Monday, August 21, 2017

Has budget delay allowed a shortfall to appear?

After a long absence, we will finally see the Joint Finance Committee back in action this week. First, they will hold a "public hearing" on the Fox-con, which naturally will not be held in Madison, but near a likely site of the Foxconn campus in Sturtevant (that doesn't seem sketchy at all). Then, they will actually try to make some progress on the budget by discussing a few items, including property taxes and the DNR.

According to today's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, it looks like the GOP-run JFC is going to proceed with initiatives to move ahead on property taxes at state expense. In addition, there may be a bigger deal that gets revealed in the near future that finally gets this budget done.
Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette), the panel's co-chairman, said there is an agreement in principle on transportation and the personal property tax between Gov. Scott Walker and GOP leaders in the Senate and Assembly. But Nygren declined to reveal the deal in detail, saying it was tentative and could still fall apart as legislative leaders share it with rank-and-file lawmakers.

"It's not final, but there's a framework," Nygren said.

A spokesman for Walker had no comment but the committee's other co-chair, Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), said progress has been made between Senate Republicans, who favor sizable borrowing for road construction, and Assembly Republicans, who oppose new borrowing without new revenue to pay for it.

"We're very close on transportation and both sides had to give to get to something," Darling said.

Both Nygren and Darling said the committee will vote Thursday to eliminate the property tax levied by the state for forestry programs, which would save $26 on the tax bill for a median-valued home.
That initiative would cost around $180 million over the next two years, but recent events make me wonder how prudent it is to throw that money out the door when we might need it in the near future. And not just because the Fox-con would cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars for each of the next 2-3 budgets after this one.

A report came out a couple of weeks ago showing the state's cash position and outlook. While not an exact proxy for the totals in the state's General Fund, it usually gives us a good idea. So let’s take a look at what was projected at the end of April and how things looked at the end of July.

Gen Fund cash in millions, March 2017-June 2017
Mar 2017 $1,028.5
Apr 2017 $1,360.9 projected vs $1,269.8 actual (-$91.1 mil)
May 2017 $1,889.2 proj. vs $1,847.1 actual (-$42.1 mil)
Jun 2017 $1,552.6 proj. vs $1,369.5 actual (-$183.1 mil)

So why did we fall $141 million short in June and $183 million overall? Is it as simple as July 1 being on a weekend in 2017 and on a Friday in 2016, which means all expenses that were typically paid on July 1 got paid on June 30 (this happened with the federal government)? Or will we end Fiscal Year 2017 with a lower-than-expected carryover, which immediately would put the 2017-19 budget into a deeper hole? Lower revenues and cash balances was what Senate GOP Leader Scott Fitzgerald seemed to hint at recently when he implied that there may need to be a larger cushion built into the budget than the $12 million Walker left it with 6 months ago.

The 2016-17 final General Fund revenue figures are expected to be released in the next 2 weeks (last year it was on September 1), and that can tell us if we fell short on that side, and may need to compensate in this budget. So while bad GOP policies and dysfunction have led to a delay in the Wisconsin state budget that is approaching 8 weeks, it might now also present an opportunity to avoid further budget problems. If we aren’t going to see final floor votes on the budget or the Fox-con in the next 10 days anyway, we might as well wait to have a better idea of where we are.

Now, that doesn't mean that some items can be moved forward if certain parts of the government have funding changes that need to be finalized ( school aids and caregiver rate increases are among the items being held up due to the GOP's dallying on the budget, and should be moved ahead separately and quickly). But maybe we should hold off on the property tax giveaways and other big-spending pre-election gimmicks until the revenue numbers come in, because the current-year budget might already be messed up due to January revenue projections overshooting the weaker reality that appears in August.

Instead, I have a suspicion that GOPs will try to sneak everything out of Joint Finance late Thursday night right before Labor Day Weekend, in a repeat of the time 2 years ago when they tried to gut the state's Open Records law ahead of the 4th of July weekend. I hope that's not the case, and I hope they get it right and try to do more to fix the house-of-cards pile of garbage that Scott Walker sent to them. But with Walker at 40% approval and falling and Trump doing even worse than Scotty in Wisconsin, I can see the WisGOPs trying to pull lame gimmicks that make an already-bad budget outlook even worse.

Worse roads and higher local taxes? Welcome to NE WIsconsin!

As Wisconsin Republicans continue take their sweet time in finishing the overdue state budget (now at 52 days and counting), local governments don’t have such a luxury. Local city officials will likely release their proposed budgets in the next few weeks and have to finalize them by late November, and past budget cuts from the state means that many fixes are needed on local roads, without a lot of funds available to take care of those issues. And one of the places that is feeling the crunch the worst is northeastern Wisconsin.

The Door County Peninsula Pulse notes that Sturgeon Bay’s City Engineer said last month that the city has to hope its streets hold out for 50-60 years with the current funding system, and Mayor Thad Birmingham says in the article it’s even worse than that, given Wisconsin’s lack of flexibility on property taxes.
“That lifespan gets stretched out more each year as our revenue stays the same,” Birmingham said. “So that 50 – 60 year lifespan could end up being 100 years.”

Prior to 2010, local governments could increase their tax levy by 3 percent of the previous year’s levy. In 2010, Gov. Scott Walker lowered that limit to 0, allowing Wisconsin municipalities to increase property taxes only at the rate of net new construction in the community. So even as the cost of fuel, materials, services, and human resources increases, budgets do not unless there is significant new construction. Levy increases were first capped at 3 percent by Gov. Jim Doyle in 2006.

“How can you keep up with anything – roads, parks, sewer – if you can’t increase revenue to pay for expense increases?” Birmingham said.
Now, just like with schools, a local government can go to the voters to raise property taxes above the limit. The Town of Liberty Grove in Door County did this with success in 2014, but that’s not something that most local governments in Wisconsin choose to deal with, and they have turned to a couple of other methods to scrape together revenue in recent years in Wisconsin.

One involves new wheel taxes, which have been added in 4 Wisconsin cities and villages in 2017 along with all of Milwaukee County. That follows several other places that put in wheel taxes in both 2015 and 2016.

Another option has been for counties to put in new local sales tax, if they hadn’t done so already. The Door County article notes that Kewaunee County’s new sales tax was as a last resort after Act 10 “savings” and other budget cuts couldn’t fill the potholes and other needs the county had.
In 2016 Kewaunee County had to implement a .5 percent sales tax to plug a gaping hole in its budget that remained even after the county cut 31 positions from county staff and transferred $600,000 from its highway department budget. Kewaunee’s problem was exacerbated when the Kewaunee Power Station closed in 2013, costing the county a lucrative utility fee.
In addition to Kewaunee, Sheboygan County put in new 0.5% sales tax this year, Brown County agreed to put one in starting in January 2018, and Manitowoc and Calumet Counties are also considering putting in a sales tax as part of this Fall’s budget deliberations. If all of these counties go through with sales taxes, there will only be 4 counties left in Wisconsin without one.

Where'd all these new taxes come from?

There also is an option for some tourist-related communities of Wisconsin to put in their own sales tax to pay for the extra needs that tourist towns have. This is a “premier resort tax”, and the Cities of Bayfield, Eagle River, Wisconsin Dells and Rhinelander along with the Villages of Lake Delton and Stockholm all have been able to levy a tax. The Door County article notes that Sturgeon Bay is consider such a tourist tax to try to keep its roads fixed, and voters in La Crosse County signaled approval in a non-binding referendum in April.

However, the State Legislature would have to sign off on such a measure (likely in the state budget), and given that more than a few GOPs in the Legislature are already huffy about the increased amount of school referenda and wheel taxes, it may reduce the chances of a new premier resort tax area being allowed for 2018…if we ever pass a budget.

But it’s the WisGOPs’ own fault that the need for new local taxes exists in the first place. For 3 budgets (and likely a 4th), WisGOP has chosen to defund aids to local governments as a means to pay for their tax cuts to the rich and corporate, and to claim they kept property taxes in check. The new wheel taxes and sales taxes are the natural outcome of this mentality, and now the GOPs are whining because their ALEC “low-tax” fantasies are crumbling in the real world. Not just with the higher taxes, but also the deteriorating roads.

Maybe a better idea is to get rid of these GOP clowns in the Legislature and replace them with people who understand the connection between state and local funding of services, and won't shortchange local governments stupid, Norquistian poses. All of those places in the 920 that have new sales and wheel taxes would be a good place to start seeing voters step up and force these changes, as throughout the 2010s this area has sent Republicans to “represent" the area, and all they've gotten back are potholes and more money being taken out of their pockets.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Fox-con isn't for good policy. It's because of Walker's drop in polls.

I wanted to add some visuals and breakdowns of information related to the Foxconn package, that may help you (or your friends) understand the full fiscal picture better.

The first involves some good graphics and analysis from UW Professor Menzie Chinn at Econbrowser Professor Chinn uses the analysis of taxpayer costs and added jobs and tax revenue from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau to show the initial hole the state falls into, and how it eventually recovers those losses…if everything goes right.

Later on in the post, Professor Chinn brings up another good point.
In principle, [both benefits and costs] should have both deflated, and discounted, but I think in order to make the calculation as transparent as possible, they did what they did. Of course, had they deflated, and discounted, the cumulative net benefit calculation (or NPV) would have looked worse.
That’s exactly right, because 1. There is no limit on how many tax credits can be taken out in a given year, so they could be used up quicker if costs/salaries rise. 2. On the flip side, if salaries do not keep up with inflation, that means there is a bigger hole that has to be dug out of, because the higher payments that come out from 2017-2024 are “more costly” than whatever the state is making back in 2040.

Now let's throw in this analysis from the Wisconsin Budget Project, which illustrates how much has to go right for the Fox-con to pay off, and also how much we stand to lose if it doesn’t.
One of the important questions is the matter of making an estimate of the relationship between Foxconn’s hiring and payroll and the employment gains that Foxconn’s spending will generate elsewhere. The consulting company’s analysis for Foxconn estimates a multiplier effect of 2.7. What that means is that the creation of 13,000 jobs at Foxconn would generate an increase of 22,000 jobs elsewhere, for a total of 35,000 jobs.

With that in mind, the easiest way to consider scenarios with fewer workers at Foxconn would be simply to apply the same multiplier in each case. However, there are two major components of the multiplier effect. One is the employment at businesses that supply components or services to Foxconn. The other component is the positive impact on the local economy of the spending by Foxconn employees. If Foxconn builds a factory with state-of-the-art automation and fewer employees, that will significantly reduce the positive effects of having an influx of employee earnings flowing through the economy, but it will not necessarily cause a large decrease in Foxconn’s contracts with other businesses. (But keep in mind that those businesses will not all be in Wisconsin.)

With those considerations in mind, we decided to assume that a 50 percent reduction in the number of Foxconn workers would result in a 25 percent reduction in the employment gains resulting from the new economic activity. And for alternative #2 we assumed that if there are just 3,000 Foxconn employees there would be a 50 percent reduction in the indirect employment gains.
The Budget Project also illustrates just how much Wisconsinites would be left holding the bag if Foxconn decided to cut and run from Wisconsin once the handouts ended.
Considering how quickly television and other flat screen technology has been changing, there is a significant risk that the proposed Foxconn plant will not be operating long enough to come close to offsetting the state’s massive investments. Assuming the new plant does not become obsolete even before 2034, that year is when the risk of Foxconn pulling up stakes and going elsewhere is probably greatest because it is when the state would stop writing the company huge annual checks for 17 percent of payroll costs. When a company’s business plan relies on such large subsidies, how confident can we be that they will remain in Wisconsin when those subsidies are gone?...

One of the surprising findings of our analysis is that the net loss for Wisconsin taxpayers from Foxconn exiting Wisconsin in 2034 is in the same ballpark regardless of which of the three scenarios one assumes..... The difference between the three scenarios we analyzed becomes much clearer in later years, after the state stops paying job credits that are directly proportional to the size of its payroll.
And these analyses does not even consider which services and economic activities get hurt as a result of so much money and business being funneled over to Foxconn. When you look at the up-front costs that Wisconsinites have to take on for the Fox-con, there is no honest way that a giveaway of this size is justifiable.

But Scott Walker and the Wisconsin GOP don’t care about dealing with the damage that will happen to the state over the next few years due to this scam, as long as they get a nice kickback for their next campaign and/or head out the revolving door to some lobbying gig or other wingnut welfare where they can cash in. And make no mistake, this Fox-con is not about economics or good policy, but is a desperate attempt to reverse bad poll numbers.

If these GOP vandals shove through the Fox-con, it'll be Dems and others in the real world that'll be forced to be the adults to clean up from the fiscal and environmental mess (if we’re even able to). It’s sickening cynicism, but would we expect any less from the ALEC crew at this point?

Russ is right - Republicans are fine with racism

In case you've been wondering what Russ Feingold has been up to lately, he's been heading up an organization called "LegitAction" whose largest emphasis seems to be election and courts issues.

And Russ came out swinging this weekend, pointing out that Donald Trump's acceptance (if not outright approval) of racism and racist acts is not something he does in isolation. Feingold connected the dots in an awesome article in the Guardian called "How the Republican party quietly does the bidding of white supremacists."
The lesson from Charlottesville is not how dangerous the neo-Nazis are. It is the unmasking of the Republican party leadership. In the wake of last weekend’s horror and tragedy, let us finally, finally rip off the veneer that Trump’s affinity for white supremacy is distinct from the Republican agenda of voter suppression, renewed mass incarceration and the expulsion of immigrants.

There is a direct link between Trump’s comments this week and those policies, so where is the outrage about the latter? Where are the Republican leaders denouncing voter suppression as racist, un-American and dangerous? Where are the Republican leaders who are willing to call out the wink (and the direct endorsement) from President Trump to the white supremacists and acknowledge their own party’s record and stance on issues important to people of color as the real problem for our country?...

Gerrymandering, strict voter ID laws, felon disenfranchisement are all aimed at one outcome: a voting class that is predominantly white, and in turn majority Republican.

The white supremacist chant of, “you will not replace us,” could easily and accurately be the slogan for these Republican politicians. Their policies will achieve the same racial outcome as Jim Crow – the disenfranchisement and marginalization of people of color.

It is a sad day when more CEOs take action by leaving and shutting down Trump’s Strategy and Policy Forum, and Manufacturing Council, than elected officials take action leaving Trump’s “election integrity” commission.

Bringing it!

Now THAT'S the Russ that made him my political hero. Calling out BS by name, standing up for what is right, and not apologizing for it. If this Russ was allowed to run for Senate, instead of being neutered into "generic Democrat" by Team DNC/Hllary, he'd have won last November.

Which means we wouldn't have (mo)Ron Johnson "representing" Wisconsin when he whined to reporters "You tell me what (Trump) needs to say so we can move beyond this?" But it shouldn't surprise us that (mo)Ron Johnson and Scott Walker won't call out Trump's racism by name. You've probably seen righties on Facebook going out of their way to try any kind of "the left is violent too" meme, because it deflects from what the disgusting, racist crap that they approve of.

And it's a big reason why Trump's approval has yet to tank after the "both sides" comments that he made this week, because the Washington Post's Greg Sargent says that type of "divde and conquer" racism triggers support among certain dipshits.

Which led me to reply

And note the likes and retweets in a matter of hours.

THIS IS WHO TODAY'S GOP IS. A "win-at-all-costs" bunch of thugs who do not care about gaining actual legitimacy through consent of the governed, and doesn't care who is hurt in their attempts to grab and maintain power. And if it means they attract racist votes, that's perfectly fine with them. But even worse, these guys also love to play victim and complain about being called out.

Which is why Dems should push back even harder. Expose them as the whiny bitches that they are, and that they are amoral bastards that no decent American should support. The good people in Boston showed the way yesterday, showing who the real "silent majority" is. The ones who oppose Trumpist hate and bigotry.

Russ is right. The real reaction to the sickening events in Charlottesville isn't to spend lots of time and energy taking down Confederate monuments. It is to go after the condoners of racism that are part and parcel of today's GOP, and end these racist voter suppression laws and "punish the poor/punish the cities" mentality that grows out of this.

Read Russ's article again, and pass it on.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Trump-Feingold voters? Sure seems like it

I saw this map get tweeted out yesterday, and found it very telling.

That map is comparing the vote totals, so the bluer something is, the better Trump did compared to Johnson, and vice versa for the red part of the map. As the tweet implies, Trump generally did better than Johnson in the 608 and 715 area codes, and Johnson did better than Trump in the 414, 262 (especially) and the 920.

So what can we learn from this? I think that Dems have a chance for a strong bounce-back in the Western part of the state in 2018, since a common thread in a voter's mind with Trump and Feingold could be related to an anti-establishment, anti-big money mentality. Yes, I know it's silly to think of Trump as anti-big money these days, but vs Hillary Clinton, that was the image being presented to casual and low-info voters in November 2016. We have seen more than a few articles since the election that indicated part of the reason these places flipped to Trump was out of fear and frustration with a political, economic and social system that they felt was leaving them behind.

With Trump now being exposed as a racist, ineffective moron as president, with little changing in the economy (especially in rural Wisconsin), you would think that a strong message of real economic populism against big money and Big Ag would resonate well with those Trump-Feingold voters. And I would bet more than a few of those low-info Trump voters have been shamed by Trump's open welcoming of white supremacists into the White House, and a unifying message of "THIS IS NOT WHAT THIS STATE AND THIS COUNTRY IS ABOUT" should be a central message of Dems in Wisconsin in all corners of 2018.

A quick sidelight- this map also shows the fallacy that "Clinton did better than Feingold in November." She didn't. It was more a reflection of people being more likely to vote 3rd party in the presidential race. Take a look at these final figures from the 2016 election.

Total votes
Clinton 1,382,536 46.5%
Feingold 1,380,335 46.8%

This is the base that Dems should start from, and try to work up from. Interesting how it's not much different than the 46-47% they've consistently gotten against Scott Walker, is it?

Back to the map. Let's go over to the red eastern half of the state is a strong indicator of the influence of "never Trump" voters that get their orders from AM talk radio. These are individuals who got upset that Trump's vicious tone and ignorance was in their face, and they turned away from it (they prefer the more subtle dog-whistles of Ron Johnson, Paul Ryan or Scott Walker).

These people were never with Trump to begin with, and followed along with Walker and his AM radio spokespeople in April 2016, when they voted for Ted f'ing Cruz over Trump. But also note where Trump won, and how it matches up with the blue parts that he overperformed in for the first map.

This is where Dem candidates for Congress can win big with a message of "I am the only candidate that will stop Trump's madness." It also could be a good place for Dems to win downticket, as the general idiocy and two-facedness of Walker has become apparent, as Scotty has kissed up to Trump for the past year, and is now refusing to call out Drumpf for his racism and false equivalencies after the events in Charlottesville. This would also have a good byproduct of driving up anger and resentment with Dem voting constituencies that will be needed next year.

Also, a strong message against corporate handouts like the Fox-con could also be a winning argument in the eastern half, as the resources being funneled down to the SE corner of the state will result in some funds being taken away from road projects and other services in the Milwaukee and Fox Cities areas.

Lastly, Trump's lagging results in eastern Wisconsin also shows an opportunity to attack RW talk radio itself, as a dishonest broker that isn't telling people the full story. The dummies who still listen to KLAN radio 1130 and Bader and other cynical AM slime might not listen, but a lot of casual bystanders and low-info voters might, and once you can start breaking the Bubble of Bullshit that exists in the 262 and 920 as a result of corrosive talk radio and other obnoxious GOP partisans, then the GOP's ability to run up the margins they need in those areas goes down greatly.

Those are my musings, and I'm sure I'm missing a lot of angles. But the fact that there were a sizable amount of Trump-Feingold and Clinton/3rd Party-Johnson voters is something that Dem leaders in Wisconsin should think about, learn from, and utilize to win in 2018.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Wisconsin still far behind in jobs, and Foxconn won't change that

The state-by-state jobs report came out this afternoon, and it made Wisconsin's recent swoon in job growth look even worse.

A stat that immediately jumps out at you is that most Midwestern states continued to gain jobs in recent months, but not Wisconsin.

April 2017 – July 2017
All jobs
Ohio +29,000
Ill. +19,800
Minn +14,100
Iowa +10,700
Ind. +4,300
Mich +3,400
Wis. - 5,500

Private sector
Ill. +20,300
Minn +13,600
Ohio +12,800
Iowa +10,500
Ind. +10,000
Wis. -1,200
Mich -3,300

Yes, the Illinois stats surprised me, especially given that it spans their fiscal crisis. But 3 months is a small sample size, and could simply be a regression to the norm from Illinois underperforming in the seasonally-adjusted stats earlier in the year. Likewise, Wisconsin's job growth was allegedly strong between January and April, but has fallen back since then.

If you widen it out to the last 12 months, Wisconsin ends up mediocre at best- 4th out 7 for total jobs and 5th of 7 for private-sector jobs. Even worse, take a look at who is lapping the field at the top.

July 2016-July 2017 job growth
All jobs
Minn +2.08%
U.S. +1.49%
Mich +1.44%
Iowa +1.01%
Wis. +0.90%
Ind. +0.88%
Ohio +0.87%
Ill. +0.55%

Private sector
Minn +2.24%
U.S. +1.68%
Mich +1.49%
Iowa +1.39%
Ind. +1.01%
Wis. +0.99%
Ohio +0.91%
Ill. +0.68%

UW professor Menzie Chinn has more on how Minnesota has continually kicked Wisconsin's ass for job growth over the 6 1/2 years in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan. And even more remarkable, July 2017 marks the first time that Minnesota has more total jobs than Wisconsin, likely for the first time ever.

Ok, so we’re not Illinois. But as I have said numerous times, we wouldn’t base the Packers’ success over whether they finished ahead of a 3-13 Bears team. So why are we accepting not being the complete governmental train wreck that Illinois is….for the time being.

By the way, take a look at how another tax-cutting ALEC experiment has been doing on the jobs front over the last year.

July 2016-July 2017 job growth
All jobs
Kansas -0.76% (-10,800 jobs)

Private sector
Kansas -1.05% (-12,100 jobs)

No other state is close to this bad for total job loss over the last 12 months, and only the small petro-states of Alaska and Wyoming have lost jobs AT ALL in that time period (-1,100 for Alaska, -3,000 for Wyoming).

Given Wisconsin’s declining budget situation, we are getting more like Kansas by the year, and the Fox-con will speed up that wreck, given that the majority of the tax handouts will occur before most of the jobs even start at the facility.

Is that what you want, to become a wasteland like Kansas? Or do you want to be like Minnesota, which is creating jobs twice as fast as we are, and with a much healthier financial situation on top of it. Funny how that happens when you don’t give away the store to the rich and corporate, and actually invest in education and quality of life, isn’t it?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Wisconsin falls further behind with a mediocre July jobs report

As the State Assembly debated the Foxconn package today, the state’s Department of Workforce Development dropped the July jobs report for Wisconsin. And on the top level, it looks like a lot of “Meh.”
Place of work data: Based on preliminary data, the state added 26,500 total non-farm jobs and 25,000 private-sector jobs from July 2016 to July 2017, with a significant year-over-year gain of 9,600 manufacturing jobs. The state added 3,600 total non-farm and 100 private sector jobs over the month.

Place of residence data: A preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3.2 percent in July 2017, up slightly from 3.1 percent in June. The rate remains lower than the national unemployment rate of 4.3 percent in July 2017. Wisconsin's labor force participation rate decreased slightly to 68.8 percent and continues to outpace the U.S. rate of 62.9 percent in July.
Mediocre numbers for July, but the bigger news hit with revisions to June’s figures, and not to the good side.

June 2017 Wisconsin jobs revisions
All jobs -4,100
Private sector jobs -2,300

So you combine with July’s figures, and that adds up to LOSSES of 500 jobs overall and 2,200 in the private sector. Not the right direction. Combined with job losses in May, this means that Wisconsin is reporting fewer jobs now than they were back in April.

And the DWD’s happy talk of “26,500 total jobs and 25,000 private sector jobs” over the last year also sucks. Last month those 12-month figures were 38,400 and 35,700, respectively, and it now puts the state’s job growth rate under 1% for the last 12 months, which is well below the US rate over the last year.

Rate of job growth, July 2016 – July 2017
All jobs
US +1.49%
Wis. +0.90%

Private Sector
US +1.68%
Wis. +0.99%

And the Walker jobs gap has grown larger as a result, now over 115,000 jobs for both private sector and total jobs.

Also, take a look at what happened on the other side of the St. Croix River while we were stagnating in July.
Minnesota employers added 7,700 jobs in July, according to seasonally adjusted figures released today by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).

In addition, June’s employment figures were revised upward by 4,900 jobs to bring total gains that month to 9,300 jobs. Minnesota has added 66,701 jobs in the past year, an increase of 2.3 percent, compared with a national growth rate of 1.5 percent during that period.
That's 2 1/2 times the job growth that Wisconsin has had since July 2016. And Minnesota isn’t destroying their budget to hand out $3 billion to a foreign corporation and carving up environmental standards in the process. Why aren’t we looking at the places that are actually succeeding in 2017, instead of doubling down on the same failed giveaways?

And with even more evidence today that the Walker/WisGOP Way is continuing to leave this state behind, why would anyone trust the claims of this Governor, WEDC and the GOP-puppets in the Legislature? This is true not only in how Robbin’ Vos and other WisGOP crooks making the laughable claim that their “reforms” have improved the state’s economic situation (the reality is more like “Thanks, Obama!”), but also when it comes to thinking that the Fox-con development will somehow change things for the better for the entire state.

This Reign of Error has gotta end, or else we aren’t ever going to be economically competitive with the rest of the country for decades, if ever.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

GOP budget dysfunction means K-12 schools will likely struggle again

The largest part of the delayed Wisconsin state budget is aids to K-12 schools, and with Milwaukee Public Schools already opening up this week, and other most public schools following in 2 weeks, these districts are dealing with some serious uncertainty.

Molly Beck of the State Journal had an in-depth breakdown of the difficulties many districts are having in trying to pinpoint how much money they will have available for the start of the school year, and how some schools might have to take out a loan to pay the bills until the budget is finalized.
The leaders of the state Senate have said lawmakers on the state’s budget-writing committee could resume work on the budget Aug. 23. But if a budget is not in place eight days later, schools in rural areas will miss state payments they usually get in September to subsidize school operations, according to a memo from the Department of Public Instruction sent to budget-writing committee members this month.

“(The delay) may cause some districts to have to short-term borrow to cover this deficit,” said Kim Kaukl, executive director of the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance. “The majority of our districts are already working with very tight budgets and any aid delay in payments can have a serious impact.”

DPI spokesman Tom McCarthy said the department could push back the rural school payment deadline if lawmakers gave DPI a “clear signal” that the budget was going to be passed quickly.
A couple of large complications in figuring out the final amount of school aids is whether the Fox-con becomes law in the next 2 weeks, as that might restrict the amount of revenue available, and it is unknown how much voucher money will be funneled away from schools, and this caused many districts to back off on hiring and improvements for this year. This means that the start of the school year could be quite a mess.
...[Since] Republican lawmakers in the Senate and Assembly have each proposed separate education spending plans. Kaukl said a number of rural school districts have delayed hiring and purchasing until they know what is included in the state budget.

“This may mean classes may begin with substitute teachers covering a class, classrooms being overloaded or, worse case, courses being dropped,” Kaukl said.
That is NOT what Governor Walker wanted when he put in a proposed increase in K-12 school spending in this pre-election budget. But all Scotty seems to care about these days is selling and shoving through the Fox-con instead of giving a damn about what happens with the budget. And Walker and the Legislature have no one to blame but themselves, because it is their dysfunction, corruption (especially on vouchers) and no-tax gimmickry that prevented them from coming up with a sensible solution in a K-12 budget that should have been relatively easy to figure out.

It's completely unacceptable, and it's yet another example of why these self-absorbed WisGOP clowns at the Capitol need to be kicked to the curb ASAP.

Will Wisconsin even have the people to pull off the Fox-con?

As the Foxconn package comes up for a vote in the full Assembly tomorrow, more discussions of the project and what might actually happen if the multi-billion dollar giveaway incentive package becomes law. What hasn't been brought up much is the question about how the Foxconn package fits into the overall state economy.

State Rep. Gordon Hintz put that other factor in play when it comes to questioning the Fox-con - can a state with a stagnant and aging population even handle a massive project like this?
The important statistic when considering the availability of labor is the “prime working age” population, which economists classify as people between 25 and 54 years old. Wisconsin had 105,000 fewer prime working age people in 2015 than it did in 2010. Some of the sharpest decreases occurred in Jefferson, Kenosha, Ozaukee, Racine, Walworth, Washington and Waukesha counties. As the state with the 15th oldest population in the U.S., Wisconsin’s prime working age population is expected to continue to shrink through 2040 to just 33% of its total population. This is down from 41% in 2010.

Looking at 2016 census estimates for Racine and Kenosha counties, Racine lost 6,709 (8.3%) of its prime working age population in just the past 6 years. Kenosha lost 2,998 (4.3%) since 2010. So the very region being counted on to fill as many as 35,000 jobs has a smaller number of working aged people, and that number is continuing to decrease….

In addition to the lost workforce due to the retirements of baby boomers, more than 27,000 people left Wisconsin between 2010 and 2014, according to a study from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX). According to Todd Berry, WISTAX president, Wisconsin lost people “at a faster rate than we should, and this means not only are we not going to grow the workforce, we’re going to see a shrinking workforce if we keep that up.”

Hintz goes on to note that Wisconsin takes in a smaller amount of immigrants than much of the country (4.8% foreign-born vs 13.5% nationwide), so there’s no help in the state’s demographic issues there, and while the low amount of people in the working-age population could mean a labor shortage that drives up wages (which would be good if it happens), Hintz adds that this will increase the incentive for Foxconn to turn to robots and other automation faster.
Not sure I agree with the “higher wages” part of the hypothesis from Rep. Hintz, as I think Wisconsin’s low manufacturing wages are something that won’t change with the Fox-con, but I agree with the point about Foxconn automation being a real possibility (especially over 25 years) and lessening the payoff in terms of jobs and income taxes. But there are two other more factors that also are in play.

A generic job making $12-$15 an hour at Foxconn isn’t going to be something that makes a person pack up and leave for Racine or Kenosha County on his/her own. That area is going to have to offer quality schools, decent roads and services, and a good quality of life in order to encourage the labor pool that will be needed for such a large project. Given the future budget cuts and environmental degradation that will accompany this Fox-con, that will not happen. It exposes what a rushed, desperate gimmick the Fox-con is, as there is no larger strategy coming from Gov Walker or the WisGOP Legislature beyond trying to cut taxes on the rich and corporate, and funnel taxpayer dollars to campaign contributors.

Do the white guys in this pic have a clue?

In addition, if people actually do choose Foxconn over other employers, what happens to other businesses that aren’t getting a state handout? There is already displacement going on in the state’s economy due to legislative buffoonery in the WisGOP-run Capitol. Take a look at this article that floated out near the end of last week from the Daily Reporter, and these words from Terry McGowan, the head of the International Union of Operating Engineers.
WisDOT officials have seen the state’s highway money dwindle in recent weeks as lawmakers struggle to pass a new two-year budget. Wisconsin’s previous spending plan expired on June 30. Without a new budget in place, the state continues to run on a “base-level” of funding that does not include the sort of new bonding that many road projects depend on.

McGowan said the budget struggles are having real consequences for the union members he represents. At a Local 139 meeting in Pewaukee on Wednesday evening, he was told by several people that they had “migrated” from road jobs to working on buildings and underground utilities.

“The road industry has been unreliable,” he said.

McGowan also mentioned that operating engineers are disheartened when they hear that some lawmakers want to repeal what remains of the state’s prevailing-wage laws. Uncertain that they will be able to continue making a decent wage on public jobs, many have decided to try their luck in the private sector.
There are only so many construction workers to go around, and if the ALEC-GOP Legislature continues to support wage suppression laws that discourage workers from choosing Wisconsin as a place to work, what happens when Foxconn sucks up most work in that area? Do costs go through the roof, and/or are businesses not able to afford to hire contractors because Foxconn takes up too much of the work?

Now add in the pothole-filled roads in other parts of the state that become even less likely to be fixed, and the likelihood of budget deficits leading to cuts that affect jobs and services in all parts of the state, and you can see where funneling so many resources toward Foxconn could hurt the economy in many other parts of the state.

This displacement of spending and economic activity isn’t mentioned in the Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s analysis of the Fox-con, but maybe it should. Because without a reversal of the recent trend of people leaving and/or growing old in Wisconsin, there will inevitably be problems in trying to find workers to do the work needed. This is true not only for Foxconn, but for other parts of the state’s economy. And I don’t see the ALEC-GOPs passing anything that’ll make the casual person want to come to Wisconsin - on either the “pay and work conditions” side, or in the “quality of life” side.

Well, there is one way to increase the likelihood of workers being available for jobs on the Fox-con - a recession with sizable unemployment. But if that's the case, wouldn't a New Deal-style public works package do a lot more good for Wisconsin than using all of those tax dollars on one corporation (and allow a lot more Wisconsinites to reap benefits from those projects)? And oh yeah, a recession would collapse the state’s house-of-cards finances faster than the Fox-con will.

So barring some kind of unforeseen "Escape to Wisconsin" by people who don't live here now, we're pretty screwed if this Fox-con package becomes law.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

While WisDems call out Trumpist hate, Walker's silence is deafening

As President Trump digs a deeper hole by sympathizing with Nazis and other white supremacists, some of the disgust is soothed by media and Democrats have generally been pushing back on this racist garbage, and calling out half-assed statements and false equivalencies.

A good example was this response from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin from the event in Charlottesville over the weekend. DPW Chair Martha Laning had a decent statement that both said neo-Nazism had no place in America and that Dems will "continue to build bridges, not walls. We will continue to advocate for communities of color, for our LGBT brothers and sisters, and for those of every faith."

Then Vice-chair and State Rep. David Bowen laid the lumber.
"We must recognize the connection between the words and policies of Alt-Right and Tea Party leaders who have infiltrated the Republican Party. The stakes are too high to pretend otherwise. When President Trump began his campaign by calling Mexicans rapists and criminals, neo-Nazis heard his words and knew they had a candidate they could support. President Trump took it a step further by hiring many top officials in the White House with direct ties to white supremacy groups. Those actions legitimized and set precedent for the actions that occurred in Charlottesville.

"If you want proof of this connection, look at the statements and actions put out by President Trump, and his colleagues like Governor Walker. Neither were willing to name white supremacists as the cause of violence and death in Charlottesville. Neither is willing to label the perpetrators as domestic terrorists. Instead, President Trump condemned the “many sides” involved in this violence, and Scott Walker responded by putting out one tepid, generic tweet.

"These are not the actions of strong leaders or those seeking a swift end to xenophobia and bigotry. They are the actions of cowards who fail in the call for accountability and then aim to use hatred to win elections while further dividing this country.

"President Trump and Governor Walker have shown the world their true colors. When they are next on the ballot, we’ll show them ours.
-State Rep. David Bowen

That's how you do it, Dems, and they must continue to remind voters that the Republicans and their spokespeople on AM radio are more than happy to pander to the gut instincts of racists. Dems must make the voters choose sides, because sides must be chosen after the disgraceful events in Charlottesville and the pathetic minimizations that have been done by this Fascist-friendly president.

The Giovernor made his side not choosing. Take a look at Scotty's Twitter feed in the last 3 days, since his pathetic non-statement against "violence and hate" in Charlottesville. A whole lot of "job photo ops" with campaign contributors and BS spin about the Fox-con. Oh, and this thing.

Pence has generally taken the "both sides are to blame" tact and whined that "the media spent more time criticizing the president's words" than discussing the violence itself. I would guess Scotty's in the same boat, as I can't remember Walker saying one bad word against Trump since the Donald took the GOP nomination over a year ago.

And I bet he won't have the guts to say anything now, because Walker will pander to and take money from anyone, if it improves his chances of winning. As I mentioned on Sunday, race-baiting and stirring up resentment among mediocre white people has been central to this grifter's career, and I am convinced there is no bottom that Scotty wouldn't explore. Walker's deafening silence in this time of a crisis of leadership in the White House confirms that instinct that I have about him.

He and his WisGOP backers need to put out into the political wilderness. They honestly deserve worse than that, but that's the least they must get in the next 15 months. Or else this state is done and likely not worth saving.

Monday, August 14, 2017

No tax revenues + no Trump Boom = more Wis budget problems

With all of the Foxconn talk in Wisconsin, it’s also worth remembering that we still don’t have a state budget for the next two years. And an article today from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Jason Stein mentioned that the budget picture is starting to concern Senate GOP Leader Scott Fitzgerald and others in WisGOP leadership, because the house of cards that this pre-election, gimmick-filled budget was based on may be starting to collapse.

The reason? One we should be used to in GOP-controlled Wisconsin - lower-than-projected tax revenues.
In May, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau projected state revenue growth of 2.7% for the fiscal year that ended in June.

Final tax collection numbers including the month of June have not yet been released by the Walker administration. But as of the end of May state revenues were at 2.5% growth for the year.

That modest difference — if sustained through June — could amount to up to a few hundred million dollars of smaller than expected growth. What's more, lower tax collections for last year would drive down estimates for each of the next two years within the next state budget, compounding the effect.
Actually, a 0.2% shortfall would only be around $34 million, but the point about the effect of driving down future year revenues is the real problem. And that shortfall for the net 2 years would be likely become larger if the predicted “Trump Boom” that LFB and other economists were counting on in January doesn’t happen.

Back in January, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau was basing its rosy revenue outlook on a strong GDP growth outlook on a "Trump Boom" that would include tax cuts and big increases in infrastructure.

Jan 2017 LFB estimates of real GDP growth
2017 +2.3%
2018 +2.6%
2019 +2.3%

But so far in 2017, we’ve seen real GDP growth come in at 1.2% in the 1st quarter and 2.6% for the 2nd quarter, which means growth would have to speed up to 2.7% in both the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2017 – the fastest pace in 2 ½ years. And the tax cuts and infrastructure package hasn't even gotten off the ground, and the uncertainties in health care will also hold down the economy in the coming months.

Don't bet on it, Scotty

This stagnation contributed the International Monetary Fund downgrading projected US growth in 2018 to 2.1% last month. Instead of economic stimulus, what’s now more likely to come out of DC is a fiscal crisis, as the debt ceiling and a new federal budget both have to be figured out in the next 7 weeks. Good luck getting either of these items passed in any sort of smooth manner, given the buffoons running Congress and the White House these days.

With the economic and fiscal picture getting dimmer, State Rep. Gordon Hintz noted how absurd it was for Republicans to talk about giving away massive amounts of money in corporate tax cuts while there may be less money to go around.
Hintz said that Republicans are considering cutting the personal property tax assessed on some businesses in the state and committing to up to $2.85 billion in cash payments to Foxconn Technology Group of Taiwan in exchange for a liquid crystal display plant. Both actions could make it harder to balance future state budgets, he said.

In light of the uncertainty, Hintz said he was considering asking the fiscal bureau to revisit its revenue estimates prior to the update that is currently scheduled for January.
Maybe the reality that things are going to get worse is exactly why Governor Walker and other WisGOPs are trying so hard to jam through the Fox-con, to distract people from the mediocre present and lousy outlook for both Wisconsin’s economy and its (still not-completed) budget. Why else would they lie and overpromise about what the Fox-con is about?

With another Wisconsin jobs report coming up later this week and the final 2016-17 revenue numbers likely coming out by the end of this month, what I see between the lines is a lot of concern from WisGOPs who fear that they will finally be held accountable for how Wisconsin keeps lagging behind our Midwestern neighbors and the rest of the country after 6 ½ years of the Age of Fitzwalkerstan, and an Obama Recovery that has gone on through that entire time period.

And they should be afraid.

Walker Admin goes on Mke TV, J'ville paper to deceive on Fox-Con

It sure seems like the Walker Administration and other GOP hacks are getting desperate when it comes to selling the Foxconn package to voters. This weekend, Walker Administration Secretary Scott Neitzel and WEDC Chair Mark Hogan went on Mike Gousha’s show to try to promote how great Foxconn is going to be.

In the process, the Walker appointees claimed that the state’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau wasn’t giving Wisconsinites a full picture of Foxconn’s impact.
But the limits of the analysis also hide the potential of the deal, Scott Neitzel, secretary of the Department of Administration said on “UpFront.” Neitzel appeared on a segment with Mark Hogan, CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. Both men were involved in crafting the deal.

The breakeven analysis accounts for the 13,000 Foxconn jobs, but not for the “indirect and induced jobs across the whole state” or a “whole new high tech manufacturing ecosystem.”

“There are going to be benefits beyond what is just in that report that are very hard to quantify using historic models,” Neitzel said.
Well, let’s go to pages 15 and 16 of the LFB’s analysis of the Foxconn project, which includes assumptions on added employment from the Foxconn project. And what you will find is that LFB took the best-case scenario for the Walker Administration and other Fox-con supporters.
The estimates assume that the project will require an average annual employment of approximately 10,200 construction workers and equipment suppliers earning an average total compensation of approximately $59,600 (including benefits) per year during the four- year construction period (from 2018 through 2021). Total income for these individuals is estimated at $2.4 billion. In addition, it is assumed that nearly 6,000 indirect and induced jobs will be created during the construction period, with an average total compensation of $48,900.

It is estimated that the additional construction-period jobs would generate increased state tax revenues (primarily income and sales taxes) equal to approximately 6.3% of the additional gross wages. The total increased state taxes associated with the construction period are estimated at $186.9 million.

As noted, permanent staff at the Foxconn facility are estimated to increase from about 1,000 in the second half of 2017 to 13,000 beginning in calendar year 2021. The average annual wage for these employees is estimated at $53,875, based on a headcount distribution, by job type, provided to EY by Foxconn and median wages for each occupation from the Economic Research Institute. Total ongoing payroll at the company is projected to be $13.8 million for the remainder of this year and increase to approximately $700 million annually beginning in 2021. State tax revenues associated with the additional employees and wages are estimated to increase from about $900,000 this year to $44 million annually beginning in 2021.
And this report proves Neitzel and Hogan to be either lying or ignorant when they went on Gusha’s show and claimed the LFB didn’t look at “indirect or induced jobs.”
Indirect and induced jobs associated with the project are estimated to total 22,000 beginning in 2021, based on a multiplier of 2.7. Average annual wages for these individuals are estimated at approximately $51,000. Total ongoing wages are estimated at $1.12 billion annually, and related state taxes are estimated at $71 million per year. Smaller impacts are estimated in calendar years 2017 through 2020 as the project ramps up.
The LFB assumes $115 million in additional income tax revenues in each year of their analysis starting with 2021, and they assume that Foxconn will not lower headcount below 13,000 people in the next 20 years, even with changes in technology, consumer tasters, and productivity. That’s pretty damn lenient to the Walker Admin’s case, if you ask me.

So all the Walker Admin hacks have to promote Foxconn is vague promises of good things that are “very hard to quantify using historic models.” I have no idea what these are, as the Foxconn facility is projected to be making LCD screens for TVs and iPhones, and doesn’t seem to be involved in chip design or other technology development.

Which circles us back to this point- if there were no handouts, then manufacturing those things in Wisconsin may well be a good thing vs manufacturing them overseas. But why would we give away hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to a corporation to do it in a time when the state can’t adequate fix its roads and bridges, and has a $1 billion budget deficit looming before we even account for the Fox-con?

Let me also address another attempt to assuage concerns about the Fox-con by a Walker appointee. This one comes from Department of Revenue Secretary Rick Chandler, who claims that Wisconsinites shouldn’t worry too much if Illinois residents go across the border to get jobs at Foxconn, because of the state’s reciprocity agreement with our neighbors to the south.
In the case of Illinois, we have an income tax reciprocity agreement so that Wisconsin residents who work in Illinois do not have to file income tax returns there, and Illinois residents who work in Wisconsin do not have to file tax returns here.

Instead, they only file returns in their home state. We then calculate how much the Illinois residents would have paid in Wisconsin taxes, and how much the Wisconsin residents would have paid in Illinois taxes, and the states agree to pay those amounts to each other at the end of each tax year.

This means that Illinois residents who work in Wisconsin are paying income taxes to Wisconsin through the income tax reciprocity mechanism, even though they file their returns in Illinois. Illinois collects taxes from them and then sends us the amount they owe on their Wisconsin earnings.
Chandler accurately is describing how his works- to a point. However, if someone is still living in Illinois, they are still paying local property taxes and likely buying more items out of state than a Wisconsin resident would. And they are not likely to be affected by cuts to Wisconsin schools and services that will result from us giving away hundreds of millions of dollars a year to Foxconn.

Furthermore, as we found out when the LFB mentioned last month that Wisconsin would owe an extra $51 million in 2017-19 to Illinois under this reciprocity agreement, the taxes that Illinois resident would pay on assets or other business income would stay in Springfield, and not head up to Madison.

Bottom line, while our reciprocity payment would likely go down if Foxconn hired a sizable amount of FIBs, we wouldn’t feel as much of a benefit to our budget as we would if that job was taken by a Wisconsinite, so give Chandler a “Half true” for that article in the Janesville Gazette (of course, this assumes the Illinois resident would take a job in lower-paying “work-for-less” Wisconsin in the first place).

The bigger story is that the Walker Administration felt a need to trot out their cabinet members and other appointees to try to sell Foxconn further, which is a clear tell that the average Wisconsinite isn’t buying the Fox-con as they find out about it. If Dems are smart, they’ll come out strong against this scam as it goes through the Legislature in the coming weeks, and tie it around the necks of any Republican who dares to sign off on this pre-election corporate welfare.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

How Trumpism and Walkerism helped to build 2017's racist ugliness

I've had the better part of a day to reflect on the disgusting murder and actions in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the emotions are all over the board for me on this.

First of all, if you didn't think Donald F'ing Trump wasn't unfit for office before this, there isn't much doubt that he is unfit after this pathetic pile of nothing that he spat out yesterday.
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides," Trump said during a short statement from his private golf club in New Jersey. "It has been going on for a long time in our country -- not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. It has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America." - Donald Trump
"On many sides"? No Donny, it was WHITE SUPREMACISTS that did this, and they chose Charlottesville because they were getting rid of monuments to the white supremacist society known as the Confederacy.

"It has been going on for a long time"? What's been "going on," Drumpf? We didn't get a response to that, because scared little Donny ran off the stage without taking follow-up questions. And a famous Wisconsinite called out Trump for coming up so small in such a big moment.

But one group heard Trump's false equivalency loud and clear.

On a related note, former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke told reporters his fellow white supremacists would "fulfull the promises of Donald Trump", and told the dirty secret behind Trump's non-statement in public soon after.

This is the bigger story coming out of the events of Charlottesville. Trump was far from the only Republican who gave out a non-statement on this. Take a look at what the top Wisconsinite in Congress and Wisconsin's Governor didn't say yesterday.

You see the words "white supremacy" or "Nazis" in there? Me neither. Now, to be fair to Lyin' Ryan he did call out white supremacy in a tweet...7 HOURS LATER (after the public blowback became apparent). I'm still not counting on the Spineless Speaker to do anything beyond the bare minimum that is politically required in order to keep from losing too many votes from the racist segment of the GOP vote.

On the other hand, Walker gave out 4 tweets on the Brewer game he was (allegedly) at last night, but NOTHING ELSE ON CHARLOTTESVILLE or the white racism that led to those incidents. That shouldn't be surprising, because Scott Walker's career has been advanced by racist dog-whistles to make people look the other way on his regressive and failed right-wing polices. Let's go back to perhaps the best article on this topic- "The Unelectable Whiteness of Scott Walker", by Alec MacGillis in 2014.

You built this, you amoral slime

MacGillis' article begins with AM radio host Mark Belling giving a race-tinged take belittling African-American Congresswoman Gwen Moore. That's hardly unusual for Belling or other hosts on KLAN Radio 1130, but it's something that might make a respectable politician decide he/she doesn't want to be associated with. Not Scotty.
In any case, the riff did not keep the state’s governor, Scott Walker, from appearing on the show a few days later. Belling’s treatment of Walker was notably more deferential. “Have you,” he asked, “sat back and thought about what has been accomplished by yourself and the Republican legislature? Has it really sunk in that you’ve transformed a fiscally reckless state into perhaps the most fiscally sound state in the nation? Has it sunk in, I guess is what I’m saying, do you realize what’s been accomplished?” Walker replied that no, his achievement had not sunk in, because he had been “so busy doing it.” (we'll leave aside the fact that Belling's take on "fiscally sound" is a blatant lie).

That accomplishment—effectively eliminating collective bargaining for most public employees in the state, facing down the angry protests that followed, surviving a rancorous recall election—has vaulted Walker into the top tier of Republican presidential contenders for 2016. He is the closest person the party has to an early favorite, and not simply because of Chris Christie’s nosedive from grace or because Jeb Bush is still waffling about his intentions. Walker has implemented an impeccably conservative agenda in a state that has gone Democratic in seven straight presidential elections. Unlike Mitt Romney, or, for that matter, John McCain, he is beloved by the conservative base, but he has the mien of a mainstream candidate, not a favorite of the fringe. His boosters, who include numerous greenroom conservatives in Washington and major donors around the country, such as the Koch brothers, see him as the rare Republican who could muster broad national support without yielding a millimeter on doctrine.

This interpretation of Walker’s appeal could hardly be more flawed. He has succeeded in the sort of environment least conducive to producing a candidate capable of winning a national majority. Over the past few decades, Walker’s home turf of metropolitan Milwaukee has developed into the most bitterly divided political ground in the country—“the most polarized part of a polarized state in a polarized nation,” as a recent series by Craig Gilbert in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel put it. Thanks to a quirk of twentieth-century history, the region encompasses a heavily Democratic and African American urban center, and suburbs that are far more uniformly white and Republican than those in any other Northern city, with a moat of resentment running between the two zones. As a result, the area has given rise to some of the most worrisome trends in American political life in supercharged form: profound racial inequality, extreme political segregation, a parallel-universe news media. These trends predate Walker, but they have enabled his ascent, and his tenure in government has only served to intensify them. Anyone who believes that he is the Republican to save his party—let alone win a presidential election—needs to understand the toxic and ruptured landscape he will leave behind.
While MacGillis was wrong in the sense that Walker was out-Klanned in the 2016 GOP primary by Trump, and looked comparably feckless and cynical to the lowlifes who supported those types of things, MacGillis was right in that Walker gained and stayed in power in Wisconsin because of his race-tinged and anti-intellectual policies.

Look at the list of things that have become law in Wisconsin under Walker.

1. A voter ID law and restrictions on early voting that was pushed through after years of lies about alleged "voter fraud" perpetuated by minorities - lies that we now know were pushed to AM radio by WisGOP operatives like Steve Baas and former Assembly Speaker/voucher money-man Scott Jensen. Portions of those voter restrictions were thrown out 1 year ago on the basis that it constructed excessive barriers, particularly to minorities in Wisconsin.
“The Wisconsin experience demonstrates that a preoccupation with mostly phantom election fraud leads to real incidents of disenfranchisement, which undermine rather than enhance confidence in elections, particularly in minority communities,” U.S. District Judge James Peterson wrote.

In his ruling, Peterson wrote that he could not overturn Wisconsin’s entire voter ID law, unlike recent decisions in North Carolina and Texas, as a federal appeals court had already found Wisconsin’s restrictions to be constitutional. However, he ordered that the state quickly issue valid voting credentials to anyone trying to obtain free photo IDs, calling the current system for issuing IDs a “wretched failure” that overwhelmingly cut out black and Hispanic citizens.

“To put it bluntly, Wisconsin’s strict version of voter ID law is a cure worse than the disease,” Peterson wrote in his opinion.
2. In addition, the same governor promoted by radio hosts that called the former First Lady "Moochelle Obama" (hi, Charlie Sykes!) is now trying to force the (disproportionately minority) recipients of food stamps to take a drug test before receiving benefits, while not requiring the same of the corporates who get hundreds of millions of dollars in handouts through WEDC and other corporate welfare. And the drug-testing proposal is far from the only barriers Walker and WisGOP have put up in the last 6 years trying to prevent the unemployed and poor from getting benefits they are entitled to, frequently resorting to "hammock" language to imply these people are lazy and undeserving.

3. Let's add in Walker's opposition to fully paid-for high-speed rail in Wisconsin, much of which was based out of code words claiming "those people" would be using the train. And Walker infamously said to outstate audiences during the recall elections of 2012 that Walker didn't want Wisconsin to be like Milwaukee. You know, the majority-minority city that has a lot of THOSE PEOPLE, while conveniently leaving out the fact that Milwaukee has been actively defunded by GOP politicians like Walker via cuts in shared revenue, while giving the city no way to make up the difference.

This is merely the surface of my anger with this. Much of my post-Charlottesville seething also has to do with the state's voters who have been taken in by this racist garbage, choosing resentment over good policy because it keeps them from making the hard choices in life. The incentives for GOP politicians is not to be a decent human being, but instead play "divide and conquer", because it appeals to the GOP primary electorate, and encourages enough dopes to ignore the backwards policies that come with the GOP because it sticks a finger in the eye of "those people" that aren't like the white mediocrities that dominate GOP-voting areas.

That's what's despairing and frustrated for me about a lot of this. Sure, I have a sense of decency, and most of my fellow college-educated friends in Madison do as well, but it feels there is little I can do about this other than vent and display my feelings in this blog. My town and my county didn't vote for regressive fuckheads like Scott Walker and Donald Trump. So the rest of the people of Wisconsin have to step up, make racist dog-whistles a loser for Republicans in an election, and make that mentality DISQUALIFYING FOR OFFICE.

The bottom line is that the race-baiting GOP won't change until the voting habits of their rural and suburban constituents change. So will those of you living in areas "represented" by Republicans get a clue, and make these bastards pay a price for their hate-stirring and evil talk? We'd like to use legal, non-destructive methods to change for the better, and Charlottesville shows that we can't wait much longer.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

On Great Taste Day, craft brewing still going well in 2017

On this beautiful Saturday, Madison is hosting the 31st annual Great Taste of the Midwest. I'm sitting this one out after going last year - $60 is getting a bit rich for my blood to go through the effort I need to get tickets - but I did take plenty of part in Great Taste Eve at numerous Madison establishments last night, so it is all good.

I sometimes worry that the craft beer boom of the last 10-15 years is starting to level off, and that there will be an inevitable cutback/correction. But new ones still keep popping up, and the Brewers Association said last week that the industry is still in a growth mode.
Small and independent craft brewers demonstrated continued, but slowed, growth, according to new mid-year metrics released by the Brewers Association (BA)—the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American brewers. American craft beer production volume increased five percent during the first half of 2017.

“The growth pace for small and independent brewers has stabilized at a rate that still reflects progress but in a more mature market. Although more difficult to realize, growth still exists,” said Bart Watson, chief economist, Brewers Association. “The beer world is highly competitive and there is certainly a mixed bag in terms of performance. Some breweries are continuing to grow, whereas others are having to evolve their position and nurture new opportunities to ensure they keep pace. Many brewers are benefiting from on-premises and taproom sales, and recent state-based reforms have the potential to help brewers in new regions capitalize on this growth.”

As of June 30, there were 5,562 operating breweries in the U.S., an increase of 906 from the same time period the previous year. Additionally, there were approximately 2,739 breweries in planning. Craft brewers currently employ an estimated 128,768 full-time and part-time workers in a variety of roles including numerous manufacturing jobs, all of which contribute significantly to the U.S. economy.
You may have also seen a few stories in the news relating to beer distribution, and the possibility of new limits and restrictions on who you can sell and distrubte beer and other alcoholic beverages in Wisconsin. The Brewers Guild of Wisconsin chimed in on that issue a couple of months ago, and warned against the State Legislature messing up something that the Brewers Guild says the makers of the beer need to be listened to.
I am writing on behalf of The Wisconsin Brewers Guild in opposition to a proposed bill currently being circulated by Tavern League of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Beer Distributors Association, and Wisconsin Wine and Spirits Institute. These organizations are using this proposed bill in an attempt to limit the growth of Wisconsin’s beverage industry by tightening the definition of the current three-tier system. In addition, the aforementioned parties seek to create additional restrictions and barriers to market through the creation of an Office of Alcohol Beverages Enforcement. This additional level of bureaucracy is, simply put, a solution in search of a problem. Furthermore, as proposed, there is no method of paying for its creation, nor its maintenance, and is thus an example of wasteful government spending.

This proposed bill is yet another example of a dysfunctional three-tier system wherein two of the tiers attempt to speak on behalf of the third. In this instance we, the manufacturing tier, have been intentionally left out of any discussion regarding the construction, management, and enforcement of our industry’s three-tier system. This proposal, and the notion that changes should be made to Wisconsin Chapter 125 without the input of all the affected parties is unacceptable.

We, as Wisconsin’s independent craft brewers, are not three-tier abolitionists; rather we are simply looking for an equitable relationship and an even playing field within our industry. The vast majority of Wisconsin’s independent craft breweries rely on the relationships we have with our wholesale partners to move product to market efficiently. Additionally, without the retail tier’s participation, we would not be witnessing the craft beer renaissance taking place today in all corners of our great state. Meanwhile, not a day passes where there isn’t a new example of one of our small businesses trying to grow, or even get off the ground, being stifled by prohibition era laws. In Wisconsin our production breweries have the ability to cross the three-tier system by self-distribution of up to 300,000 barrels of beer (Ch. 125.29(3M)(6)) and to operate two retail locations within the state (Ch. 125.29(3)(f)). Despite our ability to cross the tiers and effectively operate as manufacturer, wholesaler, and retailer, our commitment to the responsible trade practices and adherence to Chapter 125 has never wavered. Along with Wisconsin’s wholesalers and retailers we stand firm in our commitment to the responsible sale of alcohol within the State of Wisconsin.

That being said, Wisconsin has unfortunately fallen behind the curve when it comes to the opening of new breweries, the growth of existing breweries, and the subsequent addition of well-paid manufacturing jobs that come with that growth. Brewpubs, for example, are held back from growth due to arbitrary caps on their production levels and the number of brewery restaurants they can legally operate. We believe there needs to be action taken to modernize Chapter 125, but we firmly believe that this process should take place in an open discussion that includes all three tiers within our industry. The Wisconsin Brewers Guild strongly opposes any and all changes to Chapter 125 without all parties having a seat at the table.
Of course, back in June the thought was that these changes would be slipped into the budget bill at the last minute, but now with the budget being held up and 6 weeks overdue, it's hard to tell if it's still in play.

But in the meantime, things continue to do well for the craft beer industry in Wisconsin and around much of the country. Plus, it's one of those industries that's difficult to outsource to another country, no matter how much technology improves, and many of these brewers are the type of small-business entrepreneurs that are worth getting behind, as opposed to corporates who lobby to take more and more from the rest of us.

And it couldn't be a better weather week for the big events this weekend in Madison (I've suffered through quite a few humid and/or rainy Great Taste weeks). So get back to the fun, wherever you are.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Fitz and Vos try to put lipstick on the Fox-con's pigs

Looks like Senate GOP Leader Scott Fitzgerald is starting to feel the heat from all sides on the Fox-con. Not only did Scotty Fitz feel the need to do multiple interviews on AM 1130 this week to try stay on the good side of the mouth-breathers, but it is obvious that the public isn’t buying the claims of Governor Walker and Foxconn that the development will actually yield a lot of jobs.

That blowback is clearly reaching GOP senators, so now Fitz would like to see “jobs” actually be central to the Foxconn deal.
"What if later on, a year from now nothing’s happened? Two years from now, still nothing’s happened and the jobs aren’t coming?" Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said on WISN-AM.

In comments to WISN and to Green Bay-area conservative radio host Jerry Bader, Fitzgerald said he would like to ensure Foxconn creates a certain number of jobs by certain deadlines.

But after meeting later Thursday with top appointees of Gov. Scott Walker, Fitzgerald said he believes that those additional job creation requirements could be handled through contract negotiations between Foxconn and the Walker administration. Lawmakers wouldn't need to put those benchmarks into the Foxconn legislation, which Fitzgerald said would likely pass his house.
As I’ve said before, if there’s nothing in writing that requires a minimum amount of jobs, what’s stopping Foxconn from automating most if not all of the whole plant after getting $1.5 billion in write-offs to build their campus? This has to be included in writing in the final bill.

Except that Marley and Stein’s article indicates that neither Walker nor the state’s GOP slush fund economic development organization want to put in minimum requirements for jobs with Foxconn.
Spokesmen for both Walker and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. argued Thursday against putting those requirements in the legislation, saying it would leave the state jobs agency with less flexibility in its talks with the company. WEDC is negotiating a contract with Foxconn to flesh out the memorandum of understanding that Walker and company chairman Terry Gou signed last month.

"It would weaken the state’s negotiating position to comment on the contract at this stage because it is not finalized," said Tom Evenson, a spokesman for the governor.
Major problem- why should we trust the Walker Administration and WEDC (who both are promoting the hell out of the Fox-con) to peform any oversight actions that might make themselves and Foxconn look bad in the near future? So they can’t be counted on to do anything to protect taxpayers’ dollars, and therefore WEDC needs to be taken out of the oversight equation when it comes to the Foxconn enterprise zone.

In another twist, Wispolitics says Fitz is changing his tactics from what he was indicating earlier this week, and now wants to run the Fox-con and the long-delayed state budget through the Joint Finance Committee in the next 2 weeks!
“I guess I’m moving more [from the] budget needs to get done first to: If we can get both of these things done simultaneously and get this stuff kicked out of the Finance Committee then we’d be in a good position,” he said.

Fitzgerald said again Thursday that he hasn’t yet asked Senate Republicans where they stand on the Foxconn bill and therefore isn’t sure whether there’s enough support for it. He said he wants senators to evaluate the bill after the “outstanding two hours” that they had Thursday to ask the Walker administration questions on it.
In a positive sign, Marley and Stein reported that Fitz wants to set some money aside in the 2017-19 budget to cover the revenue losses that will be coming with the Fox-con, and also to deal with the reality that the “Trump Boom” that was projected in January’s revenue figures isn’t likely to happen outside of Wall Street.

But in a bad sign, thee are increasing indications that Assembly Speaker Robbin’ Vos wants to shove through the Fox-con next week, and likely for selfish reasons. And says Fitz might not offer much formal resistance or modifications to the Fox-con in the Senate.

Fitzgerald said he sat down with Rep. Adam Neylon, R-Pewaukee, who chairs the Assembly committee that’s working on the Foxconn bill, to go over amendments that the Assembly is working on ahead of a likely executive session next week.

He said Senate Republicans have decided to go through them individually and possibly offer some of their own, though he said he doesn’t expect the Senate to offer many amendments.

One of the Assembly amendments, he said, would locate Foxconn’s facility in Racine County, where Vos’ district is, but Fitzgerald said that he didn’t know the details.
Combined with the $252 million in borrowing for I-94 South related to the Foxconn site, and it’s becoming obvious that a big motivation behind the Fox-con is that it’s a major pork and kickback project for Robbin’ Vos. “Fiscal conservative” MY ASS!

If Robbin' is going to insist that this thing be in Racine County, then Assembly Dem Leader Peter Barca should get a clue and drop any help he might give for this, and not give these guys cover (if he does, the Dems should look for a new Assembly Leader).

Now it looks like an amendment package for Monday's committee meeting has now come out this Friday afternoon. At first glance, I'm not seeing a lot different than the original Fox-con other than some technical things on how local governments can use their TIF money, and these 3 budget-related items.

1. The $252 million in borrowing must be accompanied by federal money "awarded" to the project, and has to be approved by the Joint Finance Committee before it's released.

2. There would be $20 million set aside in the 2019-21 budget to work with local universities, colleges, technical schools and non-profits to come up with a plan on how to facilitate worker training and employment for suppliers, vendors and those companies impacted by the employment at Foxconn.

3. It requires WEDC to revoke certification for tax credits if Foxconn moves out in a certain amount of time. I'm not certain if that means they can't get further tax credits, or if they try to claw back up to $1.35 billion that had been sent out for "jobs" tax credits. This would still cause major financial problems for the state short-term, and it still doesn't say anything about minimum number of jobs or automation. And the window dressing aboutn"DNR oversight" is a joke as long as Walker and his Koch buddies are in charge.

But it's clear that Vos and the Assembly GOPs are also recognzing the polling which shows the public isn’t buying the Fox-con, and it’s obvious that they are scared that this thing is going to sink them in 2018, which is why they're going to try to put a face of "compromise" on this scam in the coming weeks.

Keep pounding them with the facts, and make them pay a price if they vote to approve this reckless giveaway.