Former State Senator Ellen Anderson has been serving as PUC Commissioner for nearly a year. It appears it wasn’t Anderson’s record as Commissioner that Republicans objected to (most of the votes on the PUC during her tenure have been unanimous), but her past work as a Senator where she advocated against “dirty energy”.
In response to the Senate Republican’s rejection of Public Utilities Commission Chair Ellen Anderson today, Governor Mark Dayton issued the following statement:
“A very good person, a very dedicated public servant, and an excellent Chair of the Public Utilities Commission was wrongly maligned and cruelly rejected today by Republican Senators, who showed once again that they are unfit to govern this state.
You would think after their leadership scandals, which caused them to replace all of their leaders last month, they would behave themselves for at least a little while. However, they seem incapable of doing so. After it was disclosed that they had ignored a $2.6 million reduction in their own operating budget during the past six months, the Republican Caucus hired a new Communications Director at a salary $10,000 above his predecessor. And they picked someone, a decent man, who now has a very serious conflict of interest as a University of Minnesota Regent, which he won’t acknowledge and they won’t deal with – thus sullying the good reputation of our great university.
Last week, their very first week back in session, the Senate Republican leaders addressed their deficit by cutting DFL Senators’ share of the budget almost half-a-million dollars, while cutting theirs…zero. Zero. They did it after their new Leader said the Senate was “like family.” Some family.
Now, to begin their second week, they have smeared and rejected an outstanding public official. They claim PUC Chair Anderson is “too extreme.” Her record proves them wrong. Since she joined the PUC, there have been 221 votes among the five commissioners, the other four of whom were all appointed by Governor Pawlenty. Three of them are Republicans.
204 of those 221 votes were unanimous. Of the 17 divided votes, only six times did Chair Anderson vote in the minority. That’s less than 3% of all votes taken. It also means that she voted with the majority on 215 of 221 votes, or 97% of the time. How is that extreme?
I’ll tell you what is extreme. As Chair of the Senate Tax Committee, Senator Julianne Ortman, who leveled the charge of being “too extreme” against Ellen, is the one person most to blame for eliminating the Homestead Market Value Credit last year. She put the credit’s elimination in the first tax bill, which I vetoed. During the final negotiations in both June and July, she, more than anyone, insisted on eliminating it.
The St. Cloud Times recently reported that Senator Ortman’s elimination of the Homestead Tax Credit cost Xcel Energy more than $40 million in higher property taxes. Those higher operating costs will mean higher utility rates for all Xcel customers. Senator Ortman caused property taxes to soar higher for many thousands of other Minnesota businesses and homeowners, as well. That is extreme.
During the eight years of Governor Pawlenty’s administration, then-Senator Anderson was the chief author of seven energy bills enacted into law, which means Governor Pawlenty signed all of them. Five of Senator Anderson’s bills passed with either unanimous or strong bi-partisan support.
The other two bills passed with divided votes, opposed by most Republicans. Let’s look at what the bills did. One says that utilities’ travel, entertainment, and related employee expenses cannot be charged to their customers, when the PUC decides they are unreasonable or unnecessary. In other words, the Anderson law helps reduce utility costs for Minnesotans by preventing unnecessary expenses from being added to their bills.
All 19 Republican Senators and 32 Republican Representatives voted against it. 19 Republican House Members did vote for the bill. Which side was looking out for the best interests of the people of Minnesota?
The other controversial bill carried by then-Senator Anderson required the State to develop a comprehensive plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent (from 2005 levels) by 2015, 30 percent by 2025, and 80 percent by 2050. 20 Republican Senators and 36 Republican Representatives voted against it. 8 Republican House Members voted for the bill.
Someone should ask the people of Minnesota whether they think reducing greenhouse gas emissions for the sake of ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren is “extreme.” Or whether its opponents are the ones who are “extreme.”
Finally, Governor Pawlenty appointed seven people to the PUC during his two terms. Four were Republicans; two were Democrats; and one was an Independent.
A DFL-controlled Senate confirmed all seven of those appointees. Four of them serve on the PUC today. I have had one appointment, who by law, had to be a Democrat. I appointed an outstanding person, experienced, dedicated, and hard-working. Now she has been denied the chance to serve.
A year ago, Republican legislators came into the majority vowing to improve the way the legislature and the rest of state government function. So far, they have done just the opposite.
We were all elected by the people of Minnesota to work together and to get Minnesota working again – to create jobs, not take them away – and certainly not to engage in mean-spirited partisan stunts.
Republican Senators tried to demean Ellen Anderson today; instead they demeaned themselves. Once again, they showed Minnesotans who they really are.
They are too extreme to lead.”
Video of the full debate on the Senate floor: