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Saturday, June 2, 2018

The List: Hundreds of Millions of Pork in the $1.5 Billion 2018 Final Spending Bill only 7 Republicans Voted No

The 2018 bonding bill was $825 million dollars. Titled, HF4404SF4013 it passed the house 84 to 39. Action 4 Liberty documented the votes and only 4 republican legislators voted against the bill in the house. Cal Bahr, Steve Drazkowski, Steve Greene, and Jeremy Munson. None from Washington County. The bill didn't pass the Senate with a 34 to 33 vote at first because there's thankfully a requirement to have a three fifths approval. Not one republican Senator voted no on the massive spending bill where over half the money goes to State colleges to build recreation areas, community halls, and other impressive eight figure buildings. No strings attached cash. Nothing about lowering tuition or other student costs; focusing on degrees or trades that have shortages (ie: professions they can get a job in). 

However, just hours before session ended Republicans opened the flood gates to allow what appeared to be any spending request to get this bill to pass wrapped up with a lot of the spending projects that failed to pass in the Capital Investment Project bill we covered earlier in May. The spending totals $1.5 billion dollars and was rushed through the house and senate without resistance. The Bill was HF4425 This was documented by Action 4 Liberty. It had so much wasteful spending most of the house democrats voted yes! It passed in the house 113 to 17, with only 7 republicans voting no. That is, Cal Bahr, Steve Drazkowski, Steve Greene, Eric Lucero, Joe McDonald, Marion O'Neil, and Jeremy Munson. It passed in the Senate 42-25 with every republican voting yes.

Governor Dayton signed this $1.5 billion dollar spending bill with $825 million of it in bonding debt. 

In 2017, the House and Senate republicans passed a billion dollar bonding bill which the Governor signed. Worst of all, it was a non-bonding year. Every other year is reserved for bonding (or debt) spending. The house members to vote no were:  Cal Bahr, Drew Christensen, Steve Drazkowski, Steve Green, Eric Lucero, Joe McDonald, Tim Miller, Marion O'neill, and Duane Quam. Again, not one person from Washington County. (Jeremy Munson was not in office yet if you're wondering why the lack of a no vote from him).

So what's in these pork bills is hard to exactly follow as the legislature does a horrible job explaining what comes and goes into the bills and when they meld to bigger and bigger bills like this 998 page beast. Especially in conference Committees. Unless you are there in person it's impossible to know. One thing is for certain, things are not being taken out... Things are being rammed in. Safe to say the First reading is a modest version of the bill that the Senate was unable to pass and certainly the $1.5 billion dollar version that eventually passed. Here's all the projects that stood out as "what the hell are you funding that with State tax dollars for?" In other words, "if that's SO important than the local areas that are getting the funding should pay" or simply that it's insane to fund such a thing... especially from Republicans who are supposed to be fiscally responsible. A great filter is asking "Is this a CORE function of government?" 

Minnesota consistently ranks as one of the worst tax friendly States... and it's all related to the out of control spending like this bill. It's one of many multi billion dollar omnibus bills that make up our State's nearly $50 billion dollar budget.

Also added after the bonding list here are projects that were not in the failed senate Capital investment bill we covered earlier in May.

2018 Omnibus (bonding) bill spending pork:

-$298 million to the UofM for infrastructure like buildings. It's no strings attached for good ideas like to lower tuition or stop building 8 figure art and music halls with the hard earned tax money. This bill, for example had $24 million to restore one Pillsbury hall building.
-$274 million to the equally unaccountable Minnesota State Colleges and Universities for the same kind of projects 
-$14 million to Red Lake School district to connect an elementary school to a middle school. They have a reading proficiency of 4% (reading proficiency for grade 4 at Ponemah Elementary in 2017 on MCA3 scores. Proficient means they can read as one could expect for that grade with the low bar of the state) , But the Legislature's solution is to throw money at them for a building... instead of teacher accountability reform or school choice options.
-$4 Million for a Perpich Center for the Arts
-$21 million dollars to renovate a laboratory building at the department of Agriculture... 
-$13.7 million to preserve and improve exhibits at the Minnesota Zoo
-$21 million to the Minnesota Zoo most of the funds to repurpose the monorail.... how about a cost neutral option of offering a contractor to remove the pure steel super structure free of charge and allowing them to take the steel for scrap. That's how much of the Brown's creek trail in Stillwater was paid for from the scrap rail road tracks.
-$4 million for an Amateur sports Commission
-$13.7 million to the Minnesota Zoological Garden 
-$9 million to purchase "two aircraft" $7.2 million of it is being taken from road funds!
-$50 million to the Un-elected Metropolitan Council to expand failed bus lines of their choosing... The money should be spent with stand alone bills for proposed projects like our road projects are. We don't just give MNDOT tens or hundreds of millions and say to go do what they want. At the least they should let the experts in Bus service at Metro Transit decide because they have proven studies and calculations to determine route use called the Service Improvement plans. The Met Council's strategy is to expand as many lines as possible at the same time to create lines that need funding indefinitely check out the latest failure of the Met C in bus planning here.
-$50 million to the Un-elected Metropolitan Council to build a "Heywood II bus garage" in Minneapolis
-$14 million to build two secure living units for sex offenders in St. Peters... this is not related to the $8.8 million for the second phase of a different building for the sex offenders in St. Peter that we covered in the 2018 Capital Investment pork bill
-ONLY $13 million for the veteran homes in Minneapolis, Hastings, Fergus Falls, Silver Bay, Luverne, and Little Falls...
-$16 million for new plumbing and ventilation at the St. Cloud prison... anyone else not care if prisoners have to shower with cold water and live with bad ventilation?
-$15 million for public housing for low income... how about welfare reform and the thousands of units of existing low income housing can be temporary solutions until they're self sustaining again? Faster recovery opens up units. 
-$40 million for the Minnesota Historical Society... core function of government?
-ONLY $500,000 for cemeteries for Veterans across the whole state and it comes with small print saying the  "veterans cemeteries, to be operated by the commissioner of veterans affairs. The commissioner also must seek donations of land for the cemeteries."
Middle of nowhere trails:
-$2.6 million trail in New London (population 1,200, middle of no where far west of cities)
-$3.3 million for trail from Detroit Lakes (pop. 8K to Frazee pop 1,300)
-$3.5 million for "mountain bike system" in Cuyuna Country rec area by Crosby MN (pop. 3,000) 
-$1.6 million trail out of Little Falls (pop 8k)
-$3.5 million for "continued development" of underground mine park facilities in Lake Vermilion 
-$3.1 million for a trail through Tofte MN on far north shore (population 226 people!)

Some of the added pork to make the $1.5 billion dollar version:
$1.9 million to build a bear exhibit at the Duluth Zoo that couldn't even take care of it's Polar bears after flooding allowed a bear to escape in 2012 they closed it down and moved the bears out. 
$1.3 million dollars for the start of a trail near the hospital in ELY (population 3,390)
$1.5 million to add to the already 200 mile long ATV trail that winds through rural Aitkin County
$1.3 million for a recreation area in Babbitt (pop 1,400)
$1.4 million for Hennepin County Center for the arts
$514,000 for a public radio station tower in Trout Lake Township (population 1,087 people)
$15 million for Minneapolis to redevelop a Harbor Terminal for the public (initially they were to get $12 million)
$3 million for a food bank in Crookston (pop 5,800)
$1.8 million to Silver Bay to put a park on the recently public "black beach" (pop 1,800)
$4.5 million to renovate one rec center in St. Paul
$400,000 to study "insect productivity" for fish.
$200,000 to sonar map muscle habitat in St Croix/Mississippi river way
$400,000 to study alternatives to road salt... (it's free to ask the dozens of no salt cities and counties across the Country for data on salt alternatives)
$300,000 to public TV to make videos on conservation
$550,000 so 17 acres in Morris MN (pop 5,200) can teach about pollinators (like bees) Could they have found a more isolated and remote city in the State?
$1 million for new international wolf center exhibits
$550,000 to increase diversity in environmental jobs
$350,000 to study and develop "solar window concentrators" (sounds like a job for the private sector)
$550,000 to write a guidebook on storing renewable energy
$310,000 to develop "bio-mulch" for gardens
$750,000 to research "new technology lawnmowers" original language said "autonomous pasture mower and solar charging station"
$400,000 to assess using invertebrates as a food source for animals in the Praire Pothole area of the State.
$2.2 million for a Swedish Immigrant trail section near Taylor Falls MN (pop 1,000)
$338,000 to research if bison can restore oak savannah wildlife area
$1 million dollar trail in Cohasset (pop 2,600) 
$2 million to improve a boat launch in Grand Marais 
$2.5 million for part 3 of 4 on a trail in La Crescent (pop 4,800)
$1.1 million for a trail "near" Tower MN (pop 400)