Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Budget "crisis" growing fraudulent by the day

There's a few things that have flown under the radar as Gov. Dropout continues to dig his hole deeper and the nation has caught on to what a transparent power-grab and union bash this alleged "budget repair" bill is. But I want to go back to the budget part for a second, because there are some recent developments that make Walker's "crisis" siren even more shaky.

In the Legislative Fiscal Bureau's now-famous 2011 budget projection, the LFB figured Wisconsin tax revenue growth of 4.6% from the 2009-'10 fiscal year. However, Wisconsin's economy has been recently picking up over the last few months, much like other parts of the nation, and the Department of Revenue just released figures showing revenue growth of 5.0% for the first seven months of the fiscal year, and 7.1% for January . If 5.0% growth holds, that's another $47 million to close whatever minor budget gap exists. Remember, the state union concessions that were declined by Walker, WisGOP and the corrupt Jeff Plale and Russ Decker was estimated at $100 million. There'd be no further need for extra borrowing or other accounting tricks.

And there's no reason to think that the above-trend revenues won't continue. Between the Packer Super Bowl and huge amounts of protest-related tourism in Madison, there are 2 unexpected events that have probably led to larger-than-normal consumption, and as a result, high levels of sales taxes and income in the service sector (bars, restaurants, etc.). Dane County just reported 38% growth in last month's sales taxes vs 2010, and are $1.6 million over budget in the last year. Obviously, Dane County sales taxes are a reflection of state sales taxes in that area, since they're both collected at the same time, and it is logical to assume that will cross over into the state figures shortly.

And lastly, in checking the numbers side of the budget adjustment bill , it looks like the insurance and pension concessions that state workers would give up (and have said they'd agree to) are around $29 million for the rest of this fiscal year...or about $70 million less in savings than the concessions would have been if Walker, Plale and co. hadn't have interefered in the contracts 2 months ago, because those savings would have included retroactive payments, while the budget "repair" bill only does it from late March forward. And I'm not even going into the extra $26 million in expenses for the next budget that will have to be paid off due to Scotty's plan of borrowing another $165 million (it's in Page 10).

Lastly, in that DOR January 2011 report, it reports corporate taxes are up nearly 14% from last year, and income taxes up 4.7%, sort of discrediting the idea that tax revenues go down if loopholes close and high-income taxes go up (as they did in Jim Doyle's and the Dems' last budget). And likewise, a huge reason there's even a chance to justify any type of repair is due to Scotty and co's corporate tax giveaway lowering this year's revenues.

Much like the federal budget's deficit, tax cuts and the unemployment resulting from deregulation and bad trade policy lead to the "problem" of deficits that allow GOPpers to squawk about the need to cut spending. If there weren't those bad GOP policies in the first place, there wouldn't be this problem. You know much like the "Fire in the Reichstag" tactic of taking an alleged budget deficit as the excuse to bust unions and grab power.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Media- shut up and learn

After attending yesterday's festivities around the Capitol, I have a few quick notes.

1. There may have been 3,000 Tea Baggers, and about 60,000 anti-Walker/ anti-Tea Baggers. The media portraying it as "equal, dueling" protests is their typical "both sides are equal" lie. If you weren't on the lawn on the one corner of the Capitol the baggers were, you wouldn't know they existed. Their show was so lame they baled 90 minutes ahead of schedule, and I only knew that because I then saw a few Walker signs heading to the other side of the Capitol.

2. Memo to the D.C. and New York media. This is not a budget issue in Wisconsin, it is a workers' rights and inequality issue. And trying to tie it into the federal budget is especially stupid, but since you have no clue about anything going on among people who make less than 6 figures or west of the Appalachians, it's not surprising that this is eluding you. And why is someone like George Will allowed to speak on ANYTHING outside the Beltway? The next contact he has with someone in a real job will be his first in decades.

3. The longer this goes on, the worse Scott Walker looks. If WisGOP had a brain, they'd take the concessions agreed to by the state unions. But they're dumb, so they won't, and they will be smoked over the next 2 years.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Reflections from Madtown on the week that is

Needless to say, it's kinda crazy over here right now. I took a long lunch on Wedensday to check it out, and it seems to have grown from there (I worked at my federally-funded job the rest of the week, if you're curious). In fact, I kind of worry that the protesting part is taking on a life of its own and trying to make itself the story, with Jesse Jackson dropping in yesterday (I guess he noticed all the cameras converging 3 hours from home and had to get involved), and the Tea Baggers trying to hold their little crumpet-fest today (they'll be mocked and outnumbered).

With that in mind, let's get back to the issues at hand:

1. There is no major fiscal crisis for the remainder of the January-June 30, 2011 fiscal year. Here's the now-famous LFB memo on the current-year situation. Now, there is some validity to holding back some of that $56 million additional money to take care of items such as Minnesota reciprocity and extra Medicaid payments ($121 M is the number thrown around, but Page 2 shows that $65 million is kept back as a "rainy day fund"). But that's a comparatively small amount that results in a tiny deficit that could be made up in a couple of other ways.

2. And here's the other ways you make up that deficit. Scotty and co. could have used the $103 million in concessions the state employees union agreed to and plugged most of the gap that way, and then used the increased pension and health contributions as a starting point for the 2011-2013 budget. But as you recall, Scotty tried to barge into the negotiations before taking office and bribed Sen. Jeff Plale with a cushy state job in exchange for voting the contracts down.

Another major source of savings is the huge amount of retirements that have been happening over the last 3 months in state service. Walk into any state agency office building, and you will see flyer after flyer discussing some long-time employee's upcoming retirement get-together. In my section of 12, 4 have left, and the only 2 filled positions have been internal fills. Any manager knows that attrition reduces the need for layoffs, and not filling positions lowers expenses in the short-term both in salaries and benefit costs. So when Walker threatens 5,000 or 1,600 or whatever-number-he-pulls-out-of-his-ass-today layoffs in the state, HE IS LYING.

3. So when you realize that there is no short-term fiscal crisis and you read the bill for more than 5 seconds, it becomes obvious that this is not a "budget repair bill", it is a union-busintg bill. Especially since Scotty and co want to usurp local governments and their agreements with their local unions by throwing out collective bargaining rights for all those employees in addition to the state ones. And that's where the mistake was made, because once you made it about the teachers, and the caregivers and the snow plow drivers, that's what took the protests from "small group of local Madison folks" to "this is a fight for everyone."

I'll speak more after I check out the rallies today. I'm debating whether to reprise my Honest Tea-Baggers outfit from Halloween, with signs like "Ignorance is Easier" and "Didn't need those benefits anyway." The best part is that those clowns probably won't understand the joke.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

You want Wisconsin to be like Indiana and Jersey, Scotty?

So, Scott Walker wants to take the Chris Christie method of scapegoating and talking tough against public employees as a way to control their state's fiscal problems, and also wants to use Mitch Daniels' theories in Indiana of selling off any state agency to a private vendor. Well, let's see how those places have fared in the last year with these policies in charge, and compare it to how we've been doing in Wisconsin. I mean, Walker wouldn't be pursuing these ideas if they weren't working and could make us better off here in the home of Titletown, right?

Let's go with number of jobs and unemployment in the last year. I've also included private sector unemployment change to avoid the complaints if the job number are skewed by public sector job cuts.

Wisconsin +32,600 jobs (+31,600 private), 7.5% unemployment (down 1.0% vs end of '09)
New Jersey -30,700 jobs (-1,600 private), 9.1% unemployment (down 0.9% vs.'09)
Indiana +25,100 jobs (+36,400 private), 9.5% unemployment (down 0.2% vs. '09)

So cutting jobs in Jersey's public sector certainly has not translated into job growth in the private sector, which is doubly remarkable when you figure Wall Street's comeback should translate into growth in an area that has plenty of commuters into NYC. So no, cutting the public sector does not raise the tide for others in New Jersey, at least so far.

Indiana seems to be doing well on the total jobs front, but hasn't cut into unemployment nearly as high as Wisconsin has, and still has unemployment 2% higher than we do. This also doesn't bring up the fact that Indiana had a drop in median household income of 4.7% in 2009 under My Man Mitch, which is well above the national average drop of 2.9%, and Wisconsin's 3.8%. In addition, Indiana's household income would have to go up by 10% to reach ours, so a large amount of those jobs are clearly low-wage, low-skill.

So why copy the ways of New Jersey and Indiana as policies when they clearly are substandard compared to what we have right now? Unless the plan is to make skilled Wisconsinites miserable and want to leave, which means there's a higher percentage of the population left who are dumb and going nowhere, or with "big fish, small pond" syndrome and fear of competition for their high status.

In other words, we'd be left with more of the type of dopes who might still support Scott Walker and WisGOP. Hmmm......Maybe Walker's antics aren't so crazy, now are there? With WisGOP, it's not "the economy, stupid", it's POWER.

Monday, February 7, 2011

All is right with the world

And yes, I am on the road to recovery today. Yep, looks like Teddy T and co. made the right call, didn't they?

And nearly as great as the Packer win, is the exposure of Dallass, Texass and Jerry Jones' taxpayer-funded stadium as a TOTAL FRAUD. Not only is the state and city too damn cheap to have road salt for the one week that place will be on the world's biggest stage, but they did not deliver seats to hundreds of ticket holders, in what seems to be a self-centered Texass mentality to have the largest attendance at a Super Bowl. The NFL, showing more class than Jerry Jones and co., has given triple the face value refunds and tickets to next year's Super Bowl as a major "we're sorry." But the egg on the face of Dallass and Texass is obvious, and it's symptomatic of the fool's good that Texass's "prosperity" is based on. You couldn't pay me enough money to live in that cesspool (other than Austin, of course).

Lastly, RIP to Zim's in Milwaukee. I had plenty of great times there with great people, and hopefully Mike gets to continue to live the dream in the Third Ward, or somewhere else with a better landlord. Milwaukee needs more places like Zim's downtown, not fewer.