Bakk whips votes to save session, career

State Sen. Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook), Senate Majority Leader

State Sen. Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook), Senate Majority Leader

I’ll be stepping away from the blog for a few days, but it is clear at this hour that the special session to resolve the 2015 legislative business is still a rocky proposition. At this point, the delay is fixed entirely on the DFL Senate, where Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) still doesn’t have the votes to pass the bills agreed upon by Gov. Mark Dayton,  GOP House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Bakk.

Bakk finds himself under fire from all sides. His prosecution of the Senate’s agenda during the session created outrage throughout the DFL base, all while he fueled the ongoing feud between himself and the executive branch. Perhaps ironically, the measure facing the most contention is the environmental bill, a topic in which Bakk and fellow Iron Rangers frequently squabbled with other DFL allies, often siding with Republicans on deregulation measures.

Simply put, Bakk is having a make-or-break moment in his political career, and the question now is whether he still has strong enough rapport to hold sway in his own caucus. Failure here would disrupt state government, which is the worse issue, but it would also probably signal the end of the Iron Range senator’s leadership role.

Interesting hours and days ahead.


  1. Bakk’s actions this session & relationship with Dayton or the lack thereof, have harmed the DFL, the Iron Range Caucus as well as our state as a whole with his apparent attempt to neuter the state auditor’s office. I’m from the range & can only say, ‘WTH’ was he thinking?

  2. Bakk used the legislative session to cut deals with Kurt Daudt that will hurt Minnesotans for decades to come if they aren’t undone. All because he wanted revenge against another legislator who tried to do the right thing instead of the corrupt thing.

  3. David Gray says

    Bakk was a good bipartisan legislator who showed real leadership. That’s why so many DFLers are angry at him. I wonder how many actually get to vote in his district.

  4. Flintstone says

    Caving to republican demands/desires hardly qualifies as bipartisan. Bakk can go back to representing SD3. The Majority Leader should represent all of MN.

    • David Gray says

      Bakk represents more of Minnesota than someone like Dibble or Marty does…

      • Gerald S says

        Actually, the majority leader works for the party caucus, not the state or the voters of his district. As a rep he works for the state and his district, but as leader his employers are his caucus members and his job to conform to the goals of the caucus. And that is where Bakk is in trouble just now. That said, I expect him to survive, although he lost a lot of his accumulated IOU’s in this go round. That may make it hard for him to survive another incident without being sent back to the back benches.

        • David Gray says

          The idea that legislative leaders are supposed to conform their behavior to the goals of the caucus is a novel one. Leaders lead. As Churchill observed it is hard to look up to a man who has his ear to the ground. Now if the differences become to great or he can’t take his caucus with him then he’ll lose that position.
          Frankly if the DFL Senate is foolish enough to sack Bakk and put an extremist like Marty or Dibble in his place it would be good news for the Republicans. The DFL has a real image problem outstate and Bakk makes the party look better than it is.

          • Gerald S says

            Apparently novel to you. The caucus elects them; they work for the caucus. Just ask John Boehner.

          • David Gray says

            John Boehner has no idea what you are talking about. He certainly has not conformed his behaviour to the goals of his conference.

  5. GOP folks giving into crazy DFL demands/desires is compromise though??? There is a reason for divided Govt in Minnesota, when the DFL held total power their agenda was too far “left” for most and the next election a change was made. It is the way our Republic was set up. It is the checks and balances that makes for healthy debate and exchange of ideas. Up here on the Range it is considered a crime to look at an issue from a conservative view, thus the disgust with any dialog or compromise.
    You would think after 50 yrs of DFL control on the Range and the constant decline of our area folks may want to look at the policies that are responsible for it. Hard to say it is the GOP fault for the decline of the Range but most will find a way to blame them or at the very least it must be Bush’s fault.

    • DFL, GOP, or Know-Nothing control of the Range is irrelevant to its decline. The economic and social course of Range history is absolutely typical of extraction based economies, and will continue to follow the same course as long as it continues to emphasize extraction.

      Extraction economies always start strongly while the bonanza is being maximally exploited, but decline and crash as the resources are exhausted. In mineral mining, that decline has been exaggerated by technical improvements in extraction and processing. Fewer and fewer miners are needed to return the profits to owners located in remote places around the globe. Workers who are on site or nearby are increasingly people with high tech skills, often imported from far away and even overseas.

      Although the economic course of the Range extraction industries is independent of the party in power, the existence of programs from transportation to education and health care to local government aid are critical to the people living on the Range, and in those areas there is no comparison between the parties. The GOP opposes all those programs in favor of tax give backs and cuts, while the DFL supports those programs for the benefit of the people who need and use them, and are willing to ask for 2 cents more on the dollar from the top 2% and for fair taxes from corporations headquartered from Arkansas to Chile to pay for them.

      • David Gray says

        The idea that how an area or region is governed is utterly irrelevant to what happens economically in a region is another novel idea and devoid of merit. There may be limits as to what governance can achieve but it is hardly a pointless endeavor.

  6. The DFL has controlled the board of IRRRB with millions of dollars to invest in our area, how have they done? No body opposes education, how we go about spending the hundreds of millions on it in the State is up for debate. As far as health care the redundancy of the programs and wasteful spending plus poor delivery need to be cleaned up. Our version of Obamacare is a joke, premiums are rising, deductibles are sky high and Doctor preference is all but out. The answer for liberals is always the same, more money paid by other folks. Sometimes it is not the money, it is the poor policies that hurt folks.
    I am always amazed when folks who have voted the same way for yrs and have a total DFL dominated area but blame the GOP for its problems. Detroit comes to mind, along with the Range.

    • Gerald S says

      Thank you. That illustrates my point perfectly. For conservatives, there is always an argument for cutting programs and spending in order to create tax givebacks.

      • David Gray says

        And you seem to be proving the point that for the left (better not to call them liberals as in most cases they are highly illiberal) there is no amount of money for education which is ultimately sufficient. The DFL idol of Education Minnesota must receive continual gifts and submission lest the idol become angry with its servants.

        • Gerald S says

          Sorry to confuse you. Just to review, the Iron Range is based on an extraction economy. The main resource ran out 70 years ago. Any politician (or observer) who tells you they can restore that extraction economy through some magic is lying.

          Once that resource is gone, the economic decline is inevitable.

          Since this all seems to surprise you, I will also tell you that the GOP did not cause the oil boom in North Dakota either, any more than Putin caused the oil and gas boom in Russia. Neither of them caused the bust that is happening now either.

          This is all just basic economics, regardless of whether it surprises you or not.

          Politicians can help soften the blow from the collapse of an extraction based economy, and we could argue forever whether that blow has been softened on the Range, but assessing that is much more complex than assessing the obvious bell curve of the rise and fall of the iron mines, and the associated economic impact on both sides of the curve.

          • David Gray says

            The facts on the ground don’t surprise me, just your attempts to dodge the subject. And having watched you for a bit that doesn’t really surprise me all that much. The idea that governance doesn’t matter in terms of economic development of an area is laughable. Why you wish to promote that idea is easily understood when you look at local governance on the Range and who the Range has tended to send to St. Paul.

          • Not at all true that I am suggesting that politics does not impact economic performance. The comparison between the disaster that is Wisconsin and the success that is Minnesota in the last five years suggests that differences in political management may be at least partly responsible. Wisconsin’s economy is not “second to none.” It is 40th to 39 other states and about 30 to 35 behind Minnesota. The same can be said about comparing the greater success of the US since the recession to Britain’s performance.

            The point is that the Range is a special case and is separate from Minnesota as a whole. The collapse of the iron industry is by far the most important factor in the story of declining economic status and population, and is such a large factor that it overwhelms underlying events and reduces their impact to the level where it is hard to tell it from statistical noise. Did the the DFL management of the Range make things better than they would have been without it, and did things like the Delta reservation center and the new funding for the highway 53 project have a significant positive impact? Or did the DFL make things worse, as illustrated by things like the chopsticks factory and the tire recycling plant? It is hard to argue intelligently either way because of the huge impact of the collapse of the extraction economy compared with these smaller changes.

            A confirmed DFLer like Tom Bakk would probably argue that he is making things better, while a confirmed conservative like you would probably argue that that is not true.

            As I said, to remove the confusion from your argument, all you have to do is look at North Dakota or Texas. Did the GOP governments of those states cause their current financial problems that are accompanying the collapse of oil prices? I think any fair observer might say that some of the decisions made about government funding and state financial policy might be having a negative impact or could be having a positive impact, but that the main problem is international oil prices and is totally outside the ability of local politicians to have any impact.

            The Range is the same. The exhaustion of the red ore, and its replacement by taconite which has difficulty competing on international markets because of much higher costs of production and because of its poor suitability as a source for many specialized steel operations is the main problem, and no political decision can change that.

            In fact, your citation of Detroit and its problems following the crash of the US auto industry due to disastrously poor management suggests that the Range politicians may have done a good job. We are manifestly not Detroit, and perhaps the political management, though unable to bring back the red ore boom days, actually did a good job of not turning the Range into a bombed out wreckage.

            Who knows? I don’t, and I am certain you don’t, given the lack of grounding in facts that your argument is based on, and the naive argument that “the Range is having trouble. The DFL controls the Range. Therefore the troubles are due to the DFL.”

          • David Gray says

            A lack of understanding is not enhanced by being long winded, rather it exacerbates the problem.

  7. Nobody said anything about cutting money or tax give backs. I know it is a huge talking point for libs but that is not the debate. It is about spending it more wisely. We collect plenty of money on a Federal and State level it is the wasteful spending and the left’s silly assumption that more money solves all ills. Again, after 50 yrs of DFL dominance in one area that has not produced any improvement, which I hear steady on this site, how is it the GOP’s fault. It is not the billions we collect, it is the policies that hurt the very folks the left claims to care about, hard working Americans in this case hard working Rangers.

  8. “Nobody said anything about cutting money or tax give backs.”

    Sorry, not true.

    Cutting spending and “saving” the surplus for tax givebacks are the main platform of the GOP majority in the State House.

    They specifically tried to end MNCare, a program that serves thousand of people on the Range, in order to save money. They cut the money for the state university tuition freeze out of the budget in order to save money, increasing costs for college and making it harder for working class kids to attend. They tried to cut spending for K-12 below the inflation level – effectively a decrease in money – in order to save money. They tried to cut funding for Local Government Aid, including $20 million for Duluth, in order to save money. Those cuts were blocked by Dayton and the DFL.

    The GOP has held education spending below the 1998 level in real dollars, with a partial restoration passed by the DFL in 2013 and more planned, but cut off by the GOP. If you subtract the cost of federally mandated special ed spending – originally fully funded by the feds but defunded by Ronald Reagan – K-12 spending is under 1970 levels in real dollars. When the GOP had control they cut education spending deeply, causing funding crises for many school districts, and cut higher ed spending so deeply that the historically mandated formula of students paying 33% of costs and the state paying 67% was reversed to require that students pay 67%.

    Although they have proposed tiny tax givebacks – in the range of $50 a year – for the next two years for middle class people, almost all the planned tax cuts the GOP is endorsing are in two programs. The first is the estate tax, which does not apply to anyone who has less than a million dollars and has exemptions for family farms and small businesses. The second is the state property tax, a tax that applies only to large corporations, and serves as a way for Minnesota to tax large companies doing business in the state but who shuffle paper to move taxable income out of the state and even out of the country to avoid paying any tax.

    MNsure, the Minnesota Obamacare program, has had glitches, as did social security and Medicare when they were rolled out, but has led to a drop of over 60% in the number of uninsured Minnesotans. Minnesotans pay the lowest rates for health insurance in the country under MNsure, and that is before the federal subsidies lower costs even more. People buying private insurance under MNsure have a wide choice of deductibles and co-pays, but can pay as little as 10% and have a cap on total expenditures. A majority of people who were insured through MNsure pay no deductibles at all, and no one pays deductibles for preventive care. Although it is possible that some of the private insurers may force people to use in-network providers, I know for a fact that the three major provider groups in this area – Essentia, the St. Luke’s system, and the U of M/Fairview system – all accept all payers and are on all networks. I have never talked to anyone in this area who was forced to change doctors because of MNsure coverage.

    Nationally, Obamacare has resulted in the lowest increases in health costs in history, with costs for Medicare actually growing at less than the general inflation rate last year, effectively decreasing. In states where the GOP has not blocked people from benefitting from the program, it has resulted in millions of people getting affordable health care. A recent survey by Fox News to find Obamacare users who were unhappy failed to turn up a single one, but received thousands of spontaneous comments about how wonderful it has been. 80% of REPUBLICANS who use Obamacare say they are happy with the program, a rate of satisfaction that is about 50% higher than the rate of satisfaction with private and employer provided insurance.

    So no, it is not true that “nobody is saying anything about cutting money or tax give backs.” You are sweeping it under the rug, but the GOP is pushing ahead full steam. And no, it is not true that the DFL/Democrat programs for health care, education, and other areas are not working.

  9. So our education system is working well? Graduation rates are dropping, test scores are lower and we are producing less engineers and highly skilled workers. We are spending 520M more over the next 2 yrs for education here in MN, how is over 1/2 billion dollars more a cut? That is ridiculous! Higher premiums, higher deductibles and less choice in health care providers is a success to you? Mnsure had some glitches is like saying the Hindenburg had a tough landing. 6 yrs of Obama and middle class wages are lower than when he took over. I am sure that is The GOP’s fault too. As it has been proven many times over more money can’t over ride bad policy.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.