Sunday, September 30, 2007

Showdown time: Legislators invite Governor to show up and explain where the money went

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has a tough choice to make on Monday. Legislators have sent him a letter indicating he can either show up to tell a legislative committee how the money he said he had for the 35W bridge disappeared just as suddenly as the bridge did, or he faces delaying other transportation projects.

The "Transportation Contingent Appropriations Group" is the legislative commission that must approve Governor Pawlenty's request to use money from the state's reserves to cover costs for the 35W bridge rebuilding. Earlier this month, Governor Pawlenty convinced legislative leaders that a special session on transportation was not needed because the Federal Government was paying for the 35W bridge reconstruction and the state had plenty of funds to cover its obligations.

Since then, President George Bush has threatened to veto the legislation that contains the funding for the 35W bridge. Also, the Minnesota Department of Transportation has said it needs to use the state's reserve funds to pay for the 35W bridge or it will need to delay other construction projects.

Before the special session Lt. Governor Carol Molnau, who is also the head of the Department of Transportation testified that the funds were there. This is a portion of her testimony to the Joint House and Senate Transportation Committee:
video
Senator Steve Murphy: Lt. Governor, I believe the question is: are there going to be other projects delayed because of this delay in payments from the Federal government?

Molnau: I’m hoping that there will not be. I don’t believe so. I think we do have some resources that we can, can move to if we have a project we’re going to let, we can bond rather than pay out in full right now, if we have to do that, and then reimburse the bonds using those Federal dollars. So, I think we can pretty much take care of what we need to take care of on this project, if that’s what you’re asking for, with not, hopefully not a lot of negative impact to other projects or delays.

Murphy: The bonding authority that you’re talking about, where is that from?

Molnau: I’m assuming… now I think we can bond for something, that we do have some authority to do some additional bonding. So I think we can do that…ah... on some of it. Knowing that it would be short term, or we can do short-term borrowing from other accounts, and we can do that.

Murphy: the (undecipherable) funds?

Molnau – We could use some of those, yes but we also have opportunities, at least from what we’ve heard …as we’ve talked to the department of finance of being able to… and we’ve done this before knowing there are dollars coming in behind it to do some short term borrowing.
The commission has sent the Governor a letter asking him to appear before it on Monday to explain why the financial information he and the Lt. Governor gave lawmakers last month turned out to be wrong.
Because of the unprecedented nature of the request, we believe it will be to the public’s benefit for a full discussion of the request made by your administration. It is our hope that you, and your representatives, will attend the meeting to provide insight into the reasons behind the request and the delay in federal funding promised to the state to meet the reconstruction needs of the I-35W bridge.

We look forward to the opportunity to discuss this matter during this important public meeting.
The commission meets Monday at 11 AM in room 15 of the State Capitol. If Governor Pawlenty shows up, he will face some rather pointed questions such as, "how did the money you said we had disappear?". If he doesn't show up, it is very likely the Department of Transportation will need to delay construction projects, which will cost taxpayers even more money.

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Sen. Amy Klobuchar on condemning moveon.org ad

US Senator Amy Klobachar (D - Minnesota) has made a couple a votes that have upset some progressives. In this interview I did for AM950, she talks about her vote on the Foreign Intelligence Security Act also known as FISA and a resolution condemning a newspaper ad that said General Petraeus was “cooking the books for the white house” when he gave his report on Iraq.

We also talk with her about the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan that she supported, but President Bush has threatened to veto and legislation she sponsoring to protect consumers against questionable cell phone charges.

Listen here.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Analysis Video: Which Party Can Win Ramstad's Seat in 2008?

After 17 years in Congress, Republican Jim Ramstad of Minnesota says he is not going to run again. He won his last election by a huge margin. You might think that means the Republicans have the edge in this district for 2008. I have been crunching the numbers and that might not be so. Watch the video for more details (Cross posted from The Uptake)


iPod video file
It’s been 17 years since anyone other than Jim Ramstad has represented Minnesota’s Third Congressional District. Now that he’s decided not to run in 2008, the question is which party is more likely to win the seat.

Ramstad has won his seat by huge margins. So on the surface it seems like a safe bet that any other Republican would have the same advantage in the third district. But a look at voting trends from the last several elections indicates it may not be that easy.

Let’s look at how the Third District has voted in recent races that Jim Ramstad was not in.

First there’s last year’s US Senate race. DFLer Amy Klobuchar won the third district by 15 percentage points. Hardly a close race.

But those same voters also backed Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty by a larger margin than he got statewide.

In the other statewide races, which tend to be less partisan the Republican Attorney General candidate was just 311 votes better than the statewide winner DFLer Lori Swanson.

The DFL won the State Auditor’s race in Ramstad’s district, but lost the Secretary of State’s race.

So the Third District has a lot of ticket-splitters. It’s not a shoe-in for a Republican candidate.

But trends indicate this may be a Congressional seat the DFL could take in 2008. The DFL has picked up a total of seven state legislative seats in Ramstad’s district since 2004, indicating the area may be trending Blue.

Video: Pro-Peace, Pro-Occupation and Confrontation at Norm Coleman's doorstep



This weekend hundreds of people marched to the State Capitol building to call for an end to the occupation in Iraq.


A much smaller group gathered for a counter-protest to support the occupation.


Later some of the peace group marchers went to US Senator Norm Coleman's home in St. Paul and found him in the ally behind the house.


He then came out and talked to the group for about 20 minutes.


The legacy media had some coverage of the events, but The UpTake's team coverage probably had the best, including the only video of the confrontation between Senator Coleman and the peace group. (Disclosure: I am also Executive Producer for The Uptake)

Together these videos provide an excellent overview of the issues and what happened on Saturday.
  1. There's the face-to-face discussion with Norm Coleman at his house (3 Minutes)
  2. There's an interview with Keith Ellison (3 Minutes)
  3. And then there's coverage of the pro-occupation counter-protest (5 minutes)
If you like what you see, the videos are also in YouTube. Rate, comment and share them with others. It will help raise the visibility of what happened Saturday.

Still photos courtesy of Chuck Olsen, Greg Skog, Ken Avidor

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