Sunday, July 24, 2016

Now chilling up North

Up in Vilas County for the next few days. Lot less humidity, about 10 fewer degrees, and amazing stillness and scenery.

Having these spaces MATTER, and the Dems in this state should hammer that point hard. Talk to you more later on

Friday, July 22, 2016

June Wis jobs good, but May revised down. Gap remains

Lost in yesterday’s Nuremburg rally Trump acceptance speech and more crazy storms throughout the state was the release of the June jobs report from Wisconsin. And the topline numbers looked pretty strong, which the Walker Department of Workforce Development made sure to point out.
Place of work data: Based on preliminary data, the state added a statistically significant 49,900 private sector jobs from June 2015 to June 2016, including a one-month gain of 10,900 jobs in June. Other significant changes include monthly and year-over-year increases in manufacturing at 2,300 and 6,600, respectively, a one-month increase in construction by 2,100 jobs, and a 12-month increase in total non-farm jobs at 47,800. Financial activities, and leisure and hospitality also saw significant increases over the month. Total nonfarm jobs grew by 5,300 over the month.

·Place of residence data: A preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 4.2 percent in June 2016, unchanged from May and holding at its lowest ratesince March 2001. The rate is lower than the national unemployment rate of 4.9 percent in June 2016. Wisconsin's labor force participation rate of 68.5 continues to outpace the U.S. rate of 62.7 percent in June.

"Over the past year, Wisconsin's private sector created 49,900 jobs, including 10,900 during June 2016, according to the latest monthly estimates," DWD Secretary Ray Allen said. "And while the national unemployment rate increased to 4.9 percent, Wisconsin's rate held at a 15-year low of 4.2 percent during June. As our state economy continues to grow, we need to keep our focus on ensuring Wisconsin employers have access to a robust talent pool to fill their labor market needs."
Well Ray, if you’re trying to keep the talent pool strong, you could convince your boss to invest in quality of life items like education, social policies that accept all people, and protecting our natural scenery and waterways. But I digress, and as Drumpf’s theme song reminded us last night “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

However, there’s a fly in the ointment of this report, and it comes with revisions to May’s figures.

May 2016 private sector jobs, Wisconsin
Original number +9,700
Revised number +3,400

That makes it only a 4,600 increase compared to where we thought we were at, which is still good, but slightly below the US pace of growth for that month. And the seasonally-adjusted drop in government employment for June (reflecting larger than normal declines reflecting the end of the school year and other early-Summer factors) means that the overall jobs number barely budged.

So even with this good report, Wisconsin’s total jobs number is still 3,800 below where it was in March, and private sector jobs are only up by 2,800 for the second quarter of 2016. Yes, the strong seasonally-adjusted numbers for January, February and March leave the year-over-year private-sector growth over 2% (good for second in the Midwest, according to the Cap Times’ Todd Milewski’s interactive chart), but take out those 3 months, and it’s not so impressive.

Private sector job growth, Wisconsin
Q3 2015 +3,900
Q4 2015 +12,200
Q1 2016 +31,000
Q2 2016 +2,800

Total job growth, Wisconsin
Q3 2015 +2,600
Q4 2015 +16,900
Q1 2016 +32,100
Q2 2016 -3,800

This type of choppiness makes me quite skeptical over whether those strong Q4 and Q1 numbers hold when the next Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages hits in about 6 weeks. That survey will end with the 1st Quarter of 2016, and it’ll tell us if those huge gains actually happened, or if they are set to be benchmarked away in the near future.

And May’s downward revisions mean that even with the nice headlines, the Walker jobs gap has grown a bit from when we last saw it. It now stands at nearly 86,000 private sector jobs, and just under 87,000 overall.

Make no mistake, Wisconsin’s jobs numbers are going in the right direction (“Thanks Obama!”). But the hole of the previous 5 years is still there, and with unemployment allegedly being so low and population growth slowing in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan, I wonder if there’s much more to be gained in the state before things inevitably turn back downward.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Walker will try sell to RNC an act that Wisconsinites are done with

As the rest of the country tunes into tonight’s GOP convention to see our fair Governor speak, Scott Walker might try to give an impression that he’s still liked back home, even as the rest of the GOP primary electorate laughed him out of the race in 10 weeks. And just he will in much of tonight’s speech, that impression will be false.

Take a look inside the crosstabs of last week’s Marquette Law School Poll, which had Walker’s approval and favorability remaining in the same sub-40% doldrums they’ve generally been in since he was ramping up his failed 2016 bid last year.

Scott Walker job approval 38.2-57.6
Scott Walker favorability 38.5-56.8

What’s remarkable about Walker’s approval numbers is how disliked he is in pretty anywhere outside of of GOP Bubble World. That goes for both his competence on the job, and the “have a beer with” favorability factor. Take a look at some of these demo numbers

Male 43.6-52.5 approve, 44.4-51.9 favorable
Female 33.2-62.4 approve, 33.0-61.4 favor

18-29 37.0-59.1 approve, 31.1-59.4 favor
30-44 32.3-64.3 approve, 33.0-66.4 favor
45-59 43.5-51.0 approve, 45.6-49.4 favor
60+ 37.0-59.8 approve, 38.3-57.9 favor

HS dropout 38.5-48.4 approve, 38.5-48.4 favor
HS grad 35.1-59.9 approve, 33.9-58.6 favor
Some college 40.7-56.4 approve, 41.4-56.4 favor
2-year degree 38.9-59.8 approve, 37.2-59.2 favor
4-year degree 39.1-57.7 approve, 41.9-57.0 favor

White 40.9-54.9 approve, 41.7-53.7 favor
Black 19.1-77.5 approve, 12.1-78.8 favor
Hispanic 34.0-59.1 approve, 31.4-60.3 favor
Other 21.5-78.5 approve, 21.5-78.5 favor

Geography by TV Market
City of Milw 15.5-79.4 approve, 12.0-85.2 favor
Rest of MKE 48.7-50.4 approve, 49.5-47.5 favor
Madison 31.6-59.8 approve, 31.2-61.8 favor
GB/Appleton 40.6-55.3 approve, 42.1-54.5 favor
Rest of state 38.6-58.7 approve, 37.1-55.7 favor

Political ID
GOP 80.0-17.7 approve, 80.6-16.3 favor
Dem 3.4-92.2 approve, 4.8-91.3 favor
Indy 38.5-56.5 approve, 38.1-55.9 favor

Conservative 68.9-26.0 approve, 71.1-25.4 favor
Moderate 29.3-67.3 approve, 27.6-68.4 favor
Liberal 8.5-88.7 approve, 9.3-85.6 favor

Good luck grabbing any swing voters or moderates with this guy. But then again, apparently that’s not who today’s GOP cares to talk to or to work for…just like anyone else that’s not a white conservative, come to think of it. And it’s been that way since right after Walker squeaked by in the 2014 election, put together a budget and policies that were more geared toward idiot GOP primary voters, and his near-even approval ratings nosedived to the place they have stayed ever since.

Walker’s approval trajectory is quite similar to another polarizing guy with Walker in his name, except that Scott Walker fell off the cliff faster after his re-election than even this guy.

George W. Bush average approval- Gallup poll
July 2004 48.0-48.3
July 2005 47.3-48.3
July 2006 39.0-56.7
July 2007 30.0-64.5

The comparisons don’t stop there, as Walker’s economic and budgetary performance is as failed as Dubya’s, with Walker carefully trying to get out of office before everything falls apart. And Scotty’s every bit the puppet of bad people, but without Dubya’s limited humanity and relatability (he’s more Nixon-like in that regard, without Nixon’s brains).

Also like Dubya in 2006, Scotty ain’t running again in the year ending in 8. He’ll likely be about as welcome alongside the Wisconsin GOP nominee for governor as Bush was with McCain during 2008. Which is why tonight’s speech will be all about trying impress the dopes inside the GOP Bubble to try to make a name for himself on the wingnut welfare circuit (where Dubya still gives speeches these days).

As Wisconsin media has noted this week, Walker’s been working behind the scenes to convince GOP oligarchs that last year’s complete failure of a campaign is in the past, and that they should get behind him for a 2020 campaign, (this assumes Drumpf loses, of course). Yes, this guy is that delusional, and the Wisconsin GOP is that delusional by not telling him “NO.”

That reason is why I bet you won’t hear Scott Walker say Donald Trump’s name in what is sure to be a hypocrisy filled, anti-Hillary Clinton speech tonight in Cleveland (do you really want to bring up the topic secret email servers and being untrustworthy, Scotty?). And his likely permanent collapse of support in Wisconsin also means that Scotty will likely say little about his own record back home, with anything he does say likely to be cherry-picked bullshit, if not flat-out lies. Those of us in the real Wisconsin know better.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Wisconsin Vets Fund teetering on the edge

A minor report on the state’s Veterans Trust Fund slipped out last week, and it seems timely to discuss a bit more in light of yesterday’s war/fear-mongering at the Republican National Convention. Particularly given that more Wisconsin GOPs are scheduled to strike a tough pose, it may prove useful to see how we actually do take care of those who served our country when they get back to Wisconsin.

The Veterans Trust Fund supports a variety of vet-related programs and reimbursements as well as the operation of the State Veterans Museum on the Capitol Square. In the Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s information paper on programs for Wisconsin veterans, it explains how the fund was set up into its current form 55 years ago, and why it’s had troubles keeping up with expenses in recent years.
The veterans trust fund was created in 1961 through the consolidation of three predecessor funds -- the soldiers rehabilitation fund, the post-war rehabilitation fund, and the veterans housing trust fund.

Initially, the predecessors to the veterans trust fund were reliant on dedicated special taxes, as well as loan repayments for revenues. Since the expiration of those dedicated taxes, the veterans trust fund (as well as its predecessors) has been principally reliant on a series of transfers or one-time appropriations from other funds. The main sources of these revenues have been transfers or appropriations from the state's general fund, transfers from the mortgage loan repayment fund, and the deposit of net proceeds from the sale of loan assets. The fund has also received loans from the general fund and the state's investment fund, although these loans have been subsequently repaid. Table 2 summarizes the one-time veterans trust fund revenues since the World War II era.

Currently, the trust fund has several sources of ongoing revenues, including loan repayments, federal grants, museum sales receipts, and interest earnings. Over the past decade, the most significant source of ongoing revenue has been loan repayments. The 1997-99 budget transferred a portfolio of $54.6 million in primary mortgage loans and $7.9 million in home improvement loans, as well as $5.6 million in excess cash reserves, from the veterans mortgage loan repayment fund to the veterans trust fund. The cash and net proceeds of this transferred portfolio provided start-up funding for the personal loan program. Repayments on the mortgage loans and, subsequently, on personal loans, generated an ongoing revenue source for the trust fund. However, those payments have declined substantially in recent years as outstanding mortgage loan principal has declined. To illustrate, loan principal repayments to the trust fund averaged $9.7 million annually between 2005-06 through 2009-10, but had declined to just $1.9 million in 2013-14.
Then add in the fact that there are quite a bit more veterans now than there were 15 years ago (thanks Dubya!) and you can see where the stresses are going to continue for the foreseeable future with revenues declining.

This led to this memo from the Department of Veterans Affairs on Veterans Trust Fund from last week, which contained the following passage which somehow contains both alarming information alongside complacency on the state of the VTF.
…Per our previous projections, the VTF became insolvent in the first quarter of FY2016. However, the department has been able to extend the life of the VTF due to the continued efforts to be fiscally responsible while ensuring that funds are being used effectively to provide the best services possible for Wisconsin veterans.

The condition report illustrates a transfer from the Homes appropriations of $12 million to alleviate any negative balances. This transfer is pursuant to s. 45.57 (1) Wis. Stats., which permits the department to transfer all or part of the unencumbered balance of any homes appropriations to the VTF. The extraordinary turnaround and success of the homes, due to a commitment to efficiencies, cost savings, maintaining census levels and optimizing federal funds has made the DVA self-sufficient for the foreseeable future.
To translate, the Veterans Trust Fund would have run out of money, but the DVA had $12 million in extra charges from the Veterans Homes (money that’s charged to aging veterans and other users of the facility, by the way), to help fill in the gap for this year. That’s kind of an “ugh,” when you think about it.

Then I looked at the future projections in that report, and I wouldn’t exactly call the Veterans Trust Fund “self-sufficient.” It bleeds out its $5.4 million cash balance in this current 2017 fiscal year, and needs major bailouts from either the homes or the general taxpayer in both FY2017 and FY 2018 to not fall further down the hole.

Transfers projected into Veterans Trust Fund
FY2017 $6.5 million
FY2018 $12.1 million

There is no explicit source as to where those $18.6 million will be coming from, but the 2015-17 budget assumed $21.1 million total to be transferred out of the Homes account, which would be enough to cover the 2017 amounts, even with $12 million taken out in FY2016. So it’s likely that this transfer of excess funds from the Homes will continue, and given the statement from DVA, it seems that this is one of the situations where the Walker Administration isn’t so concerned with grabbing more dollars from DC (funny how they change their tune on federal money when it’s not money intended to help minorities poorer people).

These figures seem a bit timely given that the 2 top elected GOPs statewide- U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and Gov Scott Walker – are scheduled to address the Republican National Convention in the next 2 days, and it seems like their main themes will be national security (as laughable as the idea of those dopes speaking on that subject may be outside of the Bubble). It seems appropriate to note that the money the GOP-run state of Wisconsin has set aside for our veterans is endangered, and a more permanent funding source is likely to be needed in the very near future. But then again, with these guys, it’s always about putting your mouth ahead of the money necessary to truly support our vets.

Nerdy details on how the Northwoods can be helped by state, federal gov't

In the wake of the awful floods that continue to wrack Northwestern Wisconsin, and the continued road closings and washouts, I wanted to see how the process works when it comes to the state helping to pay for the repairs associated with these disasters. In addition, I wanted to find out which funds are set aside in case of such emergencies, and what I’m finding is that without federal assistance, this deadly last week of weather is going to lead to even more budget pressure.

First of all, we need to understand that this is historic flooding, with many homes and businesses uninhabitable, along with the damage to infrastructure. Take it from someone who’s been up there for decades.
In his 32 years in the Wisconsin state Legislature, former Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, has seen many disasters, but never one with as much water damage spread across a region, he said. Jauch traveled through the area over the weekend.

"Almost every town road, county road and state highway is closed, washed out. The water has receded, but you can tell from the water marks on the trees just how high the Bad River got, and how difficult it was for families who were virtually isolated in this storm," Jauch said.

More than $30 million in damage has been reported, over $28.8 million from damage to public infrastructure, according to the Wisconsin Emergency Operations Center. …

The most critical step upon completion of the damage assessment is for Gov. Scott Walker to declare it a disaster area and submit an application for a FEMA declaration, Jauch said. Jauch expects that to happen sometime this week.

Walker has asked for a damage assessment by FEMA, scheduled to start July 25. The governor declared a state of emergency for eight northern Wisconsin counties last week.

Some federal money is already on its way to the state, as the Wisconsin DOT announced yesterday that the Federal Highway Administration has released $2.5 million in emergency funding after receiving a letter from WisDOT Secretary Mark Gottlieb. But that’ll just scrape the surface of the estimated $10 million in damage to state and federal highways due to the floods, and doesn’t touch the large amount of local roads and bridges that’ll need to be repaired and/or replaced.

With that in mind, I checked the state statutes on disaster damage aids for roads (section 86.34 if you’re interested) and found that local governments have 2 months to send in their request to WisDOT for help. That would mean the deadline is around Labor Day to get that request in, although that can be extended to wait for federal disaster aid, if need be.

From there, the Wisconsin DOT can give their assessment of how much they can/should give, and reimburse the local government accordingly.
(2)  The department shall make such investigation as it deems necessary and within 6 months from the date of filing the petition shall make its determination as to the granting of aid, the amount thereof, and the conditions under which it is granted. In making its determination the department shall cause an estimate to be made of the cost of repairing or replacing the facilities damaged or destroyed to standards and efficiency similar to those existing immediately before the damage or destruction, and also an estimate of the cost of reconstructing the facilities to a higher type or improving any such facilities if determined to be warranted and advisable. Except as provided in subs. (2m) and (6), the amount of aid payable for damage caused by a disaster described in sub. (1g) (b) 1. shall be 75 percent of the cost of repair or replacement to standards similar to those existing immediately before the damage or destruction, plus 50 percent of the increased cost of the reconstruction to a higher type or the improvement of any of the facilities. Except as provided in subs. (2m) and (6), the amount of aid payable for damage caused by a disaster described in sub. (1g) (b) 2. shall be 70 percent of the cost of repair or replacement to standards similar to those existing immediately before the damage or destruction. The department may revise estimates on the basis of additional facts. The county, town, village, or city shall pay the remainder of the cost not allowed as aid, but this shall not invalidate any other provision of the statutes whereby the cost may be shared by the county and the town, village, or city.
Here’s where the timing of this storm is bad for the local governments involved. These areas are starting their annual budget deliberations and completing them in November, while a 6 month delay from the state would mean any state funds wouldn’t come up North until after the start of the January 1 local fiscal year. Which makes me wonder if the timeline gets accelerated at both levels, and since the Governor’s Office and Wisconsin DOT can release the money without consultation from the Legislature (and no Governor’s election this November), let’s see how soon things get resolved from that side.

Even if the money gets out of Madison and DC fast, the floods and disappearing roads likely just changed a lot of priorities for the 2016 and 2017 budget, especially with the snow flying in 4 months in the Northland. And it’s not like the local governments in the 715 had a lot of funds lying around for roads to begin with, as state and local officials from Northwest Wisconsin were among the largest proponents of a local sales tax to fix roads, complaining that budget constraints from DC and Madison were not allowing for adequate repairs to be done. That effort was defeated by the WisGOP-controlled Legislature earlier this year, despite support from some GOP legislators from the northern half of the state.

A bigger complication is the state’s already-messed up budgets for both Transportation and the General Fund. Because as the rundown for state disaster aids shows, Governor Walker and the WisGOPs in the Legislature gambled that there wouldn’t be any large disasters for the 2015-17 budget period, and reduced the amount of General Fund dollars set aside to pay for such events.
Decrease funding by $9,000,000 in 2015-16 to reflect the removal of first year funding from the base for the disaster damage aids transfer appropriation and $2,500,000 in 2016-17 to reflect a decrease in the estimated amount needed to fund disaster claims. 2013 Wisconsin Act 20 [the 2013-15 budget] established a sum sufficient appropriation from the general fund to fund a transfer to the transportation fund in the second year of each biennium equal to the amount of disaster aid payments made in that biennium in excess of $1 million for any single disaster event. The transfer was estimated at $9,000,000 in 2014-15 under Act 20, although this amount has since been reestimated to $500,000 to reflect slower than expected reimbursement claims for damage related to a 2011 storm in northwest Wisconsin. This item would remove the first year funding from the base, and fund the estimated transfer at $6,500,000 in 2016-17 to reflect additional claims expected from that disaster.
Given that this is a sum-sufficient appropriation from the General Fund, the extra money can be spent out, but it also means that because money wasn’t budgeted, any overruns past the $4.9 million allowed for the 2015-17 budget makes the tight General Fund budget even tougher to handle.

There is a separate $1 million a year appropriation from the Transportation Fund designated for disasters (a designated sum-sufficient fund that started in 2013). But that’s obviously not going to be nearly enough to take care of the washed out roads and messed-up infrastructure up North, and that also will go over its budgeted amount. In fairness, it does seem like the Walker Administration is sensitive to the charges that they've stopped caring about the people in Wisconsin that pay their salary (especially when Walker's spent more time kissing up the GOP oligarchs and ripping on Hillary Clinton this week instead of doing the job he's paid to do). It was nice to see that late this afternoon, they sent out a long press release detailing the steps various state agencies are taking to help the Northland area get through these tough times. It includes tidbits like these.
The Department of Transportation (WisDOT) staff are inspecting and documenting the impacts and damages to existing infrastructure and looking into what types of funding may be available for repairs. WisDOT will utilize $2.5 million in federal funds requested to accelerate repairs to northern Wisconsin roadways damaged by flooding....

•Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM) continues to work with local, tribal, and county officials assessing the damage and coordinating state resources. WEM is also working closely with FEMA and other federal agencies to provide situational awareness and review all possible disaster resources.

•The Department of Administration (DOA) made $3 million in funding available through Community Development Block Grant Emergency Assistance Program (CDBG-EAP). The funds may be used to assist eligible, low to moderate income homeowners for housing rehabilitation, business assistance, and repair local public infrastructure. Local communities should work with the Division of Energy, Housing, and Community Resources to apply. Please visit their website or call (608) 266-7531. The Department of Administration also notified local governments that they may use state contracts to purchase goods and services as they recover from flooding and storm damage. A complete list of contracts available to municipal governments can be found on the State’s procurement website, Vendor Net.
You know things are bad up North when this WisGOP crew is going out of its way to promote federal and state spending to help the recovery efforts. And even though they wouldn’t admit it in this week’s RNC Convention, I bet a whole lot of the WisGOPs speaking at it are pleading with the Obama Administration to take a lot of the burdens off of the good people near Lake Superior with FEMA aid. Fortunately, I have confidence that the Obama Administration isn’t so arrogant to screw over people in retribution for the middle fingers far so many WisGOPs have thrown his way over the last 5 ½ years (although let’s see what out-of-state Baggers in Congress do with the Federal Fiscal Year nearing its end).

Monday, July 18, 2016

Hey Paulie, explain how Wisconsin's economy is "doing better"

Seriously, what the hell is Paul Ryan talking about here?

I know Purty Pau-LIE is a fraud, but does the guy ever look at, you know, ACTUAL NUMBERS? We certainly don't lead when it comes to looking at the 50-state coincident indexes produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, which bases its number on the following.
The four state-level variables in each coincident index are nonfarm payroll employment, average hours worked in manufacturing, the unemployment rate, and wage and salary disbursements deflated by the consumer price index (U.S. city average).
That stat says Wisconsin has the worst economic growth in the Midwest since Walker took office in January 2011.

And it isn't job growth, we're dead last in the Midwest for that as well, according to the "Gold Standard" Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages.

And I'm guessing Ryan isn't talking about how the fact that even under the "Obama Economy", the Walker jobs gap is 85,000 behind the US rate as of May, even with a fluky narrowing of that gap in 2016.

Oh wait, an underperforming economy that leads to wage deflation, overwhelming corporate power and eventual fiscal disaster is exactly what Koch Boys like Paul Ryan and Scott Walker want. Now it makes sense...

WisGOP Bubble Worlds become clearer in the real one

As I pick up from the weekend, I want to pick up on a story that was completely unsurprising yet reflected good, enlightening journalism, the Capital Times’ Jessie Opien got to the bottom of who attends Gov Scott Walker’s invite-only “listening sessions.” Walker has held 50 of these taxpayer-funded events since December, which are closed to the public, with the media usually only allowed in after the meeting is done.

Walker made a memorable gaffe last month when he blamed the media for his lousy poll numbers, claming it didn't match what he heard at these listening sessions. What Opien found out is that the crowds are supportive because they include a lot of Walker appointees, Chamber of Commerce types, lobbyists and other people who lean to the right politically.
Why the disconnect? Critics of the governor's administration say it's because the listening sessions are composed of overwhelmingly friendly audiences and, in general, people more involved in politics than the average citizen.

About 15 percent of adults nationwide say they've donated to political candidates in recent years. Among the attendees for 21 listening sessions from December 10, 2015, through March 29, 2016, about 32 percent have donated to political candidates or causes.

Attendees who donated have made about 3,800 total donations totaling about $1.1 million, according to state campaign finance data. Those donations overwhelmingly — at more than 80 percent — favored conservative and Republican candidates and causes.

Such an “Unintimidated” guy, isn’t he? And you wonder why everyone outside of GOP Bubble World can’t stand him anymore?

Then again, it’s not like the typical Republican is known for having a clue about what the “Real America” looks like. Check out this selfie from another Wisconsin GOP showing off the party’s Capitol Hill interns, and try not to be blinded by the whiteness.

How can you trust anyone so disconnected from 21st Century reality with running anything, let alone give them the keys to this country's government? This a clueless crew that desperately will not try to man up and deal with what their destructive ideology and policies have wrought. And they all deserve the boot as a result.