It's the first day of the 2020 legislative session and instead of the Chairman of the Tax Committee introducing a bill to give back every penny of the surplus, he and another Republican Senator introduced legislation that would create a social media fee. Sen Roger Chamberlain (R - White Bear Lake) and Sen Michelle Benson (R - Ham Lake) introduced SF 2996 which establishes a fee (tax) on social media companies with over 100,000 Minnesota users and creates a government fund.
What's the purpose of this bizarre legislation? According to a tweet by Chamberlain, it's purpose is to "provide education, info about mental health impact, addiction problem, etc re soc media use". Why this is a role of government; that's for the two Republican Senators to explain.
Legislation like this is usually done as a favor to special interests. Perhaps the big social media companies want to create a barrier-to-entry for start up social media platforms. It's pretty easy for Facebook to pay a fee to operate with its millions of Minnesota users. But new competition might struggle to pay a fee. At the time of this article's publication, the amount is not stated in the bill.
Here's the problem. Republicans are the ones who are supposed to be for smaller government and free markets. So why are two Republicans behind legislation that increases taxes and makes it harder to do business in this state?
Democratic frontrunner and devout socialist Bernie Sanders often mentions on the campaign trail that the wealthy and the country's 1% need to pay their "fair share". But Bernie's private tax returns tell a different story than his public message.
According to his released tax returns, Bernie had a good year in 2018. His income of $566,421 puts him solidly in the 1% of the country. 67% of that income comes from his business venture "Book Royalties Macmillian"; revenues generated from his book sales. Of the remaining income, $44k are social security benefits and $133k come from his income as a Senator.
Now remember, Bernie's message to voters is that the 1% don't pay their "fair share". He argues that the wealthy should pay more in taxes because the current top tax rate of 37% isn't high enough. According to Bernie's tax return, his effective tax rate is 28% on total taxable income of $519,529.
Mr. Fairshare himself decided to shield $41,746 of his income from taxes using deductions. That equates to almost $15k less to Uncle Sam to pay for other people's healthcare. If he really believes the wealthy should pay more, than why is he taking deductions?
Income for a U.S. Senator is $174k. As stated above, Sanders' W2 shows $40k less than that amount. This means he took advantage of a tax shielding program like "contributions to the Thrift Savings Plan" (federal employees' version of a 401k) to pay even less in taxes. That $40k would amount to another $14k less taxes for Uncle Sam to subsidize renewable energy programs. If Bernie really wanted to pay his fair share, he wouldn't seek tax shelter investment accounts.
Now we, of course, aren't opposed to people using these tax deductions. We'd prefer people keep more of their income for themselves and their family. But that is not what Socialist Bernie professes to believe for people of his income class. In fact, if Bernie just accepted that someone making $566k should pay a flat 37%, his tax bill would be $209k. That's $64k more he could donate to the U.S. Treasury. And in case you aren't aware, they allow people to do this on their website.
Bernie has attracted a big following from the youth because there's a perception that he's a straight shooter and ideologically consistent socialist. But when you look at the numbers, Bernie is just another typical politician who says one thing, and does the complete opposite.
The problem with the socialist vision from people like Bernie is that what really lies behind their vision is a powerful government that uses force to take income away from productive people. Instead of using voluntary vehicles like private charity to help the less fortunate in our society, socialists divide us into classes of identities and use the force of government to extract money from one class to redistribute to others. This is the antithesis of freedom and not quite the virtuous endeavor that college academics make it out to be.
Socialists like Bernie are either missing a very important detail in their analysis of capitalism or purposely suppressing it for their own benefit. It's indisputable that capitalism produces more wealth than any other system of economics; thus raising the standard of living of all individuals in the society. The Bernies of the world come along and point out that there is an unequal distribution of wealth in a capitalist system while dismissing how this sort of distribution has absolutely nothing to do with capitalism in particular. In fact, it predates western societies by thousands, if not millions of years.
Archeological digs show an unequal distribution of treasures buried with people in ancient cultures. Some were buried with gold, some were buried with nothing. In today's world, we see this same concept play out in sports and art. LeBron James scores more points and provides more value than 99% of the other players in the world who play basketball. J.K. Rowling sells more books than 99% of other authors (most don't make anything writing books). And only a small amount of musical artists, get the majority of the downloads online.
The Bernie socialist vision is a bad one for our country. Instead of looking how politicians can be more intrusive in our lives and own a larger portion of our productivity, we should be moving towards less government and more freedom. We can look at the actions of the socialists like Bernie to realize that they don't practice what they preach. Even at their core, the Bernie's of the world prefer economic freedom for themselves. It shows up every time they release their tax returns.
Why is it so difficult for Republicans in the Majority to boldly state that a taxpayer surplus should all be given back to the taxpayers? But this simple concept, an idea that will likely be said to delegates when they seek endorsement, will never be promoted in the halls of the state Capitol as long as Paul Gazelka is leading the Senate.
In a recent video interview with Alpha News, Sen Paul Gazelka proudly bragged that Senate Republicans prioritize extracting taxpayer money in our economy to boost up the government's rainy day funds. "The one area I like is making sure our reserves are full" stated Gazelka. "That's for the rainy day."
What Gazelka believes is that when there is an economic downturn and family budgets and business budgets are making sacrifices, the government should be able to operate at the same level. Rainy day funds in the government hands just insure that the bloated, wasteful spending in St Paul continues while the rest of the population is suffering financially.
More importantly, the reserve account is at historically high levels. $2.5 Billion of our money is being held stagnant in a government account for future spending. When added to the current budget surplus, the state government is holding onto $1,250 of every taxpayer's money so they can use it for future spending. And Gazelka thinks that good?
Action 4 Liberty believes the government should never hold onto our money in reserve accounts and surpluses should be immediately returned to the people who paid it. Sign our petition to GIVE IT BACK and tell Gazelka we want our $1,250 back!
DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman told the Minnesota Reformer that her caucus will look to spend $500 Million of the budget surplus on early childhood development to include an "expansion of the Child Care Assistance Program, the troubled CCAP program that got a bad audit last year."
A "bad audit" doesn't even scratch the surface. The CCAP program made news a year ago when a Fox 9 investigation revealed that $100 Million of taxpayer money a year is being fraudulently used by child care centers and sent as cash overseas to Somalia. The Legislative Auditor found systemic issues with how the Dept of Human Services monitored the program, but his jurisdiction did not allow him to trace the stolen money past the state of Minnesota.
Last year, the DFL House and Republican Senate fully funded the fraudulent child care program by voting for a thousand page Health & Human Services Omnibus bill at 5 am in the morning on Memorial Day weekend. Apparently that funding wasn't enough for Speaker Hortman.
On Monday, the Campaign Finance Board released the annual reports of political committees in the state of Minnesota and we found several child care providers who donated to the DFL House Caucus' committee.
Action 4 Liberty calls on the legislature to end the fraudulent child care program. When half a program is going to fraud, it can't be saved. Plus, government should not be paying for people's child care in the first place.
Republicans are falling behind their DFL counterparts in campaign cash in a big way according to newly released Campaign Finance Board Reports. The Republican Party of Minnesota raised $523k in 2019, while their counterparts, the MN DFL Central Committee, raised $3.6 Million for the year. However, both committees began the year with only $100k in cash.
How did the DFL burn through so much cash? They hired a lot of staff. In fact, the committee paid out a total of $66k in health insurance benefits alone.
In the Minnesota House, the House Republican Campaign Committee run by Minority leader and lobbyist Kurt Daudt, hauled in $936k and has only $318k cash on hand. Meanwhile, the DFL House Caucus raised $1.6 Million and is sitting on cash of $1.2 Million going into election season. This 4 to 1 cash advantage will he an enormous factor in Daudt's ability to win back the Minnesota House which flipped in 2018 in a massive blue wave.
One saving grace for Team Red is that the Republican Senate Victory Fund raised the same amount, $1.3 Million, as their DFL counterparts in the Senate. But the DFL is beginning the election year with only $686k in cash, while the Republicans have a healthy bank account with $2.1 Million in cash.
To add to the problems of the DFL Senate Minority, there's turmoil at the helm. Over the weekend, the caucus ousted Tom Back as leader and chose a suburban Senator from Woodbury: Sen Susan Kent.
Action 4 Liberty believes the fundraising disadvantages, which have been commonplace for several years, is due in part to Republican legislators not delivering on issues important to the Republican base. For instance, Democrats in the House passed gun control bills and drivers license for illegals. But when Republicans were in charge in 2017-18, pro-gun bills like Constitutional carry and Stand-Your-Ground got no traction. The Republican House instead grew government, took out more debt and bailed out health insurance companies with taxpayer money.
The politically-connected class always seems to get away with things. If you or I break a law, we're likely to suffer the legal consequence. But the St Paul Swamp dwellers get separate treatment, or at least it appears that way according to a newly published audit by the DHS Internal Audit Office (IAO).
IAO was investigating the Behavioral Health Division (BHD) based on whistleblower complaints of laws not being followed, conflicts of interest among DHS staff and careless or suspect vetting of grant recipients.
The report concluded "BHD management and staff did not always follow Minnesota Statutes or OGM and DHS policies when it comes to conflicts of interest". IAO recommended mandatory staff training to solve the issue.
IAO also found that BHD advanced funds to 74% of the grantees investigated without sufficient justification. This made DHS susceptible to having taxpayer money misspent.
The Minnesota Senate Republicans will host a special committee hearing on Tuesday in Hibbing to hear two gun control bills deeply embedded in the Democrat agenda. The Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Sen. Warren Limmer (R-Maple Grove) will hear two of Sen. Ron Latz' bills (DFL-St Louis Park): red flag legislation and universal background checks.
This move is seen by most Capitol observers as a political ploy by the Senate Republicans to hear two anti-gun bills in a strong pro-gun rights district, to showcase the disapproval by the populace for the bills. But hearing these bills allows the anti-gun community to show progress for their movement. It will serve as a rallying point for the gun control community as seen by the Bloomberg funded Minnesota groups on their social media pages.
The Judiciary Committee announced that they will also hear a couple pro-gun rights bills in the same hearing: Stand-Your-Ground legislation and Constitutional Carry. However, these bills also will be used as a political ploy and will not likely get any further action from the Senate despite Republicans having a three person majority. According to the Committee's webpage, the hearing is informational only and no votes will take place.
Action 4 Liberty believes that gun control bills should not receive any "moment in the sun" when Republicans are in control at the Capitol. It's time they start delivering on their campaign promises and get a vote on Constitutional Carry and Stand-Your-Ground.
$100 Million of taxpayer money is being stolen from the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) and sent in suitcases of cash to Somalia. I'm sure you've heard the headline by now and seen the Fox 9 story that broke nearly two years ago. Fraud at this level would certainly warrant shutting down a program...or at least, ensuring future taxpayer money is being properly accounted for by the Minnesota Dept of Human Services (DHS).
In fact, DHS is required by law to ensure our tax money is being utilized properly in the Child Care Assistance Program. According to State Statute 245H which regulates certified license-exempt child care centers (defined as centers that receive child care assistance payments), "the commissioner must conduct an on-site inspection of a certified license-exempt child care center at least annually". When pressed back in early December by Rep Jeremy Munson (R-Lake Crystal) how many of these inspections were conducted in the 90 days since Jodi Harpstead became Commissioner of DHS, she responded with "I don't know the current state of how often we visit every child care center in Minnesota, so I'll have to find that out and let you know".
We reached out to Rep Munson to see if his office had received an answer from the Commissioner. As of January 17th, Commissioner Harpstead has yet to respond. The statute also requires the Commissioner to "make publicly available on the department's website the results of inspection reports for all certified centers". We were unable to find this on the DHS website.
As the Governor and Republican Senate reveal their vision for the 2020 Legislative Session, absent from the conversation is what either side will do to combat the fraud. They appear to think this isn't even a problem anymore. But how can Minnesota taxpayers rest assured that our money isn't being ripped off if DHS isn't making these visits?
Of all the priorities for an incoming Commissioner to the state's largest, most bloated agency, how is this not priority #1? Imagine a CEO of a corporation who had a division under her watch that was bleeding money due to theft. How could anyone justify that CEO keep her job if she wasn't immediately focused on fixing the theft or ending that division?
Want results?! SIGN THE PETITION to End the Child Care Fraud!
Less than a year after Governor Walz and the Legislature enacted the largest budget in Minnesota history, the Swamp in St Paul is already asking for more. Walz announced this week that he wants to put an additional $2 Billion on the state credit card and spend another $500 Million of the state surplus this year.
Here's the list of items Walz thinks Minnesota taxpayers should go into debt to pay for:
- $276 million for affordable housing
- $300 million for clean water projects
- $447 million proposal to invest in facilities for the state’s colleges and universities
- $11 million to build a 1.25‐mile elevated walkway for visitors to the Minnesota State Zoo’s oak forest
- $30 million to acquire lands for scientific and natural areas, state parks, forests, and the pheasant summit action plan
- $5.8 million to develop campgrounds at Lake Vermilion Soudan Underground Mine State Park
- $12 million for grants primarily to local governments to install a network of electric vehicle charging infrastructure
- $10 million for a grant to the City of Bloomington to build a 22,000-square-foot addition to the existing Center for the Arts
- $9.728 million for a grant to the Chatfield Economic Development Authority to complete the modernization of the Chatfield Center for the Arts
- $100,000 to design, construct, and equip a greenhouse at the veterans home in Fergus Falls
- See the full list
Do you get the picture??
Bonding bills are the vehicle for politicians in the St Paul Swamp to bring home the pork. Despite having a massive $3 Billion budget surplus, Governor Walz aims to help all his political friends bring home the pork by putting it on our credit card.
Minnesota taxpayers are on the hook for $100 Million of child care fraud every year in the state's Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP). Last year, Fox 9 broke the news that this massive scam was not being properly investigated by DHS and resulted in suitcases of cash leaving our country, heading to Somalia. Since the story broke, the Minnesota Dept of Human Services moved the failed Inspector General, Carolyn Ham, to another department with full pay and benefits.
Action 4 Liberty reported that at 5 am in the morning during last year's Special Session on Memorial Day weekend, the legislature fully funded the fraudulent child care program. Politicians made minor reforms to combat the fraud, which will not stop the program. The CCAP program amounts to about $250 Million a year (federal, state and county funding), so nearly half the program is being abused. That's why we've called for an end to the program immediately. SIGN OUR PETITION.
So what do Republicans and Democrats have to say about the child care fraud as they prepare for the 2020 Legislative Session?
In an interview with Minnpost, when Governor Walz was asked about the status of DHS he stated "we did not have the processes in place to make sure that we’re following rules. Now some of those rules are complex and maybe archaic. But that’s no excuse for not doing them." Walz appeared open to the idea of splitting up DHS, but made no mention of what he'd do to stop the child care fraud in particular.
Senate Republicans rolled out their 2020 Vision yesterday. The stated priorities were "Working Together", Health Care, Clean Energy, Clean Water, "Taking Care of People" to name a few. Absent from their vision was combatting the massive child care fraud by eliminating the CCAP program. Senate Republicans mentioned holding DHS accountable by "including a proposal to move the Office of Inspector General outside the agency to give them more autonomy."
Why is this issue absent from the 2020 objective of both parties? Are they so naive as to think that the fraud has magically gone away? When Rep Jeremy Munson questioned the new DHS Commissioner in November about how many child care facilities they've visited to ensure there is no fraud, she did not have an answer.
Action 4 Liberty, along with thousands of petition signers from across the state, call for an end to the fraudulent child care assistance program. Any entity plagued with this amount of fraud cannot be fixed; it must be ended to ensure taxpayer money is not being abused.