Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Bucks update- the city will still have its say

You may think that the new Milwaukee Bucks arena is a guaranteed “go” at this point, given that the State Legislature signed off on the arena funding bill in July. But that’s not necessarily the case. The City of Milwaukee still needs to set aside its part of the Bucks arena project, and that’s not a small portion. Here’s a good rundown from the Milwaukee Business Journal on what the City still has to agree to.
The proposal [City Comptroller Martin] Matson reviewed calls for the city to contribute the $47 million through tax incremental financing (TIF) derived from the existing Beerline district and a new tax incremental district that includes the Park East corridor. The city would repay the $47 million with increased property tax proceeds from the new development.

The Bucks propose new retail, residential, office and hotel development along with a new practice facility and the new arena.

The city would contribute $35 million toward a new parking structure on West Juneau Avenue across from the new arena and $12 million toward a 130,000-square-foot plaza on North Fourth Street and West Highland Avenue at the site of an existing parking structure that will be demolished.
Matson indicated the City could come up with the funding to do this, and eventually be able to close out the TIF district in less than 20 years. You can take a look at the report yourself, and see what you think about it.

There also has been a fiscal and economic feasibility study done for the city on the Bucks project, and it gives a good insight on which properties should eventually pay property taxes around the new arena. This was a big bone of contention, as much of the area around the arena project was initially proposed to be exempt from property taxes, which would have put a huge burden on the City and County of Milwaukee. But this area seems to have been significantly decreased as the bill was hashed out, to the point where only the arena itself and the nearby “live block” seem to be the ones getting the property tax break.
Tax parcels associated with Arena Project and the Phase 1 City-owned parking garage are expected to remain property tax-exempt upon completion and therefore will not generate property tax increment. However, it is our understanding that the Developers will not seek property tax-exempt status for any parcels associated with the Greater Arena Project and that the site currently occupied by the Bradley Center will become taxable upon demolition. Incremental property tax revenues resulting from the increased value of Greater Arena Project parcels and inflationary growth on other parcels within the TID comprise the revenue stream for the TID.

Given the conceptual nature of Phases 2 and 3, SB Friedman analyzed only the ability of a modified version of Phase 1 development program to amortize the expected TID expenditures. While the Developers’ Phase 1 program (presented in Chapter 1) includes two residential rental projects, only the proposed 98-unit residential rental property has been included in the projections. An additional proposed eight-story 48-unit residential rental project has been excluded to limit the overlap of product types in the Phase I development. Blocks 2 and 3, which are currently occupied by the Bradley Center, are assumed to be become taxable as vacant land upon demolition, and will therefore generate future increment. Detailed information regarding valuation of the Phase 1 development components is presented below.
This plan had a public hearing this Monday, and is scheduled to go before the city’s Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee on Sept. 15, and then the full Council on Sept. 22.

The timing is interesting, as Mayor Tom Barrett’s budget is usually introduced around that time, so the question would be whether the Bucks proposal is included in that document, or is it not? In addition to an estimated $275,000 in lost revenue from the demolition of the 4th Street parking garage, Matson’s letter mentions that there would be a little more than $4 million in infrastructure costs that the city would take on to help build the new pedestrian plaza and resurface Juneau and Highland Avenue as well as do work on other streets around the new arena site (one block north of where the Bradley Center is today). So let’s see where those numbers figure into the 2016 City budget as well, and see if some other spending has to be held back as a result.

However, the city’s tax base (and Barrett’s budget as a result) does seem like it’ll get some help in the near future from another venture of one of the Bucks’ co-owners. Bruce Murphy at Urban Milwaukee has an intriguing story about how Milwaukee’s Common Ground coalition shamed Bucks co-owner (and hedge funder) Wes Edens into having one of his subsidiaries give tens of millions of dollars toward foreclosure relief in the city.
Yes, the press conference was held by city officials, with Mayor Tom Barrett and Common Council President Michael Murphy announcing the Nationstar settlement. And yes it’s very good news for Milwaukee, which needs all the help it can get to fix the problem of home foreclosures, which can have ruinous effects on neighborhoods.

But it was really Common Ground that discovered and publicized the fact that Nationstar was owned by Fortress Investment Group, a company in turn owned by Milwaukee Bucks owner Wes Edens. Common Ground assailed Edens as a "slumlord" who was asking for government financing of a new Bucks arena even as Nationstar was responsible for foreclosed and distressed homes in Milwaukee. It was an ugly picture that made Edens look like a cold-hearted corporate villain, and made it far tougher to sell the Bucks bailout.

And here was the Common Council, facing a vote on the city subsidy for the Bucks. The announcement of Nationstar’s $30 million commitment was perfectly timed as a way to replace the image of an uncaring Edens with that of a business leader who wants to help Milwaukee.
Even with this, Common Ground mentioned at Monday’s public hearing that they were unhappy with the prospect of more money going to the Bucks arena than what was going to playgrounds and other athletic facilities in the city, and would make their voice heard more as the 2016 city elections near, when all city alders and the Mayor are up for re-election.

So let’s see how the final piece of the Bucks funding puzzle plays out over this next month, and to see if there are any ripples in the city’s budget or its politics in the near future. The Bucks arena issue may not be as dead or forgotten as the Milwaukee oligarchs and the sports media wants to think it is.

Walker security fiasco is another waste of taxpayer dollars

Even before the last week, there were concerns in Wisconsin over Scott Walker’s heavy bills for security as he travels around the country. The amount of money that Wisconsin taxpayers were paying for Walker's 10-person (!) security staff kept increasing as Walker fundraised for his 2014 campaign for governor, and made other attempts to raise his nationwide profile.

The anger from voters resulted in Gov Unintimidated announcing in April that he was finally going to force his campaign to pay for the travel costs of the Dignitary Protection Unit (part of the Wisconsin State Patrol), but also still making taxpayers pick up the tab for the salaries and benefits for those workers. At that time, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel laid out the costs that Wisconsinites have had to pay for this security in this report from Spring.
Meanwhile Friday [April 24], new state documents showed the cost of providing security for Walker, his family and for Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch reached a new high in 2014, with the total spending reaching $2.3 million.

The security costs are more than triple than what they were during the final year in office of Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, according to the documents released under a state open records request.

Last year's security spending for the Republican governor was dominated by expenses for salaries and fringe benefits of the State Patrol officers who protect the governor.

Walker's security costs included lodging and other expenses when the governor is traveling outside Wisconsin. Those expenses also have risen in recent years.
Well, all of that out-of-state hustling by Governor Walker required a lot of man-hours to stick with the guv, and we found out last Friday that his administration had been stiffing his own security staff out of pay they were entitled to for more than 2 years.
- A 27 News investigation has found the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) is requiring the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WISDOT) to award retroactive overtime pay dating back to May 19, 2013 to nine Wisconsin State Patrol officers who serve as bodyguards for Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) and other state dignitaries.

Those officers comprise the state's Dignitary Protection Unit (DPU), which provides security for Gov. Walker 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That includes his protection on the presidential campaign trail. Since the State Patrol is a division of WISDOT, the officers are paid out of that agency's budget.

WISDOT Spokesperson Peg Schmitt told 27 News the agency was verbally notified of the decision by USDOL on Monday, August 24, but said officials have not yet determined how much it will cost state taxpayers.
So what is Scotty’s administration doing after getting caught cheating the security staff out of their pay? STICKING IT TO THE EMPLOYEES WHO WERE MERELY DOING THEIR JOBS!
The state is cutting in half the security team that protects Gov. Scott Walker, agreeing to pay overtime and rescinding a $4-per-hour raise after the federal government ordered back pay for unpaid overtime.

Members of the Dignitary Protection Unit will now be paid time-and-a-half for working any hours beyond 40 per week, said Peg Schmitt, spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation, which oversees the State Patrol.

The security team includes a captain (currently vacant), a lieutenant and eight sergeants, but starting Sept. 20 it will be reduced to one lieutenant and four sergeants, Schmitt said.

Other members of the State Patrol will fill in to provide security when needed, she added.
Oh, so we’ll also have State Patrol officers taken off the roads when Gov Unintimidated feels he needs more people around him? That’s the mark of a "public servant", don’t you think?

And don’t forget that this back pay will come out of a Transportation Fund that will already borrow between $500 milion and $850 million from over the next two years. It makes you wonder if these extra security costs (before the OT pay issue came up) were baked into that budget, or if that’s an additional cost that has to be taken on as well.

What an absolute pile of wasteful, arrogant incompetence. Seriously, how can anyone who values fiscally responsible and responsive government stand with these bums anymore?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

School voucher price tag continues to climb

Many public schools in Wisconsin had their first day of classes today- the first school year under the new statewide voucher expansion plan, which allows for state aids from any public school district in Wisconsin to move to the voucher school that child may attend. With this in mind, State Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling released a document she received from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau which totals up the added costs of the state’s various voucher program since Gov Walker’s first budget was signed in July 2011, and the tax write-off resulting from a new deduction for private school tuition for those too rich to get a voucher.

The result is a whole lot of taxpayer dollars have been poured into voucher schools, a figure that is slated to reach nearly $500 million in this upcoming budget, and a figure Shilling notes will total $1.1 billion from 2011-2017. That number is in stark contrast to public schools, who saw aid reductions from Gov Walker in his first budget, and only had meager amounts added back in the last two budgets, barely reaching the rate of inflation. Now to be fair, some of that money to vouchers will be offset by aid reductions to the public school districts that lose voucher students (yay?), but as you’ll see, that only takes care of a fraction of the $1.1 billion Shilling cites for the 6 budgetary years of the Age of Fitzwalkerstan.

I’ll start with the previous 4 years, which expanded the already-existing Milwaukee voucher program to the Racine School District in 2011-13 (when the Joint Finance Co-Chair was…future Assembly Speaker Robbin’ Vos of ALEC Racine County). Then the Racine model was taken statewide in the 2013-15 budget.

2011-2015 added costs to taxpayers from voucher programs

Milwaukee Voucher Program
State tax dollars for vouchers $651.0 million
Reduction in MPS state aid $232.6 million
TOTAL COST TO STATE TAXPAYERS $418.4 million

Racine/Statewide Voucher Program
State tax dollars for vouchers $37.6 million
Reduction in Racine/other districts’ state aid $1.8 million
TOTAL COST TO STATE TAXPAYERS $35.8 million

You’ll note that most of the statewide program didn’t have aid reductions in the first years (conveniently not taking effect until after the 2014 elections for Governor), but there are significant changes in the aid reduction measures for the 2015-17 biennium, especially for districts outside of Milwaukee. We’ll let LFB explain.
To partially offset the cost of the Milwaukee program to the state, the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) is required by law to reduce the general aid for which the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) is eligible by a percentage of the estimated total cost of the program. However, beginning in the 2013-14 school year, the MPS aid reduction will be reduced by 3.2 percentage points in each year until no aid reduction is made beginning in 2024-25. The reduction was equal to 32% in 2014-15. MPS can levy to make up for the aid reduction, less the amount of any high poverty aid MPS receives.

For the Racine program, DPI was required to reduce the general aid for which the Racine Unified School District (RUSD) was eligible by 38.4% of the estimated total cost of the Racine program in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years. RUSD was permitted to levy to make up for the aid reduction. No aid reduction applied for the Racine or statewide choice programs in the 2013-14 or 2014-15 school years. Under the provisions of 2015 Act 55 (the 2015-17 biennial budget), the cost of per pupil payments for pupils who begin participating in the Racine or statewide choice programs in 2015-16 or later will be fully offset by a reduction in the general aids of those pupils’ school districts of residence. School districts will not be permitted to levy to make up the aid reduction, but will be able to count incoming choice pupils for general aid and revenue limit purposes.
Note the differences between the MPS and statewide voucher programs, where MPS at least gets to keep some of the state aid that’s taken away from it by vouchers (of course, they also lose much more aid than all the other schools combined), but all other districts do not. MPS also can tax to make up the difference (which likely means Milwaukee residents pay higher taxes just to maintain current levels of service at MPS), but every other district cannot, which will often mean school cuts and larger class sizes for districts that have kids who leave for voucher schools. It’ll also make the upcoming school budget season VERY interesting after the attendance reports come back in late September which help to determine final aid levels for the 2015-16 school year.

So here’s how these numbers change in the current 2015-17 biennium.

2015-17 added costs to taxpayers from voucher programs

Milwaukee Voucher Program
State tax dollars for vouchers $405.8 million
Reduction in MPS state aid $110.2 million
TOTAL COST TO STATE TAXPAYERS $295.6 million

Racine/Statewide Voucher Program
State tax dollars for vouchers $88.2 million
Reduction in Racine/other districts’ state aid $48.2 million
TOTAL COST TO STATE TAXPAYERS $40.0 million

TOTAL COST TO STATE TAXPAYERS 2011-17 $789.8 million

The other part of the equation is the private school tuition break, another ALEC bill that was championed by now-Congressman Glenn Grothman in 2013, among others. This deduction kicked in for the first time in tax year 2014, and the LFB explains how it works.
The deduction was limited to tuition expenses of up to $4,000 per year per pupil enrolled in kindergarten through grade eight and $10,000 per year per pupil enrolled in grades nine through twelve. The pupil who is the subject of the deduction must be a dependent, for federal income tax purposes, of the individual claiming the deduction. It is estimated that individual income tax collections will be decreased by $30 million annually under this provision beginning in tax year 2014.
I’ll also add that the tax filer who gets a write-off from the private school deduction also can still write off the property taxes they pay for their local school district (not a bad way to double-dip, eh?), and the local district loses the state aid they would have received from having that kid in a public school.

Since the first Fiscal Year being hit by this new deduction is 2014-15, that means there will be 3 years of the private school tuition deduction by the end of this biennium, so add another $90 million to our previous number for vouchers, which brings total net cost of the ALEC policies to Wisconsin taxpayers from 2011-2017 to $879.8 million.

And these voucher moves are slated to grow above its current 2-year cost of $395.6 million in the upcoming budget, as the aid reduction associated with MPS’s voucher program goes down, and the statewide voucher program has its enrollment limits go up in future years. So not only is it likely that public school kids are seeing larger classrooms and less-experienced teachers in those classrooms, but also that Wisconsin taxpayers are paying a lot more out of their pockets because of the pro-voucher policies put in place by Scott Walker and the WisGOP Legislature.

If you don’t find this to be an acceptable outcome, understand that the only way this changes is if the elected officials are changed. Because those elected officials of the Wisconsin GOP are owned by ALEC, Wisconsin voucher bagman Scott Jensen, and other privatization backers, and they will not do the right thing when it comes to education policy. Know this, and work to remove these money-funnelers from power.

Monday, August 31, 2015

More layoffs from another WEDC "job creator"

We got a reminder today of how the failures of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) continues to waste taxpayer dollars by giving away funds to companies that not only go back on their promises of creating jobs, but watch those businesses cut jobs instead.

The story comes out of Pewaukee, where a manufacturer with multiple locations in Wisconsin won't make some of their products in the state any more.
Eaton Corporation, Pewaukee – Approximately 83 employees will be affected by permanently discontinuing the manufacturing of its Molded Rubber Products product line at Eaton Corporation, 1045 Hickory Street, Pewaukee. The Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington (WOW) Development Board and DWD TAA/TRA staff will provide assistance to the affected workers.
If the name Eaton Corporation rings a bell, it should, because they have been a central figure in one of the series of scandals involving the Scott Walker-created WEDC. Remember this story from last year?
A 27 News investigation has uncovered that both the Eaton Corporation and Plexus Corporation received millions of dollars in financial awards from WEDC, only to later lay off workers whose jobs were taken by employees at the companies' foreign facilities.

In 2011, WEDC awarded Eaton Corp. with up to $1 million in tax credits if the company met job creation and retention goals at its manufacturing facility in Menomonee Falls. WEDC officials say the company has received $190,000 in tax credits so far.

In April of 2013, Eaton laid off 163 employees at its Cooper Power Systems plant in Pewaukee and announced it was moving those jobs to Mexico. Less than a year later, WEDC awarded Eaton Corp. with up to $1.36 million in additional tax credits for a proposed $54 million expansion at that same Pewaukee plant. But on Wednesday, WEDC Spokesperson Mark Maley told 27 News Eaton Corp. "recently notified WEDC it will not seek any tax credits for this project."
So much for that expansion, eh? You may also remember that Eaton also put workers in Watertown out of a job earlier this year, less than two months after Walker and WisGOP Legislature pushed through (right-to) work-for-less legislation, which proponents claimed would save manufacturing jobs (but never seems to stop outsourcing).
Eaton Corp. announced last week it is permanently discontinuing the manufacture of printed circuit boards at its facility in Watertown, which will result in the elimination of 93 employees there.

"We first informed employees in April 2014, one year ago, that we would be moving the Printed Circuit Board (PCB) line from Watertown and consolidating it into another existing facility in Tijuana, Mexico," Eaton Corp. Spokesperson Ann Marie Halal told 27 News. "These actions are in response to ongoing business and market conditions and a continued challenging business climate. They will allow the business to continue to compete globally and meet market demand."
Oh, and now Eaton is laying off 83 more jobs in Pewaukee as they stop manufacturing a certain product line in Wisconsin. Wanna bet those jobs also end up in another country?

And no, there hasn't been any major change in policy at WEDC regarding having recipients of their handouts not outsource jobs, despite then-WEDC Board Chair Scott Walker claiming before the 2014 election that they would. Instead, Walker bailed out of being the WEDC Board Chair, and the majority oligarchs have refused to make any major moves. So as a result, Dem Reps Andy Jorgensen and Deb Kolste joined with State Sen. Dave Hansen in introducing a bill 3 weeks ago that would prevent companies from getting state aid for 5 years if they pulled a routine like Eaton did- getting tax write-offs and then outsourcing Wisconsin jobs. Not surprisingly, the GOP-run Legislature has refused to schedule a hearing for this bill, and they likely will bury it for the rest of the 2015-17 session (so much for righties being "fiscal hawks").

These Eaton layoffs are happening less than two weeks before the Joint Legislative Audit Committee has a hearing to follow up on yet another damning audit of the agency that came out in May. These findings convinced the GOP-run Legislature to turn down Gov Walker's budget request for more funding and reduced oversight of WEDC's responsibilities, and eventually led a panicked Walker to sign off on legislation to fire himself as the WEDC Board Chair, in a cagy way to try to dodge what is clearly and out-of-control tire fire.

We also found out last week that current WEDC CEO Reed Hall is quitting his job (though it won't stop him from taking a taxpayer-funded "trade trip" to Japan before he leaves), and you have to wonder if the upcoming audit and these layoffs are a "last straw" that's encouraging him to get out. Or if something much worse is lurking beneath that'll rear its head in the coming months.

Regardless, these Eaton layoffs are a reminder of the ongoing failure of the "hand out and hope" business model that Scott Walker and the WisGOP Legislature made when they created WEDC. It's also a reminder that you can't trust these companies when they make these "job announcement" plans, and need to make sure they actually construct the building and hire the people they say they would. A nice press release with a politician is nowhere near acceptable enough.

I wonder if any enterprising national reporters might ask presidential candidate Scott Walker what he thinks about companies that outsource, given Eaton's actions of today, and in recent years. And they might want to ask Scotty how that WEDC model is working in a Wisconsin that remains last in the Midwest for job growth.

Your Monday Charlie

Charlie Pierce's political blog at Esquire.com is one of the best political sites going, and if you're not reading him, you're just falling behind. One of Charlie's traditional Monday columns involves a rundown/evisceration of the idiocy that passes for the weekly Sunday morning "serious politics" shows. Another one of Charlie's long-running topics has been the rise (and now fall) of Scott Walker, and the scary combination of idiocy, cynicism, and abuse of power that has defined his 4 1/2 year reign of error in this state.

Well, both of these got put together this weekend in an epic showcase of Walker's foolishness, when he visited NBC's Chuck Todd on Meet the Press , and Charlie just had to respond.
Let's start with the single most hilarious thing said by any candidate in the current field. Asked about the possibility of building a fence, not along the country's southern border, but along the nearly 4000-mile border that separates the United States and Canada, this is what Walker told my man Chuck Todd.
"Some people have asked us about that in New Hampshire…They have raised some very legitimate concerns, including some law enforcement folks that brought that up to me at one of our town hall meetings about a week and a half ago. So that's a legitimate issue for us to look at."
There is some ensuing flubdubbery about "securing the homeland" and about "counterintellig…er…ah…wubba…wubba…counterterrorism" in there, too, but consider the vast and staggering vista of stupidity opened up by the idea of building a fence from upper Maine to the shores of the Pacific. Leave aside the basic impracticality of the entire idea – What the hell are you going to do about that part of the border that runs through Lake Superior? Submarine nets? Sonar? Volunteer muskie fishermen with AK's in their boats? Yikes. Forget I said that last part. – and concentrate solely on the fact that, what Walker believes makes this a "legitimate issue for us to look at" is the fact that "some people" at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire brought it up to him. I will pay anyone a shiny buffalo nickel if they will show up at a future town hall meeting in New Hampshire and ask Scott Walker if we should fire sharks with frickin' laser beams on their heads into synchronous low earth orbit to prevent undocumented immigrants from Zontar from entering the country. It probably would be declared a "legitimate issue for us to look at."

(And this is not even to mention the fact that, apparently, Walker is opposed to people crossing our Canadian border but has no problem at all with the world's dirtiest fossil fuel being pumped across that same border and through the richest farmland in the United States. Tar sands don't kill people. People kill people.)
Oh yeah, the Enbridge pipeline! Remember the provision Walker and his WisGOP minions in the Legislature shoved into the budget as part of the Notorious late-night 999 measure? The one which was intended to keep us hippies in Dane County from requiring Enbridge to be adequately insured for costs related to cleanups that may happen? Small government conservatism at its best!

And apparently Chuckles ("It's not My Job to Tell People the Facts") Todd tried to cover up this wall-building statement, and didn't show it to the regular viewers of Press the Meat. C'mon Chuck! Walker is at 6% nationwide and has plummeted to 5th place in Iowa. I think you can risk going after this guy, because any star Walker had is spectacularly crashing to earth, and he won't be someone whose ass Chuck needs to kiss in order to keep access to Scotty at a later point.

Walker has gone far beyond absurd, and I'm sick of this dimwit "representing" my state, taking my tax dollars to do everything BUT work in the state's best interest, and making everyone else across the country ask "What the hell is wrong with Wisconsinites?" And this was entirely preventable, but our state's media decided that taking Walker's ad money and promoting him to the nation was preferable over keeping the state's economy and integrity intact. And they should pay every bit the price Scotty and his followers will as this campaign sinks out of sight at the national level.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Another one to add to the tab

Looks like there are more items Wisconsin taxpayers are on the hook for as a result of Governor Scott Walker's delusions of grandeur. Greg Neumann of Channel 27 in Madison had this report on Friday night on how the Governor stiffed his bodyguards on overtime.

WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

As Neumann brings up, this means an extra bill for the Transportation Fund that wasn't in the budget. Not a good thing when we're already borrowing between $500-$850 million in this budget for DOT expenses we haven't taxed for.

This OT payback is also on top of a significant increase of taxpayer-funded security for Walker over the last 3 years, as Neumann's report and associated web article brings up.
The cost for Gov. Walker's security detail jumped from $1.6 million in 2011 to $2.4 million in 2014. The out-of-state portion of that 2014 tab was $89,454, a number which is expected to jump up exponentially in 2015 with his run for the GOP presidential nomination.

Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) and Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) unveiled a new legislative proposal earlier this week that would require any state elected official who is running for - or even considering running for - higher office to submit a monthly travel form with the Government Accountability Board that explains what costs were incurred and who paid for them. Any campaign costs incurred by taxpayers would have to be reimbursed in a timely manner.
Of coruse, many of those expenses have been the result of Walker's self-promotion and fundraising for both his elections for governor, and in trying to hype up his 2016 bid for the president. In addition, workers at the DOT unit charged with protecting Walker and other "dignitaries" were given a $4 an hour increase earlier this year, making taxpayers pay even more as Walker embarrasses the state by the day with his foolish statement to GOP primary voters.

So add this to list of foolish Walker actions that we the taxpayer have to shell out for. Just this month, there's the $10 million paid out to Talgo for trains that will never be built or operated in Wisconsin, and $2.2 million to ignore a consultant's findings on the proposed casino in Kenosha.

And you can bet there are more of these types of wasteful expenses to uncover in the months and years to follow. And what needed services and state aids will end up being cut as a result of the imperial, arrogant behavior from a Governor's Office that clearly does not believe they will pay a price for their irresponsible actions?

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Marquette Poll Pt. 2- Is WisGOP in even worse shape than we think?

There are also two crosstabs that seem to indicate that the Republican candidates are in even bigger trouble than the Marquette toplines would indicate. The first involves the ideological breakdown of the poll respondents.

Ideology, Marquette Law, Aug 2015.
Conservative/Storngly conservative 43.1%
Moderate 29.7%
Liberal/Strongly liberal 24.0%
Don’t know/refused 3.2%

This is quite a difference from the ideological makeup of the 2012 presidential electorate in Wisconsin, based on exit polls. Those numbers indicate more moderates and fewer conservatives than what made up the Marquette Poll.

Ideology, 2012 presidential exit poll
Liberal 24%
Moderate 40%
Conservative 35%

And this is important because Republicans and especially Scott Walker are dead in the water with moderates, and Democrats have an overwhelming advantage with this group.

Moderates, Marquette Poll Aug 2015
Walker approve/disapprove 22.4-74.1
Johnson favorability 16.8-41.1
Feingold favorability 51.0-21.4
Clinton favorability 47.1-42.2
Sanders favorability 41.5-9.1 (!)
Walker vs. Clinton Clinton 65.7-25.4
Feingold vs. Johnson Feingold 64.5-25.0

So logic tells you that if the electorate has a higher number of moderates and a lower number of conservatives in November 2016, the Dems will do better, and Feingold and Clinton would have even bigger leads in their races.

The last crosstab I’ll discuss is in regards to the Hispanic vote. This demographic is relatively small when it comes to the electorate (estimated at 4% in the last presidential election in Wisconsin, and they were 2.8% of the Marquette Poll), but they overwhelmingly favored President Obama by more than 2-1, which extended Obama’s lead by about 1.5 points over Mitt Romney- not a small number when you consider Obama won the state overall by about 7%.

And with the Republican Party taking a nasty, nativist turn in recent weeks with the rise of Donald Trump, including large-scale scapegoating of Hispanics for economic troubles and threats to depart millions of immigrants, many of which would be of Latino descent. Gov Walker got into this race-baiting act by threatening to remove the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of birthright citizenship, before coming up with "modifications" of that stance, which led to this awesome CNN article titled: "Scott Walker on birthright citizenship: 3 positions, 7 days."

With that in mind, and the fact that the Democratic nominee for president won Hispanics by 35 points in 2012, do these crosstabs ring true to you?

Marquette Law Poll, Aug 2015 Hispanics
Walker approve/disapprove 54.5-45.5
Walker favorable/unfavorable 58.1-38.5
Clinton favorable/unfavorable 24.0-66.2
Clinton vs. Walker- Walker 52.5-44.2
Feingold vs Johnson – Johnson 69.0-21.6

Which Hispanics did Marquette Law talk to? Seems like the only ones they got on the phone were Scott Jensen’s voucher puppets at the Rodriguez clan, because those numbers don’t come close to anything that would match up with the historical Hispanic vote in Wisconsin. This is especially true after the racist garbage Walker, Trump and the rest of the GOP presidential candidates have been peddling in recent weeks.

If you turn those Hispanic figures toward the 2012 outcomes of 2-1 Democrat, that would drop Walker’s approval rating another 1-2 points, give Clinton another 1-2 points of advantage, and Feingold another 2-3 points. In particular, a normal advantage among Hispanics for Feingold over Johnson means that Russ goes up 8 points instead of 5, and this race is not perceived as close at all.

Sure, you can say I’m “unskewing” with this breakdown, but when I see numbers that run counter to recent history, don’t I at least have to flag it? If I’m right, then the Marquette Poll is masking what is an even worse situation for the Republicans in Wisconsin, and one that the Democratic Party of Wisconsin should jump all over during the next 14 ½ months.