Tuesday, October 17, 2017

"Bigger surplus" is because of cheap WisGOPs that cost Wisconsin plenty

I was waiting yesterday for the release of the State of Wisconsin’s Annual Fiscal Report, which comes out every October 15, but since it fell over the weekend, it didn’t get released till late yesterday afternoon.
Turns out the topline was pretty good for the final numbers for Fiscal Year 2017.
Wisconsin’s budget finished the fiscal year that ended June 30 with a $579 million surplus, $126 million more than expected and the fourth-largest surplus of the past two decades.

The amount was higher than expected mostly because agencies spent about $116 million less than they were authorized to spend.

Tax collections and departmental revenues came in almost level — $4.9 million more than projections that were made when the 2015-17 budget was approved two years ago, an indication that economic growth has held steady since then.
We had a good idea that the revenue side would be mostly in line, based on what came out a month ago from the Wisconsin DOR, but the lower-than-expected expenses (aka “lapses” in expected spending) are what led to the bigger carryover.

So let’s go into the AFR and its more-detailed Appendix, and what we find is that the savings were mostly concentrated in a couple of areas.

1. $353.6 million in lapses for “Health Care Access and Accountability” from the Department of Health Services. The overwhelming part of that was due to Medicaid spending coming in at an estimated $325 million below budgeted levels for the 2015-17 biennium.

I’ll leave it up to you as to how that large amount of Medicaid savings happened, but this cushion allowed for the current Medicaid budget to be reduced, freeing up funding for other areas and additional tax giveaways in the 2017-19 budget.

2. There was a $536.2 million lapse in the Department of Administration’s “Supervision and Management” functions, which seems directly related to several debt swaps the Walker Administration has made, including one in August 2016 to avoid a large balloon payment that would have hit this May (I described it in this post). That debt swap contributes $128 million of the large structural deficit that looms in the next budget.

Oh, and check out this note on another source of savings for the state.
In FY 2017, Chapter 20 included a compensation reserve for employee salary and fringe benefit increases (for state employees). The total amount reserved (appropriated) was $18,616,800 and the amount allotted was $1,224,500 leaving a lapse amount of $17,392,300.
So nothing given out in raises....again. And you wonder why the state is having trouble getting enough workers to adequately staff needed services?

Also worth looking at are the figures regarding the Transportation Fund in the Appendix of the AFR. Looks like the Transportation Fund ended up with a year-end balance of $219.1 million, which would be $74 million above what we saw projected in the budget that passed for Transportation last month.

But that’s actually not a good sign, and here’s why

Total state spending in Transportation Fund
2015-16 $1,929.6 million
2016-17 $1,941.1 million (+$11.5 million, +0.6%)

Debt payments, Transportation Fund
2015-16 $340.8 million
2016-17 $356.1 million (+$15.3 million, +4.5%)

So that means we actually SPENT LESS on fixing the roads and in giving out local aids for roads and transportation in Fiscal Year 2017 than Fiscal Year 2016. Which helps to explain the side effects of the 2015-17 austerity budget. Think about how many more wheel taxes and similar local fees that have had to be imposed in the last 2 years so communities could adequately fix their streets, because they didn’t have enough funding from the state or feds to take care of these needs.

That is a direct result of Walker/WisGOP shell games to push the taxes down to the local levels. Makes it pretty darn easy to “hit your numbers” when that happens, but the average Wisconsinite ends up paying more and dealing with more aggravation as a result.

And the other side effect was Wisconsin’s lagging economic performance in the 2 years of the 2015-17 biennium.

Change in jobs, June 2015- June 2017
Mich +3.48%
Minn +3.278%
U.S. +3.275%
Ind. +2.49%
Ohio +2.087%
Wis. +2.086%
Iowa +1.67%
Ill. +1.15%

The stagnant economy and the anti-education GOP policies that became especially pronounced for the 2015-17 budget helps to explain why Wisconsin’s population growth further stagnated from its already low amount. Meanwhile, our neighbors to the west aren’t just gaining more jobs than us, they've added 120,000 more people than we have in the last 6 years.



So while we have slightly more money than we thought we had at the end of Fiscal Year 2017, look at what it cost us to get there. We got our ass kicked economically, our population is growing slower, and we added on more debt. How can anyone honestly stand there and think that was a good trade-off? Or that this decline will turn around with the same crew in charge?

Monday, October 16, 2017

UW reorg might work, but Cross, GOP not worthy of trust

As people digest the announcement by UW System President Ray Cross about his plans to link the 2-year UW Colleges with 8 of the 4-year UW campuses, many are looking for more details as to how all of this would actually work out.

Noel Radomski heads up the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education on the UW-Madison campus, and posted on to the WISCAPE site with his thoughts. Radomski said Cross’s potential new operating model could work well in dealing with the financial and efficiency problems caused by the loss of enrollment at the Colleges.
The proposal to integrate the UW Colleges campuses into UW four-year institutions is interesting, and it has the potential to stem the decline in enrollment at the UW Colleges (future branches campuses), the UW’s four-year regional universities, and UW-Milwaukee​; ​facilitate transfer​; and improve the number and success of transfer students. The probability of meeting the proposal’s stated goals will increase if adequate time and resources are provided for the planning, adoption, and implementation of the proposal. The proposal could fix the problems caused by the recent, hastily planned and executed regionalization of the UW Colleges. Hopefully, a stronger focus on local control and a regional focus will be the twin pillars driving the future of the branch campuses and regional universities.

The proposal to move Cooperative Extension to UW-Madison is timely and​ could pay great dividends. If enacted, it could rekindle the relationship ​between the state’s land grant institution and ​its citizens, agricultural sectors, local and start-up businesses, established businesses, targeted industry clusters, community-based organizations, governments, K-12 districts, and others. It takes us back to the past: UW Cooperative was part of UW-Madison until ​they were divorced in the mid-1960s. Though it was yanked from UW-Madison with the best of intentions​ -- the expectation that a large infusion of federal and philanthropic funding would be provided to address Wisconsin’s urban renewal and the war on poverty​ -- these never came to fruition due to federal monies being diverted to the Vietnam War. Now, with this proposal, county agents will once again serve as a direct bridge and translator between UW-Madison faculty, staff, and students and the communities they serve.
But Radomski noted that the concern Cross stated about “declining high school graduates in Wisconsin” is at best overblown, and perhaps signals that System needs to adjust to changing demographics. Radomski also questioned why some UW-Extension services were being centralized into System administration in Madison.
The premise that Wisconsin’s current and projected high school graduates is contributing and will lead to more enrollment declines is highly questionable and must be revisited. The December 2016 report, Knocking at the College Door: Projections of High School Graduates, by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), shows that the number of Wisconsin high school graduates will be stable for a number of years, and then slowly decline. However, if you dive into the recent and projected number of Wisconsin high school graduates, you will find that the number of white high school graduates is declining, and the number of Latinx and (to a lesser extent) black high school graduates is increasing. Many UW System institutions have already made significant changes to their programs that better serve the increasing number of underrepresented students enrolling, persisting, learning, and succeeding in their institutions. It is those youth who will be tomorrow’s civic leaders, employees, and business owners, if they have more than a high school diploma or GED. The previous hope that international students will either halt enrollment declines or provide enough tuition revenue to cover for the loss of domestic student tuition is not proving true for most of the UW Colleges and regional comprehensive universities. UW-Madison is the exception….

The proposal to move three [other] UW Extension divisions to UW System administration is highly suspect and identification of better placements should proceed immediately. Is the role of UW System administration to run divisions and programs?



Stevens Point-based writer Bill Berry had a similarly mixed reaction to Cross’s reorganization plans. Berry says a well-done reorganization could be a win-win for both the Colleges and the 4-year UW campuses they would feed into, and deal with challenging demographics in Central Wisconsin.
…The merger could solve some of the knots in the current arrangement. It could ease the transferability of credits from two- to four-year institutions and perhaps provide savings on administrative overlap. It may also address the current plunge in student numbers, pushed at least in part by declines in high school graduates.

Most of the four-year campuses to which the two-year centers would be hitched are struggling with the same challenges posed by declining enrollment, worsened by withering cuts in state support. At UW-Stevens Point, which would inherit UW-Marathon County and UW-Wood County, officials are already struggling with these issues and public reaction to efforts to address them.
But Berry also notes that Cross, the Board of Regents, the right-wing Governor who selected those Regents, and the GOP legislators that helped land the UW System in these funding constraints cannot be trusted to do this the right way.
But it’s hard to be confident given the record of the current governor and many legislators, who have used our public universities as punching bags over the past decade despite the fact they are major drivers of local, regional and state economies. Some have acted with outright malice toward the universities. They can only be viewed as anti-higher education. This is piled on top of almost a half-century of dramatic declines in state support. The same lawmakers have then cynically complained about rising tuition costs.

Who knows, maybe this merger proposal will help shed new light on the value and importance of our universities. If nothing else, people who make decisions in Madison may get an education about how much local communities value their colleges.
Maybe, or maybe it’ll make constituents in places like Rice Lake, Wausau, Marshfield, Sheboygan, and Fond du Lac recognize that they need to get rid of the regressive ALEC trash that are defunding and deforming the UW Colleges in their communities.

And we should be wary of the motives behind this, particularly because of the isolated way Cross undertook to come up with this plan, leaving UW students and faculty in the dark until last week. At the same time, Cross is allowing input from another group of people, as the UW's Kris Olds noted from Cross's appearance on Mike Gousha's show this weekend.



So Ray Cross is talking to business leaders about how to shape a sizable amount of the UW System’s future service delivery, but isn’t doing the same for the actual students and faculty that will be directly affected by it? You’d think he’d want to get some buy-in and shaping of the plan from those groups, since the plan won’t work well if those groups don’t get on board with it.

Radomski was also alarmed by Cross’s secrecy, and said the idea that this reorganization could start in less than 9 months (before some current Colleges students would even finish their 2-year program).
UW campus administrators, faculty, academic staff, university staff, students, civic business leaders, and the fourth estate were not informed of the proposal to restructure the UW System until they read the October 11 press release announcing it. ​Though individuals can now submit questions about ​the proposal through a web page, ​ at a minimum, President Cross and the UW System Board of Regents should also convene a series of open community hearings with Q&A sessions across the state. ​In addition, they should conduct an informational session at a UW System Board of Regents meeting before the Board votes on the proposal. The approval and implementation date, therefore, need to be extended. The idea of approving the restructuring proposal at a November 2017, UW System Board of Regents meeting is folly, as is a July 1, 2018, implementation date.
Yeah, there’s a lot that has to be figured out with this proposed reorganization, and it seems quite telling that Cross and the Regents are trying to jam this through as quickly as possible, with changes starting before the 2018 elections, where “future of the UW System” would be a major issue if this plan was hanging out there.

But I’m sure that’s just a coincidence, right Ray? Just like I’m sure it slipped your mind to talk to the students and faculty about how their jobs and academic plans might be upended, eh boss? That act is why I also have serious misgivings over this plan, even if it might help the current declining situation at these Colleges and campuses.

Because the people Ray Cross are working for are not to be trusted, and refuse to come clean with the public about what they want to see as a final outcome of these changes - Well, at least an outcome that doesn’t involve destroying higher education in the state, or one that resides firmly in Fantasyland.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

During "recovery", much of Wisconsin has stayed subpar

A great cover story by the Isthmus's Mark Eisen helps to explain why the economic situation in Wisconsin may seem very different depending on where you may live. It helps to explain why much of the state seems to be drowning in resentment and stangation, with alarming trends that only project to get worse if we continue in the same direction.

As the article notes, when it comes to economic performance, we have "Two Wisconsins." The Madison area and a few suburban counties have done very well in the last few years, but the rest of the state is falling behind.
Today, while Dane County booms and the bigger cities in the Fox River Valley and western Wisconsin prosper, the rest of the state is largely mired in a downturn that is a recession in all but name.

Wisconsin is not alone. This dichotomy is also America’s story, as the Economic Innovation Group, a centrist research group in Washington, D.C., first documented in May 2016. The EIG study — widely ignored and fraught with political implications, as pundit Harold Meyerson has argued — detailed how painfully limited the economic recovery from the Great Recession (the magnitude of job destruction earned its adjective) was compared to post-recession periods in the early 1990s and early 2000s.
That EIG report referenced in the article noted that in particular, bigger urban areas came back very well in the 2010s, but the rest of the nation may never have noticed that we were in a recovery. From 2010 to 2014, the EIG says a total of 73 counties in the US accounted for 50% of the new jobs in the country, and that counties with 1 million or more people added jobs twice at twice the rate as counties that had less than 100,000 people of them. In fact, 31% of US counties still lost jobs from 2010 to 2014 while the rest of the country was recovering. In addition, the amount of new businesses starting up has notably declined compared to the recoveries in the 1990s and 2000s.

Wisconsin fares even worse than most states for these troubling trends. Only 27% of Wisconsinites lived in counties that had job growth beat the US rate in that 2010-2014 period, we are notoriously dead last for entrepreneurship, and our population has stagnated in many of those counties that have trailed for job growth.



Eisen notes that the state is failing when it comes to attracting people to the state, and it's a definite indicator as to how we are being left behind in general.
Truth be told, Wisconsin is old and unadventurous in many ways. Almost 72 percent of the population was born here, according to the UW-Extension. That’s the fifth highest percentage in the nation. In more economically dynamic states like Colorado, Washington, Oregon, California and Washington, the percentage of homeys is under 50 percent. That’s because ambitious job-seekers are steadily flocking to those states.

Ain’t the case in Wisconsin. The state’s “brain drain” — the loss of college graduates, despite the presence of the expansive UW System — is a recurring topic of worry in Wisconsin business circles. How can we compete in the knowledge economy if our best and brightest graduates leave the state?

[The UW-Extension's Steven] Deller and his colleagues counter that the problem isn’t so much outflow — they say the Wisconsin exodus of its college grads is not extreme. The real problem is inflow. Wisconsin just isn’t attracting college grads to move here.
Huh, sounds like we need a number of policies that encourage talent to locate in Wisconsin, eh? You know, like not having the regressive social legislation and the defunding of education that are a hallmark of the Age of Fitzwalkerstan. And maybe we should use the state's "Economic Development" organization for something other than a slush fund for donors from established corporation.

And it needs to change soon, because the inability to get young people to come into the state and raise families here is leading to a demographic nightmare in the state, especially in the rural areas that are being left behind. It's bad enough today, and it'll be a lot worse in 20 years if it doesn't change.



If there are no jobs being added and no one moving to these places, how are we going to be able to support a bunch of elderly people, especially with very few additions to the tax base in those places? It's going to lead to an even bigger displacement of resources, with more areas needing to be supported by the few places doing well.

These economic and demographic trends make it obvious that we need new strategy and leadership in the state, and it has to happen ASAP.

Sunday reading- listen to the Pack's Lance Kendricks

Been a busy weekend over here with friends in for Badger football and other outings. But I wanted to direct your attention to a great feature from the Green Bay Press-Gazette's Ryan Wood, who talked with current Packer and former Badger Lance Kendricks about his decision to sit during the national anthem before the Pack's game with the Bengals 3 weeks ago.

Kendricks is a Milwaukee native whose grandparents and uncles served in the military during wars, and while the article mentions that he had been racially profiled, Kendricks indicated his protest was more related to the fact that President Trump was ignoring the disaster in Puerto Rico, where his wife's family is from.
Some of the stranded are your wife’s family. One uncle waited in line 12 hours for gas. You want to make a difference. Maybe, you think, your platform can raise awareness.

After the storm, you constantly check the news for updates. President Donald Trump is speaking at a rally in Huntsville, Ala., and you anticipate encouraging words from a president whose authority extends to Puerto Rico. You hear something entirely different. “Son of a bitch,” Trump curses. He doesn’t mean the hurricane.

“That broke the camel’s back,” Kendricks says.
Wood's article continues with Kendricks being annoyed with that fans who tell athletes to 'Dance fucker, dance!" "Stick to sports" are forgetting that atheles are people as well, and just because they play football, it doesn't mean they are cut off from the outside world. And Wood notes that if you remove "football player" from Lance Kendricks' biography, he still has a resume and background that would be impressive, and familiar to a lot of other people living and working in Wisconsin.
Lance Kendricks is you. A few inches taller. Certainly faster and stronger. He’s a professional athlete, but Kendricks could’ve been a financial analyst. He earned his diploma from the University of Wisconsin, choosing economics over an art degree, he said, because of the rigorous coursework.

He wishes there was no need to use the national anthem in protest. Kendricks was a Cub Scout. In uniform, he saluted during the pledge of allegiance. He learned how to fold the flag.

Kendricks left the Scouts when sports conflicted, but he never lost an appetite for world events. It doesn’t matter how much money he makes playing a game, Kendricks says. He is a person with multiple dimensions....

“People don’t understand how smart football players are,” Kendricks says. “I think people just think we’re idiots, we’re dumb jocks from high school with the letterman jacket that cheated on tests and just got good grades, and went to college and lived their life. It’s like, no, we’re extremely smart.


Do you care why he is doing this?

There is also some severe white privilege in play among people who get agitated over (mostly minority) football players making gestures during the national anthem. Why is a white person's belief in what proper conduct is during the anthem and what the flag stands for supposed to be standard in this country anyway? And why is another point of view supposed to be viewed as "less than" and disregarded out of hand? Why don't these white people want to at least listen and find out why these protests are happening? Is it because they're too arrogant and/or weak-minded to want to find out, because it might cause them to question what's going on in this country, and their own values and status in life?

Look, I think a lot of the whole "anthem protest" issue is played out. People are forgetting the main point of the protests- to bring attention to the fact that many Americans are not being treated equally and with respect, and instead trying to make it about their own actions and agendas. But it is the height of white entitlement to think that they get to make the ground rules for what people like Lance Kendricks can or cannot do, and what is or is not damaging to the NFL's image (I'm looking at you Jerry (I Sign Woman-Beaters) Jones).

Again, read the long and well-written piece from Ryan Wood on Lance Kendricks. It's worth looking at to get some perspective before today's Packers-Vikes game.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Bought-off WIsGOPs continuing onslaught against Wisconsin environment

Recent events in the state show that the attack on Wisconsin’s water and natural beauty never ends with the current GOP crew in charge. For example, take a look at this bill that is up for a public hearing next week.
Under this bill, if the Department of Natural Resources issues a wetland individual permit to a public utility, DNR may not require mitigation unless the discharge authorized by the wetland individual permit will result in a permanent fill of more than 10,000 square feet of wetland.

Under current law, no person may discharge dredged material or fill material into a wetland unless the discharge is authorized by a wetland general permit or individual permit, or the discharge is exempt from permitting requirements. Current law requires DNR to issue wetland general permits for discharges to wetlands that are necessary for temporary access or waste disposal if not more than two acres of wetlands are affected, discharges for certain development if not more than 10,000 square feet of wetlands are affected, and for utility and highway construction and maintenance.
And you can bet that if the door is opened for utilities to not need a permit, private businesses come next. This is right in line with the “if Foxconn can do it, why can’t we too?” meme we heard from the pro-polluter crowd as soon as the Fox-con became law, and it’s also a main reason behind a recently-introduced bill that would get rid of the DNR permitting system on wetlands entirely.

Seems fitting that this type of back-door deregulation is trying to be pushed through at the Capitol right after this week’s decision in a Dane County Court that said the DNR violated the state constitution by allowing mega-farms and other businesses to grab massive amounts of water for their own use.
A Dane County judge has thrown out eight high-capacity well permits the state granted to businesses despite warnings from its own scientists that the massive water withdrawals would harm vulnerable lakes, streams and drinking water supplies.

Circuit Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn ruled that the permits ran afoul of a constitutional provision requiring state government to protect water for the public.
State Senator Mark Miller observes that respecting and protecting the environment used to be something that all politicians in Wisconsin believed in, regardless of party. Sen. Miller (who’s been in the Legislature since 1998) since rightfully asks in the column, “What happened to Wisconsin?”
In the early 2000s, water bottling giant Perrier had a plan to open a facility in the central sands of Wisconsin. There was great concern for the impact this might have on our groundwater resources. High capacity wells in that area have a direct impact on surface waters. As we can see today, they cause lake levels to decrease and rivers to run dry. The threat of Perrier brought together Republicans, Democrats and Democratic Governor Jim Doyle to pass what was supposed to be the first step in protecting groundwater quantity. 2003 Wisconsin Act 310 was passed nearly unanimously, 99-0 in the Assembly and 31-1 in the Senate and signed into law by Governor Doyle. In the years that followed, bi-partisan study groups continued to look at the issue to determine what those next steps forward might be to ensure everyone has reasonable access to the waters of the state….

In the mid-1990s, the threat of a sulfide mine in Crandon, Wisconsin brought Democrats and Republicans together to pass the mining moratorium. This legislation, 1997 Wisconsin Act 171, was passed with overwhelming support, 91-6 in the Assembly and 29-3 in the Senate and signed by Republican Governor Tommy Thompson. Sometimes referred to as the “Prove it First” law, it simply requires that anyone wanting to operate an sulfide mine in the state of Wisconsin needs to demonstrate than another similar mine has been able to operate and close somewhere in the United States without polluting for at least 10 years. Because there has not yet been an example of a mine that can operate without causing pollution, Republicans now want to change the law….

In 2001, a U.S. Supreme Court decision, SWANCC vs. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, left all geographically isolated wetlands unprotected. In the wake of that decision, legislators in Wisconsin sprang into action. A concerted effort over a five month period led to Republican Governor Scott McCallum calling a Special Session to pass a bill which put in place state-level protection for isolated wetlands. 2001 Wisconsin Act 6 was passed unanimously by both houses of the Legislature. Since 2011, a number of proposals have chipped away at the 2001 law, but the latest, LRB 4115/1, proposes eliminating state protection for isolated wetlands.

What has happened to Wisconsin? Not that long ago, when faced with an environmental crisis, Democrats and Republicans worked hand-in-hand to come up with common sense solutions. I worked diligently with my colleagues on both the wetlands and groundwater laws during my tenure in the State Assembly and was proud to have voted for both. Now I see a new generation of Republican lawmakers, very different from the last, who fail to see the forest for the trees.


Doesn't this matter?

Well Sen. Miller, I think I have a good idea “what has happened to Wisconsin.” And it goes back to the case on high-capacity water permits that the state DNR lost last week. The reason the permits were “running afoul” of the state’s constitution in the first place was because of something our WMC-owned Attorney General did last year.
The DNR stopped considering cumulative impact in June 2016 based on an opinion issued by state Attorney General Brad Schimel. Schimel cited a 2011 law that prohibited state agencies from taking actions not specifically authorized in statutes…. (a law passed by the WisGOP Legislature and signed by Governor Walker)

[Victorious Madison attorney Carl] Sinderbrand said Schimel and other elected Republicans were ignoring the Constitution in order to serve business interests.

“It is political decision-making and it’s done totally to protect the interests of people who finance election campaigns,” Sinderbrand said. “It’s government for sale, and the attorney general is as much an offender as anybody.”
That’s exactly right. The GOPs are messing with Wisconsin’s environment because WMC, the Kochs, and other benefactors are paying them to do it. This starts at the top with the Koch-owned Governor, to the disgustingly partisan Attorney General, on down to the lowliest legislator who will vote the party line in exchange for campaign favors.

And until people who live in the areas affected by the removal of these protections respond by removing these GOP puppets, the destruction of one of our few advantages will continue, with no benefit to anyone outside of a few connected profiteers.

Walker/Trump sabotage raising health premiums, and offering no solutions

Well, it’s October again, and that means sign-up time for health care. With that in mind, this wasn’t welcome news for people who don’t get health insurance through their job.
The Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) has completed its review of rates and forms filed by insurers requesting to participate in the federally facilitated exchange. It is important to note these rates and forms are impacting the individual market only and not the group market where most Wisconsinites get their coverage.

"This year, we were successful in ensuring coverage in all Wisconsin counties," stated Commissioner Ted Nickel. "Unfortunately, Wisconsin consumers will be facing an average premium rate increase of 36 percent for individual ACA-compliant health insurance plans in Wisconsin. These rate changes and the recent exiting of numerous national carriers make it even more important for individuals to actively explore their health insurance options. As always, it's helpful to seek out insurance professionals to help guide you through that process."
The methodology is a bit sketchy, as it assumes a mid-level “silver” plan for a 21-year-old. That person is likely to be covered by his/her parent’s insurance or by their college health plan, and the people in bigger need of the exchanges are older working-class people, many of whom work as independent contractors and/or menial jobs that don’t offer insurance.

But it at least gives a comparison across years and counties, so let’s go with it. In the Wisconsin State Journal article on this subject, Deputy Insurance Commissioner J.P. Wieske was at least more honest about what the average exchange user would really pay.
Premiums next year will increase an average of 40 percent for so-called silver plans on the exchange in the state. About 90 percent of people with the coverage get subsidies that will also go up accordingly, so they won't be directly impacted, Wieske said.

Rates for bronze plans, which offer less coverage, will go up 21 percent. The cost for gold plans, which offer more coverage, will go up 19 percent. People buying those plans will have to pay more.
Oh, so most Wisconsinites won’t actually pay more, there will just be more tax dollars spent in subsidy to make up the difference. That’s not good if you’re concerned about the federal deficit and being able to pay for other needs (it also might make tax cuts a really bad idea), but let’s not pretend that a lot of Wisconsinites are going to be driven into poverty as a result of what was revealed today.

And Wieske acknowedges that the anti-Obamacare talk from our President* is leading insurance companies to assume a worst-case scenario, which explains why there is such a jump in unsubsidized premiums.
A major reason for the stiff hikes is that President Donald Trump's administration hasn't said if it will continue certain payments to insurers, said J.P. Wieske, deputy commissioner of insurance…

Trump has threatened to end payments to insurance companies to help cover low-income people, though the payments have continued.

Wisconsin, like some other states, told insurance companies to assume the payments, associated with silver plans, won't be provided next year. That contributed significantly to their large rate increases for silver plans, Wieske said.
Wieske goes on to say that if the payments to insurers continue, then that would likely lower premiums next year. In addition, he says Trump’s executive order allowing for crap insurance to be sold to small groups may also allow for lower premiums than what was being reported today.

But those realities didn’t stop our Koched-up governor from opening his trap, and continuing to spread the Big Lie.
Gov. Scott Walker added: "Obamacare is collapsing, and these huge premium increases show the law failed on its promise to deliver affordable healthcare."
The duplicitousness of Sleazy Scotty is a real piece of work here.

1. If Trump would simply CARRY OUT THE LAW and allow the cost-sharing payments to insurance companies, Obamacare wouldn’t be looking at “huge premium increases” in Wisconsin.

2. Walker’s whole cynical plan in rejecting Medicaid expansion was to push Wisconsinites above the poverty line onto the exchanges, in the hopes of overloading the exchanges and making them less cost-efficient. Now Scotty is openly cheering the fact that people are facing premium hikes as an outcome of this decision instead of DEALING WITH PROBLEM AND HELPING THE PEOPLE OF WISCONSIN.

Trump and Walker are in the same boat here, willfully injuring their constituents to…accomplish what? Mess up the legacy of the Black Man that used to be in the White House? They've got no solution when it comes to giving adequate medical coverage to more people, and our media never asks these slimeballs what outcome they want to see, or how they plan to do it.

And why do people stand around and not demand that these bastards be run out of town on a rail for this ridiculous and sickening act?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Trump tax cuts will hurt many in Wis. When does the GOP greed stop?

Tamarine Cornelius of the Wisconsin Budget Project has put up a good summary of studies that illustrate the burdens of the proposed GOP tax cuts in DC. Spoiler: If you're not massively rich, it's not likely to be good news.

The Budget Project summarizes the findings from the Institute for Taxation and Policy, who performed analyses for all 50 states, using the “tax plan framework” that was released by Donald Trump and the GOP Congress 2 weeks ago. In Wisconsin’s case, quite a few people would end up paying higher taxes under the (admittedly vague) plan, while the rich and corporate would get by far the biggest benefits.
If the framework was in effect in 2018, 13.2 percent of Wisconsin households would face a tax hike. Whether a family would pay higher or lower taxes would depend on their circumstances. There are two provisions that reduce the amount of income that is subject to taxes for most families, and the framework increases one of them (the standard deduction) while repealing the other (the personal exemption). Families who itemize their deductions (rather than claiming the standard deduction) may pay higher taxes because the framework repeals most itemized deductions, including the deduction for state and local taxes [SALT].

The framework would be particularly generous to the wealthy in large part because it would reduce the corporate income tax rate. The bulk of the benefits would go to the owners of corporate stocks and other business assets, a group of overwhelmingly (although not entirely) high-income taxpayers. The framework would also provide a special tax rate of 25 percent for other types of businesses. While it describes this as a tax cut for “small businesses,” most of the benefits would go to the richest one percent of Americans. The wealthiest taxpayers would also benefit greatly from the framework’s reduction in the top personal income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 35 percent and elimination of the estate tax.
In particular, ITEP says it’s the upper-middle class in Wisconsin who is most susceptible to getting a tax increase from this plan, due to their group being reliant on SALT and other itemized deductions, but not making enough for the top tax rate reduction.



The Budget Project also notes that the increased deficits will likely require spending cuts and/or other tax increases in order to keep the federal budget deficit in line. If we assume those extra taxes and reduced benefits are applied equally, then almost all Americans end up losers, with the poorest ones taking the hardest hit.



Here’s the even worst part of this package for Wisconsinites – it’s already on top of numerous regressive tax cuts and wage suppression during the Age of Fitzwalkerstan that have helped to make economy lag the country and made inequality worse. So now we add in this extra “juice” from the Feds that also will have most of the benefits go to the richest and most connected? How does that improve things?

It leads to a simple question that Ted Kennedy asked 10 years ago on the Senate floor, during the last era of GOP tax cuts and deregulation combined with a lack of an increase in the minimum wage. “When does the greed stop?”