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State Republicans should drop new attack ads

Sometimes two seemingly unrelated news stories can produce a combination that is sadly ironic.

Take these two, which both ran last week. The first, by Mike Longaecker, ran in the Red Wing Republican Eagle and the second, by Jim Foti, ran in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The first starts like this:

"State Republican Party officials launched the opening salvo Wednesday in what they say will be an aggressive effort to take back legislative seats."

The second story, from the Star Tribune, starts like this:

"Eighteen months after the Legislature passed a controversial increase in the state gas tax to fund transportation projects, the Minnesota Department of Transportation is projecting that it is still facing a $50 billion funding gap over the next 20 years."

What's the connection?

The first DFL legislator to be subject to the new Republican attack ads is Sen. Steve Murphy of Red Wing.

Murphy is the target of a billboard that went up Wednesday in downtown Red Wing claiming the five-term legislator is "taking our $$$ and liberties."

The move marks the beginning of an aggressive campaign by state Republicans to kick Democrats out of the Legislature, said Minnesota Republican Party Deputy Chairman Michael Brodkorb.

While state GOP leaders say Murphy was targeted because of a perceived disconnect with his southeastern Minnesota district, Murphy believes it is because he worked too well with Republican lawmakers.

He hinted that GOP support he helped gather to overturn Gov. Tim Pawlenty's transportation bill veto may have been behind it. Because of the veto override, MnDOT will receive about $255 million a year more in sorely-needed gas tax revenue.

"They hate my guts ... I kind of thought they were going to come after me hard," Murphy said.

According to the Star Tribune, a new 20-year plan issued by MnDOT identifies more than $65 billion in transportation needs around the state but predicts that it will be able to spend only $15 billion to address them -- even with the influx of funds from the federal stimulus program.

In other words, even with the 8.5 cent-per-gallon gas tax increase that goes into full effect in 2012, there won't be nearly enough money to meet all the state's transportation needs.

Consider how much worse the state's transportation shortfall would be without it.

Republican leaders would do better to forget the attack ads and spend their time and money on developing a workable plan for governance. What do they want to do, take over the Legislature so they can make sure Minnesota's needs continue to go unmet?