WASHINGTON – This week was supposed to be “Education Week” in the U.S. House. And it was educational, just not in the way that Republican leaders had intended when the centerpiece of their efforts, the Student Success Act authored by 2nd District U.S. Rep. John Kline, was pulled from the floor in the middle of debate.

The move was a consequence both of the down to the wire struggle among Republicans to find a consensus on how to fund the Department of Homeland Security and of lobbying by conservative groups that argued Kline’s bill did not go far enough.

House Republicans have struggled to find the votes among their caucus to keep the Department of Homeland Security funded beyond a midnight deadline. DHS was funded on a short-term basis as part of a GOP attempt to challenge the Obama Administration’s executive orders on immigration. That effort has continued in fits and starts throughout Friday and the House now appears set to pass a three week extension of DHS funding before evening.

Kline’s bill is an attempt to rewrite the 2002 No Child Left Behind Education law. The measure would rein in the Department of Education’s ability to use to federal funds to push for changes to state education systems and cut and consolidate a number of federal programs.

The Obama Administration threatened to veto the bill if enacted, calling it, “a significant step backwards” because it would allow states to divert education money from poor-performing schools. Most House Democrats appeared set to oppose the bill.

Still, the legislation wasn’t conservative enough for outside groups such as Heritage Action and the Club for Growth.

“The proposal has only modest reforms, and worse, it contains no meaningful reduction in overall spending. Absent a plan that terminates No Child Left Behind, House members should demand that the bill allow states to completely opt out of the program,” wrote Club for Growth Vice President Andy Roth in a letter to House members urging them to oppose the bill.

“It is first and foremost a scheduling issue,” said Kline, when asked about the delay outside of the House chamber, referring to the debate over Homeland Security funding.

But Kline acknowledged that rounding up the votes in favor of the bill had been a challenge.

“I don’t know what the whip count is. I know that it is close,” said Kline.

House leaders have given no indication if the bill will return to the floor next week or if it will require changes to increase its appeal to conservatives.

In a statement issued later in the afternoon, Kline said he expected the House would take up the bill again “soon.”

PoliGraph: MisleadingIf you didn’t think Gov. Mark Dayton’s decision to raise pay for his commissioners would be a 2016 campaign issue, think again.

At least one political group is already minting and sending fliers to Senate districts where Democrats will be up for re-election next year.

One is landing in the mailboxes of Sen. Melisa Franzen’s constituents. Franzen is a Democrat from Edina.

Minnesota wages are flat, but political appointees are getting pay raises thanks to legislation supported by Senator Melisa Franzen,” the flier from the GOP-backed Minnesota Action Network flier reads. “This wasn’t the only time she voted to give politicians a pay raise.”

According to the flier, Franzen voted to increase her own by 35 percent and for a constitutional amendment to make it easier to raise legislative pay.

The Minnesota Action Network flier doesn’t tell the whole story about Franzen’s voting record.

The Evidence

The Minnesota Action Network’s flier is going out in six districts that Republicans think they have a shot of winning in 2016, including Franzen’s as well the district of Sen. Leroy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer.

For this fact-check, PoliGraph will focus on Franzen’s record.

The Franzen flier – and the others the group sent out – cite several votes cast during the 2013 legislative session.

They include one in favor of a bill that gave the governor  the authority to raise state commissioner’s pay within salary ranges approved by the Legislature. Franzen also voted for an earlier version of the bill that would have required that “the salary of each member of the legislature is equal to 33 percent of the salary authorized for the governor,” but that language was ultimately dropped from the final version of the bill.

And then there’s the vote Franzen cast in favor of putting a constitutional amendment on the 2016 ballot that will read: “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to remove state lawmakers’ power to set their own salaries, and instead establish an independent, citizens-only council to prescribe salaries for lawmakers?”

Some Republicans voted for the constitutional amendment, too.

Much like the Minnesota Action Network’s flier argues, many Republicans say that if voters approve the amendment, the new pay commission would almost certainly approve a pay bump for legislators.

But there’s no way to predict what the pay commission will do.

The Minnesota Action Network flier also leaves out some important information about Franzen’s subsequent votes.

First, Franzen voted for a bill to modify the ballot question that’s meant to ensure that legislators have no say in how much they make. For instance, the governor and the state’s Supreme Court chief justice will pick who is on the committee. And members can’t be lobbyists, current or former legislators or the spouse of a current legislator.

And Franzen voted twice to delay Dayton’s commissioner pay increase until June 30, 2015 and to give the Legislature the authority to decide commissioner pay after that (though that second vote came after the Minnesota Action Network flier was mailed).

At this point, there’s no telling what decision Dayton will make about reinstating commissioner pay on July 1, 2015.

The Verdict

There’s truth to the Minnesota Action Network flier: Franzen did vote to change the way commissioner and legislative pay is decided.

But the flier doesn’t tell the whole story.

For instance, Franzen didn’t vote on how much state commissioners would get – only that they could get a pay increase if the governor decided to do it. And she’s since shifted gears on the issue, voting to delay those pay increases for several months.

And the entire debate over the pay increases that the 2013 vote by the Legislature didn’t give Mark Dayton the authority to raise pay; it gave the authority to the governor. Had a Republican defeated Dayton in 2014 that person would have made the decisions on the raises.

And while Franzen did vote for a bill that would have given herself and other legislators a raise, that language didn’t become law.

As a result, the Minnesota Action Network’s flier earns a misleading.

PoliGraph: MisleadingAt one point, Republicans on the committee steered the conversation toward their concern over the size of the Governor’s roughly $42 billion two-year budget.

  1. Listen Poligraph: Feb. 27

Rep. Linda Runbeck, R-Circle Pines, said she recognized Minnesota is different from Illinois, but she implied that Minnesota could take its budgeting cues from Illinois.

“The state of Illinois is making some big cuts in their state budget,” she said. “It shocked me to find out that they have a population of 12.8 million and their current budget is at $38 billion.”

Runbeck’s statement doesn’t make much sense in context.

The Evidence

Parts of Runbeck’s statement are accurate.

For instance, there are about 12.8 million people living in Illinois.

And it’s true that the state’s newly elected Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner is proposing big budget cuts to close the state’s $6 billion budget gap without raising taxes.

Runbeck clarified that she was talking about Illinois’ projected budget growth to $38 billion. Rauner’s 2016 budget proposal would trim spending to $31.5 billion.

But it’s difficult to compare Minnesota’s budget situation to Illinois’ for a number of reasons.

In part, because Minnesota has a $1 billion budget surplus, while Illinois has a deficit.

And Illinois budgets on a one-year cycle, while Minnesota budgets on a two-year cycle.

To do an apples-to-apples comparison, it makes more sense to look at how much Dayton is proposing the state spends annually – and in that case, it’s far less than Illinois at roughly $20.8 billion for fiscal year 2016.

But annually, Dayton’s proposed general fund budget would spend more than Illinois per capita.

If the Legislature passes Dayton’s plan, the state would spend roughly $3,700 annually per person. If the Illinois legislature approves Rauner’s plan, the state would spend $2,500 per person.

Runbeck said she knows it’s difficult to do an apples-to-apples comparison of the two states. She’s mostly impressed with Rauner’s decision to cut spending so aggressively.

“We’re always talking about MN budget, but we never do a compare and contrast,” she told PoliGraph.

The Verdict

While what Runbeck said is technically accurate, her mention of Illinois implies that Minnesota ‘s general fund budget is enormous by comparison.

But that comparison is a poor one because Illinois has a one-year budget, while Minnesota’s covers two years.

For taking the situation out of context, Runbeck’s claim earns a misleading.