PoliGraph: MN Action Network flier omits key details

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.