Thursday, February 11, 2016

WisGOP failure on road sales tax means more messes on the street

I’ve occasionally discussed a push in the State Legislature by rural and outstate legislators to allow for a new 0.5% local sales tax that is dedicated for road maintenance and related street work. In general, I support this move, although I question why the WisGOP Legislature has been negligent in giving adequate funding to local governments, which caused the problem in the first place.

Well that bill has turned into a debacle that illustrates just how incapable the Wisconsin GOP is when it comes to putting together real solutions for real issues. It was scheduled to be discussed in the Assembly on Tuesday, but it was promptly delayed and never voted on. So they thought they might able to pass it today as part of a massive Assembly calendar, but instead the bill failed again to get enough support to reach the floor, and now Assembly Speaker Robbin' Vos says he doesn't think the bill can get through because not enough Republicans can agree on the details And given that Vos is trying to wrap up the Assembly's session next week (despite the fact that all members of the Assembly continue to be paid for the 8 months afterwards), thatlikely means the local sales tax for roads is off the table for the at least the rest of this year.

Doubly interesting was an compromise amendment that Vos and outgoing GOP Rep. Dean Knudson tried to tack onto the sales tax bill for more support for this “local road sales tax" bill, one which would have placed a ban on new local vehicle registration fees, or “wheel taxes”. The proposed ban is especially intriguing since 14 Wisconsin communities currently have a wheel tax, and 11 of those have either began or been raised since the start of 2015. It was a lame attempt to try to save face with voters by saying “Look, we’ll keep your car registrations at $75!”

Not only would wheel taxes have been banned, but the bill had the ban taking effect yesterday, meaning that local elected officials couldn’t even consider them as an alternative to a referendum for the sales tax. Which sure seemed like yet another example of this “small-government GOP” Legislature micro-managing local governments. And just like with the attempted limitation on school referenda and continuing strict property tax limits (something Gov Walker just re-committed to this week), the WisGOP Legislature is desperately trying to limit the higher taxes and fees the locals have had to impose in recent years... The same taxes and fees that are a direct result of the WisGOP Legislature not giving them enough funding in the first damn place!

The problems surrounding this bill, which would allow local governments the freedom to offload some of their expenses on road repair from the property tax and make tourists and others pay some of the freight, is symptomatic of how Baggers fail to govern. The Wisconsin GOP have proven themselves incapable of handling state finances in a responsible manner, one which would be able to keep state and local taxes relatively low while maintaining needed services. Instead, they have chosen lower state taxes and giveaways to their corporate campaign contributors, while stiffing the local governments, who are either constantly having to raise property taxes, or see needed maintenance and services decline. This mentality helps explain why the state’s economy continues to stagnate (if not outright decline), and now all of us are paying the price for those bad decisions.

This is especially true when it comes to funding work on local roads, as another budget year will slip by without additional help for those communities, either in the form of added state aid, or allowing them to put on a local sales tax to pay for those roads. Which means you can expect more potholes and more wheel taxes for this year and next year, and you can thank the lack of leadership being shown at the Capitol by the Wisconsin GOP and Gov Walker for that ongoing problem. Do NOT let them escape without consequence this Fall.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

WisGOP's next sneaky plan to cut millions from public schools

Just because the Wisconsin state budget transferred tens of millions of dollars from K-12 public schools to private voucher schools, it doesn't mean the ALEC crew at the State Capitol is done messing with public schools for the next two years. You may have noticed this debacle from the GOP-controlled Assembly from last week.
An Assembly committee Thursday abruptly scrapped a vote on a proposal to reduce the amount of money public school districts can raise to offset the loss of state aid for taxpayer-funded private school vouchers.

The decision by Assembly Education Committee chairman Rep. Jeremy Thiesfeldt, R-Fond du Lac, came less than an hour before a scheduled 1 p.m. vote and hours after the Wisconsin State Journal began asking questions about the proposal. School officials also mobilized against the idea Thursday.

It could result in a $22 million loss in taxing authority for public schools, according to a Wisconsin Association of School Boards memo to members.

Here’s a look at the Leigslative Fiscal Bureau's memo in question on how the amendment would have worked.
...under current law, school districts receive full revenue limit authority for incoming choice pupils in each year of their attendance in a choice program through a separate revenue limit adjustment, not as part of a district’s enrollment count. Under the amendment, districts would no longer be eligible for a separate adjustment for incoming choice pupils, but they would receive revenue limit authority for these pupils by including them in enrollment counts, similar to every other type of pupil that districts count for revenue limit purposes. Under the three-year rolling average enrollment to calculate revenue limits, districts would have revenue limit authority for one-third of a pupil in the first year of his or her attendance in a choice program, two-thirds of a pupil in the second year, and three-thirds of a pupil in the third year.

Attachment 1 provides information on the effect of the provisions of AA2 on the calculation of revenue limits as if it had been in effect for 2015-16. Specifically, Attachment 1 shows the revenue limit for each district in 2015-16 under current law and under the provisions of AA2 if it had been in effect for that year, as well as the change in the revenue limit for each district, both in dollar and percentage terms. The revenue limits for the 282 districts without incoming choice pupils would not have been affected by the provisions of the amendment. All of the 142 districts with incoming choice pupils would have been affected by the loss of the revenue limit adjustment for those pupils. For a district with increasing enrollment, this would have been partially offset by the increase in the current year revenue that would result from including incoming choice pupils in the September, 2015 enrollment count. For a district with declining enrollment, the increase in enrollment resulting from the inclusion of incoming choice pupils would have resulted in a reduction in both its declining enrollment adjustment and its prior year base hold harmless adjustment. Under this adjustment, if a district’s initial current year revenue is less than the districts base revenue from the prior year, it receives an adjustment equal to the difference.
The memo also lists how badly each of the 142 individual school districts would be hit as a result of the amendment. The total amount is $22.7 million in revenue, which likely would translate into more cuts for those districts, but what’s stunning about this is how heavily concentrated the losses would be in Racine (where Speaker Robbin’ Vos worked to expand the voucher program in 2011), as well as other mid-size urban school districts in Wisconsin.

Top 10 districts losing funding ability under voucher amendment
Racine $7,443,267
Kenosha $1,248,578
Green Bay $936,044
Waukesha $903,652
Wausau $642,969
Appleton $587,352
Stevens Point $482,295
Oshkosh $479,560
Eau Claire $461,408
Sheboygan $381,001

What’s also worth mentioning is the percentage cuts, which hit some smaller, suburban school districts harder. District such as Burlington, Cornell, Little Chute, Portage, and Shawano each would lose more than 1% of their revenue ability under this bill- on top of the cuts that have already been imposed at those schools.

The Wisconsin’s School Administrator’s Alliance has been all over this bill from the start, and actively has opposed this backdoor cut of public schools. Even with the original amendment yanked, there appears to be a second amendment that will be taken up at tomorrow's hastily-called Assembly Education Committee meeting, and the SAA says something else awful may well be in that new amendment.
The new amendment differs from AA 2 in that it attempts to address negative consequences to declining enrollment districts that would occur as a result of the switch to a new calculation method. It tries to accomplish this by excluding new voucher pupils from membership (enrollment) for purposes of calculating declining enrollment adjustments for three years.

The SAA remains opposed to either amendment. Here is the bottom line: if your district has resident students in the statewide or Racine voucher programs, under either amendment, you will lose revenue limit authority and you will likely have to pay for your voucher students by reducing educational opportunities for the children that remain in your district. We strongly oppose these efforts and urge you to keep the pressure on state lawmakers.
Amazingly, this amendment that would pull millions of dollars in potential funding from public schools is on top of an already-bad voucher bill that will continue to give private schools extra money for special needs scholarships...even if the child doesn't have special needs anymore!

This is a clear example of the consequences of voting Republican. Government is used to funnel taxpayer dollars to their campaign contributors in the voucher movement, at the detriment of all public schools and Wisconsin's communities. And now that property taxes are going up to make up the difference for this defunding of public education, the WisGOPs decide to take extraordinary steps to limit the chances of local people voting to raise taxes for their schools, even if the local people are OK with raising taxes to support their public schools.

But then again, the GOP doesn't care about how bad things get as a result of their defunding of public education in Wisconsin, as long as those campaign contributions keep rolling in and they think they can get votes from the rubes by "sticking it to those teachers" (and taking their political power). And it only stops when the Wisconsin voters make them stop.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Today's Wisconsin polls show Sanders, not Clinton, is best for Dem electability

A couple of interesting reads on Wisconsin polls hit Wisconsin’s two largest newspapers over the weekend. The first was Saturday’s installment from Craig Gilbert’s “Wisconsin Voter” series in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, and it went in-depth on in-state polls regarding the Democratic presidential primary between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

Gilbert quotes Marquette Law Poll director Charles Franklin, who points out the geographic and demographic differences between Clinton and Sanders in the state polls. Gilbert admits that these numbers likely understate Sanders’ current support, because it consolidates the last 4 months of polls, during which Sanders has closed the gap on Clinton from 12 points last September to 2 points in the most recent poll that was released last week.
In Wisconsin, the byproduct of these political and demographic fault lines is a regional one. The Madison TV market is the only part of the state where Sanders has enjoyed a clear edge over Clinton in recent months, boosted by his strength among young and very liberal voters. But in the city of Milwaukee, Clinton has led Sanders by an average of more than 30 points, reflecting her strength among African-Americans and older and more moderate white Democrats. It made perfect sense that Sanders' first Wisconsin stop last year was Madison and Clinton's was Milwaukee.

The polling numbers reflect "divisions on age and ideology, especially, and race to some extent, and how that's embedded in our geography," Franklin said. "You see it dividing up right along I-94 between the state's two strong Democratic bastions."

Those two areas alone won't determine the outcome of the Wisconsin primary if the race is still going strong in April. "The rest of the state really does matter," Franklin said.
Hold onto that point about “the rest of the state” while we go into our second poll-related story, mentioned as part an in-depth Wisconsin State Journal story on Sunday from Matt DeFour regarding Gov Walker’s taxpayer-funded propaganda “listening tours.” Those closed-to-the-public events started in light of his plummeting approval, and as DeFour notes, Franklin’s Marquette Law School Poll showed serious deterioration in Walker’s support in the non-urban, non-Democratic vote (urban Dems already disapproved of him).
Among Republicans Walker’s approval level dipped from 92.5 percent in fall 2014 to 84.2 percent more recently.

Walker’s support has plummeted the most among self-described independents and independents who “lean Republican.” Among the latter group his approval level fell 22.3 points to 60.9 percent, though Franklin noted those voters are more likely than self-described independents — whose approval of Walker dropped 19 points to 23.2 percent — to vote for Walker if he runs again.

Walker also has seen his support evaporate in the northern part of the state, where his approval level is down 21.2 points, and the Fox Valley region, where it is down 16.5 points. In the conservative stronghold of Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties, Walker’s approval level is down 10 points to 54.9 percen
The one place his approval level increased over the past year, by 5 points to 28.5 percent, was in Milwaukee County, though Franklin noted the increase was not statistically significant because of a smaller sample size. In September Walker signed a bill committing $80 million from the state over 20 years to a new Milwaukee Bucks arena, a move that was panned by some conservative groups.
The article also comes with some telling graphics, including this one that reiterates those geographic drops in approval in the northern half of the state, along with a noticeable drop among middle and upper-class Wisconsinites.

Now let’s go back to the Democratic presidential race, and the most recent Marquette Poll on the subject, which showed Clinton leading Sanders 45-43. Now note this breakdown across the various geographies of the state, among people who said they planned to vote in the Dem primary.

Clinton vs. Sanders, Wisconsin Jan 2016
Urban Clinton 48-38
Suburban Sanders 52-38
Rural Clinton 48-40

City of Milwaukee Clinton 65-23
Rest of MKE market Clinton 45-44
Madison market Sanders 55-31
GB/Appleton market Clinton 48-40
Rest of state Clinton 47-45

Relatively tight outside of the bases of Madison and the City of Milwaukee, isn’t it? But here’s where Clinton’s “electability” argument gets turned on its head, because in those same areas of GB/Appleton, the rest of the state, and the rural parts of Wisconsin where Hillary has a slight lead, Sanders does noticeably better against GOP opponents. Let me rerun these figures that I referenced in a post a week ago.

vs. Trump
City of Milwaukee Clinton +49, Sanders +44 (Clinton +5)
Rest of MKE Market Clinton -5, Sanders +9 (Sanders +14)
Madison Market Clinton +25, Sanders +40 (Sanders +15)
GB-Appleton Market Clinton +3, Sanders +11 (Sanders +8)
Rest of State Clinton +2, Sanders +6 (Sanders +4)

vs. Cruz
City of Milwaukee Clinton +42, Sanders +42 (0)
Rest of MKE Market Clinton -17, Sanders -7 (Sanders +10)
Madison Market Clinton +16, Sanders +39 (Sanders +23)
GB-Appleton Market Clinton -5, Sanders +11 (Sanders +16)
Rest of State Clinton +2, Sanders +6 (Sanders +4)

vs. Rubio
City of Milwaukee Clinton +34, Sanders +42 (Sanders +8)
Rest of MKE Market Clinton -22, Sanders -10 (Sanders +12)
Madison Market Clinton +16, Sanders +34 (Sanders +18)
GB-Appleton Market Clinton +1, Sanders +10 (Sanders +9)
Rest of State Clinton +5, Sanders +9 (Sanders +4)

In other words, those swing areas of the state, the ones which will decide the Dem primary and go a long way toward deciding the final outcome in November, are areas that Hillary Clinton wins the primary in for now, but Bernie Sanders does significantly better in for the general election. And those are the same areas that Scott Walker has suffered his biggest drop in approval over the last year.

So it seems obvious to me that in February 2016, there is one Democratic candidate that would be the most likely to win Wisconsin in November, and help the downticket rural and northern Wisconsin areas that must be swung toward the Dems in order for them to get power in the Legislature and gain seats in Congress. And unlike what the “professionals” try to spin to you (you know, the same ones who thought a bland Mary Burke campaign was the “most electable” strategy in Wisconsin in 2014), that candidate wouldn’t be Hillary Clinton, but instead is Bernie Sanders.

Take a look at those articles and those poll numbers, and show me how I’m wrong by saying Bernie's more electable and better for Dem prospects in Wisconsin. Not based on “Well, this may happen or the Republicans will say this” (bad assumptions as well, by the way) but based on the polling numbers themselves. Go ahead, try!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Wisconsin economic failures get some more national attention

Last week, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia released their monthly coincident index report, which is an approximation of each state’s economic performance over the last 3 months. And Wisconsin did not do well.

That report earned Wisconsin and other states in pink and red some national notice in Friday’s Washington Post Wonkblog, in an article titled “The seven states that are doing much worse than the rest.”
The main reason is historically low oil prices. The price of a barrel of Brent crude has fallen from over $100 in mid-2015 to less than $35 today. That is weighing on the economies of North Dakota, Wyoming, Alaska, Mississippi and Louisiana, which have extensive energy reserves and/or oil and gas refining facilities.

In Wisconsin and Illinois, fiscal issues and the sluggish performance of some manufacturing industries was likely to blame.

In total, 41 states saw their economies grow. The states with the strongest growth -- over 1 percent in the three-month period, according to the estimates -- include Oregon, Idaho, Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Georgia, West Virginia, New Jersey and Maine. Michigan and Oklahoma weren't fairing too well either at the end of 2015 -- the Philadelphia Fed's data shows that their economic growth was unchanged from three months before.
And that's not just a recent trend. Using those updated figures, we see that Wisconsin has the worst economy in the Midwest since Scott Walker took office at the start of 2011. And notice the flattening in both here and Illinois in the last half of 2015

UW’s Menzie Chinn also talked about the coincident index with this post on Econbrowser, noting how ALEC states like Wisconsin and Kansas have failed to keep up with the growth in the rest of the country.

Yet here’s Gov Walker this week, trying to spin to the Portage Area Chamber of Commerce that things are just swell in Wisconsin (and using taxpayer dollars as part of this propaganda tour, no less).
Walker told the gathering he had good news to share, that unemployment in Wisconsin is the lowest it has been since 2001.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate has been tracking downward through the second half of 2015, from 4.6 percent to 4.3 percent. This beats the national average that went from 5.3 percent to 5 percent over the same time. Walker said the state’s fiscal situation is far healthier than that of Illinois, which is running an unemployment rate almost a full percent above the national average.
First of all, anyone who has to reach for the train wreck in Illinois to make yourself look better already seems desperate. But second of all, Wisconsin has almost always had lower unemployment than the rest of the country for the last 30 years, and being 0.6% below the national rate (as it stands today) is underperforming that history, if anything. In addition, it’s well-documented that Wisconsin’s drop in unemployment in the last year had more to do with people leaving the labor force than it had with people finding a large amount of jobs.

And how can Walker talk up Wisconsin’s fiscal health when even leaders in his own party are admitting that the state budget is messed up and in serious trouble? What’s doubly interesting is how those WisGOPs try to blame a “slowing national economy” for the budget troubles, which implies that the national economy was going pretty darn well before the last few months. All that's missing is the "THANKS OBAMA!"

So if the U.S. economy is slowing from the solid growth it previously had (likely a true statement, by the way) why didn’t Wisconsin’s budget become more stable while the good times were going on? And why wasn’t Act 10 the budget cure-all that it was sold as 5 years ago? And why does our economic growth continue to lag the rest of our neighbors in the Midwest? HMMMMMM???

Friday, February 5, 2016

U.S. jobs slow, but is market getting tight?

It was a mixed bag in today’s US jobs report. The total job gains on the payroll side were mediocre, but the household survey showed a drop in the unemployment rate, and a long-desired gain in wages. It adds to the theory that while the country is not in recession as of this time, we may be nearing the peak of this multi-year expansion.

We’ll start with the payrolls side, which had its lowest seasonally-adjusted gains since September, and was well below the 279,000 a month in gains that we averaged over the previous 3 months.
Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 151,000 in January. Employment rose in several industries, led by retail trade, food services and drinking places, health care, and manufacturing. Private educational services and transportation and warehousing lost jobs. Mining employment continued to decline.
The lower job gain number is concerning, but we’ll need more time to see if it’s a one-month blip, or the start of a lower-growth trend.

The manufacturing increase is nice to see, as that sector added 29,000 jobs, and got back above the 7-year highs that manufacturing employment was at in July. We’ll see if it keeps gaining as oil stays low and the dollar stays strong, but at least for the last few months, the manufacturing recession that some of us was worrying about has held off (47,000 jobs gained there since September). Construction employment is also staying strong, up another 18,000 seasonally-adjusted jobs in January, and 314,000 since the end of 2014.

The better part of the report comes from the household survey, which had improvements in two key stats.
Both the number of unemployed persons, at 7.8 million, and the unemployment rate, at 4.9 percent, changed little in January. Over the past 12 months, the number of unemployed persons and the unemployment rate were down by 1.1 million and 0.8 percentage point, respectively….

After accounting for the annual adjustments to the population controls, the civilian labor force and total employment, as measured by the household survey, were little changed in January. The labor force participation rate, at 62.7 percent, was little changed. The employment-population ratio (59.6 percent) changed little over the month but was up by 0.3 percentage point since October.
Even better than that was the “missing link” in the Obama Recovery wasn’t so missing in the January jobs report.
The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 0.1 hour to 34.6 hours in January. The manufacturing workweek edged up by 0.1 hour to 40.7 hours, and factory overtime was unchanged at 3.3 hours. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged at 33.8 hours….

In January, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 12 cents to $25.39. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 2.5 percent. In January, average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees rose by 6 cents to $21.33.
Very good to see wage growth get bumped up by 0.5% in a month, which should be well above the rate of inflation.

However, I’m going to be skeptical that this is a long-term trend where wage growth finally picks up, because 13 states had minimum-wage increases on or around January 1, which could account for some of those gains. Indeed, the low-wage leisure and hospitality sector had a hourly wage increase of 0.75%, and while “retail trade” only had an hourly wage increase of 0.34%, it had a weekly wage increase of 0.66%. By comparison, manufacturing had an hourly wage increase of 0.31%, and construction had no hourly wage increase at all (weekly wages in construction actually dropped), so let’s not think the great wage stagnation that we’ve seen over the past decade-plus has somehow come to an end.

Lastly, the January report also features annual benchmarking, which allows for changes to overall figures since 2011. The BLS notes that this actually changed very little for prior years (it lowered the total jobs figure by 206,000, or about 0.1%), and actually increased the job gains for 2015 by 85,000. This means 2015 ended with 2.735 million new jobs, and nearly 13.4 million have been added since the end of 2009.

The jobs charts have been updated accordingly, and it means that the Walker jobs gap grew by 31,600 last year to just over 100,000 jobs overall, and 106,000 in the private sector.

Bottom line, the January jobs report showed some good signs, as a tighter labor market and minimum wage increase likely contributed to good wage gains. But that lower job growth in January, lower GDP growth at the end of 2015, and a questionable economic outlook for 2016 means that we shouldn’t be comfortable, and bank on the good economic stats of the mid-2010s to continue this year.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

As if we didn't know - Wisconsin budget, education will stay messed up next year

If you thought that Wisconsin’s budget problems were a thing of the past, well…you were a fucking moron before today. But we got further confirmation that things are still a mess when it comes to the state’s finances. And it came from none other than the one guy most responsible for causing the problem.
The governor responded to concerns raised on Tuesday by Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, at a Madison forum hosted by the Wisconsin Counties Association. Fitzgerald told county officials he expects the next budget will be "just as rough as this past one."

[Gov Scott] Walker told reporters Wednesday most of those concerns are tied to the national economy.

Wisconsin's large manufacturing sector is heavily influenced by national and global factors, Walker said.

"But we’re still going to persevere, and again, what we’ve done in the past is even if we’ve had adjustments on the revenue side, we’ve accommodated that through adjustments on the spending side. We’d look to do that forward," Walker said. "My focus is, whatever savings we can get in things like how we administer health insurance, I want to focus on more money for education."
What do you mean we are going to persevere, Scotty? We aren’t the ones able to take in 6 figures + benefits from the taxpayer (barring indictment). But we’re the ones that are already paying the price for your careless, crooked policies, and apparently will continue to have that pain continue to be inflicted on us.

The comments led to yet another hilarious and biting press release from the two Assembly Dems on the Joint Finance Committee- Gordon Hintz and Chris Taylor.

“As Majority Leader Fitzgerald acknowledged, with Republicans in control, more cutting and gutting is on the horizon. We can expect another cut and gut budget that leaves our children behind, perpetuates a transportation mess, and fails to make the investments our state needs to thrive. The blame game and list of excuses doesn’t work anymore - they have had six years of absolute power and three budgets to get it right,” stated Rep. Taylor. “Republicans seem intent on continuing their bad choices of huge corporate tax giveaways, which will reduce state revenues by $570 million this biennium, on the backs of our children and our future. If Democrats were in control, we would make the investments in our people we need for our state to truly move forward.”

“Perhaps my Republican colleagues need to be reminded that this budget was only ‘rough’ because of self-inflicted decisions. The Governor’s 15-17 budget actually spent over a billion dollars more than his previous 13-15 budget, so the reason why our public school classrooms and UW System have taken such a hit is no mystery. Public education is just not a priority for the ruling party,” said Rep. Hintz. “At the same time, Republicans chose to leave hundreds of millions of federal Medicaid dollars on the table and continue their expansion of ineffective tax cuts. Shortsighted budget decisions combined with the worst economic growth in the upper Midwest is a guaranteed recipe for continued ‘rough’ budgets.”
Jumping off of Rep. Hintz's point, a big reason the next budget will be so "rough" is because of those prior cuts to education. Those cuts are back in the news this week, as the UW Board of Regents will discuss changes to layoff procedures as part of preparation for another year with less funding than they had 8 years ago. In addition, that document is part of the WisGOP Legislature's decisions to radically change tenure, which will hamper UW's reputation and ability to attract talent.

And in today's Wisconsin State Journal, there's an article discussing the 70-80 staff positions that are slated to be cut in Madison schools, one year after that same district cut 100 positions. These possible cuts also come 10 months after Madison voters passed a $41 million referendum just to keep up with maintenance and needed building improvements.

Oh, and the average Wisconsin homeowner is seeing his/her property taxes are going up, with additional local sales taxes possibly being stacked on top of that (well, it's either that or the roads fall apart). And this dimwit is thinking he can get his massive campaign debt retired in the next year as he laughs grifts his way through fundraisers, including one tonight at the ritzy Madison Club downtown?

Meh, what does this jackwagon care? He's out the door with a nice pension and wingnut welfare to collect in 2 1/2 years. Or so he thinks...

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

$384 million tax cut now "clarified" to $0?

Tomorrow's Assembly Ways and Means Committee meeting had an interesting last-minute addition to it, and it involves a huge business tax giveaway that you may have thought was dead.

You may remember me referencing this "economic substance" bill when they tried to jam it through a public hearing last month. At the time, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue estimated that it would cost the state up to $384 million a year, which is certainly not anything that can be done when there's only $64 million of breathing room in the budget over the next 17 months. The bill seemed to be put underground after that.

Well, it's BAAAACK! As far as I can tell, the only change is a "clarifying amendment", which apparently gives more definition over what constitutes "economic substance", but doesn't seem to change much of the actual details of the bill. According to the Joint Survey Committee on Tax Exemptions, the clarifying amendment made the fiscal effect of most of the bill as "indeterminate," and apparently that was good enough for the 6 GOP-associated members of the 9-person committee. They signed off on the bill as "appropriate public policy," while the 3 Dem-associated members voted no, and now the bill is back at the Committee level, where it can be voted on tomorrow.

Simple question- what if the DOR is right and the GOPs on the Tax Exemption survey are wrong, and this clarifying amendment doesn't prevent this from being a massive giveaway? Then this budget that already will likely need a repair bill due to the slowing economy will need to have further cuts put upon it.

Maybe we should put this thing away until there's actually room in the budget for it to fit (if it should ever be considered at all)...if there ever is room again any time in the near future.