Sen. Tom Bakk blasts back at Majority Leader Dave Senjem’s op-ed critique of DFL legislators

Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk is upset about an op-ed penned by Majority Leader David Senjem.

Umbrage. That’s what Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk took after reading the Star Tribune this morning.

There he saw an op-ed article by his  counterpart, Majority Leader David Senjem, insinuating that, by gosh, if it weren’t for “repeated efforts by the minority to throw us off course,” the Republicans would be getting much more done.

It’s hard to see how the rather-routine and often low-key Democratic opposition to Republican proposals could be seen as “distractions,” or obstruction, as Senjem (or one of his amanuenses) wrote.

But those were fighting words, and Bakk, his face more florid than usual, strode into the weekly press briefing (which Senjem did not attend) to answer them.

He and Senjem have been friends, he said, but the attack “is not the Senator Senjem I know.” What Minnesotans were most concerned about was jobs, but Republicans “have not created one job,” Bakk said.

In his op-ed, Senjem identified four areas where Republicans were trying to do God’s work for Minnesotans:

• The first was “job growth,” actually a proposal for business tax cuts that supposedly would stimulate economic activity.

• Second, education, where the GOP is laboring to repay the money the state borrowed from local school districts to close last year’s budget gap.

• Third, “election integrity,” which would eventually translate into a constitutional amendment requiring voters to present photo identification at the polls.

• Finally, infrastructure: Republicans, wrote Senjem, want a bonding bill that would concentrate on money for roads, bridges and other public works across the state.

Bakk was quick to dismiss the efficacy of and/or necessity for all four efforts.

The jobs bill, with its principal feature a phase-out of the state business property tax, is a giveaway that would cost the state $192 million, he contended. Already, budgeteers are projecting a $1.1 billion deficit for next year plus $1 billion for inflation. Adding $192 million to that won’t help matters, and the governor might not sign off on it.

Bakk didn’t directly address the school pay-back, but Democrats have insisted that the state follow the law enacted last year that requires refilling reserve funds before repaying school systems. This year, $318 million is scheduled to return to education. Republicans want to shift more from reserves and also use them to pay for business tax breaks.

Coming in for Bakk’s strongest criticism was the proposed Voter ID constitutional amendment. If you sat people down at kitchen tables and asked them what the 10 most important issues were, “I don’t think anybody would say voter ID,” he said. His view: Instead of focusing on that, Republicans should be taking action on the governor’s proposal to offer tax credits to businesses hiring vets, the unemployed and new grads — which would be offset by lower tax exemptions for corporations operating abroad.

Finally, Bakk said the Republicans’ proposal for $280 million worth of infrastructure projects is insufficient. “Democrats have no appetite to vote for such a small bill,” he said, and if there isn’t a compromise, legislators could adjourn without any bonding bill at all.

If there was an overarching theme to Bakk’s talk, it was his view that Democrats are not being obstructionists. Republicans, he said, are simply being inflexible.

Later this year, voters will get to offer their opinions on whom to blame.

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Comments (11)

  1. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 03/23/2012 - 03:51 pm.

    Hard to be an obstructionist

    It’s hard to be an obstructionist by standing on the railroad tracks. That’s exactly what Sanjem is accusing the Dems of…waving their arms in front of the freight train of the MN GOP, railroading its way on to whatever the hell it pleases.

    What could possibly be the use of making such claims? Fear. The MN GOP has failed to do anything that they were supposedly elected to do. Like the kid who cries after smacking their sibling, claiming it was the sibling that hit. An outright lie in order to shift the blame.

  2. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 03/23/2012 - 04:41 pm.

    My Two and Four Year Old Grandsons

    Are pretty adept at blaming each other for whatever happens that might get them in trouble, too, but we’re working hard to help them grow out of it and learn to take responsibility, each for their own actions.

    If I were the parent of most of these Republicans, I’d be wondering how I failed so miserably to help my son or daughter learn that same lesson.

  3. Submitted by Matthew Zabka on 03/23/2012 - 05:32 pm.

    “It’s hard to see how the rather-routine and often low-key Democratic opposition to Republican proposals could be seen as “distractions,” or obstruction, as Senjem (or one of his amanuenses) wrote.”

    My goodness. Is this an Op-Ed piece, or does author think “quality journalism” means writing biased articles?

    Two days ago the DFL offered many ridiculous amendments to the proposed voter ID constitutional amendment. Whether one agrees with voter ID laws or not, it’s not at all “hard to see” how these neither routine nor low-key actions could be seen as distractions.

  4. Submitted by Dan Rogers on 03/23/2012 - 11:07 pm.

    I agree with Matthew

    The supposed zero-sum game of tax cuts viewed from the Democrat mind…..Sigh.

    If you cut tax rates from 30% to 25% on a business that puts 5% back into their hands which might give them enough to finally buy that new machine that will employ 3 more shifts of personnel. This means that 3 new taxpayers are created which is the only real method of growing tax revenue. Very few businesspeople are in the game of just keeping that 5% to themselves; they want to grow and give their employees more as well as themselves.

    The more you tax the business the less incentive they have to work. It really is that simple, folks.

    Voter ID: There is too much fraud as seen in the 2008 election that seated Franken. The logic that it takes an act of congress for me to buy a beer without an ID and yet I can vote using my neighbor’s gas bill won’t fly.

    Funny how he just glosses over the fact that Repubs want to pay back the ‘loan’ from public schools is telling as well. I know, Repubs are supposed to ‘hate’ educators. Couldn’t be farther from the truth. We don’t hate anyone, especially the ones that are with our kids for hours every day. We don’t want their budgets – which means my kids’ programs – to be cut because the state didn’t pay them back after mandating a bunch of useless bureaucracy crap in the first place. Ol’ Tommy is just playing games here, nothing more.


    • Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 03/24/2012 - 03:39 pm.

      Really, Mr Rogers?

      “Voter ID: There is too much fraud as seen in the 2008 election that seated Franken”

      Is your “proof” the fact that your guy lost? This is totally unproven or backed by any kind of evidence. If you have evidence of a crime, why don’t you turn it over to the police?

      By the way, voting is a right and responsibility far more fundamental than drinking. Talk about glossing over facts, man, you’re blinding me with the shine.

      • Submitted by Dan Rogers on 03/25/2012 - 09:50 am.

        Mr. Schletzler

        Regarding proof; If you can’t understand that without some form of identification that some fraud might occur, nothing I can say may convince you otherwise. I don’t care if Coleman lost. The fact that Franken reminds us daily, by failing miserably as a Senate comedian, to further research our proposed candidates is more than enough.

        Regarding responsibilities; After serving you in uniform in some really interesting places for over 14 years, and spending time in socialist/communist countries, I am well aware of my responsibilities as a citizen. You are fundamentally unserious if you cannot understand a simple example.

        Respectfully and have a great day!

        • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 03/26/2012 - 01:18 pm.

          Breitbart as a source?!?!?!?!

          Excuse me while I recover from incredulity. Breitbart operated on the notion that “there’s a sucker born every minute.” And when that wasn’t enough to make him money and sensational “news,” he outright lied.

          I thank you for your efforts in the military (I presume that’s what you mean by “uniform”), but with all due respect, you’ve been fooled if you think Breitbart ever told you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. You’re not the only one, and I don’t fault people for not realizing it at the time. But, now that you’ve been told, do yourself a favor and look for the truth.

          Some fraud can, and does occur–most of the time with an ID in hand.

  5. Submitted by Mark Rittmann on 03/23/2012 - 11:49 pm.

    DIstractions? No, the work of the minority.

    So the opposition party (DFL or GOP), should roll over when the numbers aren’t in their favor even though they have objections to proposed legislation?

    The amendments offered during the voter ID session were not distractions, it is the work expected of the minority party when they oppose legislation. If you don’t want procedural tactics slowing down passage of legislation, get bipartisan support.

    If you can’t get bipartisan support, it is the responsibility of the opposition to work against legislation they cannot support, to slow down the process, and perhaps convince their opponents it is not worth the struggle.

    This holds true for both DFL and GOP when they are in a minority position. It’s messy. but it’s the way things work.

    All the GOP has offered this session, is:

    1. An amendment to the State constitution on a divisive social issue.
    2. An anti union constitutional amendment that they can’t get off the floor.
    3. A Voter ID constitutional amendment, that they have no cost analysis for, no implementation strategy for, and a call to trust the next legislation session will work out the details.
    4. An increased tax on the poor, (reducing the renter’s tax credit), to partially pay for eliminating the tax on business property, in the unproven belief it will somehow create jobs, when no economic study supports that conclusion.

    Notice a pattern here? They are unable to work with the opposition party, so opt for Constitutional amendments offered in the general election where Super PACs can buy the ads needed to sway voter’s.

    I hope you enjoy nasty political ads, because we will see a lot of them, generated by both sides.

    When did it become acceptable for legislators to stop doing their jobs?

    There will be a bite back. Majorities change, and the DFL will not forget and will use the same procedures when they are next in the majority. And the majority will change, MN is a purple state with a history of changing guard.

    Truth in comments rule here, I am a DFL county treasurer, so I have a dog in this race.

  6. Submitted by richard owens on 03/24/2012 - 08:08 am.

    DFL amendments

    …included an exemption for nursing home residents. Bi-partisan agreement on that simple change in the voter-suppression law was defeated anyway- on party lines.

    Matthew Zabka, sir, what is so ridiculous about exempting nursing home residents from a picture ID voting requirement?

    Compromise is dead due to intransigent GOP positions that seem to be “our way our the highway..”

    The MnGOP is in a state of disintegration: financially, ethically, and politically (or so it seems…)

  7. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 03/24/2012 - 11:21 am.

    The Democrats are rightly fighting proposals

    that would hurt people.

    –Voter i.d. could disenfranchise several hundred thousand current and new voters by successfully convincing the public that there actually is a fraud problem when there is not

    –The House tax bill would deprive low-income renters (elderly, disabled, poor) as follows, according to an editorial in Friday’s StarTribune:

    “The upshot: 66,000 renters would lose the credit entirely, while 312,000 more — 87,000 of them seniors or the disabled — would see annual refunds cut by several hundred dollars per year. Nonsenior, nondisabled Minnesotans with incomes between $30,000 and $40,000 per year — think recent graduates and working poor families — would lose an average of $411 per year.”

    What is a desperately needed break for poor renters (arriving just in time to pay car insurance, for instance) would be taken away in order to give a break to business owners who will not use the money to create jobs. They create jobs only when they need to hire more help.

  8. Submitted by Matthew Zabka on 03/25/2012 - 09:04 am.

    Just bias

    Hi Richard,

    If you would re-read my post, I never suggested that all amendments offered by the DFL were distractions. Rather, in contrast to the author’s claims, many of the amendments could easily be seen as distractions. For example, one could see offering amendments dealing with school funding during a debate about voter identification as a distraction.

    I’m new to this site, and I’ve seen some informative articles. But I had hoped that MinnPost would offer the unbiased, quality journalism it advertises. What I have instead seen are a few unbiased pieces, and a whole lot of pieces that could’ve been written by DFL chair Ken Martin.

    For example, in David Schultz’s last piece, he attacks RTW legislation by confusing correlation with causation, which are two completely different things. Regardless of my opinions on RTW legislation, I know that quality news sources should never allow these kinds of statistical mistakes in their articles.

    Maybe I just haven’t been around the site long enough, or maybe I don’t understand what MinnPost is supposed to be, but so far I’ve experienced a pretty biased website.

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