poligraph-accurateGov. Mark Dayton released details of his two-year budget and his transportation funding plan earlier this week, and predictably hyperbole was in no shortage at the Capitol.

Democrats called it a wonderful spending plan, while Republicans say it spends too much and doesn’t reform anything.

This week, PoliGraph checked claims from both sides of the aisle about some of Dayton’s spending priorities.

Starting with transportation, the state transportation commissioner said bad roads are destroying our vehicles.

  1. Listen Poligraph: Jan. 30

“There’s as much car damage and truck damage that equals approximately $1.2 billion a year – that’s $396 per motorist,” – MNDOT Commissioner Charlie Zelle during a press conference to Dayton’s $10 billion transportation funding plan.

The data Zelle is talking about can be traced back to TRIP, a transportation research non-profit funded by unions, engineers, insurance companies and an array of other groups with a stake in U.S. road conditions.

Rocky Moretti, the group’s director of policy and research said that their information comes from an array of government sources and AAA.

“As pavement conditions worsen, vehicles operate less efficiently because of the rougher driving surfaces, which increase operating costs in four areas,” Moretti wrote in an email. The most recent numbers break down as follows:

  • Accelerated depreciation:  $184
  • Increased maintenance:  $101
  • Increased fuel consumption:  $64
  • Increased tire wear:  $20.

That adds up to about $369 a year – which is slightly less than the $396 Zelle cited, but Moretti said those numbers may be slightly out of date.

Another relatively recent report pegs individual costs at about $347 a year per driver.

So while Zelle’s numbers are slightly off, and a large chunk of the consumer cost is from accelerated depreciation – not a repair cost but a cost to consumers nevertheless – his claim is mostly accurate.

On spending, a Republican House leader said Gov. Dayton is doing too much of it.

“The budget he’s putting forward today increases spending $1,244 per every man, woman and child. That’s $5,000 for a family of four – an all funds budget of more than $7 billion dollar increase.” – GOP House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin at a press conference responding to Dayton’s $42 billion budget.

Peppin, who is a Republican from Rogers, is among the House’s staunchest opponents of big government. Her claim is meant to illustrate how Dayton’s spending plan breaks down per capita, not how much it will literally cost each person living in Minnesota.

Peppin’s math is right, but she’s basing it off of the state’s overall budget – not the general fund budget, which Dayton detailed earlier this week and is typically what we hear about most during the biannual budget debate because it relies on regular appropriations.

The “all funds” budget includes dedicated funding like the money raised by hunting and fishing licenses and the legacy funding from the recent sales tax increase in the state constitution.

It also includes the Trunk Highway Fund, where revenue from the gas tax and tab fees is collected and distributed to transportation projects. Dayton’s transportation plan includes a significant tax increase for transportation.

Funds like this are typically on auto-pilot unless the Legislature decides to alter them. But the Legislature still approves those funds every budget cycle, and when Dayton signs the bill, it includes these funds, too.

A spokesman for the state’s finance department Minnesota Management and Budget says Peppin’s statement does not factor in the complexity of the state budget, especially when she mixes other funds with the general fund.

“We would not use this methodology to describe the state budget,” said MMB spokesman John Pollard. “It does not factor in natural growth, inflation, population increases, or additional federal funds.”

Pollard also notes that some people’s taxes will fall under Dayton’s proposal.

But it was clear Peppin was calculating an average.  And that gives her enough leeway for this test to find her claim is correct.

Denise Cardinal, a long time political operative who helped form the liberal group Alliance for a Better Minnesota, is headed back to raise money for the group.

Cardinal said this morning that she’s been hired to run Win Minnesota, the fundraising arm for Alliance for a Better Minnesota.

Cardinal will replace Adam Duininck, whom Gov. Mark Dayton has appointed to chair the Metropolitan Council.

Cardinal started Alliance for a Better Minnesota in 2007. It’s been seen as a national model for Democratic organizations. She left the organization in 2010 after Dayton was elected governor.

Win Minnesota and the Alliance for a Better Minnesota have been instrumental in helping Democrats win state and federal elections over the past decade.

You can read our 2012 story about the organization here.

In her new role with Win Minnesota, Cardinal will work with the group’s chief backers including Alida Messinger (Mark Dayton’s ex-wife), labor unions and other prominent donors. She will also have to navigate the new political world that includes Super PACs and other non-profit groups that don’t have to disclose their fundraising and spending.

In the 2014 campaign, several Republican groups including Minnesota Action Network, which is run by former Sen. Norm Coleman, and Americans for Prosperity Minnesota, which was funded by the Koch Brothers, played a big part in helping Republicans win control of the Minnesota House.

Those groups do not have to disclose their fundraising and spending.

Cardinal says she’ll start her new role in about a month.

Good morning!

In Minnesota

A bill introduced in the Minnesota House would keep any videos recorded by police body cameras private, alarming those who say it would hinder efforts to hold police accountable. (MPR News)

The Republican Party of Minnesota has agreed to pay a $26,000 fine to settle federal campaign finance reporting violations. (AP via Pioneer Press)

The top Democrat in the Minnesota Senate is raising doubts about whether a big bonding bill is needed this session. (MPR News)

A package of proposals to reform family law in Minnesota are the result of more than a decade of negotiations capped with difficult but successful compromise, a group of bipartisan lawmakers said Thursday. (Star Tribune)

A Minnesota lawmaker wants to make it harder for parents to leave their children unvaccinated. (Pioneer Press)

Sen. David Tomassoni, facing criticism for taking a job as executive director of an organization that lobbies the Legislature, is being represented in the matter before a state board by an attorney who is also a registered lobbying. (Star Tribune)

National Politics

The Senate approved legislation mandating construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, setting the stage for a veto showdown with President Obama. Minnesota’s two Democratic senators voted no. (Washington Post)

Obama will ask for more a seven percent federal budget increase next week, setting off another potential fiscal fight with Republicans. (New York Times)

The Obama administration will request $1 billion in funding for American Indian education, including millions for school construction desperately needed at schools like one in Minnesota. (MinnPost)

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is doing all the things a potential Republican presidential candidate might do. (Washington Post)

At this point, pretty much every Republican in the Senate is running for President. The latest candidate: South Carolina’s Lindsay Graham. (Politico)

A new report from a prominent environmental think tank says government efforts to promote biofuels have been a misguided idea that has raised food prices and done little or even harm to the environment. (New York Times)

Falling crop prices are raising cost projections for new farm programs even before producers have signed up this spring. (Politico)