Monday, September 29, 2014

What Wisconsin media chooses to miss- more WEDC failure

With all the recent GOP-aganda about Mary Burke’s campaign lifting job ideas from other candidates (that the same campaign consultant wrote about earlier), may I remind you of an example of Scott Walker and WisGOP copy-catting when it came to jobs strategies? That would be the train wreck known as the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).

As a former resident of the Hoosier State, I called out WEDC from the start, because I recognized that it was a carbon copy of Mitch Daniels’ IEDC in Indiana (the “EDC” even stands for the same words). IEDC was set up in 2005 and has been rife with cronyism, taxpayer dollars flying out the door without accountability, and “overpromising and underdelivering” when it came to job creation.

Then you look at Wisconsin in 2014, and WEDC has the exact same issues, except if anything, it’s worse here. Here’s a WEDC scandal that WKOW’s Greg Neumann has been on top of for the past few weeks, but one that is strangely being ignored by many state media outlets. It’s the continuing saga of the Scott Walker donors - WEDC aid recipients at Plexus Corporation and their sketchy descriptions as to why they cut Wisconsin jobs. This was also the company that had a Walker appearance to describe alleged “job expansions” and WEDC awards during the 2012 recall election campaign (raise your hand if that sounds familiar), and then cut jobs within a few months of that event.
In the past week both Politifact Wisconsin and Gov. Scott Walker have stated that Plexus Corporation never outsourced jobs after receiving WEDC tax credits, but simply lost business to a competitor that replaced their jobs overseas.

All of the evidence suggests that fact is indeed fiction, but despite that, the U.S. Department of Labor is reopening its investigation into whether or not 116 workers should have received Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) benefits after Plexus replaced their jobs overseas….

Late Friday afternoon, a U.S. Department of Labor spokesperson told me the investigation was reopened due to an email from a reporter at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (who runs Wisconsin Politi-“fact”) . The newspaper reporter sent the Department of Labor some questions for a story, along with a copy of the Plexus Commitment To Wisconsin press release.

The press release ultimately prompted TAA officials to take another look at the case.

Ironically, the latest entry includes an explanation of the TAA’s original findings that is even more detailed than before, stating: “During the investigation, the Department received information from the subject firm (Plexus) confirming a shift of production by the subject firm of an article like or directly competitive with the printed circuit boards produced by the workers from Neenah, Wisconsin to a foreign country.”
Neumann mentions that Gov Walker, as Chairman of the WEDC Board, was repeating Plexus’s line about how they first lost a customer, and then the customer outsourced, so it really wasn’t their fault that the outsourcing happened (I’m sure the donations Plexus executives have made to the Friends of Scott Walker has nothing to do with his stance). Regardless, the WEDC Board still passed a rule change last week requiring new regulations on companies that get taxpayer dollars through WEDC, in light of Plexus’ outsourcing job cuts.
Companies that outsource would also have to disclose that information in their annual reports to WEDC, while new companies seeking funds would have to sign a document stating no WEDC money will be used to outsource Wisconsin jobs.

The measure also states that companies who accept awards, then later reduce their net number of jobs in Wisconsin, cannot get any more actual money until they get their workforce back to where it was when the award was originally given out.

Plexus was awarded a $15 million tax credit in 2012 and has already received $4.7 million. But since that time, the company has dropped its Wisconsin workforce by over 300 employees. Plexus won't get any more money until the company returns its workforce returns to its original level.
Also discussed in that WEDC Board meeting was the agency upcoming job creation goals. Assembly Dem leader Peter Barca serves on that Board, and described the goals for WEDC’s “number of jobs to be impacted,” which basically admitted that WEDC is ineffective at creating jobs.





And you gotta love the Walker Administration using the word “impacted” for jobs and WEDC- a vague term that could be used in a variety of ways to describe certain activity. There’s a real vote of confidence isn’t it?

The WEDC Board meeting followed a report released earlier this month on WEDC from the Legislative Audit Bureau.Among the findings was that WEDC had “made progress” in reducing the amount of taxpayer-funded loans to corporations that it couldn’t track. But not necessarily because they had improved oversight.
As of June 30, 2013, the outstanding loan balance for which WEDC was responsible totaled $60.5 million. From June 30, 2013, through December 31, 2013, the total potentially uncollectible loan balance decreased by $7.7 million, including $6.6 million because WEDC wrote off loans it turned over to the Department of Administration, amended loan contracts, and forgave loans that had been considered delinquent as of June 30, 2013, because WEDC staff did not complete forgiveness reviews.
In other words, WEDC just sent the information off to the DOA to be “written off”, with those millions in taxpayer dollars thrown down the drain. Oops, guess that gamble just didn’t pay off.

Also worth noting in the report was this passage,
Administrative expenditures increased from $11.2 million in FY 2011-12 to $15.1 million in FY 2012-13 primarily due to increases in expenditures for staff salaries and fringe benefits and marketing. Grant expenditures decreased from $15.2 million in FY 2011-12 to $14.7 million in FY 2012-13. The amount of grant funds WEDC expends in any year may vary and is related to when costs are incurred by grant recipients. WEDC indicated that 62 grants were awarded in FY 2011-12 and 81 grants were awarded in FY 2012-13.

In FY 2012-13, 24 WEDC employees received merit awards totaling $77,700. Merit awards, which ranged from $1,000 to $5,000 per award, were given to employees across multiple WEDC divisions. In addition, merit awards totaling $7,500 for three employees were approved in FY 2012-13 but were paid in FY 2013-14. We note that the approval of merit awards for these three employees was not documented in accordance with WEDC’s procedures.

In addition to merit awards, WEDC managers may give their employees recognition awards of either one or two $25 gift cards. Employees select the desired gift card(s) from a predetermined list of entities. Employees are eligible to receive multiple recognition awards during the year. In December 2012 and January 2013, WEDC staff purchased 87 gift cards totaling $2,175 from six entities. In FY 2012-13, 12 WEDC employees received 21 gift cards, with a total value of $525, as recognition awards. WEDC staff indicated that they performed a review, implemented physical controls, and separated duties related to gift cards in early 2014.
We will further review WEDC’s procedures related to gift cards in our next biennial audit.
Given that a former WEDC employee accused the organization of being more concerned with propping up Gov Walker than creating jobs, sure makes you wonder what actions led to the merit awards and gift cards, eh?

And what have we gotten with this strategy of funneling job incentives to this crony-laden, sketchy organization? The worst job growth in the Midwest, and more money being paid on WEDC staff salaries than going to actual companies.

So what the hell’s going on out there, and what the REAL goal of WEDC is? You’d think a few more journalists other than Greg Neumann would want to find out. Strangely, “No Quarter Journal-Sentinel Watchdog” Dan Bice refuses to go after WEDC’s copy-catting, double-talk and underperformance. Is it because Danny hasn’t gotten the order from JournalComm management and hasn’t gotten the tips from his right-wing sources, so he won’t report on it? Inquiring minds such as me and Mike Plaisted want to know.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A sweet September Sunday

On a ridiculously gorgeous "last warm weekend of the year", no major need to gripe. Been tied up with actual activities outside of blogging, and taking care of a God-daughter. Went down to New Glarus for their Oktoberfest today, soaking up sun and suds and an early onset for Fall colors.

Yep, for at least one day, things seem quite normal in Wisconsin. And speaking of "back to normal."



More number-crunching and smackdowns once the clouds roll in. For now, I'll just R-E-L-A-X and savor a high-quality weekend.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

An open letter to Jeff Tyler at WIBA-AM

Mr. Tyler-
As the program director at WIBA-AM, you are the one that decides what goes on the airwaves at a hallmark station in the fastest-growing city in the state. With that in mind, I would urge you to raise the level of your daytime broadcasts, and make some changes in what you present to the people of this area.

You decide to broadcast the racist, hate-filled filth of hosts such as Vicki McKenna, Rush Limbaugh, and Shawn Hannity. These programs often stoop to anti-minority race-baiting (as most recently seen in the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and in the question of illegal immigration), and smears against unionism and other workers. These words and actions are disgusting enough, but worse is that much of it seems to be orchestrated by Republican politicians and right-wing interests, turning the shows from mere discussion and information, into outright propaganda.

John Doe documents have mentioned scripted interviews between Governor Scott Walker and Ms. McKenna, and Limbaugh and Hannity have been reported to receive huge sums of money to repeat talking points from Koch-funded organizations such as the Heritage Foundation. Your station is broadcasting hateful propaganda that has divided and paralyzed this country to levels not seen in at least 40 years, and therefore WIBA is not carrying out its duty under its FCC license to “broadcast in the public interest”. In addition, having 9 hours of right-wing propaganda limits the ability of your news staff to report on issues fairly, as they cannot be seen to upstage and/or reduce the hosts’ credibility (I’ve worked in the business, and I know that you cannot keep the houses talk and news separate, as much as we would like to think we can).

Look at the past few weeks, and ask yourself if this is acceptable. Hannity has advocated beating children with a strap and chided "politically correct liberals" for being concerned about the kids' well-being, and his show is chocked full of Islamo-phobia, including having the Dad from Duck Dynasty on his show to say that the way to deal with Islamic militants was "to covert or kill them." Rush has gone on the air to advocate for date rape, saying "no means yes if you know how to spot it", in a time where on-campus sexual assault is a growing concern. If these hosts were saying this stuff on an FM morning show, you'd never accept this, and the washed-up Limbaugh has become more ridiculous, hateful and embarrassing by the day as his ratings and sponsors dry up. Cut the cord with this garbage.

More locally, look at McKenna, who last month embarrassed your station by shrieking all over the airwaves about "slander" when her 1997 arrest record was brought to listeners' attention. This is not a person that can handle the responsibility of the stage that you give her - someone who constantly posts drunken, violent rants on Twitter and encourages listeners to harrass those that dare to give a dissenting opinion, including this memorable gem from last December.



Then last week, we saw the story about racist Wisconsin whites threatening to send armed poll watchers to intimidate (minority) voters in "heavy democrat districts" where the voters "have a look about them." Naturally, these wimps backed off when the public got word of the plan and started reporting them the Department of Justice, and tried to claim they were "just kidding," but where do you think they get the idea that this kind of mentality is OK? The latest Marquette University poll shows that low-educated white males with mediocre jobs are pretty much the only non-rich group in Wisconsin supporting Scott Walker, and it is in no small part due to the uncorrected lies and hateful resentments that pour out of outlets such as yours.

On a side note, you fired Mitch Henck to cut costs but kept THAT? What is wrong with you?

You may claim that broadcasting these types of shows brings higher ratings, but that is a specious claim, as WIBA already has a large, built-in audience due to its decades-long establishment as a flagship station for local news, as well as carrying Badgers, Packers and Brewers games. Any host you have on will likely draw similar if not better ratings, solely because the average listener is often too lazy to change his or her pre-set habits. So it is a choice by you and the others at Clear Channel Madison to broadcast this often-false, always debasing programming to your listeners during the daytime hours, and it has played a significant role in soiling what was once a great state. You can reverse this by choosing to tone down the hate, remove these vile, no-talent propagandists, and improve the level of debate and discussion on your station. You can even choose to keep the hosts conservative (despite the fact that it flies in the face of what most people in your listening area agree with), as long as the on-air talent doesn’t lie and constantly smear those they disagree with.

If you choose not to go this route, I and several others are more than willing to respond with a billboard campaign discouraging people from listening to your station, with a punch-line of “After the game, TURN OFF HATE RADIO 1310.” We will also identify advertisers who decide to associate with such hate-talk, and make it clear to casual people in the listening area that those businesses have no problem with such divisive, denigrating shows. We are near a breaking point in this country, and you are helping to break it by continuing to have WIBA-AM be a one-sided propaganda machine instead of the “news-talk leader" you claim to be. If you choose to continue on that path, we will have to take you down with the others in this state’s Wrecking Crew, and it won’t be nice for you to go through, nor will it be the pleasant for the community that we both call home.

Or you can reverse your course, raise the game at your station, and everybody ends up better off (well, except for the hate-mongerers and the GOP politicians who support them behind the scenes). You’ve got a month to decide.

Jake _________
Madison, WI

Thursday, September 25, 2014

$4 billion budget deficit? More possible than last week's "surplus"

Another day, another question asked of “what's really happening with the budget?” Last week it was the absurd spin of a budget “surplus” from the GOP Co-Chairs of the Joint Finance Committee who made rosy revenue assumptions for this year and ignored any new spending that will be needed over the next two years (debunked in this post). This time it’s from Dem State Senator Jennifer Shilling, who turned those budget assumptions on its head, and asked LFB to crunch some different numbers. She even starts with the GOP assumptions of 2.9% revenue growth for each of the years in the 2015-17 biennium, then injects the following items on spending.
2. 2015-17 agency budget requests of $1.07 billion would be appropriated in 2015-17.

3. In addition to Item#2 , above, appropriations for educational programs would increase by $568 million in 2015-17 over base year levels (I believe this is the estimated amount of extra school aids that would be required to carry out the Department of Public Instruction’s “Fair Funding for Schools”initiative).

4. In 2015-17, $680 million would be transferred from the general fund to the transportation fund (this is the most popular estimate of the Transportation Fund deficit for 2015-17, but given current projects, it could be over a billion).

Under these assumptions, the 2014-15 gross, general fund balance would be -$397 million and the balance for 2015-17 would be -$2,767 million.
YIKES! But also not that surprising, since this includes an extra $1.25 billion that needs to be come out of the General Fund on top of the budget requests to make everything solvent. It also tells you how in the hole we are for this year, as that $397 million figure keeps the LFB revenue growth assumptions, and not the ridiculous 5.6% assumption that the GOP “surplus” had.

By the way, Shilling also got a projection from LFB that showed if there was 0% revenue growth (as done in the structural balance), and there was the same amount of spending described above, we would be staring at a deficit of more than $4 billion! That’s higher than the "$3.6 billion figure" that Walker and WisGOP throw around in regards to 2011's alleged defict, and they were using the exact same assumptions Shilling is making in the $4 billion figure. So in other words, we’re worse off now than when we were allegedly "broke" 3 years ago!

But I’ll give the 2.9% revenue growth scenario the bigger emphasis. And yes, some of that spending will not likely happen- because we know all $2.767 billion won’t be made up by state tax increases (though refusing to raise any state taxes will make it extremely likely your local property taxes and fees will go way up). So further spending cuts are on the way, and it’s in no small part due to two stupid rounds of tax cuts that were put in place before a surplus ever became reality. Since those tax and shared revenue cuts haven’t translated into jobs and economic growth (in fact,Wisconsin job growth and home sales declined again in August, and are down 7 out 8 months this year). If anything, trickle-down Walker policies have been counterproductive, and some of these tax cuts should be reversed to stabilize our budget - but you can bet that reality won’t be discussed over the next 40 days.

These are the numbers. You can try to spin em all you want, but it doesn’t change the fact that we are in an absolute budget mess resulting from 4 years of neglect, and the “business and consumer confidence” genie aren’t going to be able to clean it up.

MMAC oligarchs, JournalComm media, and railroads make their way into Walker "inner circle"

The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) had a big document drop yesterday that yanked back the curtain on just who gets to be part of the "in crowd" to GOP decision-makers at the state level. And I know this will stun you, but the Walker Administration and Wisconsin corporate oligarchs are heavily mentioned as part of this story.

The New York Times followed up on the document dump, and fleshed out the details surrounding a conference held by the Republican Governors’ Association in 2013, and its tax-exempt sister group the Republican Governors’ “Public Policy Committee”. The Public Policy Committee is an especially nice touch, as it’s one of those 501-c-4 dark money “social welfare” groups that allow donors to have their information hidden (until groups like CREW out them) . And just like with American Express, membership in the RGA’s inner circle has its privileges.
With Congress producing so little legislation, governors’ offices have become attractive targets, Mr. Wertheimer said. Last year, the Republican Governors Public Policy Committee allowed corporate donors to make their cases on how to carry out the Affordable Care Act; discuss hydraulic fracturing, an oil- and gas-exploration method regulated at the state level; and hash over state budgets just as coffers began to loosen….

One 2009 document states the benefits of a Governors Board membership, for a $50,000 annual contribution or a one-time donation of $100,000, saying it “offers the ability to bring their particular expertise to the political process while helping to support the Republican agenda.”

Board members received two tickets to “an exclusive breakfast with the Republican governors and members of their staff”; three tickets to the Governors Forums Series, where “a group of 5-8 governors discuss the best policy practices from around the country on a particular topic”; and a D.C. Discussion Breakfast Series, among other events.

If they bump up to Cabinet Membership — $100,000 annually or a single payment of $200,000 — contributors also receive two invitations to "an exclusive Gubernatorial Dinner," an "intimate gathering with the Republican governors and special Republican V.I.P. guests" at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington.
Blogging Blue gives a good list of the Walker staffers and campaign personnel that were at the 2013 RGA retreat in California - often attending the same seminars (no coordination there, noooooo).
Among those who were slated to attend the conference and retreat in California in July 2013 were Walker’s Chief of Staff Eric Schutt, Secretary of Administration Mike Huebsch, campaign manager Stephan Thompson and political adviser Keith Gilkes. Also listed were Deputy Chief of Staff Rich Zipperer, senior advisers Eileen Schoenfeldt and Waylon Hurlburt and Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health Services Kevin Moore.
This list leads to some obvious questions.

Who paid for those staffers to fly out there? Is it like how the fake David Koch promised to fly Gov Walker “out to Cali and really show you a good time?” And isn’t this bribery of a public official if they’re going on the “treat” of a group lobbying them?

If they weren’t being bribed or paid back for their “good works” in helping out their corporate benefactors, and they’re out there on the taxpayer’s dime, wouldn’t this be an improper use of taxpayer dollars? And doesn’t this sound a lot like how Walker’s security detail got to accompany him on 110 out-of-state trips, causing taxpayer costs for security to triple? There are a lot more questions that need to be answered with this revelation, but other than the Gannett-associated Appleton paper, I don’t see a lot of Wisconsin media reporting on this today…..so far.

Then when you read the documents from this 2013 conference, you get an idea why some of our local media don’t want to talk about this. In addition to the typical Koch, health insurer, oil and pharmaceutical organizations that ponied up $250,000+ to be “Statesmen” of the RGA (as opposed to, you know, hiring people and paying them a better wage), take a look at these three guys.
Steve Baas, Director, Governmental Affairs, Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce

Buddy Julius, The Firm, LLC, Guest of Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce

Robert Garvin, Wisconsin Energies, Guest of Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.
Yes, that’s the same MMAC that has Steven Smith, CEO of Journal Communications, sitting on its Board of Directors. And you wonder why the J-S and AM 620 has become a cesspool of right-wing garbage, with no piece of GOP-aganda ignored? And you wonder why they don’t want to talk about this type of influence-buying? Look no further than their membership to the “independent” group of right-wing oligarchs in the MMAC.

Down at the “Cabinet” level of $100,000-$250,000, we get some more local flavor.
Andrew Johnsen, Assistant Vice President, Government Affairs, BNSF Railway Company

Mark Martinez Area General Manager, Johnson Controls, Inc.
We know what a big player Johnson Controls can be, particularly in energy and manufacturing policy, and that explains their interest in shaping some things, but why does BNSF sound familiar in these parts? Oh yeah, here’s why.
In Wisconsin to promote the importance of transportation infrastructure investments, [U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony] Foxx met with state and local leaders as well as representatives of Citizens Acting for Rail Safety (CARS), a group organized in the last year in response to increased crude oil shipments as well as the BNSF railroads’ plans to add a second set of tracks through La Crosse….

CARS also presented Foxx with photos of BNSF bridges along the Mississippi River showing cracked and crumbling concrete. One bridge in Stoddard appears to be supported by stacked timbers.

“What I’m about to show you scares the living crap out of me,” said Guy Wolf, who called on Foxx to order an immediate independent inspection of the bridges.

Railroads are required to inspect their bridges each year, but those inspection reports are not available to the public. The Federal Railroad Administration reviews the railroad inspection plans, but it does not send out structural engineers to perform independent inspections.
Hmmm, now why would BNSF want to lobby states about policy? Couldn’t have anything to do with getting around maintenance rules and possibly getting bailout money for those repairs from taxpayers, could it?

And the BNSF and other rail lines have been in the news in Wisconsin for other reasons, as heightened frack sand shipments are leading to the rail lines becoming massively congested, and you can bet BNSF doesn’t want fracking limited in any way, as it’ll lower some of their revenue stream. Bill Lueders summed up the changes in this article from two months ago.
Chippewa Falls resident Patricia Popple, an activist opposed to frac sand mining, recalls that train traffic in the area was once much less frequent, and the trains were shorter.

Now, she said, “They go through here any hour of the night and day … and have to sound whistles every time they go through an intersection.”

Jeff Plale, the state’s railroad commissioner, [speaking of sketchiness] confirms that more trains really are chugging through Wisconsin. He said there is “no question” that a 63 percent increase in state freight rail revenue between 2002 and 2012 was caused in part by the rapid growth in frac sand mining in western and northwestern Wisconsin.

Rail transportation of frac sand is fueling another increase in train traffic in Wisconsin. Last week, The Associated Press and the La Crosse Tribune, citing newly released figures, reported that three dozens trains loaded with flammable crude oil extracted by fracking now rumble through the state every week.
The congestion is also slowing down passenger rail for Amtrak in the area, since they have to share the tracks and railways such as BNSF own them (and handle a lot of the maintenance). If only there would have been some kind of project that could have added rail lines and relieved some of that congestion, paid for entirely by the feds….

Is there any doubt that “pay-to-play” and "politics and power by any means necessary" are the top agenda items in the Wisconsin right-wing world? Not jobs, not balancing the budget, not improving quality of life. As they say in Goodfellas, it is “Eff you, PAY ME!,” from GOP politicians, their top advisors, their donors, and their allies in the media. That's what directs their course of action, not silly ideas like "public good" or "ethical decency."

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

John Doe back on. DROP THE BOMB

I'm not surprised, but corrupt federal judge Rudolph Randa has been reversed, and John Doe Deux is back on. The key pats to rt in this decision is that not only does the federal appeals court say they think Randa overstepped by trying to stop this investigation, but also the panel brings up that coordination and donation limits are still illegal, even under Citizens United and McCutcheon. Disclosure and direct donations are still items that have a state interest, and good luck having Eric O'Keefe and the oligarchs try to argue otherwise in front of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, when most of the GOP justices owe their current standing to Club for Growth and related right-wing donations. (recusal or recall? You make the call, Justices).

And even without these crooks having to respond to subpeaonae, there should be more than enough evidence to indict these people for illegal coordination and money laundering. Walker may be part of this, or not, but either way, it is well past time to DROP THE BOMB on these bastards, and charge them. And if John Chisholm doesn't have the guts to make this move, the job of Milwaukee Co DA is too big for him, and he needs to be replaced with someone that will bring the crooks to justice- no matter how big these people are.

The time to hesitate is through, and the door is now open to bring these crooks to justice. DO IT.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

TeaBagging Obamacare + voucher expansion = WisGOP budget BUNK

Despite the repeated avoidance by Gov Scott Walker and the Wisconsin GOP to mention how they will solve our budget problems in Wisconsin, reality keeps intruding on that. Department budget requests show that at least $1.1 billion in new spending has been requested just to keep these programs operating as is. And if you look at how that $1.1 billion is split up, one area in particular stands out.



That giant blue circle that takes up ¾ of the pie is the increase required to allow the Department of Health Services to keep giving the same services in 2015-17 that they are today- just over $831.5 million. This number assumes that the state continues to follow Scott Walker’s policy of refusing to expand Medicaid and comply with Obamacare, a fiscally foolish decision that has already cost state taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, and as the Wisconsin Budget Project notes, will cost us a whole lot more if we stay on the Walker Way.
To sum up, the [Legislative] Fiscal Bureau estimated in August that expanding BadgerCare to 138% of the federal poverty level would save state taxpayers $261 million to $315 million in the next biennium, even if the expansion doesn’t take effect until January 2016. Based on the latest enrollment estimates in the DHS budget request and their assumptions about the federal match rate, we estimate that the lower end of the potential savings is $31 million GPR more than the LFB indicated (or $41 million more if the change took effect by July 1, 2015). To close the $760 million hole in the Medicaid budget, it’s critically important for Wisconsin to expand BadgerCare and accept the increased federal funding.
So in other words, expanding Medicaid as part of the 2015-17 budget would reduce the projected 2015-17 deficit by at least $300 million, or more than ¼ of the funds needed in order to fill these budget requests.

And that’s before you start counting any extra funding that may be needed for either public schools or (if Governor Walker wins) an expansion of the voucher program. Those costs weren’t included in the Department of Public Instruction’s request, so I’d count on that $1.1 billion figure going even higher. The fact that Walker wants to spend even more on unaccountable vouchers was something that Dem candidate Mary Burke hit mentioned at an education policy forum in Madison yesterday. Burke used DPI stats that indicate a statewide expansion of vouchers would increase the number of families getting payments in the program more than sixfold (to nearly 193,000), said that it would inevitably lead to cuts to public schools.
Burke pointed to a $1.2 billion projected total annual cost of the voucher system if it expanded, which she said would likely be at the expense of programs and teachers in public schools.

“We’re all smart enough to realize that if there’s a certain amount of funding that is going to the voucher program, unless the taxes are raised to pay for that or it comes from another part of the budget, it’s going to come from the public schools,” Burke said.

“What we need to do is make sure every parent and every child has a great choice in their neighborhood schools.”
Compared to the $200 million we currently spend on vouchers (with subpar results), that’s another $1 billion to add to the multi-billion dollars in budget holes that would have to be made up in a second Walker term.

And as State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout has brought up, the school districts in the state that would likely take the biggest hits under any further GOP voucher expansion are the rural public schools that have no market or need for vouchers, but would still face major reductions in state aids, leading to higher property taxes and closed schools. Several of these districts have had or will have referenda asking to raise property taxes just to perform upkeep and keep the lights on, let alone improve facilities or change to meet current-day needs. And with Burke gaining on Walker in rural areas that Scotty dominated in 2010 and 2012, it’s not hard to think a big reason why is that people in small-town Wisconsin are catching onto what a screwjob vouchers are for their schools and communities.

So another day means more evidence that Wrong-Way Walker and his band of WisGOPs have put this state down in the hole, and as much as they try to spin the situation with rosy assumptions, the mess will still be there, and it will have to be cleaned up in the coming months.

P.S. Here's more from Sen. Vinehout on the voucher program, in particular how these schools don't do any better on tests, but do succeed in directly subsidizing students and parents who already attend these schools, while stealing funds from public schools. She assumes 120,000 students would take vouchers statewide, at a cost of $677 million a year- both are less than Burke's numbers, but still a whole lot of money for a second publically-funded school system. And the last paragraph is a direct shot at Walker and WisGOP's plans.
It’s foolishness to think Wisconsin can afford unlimited taxpayer subsidized vouchers, keep our high quality local schools and lower taxes. Actions have consequences. Cuts to local schools hurt students and raise property taxes.