2014 MN House Election

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twincitizen
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2014 MN House Election

Postby twincitizen » May 8th, 2014, 3:00 pm

Along with the Governor's seat and Secretary of State, the entire Minnesota House is up for election in 2014. That's 134 seats if you didn't know. (AG & State Auditor are up too, but those incumbents are shoo-ins)

Rachel Stassen-Berger of the Strib has a list running of the retirements in the MN House. So far, we're up to 14. The vast majority are actually retiring...only 3 are actively seeking higher office (US Senate, Gov, & Lt. Gov, all R's). 10 R's retiring, 4 D's.
https://storify.com/rachelsb/minnesota- ... etirements

Democrats won big in 2012 and are certain to lose a few swing seats by virtue of lower turnout in non-Presidential years. Some suburban and northern MN seats were won by mere hundreds of votes in 2012. It won't be a repeat of the 2010 massacre, but Democrats margin in the MN House will absolutely get smaller. If Democrats lose 7 seats, the House would be evenly split 67-67. In my estimation, that is a fair worst case scenario for Democrats.

One big reason why you should care if the DFL retains the MN House: transportation funding. The DFL must retain the House if we are to have any chance at getting funding for transit in the Twin Cities. The .25% sales tax we currently have for transit isn't going to pay for all the lines we have on the map today. Southwest LRT alone will eat up every single cent of that tax for the next 6 years. We won't build Southwest and Bottineau concurrently, and you can forget about Midtown or any other fixed-rail in the Twin Cities for another 10-15 years.

Can anyone think of another major policy initiative that hasn't been accomplished in the DFL's 2 year reign of total control?

Balanced budget by raising taxes on top 2% and cigarette taxes? Check.
Increased funding for education and all-day kindergarten? Check.
Marriage equality? Check.
Anti-bullying/ Safe Schools bill? Check.
Minimum wage increase? Check.

A few bipartisan things are floating around too, but I don't think either have much of an impact on society at large.
Medicinal Cannabis? Going to pass the House in some form this week. The Senate passed it overwhelmingly. I highly doubt Dayton will veto. We can fix it in the future if the bill is too weak.
Sunday alcohol sales? Not going to happen anytime soon. The MLBA is too strong, too well funded to let this happen. Heck, this year they even got to convince the public and media that the teamsters were to blame! This is going to take a generational shift at the legislature.

Serious question: what's left for the DFL besides transportation funding? What will possibly distract or prevent them from getting it done in 2015?

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Re: 2014 MN House Election

Postby David Greene » May 8th, 2014, 3:28 pm

Rochester will be an interesting area to watch. It is quickly shifting blue. Lakeville will be another interesting race.

I am very glad to be rid of Beard, Holberg and Abeler. The first is an imbecile, the second a backstabber and the third a duplicitous opportunist.

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Re: 2014 MN House Election

Postby MNdible » May 8th, 2014, 4:32 pm

I've always thought Abeler was a voice of reason in the GOP -- maybe I haven't been paying enough attention.

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Re: 2014 MN House Election

Postby David Greene » May 8th, 2014, 9:48 pm

MNdible wrote:I've always thought Abeler was a voice of reason in the GOP -- maybe I haven't been paying enough attention.
Abeler is the quintessential politician who says anything and does anything to get what he wants. He's not above telling straight up lies to colleagues to get their support. I'm not talking about garden-variety political lies. I'm talking about going back on your word type of stuff. DFLers hate him because they can't trust him and GOPers hate him because he doesn't stand for anything except himself.

At least with someone like Holberg, as vile as she can be, you know where she stands.

twincitizen
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Re: 2014 MN House Election

Postby twincitizen » June 4th, 2014, 3:24 pm

Here are your 2014 MN House candidates.
http://candidates.sos.state.mn.us/Candi ... didateid=0

Really no surprises. Very few 3rd party candidates even filed. Incredibly low number of primary challengers. The Kahn-Noor primary is almost assuredly the only one that will make a damn bit of difference to anyone. Not many suburban/rural DFLers getting primary'd over their votes to destroy marriage ;)

twincitizen
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Re: 2014 MN House Election

Postby twincitizen » June 9th, 2014, 10:39 am

Articles like this (with data and maps!) are why I give my money to MinnPost: http://www.minnpost.com/politics-policy ... over-house

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Re: 2014 MN House Election

Postby David Greene » June 9th, 2014, 1:23 pm

twincitizen wrote:Serious question: what's left for the DFL besides transportation funding? What will possibly distract or prevent them from getting it done in 2015?
School funding was increased, but the formula hasn't been fixed. That's a huge to-do for the Wellstone wing of the party.

There are going to be fights over MN Care.

But in my mind the biggest threat to getting transportation funding is apathy from normally pro-transportation groups because the DFL won't fix massive structural problems in how funding is distributed and what projects get prioritized. Frankly, the actions of the transportation chairs around SWLRT makes me really concerned about giving them more money because I'm worried it will be directed to support rich white people. I am now of the opinion that metro transit funding should come from a metro sales tax with no involvement by the state whatsoever. I know transit planners who wholeheartedly agree.

I'm not especially enamored with fighting for a gas tax increase that by constitution can only go to highways. If bus funding isn't seriously addressed by any proposal, they can kiss my support goodbye. Leaving major transitways out of the bonding bill doesn't bode well for transportation's priority level in the next biennium.

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Re: 2014 MN House Election

Postby mattaudio » June 9th, 2014, 1:42 pm

The reason to raise the gas tax is to lower the subsidy of automobile drivers. Only 41.9% of MN road costs are covered by the combination of gas tax, tolls, and other user fees. So we need to double the gas tax while simultaneously removing roads. Too bad the Dems were too cowardly to push that real reform this year, so the two parties working with the road lobby continue to push us towards bankruptcy.

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Re: 2014 MN House Election

Postby ECtransplant » June 9th, 2014, 1:48 pm

mattaudio wrote:Only 41.9% of MN road costs are covered by the combination of gas tax, tolls, and other user fees.
Sounds right, but I'd love to have a source for that number. TYIA

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Re: 2014 MN House Election

Postby mplsjaromir » June 9th, 2014, 2:02 pm

ECtransplant wrote:
mattaudio wrote:Only 41.9% of MN road costs are covered by the combination of gas tax, tolls, and other user fees.
Sounds right, but I'd love to have a source for that number. TYIA
This link shows just the state local spending on roads and ground transportation.

http://taxfoundation.org/article/gasoli ... d-spending

23.6% of local and state spending is covered by user fees in the state of Minnesota.

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Re: 2014 MN House Election

Postby David Greene » June 9th, 2014, 2:38 pm

mattaudio wrote:The reason to raise the gas tax is to lower the subsidy of automobile drivers. Only 41.9% of MN road costs are covered by the combination of gas tax, tolls, and other user fees. So we need to double the gas tax while simultaneously removing roads. Too bad the Dems were too cowardly to push that real reform this year, so the two parties working with the road lobby continue to push us towards bankruptcy.
That's what I mean by policy changes. If you think an increased gas tax is going to reduce the subsidy for cars, you've got another think coming.

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Re: 2014 MN House Election

Postby mattaudio » June 9th, 2014, 2:47 pm

Could you elaborate a little, David? Not sure I'm understanding your point. Seems to me the closer we can get to vehicle users covering 100% of road costs, rather than a fraction of that, the lower the subsidy.

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Re: 2014 MN House Election

Postby David Greene » June 9th, 2014, 2:56 pm

mattaudio wrote:Could you elaborate a little, David? Not sure I'm understanding your point. Seems to me the closer we can get to vehicle users covering 100% of road costs, rather than a fraction of that, the lower the subsidy.
We certainly aren't going to lower the existing subsidy in terms of dollars. So I guess increasing the gas tax lowers the subsidy on a percentage basis but it doesn't lower the absolute subsidy.

We all know we waste transportation dollars. But it's "good" waste so no one complains. I would like to see policy changes that rebalance where our money goes in terms of modes. We should shift into road maintenance only until we have everything in decent shape. Not even perfect, just decent. If that requires abandoning some roads, so be it. Then maybe we can talk about expansion. We need more put into transit, not just in the metro but statewide. We have counties without any transit service whatsoever. Since Mn/DOT funds non-metro transit it certainly can shift some money that way.

I'd love to see a court challenge as to what "highway purposes" means. People always tell me they're afraid of a bad result and setting a precedent, but we're acting as though that precedent is already set, so what's the harm? The public conversation around such a challenge would do us good.

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Re: 2014 MN House Election

Postby mulad » June 9th, 2014, 3:54 pm

Hopefully, if users of all modes were paying their fair share, we wouldn't need to subsidize transportation very much -- I tend to think there'd still be some subsidies/bailouts floating around, but probably better than today.

One major point is that transportation networks are having trouble keeping existing infrastructure in good repair, so we should raise taxes in order to maintain what we have now. With regard to roads in particular, we've probably overinvested over the past 100 years and can't even sustain that. Public transit and bike/ped infrastructure didn't get enough attention over the last 50+ years. Roadway construction needs to settle into a more mundane maintenance role, while non-automotive modes need to ramp to get us into a good balance. Raising taxes wouldn't do much good if the new money goes into continuing to lengthen and widen the existing highway/arterial network -- non-automotive modes would probably continue to eke by, while cars wouldn't be in a great situation either (drive around on surface streets in St. Paul for a while...).

However, political problems aside, it's probably easier to close the funding gap for highways than it is for public transit, etc. -- If taxes went up and tolls were implemented more widely, there will probably be enough people driving to cover the full cost. It isn't clear whether this would help public transportation very much. In theory, higher prices for car travel would push more people to take buses and trains, but it's a bit unlikely for that to help enough. We probably subsidize fares to the extent that it's impossible for ridership to be high enough to pay the full cost through fares -- even if every bus in the region was packed to the gills all the time, it's not clear that they'd break even.

I suppose a sales tax for public transit is okay, but definitely opens it up for attack from people who drive all the time (there is the argument about a public transit rider being one less vehicle on the road, I suppose...). I'm more in favor of land value taxes or using value capture along transit corridors and bike/ped areas. It might be worthwhile to redirect funds from tolls or congestion taxes toward public transit, since they hypothetically counterbalance each other. We also haven't mentioned a carbon tax, as far as I'm aware -- non-motorized transportation would be a natural recipient of that, though it might also go into things like paying for wind/solar power for electrified transit services. (Revenue from carbon taxes must be excluded from going back into funding things that add more carbon into the atmosphere, otherwise it really defeats the point.)

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Re: 2014 MN House Election

Postby David Greene » June 9th, 2014, 10:56 pm

mulad wrote:I suppose a sales tax for public transit is okay, but definitely opens it up for attack from people who drive all the time (there is the argument about a public transit rider being one less vehicle on the road, I suppose...). I'm more in favor of land value taxes or using value capture along transit corridors and bike/ped areas. It might be worthwhile to redirect funds from tolls or congestion taxes toward public transit, since they hypothetically counterbalance each other. We also haven't mentioned a carbon tax, as far as I'm aware -- non-motorized transportation would be a natural recipient of that, though it might also go into things like paying for wind/solar power for electrified transit services. (Revenue from carbon taxes must be excluded from going back into funding things that add more carbon into the atmosphere, otherwise it really defeats the point.)
Sales tax gets the focus because it's what almost every other region uses to fund transit so governments (especially the feds) are comfortable with it. We have our own inadequate sales tax now and an increase in that seems easier than devising a new scheme. I am completely in favor of land value taxation but i'm not sure putting that toward transit is a great idea. We do in fact want to lower property taxes a bit. Value capture doesn't really work to fund operations. At least I don't see how it can be sustained.

There's lots of talk of a VMT tax, which is interesting because it wouldn't be constitutionally dedicated. I don't see how we get around the privacy nuts though.

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Re: 2014 MN House Election

Postby RailBaronYarr » June 10th, 2014, 7:43 am

mplsjaromir wrote:
ECtransplant wrote:
mattaudio wrote:Only 41.9% of MN road costs are covered by the combination of gas tax, tolls, and other user fees.
Sounds right, but I'd love to have a source for that number. TYIA
This link shows just the state local spending on roads and ground transportation.

http://taxfoundation.org/article/gasoli ... d-spending

23.6% of local and state spending is covered by user fees in the state of Minnesota.
I'm curious to dig a little more into that data. The updated report with 2011 data (http://taxfoundation.org/article/gasoli ... d-spending) shows the 41.9% number for total user fees and user taxes here in MN. That number is pretty close to the 46.5% from the streets.mn post I wrote a while ago (which uses 2010 data): https://streets.mn/2014/01/03/road-infra ... -who-pays/

It's tough to say exactly what the right number is. I used the agglomerated city, county, and other township transportation spending reports and pulled out all funding sources from federal, state, and local level, then determined which were covered by the Highway Trust Fund (fed), Highway User Tax Distribution fund (state), etc, and cross-referenced revenues from within those funds by source. Everything else is either property taxes, general assessments, debt, state general fund contributions, etc. Regardless, the numbers are close.

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Re: 2014 MN House Election

Postby mplsjaromir » June 10th, 2014, 8:02 am

I believe that the article I linked to did not include federal dollars.

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Re: 2014 MN House Election

Postby RailBaronYarr » June 10th, 2014, 9:34 am

mplsjaromir wrote:I believe that the article I linked to did not include federal dollars.
I realized that about 10 minutes after my post as I was working. It's nice to know how only the state/cities are spending their dollars, but since the feds are also spending money on state projects of city or regional priority, I felt it was good to get a total picture.

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Re: 2014 MN House Election

Postby David Greene » June 10th, 2014, 12:23 pm

Note that currently all dollars from the Highway Trust Fund are in fact subsidized dollars. For some years now, Congress has been making transfers from the general fund to the Highway Trust Fund because the latter ran dry after multiple failures to raise the federal gas tax.

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Re: 2014 MN House Election

Postby RailBaronYarr » June 11th, 2014, 12:17 pm

David Greene wrote:Note that currently all dollars from the Highway Trust Fund are in fact subsidized dollars. For some years now, Congress has been making transfers from the general fund to the Highway Trust Fund because the latter ran dry after multiple failures to raise the federal gas tax.
Well, we're all still paying a federal gas tax, of which a large portion goes into the HTF, so that's not entirely true. The cash transfers have been making up the difference in spend vs revenue.


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