Tag Archives: gas tax

Greg Boe: stripping away the moderate mask

A couple of weeks before the 2018 election, I made this remark about GOP House District 47B candidate (and eventual election winner) Greg Boe, who won his Republican primary and based his general election pitch on being a “moderate” choice:

Greg has always seemed like a pretty moderate guy — some may not know that he caucused with Democrats back in the late-2000s/early-2010s. So it’s fair to say that seeing Greg line up behind Donald Trump — a guy who is the antithesis of Greg’s “Reasonable. Thoughtful. Respectful” slogan — has been a bit of a shock.

Brick City Blog, Donzel Leggett for State House 47B

Boe ended up winning the election — by a slender 117 votes, or about one-half of one percent.

Well, we’re now one legislative session in the books. How did Rep. Boe do in his first few months around the State Capitol?

Sadly, I have to report that the results aren’t good.

Let’s start off by looking at some basic productivity metrics. Boe only chief-authored four bills during the session (and two of those were different versions of the same bill). Only one rank-and-file legislator (Rep. Nolan West) — excluding districts where a vacancy occurred mid-session — authored fewer bills. None of those four bills were passed into law or rolled into a larger omnibus bill.

But the most surprising — and disappointing — part of Boe’s performance this session was his hard right turn into extremism and bigotry on certain issues and incoherence and dishonesty on others.

Let’s start with abortion. Boe started off the session grandstanding with his fellow House and Senate Republicans in a photo-op designed to protest proposed laws in New York and Virginia. Unfortunately, Boe chose to lie about the content of those bills, claiming that they permitted infanticide. (They do not.)

Boe followed that up with legislative action, becoming a co-author on a version of the so-called “heartbeat bill”, which would ban all abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected (usually in the six- to eight-week range), with the only exception being to prevent the death of the mother or where there was “serious risk of substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” — a more restrictive definition of the health exception than exists in current state law.

The impact of this is remarkable — Boe is in favor of prohibiting abortions in all but the most threatening circumstances at a point in the pregnancy where some women may not even yet know they are pregnant. And if you’re a victim of rape or incest, Greg Boe would tell you to go pound sand.

Not only would you have to deal with the physical consequences of your attack, but you would be required to carry the baby to term — and under the policies Greg Boe advocates for, you wouldn’t have a right to health care, a right to take time off of work to handle your prenatal appointments, and no guarantee that you could keep your job or have paid leave after you gave birth to a child conceived because of a criminal act.

Reasonable, thoughtful, and respectful is not how I would describe that set of policies. But there’s more.

In March, Boe stepped into a pile of trouble when he tried to explain his vote against the Equal Rights Amendment. The focus of his explanation was around the point that using the word “gender” instead of “sex” would open up a world of complications citing his own personal internet search where he claims to have found 63 different gender definitions. But, in reality, “gender” is used 91 times in 68 separate state statutes without things turning into a free-for-all. When challenged by his constituents on that matter, he began illegally blocking them — by the dozens — from his Facebook page, eventually relenting after several hours and without an apology.

Boe has doubled down on that logic subsequently, using the scare tactic about transgender participation in athletics as a cloak for his vote. Note the snarky language and use of quotes around the bill’s name.

Greg Boe posting about the “so-called ‘Minnesota ERA'”
on a local conservative Facebook group

It should be pointed out — for the record — that the Minnesota State High School League has an established policy on transgender athletes that prevents the sort of fever dream that Boe and other conservatives seem to fear.

These sorts of positions are indistinguishable from the sort of nonsense that legislative radicals like Glenn Gruenhagen or Steve Drazkowski push (Gruenhagen, in fact, was Boe’s second-most common co-author on legislation this session, sharing authorship on over 20 bills.).

Despite representing a 50-50 district, Boe hasn’t even shown the courage to buck his own party from time to time the way that his Senate counterpart Scott Jensen has. The results our district has received from Greg Boe would be no different than if one programmed a robot to vote the default Republican position.

Boe has engaged in the usual sorts of political shenanigans, too, which I guess should be expected. Like many Republicans, he obfuscates on transportation funding, pretends to support increased education funding, and demagogues on taxes.

Beyond his performance at the Legislature, though, Boe missed some opportunities to provide leadership within the community. The Eastern Carver County School District has been rocked this year by a series of racial incidents. In April, the district held a community forum on equity in the district at a school literally kitty-corner from his house. While over 150 community members were inside the school working through tough problems, Boe and his wife were spotted walking on the sidewalk outside not knowing or not caring about what was happening on the inside.

Boe is already starting to try and build the coffers for his re-election campaign. It may be even harder this time around, though, because the mask has been stripped away. “Moderate” Greg Boe is no more.

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Will the roads build themselves?

Minnesota has a serious transportation funding problem.  We’ve underfunded our roads for a generation, and we’re paying the price for it.  Since 2002, we’ve slipped to 29th in the amount of roads rated as substandard by the U.S. Department of Transportation.  MnDOT projects (based on current funding) that we will be about $2 billion short per year over the next 20 years to both maintain our current roads and keep up with population growth.  Increasing fuel economy in our automobiles also will decrease the utility of our gasoline tax — a Toyota Prius, for instance, uses half the fuel of the similarly sized Toyota Corolla, but the Prius weighs more and actually does more damage to the roads as a result. 

The costs of our failure to properly maintain our roads comes directly out of our pockets.  Not only do we spend more time idling in traffic, but the products that we buy in stores do the same.  Wasted fuel and wasted time add to the cost of every item in your local grocery, discount, or department store.  Good transportation infrastructure has always been a key differentiator for this state, and we are watching it literally crumble away underneath our feet (and tires).

Both parties have failed to adequately address the depth of the problem as it currently exists, and nobody has yet articulated a complete plan for the future.  To prepare for the future, though, MnDOT has been recruiting drivers to do a test of a potential means of data collection for a mileage tax.  There’s obvious downsides to a mileage tax — it’s harder to collect, and depending on the means of collection there are potential privacy concerns.  But at least someone is looking forward and looking for solutions.

Of course, that means there are people who are still looking backwards.  Included are many Republican members of the state legislature, including Carver County’s own Rep. Ernie Leidiger.  Leidiger has signed on as a co-sponsor of H.F. 1713, which would prohibit MnDOT from going forward with the mileage tax study.

A mileage tax may or may not be part of the solution going forward.  But if Leidiger and his colleagues want to slam the door on even looking into it, it’s then incumbent on them to develop their own solution for Minnesota’s transportation funding problem.  Given that the GOP caucuses in the Legislature opposed any new revenue for transportation before the 35W bridge collapse, opposed new revenue for transportation after the 35W bridge collapse, oppose Gov. Dayton’s bonding proposal which included some road projects, and still oppose any new revenue for transportation purposes, I’m not holding my breath but would really like to be pleasantly surprised.

If they can’t come up with a plan of their own, then the logical question is how they intend to keep our state competitive — do they expect the roads to build themselves?

Ernie Leidiger mangles the facts

Ernie Leidiger is entitled to his opinions, but he’s not entitled to his own facts.  In his Q&A in the October 7, 2010 edition of the Waconia Patriot, Leidiger asserts some things that just aren’t true. 

First, Leidiger claims that state spending is out-of-control.  In fact, state spending (adjusted for inflation and population growth) has declined by over $900 per person over the last eight years.  If cutting spending is key to economic growth, why is our economy struggling like it is?  Why are we lagging the rest of the nation – over that time, Minnesota is 38th in employment growth and 46th in wage growth – using the very same philosophy Leidiger would use to guide his votes? 

Second, Leidiger asserts that the gasoline tax increase passed by the State Legislature hasn’t been going towards construction of roads and bridges.  Article XIV, Section 10 of the Minnesota State Constitution dedicates gasoline tax revenue to the Highway User Tax Distribution Fund, which is split between state, county, and municipal road projects.  Leidiger is just plain wrong on this point.  Maybe the Legislature has the power to divert transportation funding in California, but not here.  If you don’t understand how transportation funding in this state works, how can you expect to work on legislation to improve the situation? 

Either Leidiger doesn’t know these things, or he’s shading the truth for partisan advantage.  Neither speaks well to his suitability for representing our interests.  We certainly don’t need another under-informed or overly partisan person in St. Paul.


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