Tag Archives: Paul Kohls

Wrong on the referendum: breaking down the Herald/Villager editorial

The Chaska Herald and the Chanhassen Villager issued an editorial last week urging a “no” vote on the District 112 Technology Referendum.  While I can understand that reasonable people can disagree on the merits of the referendum, there are a couple of points in the editorial that deserve further discussion.

First, the editorial uses some aggressive language towards the referendum that frankly isn’t warranted.  This referendum isn’t a “money grab”, nor is it a “perpetual a la carte funding source”. (This phrase, of course, is just plain factually incorrect.  The levy goes for 10 years and would have to be re-approved by voters at that time.)  This is about the district having a stable funding source for needed technology upgrades over the next decade.

Why is stable funding important?  Because decisions in St. Paul have caused real damage to the district’s budget.  The last two budgets passed have taken $10.6 million out of the district’s budget over a four-year period.  That’s 40% more per year than this referendum will generate.

Both of the K-12 funding shifts have been supported universally by Carver County’s legislative delegation and signed off by two different governors.  (Although the delegation voted against the first shift for partisan reasons when it was ratified by the legislature in 2010, Sen. Julianne Ortman, Rep. Paul Kohls, and Rep. Joe Hoppe all supported the shift when Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced it as part of his unallotment package in 2009.  This year, Ortman, Hoppe, and Rep. Ernie Leidiger all voted in favor of the second shift.)

Where is the voice of the Herald and Villager holding our legislative delegation and Govs. Pawlenty and Mark Dayton accountable for the damage they are doing to school budgets?

The notion that such strong language is reserved for district leadership now is somewhat strange as well.  This new administration team has proven themselves to be straight-shooters (whether or not you agree with their conclusions) and they haven’t had any of the foibles of the previous leadership team — namely a leadership style that was frequently divisive and some really costly accounting errors.

Perhaps the current administration’s less political approach to their job is a disadvantage when trying to pass a referendum, but I think we’re seeing better management of the day-to-day fundamentals.  And, that’s what is really important.  For example, note that the current administration was able to negotiate a new contract with the District’s teachers that is fiscally responsible without the long, contentious battle that occurred two years ago under the previous leadership.

Secondly, the Herald and Villager are trying to have it both ways in their criticism of the district.  On one hand, the district is criticized for trying to pass a referendum in these difficult economic times.  Then, the Herald and Villager complain that the referendum isn’t large enough to fund the entire technology plan.   Well, you can’t have it both ways.   The referendum is not about getting every item on the wishlist, but rather focused on making sure the most critical items are funded.

Look beyond the fuzzy logic of the Herald and Villager and look at the fundamentals.  The district has been responsible in its handling of the budget.  There are real funding gaps that are preventing necessary improvements in our schools.  This referendum is a responsible response to the challenges the district faces, sized to allow for needed upgrades and enhancements without unduly burdening the community.

I urge you to Vote Yes! on November 8.

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More Vikings stadium busywork

Sen. John Marty (DFL-Roseville) and Rep. Linda Runbeck (R-Circle Pines) will announce today that they are reviving the Paul Kohls “sell the Metrodome for a buck” plan from early 2010.

This is a plan which has many problems, not the least of which is the fact that the Minnesota Vikings have precisely zero interest in buying the Metrodome at any price.  This is just a cynical political proposal to make it look like something is actually being done on the stadium, and so they can say “but we made an offer” if the team decides to pack up and leave.

As I said back then (just replace the names):

The reality of the situation is that if you’re not willing to spend public money on a stadium for the Vikings they are going to leave.  That’s a perfectly defensible position, especially given the budget mess we find ourselves in.  But if that’s your position, then come out and say it instead of proposing bills that have zero chance of being enacted.  This proposal is an attempt to have it both ways.   If Paul Kohls want to be “serious” about a Vikings stadium then he needs to make a hard decision instead of being a publicity hound:  either give a firm ”No” to the team or put some real work into finding a solution for a rational level of public participation in building a new facility.

I’m voting for Leanne Pouliot Kunze

We’re about two weeks before Election Day, and it’s time to review the critical local races on the ballot.

The race for State Representative in District 34A has been one I’ve spent a lot of time with this past year.  It’s really a critical race, and unlike most cycles, it figures to be a truly competitive race.

I’m voting for Leanne Pouliot Kunze.  Let me tell you why.

Leanne is an exceptional candidate.  She has lived in this area for her entire life.  She has raised her family here.  She knows the needs of our community inside and out.  She is a moderate, responsible voice who will bring fair-minded people together to find solutions.

Continue reading

Let’s get off the sidelines, 34A

For the last eight years, State House District 34A has been represented by Republican Rep. Paul Kohls.  Since Republicans went into the minority in the State House in 2007, Kohls has precisely zero significant legislative accomplishments. 

Kohls chose to grind the partisan ax and engage in pointless antics designed to position himself for his short-lived campaign for governor.  Continue reading

Going negative

Do the Carver County Republicans have anything positive to say about any of their candidates?  Or are they solely in the business of throwing mud?  It’s been awfully strange to read the letters to the editor week after week and see nothing but attacks.

But then again, what else do they have to point to?  Julianne Ortman’s legislative track record is rather slender, and Ernie Leidiger supports one extreme position after another, including being a “Tenther”.  Going negative is all they’ve got.

Kunze to challenge Kohls in 34A

Received this notification from Leanne Kunze campaign.  I’ll have a lot more to say on this between now and Election Day, but Leanne is an excellent candidate who deserves your attention and your vote.

CHASKA – Leanne Kunze of Laketown Township on Saturday received the DFL endorsement to challenge state Rep. Paul Kohls, R-Victoria, for his District 34A seat. She was nominated at the District 34 DFL convention at Chaska Middle School East.

Kunze said she was honored to receive the endorsement but hesitated because Kohls and his wife are family friends.

“This was a hard decision to make. I had initially thought about running while Rep. Kohls was traveling around the state on an exploratory run for governor. Paul and Kelly are family friends and I don’t want this to get personal,” said Kunze. “But we need to make sure Minnesota is on a path where we can protect working families, fight for property tax fairness and ensure that the most vulnerable in our society are protected. I was extremely disappointed in Paul’s recent partisan vote against protecting the most vulnerable in our society, including 8,000 veterans.”

Kunze said it isn’t about partisan politics to her. “People in our community aren’t Democrats and they aren’t Republicans. They are moderate, independent-thinking people. They want someone that will be consistent with what they think is right for the community.”

Kunze said she would arrive at the capital with a very specific agenda. “The challenge our state faces requires leadership that is looking to get things done instead of fighting partisan battles. We need to make sure we are investing in education so students can get a world-class education, we need to properly fund local governments so property tax increases aren’t required in order to maintain local communities and we need to ensure that working families have strong opportunities to make their lives a little better.”

A longtime resident of Carver County, Kunze has worked as a child-protection social worker and has been a labor advocate. She is a member of St. Joseph Catholic Church. “My faith and experience working with the public has led me to heed the call and ensure that Minnesotans continue our trend of looking out for our neighbors as much as we look out for ourselves. Only when we move forward together will we all be successful.” Kunze said.

Kunze is a 1989 graduate of Holy Trinity Catholic High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology at the College of St. Catherine. Kunze is working on her master’s in public affairs at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota.

Kunze and her husband Tony have two sons, Tyler and Ethan.

Responding to Paul Kohls

Rep. Paul Kohls responded in last week’s Chaska Herald to the two letters to the editor I submitted regarding his proposal to sell the Metrodome for $1 and the Spending Accountability Amendment.  Unfortunately, Rep. Kohls chose to use his response to gloss over the core criticisms I leveled against his proposals and was shall-we-say “creative” in his interpretations of what I in fact said.

Metrodome:  Kohls claims that his proposal to sell the Metrodome for $1 is a “serious” one.  Well, sure it is.  If the Vikings were interested in such a deal, we should certainly take them up on it.  But we know that’s never going to happen.  No one in the leadership of either party in the State Legislature have embraced the bill.  Governor Pawlenty doesn’t support it.  And the Vikings aren’t interested.  So what’s the point?  It’s a proposal that was dead on arrival.  

The reality of the situation is that if you’re not willing to spend public money on a stadium for the Vikings they are going to leave.  That’s a perfectly defensible position, especially given the budget mess we find ourselves in.  But if that’s your position, then come out and say it instead of proposing bills that have zero chance of being enacted.  This proposal is an attempt to have it both ways.   If Paul Kohls want to be “serious” about a Vikings stadium then he needs to make a hard decision instead of being a publicity hound:  either give a firm “No” to the team or put some real work into finding a solution for a rational level of public participation in building a new facility. 

Spending Accountability Amendment:  Kohls insinuates that I favor tax increases instead of spending restraint.   Nothing could be further from the truth.  My letter in fact called for spending restraint — noting that all areas of the budget (including K-12 education) were likely going to have to be cut in the next biennium.  My issue with the Amendment is that it ties the hands of the Legislature.  Instead of having future spending decisions tied to the revenues of two years ago, legislators should have all options at their disposal to deal with budget problems. 

That’s what we pay them for, after all — to make hard decisions.  Rep. Kohls, apparently doesn’t feel that the Legislature can be trusted with that responsibility.  If that’s the case, then perhaps Kohls should step aside, as we need a better class of legislator who is up to the challenges of the day and interested in real-world solutions instead of soundbites.

Paul Kohls and the Metrodome

As many of you have no doubt seen, Rep. Paul Kohls introduced a bill yesterday that would sell the Metrodome to the Minnesota Vikings for $1 in return for the team committing to play in Minnesota for the next 20 years. 

Kohls’ explanation:

“We just can’t afford [to help pay for a new stadium], and I’ve never supported using taxpayer dollars for professional stadiums.”

That’s all well and good, but if one is opposed to subsidizing professional stadiums, why would you sell a large, valuable piece of taxpayer-owned property next to a LRT station on the eastern end of Downtown Minneapolis for $1?  The fact of the matter is that selling the stadium to the team for $1 is using taxpayer dollars for professional stadiums.

Now, such a deal with the Vikings may well be cheaper than the cost the state would incur as part of building a new stadium.  But that brings us to the next problem:  the deal has no chance of actually happening.

The Vikings have consistently stated that they have no interest in staying in the Metrodome long-term.  Even the various renovation plans offered by the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission over the years have been little more than a Band-Aid and all were quickly rejected by the team.  Like it or not, the Metrodome just isn’t a viable option for a professional sports franchise anymore.

Reasonable people can disagree on whether or not the state should be involved in building a new Vikings stadium (or to what dollar amount the state should be willing to go).  The fact of the matter is, though, that building a new stadium is what’s going to have to happen if we want the Vikings to stay in Minnesota long-term.

So the Kohls proposal is dead on arrival.  Kohls knew that before he proposed it, no doubt.  It did achieve its central purpose, though.  It generated headlines and TV coverage, and gave the impression that somebody is doing something. 

Don’t we deserve better than cynical proposals that don’t make sense and have no chance of actually happening?  Don’t we deserve better than bills that make for great soundbites but bad policy?

Paul Kohls: On the Record

Paul Kohls has amassed a remarkable record of things he is against during his time in the State Legislature.

AGAINST Providing increased dedicated funding for transportation via the gasoline tax, even after the 35W bridge collapse

AGAINST Providing Minnesota workers with a reasonable minimum wage

AGAINST Domestic partnership benefits for state employees

AGAINST Setting renewable energy standards for the state

AGAINST Funding stem cell research

AGAINST A woman’s right to choose

AGAINST Every bonding bill in the last two terms

AGAINST Increased electronics waste recycling

AGAINST Preparing the state to deal with the impacts of climate change

To be fair, though, Paul Kohls is for some things. Like, for instance:

FOR Backwards-focused budgeting practices, including the Spending Accountability Amendment and ignoring inflation in budget projections

FOR Demonizing the good-faith efforts of the Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments to build relationships with immigrant communities by trying to turn local officers into enforcers of federal immigration law

FOR Cuts in general assistance medical care and restricting eligibility to MinnCare

FOR Protecting insurance companies from their negligent and/or fraudulent behavior

Who is Paul Kohls really working for in St. Paul? Seems like he’s really advancing his own agenda at everyone else’s expense.

Paul Kohls and the Spending Accountability Amendment

Fresh off a short, doomed run at the governor’s office, State Representative Paul Kohls is back in the fray by taking the lead for House Republicans on Governor Tim Pawlenty’s proposed “Spending Accountability Amendment”.

The amendment, which is largely modeled on initiatives like Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), would restrict spending in a two-year budget cycle to the revenues received in the previous two-year cycle.  In other words, spending in 2010-2011 would be limited to the actual revenues received in 2008-2009.  Currently, the Legislature builds the state budget based on projections of revenues and expenses under current law and makes adjustments where necessary to ensure the budget will be in balance.

For practically all of the last decade (except for the 2004-05 cycle where surpluses were used to offset the school accounting shifts of the 1990s), the state of Minnesota has found itself in a deficit situation.  The solution in St. Paul has too frequently been shortcuts, gimmicks, and shifts designed to kick the can down the road and avoid political pain.

With a $5+ billion deficit and no federal stimulus package coming to bail us out in the next biennium, it is clear that fundamental change and real leadership is required to lead this state out of its budget crisis.

Unfortunately, Republicans like Kohls and Pawlenty continue to prove that they are not up to the task.  Warmed-over constitutional amendment proposals that have already failed in other states (Colorado was forced to suspend TABOR because of a budget crisis in 2005, and California is crippled by initiatives and amendments, for instance) are not serious solutions to the problems that we face.

You don’t fix the problems of today (and you certainly don’t do anything to address the future) by tying your budget to things that happened two years ago.  Families don’t run their budgets that way.  Businesses don’t run their budgets that way.  There’s no reason we should force the state to budget that way, either.

There’s honest concern about the growth in government spending.  Everyone — Democrats and Republicans — should work to be good stewards of the revenue state government collects.  And certainly, with a severe budget crisis looming, all areas of the budget are going to feel pain. 

The question is, though, do we want (or need) to make this budget pain continual?  What is the purpose of having a State Legislature if we aren’t going to let them do their jobs?  This state is already severely underinvested in critical areas from health care to education to transportation. We need to empower legislators to have all available tools at their disposal to solve these problems.

This amendment, though, ties the Legislature to an arbitrary number based on the past.  And this amendment isn’t about accountability at all, unless it’s in the context of folks like Kohls and Pawlenty being accountable to the narrow interest groups that are the tail that wags the Republican dog.

While Pawlenty is already largely gone in spirit (and will be gone completely next fall), it’s time for us to shine a light on the dismal record of Paul Kohls.  Kohls will get his press conferences and his TV time hyping this nonsensical amendment, and then come January he’ll be back on the sidelines slapping himself on the back for voting “No”, and doing nothing to advance real solutions to Minnesota’s problems and doing nothing to help the people of 34A.


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