Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Highlights of last night's Senate budget action

Here's a roundup of a few items thrown in to the budget in yesterday’s Senate action. We had been told that the disgraceful gutting of open records law was going to be replaced, but a couple of other awful provisions in the now-notorious 999 proposal that went through the Joint Finance Committee last week also got the ax. The first agreed-to amendment removed an attempted coup of the committee that oversees the Wisconsin Retirement System, and more good news hit when a second amendment got rid of some of the expansion of power that was proposed for Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, All of these removals of policy seem to be the result of legislators getting major heat on the phones and in social media once word of these bad policies and self-interested bills started leaking out, and it shows the rewards can come if you stay vigilant with this crew.

In addition to the removal the Milwaukee County provisions mentioned above, the second amendment that was passed has a number of other odds and ends that do some modifications to rules and the bottom line. The one that rightfully is getting the most attention is the removal of prevailing wage requirement, a move I find to be idiotic because when you are dead last in the Midwest weekly manufacturing wage and job growth, lowering wages is the LAST thing you should be doing to change that result. But then again, WisGOP, Walker and the Kochs are about nothing else in the last few years if not being in favor of giving more power to corporations and business owners over the everyday wage-earner (who is the REAL job creator). At this point, I just seethe and roll my eyes at these regressive fuckheads.

But another intriguing measure concerns the UW System, where they do a bit of creative accounting in year 2 of the state budget.
Increase the UW System’s GPR general program operations appropriation by $25,000,000 in 2016-17. In addition, require the UW System to lapse $25,000,000 from its GPR general program appropriation to the state’s general fund on July 1, 2016.
So if I’m reading this right, the UW System is supposed to give up $25 million that may be left over at the start of FY 2016-17, but gets all that money back during the same fiscal year, meaning a net change of $0. Seems sort of lame (and possibly damaging to cash flow this time next year), but it does increase the base amount for the '17-'19 budget, which might explain why UW System President Ray Cross said “Thanks massa!” he was pleased with the change.
We greatly appreciate the support of Sen. Petrowski and all of the Senate members who voted in support of making $25 million of the UW System funding reduction a lapse. This will significantly improve the fiscal condition of our campuses into the future. It is one more demonstration of how our new partnership with the legislature is helping keep public higher education in Wisconsin a priority.
"Our new partnership with the legislature"? What a gutless statement from the president of a university system that contributes a helluva lot more to the state economically and socially than it takes out, but sits back and accepts massive cuts for no reason other than anti-intellectual spite and prior budget screw-ups by the same leaders who caused the problem in the first place. Compare the UW to organizations like WEDC or WMC or the vast majority of the corporates and special-interest lobbyists that have been given every break by the folks at the Capitol during the Age of Fitzwalkerstan, and yet has added basically nothing in return and made the state into an economic laggard. Why the hell hasn’t Cross hammered on this obvious point, and in a related question, how does this guy still have his job?

I also want to thank State Rep. Terese Berceau for noting another provision on voucher schools that looks an innocuous one-sentence clarification, but really isn’t.
Modify Joint Finance action to specify that the provision requiring a private school participating in the statewide private school choice program to have been in continual operation as a private school since May 1, 2013, would apply in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years only.
As Berceau pointed out on her Facebook page, this means that under current law, anyone could open up their own voucher school starting in 2017-18, and get dollars from state taxpayers. This would be true even if the school has no record of hiring staff, test scores, or even has a building. Another provision allows for the new MPS “charter czar” could now allow any type of operator to run a school in the new program that gives money to those people over the everyday MPS schools, expanding it beyond the independent “2r” charter schools that were in the original bill. Both clauses are classic cases of sticking the camel’s nose under the tent to make vouchers bigger for the future, and convicted criminal Scott Jensen’s investment in GOP legislators pays off again. If I were a Dem running in 2016, I might bring these bills up to the voters, especially in rural Wisconsin.

Yes, the Senate's removal of changes to laws on open records, Milwaukee County governance and public employees’ retirement board is a good thing, and in all, this brutal budget was slightly improved yesterday. But that doesn’t mean there also weren’t some bad things thrown in as well, it still leaves the overall document as a "dumpster fire" (in the great words of Rep. Andy Jorgensen), and it still doesn't mean there won't be serious damage done to our state's way of life in the wake of the Assembly's likely intact passing of this garbage tonight.


  1. Chris Abele for King of Milwaukee County 2016
    Campaign Collateral Materials

    Christopher Seton Abele is a new kind of Democrat—a Trojan-Horse Republican. He’s brought a rogue breed of “effective leadership” to Milwaukee County—not weighed down by messy democracy or bothersome consensus building. Technocrat Abele works to shrink government by telling citizens, “Never mind!” Abele’s approach to complex issues is, “I’m a quick study because I don’t study.”

    Abele saved time and millions by slashing the power and pay of the pesty County Board and turning it into modern rubber-stamping robots with user-friendly touch-screens. He judiciously reapplied those savings by hiring Arnold Schwarzenegger’s security team and buying a sleek black SUV.

    County Executive Abele has steered clear of the fusty Courthouse whenever possible--instead holding meetings at his Moderne penthouse and appearing courtside in the Bradley Center. He coolly conducts business by avoiding anyone outside his ever-changing inner circle. He sports a devil-may-care wardrobe with a stylish, slept-in look, and eschews business attire even at formal events.

    A “Fortunate Son” and real-estate developer, Abele’s so-called political independence is reflected in his penchant for donating to Tea Party state legislators--in exchange for their enacting of power-grabbing legislation at his behest. He has creatively transformed Milwaukee County into “The Best Government My Money Can Buy.” Abele’s a real “game-changer” all right—changing the rules whenever he wants more power. Believing in “choice,” Abele treats Wisconsin’s constitution like an a la carte menu—not a sacrosanct document.

    The Winning Abele Strategy: A Hand in Every Deal and Two Chickens in Every Plot

    Potential 2016 Abele Campaign Messaging
    • Participatory Democracy is Soooo Last-Century
    • Chris Abele: Scott Walker Without the Wannabe-Reagan Charm
    • Chris Abele: Scott Walker Minus All the Gay Bashing
    • I Got Bored With an Elected Board--and You Should Too!
    • No Board Votes, No Vetoes to Override, No One’s Gonna Diss-Abele Me!
    • Stewarding Parks “Is NOT in Milwaukee County’s Mission”
    • Donating Family Money to Cultural Venues Doesn’t Mean I Care About Their Fate
    • Milwaukee’s Gotta Break Some Eggs to Make the Bucks Their Omelette--If That Hurts Taxpayers & Small Businesses--Too Bad
    • I Want My Bucks to Win in the Arena of Public Funding—Not Public Opinion
    • Straddling the Aisle to Serve the Elite—Since 2011
    • Oligarchy Trumps Populism
    • Tyranny: A Stream-lined, “Enhanced” Form of Government
    • No Power to the People!

    Campaign Song: Totalitarianism Forever/For the Dollar Makes Us Strong!

    Stump Speech: “How I’ll Control Everything in Milwaukee County by Cozying Up to State Legislators and Corporate Players”

    Top-Ten Goals on Abele’s Agenda
    1. Running government like vulture capitalism--leading by liquidating
    2. Privatizing county assets for cronies—with clearance sales and $1 deals
    3. Reducing services and carving up the commonwealth—to “achieve efficiencies”
    4. Eliminating tedious public hearings and onerous board oversight
    5. Dissolving democracy by for the sake of self-aggrandizement
    6. Closing public schools and neglecting public parks—your Bucks-Arena-diverted dollars at work
    7. Putting a target on the back of the Milwaukee Art Museum, Marcus Center for the Performing Arts and Wisconsin Center District—because I can!
    8. Building the Bucks Arena on the backs of ill and bankrupt county debtors
    9. Finishing off Scott Walker’s dismantling of Milwaukee County Government
    10. Replacing the “greater good” with the “greater greed”

    Pat Small of Milwaukee is a lifelong advocate for democratic principles.

  2. Yeah, Abele's not too keen on people telling him. "No", is he? Very much the rich kid mentality. That guy's gotta go.

    We'll see if Walker does a "show veto" or two on some of the things that slipped by. (The Assembly changed nothing to the Senate bill, which is why it's going to Walker's desk tonight) But don't be fooled- there's no thought of common good going on there, just cynicism.