FFM Bulletin: Dayton passes the buck | Michigan embraces worker freedom | Short takes

Dayton passes the buck. Again
To mark the midpoint of Governor Mark Dayton’s term in office, his office has spent the week touting his record and alleged accomplishments on myriad issues ranging from K-12 education funding to affordable housing. But if Dayton is quick to claim credit, he’s even quicker to assign blame.

When the Governor proposed a K-12 funding shift and signed it into law, it was the legislature’s fault. When Dayton signed a deeply flawed stadium bill he apparently never read, it was the Vikings' fault. When electronic pull-tabs fail to meet revenue forecasts, Dayton blames those greedy charities for "shorting the stadium".

And the latest: When streets go unplowed and road conditions are hazardous, it’s… Tim Pawlenty’s fault!?

That’s right. As complaints from around the metro poured in, Dayton defended MnDOT’s seemingly slow response to the recent snowstorm, claiming that Pawlenty budget cuts were to blame. "You cut back on the budget for highway clearing and repairs, then there’s going to be consequences. My understanding is the personnel side of it has been reduced over the last decade."

The only problem? Dayton’s blame game was immediately contradicted by none other than his own Department of Transportation. According to Fox 9, MnDOT said "money was not the issue with this snowfall … the problem arose with how the snow fell and how it froze."

If the governor stays true to form, he’ll find someone to blame for weather patterns too.

Michigan embraces worker freedom
Michigan became the 24th right-to-work state earlier this week, and the second state this year (following Indiana) to embrace workplace freedom. The victory is stunning for its symbolism, taking place as it did in the long-time capital of compulsory unionism. It also comes just one month after Michigan voters overwhelmingly rejected (58 percent to 42 percent) a heavy-handed union-funded ballot initiative that would have enshrined union power in the state constitution.

Unions blamed "corporate special interests" for the landslide defeat of Proposal 2, and they will do the same in the wake of right-to-work. In reality, Michigan residents support efforts to create jobs and make the state competitive once again. That support comes from across the political spectrum. Post-election polling shows remarkably strong public support for right-to-work in Michigan, with 51 percent support overall, including 39 percent of Democrats and 40 percent of voters in union households.

Short takes
Tax calculator: Thanks to a great online tool from the Tax Foundation, you can now estimate your federal tax burden under a variety of fiscal cliff scenarios. Warning: you may regret doing so when you see the results.

Pension trouble: Minnesota’s police and fire pensions are facing a projected shortfall of $68 million next year. And every year, in fact, until 2038.‪ According to the Public Employee Retirement Association (PERA), "the funding level of PERA’s Police and Fire Plan has dropped from 83 to 78 percent over the last year. It is a trend that is expected to continue". Yet pension reform remains curiously absent from Governor Dayton’s legislative agenda.

Broadband report: The Governor’s Task Force on Broadband just released their 2012 annual report, which includes legislative policy recommendations for the upcoming 2013 session.  Soon after the new year, the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota will release our forthcoming report on municipal broadband in Minnesota. It’s a must-read for every elected official in the state.

Euphemism of the Day: The estate tax is better known by its popular moniker: "death tax". But as the Cato Institute recently noted, the liberal Washington Post editorial board prefers a different label: "posthumous federal levy on accumulated wealth".

Schools and shylocks: NPR looks at debt-ridden California school districts’ use of capital appreciation bonds (CAB), which the state’s treasurer describes as the school district equivalent of a payday loan: "Perhaps the best example of the CAB issue is suburban San Diego's Poway Unified School District, which borrowed a little more than $100 million. But debt service will be almost $1 billion."

Summer opportunities for students at AEI: The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is accepting applications for their 2013 Summer Institute. The program runs from June 16 to July 13 and is fully-funded for current undergraduates and recent college graduates, featuring courses in public policy and lectures from notable policymakers, journalists, and others in Washington. Applications and nominations are both accepted; click here to learn more about the program. AEI is also accepting applications for their 2013 summer internship program.

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