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In Minnesota

Is Minnesota headed towards another government shutdown? (Pioneer Press)

The GOP’s tax cut plans are hurting the party’s other goal of trying to build support in outstate Minnesota. (Star Tribune)

The Republican-controlled Minnesota House passed an education bill Saturday with a $157 million increase in the hopes that the additional funding is the key to a budget agreement with Democrats. (Pioneer Press)

With only a few weeks left in the legislative session and with no end in sight to a debate over transportation funding, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is raising new questions about how much money the state needs for road and bridge construction. (MPR News)

Democrats have beaten back Republican efforts to dismantle MNsure. (Pioneer Press)

The PoliGraph comes down hard on some claims about climate change made by a Republican lawmaker. (MPR News)

Michael Brodkorb is done with partisan politics. (MinnPost)

National Politics

The Clinton Foundation acknowledged making “mistakes” but says it’s committed to transparency. (Washington Post)

Republicans are really struggling with how to handle gay marriage as a political issue. (New York Times)

Jeb Bush isn’t an official presidential candidate yet, but he reportedly told donors to his super PAC that they’re on track to raise $100 million for him by the end of May. (Washington Post)

Sen. Al Franken took a victory lap on MPR News to celebrate the end of the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner. (MPR News)

Franken played a key role in undermining the deal, says one outlet. (Roll Call)

And…Michele Bachmann was the butt of a joke made by President Obama during the White House Correspondents Association dinner over the weekend.  (NPR)

poligraph-falseDuring a state House debate on a jobs and energy bill this week, Democrats offered an amendment that would put the Legislature on record saying that climate change is real and that humans are causing it.

  1. Listen PoliGraph: April 24

Late in the debate, House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, quizzed a number of Republican representatives on their views on climate change.

Among them was Rep. Glen Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe, who has said in the past that he’s skeptical climate change is real. Thissen asked him if he thinks climate change is caused by human activity.

“I believe there are eminently qualified scientists who would disagree [that climate change is caused by human activity], and I agree with those scientists,” Gruenhagen said.

Gruenhagen has a right to his opinion, but his comments – and comments made by other Legislators during the debate – suggest the scientific community is divided on the topic.

That’s not true.

The Evidence

Gruenhagen clarified his comments in an email, writing that, “as a lay person I have become more and more convinced that science is not based on consensus and that theories need to be continually vetted and critiqued with the latest scientific info and discoveries.”

He pointed to several groups and articles to support his claim, including the International Climate Science Coalition and the Climate Science Coalition of America. Both groups have ties to other climate skeptic groups like the Heartland Institute, a think-tank that has received money from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.

He also pointed to a petition of more than 30,000 scientists who believe climate change isn’t real. But the petition has raised questions because it is old and it does not list the specialties or affiliations of the signatories. And of the signatories from Minnesota, none is a prominent climate scientist.

But the real problem with Gruenhagen’s comments is that there is strong consensus within the scientific community that studies changes in the earth’s climate.

A 2010 study shows that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is real and is very likely caused by human activity. A study published a year earlier among a wider array of scientists showed 82 percent agree that climate change is real and caused by human activity.

Moreover, the science is clear that climate change is happening.

Since 1998, the rate of warming has slowed. Possible explanations published by leading climate scientists in peer-reviewed journals include increased volcanic activity or variability in temperature oscillations in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

But that doesn’t change the fact that we’ve had some of the hottest years on record in the last decade.

In fact, the latest numbers from the National Climatic Data Center out this week show that the first quarter of this year is the warmest on record. According to the same data, 2014 was the warmest year to date – and that’s absent El Nino, which affected temperatures in 1998.

And in Minnesota, the scientific evidence is clear: Warming is changing our lives, businesses, landscapes, and environment.

The Verdict

Gruenhagen is entitled to his opinion. And PoliGraph isn’t saying that there aren’t any scientists – trained climatologists or otherwise – who disagree that human activity is leading to climate change.

But his statement casts doubt on the fact there is strong consensus among scientists that climate change is real and that it’s caused by human activity.

There is strong consensus, particularly among climate scientists, that Gruenhagen is mistaken.

 

With only a few weeks left in the legislative session and with no end in sight to a debate over transportation funding, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is raising new questions about how much money the state needs for road and bridge construction.

The group’s own analysis says that long-term funding needs may be overstated by as much as $4.5 billion over the next 20 years.

The analysis is based on a 2012 Transportation Finance Advisory Committee report that has served as the backbone of a largely DFL argument that the state needs $6 billion in new revenue over 10 years to support roads and bridge construction. Gov. Mark Dayton and DFL lawmakers have argued in favor of a new gas tax to generate the revenue.

“Since the beginning of this debate, many have called for an independent review of TFAC’s findings,” said Bentley Graves, director of transportation policy for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and spokesman for the business associations. “There is no doubt that additional investment is warranted, but this analysis raises a number of important questions for policy-makers and stakeholders to consider.”

The Chamber specifically points to a 5 percent inflation factor used by the Minnesota Department of Transportation to estimate funding needs. The report was prepared by Accenture.

“That’s at the upper end of inflation factors used by the Federal Highway Administration and others in assessing transportation needs,” the Chamber wrote in a press release. “Using a more reasonable 2.5 percent inflation factor, which is closer to what other organizations use, would reduce the projected $12 billion, 20-year unmet need for Minnesota roads and bridges by $4.5 billion.”

Senate Transportation Committee Chair Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, said the report was “cooked up.”

“It’s not a credible report at all,” Dibble said. “It’s a political document designed to achieve a political goal… to defeat the transportation bill.”

In 2008, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce played an instrumental role in overriding a veto of an increase in the gas tax by then Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Dayton and Senate Democrats support a more than $10 billion road, bridge and transit funding package that includes a new gas tax. But House Republicans are at the other end of the spectrum. Earlier this week, they passed a $7 billion transportation package that relies on general fund dollars and borrowing.

Dayton and other groups that back the new gas tax were not immediately available for comment.

You can read the Chamber’s entire analysis below.