Monday, April 20, 2015

Bucks arena in major jeopardy? Seems so

Two intriguing articles on the Bucks arena have hit in recent days that seem to indicate that the new facility is far from a sure thing. As a result, NBA basketball is looking less likely to be around in Wisconsin in 2 years, barring major changes in heart at the State Capitol, or in the hearts and minds of state voters.

What really set off the alarm bells for me was when I read this article today from ESPN's Brian Windhorst on how the NBA won't accept much foot-dragging on the arena, and wants a decision to be made sooner than later. Windhorst goes into detail on how the always-contentious issue of public funding for a pro sports facility has an extra level of emotion in Milwaukee, with memories of the battles that led to Miller Park being built in the late '90s (culminating in a recall of a state senator who supported the Miller Park tax), and the present-day conflict between the GOP-led state government and the Dem-run City and County of Milwaukee. Windhorst says that the NBA would have no problem with allowing the Bucks to move if a new building isn't going up.
This is the essential conundrum of being a local politician bargaining with a national sports league. The options are all difficult. And in this case, the answers have to come almost immediately. When a New York-based group led by Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry bought the Bucks from former U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl in April 2014, the deal included both a carrot and a stick to encourage local politicians to put the Bucks at the top of the political priority list.

The carrot was hundreds of millions of dollars toward the stadium. A nice benefit, but not enough to get the building completed. The stick was a clause stating that if an arena is not in place in Milwaukee by the start of the 2017-18 season -- an ambitious schedule -- the NBA has the right to buy the team. League insiders suggest a sale and relocation is the next logical step. The team would be worth more, by most analyses, in another city. NBA commissioner Adam Silver visited Milwaukee last November and made it clear at the time he wasn't carrying a big stick, saying "I didn't come here to announce deadlines." But, according to league sources, the NBA office -- having learned through the years that pledges and promises have little value until ground is broken -- has made it clear to all parties it will enforce the out clause if shovels are not digging quickly. The NBA has communicated it could give on the schedule a bit, but only in the case of true progress. The league isn't threatening consequences; it's guaranteeing them.
Windhorst says that the Bucks would likely move to Seattle in 2 years if a deal cannot be struck, as the Seattle Metropolitan Statistical Area is twice the size of Milwaukee's, and has lacked NBA basketball since the SuperSonics left for Oklahoma City in 2008. Other possibilities include two markets close to Milwaukee's size- Las Vegas and Louisville - who lack any teams in the major 4 pro team sports as of this time.

Windhorst also goes over the financing numbers, and where a gap has appeared in recent weeks after Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and other state legislators said they were looking to reduce the amount of money the state would chip in toward the project compared to what was in Gov Walker's budget proposal.
It is projected the new Bucks arena will cost $500 million. With a combined $250 million from Kohl and the Bucks' new ownership, the proposal is a 50/50 split between public and private money. It is similar to the arena being built in Sacramento, California, where the city avoided the Kings moving to Seattle when a partnership was struck that saw the city invest $255 million and the Kings pledge $222 million. Gov. Walker has proposed $220 million through bonds issued by the state. The legislature, however, is fighting him on it and is proposing a deal for much less: $150 million. The city has offered $25 million in the form of infrastructure and land but no cash. The county hasn't offered a formal plan as yet but is expected to offer a package in the range of $25 million, as well.

That leaves a major shortfall -- between $50 million to $100 million -- and no one is offering to fill it, including the Bucks' ownership, who lawmakers have more than hinted should fund the solution. It is in this hole where the Bucks' future probably is going to be decided.
It sure doesn't look likely to be the City of Milwaukee that'll be the ones to cough up more funds than they are already offering. Milwaukee Alderman Bob Bauman gave a revealing interview in Milwaukee Magazine last week regarding the City's side of financing the Bucks arena, and the general political state of play on the issue. Bauman may be quite a prickly guy if you're on the wrong side of him, but he's also extremely knowledgeable on the ins and outs of policy, and few will shoot straighter on what's really going on. This interview is no exception.
[Bauman]: Everybody’s acting undercover here, not just the city. The Walker plan on paper is just fine. The understanding was that the City would come up with $25 million and the County would come up with $25 million, and we basically said, that we can handle. Now, the state’s going to change the deal, where it’s not $200 million, it’s $150 million. That creates a $100 million dollar gap. The City can’t handle that. It just can’t. And I think that’s exactly what (Assembly Speaker) Robin Vos and (Senate Majority Leader Scott) Fitzgerald intend to have happen.

As soon as we heard the legislature changing the deal, we don’t know what they’re willing to offer at this point. Do we have the capacity to make (a $25 million) contribution? Yes. Do we have the political will? That remains to be seen. Do we have the capacity to make a $50 million contribution? No, we don’t. We just plain don’t...

I have a perfect solution to all this, but the state will never go along because it involves raising taxes.

Allow Milwaukee County to levy a dedicated one percent sales tax that funds transit, parks and recreation, cultural institutions and the construction of a new arena. And there’s no state subsidy. And that would remove $74 million from the Milwaukee Country property tax levy to boot. It takes the park system off the county property tax levy, it takes all the cultural institutions off the county property tax levy, it takes public transit of the county property tax levy and it funds the arena with no state subsidy. All the state has to do is say, “OK, Milwaukee County, raise your sales tax one penny.”
And remember, County voters approved of such a 1% tax in an advisory referendum in 2008, but a County Exec named Walker urged the Legislature not to allow it, and it never happened.

Bauman adds that he thinks the GOP-run Assembly won't pass a bill to allow Milwaukee to raise non-property tax revenues toward a Bucks arena, and as a result "this all goes south and the Bucks move," which Bauman says will give the GOP and talk radio the excuse to blame Mayor Tom Barrett. Of course, it's past policy from the GOP-run state government that has led to many of these financing problems, not only in dumping more of the burden of the arena onto them, but in disallowing the tools that would allow the city and the county to get the revenue to comfortably generate funds and spend more toward the project. Instead, the State Legislature has consistently tied the City and the County's hands with limitations on sales taxes and shared revenue payments from the state, then complains when those levels of government decide to pay for police, fire, and streets over neglecting those services and jacking up the tax rates of locals to help pay for a basketball arena.

And last week's Marquette Law School Poll doesn't seem to indicate there's much of an appetite for shelling out state funds to the arena (doubly interesting since Marquette basketball may well play in the new arena). The MU Poll asked about the reduced-cost plan floated by the State Legislature of $150 million to be borrowed (they didn't even ask about $220 million Walker wants to borrow), and the answer was an overwhelming "HELL NO!"
Seventy-nine percent oppose borrowing about $150 million to support a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, with 17 percent supporting the proposal. In the Milwaukee media market, 67 percent oppose funding for an arena and 29 percent support it. Those views vary by less than 2 percentage points among the City of Milwaukee, the surrounding suburban counties of Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington counties, and the seven other southeastern Wisconsin counties included in the media market.

In the rest of the state only 9 percent support borrowing for an arena, with 88 percent opposed.
Oddly, the funding question for the Bucks arena will not likely be affected by new revenue estimates that come out in a couple of weeks, because there is very little debt payoff that is to be made over the next two years on the arena (the Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates this number at $2.8 million). But given what Windhorst and Bauman have hinted at, the big decisions regarding the Bucks arena and the team's future are likely to be decided in the next few months, and if the developments of recent weeks are an indication, this arena may be moving further away from being reality as the deadline get closer.

Some foks say it better- Rep. Gordon Hintz on "unnecessary crisis budget"

Articles like this is why I was damned happy to see Gordon Hintz join Chris Taylor as the Assembly Dems' 2 reps on the Joint Finance Committee. The man knows his stuff, and knows how to state it to others.

The first thing Rep. Hintz does is take the Walker Administration and GOP legislators to task for the Bush-like move of blowing a projected budget surplus on tax cuts for the rich and corporate, leading to a budget deficit today that was entirely avoidable.
Governor Walker's budget is a "crisis budget" at a time when other states are investing in opportunity and growing their economies. We are told by Governor Walker and his Republican Legislature that we have to make "tough cuts" and this budget "invests in priorities." Yet, just last spring, the state was projected to have a budget surplus. Governor Walker and the Republican legislators were up for election, so they passed a permanent $541 million tax cut. While it may have made for good politics at the time, it was poor fiscal management. The Walker Administration recently had to delay a debt payment of $103 million, which taxpayers will pay additional interest on, just to keep our current budget in the black.

Another misplaced priority has been the increased use of the manufacturing and agriculture tax credit, a measure slipped into Governor Walker's first budget that eliminates most state income taxes on owners of factories and farms once it is fully phased in. When the credit was passed in 2011, it was estimated that it would cost $128 million annually by 2016-17. However, it is now estimated that it will cost more than twice the amount expected. Delaying the final phase in of this credit by two years could restore nearly $78 million to the budget and help avoid further cuts.
What I like about Hintz's column is summarized in that last sentence. Not only does he give why the Walker budget sucks, but he has a solution to help solve the problems that Walker/WisGOP have caused (in this case, by leveling off the M&A tax cut). It's not like Dems don't have solutions to these issues, but far too often, they are unwilling to say what they are, causing the average dope to think the GOP is the party of "action", even if that action is detrimental.

Rep. Hintz finishes off the column with another budget solution, and a reminder that these Walker/WisGOP tax cuts and cost-shifting have not led to good results, but certainly have led to the mess we are currently in.
Maybe the biggest casualty of Governor Walker's presidential ambitions is his stubborn political decision to reject the federal Medicaid expansion funding. We are the only state in the upper Midwest which has not accepted this funding. Taking the expansion money would provide 81,000 additional Wisconsinites access to health care, save state taxpayers $345 million, and add an estimated 10,000 health care jobs.

If Wisconsin had some positive economic results to show for the recent borrow-and-cut policies, you could make a case for continuing this direction. But we don't. Wisconsin remains dead last in the Midwest in job growth over the past four years and 40th in the U.S. overall. The "crisis budget" we are dealing with has been self-inflicted and intentional. Cut revenue enough that government has no choice but to reduce its programs and expenses. We didn't have to be in this position and we don't have to make these cuts now. Instead of slashing and borrowing, we need a state budget that invests in opportunities for the people of Wisconsin.
If more Wisconsin Dems talked truth like this, they wouldn't lose a statewide election for the next 20 years. So why the hell don't they?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A few notes from Walker's awful Marquette Poll

You may have heard something about the Marquette Law School poll that was released last week, and while the headline number is the tanking approval ratings of Gov Scott Walker, whose approval is down to 41%, and disapproval up to 56%. These results match similar declines for Walker that PPP reported last month, and is even more remarkable because the Marquette Poll and Professor Charles Franklin have ties to the pro-Walker oligarch groups such as WPRI and the Bradley Foundation, so they have little reason to knock down Scotty.

Let's start by enjoying Walker's tanking approval ratings, because it shows a notable change in the relatively consistent trend we had seen over the last 3 years of the Marquette Poll, where just under half of Wisconsinites would approve and half disapprove. This graphic from the Marquette Law School illustrates how different this week's poll was.

In the stock market, that would be known as a "breakout." It bears to mind the polling history of another Dubya, who slipped into negative approval for good in April of his second term, as that Dubya was trying to privatize Social Security, and his number never recovered. And just like with Bush, Walker slipped by in the election in November, and immediately started trying to push through policies that he never ran on.

As I've mentioned before, it's obvious that many Wisconsinites hate the thought of presidential candidate Walker. Just like with the PPP Poll, Walker does worse than most other GOP candidates when matched against Hillary Clinton in Wisconsin.

Hillary Clinton vs. GOP candidates, Wisconsin
Clinton 49, Paul 41
Clinton 49, Bush 38
Clinton 50, Rubio 38
Clinton 52, Walker 40
Clinton 52, Cruz 36

Not only is Clinton destroying Walker, she's above 50% against him, with the fewest amount of undecided out of any of those five candidates. It shows those who know Walker best don't want him as president, just like how Milwaukee County voted against Walker by 20-25% in all 3 of his Governor's elections after putting up with his tenure as County Exec. You've been warned America.

And it's not just Walker that's in trouble in this poll- it's his policies and the Wisconsin GOP in general. Take a look at these responses on certain issues that are part of Walker's budget.

Approve-disapprove, certain Wisconsin budget initiatives

Support cutting $127 million from K-12 schools?
Support 18%
Oppose 78%

Support $300 million cut to UW System?
Support 26%
Oppose 70%

Borrowing $150 million for Milwaukee Bucks arena?
Support 17%
Oppose 79%
Walker actually wants to borrow $220 million in the budget, so you'd imagine that's hated even more.

Requiring Senior Care recipients to enroll in Medicare Part D?
Support 30%
Oppose 44%

Eiminate cap on voucher schools?
Support 37%
Oppose 54%

What's more important to you?
Higher spending on schools 54%
Lower property taxes 40%

Scott Walker's budget is on the losing side of every one of these issues. And yet Walker's excuse for his declining poll ratings was that people didn't know enough about the budget and that they'd ultimately like what they see. Those poll responses indicate the exact opposite- that people hate the budget provisions even more. Walker's either lying, or completely out of touch, and a whole lot of GOP legislators seem to be realizing they will pay a huge price in 2016 if they stand behind this loser of a budget.

I admit that I haven't found a way to dig inside the crosstabs, due to formatting issues with the Zip folder (any help would be appreciated), and I'd like to see which groups in particular Walker are losing compared to 6 months ago. But it is clear that Scott Walker's act as a presidential candidate and the pose-ridden budget that he sent out as a result has angered many people across the state, and may have put his disapproval and lack of favorability past a point of no return. And the Marquette Poll results indicates to me that if Walker wants to do a little game theory, and find his best bet to carrying the state in November 2016, it involves a clear option. RESIGN AS GOVERNOR.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Economy slowing down, or just taking a breather?

Lots of odd cross-currents going on when you look at the U.S. economy in recent weeks. On the positive side is the fact that unemployment claims remain very low, consistently staying below 300,000 in new claims over the last 7 months, and staying 15-20% below what we saw this time last year. Housing seems to be picking up, with both total sales and prices increasing over last year's totals, and both trends accelerating in recent months.

Even real wages, whose slow growth have long been a drag on the Obama Recovery, have seen a bit of a boost, with real hourly and weekly wages up 2.2% over the last 12 months. All three stats have some interaction, as a tighter labor market should lead to higher wages, and more funds available to buy homes. But the flip side to that real wages increase hints at some of the concerns with the economy, as the nominal change is actually down compared to last year, and it's only a drop in inflation that has led to the "real" increase.

12-mo change, March 2015 vs. March 2014
Nominal hourly wages, March 2014 +2.2%
Nominal hourly wages, March 2015 +2.1%

Consumer Price Index, March 2014 +1.5%
Consumer Price Index, March 2015 -0.0%

Real hourly wages, March 2014 +0.6%
Real hourly wages, March 2015 +2.2%

And a lot of that flat inflation is due to lower oil and gasoline prices, which led to energy prices being down more than 18% for the last 12 months. This is nice for those of us who spend a sizable amount of money driving, but it's also been a big reason why the Mining industry lost more than 22,000 jobs in February and March combined. This was a factor behind the disappointing March U.S. jobs numbers, with only 126,000 gained. That's less than half the average monthly gain of 268,000 jobs over the 12 months before that, and that was in a time when unemployment claims were similarly low to what we've seen recently, so we'll see in a few weeks if March's drawback was a blip, or the start of a jobs slowdown.

A stronger dollar has also played into this trend, not only in lowering gas prices due to cheaper overseas oil, but also in hampering U.S. exporters, whose products become more expensive to foreigners. U.S. manufacturers have only added 1,000 jobs in the two months measured since January, after adding 858,000 jobs in the 5 years prior to that (or more than 14,000 a month). Again, it could be a short-term blip, or an ominous sign of something more.

We'll see how all these contrasting factors play into the GDP report that comes out at the end of this month, and as you can see from this graphic from the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank, the predictions for 1st Quarter growth have been falling throughout the last 2 months.

Of course, last year GDP actually shrank by 2.1% in the 1st Quarter of 2014 because of the polar vortex winter, then snapped back with increases of 4.6% and 5.0% in the next 2 quarters on the way to 2.5% growth for the year, and the highest single-year U.S. job growth in the 21st Century.

Certainly a continued combination of near-zero short-term interest and high economic growth isn't compatible (even with the higher dollar and lower gas prices), and at least one Fed Governor hinting this week at "boom times ahead" with higher interest rates coming with it. Does that combination then pop the mini-bubbles it seems like we're feeling in tech and housing, to go along with the recent end of the oil and drilling boom, and then set other forces in motion that would cause real damage to the economy.

With these different signals of data, you can see why it's worthy to keep your eyes on these figures over the next couple of months. We're also nearly 6 full years into the Obama Recovery, and at some point in the relatively near future history indicates that there will some kind of sustained decline in growth, if not an outright recession. I just wonder how long from now that'll be, and if we're at or near full employment when it happens.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The hits keep coming to the UW System

Add two more schools to the list of UW System institutions that are taking steps to cut staff because of Gov Walker's proposed budget cut of $300 million to the System. This includes the flagship institution at Madison, where Chancellor Rebecca Blank announced that up to 400 positions would be eliminated to close the gap. The announcement comes a week after the UW Board of Regents allowed for higher out-of-state to help defray some of that deficit, but Chancellor Blank notes that it is nowhere near enough, and with the next school year coming up with the state budget still up in the air, UW-Madison officials had to act.
Even while we continue to advocate for a smaller cut, we must now put our initial plans into action for Fiscal Year 2015-16, which begins on July 1. Our $36 million plan includes $21 million in budget cuts and redirects an additional $15 million from other campus units to our overall educational mission. This plan includes the elimination of approximately 400 positions.

It begins to bridge, but does not fill, a structural deficit that may be as much as $96 million as a result of state budget cuts in the upcoming fiscal year. The nonresident undergraduate tuition increases approved by the Board of Regents on April 10 will provide another $17.5 million in new revenue. There will remain, however, a significant deficit.

The reductions have been planned and will be carried out by our deans and directors, who know best which programs can be cut while minimizing the impact on the student experience and our core educational mission. Starting today, campus leaders are sharing information about their plans for budget cuts in their units.
Blank mentioned that UW-Madison might also merge or restructure some programs, since it will lack the staff to offer a sufficient curriculum in some areas.

Later in the afternoon, another UW campus joined a list of 5 others offering buyouts to its older employees. This time it's UW-Platteville having to make the move, offering early retirement for as many as 226 of its employees to deal with a $5 million cut in this budget, and another $5 million cut resulting from previous cuts and underfunding. In order to qualify, a Platteville employee must
be, as of June 30, 2015, currently appointed as faculty, academic staff, permanent classified staff, project staff, or limited term employee staff;
• be age 55 years or older as of June 30, 2015;
• be vested with the Wisconsin Retirement System and eligible to receive an annuity under WRS;
• have a start date at UW-Platteville on or before June 30, 2010
And what is even more infuriating about this situation is that it was entirely caused by dumb policies from Gov Walker and the Wisconsin GOP-run Legislature. Previous tax cuts have led to shortfalls in revenue, lessening the money available, and this Governor and his TeaBagging minions in the Legislature have chosen not to make up the difference by reversing or even stopping the expansion of any of these tax cuts. Instead, Walker chose to cut the UW System and K-12 schools as a means to make up the difference in this budget over other areas to reduce, such as the slush fund known as WEDC, or coming up with innovative ways to reduce the spending in Corrections.

Instead of all of the "Go Bucky" tweets the last month, why didn't these "Open for Business" legislators fund the great resource that is one of the few separators this state has over others, and remove all of the uncertainty that have led to these job and class cuts. As a result of their foolish choices, Wisconsin is now losing jobs and reducing our competitiveness in developing human capital. So tell me again how that mentality is supposed to attract business and make Wisconsin a better place to live in?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Legislature asked to bail out Walker's underfunding of the vets

Budget hearings at the Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee continue tomorrow, and one of the items that'll come up is the Veterans Trust Fund. As the Legislative Fiscal Bureau's paper on the Vets Trust Fund and the Veteran Mortgage Loan Repayment Fund explains
The veterans trust fund (VTF) is a segregated fund for the support of programs benefiting Wisconsin veterans and their families, and for promoting interests of veterans. The fund receives revenues from various sources, including repayments of loans made under the personal loan program, federal grants, and receipts from sales at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum. In 2013-14, the VTF had total revenues of $4.0 million (excluding a $5.3 million transfer from the general fund) and total expenditures of $11.9 million.

The veterans mortgage loan repayment fund (VMLRF) is a segregated fund for the administrative expenses related to the veterans primary mortgage loan program and the home improvement loan program and for debt service payments on bonds issued for making loans under those programs. Revenues are derived from loan repayments. In 2013-14, the VMLRF had total revenues of $24.7 million and total expenditures of $29.7 million.
And those financial statements illustrate the problem- these programs are spending more money than they're taking in, so they need to get another source for those additional funds. Combined with other related programs that involve the Veterans Trust Fund, and the LFB says the state has to come up with $8 million in 2015-16 and $13.5 million in 2016-17 to keep these programs going.

So what was Governor Walker's solution in the state budget? LET THE LEGISLATURE FIGURE IT OUT. Here are a couple of the moves they could make to save some Veterans Fund money.
13. The veterans tuition reimbursement program provides grants to qualifying veterans whose education expenses are not covered under federal education programs or the state's University of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Technical College tuition remission programs for veterans. Expenditures under the program have declined significantly in recent years, likely as a result of more veterans receiving assistance through the federal Post-9/11 G.I. Bill. In 2011-12, the total amount expended for the tuition reimbursement program was $992,000, but that had declined to $468,100 in 2013-14, and spending is on pace to be less than $400,000 in 2014-15. Given this decline, the Committee may want to adjust the appropriation to more accurately reflect anticipated spending. Base funding for the program is $1,403,100. The bill would reduce funding by $750,000 in 2015-16, providing $653,100 in that year, but would retain base funding in 2016-17. Based on expenditure trends, an appropriation of $500,000 would likely provide sufficient funding to meet anticipated demand under the program. This adjustment would be an appropriation decrease of $153,100 SEG in 2015-16 and $903,100 SEG in 2016-17, relative to the bill [Alternative B1a].

14. The assistance to needy veterans program provides subsistence aid and assistance with the purchase of dentures, hearing aids, and eye glasses for eligible veterans and their families who have income below 180% of the federal poverty level. The program would be funded at the base level of $970,000 annually under the bill, but expenditures for grants under the program have averaged just $420,000 over the past three years. An annual reduction to this appropriation of $470,000 would provide $500,000 annually, which would likely provide sufficient budget authority to make grants during the 2015-17 biennium [Alternative B1b]. If insufficient funds are provided in this appropriation, the Department is authorized to make a request to the Committee for supplemental funding under a 14-day passive review process.
While this sounds bad on the surface ("You cut these programs for vets????"), it does seem that this is an appropriate place for savings, since the funds are unlikely to be spent anyway. That still leaves another $19.5 million that has to be filled in.

Among the options include using excess funds from the three State Veterans Homes to fill the hole (instead of adding services and/or staff at the homes, which sure was necessary 3 years ago when the vets' home at King was massively understaffed with elderly vets being forced to put up with a scandalously bad situation. You can see why Walker didn't want to put that into the budget and bring that mess back into the public's consciousness. Nor did he want to use General Fund money for the $21.5 million to make the Vets Trust Fund whole, because this budget is so tight it doesn't have the wiggle room. So instead, Scotty just laid the Vets Trust Fund and related information at the feet of the Legislature, and took off to galavant around the country bragging about all the "tough decisions" he's made here in Wisconsin.

So let's see what the Legislature does, and what types of transfers and tricks they have to pull to solve this underfunding of Vets' Fund issues that Scott Walker has allowed to go on for 5 years. And I bet no one else in the "legitimate" media will even mention it, which is just what warmongering Scotty wants.

Fitzwalkerstan tanks - in jobs as well as polls

In addition to the tanking approval ratings of our Governor and his policies, there was another bit of news that added to Scott Walker's dubious standing today. The March 2015 Wisconsin jobs report came out from the Department of Workforce Development, and the numbers were miserable.

Change in Wisconsin jobs
March 2015, all jobs -4,300
March 2015, private sector jobs -5,000

February 2015 revision, all jobs -1,900
February 2015 revision, private sector jobs -1,800

Total change in all jobs vs. last report -6,200
Total change in private sector jobs vs last report -6,800

Yes, the U.S. had a slowdown in job growth in March, with "only" 126,000 jobs added, but they sure didn't lose them like we did here in Fitzwalkerstan. So as a result, the Walker jobs gap is growing again, now back up past 81,000 private sector jobs, and 72,600 overall.

The DWD's (and too much of the state media's) propaganda about the state's unemployment rate being lowered to 4.6% isn't really a good sign, either. It reflects 8,300 people leaving the Wisconsin work force in March (on a seasonally-adjusted basis), and even that survey shows employment dropping by 3,200 jobs last month. The figures look even worse when you look West across the St. Croix, and you see this.
Minnesota employers added 7,800 jobs in March, a second straight month of strong growth thanks to big gains in education and health care.

The state added 49,400 jobs over the past 12 months, a growth rate of 1.9 percent, which is well below the national growth rate of 2.3 percent, according to figures released Thursday by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

But the state has added 18,300 jobs since the start of February, the labor force is growing as more workers who had been on the sidelines decided to look for a job and the unemployment rate held steady at 3.7 percent, compared to a U.S. rate of 5.5 percent.
Hmm, and those guys in Minnesota are using their surplus to add funding to early childhood education and related programs, while Scott Walker's budget is cutting $427 million from K-12 and higher education in Wisconsin (to the disapproval of more than 70% of Wisconsinites). I wonder if there's a relationship there...