2800) on February 21, 2008.

So here's the deal on the votes cited in the mailing.

House Journal page 8099: Rep. Drazkowski introduced an amendment to HF3201 that would establish a property tax levy cap for seniors. House Journal page 8060 was an amendment from Rep. Buesgens that would impose levy limits on local governments. While these sound good, these amendment came on the fly on the floor and we were unable to receive any input from the public about its fiscal repercussions. We eventually put together other legislation that provides targeted relief to senior for property taxes. Indeed, I authored a bill in cooperation with the MN Senior Federation (HF4171) that would cap property taxes as a percentage of your income and a bill (HF4188) that would increase the amount of dollars for the Property Tax Refund (PTR) program--or the "circuit breaker" program. HF4188 ended up being part of the omnibus tax bill at the end of the session and included about $20 million. We also had levy limits in our final tax bill as well, and I voted for that bill. The overall tax conformity bill (House Journal page 8103) makes sure that we are coordinating our tax policy with federal tax law among other things, and it was a good bill. The tax conformity bill provided property tax exclusions for disabled veterans and it also included National Guard members in the group of people who can claim income tax deductions for out-of-state military service.

House Journal page 7863 was an amendment by Rep. Kohls on the omnibus transportation finance bill on February 21st. This is the big transportation bill that infuses necessary dollars into our roads, bridges, and transit system. The amendment would require that any new state dollars doing to local governments result in a dollar-for-dollar reduction in property taxes. The problem with this amendment (other than it was poorly written) is that our eventual legislation for transportation is helping property taxes GO DOWN in several places in our district. The city tax levy in 2009 in Circle Pines will GO DOWN by six percent due in part to the new transportation dollars going to cities, counties, and townships.

The mailing has a picture of someone hammering in a "foreclosed" sign in front a house. This is ironic, since I introduced legislation that the Governor signed to provide foreclosure protection and predatory lending protections for owners of manufactured homes (aka mobile homes).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Negative Mailings, Polling, and Independent Expenditures

By now, constituents may have received a negative mailing or two and perhaps some calls asking about candidates. I wanted to mention something about "independent expenditures."

According to Minnesota law, candidates usually cannot coordinate their activities with outside groups. You may have seen this kind of thing in the presidential and senate races, where some outfit sends a mailing or pays for a TV ad and they have a disclaimer at the end--such as "no candidate is responsible for the content of this ad." These groups, which include the political parties, raise their own money. My opponent, John Kappler, and I have talked about this briefly with each other we find these negative independent expenditures to be unhelpful. Both of us have volunteers from the community working hard trying to make the case for each candidate, and it is always a surprise to suddenly find a postcard from some outside group in our mailboxes.

One mailing just came out from the DFL called "Blind Obedience," suggesting that Republicans in the legislature do not have a mind of their own. There is a legitimate discussion to be had about how the House Republican Caucus treated its six members who voted to override the Governor's veto of the transportation bill. However, this was an action in the past. I think the tone of this mailing is pretty over the top and I hope that both political parties would avoid doing these kinds of negative mailings. In 2006 and 2008, I've been targeted by the House GOP Caucus and outside groups attacking me with mail and push polls, so I know what the experience is like. Both Mr. Kappler and I are interested in talking about issues and I hope that voters will avail themselves of information from our own literature, our web sites, voters' guides, and so on to make their choice on November 4th.

There are also so-called "push polls" going on, although the nastier ones don't seem to be happening in 53A. A push poll is where a caller might say, "Would you still vote for X if you knew that they did this awful thing?" They are clearly intending to bring down one candidate with a negative attack. A constituent complained of a call from the Sierra Club where they were doing "positive persuasion," where the caller was suggesting that if the voter was interested in the environment that he should vote for me. There was no attack against the opponent. Again, this is an independent expenditure and my campaign was unaware that these calls were taking place until the constituent brought it up. I don't find positive persuasion calls to be as objectionable as the negative attack push poll, because they tend to be positive.

Stay tuned for updates about other mailings coming out.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Early October 2008

Schedule: On Wednesday, October 1st, I met with staff at the MN Historical Society regarding historical immigration issues as part of my service on the Legislative Coordinating Commission Working Group on Ethnic Heritage and New Americans. In the afternoon, I met with representatives of Messerli & Kramer, a lobbying firm, about issue affecting suburban cities. On Thursday, October 2nd, I had an introductory meeting with the executive director of the White Bear Lake Chamber of Commerce, then attended a meeting at the MN Pollution Control Agency about an upcoming product stewardship study that I requested in legislation in 2008. In the evening, I participated in a candidate forum with my opponent on North Metro 15 cable TV. On Monday, October 6th, I participated in a press conference with Senator Amy Klobuchar and Congressman Jim Ramstad, where they talked about their bill to combat copper theft. The bill includes some of the same elements of my state metal theft bill that has led to numerous arrests. On Tuesday, October 7th, I attended a forum for north metro legislative candidates given by the MN Transportation Alliance in Blaine. On Thursday, October 9th, Senator Rummel and I attended a forum on transportation for senior citizens in Vadnais Heights. It was useful to hear about what the funding sources are for dial-a-ride and other bus services for the elderly. On Sunday, October 12th, my family and I attended an event given by ISAIAH (see link on the right) on social justice, civil rights, health care, and transportation issues. On Monday, October 13th, I attended a subcommittee of the Ethnic Heritage & New Americans working group.

Constituent contacts: Shoreview resident about how the Clinton Administration created the Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae crisis; Shoreview resident against 2005 law requiring 20% ethanol in gasoline; district resident asking about how to register to vote; several constituents pushing for better enforcement of ATV laws; two district residents upset about Wall Street bailout bill; North Oaks resident about legislation regarding donation of bodies to science

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Negative Mailing Fact Check #1

Senior citizens in District 53A just received a postcard with this information on it:

"...If it hadn't been for Representative Paul Gardner...

"Representative Paul Gardner voted AGAINST eliminating state income tax on Social Security benefits.

"He also voted AGAINST reducing the state income tax by one-half percent.

"Let's CUT Paul Gardner's income by sending him packing from District 53A."

Here's a quick fact check.

The facts: On May 5th, Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) introduced an amendment on the floor of the House (House Journal 11320) during debate of the Omnibus Tax Bill (HF3149) that would exempt Social Security benefits from the state income tax. It was never introduced as an individual bill. The expected budget shortfall created by this amendment would have been half a billion dollars in the next budget biennium, and Rep. Erickson had no plan for what part of the state budget would be cut as a result.

The second item was an amendment to the Omnibus Tax Bill (House Journal 11297) introduced by Rep. Mark Olson (I-Big Lake) on May 5th that proposed cutting all state income tax rates. Again, Rep. Olson had no plan for what part of the state budget would be cut as a result.

Background: The House Republicans regularly introduced dozens of amendments on the floor to major bills that they knew would not get passed, but they introduced them so that mail like this could be sent out at election time.

Who paid for the mailing: The Freedom Club PAC is a conservative political fund that solicits donations from some of Minnesota's wealthier residents.