Sunday, August 28, 2016

Charlie Sykes' disgusting duplicity

I was up in the Northwest when this absurd piece of spin came out from Politico Magazine last weekend. It's Charlie Sykes trying to show that right-wing world and Trumpism aren't the same thing, and a stenographer named Erick Trickey dutifully writes down Chuckles' tripe in a long article. Among the many crocodile tears shed by Chuckie includes the following.
“Were these people that we actually thought were our allies?” he asks.

Sykes remains confident that Trump will lose badly in November, and he is equally fearful that Trump will drag longtime Republicans, like Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, down with him. This has Sykes thinking about the long-term future of the party and what might have precipitated its looming collapse. He wonders: Did “the faux outrage machine” of and other right-wing outlets foment the noxious opinions that Trump has stoked so effectively on the trail?

“When I would deny that there was a significant racist component in some of the politics on our side, it was because the people I hung out with were certainly not,” Sykes says. “When suddenly, this rock is turned over, there is this—‘Oh shit, did I not see that?’
Not see that? Hey Chuckie, YOU BUILT THAT! 3 1/2 hours day, 5 days a week on "Wisconsin's radio station", where the Brewers and Packers gave you more listeners than your loafer-wearing, Mequon ass ever deserved.

Seriously, fuck this guy

Marquette grad Charlie Pierce came back from vacation last week, and rightfully called out Sykes for what he was trying to pull over.
Just asking that question marks Sykes as either a charlatan or a fool, and my money's on the former. Sykes knew damn well who his "allies" were when he was calling the First Lady "Mooch," or when he was calling a black man who'd died in police custody "a piece of garbage," and when he referred to "the pigs of mothers who are too lazy to put their children in a crib and roll over the top of them while sleeping on a futon on the floor."

Sykes knew who his "allies" were when, as Milwaukee's Shepherd Express reported, he aired a blackface rap parody.
It features a young, black woman calling herself Chapter Jackson, who acts out every racist stereotype of poor, black, single mothers that bigoted audiences find hilarious. Ms. Jackson is knee-deep in black babies in a house full of women slutted up like prostitutes while she writhes and raps that her life is a constant party paid for by taxpayers. She repeats the obscene refrain: "All you have to do is f— and nine months later you get in the big bucks."
Yeah, he's known all along who his "allies" are. Once again, Trump is merely the modern Republican party without its interior monologue.
On a related note, No More Mister Nice Blog reminds us that Sykes sent many a Tweet last year beating up on "illegals" and Islam. And then Sykes has the nerve in the article to act offended and shocked when a dumbass caller calls Muslims "these people" and expresses fear about Islamic people being radicalized.

And let's go back to 2015's Super Bowl for more Sykes "civility". After Russell Wilson threw the game-losing INT to the Patriots. Blogging Blue reminds us that Sykes thought it was cute to joke about Beast Mode wanting to "Lynch" his coach for not giving him the ball on that play. Because the running back's name was Marshawn Lynch. HILARIOUS!

The self-serving nature of Sykes' new "Trump isn't who conservatives are" act is vomit-inducing to anyone who has followed Chuckles' act. He knows exactly what he was saying in those statements, and why he was saying them - to gin up racial resentment by mediocre white guys to get them to back WisGOP for cultural reasons, allowing the WisGOPs to get in power and slip through a WMC/Bradley Foundation's economic agenda that a majority of Wisconsinites do not support. And Sykes has worked in tandem with Scott Walker and other Wisconsin righties on and off the air to play this duplicitous game.

Sykes is also looking big-picture, and I believe him when he says he thinks Drumpf is likely to lose in 2016, and lose badly. So the game Sykes is playing, likely on behalf of his ALEC/Bradley bosses, is to pave the way to say that the GOP "really isn't like Trump", try to stay afloat downticket at the state and Congressional levels in 2016 through suckering enough people to buy that crap excuse. And then once November 8, 2016 passes, he and his type will try to pretend Trumpism never existed (and that the GOP actively encouraged that mindset) for future elections, just like how they sent the disastrous Bush years down the memory hole once Obama took the Oath of Office.

Then the "we aren't Trump" excuse can be used for the 2020 presidential campaign to encourage people to look for a "kinder, gentler" face for the GOP that isn't as vile as Drumpf. Someone like Paul Ryan or Scott Walker, who believe the same vile, regressive BS that Drumpf does, and are more than willing to stir up stupid white guys in racial resentment in order to get their votes. But those candidates can stick to the code words in public ("dependency", etc.) and pass off the white supremacy and nastiness inherent in their beliefs to Faux News and the AM talk show hosts. It also allows Char-LIE Sykes to get air time on MSNBC and other "non-rightie" sources as an "independent, anti-Trump voice" that can improve his brand to the unsuspecting viewers to think that he is something beyond the race-baiting liar we know him to be in Wisconsin.

Be aware of this, and alert others about this disgusting game Sykes and the country-club right are trying to play. And cut that dishonest sack off before the "new, independent Sykes" gains momentum.

H/T to Jeff Simpson at Cognitive Dissidence for reminding me to bring up Sykes' bullshit.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Local governments hurting under Walker/WisGOP shell games, mandates

The League of Wisconsin Municipalities recently released its 2016 State of Wisconsin’s Cities and Villages to give an update on where things stood in local government going into those places’ budget seasons. The LWM combined observations from its members with data collected by the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, and painted a picture of communities struggling under the weight of limits imposed from Madison by Governor Scott Walker and WisGOP legislators.

I wanted to start with an important stat that LWM gives, as many do not understand how local government finances are handcuffed in Wisconsin. By state law, most cities, villages and towns are prohibited from imposing their own sales or income taxes (sales taxes only exist at the county level, or through special districts like Miller Park and the Wisconsin Center). This means the property tax and fees have to be the main way for city, town, and village services to be funded, especially as aid is being cut from the state level.
Wisconsin cities and villages rely to a great degree on the property tax. Of $4.8 billion in city-village revenue, 57% came from property taxes, and another 13% from local fees. Various state aids comprised 21% of the total.

Given that, the effects of state-imposed levy limits and state-aid retrenchment are evident. City and village property taxes increased 5.2% from 2011 to 2014 (or about 1.7% per year). State aids fell a total of 7.5%. Adjusted for inflation, levies were down 0.8% and aids fell 12.8%.
What this means is that there is a 5% gap between the amount of revenues coming in for 2014, and keeping up with inflation for the same services that were provided in 2010 (around $225 million).

Which leads to an interesting breakdown in the report from the LWM on the fiscal effects of the union-busting Act 10. The LWM notes that cities and villages got less of the savings from it than school districts or other levels of government, because those communities have to pay more for police, fire services (whose unions were exempted from Act 10 as payback for past and future support of Scott Walker). Partly due to that, the League concedes that Act 10 didn’t fill all the budget gaps that still existed by 2014 (after Act 10 had been adopted in most places) due to limits on revenues, identifying a $125 million gap between continuing services and the available revenue.

Some of those gaps were filled by negotiations on savings with police and fire unions (funny how that can work), but those gaps also will eliminated by service reductions and delayed maintenance, especially when it came to quality of life items and back office work in government.
With revenues under pressure, spending priorities shifted. Public safety (31.4% of spending) and streets (13.8%) were the two areas that held their expenditure shares over 2009-14. General government administrative costs (9.1%) and spending for parks and related programs (8.2%) showed some erosion.
What’s more alarming is that while communities are spending on streets in a similar proportion to what they did a few years ago, the quality of those streets is getting worse.
Last year, 68% of city and village streets were rated in “good” or better condition. However, the percentage is declining somewhat, as it stood at 72% in 2011. While 37% of municipal streets were rated “excellent” or “very good” in 2010, that percentage had fallen to 31% by 2015. Likewise, those rated “fair” or “poor” increased from 29% to 32%.
And this decline in road quality and the limited revenues the state gives to local communities (as well as the limited options to make up the difference) is exactly why so many places in recent years have either considered or put into law new wheel taxes. The latest example is in the Wausau area, where the Marathon County Board passed a one-year $25 wheel tax this week. I’m guessing the temporary nature of that Marathon County tax is because they are hoping that a more sustainable form of funding comes from the state level with the next budget and legislative session, but Governor Walker made comments in Green Bay this week that indicated he was OK with this kind of tax-shifting shell game.
Gov. Scott Walker said local governments will have to decide for themselves whether wheel taxes are the right way to fund increasing road construction costs.

After speaking at the Governor’s Conference on Highway Safety at the KI Convention Center on Wednesday, Walker said state funding for local road construction and state highway system maintenance will continue to increase.

“They’re going to have to gauge whether or not those increases are enough or if they want some more. But those are things they have to justify to local voters,” Walker said.
In addition to Walker’s casual brushing off of the shell game his “no-tax and pose” policies have created, I need to call out the Gannett writer for a statement here. “State funding will “continue” to increase?” State aids to local governments for transportation and transit are at the same levels they were at 2015, and will stay at that same amount for 2017. The only increases that may exist are due to borrowing more money for highways, which will need to be paid back and further constrain the possibility of getting more aid to local governments.

Lastly, the LWM report didn’t offer much for the future in changing these financial constraints for local communities, and expressed concern over Wisconsin’s smaller towns in particular, as more of those places reported job losses than job gains, and the officials in those areas also reported a lower amount of civic engagement, with many uncontested seats for elected positions in elected government. It seems that local government and small towns in particular are getting choked off in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan, and after shooting the one-time bullet of Act 10 “savings,” there are few options remaining other than reckless new construction and hopes for growth in the property base (and the taxes that go along with it). The current WisGOP regime does not seem interested in giving communities extra options to make up revenue and services that have been cut over the last 5 ½ years- options that could come in the form of increasing shared revenues, or in allowing local communities to raise their own revenues through property and/or sales taxes.

What that means is that if we see the WisGOPs stay in power past this November, the “pose over policy” mentality will continue, and Wisconsin municipalities will continue to decline with even less of an opportunity of keeping up with their growing service needs. Don’t like that option? Then don’t vote Republican this November.

As Wisconsin stays dead last for start-ups, WEDC still giving milions to donors

Forget all the talk about tax cuts and “reforms” that Scott Walker and the Wisconsin GOP have put in place over the last 5 ½ years, a huge economic problem in Wisconsin is that we continue to have too much of the same, and not enough new blood to stir things up. That was shown again in yesterday’s release of the Kaufman Foundation’s Index of Startup Activity for 2016.

You may remember that Wisconsin rated dead last in the nation for business startups in the Kauffman report last year. Well, at least we got consistency.
The new report, which uses data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Current Population Survey and Business Dynamics Statistics from 2015, doesn't rank all 50 states on a comprehensive list — instead, it separate states into a list of "big states" and "small states" based on population. However, Wisconsin comes last in the list of "big states," and based on its Kauffman Index score, it would have been ranked 50th had all the states been listed comprehensively.

Kauffman's entrepreneurial indices are often regarded as a go-to measure of the health of the startup economy by policymakers, although the foundation's reports have been questioned by some academics over their ability to fairly represent a startup business climate….

Troy Vosseller, the co-founder of the major Wisconsin-based startup accelerator gener8tor, takes the new report as a sign that Wisconsin could stand to change certain economic policies that he believes hinders entrepreneurial growth. For example, he said, the state should tighten its regulations regarding noncompete agreements that tech workers may sign with an employer, restricting them from taking on another job in the same field.

"The fact that I can't name more than one venture-backed startup led by a former employee of any of Wisconsin's Fortune 500 companies is troubling," said Vosseller. "Contrast this with robust startup ecosystems like Silicon Valley, where there are no non-competes, and yet we see more innovation and corporate spin outs there than perhaps any other place in the world."

Vosseller also pointed to the state's tax credit policies as a tool that should be used more by the state to "foster the establishment and growth of new firms," instead of going toward more established corporations.
As WisBusiness’s report on the last-place Kauffman rankings pointed out, the Walker/WisGOP economic strategy of favoring campaign contributors established businesses over helping new ones is a big driver behind that lousy performance.
It also needs to continue to ensure it grows the amount of angel and venture capital investments in the state, [Wisconsin Technology Council President Tom] Still said. One way of doing so, several tech leaders noted, is making investments into startups more attractive by expanding the amount of tax credits for investors.

WEDC, some noted, did the opposite when it moved money allocated toward those tax credits to a program aimed at the state’s legacy industries.

“The signal that it sent as a state was that we’re not interested in entrepreneurship,” said Steven Deller, a UW-Madison economist whose research has slammed the state on its aiding of startups.
It seems fitting that on the same day that the last-place ranking from Kauffman came out, Walker and officials from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) were attending an event announcing $22.5 million in tax credits to encourage Direct Supply Company in Milwaukee to expand.
Expansion plans call for a five-story, 280,000 square-foot building to be constructed in place of an existing single-story building at its 10-building campus along Industrial Road.

The state certified Direct Supply under the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. Enterprise Zone Program to generate the income tax credits, which are contingent on creating the 800 jobs over seven years and retaining its current workforce. Direct Supply currently has 1,100 employees at its headquarters campus on Milwaukee far northwest side and 100 employees at its Technology & Innovation Center at the Milwaukee School of Engineering….

Direct Supply has not disclosed the cost of the expansion project, but Bob Klein, chief administrative officer at the company, said a spring groundbreaking is “under consideration.”

“That question is open right now, as to exactly when the groundbreaking will be,” Klein said. “That’s one of the things that’s still got to be finalized.”
Sounds like a sweet project and a great boon for the community…if it ever happens. Why do I say “if”? It isn’t just because the Direct Supply exec couldn't give a date for the groundbreaking for this expansion. Let me take you back to a similar Walker "jobs are coming" event at HUSCO International in Waukesha in 2013.
HUSCO International is embarking on a multi-year $45 million capital expansion project in Wisconsin that is expected to generate over 150 permanent new jobs by 2015.

“I congratulate HUSCO for making this major investment in its operations to grow in Wisconsin,” said Governor Scott Walker. “HUSCO is well-positioned to expand its leadership in automotive engineering efficiency technologies, and I’m pleased the State of Wisconsin is a partner in supporting the company’s growth.”

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has made HUSCO eligible for up to $800,000 in tax credits to support the company’s major investment.
And then flash forward to what happened earlier this Summer.
On Thursday, the boom apparently was a bust. A HUSCO spokeswoman says 100 salaried and hourly positions will be eliminated from its Waukesha plant.

Several police officers were spotted outside as the announcement was made. Waukesha police say they were asked by the company to be there to "keep the peace" in case there was anger over the decision.
And I’m sure this will shock you, but the Ramirez family that runs HUSCO has also given big money to WisGOP candidates over the years. Likewise, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign pointed out something that Walker and the Wisconsin media didn’t yesterday- that there are deep ties between Direct Supply’s leadership and the Friends of Scott Walker.
Walker failed to mention that he had received $34,000 in campaign contributions from the founder, president, and CEO of the company, Robert Hillis, and his wife, Jennifer, or that their daughter, Genevieve, had given $8,700 to Walker. All the contributions were from January 1, 2009, through the end of 2015.

The total contributions from Direct Supply employees during this period was $47,071.42.
Huh! Imagine that! If I didn't know better, I'd say Walker knew the Kauffmann Foundation was going to rank Wisconsin dead last for start-ups again, and realized he needed to create a photo op to try to trick the public into thinking the top-down, crony capitalism of WEDC is working? And that his buddy Bob Hillis was just the guy to get in contact with to get the WEDC handouts and set up the event to distract from the negative headlines?

NAAAAH! That just me wearing a tinfoil hat. I’m sure it’s all just coincidence. Absolutely.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Vukmir tries talking up WisGOP K-12 policy- reveals more failures and shell games

It’s becoming pretty obvious as the next school year begins that the 5 ½ years of defunding and disrespect of public education by the Wisconsin GOP is taking its toll on the state. State Superintendent Tony Evers made emergency moves this week to allow for more long-term subs and other measures to stem off a teacher shortage that has resulted from applicants not wanting to work in many underfunded, underpaying districts. And this reality is clearly influencing the state’s voters, as Dems have been on the attack with numerous memos from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau showing the effects of these cuts, including one from State Sen. Janet Bewley last week that showed the vast majority of Wisconsin’s school districts receive less state categorical aid than they did in 2010-11.

As WisGOP flails in the polls partly due to these education policies, State Senator Leah Vukmir (aka “The ALEC Queen”) tried to turn back the tide by sending up another memo to the LFB. Vukmir followed by giving out a press release in her typically (no-) class manner, along with a shout-out to the voucher movement that pays her campaign contributions.
“My Republican colleagues in the Legislature and I are committed to funding students whose parents choose public schools. Since 2012 we have increased state aids to public education, and we will continue to budget with students’ best interests in mind. Thanks to state Republicans, students in Wisconsin are getting a quality education, and they’re doing it with expanded opportunities that weren’t available before.

“Here’s my advice to my Democrat [zing!] colleagues unhappy with education in Wisconsin: perhaps aim to improve education policy by diversifying educational opportunity, as opposed to showing more interest in employee-protectionist policies. Recent primary results indicate that Wisconsinites overwhelmingly support educational alternatives. It is becoming rather tiresome that some Democrats continue to criticize effective policy initiatives while simultaneously turning a blind eye to schools failing our youth.
The duplicity and bullcrap in Vukmir’s statement is pathetic enough (hey Leah, didja see the recent ACT scores and their racial gaps, along with statewide teacher shortages? And why don't you care about the underperforming voucher schools that close up shop mid-year, stealing our taxpayer dollars while leaving students stranded and unstable?), but let’s take on her statement that Republicans are adding funding to education.

The LFB memo split up funding four ways, with the state being one leg of that foundation. To the LFB’s and Vukmir’s credit, it looks like they they only counted public school aids, and didn’t include the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars thrown at voucher schools in this time period (counting voucher money is a GOP trick to say “we spent more money on K-12 education!”, because those scumbags think voucher schools are the same as public ones- except for the public accountability part). It also looks like they used what was actually spent out, as opposed to what was budgeted.

When we break down those figures from 2010-11 to ‘14-15, we see the following changes.

Change in funding 2010-11 vs 2014-15
State aid- DOWN $95.0 million
Federal aid- DOWN $205.0 million
Property taxes- UP $61.3 million
Other local revs (gifts, fees, etc.)- UP $53.8 million
TOTAL SPENDING – DOWN $184.8 million

Uh, that doesn’t seem to prove your point, ALEC Queen Leah. We spent less on education in 2014-15 than in 2010-11, and cuts in aid from the state accounted for over half of that decline. This also illustrates the Walker/WisGOP shell game of shifting costs down to the local property taxpayer and individuals

Oh wait, Vukmir ranted something else in that release about Act 10 “savings” (read: money taken from teachers and staff) making up for the loss in state aid and that funding has been increased since the Walker/WisGOP’s cuts of $437 million in that first year. I suppose part of that is true - the state gave out $342 million in additional aids to public schools between 2011-12 and 2014-15. But it leaves out the fact that the 2014-15 level was still below 2010-11’s, both on a total and per-student basis, and that’s BEFORE inflation is figured in.

Vukmir also doesn’t mention that local taxes and fees have gone up in that time period as well.

Change in local funding 2011-12 vs ‘14-15
Property taxes- UP $107.7 million
Other local revenues- UP $19.9 million

Another stat in this memo breaks down these figures on a per-student basis. I suppose in WisGOP world, this could be used to show that the slight decline in public school enrollment of 2,900 over those four years makes the publics look less “efficient”. Except that the per-student costs are still below the figures of 2010-11, and it makes the tax-shifting look even worse.

Change in per-student revenues, 2010-11 vs ’14-’15
State aids- DOWN $90/student
Federal aid- DOWN $236/student
Local Property taxes- UP $91/student
Other local revenues- UP $64/student
TOTAL- DOWN $182/student

So much for Walker and WisGOP cutting your property taxes and out-of-pocket costs for the last 5 years.

And the increase in per-student revenues since 2012 barely matches the rate of inflation, with no magic bullet like “Act 10 savings” to hold down real-world costs. In fact, after a one-time drop in property taxes for 2011-12 the property tax increases have been larger with each passing year.

Change in property taxes per student, 2012-’13 to ‘14-’15
2012-13- UP $5
2013-14- UP $41
2014-15- UP $86
TOTAL $132

And that’s before the slate of referenda that was passed for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years are taken into account, so you can count on that number going up when this is refigured for the coming years.

So no, ALEC Queen, the small amount of crumbs you have tossed back into public education in the last 4 years don’t come close to making up for the cuts you imposed on these districts 5 years ago. In addition, the numbers you were trying to spin clearly show that Wisconsin property taxpayers are shelling out more of their own money to make up the difference for your negligence and vandalism. And no matter how many angry press releases Leah Vukmir sends out, those fiscal facts don’t change, nor does it change the reality that Wisconsin districts are not able to pay for retain talent under today’s constraints.

Underfunding and denigrating one of the state’s few advantages (public schools) isn’t working out, it isn’t making schools more stable, and it’s not improving the human capital that comes out of those schools. Time for a new plan, and getting rid of the ALEC types like Vukmir who squander the Act 10 “savings” on handouts to unproductive corporates and voucher schools.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

July jobs decent, but "gold standard" says things may not be so good

Now that I've had a bit of time, I wanted to follow-up on last week's Wisconsin jobs report, and put the figures into wider context.

1. The monthly job numbers are not bad at all for July (9,100 jobs added overall, and 5,000 in the private sector), but large downward revisions have happened in each of the previous two months (a combined downward revision of 10,600 total jobs and 11,600 private sector jobs). It means that job growth has been very small since March (2,500 private, 8,900 overall), despite all of the happy talk at the start of the year.

And given that U.S. job growth has sprung back in the last 2 months, this means the Walker jobs gap is growing again, now just under 91,000 private sector jobs, and 90,000 jobs overall.

2. And even those increases in the first three months of the year may not hold up. To be sure, the preliminary numbers of the "gold standard" Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages that were part of that July report showed improvement. Year-over-year private sector job growth in March up to 1.59% compared to September's 2-year low of 1.23%, and it was even more impressive in February, which had year-over-year growth at 42,648 - the highest in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan.

But March's 1.59% private sector job growth rate was also well below the 1.98% that the figures said in Spring, and as Chris Walker pointed out at Political Heat, the 12-month private sector job growth between March 2015 and March 2016 ended up being 10,000 jobs below what the "seasonally adjusted" monthly numbers indicated. That seems to indicate the monthly figures from the start of this year will be revised down when the next benchmarking happens next winter, and it also makes Wisconsin likely to remain in the bottom third for U.S. job growth when the nationwide QCEW is released in 2 weeks.

Bottom line- things aren't collapsing in Wisconsin, but we do continue to lag the rest of the country, and the last few months have seen another flatlining of job growth that makes me wonder how much more can be added (especially with regressive WisGOP policies driving talent into retirement and out of the state). Even worse, I fear that even with this past year's job growth, tax revenue growth will not follow (we'll find out in the coming days on that). If revenues do fall short, that means even more budget deficits to deal with in the near future, and that's before the effects of recent natural disasters and the mass closings of the Oscar Mayer and Manitowoc Crane plants ripple their way through the Wisconsin economy.

School year starts in Fitzwalkerstan under teacher shortages and major ethnic gaps

As the Summer winds down and another school year is on the horizon, we’re already starting to see hints that it could be a rough one in many of Wisconsin public districts. Despite the fact that college-prep scores remain strong, there are cracks showing in the foundation that used to be one of Wisconsin’s greatest economic and social strengths.

State Superintendent Tony Evers laid out the truth at a pro-public education event in Wauwatosa yesterday, saying the Walker/WisGOP policies of lower state aids and disrespect of public education and educators over the last 5 years is paying off in a very bad way. Most notably, the current school funding situation is leading to a shell game that results in higher property taxes through voter-approved referenda (often required just to keep the lights on and the classrooms upright), and greater disparities in performance among districts.
“And the reason we're passing referenda is because people like you all across the state, are saying, 'this is b.s,’ we have to support our schools, if the state is not,” he said.

But Evers said the downside is that school referendum efforts in some poorer communities like Milwaukee are less likely to succeed, making worse what he calls the gap between have and have-not school districts.

Evers said the Department of Public Instruction will ask Gov. Scott Walker in the next state budget to focus on having an equitable distribution of state aid for schools, noting he understands any additional dollars may be limited.

Evers said he's especially concerned about teacher shortages in some districts in Western and Northern Wisconsin. He said he's engaging stakeholders from around the state to identify and propose solutions that help school districts address critical staff shortages.

"I think it's about money. I think teachers are underpaid," Evers said. "And second of all, the kind of dysfunctional dialogue we have about public schools, where it always seems to turn to the teachers as the villains here. That's a national issue, but I think it's amplified here in Wisconsin.
That teacher shortage led to Evers outlining emergency steps being taken by DPI to get more teachers in the classroom when the new school year begins in just over a week.
Allowing educators near or in retirement to apply for a nonrenewable, five-year license without professional development requirements.

•Increasing the number of days a short-term substitute can be in the same assignment from 20 to 45

•Expanding criteria for renewal of emergency licenses to include attempting required tests for licensure

•Adding new pathways for teachers to add additional licenses based on content tests
I could land a cheap shot here and point out that Wisconsin’s average ACT scores suffered a sizable drop last year (as the headline in this story indicates), but because I’m not a Republican, and therefore not a dishonest a-hole, I think that number can be excused. Those numbers dropped because 2015-16 was the first year all Wisconsin high school seniors took the test, increasing the pool of test-takers by 42 percent (with many of the new test-takers likely to be lower scorers, since they weren’t taking the college board beforehand), so I don't think the scores themselves are major cause for concern. In fact, Wisconsin was 4th out of 20 states that has virtually all of their graduating students take the ACT - pretty good, although behind our neighbors in Illinois and Minnesota.

But what is disturbing is the massive racial gaps that persist in the state listed as “worst in the country for African-Americans.” Not only did all Hispanics, Native Americans and African-Americans score between 3.6 and 5.6 points lower than their white counterparts in Wisconsin for 2015-16, those gaps persist even when limited to high school students who took “an ACT core curriculum” with 4 years of English, and 3 years each of math, science and social studies.

Average ACT scores of Wis students w-core curric.
White 23.2
Asian 21.9
Multi-racial 21.7
Hispanic 19.5
Native American 18.8
African-American 17.3

Then combine the fact that White students are more likely to take a core curriculum (59%) than Hispanics (47%), African-Americans (43%), and Native Americans (35%), and that non-core students of all races scored 2-4 points lower, and it’s an awful double-whammy that leaves minority groups at a significant disadvantage. Maybe that whole ALEC “de-invest and privatize public education and ghettoize poverty the cities” mentality of the last 25 years isn’t working so hot when it comes to bridging the racial divide in K-12, so perhaps we need to try another way.

Unfortunately, that other way won’t come from the current WisGOP wrecking crew that’s owned by the voucher lobby and other haters of public education. In fact, that 262-dominant group wants to keep all other schools in the state second-class, to allow their mediocre selves to stay on top and lessen competition in the workplace. These sliding results and large gaps are just what the ALEC crew want to claim schools are “failing.”, and continue the money funnel from convicted criminal Scott Jensen and other privateers.

Which means if we want to keep our talented teachers and improve our schools for ALL students, we need new blood inside the Capitol. That can only be done by removing as many of these enemies of public education this November. The recent words from Superintendent Evers and the reports from DPI prove that fact more than ever.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Walker plans another shell game- giveaway to biz while taking from us

In Steven Walters’ column for Urban Milwaukee yesterday, the longtime Capitol reporter discussed a trial balloon that has been sent up by Governor Scott Walker’s administration and the Wisconsin GOP about a two-step tax reform that would help pay for road repairs. But in true WisGOP fashion, they have to include a giveaway to business in the process.
Step 1: Eliminate the state personal property tax, which the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WTA) says totals about $287 million a year – taxes now collected by cities, towns and villages. Cities get about two-thirds of that. This is not the property tax you pay on your home, which generates far more — billions in tax revenue — for local governments across the state, but the little-known personal property tax mostly paid by businesses.

Step 2: Raise the gas tax or vehicle registration fee, or some combination of revenue increases, to pay for highway programs by about that same $287 million. It would be a step toward closing an estimated $1 billion shortfall in funding for road building and maintenance. Assembly Republican leaders, and some Democrats, are willing to raise revenues to avoid construction delays or more borrowing….
For context, Walters reminds us how much the gas tax and registration fees would have to go up as part of this scheme, with a 1-cent increase in the gas tax equalling $33.4 million in revenue, and a $10 increase in vehicle registration fees adding $47 million. So $287 million in revenues would mean a gas tax increase of 8.5 cents a gallon, or jacking up the registration fee from $75 to around $136. Or there could be a combination, like a 5-cent increase in gas tax and making the registration fee $100.

Raising the proper revenues to pay for highways is a nice first step, and that part I’m OK with. But what an awful trade-off to do it, as getting rid of the state personal property tax is nothing more than a giveaway to the corporate and well-off, and would cause a drastic shift that hurts homeowners and local governments.

It’s worth giving a look at the recent release of equalized values from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue to see the impact of removing the personal property tax from the overall tax base (you can click on your county and community here). If you go out from their and look at the state totals, you can see that cities have more of their tax base come from this personal property tax.

% of tax base susceptible to personal property tax
Cities 3.48%
Villages 2.42%
Towns 1.31%

What this means is that cities would have to make up a bigger loss to their tax base than more rural areas of the state. And in particular, the removal of the personal property tax seems to give a larger hit to smaller to mid-size communities that have a disproportionate amount of factories and warehouses along with property values that are not as high. And even though the state’s two largest cities won’t have it as tough as others, their personal property tax proportion is still above the state average of 2.49%.

% of tax base susceptible to personal property tax
Milwaukee 3.12%
Madison 2.90%

West Milwaukee 8.14%
Superior 7.37%
Prairie du Chien 6.25%
Beaver Dam 6.08%
Marshfield 5.94%
Rhinelander 5.43%
Beloit 5.20%
Green Bay 5.00%
Middleton 4.94%
Pleasant Prairie 4.94%
Fond du Lac 4.87%
Wausau 4.70%

This also means that residential homeowners in those communities will likely have to pay higher property taxes in order to make up the difference, since removing the personal property tax means more of the property tax base ends up being residential. Walters notes that this is leading a longtime Walker ally to tell the Governor not to go along with this plan.
The powerful Wisconsin Realtors Association (WRA), which has supported Walker in his three campaigns for governor, warned in a statement that abolishing the personal property tax “without identifying an alternative source of revenue” would increase the property tax bill on average Wisconsin home by $80 per year.

Chief WRA lobbyist Joe Murray also said that increase would ”violate Gov. Walker’s property tax pledge” to keep property taxes lower in 2018 than in 2014 and ”worsen Wisconsin’s ranking has one of the highest property taxed states in the country.”
Those higher property taxes may also be hard for local governments to accept, resulting in a cut of services. That’s independent of any other legislation that might be passed by this WisGOP crew to reduce shared revenues to local governments, if they stay in power (a strong possibility given how messed up the budget may be on both the Transportation and General Fund sides).

Plus, why the hell does the business community in Wisconsin need any more tax breaks? After 5 ½ years of giveaways in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan, we still have the worst job growth in the Midwest, and its lowest manufacturing wage, showing that these tax cuts haven’t trickled down to the average Wisconsinite. And now the average Joe/Jane is going to be shelling out higher property taxes to pay for this next sellout to campaign contributors business owners?

But Walters includes a final tidbit which should be the final straw as to why this trial balloon to dump the personal property tax is such crooked garbage.
It meets Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s read-my-lips promise to oppose any increase in Transportation Fund revenues, unless there is an offset in other tax collections. It’s another tax cut that helps businesses, who are expected to again support Walker if he runs for a third term two years from now. And, it repeals a tax that many regard as unfairly and unevenly administered.
Walters has this half-right, as part of this scheme is set up to stay in the good graces “no-tax” special interests. But it isn’t for Walker running for a third term in 2018 (which I doubt even happens), but instead because this delusional fool still thinks he can be a presidential candidate in 2020. Walker can’t kiss up to the Grover Norquists and the Kochs and other oligarchs if he is seen as raising taxes. It’s the exact same BS game that Louisiana Governor (and fellow 2016 GOP primary washout) Bobby Jindal tried to pull in Louisiana 1 ½ years ago.
He had to plug a $1.6 billion projected deficit for next year — 20 percent of Louisiana’s general fund — and he had to do it without violating an anti-tax pledge he made to Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), the influential conservative group headed by Grover Norquist. Jindal’s anti-tax credentials have been a prime selling point in his unannounced campaign for president.

Jindal’s solution: eliminating $526 million in tax rebates, most notably for the state’s business inventory tax. Norquist’s group blessed the decision, concluding that ending tax rebates would not amount to a tax increase.

But that distinction has prompted ridicule from state lawmakers and political commentators on both the right and the left, who accuse Jindal of selling out the state’s tax policy to Norquist.
Need I remind you what happened in Louisiana, where these “no taxes by any means” policies meant that new governor John Bel Edwards had to face $2.9 billion in deficits for the next 2 ½ years when he took office this January, and the state now needs to take out short-term loans just to meet up-front expenses of the National Guard and other emergency services as they grapple with the state’s historic flooding. A Louisiana-like fiscal disaster is what we will have in Wisconsin if Republicans stay in power in this state after the 2016 elections, which is something Scott Walker and his puppetmasters would be perfectly fine with (it makes for a good excuse to sell things off even more).

So let’s give thanks to Steven Walters for exposing this absurd Norquistian scheme of WisGOP’s to give yet another tax break to businesses while jacking up property taxes for homeowners and gas taxes and registration fees for everybody. Because maybe news of this getting out ahead of November will allow enough places in the state to see just how foolish and dumb these WisGOPs are, and they’ll boot enough of them to keep this “repeal the property tax for business” garbage from ever going through. 