Category Archives: Minnesota Legislature

Pat Garofalo and Jon Koznick squander an opportunity to invest in schools so they can give tax breaks to big business

Ed-Crop Rep BudMy state representative Pat Garofalo-(R) from Farmington and my bordering district’s state representative Jon Koznick-(R) from Lakeville have proposed a state budget that provide $15 in tax giveaways to special interests for every $1 spent on education. In districts that are cutting to solve deficits, prioritizing tax cuts and corporate giveaways over Farmington’s and Lakeville’s students’ education will lead to fewer teachers, bigger class sizes, and little for Minnesota’s youngest learners and future leaders.

Even with a $2 billion projected surplus, House Republicans passed an education funding bill that invests only $156 million in educating the next generation of Minnesotans.

As a community, we need to stop rewarding politicians who think about the current bottom line before they think about the future bottom line. If we are not using public policy to improve the future, our economy will continue to be a rollercoaster ride of unpredictable highs and lows. Right now it seems like the only possible solution is to replace short-sighted politicians like Garofalo and Koznick.

A Tale of Two Cities: The Plight of Local Politics

A tale of two cities…

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was…”          -Charles Dickens

With just days until the 2014 election, Minnesota candidates were just required to submit their campaign financial data to the state to make it public record.  In my district, 58, Lakeville/Farmington and most of the rest of Southern Dakota County, the campaigns on the A and B sides are vastly different.

On the 58A side, which is most of Lakeville, Amy Willingham and Jon Koznick are competing against each other to win the open seat vacated by Rep. Mary Liz Holberg.  The two candidates are very evenly matched in donations, with Koznick edging out Willingham $41,964.77 to $41,558.29.  Together they have collected over $83,000!  That is a huge number in our area.  To put that in perspective, in 2012, Mary Liz Holberg and Colin Lee raised $26,433 collectively, and if you add in the 58th district senate race between Dave Thompson and Andrew Brobston, the total for all four candidates was $68,291.  Willingham and Koznick, have spent more than those four candidates raised in 2012.

On the other side of the district in 58B, the numbers are nowhere similar.  Incumbent Rep. Pat Garofalo has raised $13,038 this year, of course he started the year with over $52,000 in the bank, so he didn’t have to raise much, and Marla Vagts raised $7,065.  Together they raised just over $20,000, and one quarter of that was from the state public subsidy.

In summary, A side = $83,000. B side = $20,000.

It is understandable, that the A side would be higher, it is an open and contested seat, but there is another side to look at on the A side.  Both Willingham and Koznick have received over $5,000 each in individual identified donations from outside the district, and combined, have received over $10,000 from PACs and lobbyists.  In addition, together they have over $35,000 in unidentified donations, which probably increases those outside the district contributions.

Of course that is not surprising.  There are so many groups trying to influence elections, I expect it.  But that does not make it right.  Koznick and Willingham have raised more money from outside the district, than Garofalo and Vagts have raised total.  There is a fundamental problem with our election system when other people outside the district have as big of an impact on the election as the local voters – if not a bigger impact on the election.

When I hear people say government doesn’t work, well get a clue!  Where do you think it starts?  Right here, right now, on November 4th, and the 6-10 months leading up to that day.  If we want government to work, our election system needs to change to be about local voters, and local voters only!

Thank you Rep. Garofalo! Maybe next time Sen. Thompson…

At my office, our HR director had all the employees do the Clifton StrenthFinder project.  My top strength is “Includer.” An include is described as:

“You want to include people and make them feel part of the group. In direct contrast to those who are drawn only to exclusive groups, you actively avoid those groups that exclude others. You want to expand the group so that as many people as possible can benefit from its support. You hate the sight of someone on the outside looking in. You want to draw them in so that they can feel the warmth of the group. You are an instinctively accepting person. Regardless of race or sex or nationality or personality or faith, you cast few judgments. Judgments can hurt a person’s feelings. Why do that if you don’t have to? Your accepting nature does not necessarily rest on a belief that each of us is different and that one should respect these differences. Rather, it rests on your conviction that fundamentally we are all the same. We are all equally important. Thus, no one should be ignored. Each of us should be included. It is the least we all deserve.”

If that is true about me, is it any wonder that I believe it is horrible for government to discriminate against gay couples who are lawfully excluded from obtaining the same benefits through committing to each other that straight couples have?

That is why I am very happy today’s vote by the state Senate was a vote for equality in marriage.  Everybody who wants to marry, can be included.

A lot of people in my district were surprised when Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) voted to support the law in the state House.  I actually wasn’t.  I’ve been following Pat Garofalo for years, and I don’t believe he was against gay marriage when he voted to put the amendment on the ballot in 2012.  I just don’t think he had the political guts to stand up the way John Kriesel did.  And I called him out on that before the vote, urging him to vote what he believed, not what was good for him politically.

This time he voted for freedom, and I thank Rep. Garofalo.   And well I commend him, I am proud that the Minnesota DFL took the initiative to tackle this subject despite the impending threat by Republicans that this will divide the state like nothing since the Civil War.  That is absurd!  Anybody who follows politics today knows that topics no longer hold for more than a few months.  Where was the TEA Party in 2012?  Divisive issues holding for decades are a piece of history in politics.  People care about right now almost exclusively, and let’s face it, very few of us are going to be affected by gay marriages, other than a lot of people are going to be buying a bunch of wedding gifts soon.

This will pass and be a nonfactor in 2014.  Sure Republicans will try to use it as an issue, and I certainly hope they do, because it will carry very little weight?  I’m sure Rep. Garofalo will have a challenger, but really what’s the point?  He simply voted to let people make their own life choices without government limiting their abilities to do so.  Isn’t that what conservatives want?  That idea of letting people “make their own life choices” is why I find it funny that Sen. Dave Thompson (R-Lakeville) who regularly uses the term “nanny state” to describe Minnesota laws, voted to let our Minnesota government continue to make the decision for citizens about who they can or cannot marry.  Do you agree that is hypocritical?

As Sen. Thompson and his nanny state hypocrisy embarks on a run to try and defeat Gov. Mark Dayton, I am thankful that Gov. Dayton also supports this legislation, and that two of the three people who represent me in State government said yes to this bill giving people more freedom.  Thank you Gov. Dayton and Rep. Garofalo!  Hopefully Sen. Thompson will make a better choice next time when he is forced to choose between what he says he believes, and what he believes will work best for him on the floor of the Republican State Convention.

Pat Garofalo and Per Diem – A fiscal hawk or a selfish take what I can politician?

Those of us who live in Farmington, are sure lucky to have such a fiscal hawk in Minnesota state House member Pat Garofalo representing us. Remember back in May 2011 when he said he was refusing to collect his per diem during the government shutdown because he said:

“Not getting a budget agreement with the governor shouldn’t turn into a financial windfall for legislators.”

See? That’s what I am talking about. He is absolutely standing up to his principles of helping to personally correct the state’s budget problems by doing everything he can, no matter how small, to protect the finances of Minnesota taxpayers.

Pat Garofalo 2012 - 2It’s funny, did you know House legislators get paid a per diem of $66 per day of work, on top of the $31,140 in taxpayer paid salary they make for a part-time job. It makes me wonder, with only a 25 mile commute to the Capitol compared to other legislators who have to spend the night in St Paul, Pat Garofalo must receive one of the lowest per diems in the Minnesota House.

Let’s see let’s look at the numbers… Here it is in 2012… Pat Garofalo only received $11,418 in per diem. See that’s not – WHAT!?! ELEVEN THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED EIGHTEEN DOLLARS!?! That is the most in the house, and about $1,500 more than the second highest per diem taker.

I don’t understand. I thought…

Well, at least he isn’t the highest per diem taker overall. Republican Senator David Senjem took $11,438 in per diem. Wait. Wasn’t David Senjem the Majority Leader? He must have worked a lot more than Pat Garofalo. And he only took $20 more than Pat!?! What’s that you say? Senate member receive a 30% higher per diem than House members? That means in House dollars, David Senjem’s per diem would have been only about $8800.

This just doesn’t make sense. I thought Pat Garofalo was a fiscal hawk. But he took 15% more in per diem than the next closest member, and he doesn’t even need an apartment.

This is very distressing. Well I guess we can be glad that his salary is only $31,140, so his pension doesn’t include his per diem. I mean that would be wrong if in private business, an employer was forced to contribute to a 401(k) for the employee’s expense reimbursements.

WHAT!?! FOR LEGISLATORS THEIR PENSION INCLUDES THE COST OF THEIR EXPENSES!?! SO HE GETS ANOTHER $1,700 IN PENSION ABOVE HIS TAXPAYER FUNDED PAY OF $42,558 FOR A PART-TIME JOB!?!

Funny thing is, Pat Garofalo initially said he was retiring for the legislature last session. He probably figured since he was retiring, he might as well take everything he can from the taxpayers to get his just reward for his services, including a fatter pension. The only thing this proves is that Pat Garofalo is in politics for himself. In third-world countries, people become politicians and police to get ahead and take what they can for their selfish benefit. It is pretty sad that Pat Garofalo is treating Minnesotans, and more specifically his neighbors, with the respect of a third-world dishonest politician.

Minnesota needs to eliminate gerrymandering now to prevent what happened in Wisconsin

A majority of state governments right now are totally controlled by one party.  I think I heard 24 states are controlled by Republican Legislatures and Governors and 16 states are controlled by Democratic Governors and Legislatures, Minnesota is now one of those states.  Our country is so politically divided, that it seems the only way government works is if one party controls everything.

While Minnesota is controlled by DFLers, across the border in Wisconsin, Republicans recaptured total control.  With two states that are so similar, what is the difference? One word, gerrymandering.

In 2010, Republicans controlled everything, and drew new lines to help them win seats.  Minnesota’s lines were drawn by nonpartisan judges.  A couple weeks ago, Wisconsin voted for Barack Obama, even though a native son was on the ballot for the Republicans.  Wisconsin also elected a Democrat to the senate in Tammy Baldwin, over a former popular Republican governor.  Yet, the State House is controlled by Republicans with a 20 vote margin, and the State Senate is controlled, narrowly, but controlled by Republicans.

Gerrymandering has always been a tool to maintain power, and Wisconsin in 2012 is a prime example.  That’s why Minnesota needs to eliminate one party’s ability to gerrymander, and instead establish a fair and nonpartisan board to redraw district lines after the census every ten years.

Establishing a nonpartisan board would eliminate a lot of useless chatter, eliminate a lot of wasted time legislators should be working to make Minnesota better, and ultimately save taxpayers money.  So many Republicans used the phrase” it is just common-sense” to pass voter ID amendment.  That wasn’t common-sense, it was completely political and partisan.  If we change this procedure, neither side benefits from this, and neither side loses from this.  That is exactly what common-sense is.

Let your Minnesota legislators know that you want to take redistricting duties away from a political body and make it a nonpartisan practice.