Last week, voters in Minnesota House District 17A received a postcard praising Representative Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, who the "Coalition of Minnesota Businesses (CMB) . . .a non-partisan, grassroots organization comprised of 11 employer groups" claims "puts our students first."
Miller's actual history on education funding is a much less rosy story (more on this later in the post), and two of the photos on the postcard might be telling us more about Miller's priorities than the Coalition of Minnesota Businesses knows.
What were Tim Miller's photos really about?
Looking at the photos on the right of the card (image embedded below), Bluestem thought we'd seen them before and were puzzled why any graphic designer would place them on mail piece touting a lawmaker's education record.
Both images are taken from publicly visible images on the Tim Miller Minnesota 17A campaign Facebook page. The top photo was posted on the page September 8, 2014 (when Miller was not yet in office) with the caption:
Thanks to Kim Gorans (Gorans Farms) and George Rehm (Discovery Farms) for discussing with Torrey Westrom and me the challenges of animal ag here in WC MN. They did amazing research on water runoff.
The Discovery Farms Minnesota program is funded by grants provided by the Minnesota Corn Research and Promotion Council, Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, and Minnesota Turkey Research and Promotion Council to the Minnesota Agricultural Water Resources Center (MAWRC). The Minnesota Department of Agriculture "provides Clean Water Funding for monitoring equipment and technical staff," according to the program's website, while the also has received a grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
Whatever the nature of the water runoff related to animal ag that the gentlemen discussed in this campaign photo, the photo doesn't illustrate Miller's alleged devotion to pre-K-12 and post-secondary education or providing more money for public education.
Here's the screengrab:
The second photo is likewise devoted to an ag topic, rather than education. On May 5, 2015, a photo of Representative Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, Miller, Governor Mark Dayton, and Representative Dave Baker was posted on the Miller campaign Facebook page with the following caption:
This photo was snapped at another non-education funding event, the GOP Rural Caucus's free turkey burger cookout at the height of Minnesota's 2015 avian flu pandemic. The free food was intended to make consumers confident that the nasty, turkey-destroying disease wasn't a threat to people who ate turkey.
These photos aren't about education. They're about ag.
Except when it comes to flipping burgers, Tim Miller appears to loathe the popular governor, bashing him whenever possible. At the 2016 Republican Seventh Congressional District convention, Miller advocated flipping the Minnesota Senate, making it a quest against Dayton:
. . .this year we can win the Minnesota senate back and the house and senate can make the next two years the most miserable years in Governor Dayton’s life.
Lovely and generous vision of governing there, indeed.
Here's the postcard itself:
Here's a photo of the front of the same postcard, with the name and photos changed, sent to voters in House District 11B, represented by freshman Jason Rarick, R-Pine City, who defeated incumbent DFLer Tim Faust in 2014:
How special is that?
GOP bills: the real Miller record on education
Since the postcard recycles the "historic education funding" talking point of the MN Jobs Coalition postcard examined in Appleton man flays Minnesota Jobs Coalition junk mail; BS blizzard buries Willmar mailboxes, it's worth reviewing how that funding came about. Hint: it wasn't because of the House Republicans. Appleton attorney Brian Wojtalewicz wrote:
In the 2015 legislative session, Tim Miller and his House Republican colleagues did not fight for $500 million in increased education funding. The Republican majority’s education finance bill that Tim Miller voted for did not even keep pace with inflation. Had Tim Miller had his way, it would have led to teacher layoffs and would have short-changed our schools and particularly our pre-schools.
At the end of the legislative session, Governor Dayton vetoed the education finance bill. He sent it back to the legislature stating that his approval required a real investment in our schools. Due to Tim Miller’s actions, we were forced to pay for a costly special legislative session; which brought us about a week away from a government shutdown. Governor Dayton fought for and won this increased funding in the special session education finance bill despite Tim Miller; not because of Tim Miller . . .
Just before the vote on the soon-to-be-vetoed bill, the Mankato Times reported:
Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, added an amendment (HF 1546) Student Physical Privacy Act, which passed by voice vote, to require students to use the bathrooms, locker rooms and changing rooms appropriate to their birth gender, following a recent Minnesota State High School League policy change.
Authored by Rep. Jennifer Loon (R- Eden Prairie) House File 844 would increase state funding for Early Learning and K-12 programs by $157 million – less than 1% over current levels – in order to accommodate House Republicans’ goal of lowering taxes by $2 billion. This is the lowest figure among two other proposals by the DFL led Senate and Governor Mark Dayton.
The Senate has proposed $350 million in new spending; Dayton has proposed an additional $695 million, most of which would be for his top priority of offering universal preschool for all 4-year-olds in the state. . . .
The DFL says that [the bill's] overall 1.2 percent increase to the state’s per-pupil funding formula is too small and doesn’t keep up with inflation. As a result, they say it will force schools to cut programs, increase class sizes and force the layoffs of teachers.
They also say that projections show that changes to Early Learning Scholarships contained in H.F. 844 would lead to a 41% decrease in the number of students being served by the program. The bill raises the state’s school funding formula by .6% and caps future funds aimed at students most at risk of falling behind in school.
The Grand Forks Herald reported in $17 billion education bill finalized in Minnesota, with $525 million added:
With the date and content of an upcoming special session still unsettled, the Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton did reveal significant agreement on the next Minnesota budget on Friday. . . .
The final bill is closer to the nearly $700 million in new money Dayton wanted than the $150 million House Republicans initially proposed.
“It’s worth it, $125 million for the extra few weeks,” said Sen. Charles Wiger, DFL-Maplewood, Senate Education Committee chair. “When you look at where the House started, I’m pleased. I admire the governor’s tenacity.”
More than half the new money, $350 million, will go toward increasing by 2 percent a year the per pupil funding formula schools use for general operations. The base per-student funding schools receive will grow from $5,831 this year to $6,067 in 2017. School officials said increasing that funding was among their top priorities this year. . . .
The final bill also includes several policy changes, including streamlining the process for licensing teachers. It does not include controversial changes to teacher seniority rules for layoffs or a requirement that transgender students use bathrooms based on their sex at birth. Republicans had pushed for those provisions.
The bathroom language was Miller's contribution, not the "historic" increase in funding. That came from Dayton and the DFL.
In 2016, Session Daily reported in House passes omnibus education bill with limited funding, controversial policy:
An omnibus education bill with $56 million in additional funding for E-12 education and no funding for higher education passed the House Monday, 84-46. Rep. Jim Knoblach (R-St. Cloud) sponsors HF2749, which he said will also serve as the overarching supplemental budget bill for the House.
With zero budget targets for E-12 and higher education, most of the bill’s funding comes from a provision allowing school districts to repay and refinance high-interest state “maximum effort” loans. The funding targets “critical needs” of school districts, including $16.8 million to address teacher shortages, said Rep. Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie), who chairs the House Education Finance Committee.
Despite the bill’s funding for teacher workforce development, rural broadband and a variety of other programs, House leadership’s zero targets for education drew strong criticism by DFLers — as did several of the bill’s policy provisions.
David Montgomery reported in the Pioneer Press article, Mark Dayton signs bill adding $300 million to Minnesota’s budget:
Minnesota will spend more money on broadband access, preschool education and combating racial disparities under a supplemental budget signed Wednesday by Gov. Mark Dayton.
The budget adds $300 million in spending to Minnesota’s $42 billion two-year budget, which lawmakers passed in 2015.
Dayton and legislative Democrats had pushed hard for up to $700 million in new spending in the bill, while Republicans proposed no new spending. . . .
Are Republicans putting students first? Pushing for more funding for schools? For more pre-kindergarten programs? That would make a cat laugh.
Perhaps that's why the Coalition for Minnesota Business couldn't find a photo on Tim Miller's campaign Facebook page that illustrated that he was actually working for those priorities.
Voters will probably never know who paid CMB for this postcard
Aside from the legislator's name and three photos related to the freshman legislator, we're told it's the same junk mail the Coalition of Minnesota Businesses mailed praising Republican incumbents in competitive races around the state, according to our source. The "non-partisan" group didn't send any mailers praising DFLers who took the same votes on education funding bills signed by the governor in 2015 and 2016.
While the CMB does have a political action committee (PAC) and this piece includes the disclaimer that the piece is "Not authorized by any candidate or any candidate committee," the postcard will count as a "issue" communication since it doesn't tell us to vote for Representative Miller in the fall and it was sent by the non-profit "grassroots" organization, not the PAC.
This practice is completely legal under current state law, though Bluestem is betting few of our neighbors see this postcard as anything other than support for Miller's re-election. We just won't know where CMB gets its money for these postcards.
If 2014 is to be the model for this year's CMB PAC spending, the "grassroots" group's PAC will get a wallet erection beginning mid-month and continuing through the general election in November. The 2014 pre-primary report listed $171.97 cash on hand, with on the September 2014 pre-general report revealing $143,000.00 coming in from other business PACs and the House Republican Campaign Committee (HRCC). The HRCC contribution was $76,000.00 in in-kind polling data, which was very generous of the GOP caucus committee to give that sort of thing to a non-partisan group.
The October 2014 pre-general and the year-end filing reported showed that cash and in-kind giving to the committee jumped to $440,775.00 for the year--much to independent expenditures ($342,139.42).
As of the 2016 pre-primary report, the PAC has $280.65 cash on hand, unchanged from the May report.
Photos: Tim Miller, from his Facebook page (top); Miller and Torrey Westrom meeting with farmers in 2014 (middle); Same postcard template, customized for Jason Rarick.
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