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DULUTH DEBATE: Jeff Johnson Continues His ‘Say Anything’ Tour

In the third gubernatorial debate in Duluth, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson yet again proved he doesn’t know what he stands for and failed to provide any clear ideas for how he would improve Minnesota

Jeff Johnson, MPR Capitol View

Jeff Johnson, MPR Capitol View

At today’s gubernatorial debate in Duluth, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson continued his “Say Anything” tour and proved yet again that he doesn’t know what he stands for. During the debate, Commissioner Johnson continued to try to have it both ways on issues ranging from education to the minimum wage to support for the Iron Range, and still failed to provide any clear ideas for how he would improve Minnesota.


At today’s debate, Jeff Johnson continued to claim he never cut education funding.

Yet when Johnson was a legislator, he did vote to cut education funding, a fact cited by numerous Minnesota media outlets at the time. Johnson will also not commit to funding increases in the future, which puts programs like all-day kindergarten and early education in jeopardy.

  • “The bill cut education funding two percent from the current two-year budget. It also includes $437 million in payment shifts to school districts.” [MPR 05/23/03]
  • “The K-12 funding bill lawmakers agreed to on Thursday includes delaying some aid checks to districts. When those late payments come in, the state action amounts to a $185 million cut. But until that aid comes, school boards will have to accommodate more than $600 million in cuts.” [Star Tribune 05/26/03]
  • “Under the education funding bill, Early Childhood and Family Education (ECFE) programs statewide will see a 20 percent cut next year.” [MPR 05/30/03]

  • “Districts can also make up lost state aid next year by passing a transition levy. In most cases, that means an increase to property taxes.” [MPR 05/23/03]
  • The Star Tribune Editorial Board said it best: “It sets the stage for shortsighted disinvestment in education and for turning back the clock on efforts to equalize school funding.” [Star Tribune, 05/26/03]
  • The Star Tribune Editorial Board also talked about the impacts of Johnson’s vote, saying, “As school districts across the state are laying off favorite teachers, cutting back program offerings and increasing class sizes, taxpayers should ask themselves: Is this really the right direction for public schools?” [Star Tribune, 05/26/03]

Jeff Johnson also claimed today that schools shifts are “bad policy.”

Yet as a legislator Jeff Johnson voted for $1 billion in school payment shifts, while Governor Dayton paid back every penny owed to our schools.

  • School payment shifts Jeff Johnson voted for:

$437.5 million in FY02 05/29/02

$436.8 million for FY04-05  05/22/03

$217.6 million for FY06-07  07/13/05

Minimum wage

Jeff Johnson said again today he wouldn’t roll back the minimum wage and has accused those who said he would of telling “lies.”

Yet that’s exactly what Jeff Johnson told the Bemidji Pioneer in June, and during today’s debate he admitted the he “did not support the minimum wage.” As late as Sunday he was still trying to have it both ways on the issue, saying he opposes the minimum wage and will repeal it if he can, but just won’t try very hard. This would take away a badly-needed raise for 300,000 low-wage workers.

  • Johnson said he would have vetoed the minimum wage hike that Dayton pushed for and signed, and as governor would sign a repealer if one crossed his desk. But he said he would not make it a priority to roll back the increase already in law, which will raise wages to $9.50 by 2016. [Star Tribune, 10/12/14]

Iron Range Support

Jeff Johnson today expressed his strong support for the Iron Range.

Yet when he was a legislator he voted to raid Iron Range resources:

  • In 2003 Johnson voted to take $49 million dollars from the Range’s Minnesota Minerals 21st Century Fund (a fund that uses taconite revenue to help spur additional investment in local mining and economic development) and transfer it to the state’s general fund to help fix a deficit. [01/27/03]
  • Johnson also voted to cut local government aid by over $300 million, which disproportionately affected Greater Minnesota cities, particularly those on the Iron Range. [5/07/03] [05/09/03]


Jeff Johnson today continued to claim he wants to devote more of Minnesota’s bonding bills to roads and bridges.

But Jeff Johnson repeatedly voted against bonding bills with funding for roads and bridges.  

  • Jeff Johnson voted against three bonding bills that provided a total of $159 million in funding for roads and bridges. [05/19/02]; [05/20/06]; [06/29/01]

Support for the Middle Class

Jeff Johnson said today that he would stand up for the middle class.

Yet Jeff Johnson has also said he would cut taxes for the richest 2% of Minnesotans and large corporations – which will blow a billion dollar hole in the state’s budget – but he has yet to say how he would cut spending to pay for these tax breaks:

  • [H]e does want to try to roll back the income tax increase on the wealthy that Dayton enacted in 2012 and lower corporate tax rates. He has not offered specifics on how he would cut taxes while largely preserving the two biggest spending areas and increasing funding for roads and bridges. [Star Tribune, 10/12/14]
  • Johnson admitted to a reporter that he doesn’t know where he will reduce spending. I don’t know where we’re going to have less spending. [Johnson Press Conference, 9/19/14]

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