Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Walker vetoes don't help much. Some take it from bad to worse

Here are a few things I caught from the Governor's 99 budget vetoes, which were released this afternoon.

1. True to what had been rumored as part of the agreement to get the budget out of the Senate, Walker used his veto pen to make for an immediate repeal of prevailing wage requirements on highway projects because Walker claims "I object to making the taxpayers of Wisconsin wait for nearly a year before the can begin to benefit from the cost savings" that result from screwing workers further. Because the real problem in this state is that workers are making too much (slams head on desk).

2. There is a common theme of "gimme what I said I wanted in this budget!" This includes Walker putting a $500,000 limit on awards for the Historic Rehab Tax Credit, despite huge usage throughout the state. It also includes Walker removing 5 positions from the State's Elections Commission (even though the Elections Commission indicated they needed the staff), and Walker getting rid of the Educational Approval Board, which oversees private colleges and universities in the state (a nice check from Betsy DeVos is sure to follow).

3. Walker's vetoes consistenttly remove oversight and reports that the Legislature tried to put upon him. The worst of these involves Walker's veto of a requirement put in by the Joint Finance Committee that required them to be notified of any transfers being made out of the Veterans Homes account to try to fill in budget holes in the Veterans Trust Fund. The Walker Administration has taken tens of millions of dollars out of the Homes in the last few years, and it has become all the more disturbing in light of the deteriorating conditions at King Veterans Home, including water that looked like this.

Walker vetoed the Legislature's desire to at leat OK the transfers before they happen, claiming
I object to the creation of a series of additional mandated reports which are administratively burdensome and redirects valuable staff time away from care for veterans. Further, I believe these requirements encroach on the executive branch's responsibility to manage state agency programs within the statutes and funding levels set by the Legislature.
Actually Scotty, you haven't been able to handle things "within statutes and funding levels," or else you wouldn't be raiding money that was intended to go to the Veterans' Homes to bail out your budget problems.

Walker also removed oversight in topics ranging from refusing to submit reports to illustrate the outcomes of his "pee in a cup" welfare "reforms" and the costs to continue those measures, and he refused to allow additional reports on costs and progress relating to the state's new STAR portal for human resources and finances, as well as information about whether Wisconsinites were being charged excessive fees compared to the cost of services.

4. There's also some pork projects that got stripped out with these vetoes. They include Legislature-added projects such as $1 million for unknown work in the basement of the Capitol, DOT projects enumerating work to expand I-94 in St. Croix County, and Highway 154 in Sauk County. But one other pork project did not get Walker's axe.

Hey, at least Scotty stays bought. You gotta give him that.

5. The worst of the vetoes involves Walker deciding not to give any relief to rural schools. The largest of this set of 3 vetoes is the removal of a provision that would districts limited by low tax bases to spend more money to get closer to parity to the rest of the state. Walker instead is choosing to rely on an election-year talking point of "lower property taxes" over actually helping these schools get by.
I am vetoing this section entirely because the result is a substantial increase in property tax capacity that school districts may exercise without voter input. In several school districts that would be eligible to raise taxes under these sections, referenda to exceed revenue limits already failed within the past two years. An increase in revenue authority from the state in these districts would circumvent purposeful, local actions.

It should also be noted that in some cases, the same districts that would have become eligible to increase their revenues with this adjustment have increased their base revenues at a rate higher than the state average. This brings into question the need for this adjustment and highlights the need for local taxpayer input before a revenue limit adjustment is made.

As a result of this veto, the low revenue adjustment level for school districts will remain at $9,100. School districts across the state will benefit from other significant education investments in this budget, including meaningful increases in per pupil aid. These per pupil increases are equal among all school districts. Additionally, school districts could pursue an increase in their revenue limit through a referendum as is the case under current law. In fact, numerous districts have already done so by asking taxpayers through a referendum. Increases to the low revenue adjustment can be discussed in future state budgets.
That won't help the small schools that are suffering today, and even Joint Finance Committee co-chair John Nygren was unhappy with Walker's veto.

In theory John, you could do something to deal with that. I think they call it an "override". Let's see if the GOP-run Legislature steps up to regain some control over this budget, or if they let Walker continue to enjoy a lack of accountability and continue to allow the schools in their districts to suffer.

Lots more to get to, but I got a Brewers game to wrap up and $1 Old Fashioneds tomorrow. Feel free to dig in and see what else you find.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

WisGOP and RW Regents keep harming Bucky, driving away talent

Wanted to touch on a few recent UW issues, starting with a UW grad and current professor at Clemson using his experience in the Confederacy to sound an alarm this week about what is going on at his alma mater. Thomas Straka wrote a column for Wispolitics that pointed out the new state budget provision making it much easier for non-academics to become chancellors of UW schools goes right in line with the ALEC agenda of corporatizing higher education.
Polices like this are often said to produce unintended consequences. I suspect there may be intended consequences in this case, with the potential to inflict real damage. An Administration Hiring Workgroup, without a UW-Madison member, is now working on recommendations. It shouldn’t be hard work, as the conclusion was pretty much given to the workgroup at the beginning.

[Board of Regents] President Behling called this “the latest trend” in higher education. The trend is really conservative boards destroying liberal universities so they can be remade into vocational schools, best achieved with hand-picked nonacademic leaders. This should be easy to see in Wisconsin as Governor Walker has been demonstrating how to slowly dismantle the liberal university framework.

Cautionary tales of business leaders mangling the leadership of universities are many, like the former tech executive at the University of Missouri who let racial strife devastate the campus last year. Or, former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, the president of Purdue University, who recently orchestrated the acquisition of for-profit Kaplan University to become the online distance education branch of Purdue University. Following the private sector model, it was done in secret and without faculty input. There is no telling how much the Kaplan legacy will do to diminish the Purdue “brand.” But it is bold private sector thinking.

Notice in the example of Purdue University that the president was a former governor. That portends what could happen in Wisconsin. University president or chancellor positions are plum jobs for politicians, with lots of prestige, power, and visibility. It’s what politicians live for. Let me give you a nightmare: former Governor Scott Walker as chancellor of a UW campus! Far-fetched? Read on.
Well said, and stacking the UW Board of Regents with right-wing lackeys is another indication of this GOP endgame of removing critical thinking and independence from the UW, and replacing it with leaders and curricula that bow at the knee of Lord Business.

UW’s chancellor seems to understand the danger involved in this, and is widely quoted in an article in the recent Washington Monthly called “The Looming Decline of the Public Research University”, which discusses the 2010s trend of states defunding their flagship institutions, especially in GOP-run states in the Midwest.

Rebecca Blank, chancellor of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, has been outspoken about the problems facing her institution and others like it. She told the state board of regents in 2015 that budget cuts had hastened Wisconsin’s much-lamented fall out of the top five of the NSF rankings; more reductions, she warned, would further jeopardize the school’s standing as a top research university. (Governor Scott Walker’s proposed budget would restore $105 million over the next two years to the University of Wisconsin system, and an additional $35 million to offset money lost from cutting tuition. But that’s still a full $110 million less than what the system lost in the 2015–17 budget.)

Prodded by Walker, Wisconsin’s legislature changed tenure protections to allow for the firing of tenured faculty for reasons other than an imminent threat to the survival of the institution—the threshold in many other systems. The result has been something many other public universities are reluctant to discuss, but that Blank addresses frankly: the raiding of her faculty by better-endowed institutions.

More than 140 Wisconsin faculty members were approached with job offers by other universities, including Harvard and Temple, last year, a third more than the year before. Most of them stayed, thanks in large part to salary increases of as much as 49 percent, plus inducements like new research equipment and teaching and research assistants. All of that cost the already cash-strapped university nearly $24 million. Still, twenty-nine faculty members left, and with each one of them what the university calculates is an average of $271,795 worth of research funding, or nearly $8 million total. That included the award-winning chemist Laura Kiessling and the biochemist Ronald Raines, who both went to MIT.

“We lost some of our very best people,” Blank said. “It is our very best faculty that get outside offers. If you’re looking at research dollars, those are the people who are bringing in millions in research funding. And the people you replace them with bring in much less. So those retention issues have a real impact.”

There’s equal concern about attracting top new faculty. “Reputations matter here,” Blank said. “If you’ve been a university people have wanted to be coming to for twenty-five years, and suddenly they don’t, that will be very deadly.” Private and better-funded public universities can continue to offer talented new professors not only more money, but also more stability—and they can continue to treat midwestern universities like candy stores, shopping there for star faculty who may be ready to jump ship.
And the budget that’s sitting on Governor Walker’s desk only allows for a little less than $30 million in additional tax dollars to the UW vs the 2017 base, well below the $105 million mentioned in the article. In addition, 10% of that increase is going to the Thompson Center for Alternative Facts (another example of creeping right-wing BS going on campus). And the remaining tax dollar increase is for performance funding, and the measures are set not by the academics, but by the right-wing, “corporate-first” legislators and Regents.
Instead, establish the following goals for the UW System: (a) grow and ensure student access; (b) improve and excel at student progress and completion; (c) expand contributions to the workforce; and (d) enhance operational efficiency and effectiveness. Require the Board of Regents to identify at least four metrics to measure progress towards meeting each of the four goals established by the Legislature. Specify that the Board of Regents could identify different metrics for the UW-Extension where appropriate. Specify that each institution would select one metric identified for each goal on which the institution would improve and one metric identified for each goal on which the institution would maintain excellence.

Require the Board of Regents to submit an outcomes-based funding formula to the Joint Committee on Finance by February 15, 2018, for approval, or modification and approval, through a 14-day passive review process. Require the Joint Finance Committee to consult with the appropriate standing committee in each house (chaired by anti-UW nutjobs, by the way) prior to approving, or modifying and approving, the outcomes-based funding formula. Specify that no more than 30% of the funding distributed through the outcomes-based funding formula could be distributed to institutions for maintaining excellence on the selected metrics. Specify that the $26,250,000 of funding provided in 2018-19 be distributed using the outcomes-based funding formula developed by the Board of Regents and approved by the Joint Committee on Finance.
In addition, even though tuition revenues are slated to go up by nearly $168 million (mostly due to higher out-of-state and graduate tuition, as well as enrollment increases) the total amount of spending allocated to the UW actually goes DOWN another $11 million, due to the loss of $298 million in projected Federal assistance over the next 2 years, which goes directly to what is referenced above.

This reality made Governor Walker’s choice of wardrobe for the Fox-con signing yesterday all the more disgusting.

Governor Dropout is wearing A FUCKING BADGER SHIRT! This is sickening when you realize that UW will be one of the first places that Walker and WisGOP would hit with additional budget cuts if/when the Fox-con ends up costing more than it brings in for jobs. After all the damage this guy has done to the UW (and the future damage he will inflict if the voters of this state are stupid enough to keep this amoral fool in charge), he uses the UW’s good name in a photo op? Fuck you, Scotty.

And while Chancellor Blank talks a good game in the Washington Monthly column, she was seen on the day of the Fox-con announcement near Walker, and mouthed platitudes about how UW could work with Foxconn on research opportunities and a generator of their talent.

This is backwards. Becky Blank should be promoting UW-Madison as a great reason to come to Wisconsin IN SPITE OF the regressive dipshits who are trying to turn it into UW-Tech. Bucky is bigger and more improtant than Gov Dropout or any other anti-education Koch/Bradley puppet that may be at the Capitol, and Blank should be actively demanding that these regressives give the UW the respect and resources it deserves as the best economic engine of the state in the one city that’s actually thriving while the rest of the state is flailing.

As a Badger alum, it sickens me to see this great institution take a back seat to anyone or anything, but I’m especially enraged that they are under the thumb of these mediocre, backwards GOP slugs who love to take all of the talent that the UW produces, but refuses to invest in one of the few great things this state has/had going. This has to be ended, both in having the great UW-Madison be subject to these small-time, jealous lowlifes, and in the state being run into the ground by these bought-off regressives.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Robin Hood in reverse continues in Wisconsin, for health and taxes

With Sen (mo)Ron Johnson heading the list of GOP regressives trying yet again to wreck people’s health care and protections, I wanted to draw your attention to a couple of recent reports from the Wisconsin Budget Project which illustrates how low-income people in our state continue to get hurt by the GOP politicians that are allegedly elected to “represent” them.

The first involves the rate of people without health insurance, which continued to decline in 2016. But as the Budget Project points out, Wisconsin’s decline in uninsured is less than our neighbors (all of whom have taken some version of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion).

The graph illustrates that although Wisconsin has had an impressive drop in the percentage of people lacking insurance, the four states on our borders have seen more rapid declines. In each of those states the number of people who are uninsured has dropped by at least 47%, compared to 42% in Wisconsin. If we keep moving forward and reach the Minnesota rate, there would be about 68,000 fewer uninsured Wisconsinites!

But don’t bet on Wisconsin following Minnesota’s lead and expanding Medicaid with this crew in charge. In fact, Governor Walker has been one of the loudest voices asking for the current “screw up Obamacare” bill, because of its ability to offer “flexibility” to states via a block grant with few strings attached on exactly who or what can or should be covered.

Bad enough to hear if you’re a low-income Wisconsinite, but the Budget Project notes that there’s even more bad news for you put inside of the state budget which awaits Governor Walker’s signature. That’s because two key tax credits that benefit lower-income Wisconsinites are set to be taken away and/or diminished for many individuals.

This removal of tax writeoffs for the poor continues a trend that began in 2011, when Walker’s first budget stopped the income thresholds for the Homestead Credit from rising with inflation. The Budget Project explains that this has yanked the Homestead Credit for tens of thousands of Wisconsinsites in the last 6 years.

As inflation gradually raises incomes, more people exceed the income eligibility ceiling, which since 2011 has been frozen at $24,680. That’s an important reason why the number of households getting the credit fell by about 49,000 from 2010 to 2015, a drop of 24%. In addition, the sliding scale structure of the credit means that as incomes gradually rise, those who remain eligible receive smaller amounts.

A more immediate factor that will boost property taxes for low-income Wisconsinites is a provision in the budget bill that makes non-elderly, non-disabled people ineligible for the Homestead Credit if they have no earned income from employment. According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, that change will mean that about 11,400 households will lose $7 million during the second year of the budget period, or an average of $614 each.

This provision radically changes the Homestead Credit, which formerly provided the most property tax relief to people with annual income between zero and about $8,000. It will be a harsh economic blow to many Wisconsinites who have lost their jobs or who face barriers to work. For example, someone who gives up their job to care full-time for a sick relative is likely to lose their Homestead Credit.

The Joint Finance Committee amended the Governor’s Homestead Tax proposals in two respects. The committee narrowed the scope of the cut in the credit for people with little or no earned income, so it cuts property tax relief for those low-income households by $7 million per year, instead of $12 million. Unfortunately, JFC rejected the Governor’s proposal to adjust the credit for inflation each year for seniors and people with disabilities. As a result, inflation will continue to fuel the decline in this property tax assistance, which is illustrated in the graph.

In other bad news for low-income Wisconsinites, the Finance Committee rejected the Governor’s proposal to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) by about $20 million for 130,000 low-income working families. That proposal would have gotten funding for the EITC back to roughly where it was before Governor Walker and the legislature cut the credit in 2011.
Meanwhile, the same GOPs on the Joint Finance Committee repealed the Alternative Minimum Tax, a tax cut that overwhelmingly helps the richest Wisconsinites, and they gave corporations a $74 million property tax break. And oh yeah, we’re now literally giving billions in bags of cash to a foreign corporation in the HOPE that they will hire Wisconsinites and retain the jobs for more than 2 years.

Pretty obvious what side those GOP-puppets are on at the Capitol. It’s also pretty obvious from the lousy job creation stats that this trickle-down mentality has failed the state miserably, and kept it behind in the 2010s. So why would anyone other than a selfish, rich jackwagon vote for these regressive slimeballs?

Walker/WisGOP failure on jobs got worse this Summer. Fox-con won't fix it

On a day when Governor Walker and Assembly Speaker Robbin’ Vos and other WisGOP hacks try to claim the Foxconn package becoming law in Wisconsin will be some kind of “game changer”, I wanted to go more into why these guys felt the need to do such a drastic move in the first place. The state’s jobs numbers have taken another downturn in recent months, capped off by the release last week that showed 8,800 jobs were lost in Wisconsin in August.

Now that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has followed with the state-by-state jobs figures for August, we can get a clearer picture of just where Wisconsin measures up with the rest of the country. And it’s not good. While the August job numbers do seem have some goofiness going on in regards to seasonal adjustments and vacations (something that has led to lower-than-reality initial reports for the US’s August figures in recent years), Wisconsin still stands out as notably bad.

Largest job losses, Aug 2017
Ore. -9,500
Wis. -8,800
Cal. -8,200
Penn -8,000
Ark. -7,200

But states like Oregon and California had solid growth before August’s figures, with 1-year growth rates over 2% in Oregon and over 1.5% in Cali, even including the August losses. By contrast, Wisconsin has been flailing for several months when it comes to recent job growth, with 7,000 jobs lost in the private sector since April, and more than 12,000 jobs overall.

And that lagging trend has gotten even worse in the last year, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows.

Private sector job growth, Aug 2016-Aug 2017
U.S. +1.71%
Minn +1.62%
Iowa +1.46%
Ohio +1.30%
Mich +1.26%
Ind. +0.96%
Wis. +0.80%
Ill. +0.51%

Total job growth
Minn +1.52%
U.S. +1.45%
Mich +1.40%
Iowa +1.09%
Ohio +1.04%
Ind. +1.02%
Wis. +0.65%
Ill. +0.40%

The lousy August numbers led UW’s Menzie Chinn to update his charts at Econbrowser. It reiterates just how badly the state has been left in the dust by our neighbors to the west, and the nation as a whole, during the Age of Fitzwalkerstan.

These stats, along with Gov Walker’s approval going back down to the low 40s, are the real reasons that Walker and his WEDC lackeys came up with the desperate Fox-con scam. They know there is nothing coming in this budget that will help the average Wisconsinite or encourage others to move into Wisconsin for better opportunities or a higher quality of life, so they have to try to promise that something better is around the corner, and hope the rubes fall for it.

But it won’t get better in Wisconsin than the already lousy situation we have in Wisconsin late Summer 2017, either fiscally or job-wise. And there has to be a price paid by the Governor and other GOP-puppets who have continued to double down on the same trickle-down/wage suppression failures despite years of proof that this shit ain’t working.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

How far we have fallen. "From Farm Aid to 'f*** you'.

This is a tremendous article by Steven Hyden. Hyden is a music critic raised in Appleton with a degree from UW-Eau Claire, and while the article's title is about "Heartland Rock" and how it has changed and declined in the last 30 years, he may as well be talking about the blue-collar Midwest itself.

Hyden compares the work of two Midwestern rockers - John Mellencamp and Kid Rock- and says that the difference in their outlook is sadly reflective of what's happened to people in our part of the country.
At heart, Mellencamp and Kid Rock are political firebrands with a disdain for the political system. But that disdain took them to radically different places, and this shift has greater significance beyond just their respective careers. From the '80s to the '10s, Heartland rock has gone from Farm Aid to "fuck you." How in the hell did that happen?
Hyden notes that Mellencamp's songs of the '80s distrusted elites, but it came from a Woody Guthrie type tradition of community, giving a voice to the voiceless, and helping your neighbor that had fallen on hard times.

Kid Rock? He's flying a Confederate flag, waving his middle finger in the air, and voting for Donald Trump to "stick it to those smarty-pantses." There is no sense of community, it's all self-absorbed, and the Detroit-based Rock has even demeaned unions because of the idiotic trope about "protecting the lazy one" instead of recognizing that it helps EVERYONE.

The piece is brilliant, and a great parable for how the rural Midwest has declined and redeemed in the last 30 years. Read it and share it.

Friday, September 15, 2017

I can see the failure from 1000 miles away

Been out East with my wife for a great long weekend, which is why I haven't said much about recent budget shenanigans. But I did want to point to a bit of news that slipped out while the Fix-con and the budget was being debated. And that was the August Wisconsin jobs report.

The result?

Total jobs DOWN 8,800
Private sector jobs DOWN 5,200
Unemployment rate UP 3.4%

Maybe some of that is seasonal, since August is a bit flunky. But job growth of well below 1% in last 12 months is well behind the US rate, so no wonder Walker and WISGOP are desperate to deflect from the present-day suckiness of this state's economy.

Back to vacationing, but feel free to let others know

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

WisGOP budget another exercise gimmicks and can-kicking

As the Assembly votes on the 2017-19 budget today, it’s noteworthy to look at the Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s update on what the Joint Finance-approved budget looked like.

First of all, the state’s General Fund is project to spend more than it takes in for each of the 2 years of this budget. Only a sizable carryover (mostly due to lower Medicaid enrollments) allows this to happen.

Projected cash balance, General Fund
2017-18 Start +$467.1 million
2017-18 End +$443.5 million (-$23.6 million)
2018-19 End +$196.9 million (-$246.6 million)

That $246.6 million deficit for 2018-19 is $35 million more than what the LFB estimated in March, when it was included as part of the $1 billion General Fund structural deficit for 2019-21. On a related note, the LFB released its updated projections for that 2019-21 structural deficit using the budget that passed out of Joint Finance.

The main differences between the two is that the JFC-approved budget is projected to carry over $109 million more into 2019 than Walker’s original budget did, but it “makes up” for nearly half of that difference by having larger shortfalls over each of the next 2 years.

So no real improvement there, and with the GOP Legislature deciding to cut the taxes of the rich and corporate while eliminating proposed increases in the EITC for the working poor while trying to eliminate prevailing wage on state construction projects, the JFC budget is even worse for most Wisconsinites.

A similar story holds for the deficit-ridden Transportation Fund. Not only was highway spending cut from Walker’s already-reduced amounts, but we still end up spending more money than we’re taking in to the Transportation Fund – much more if you include borrowing.

Projected cash balance, Transportation Fund
2017-18 Start +$145.4 million
2017-18 End +$78.1 million (-$67.3 million)
2018-19 End +$14.7 million (-$63.4 million)

Plus borrowing $402.4 million

That’s $533 million AFTER the cuts that were made in this budget (enjoy the slowed-down work on the Zoo Interchange, suburbanites!). And the needs for fixing roads will be larger in the next budget (since we cut spending on highway projects in this one), so you can bet that will be another $1 billion+ deficit we have to deal with in 2019.

So put the two funds together, and we are more than $800 million above expenses between now and 2019, with a gap of $2 billion or so to close. That’s not even taking into account any possible cuts from the Trump/Ryan clown show in DC that would require the state to take up more of the costs just to keep things as they are in the current budget.

And the AssGOPs had the nerve to complain about the Dems putting out multi-part amendments for the budget today? Sure, many of them weren’t going to be considered (because GOPs would rather the state fall to pieces vs giving Democrats any kind of say), but because WisGOP isn’t serious about dealing with the state’s real problems of a stagnant economy and an increasingly messed-up budget, why shouldn't the Dems resort to cheap "gotcha" moves? There are a lot of fiscal and policy issues in this budget that have not come close to being dealt with by the GOP, which means an even bigger mess will have to be cleaned up by whoever takes over after the 2018 elections.

We deserve so much more than this crap. But gimmicks and can-kicking haven't hurt the amoral slime and dimwits that make up today's Wisconsin GOP for 6 years, so they won't change until they get booted. Which is why the electeds must be changed.

You thought we had a finished budget? Not with this GOP ship of fools!

What a complete clown show at the Capitol. On a day where the Assembly debated finally passing a state budget that is already 2 1/2 months overdue, check out the following exchanges.

First of all, it looks like we are still a distance away from a final agreement, since the WisGOPs can't find 17 of 20 senators to go for this.

But Assembly Speaker Robbin' Vos apparently was done with waiting, and the little guy decided to puff his chest out and show Fitz who was boss.

And while the Assembly GOP has put together a $5 million Medicaid spending boost and a few pork items in an amendment today, there is no change in the basic framework that was in the JFC's approved document.

Which means that it's going to be up to Senate to go along with the bill, or make changes that the Assembly has to sign off on. And if this tweet is any indication, they haven't figured out which option to take.

And if they don't have 17 votes in the Senate for the current budget, what's going to have to be changed to come up with a document that passes?

Meanwhile, schools and caregivers and highway workers around the state wait for the budget to become law, so they can actually get the increased funds and higher rates of reimbursement that they were promised. What a waste, but what do you expect from a GOP that is based out of hate and special-interest kickbacks over actual governing?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Senate GOPs pass the Fox-con, even as it becomes more bogus

The Foxconn package passed the Senate today, sadly to no surprise. But that doesn't mean there wasn't other news around it. And as has become habit with this scam, the information that came out makes the promises of Scott Walker and the Wisconsin GOP look emptier by the day.

First of all, I want to point you to this article by Madison native Lawrence Tabak, which illustrates how Foxconn’s plants in America REALLY operate.
Indiana native Carl Williams spent a year and a half between 2008 and 2010 at Foxconn’s Plainfield facility as a quality technician and later a data analyst. He reveals that a majority of the 900 workers who were employed at the computer assembly factory during his tenure there were undocumented. “On days when word got out that Immigration [and Customs Enforcement] was coming,” he says, “most of the workforce would be missing.” Williams also describes a “wink and nod” attitude by management toward the use of undocumented workers as the facility declined to be certified as an e-verified workplace (an internet based system of checking worker identification). According to Williams, management acted on the pretense that they simply weren’t aware of, and certainly not responsible for, the documentation status of the bulk of the workforce. Williams added that management appeared to be more interested in rock-bottom wages, dodging the cost of expensive benefits, and maintaining their ability to lay off and rehire for seasonal demand.

Andre Morris, who was a Foxconn employee in Indiana from 2005 to 2013, confirms the large number of undocumented workers at the Plainfield facility and also recalls the sea of empty chairs when there were rumors of an impending ICE raid. While he admits to having some success there, working his way up to manager after beginning his career toiling on the assembly line, Morris feels his opportunity for advancement was limited because he was African-American, reporting that he saw only white and Asian people above him. “There’s just not enough opportunity,” he says, when asked if he would recommend working at Foxconn, adding that his most vivid memory was the endless, repetitive work in stifling summer heat in an airless warehouse without air conditioning.
Bad enough, but note that keeping Americans employed in good working conditions hasn't been Foxconn's priority in Indiana. WHy would we expect any different in Wisconsin, especially when the Foxconn bill still has ZERO minimum requirements for job creation?

Tabak also notes that Walker's talk of 13,000 seems to be completely bogus. You could figure out it is BS through simple observation of how many people they employ at their current LCD plants, along in the fact that Foxconn never came close to promising Walker and WEDC that amount of jobs.
Foxconn’s original proposal to Wisconsin is also telling. Before the jobs number swelled to 13,000, Foxconn initially proposed 2,000 jobs — incidentally, the same number of workers currently employed at Foxconn’s LCD factory complex in Sakai, Japan, the largest and most advanced LCD factory in the world. The LCD plant itself was up and running with 1,000 workers. Boosters of the Wisconsin deal have visions of the working lines at the old Chrysler and GM factories in Kenosha and Janesville, where motivated high school graduates could make a living wage. But the few images and inside descriptions we have of the Sakai plant, by far the best model for what the Wisconsin factory will look like, show engineers and technicians behind computer terminals overseeing the work of giant robotic machines…

Williams’s experience at Foxconn, which in addition to the Plainfield factory includes a stint at a Foxconn plant in Juarez, Mexico, is instructive. “If you looked out over a floor of 6,000 workers and saw 50 or so Asians, you knew right away who were the engineers and bosses,” he says. Williams describes a colleague still at the Indiana plant, well qualified for a promotion, who has repeatedly seen his next step up blocked by the newest arrival from Asia….

As for the jobs that would go to Wisconsinites, a look at Foxconn’s Houston factory might also be telling. Based on job listings and anecdotal information from workers, Houston assembly workers generally start at the state’s minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and report being stuck at that level for years, even as they work many hours of overtime. Like the Indiana operation, the Houston location is reported to be reliant on temp agencies. Here’s what Williams predicts: “Foxconn may bring 9-12,000 jobs to Wisconsin. The facility will be staffed 90 percent by an uneducated and unskilled workforce, for as cheaply as the local economy allows.”

Sure, if Foxconn didn’t pay those employees $30,000 a year, they wouldn’t be eligible for the 17% writeoff from the state. But it’s possible that Foxconn may decide that underpaying workers is worth trading in the tax credits for, and if they paid that low of a wage, it would be likely that those employees would be eligible for Badgercare and other forms of assistance because they fall under the poverty line (aka “The Wal-Mart method” of loading the social costs of a company’s low wages onto the taxpayers).

That Wal-Mart mentality of making governments pay their costs was a big reason why Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian announced today that the City will not continue bidding for the Foxconn facility. It's possible some of this is ass-covering due to the fact that Racine County seems likely to get the plant anyway (if it ever happens), but Antaramian notes that a change in TIF laws that could allow Foxconn to avoid property taxes for 30 years was a big factor.
Although certain issues regarding the Tax Incremental District (TID) financing law have been addressed, many others have not. Issues not related to certain types of expenditures allowed from the TID, limitations of specific amounts allowed for reimbursement from TID tax increments, uncontrolled incorporation of Towns, specific funding rules regarding Water Utilities, impacts to the State’s Levy Limit law and the Expenditure Restraint program have all been ignored.

Based upon the current status of the legislative bill which addresses the Project, the City of Kenosha regrets that we will not be able to support this development in our community. We wish you, the State and Foxconn all the best in finding reasonable resolutions to all of the issues surrounding the project.
State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout and State Sen. Chris Larson both noted this problem, where those extra costs get paid for by homeowners in those cities who aren’t getting a TID) while Foxconn gets away with paying basically nothing. When you look at it this way, and when you combine it with the $252 million in borrowing to speed up work on I-94 South, the taxpayer costs of the Fox-con go well beyond the $3 billion that could be paid for the facility’s construction and the bags of cash that would be given to Foxconn for hiring people.

I also noted that during debate today, State Sen. Alberta Darling (R- Xanax/Vodka) claimed that the Foxconn bill wouldn’t change Wisconsin’s environmental laws, and she was rebuked by Sen. Jon Erpenbach and other Dems on the Senate floor. Anyone who has read the Foxconn bill knows that environmental rules are carved out for the “Enterprise zone” that the facility would be located in, and Darling presided over the Joint Finance hearing where that very issue was discussed. Bertie Dahhh-ling is either lying, or the senility has hit full force with her. Either way, it’s unacceptable.

Look, I'm under no illusions that this "piece of crap" (as Erpenbach accurately called it) will be eventualy passed by this bought-off Legislature and signed by our desperate governor. But that shouldn't stop any of us from continuing to draw attention to what a sketchy and regressive plan this is, and hang it around the necks of the 95+% of GOP legislators who have voted for it, along with the lifetime grifter Guv who thought the voters were stupid enough to accept this scam at face value.

Monday, September 11, 2017

WEDC cannot be trusted with the Fox-con

As the State Legislature plans to jam through vote on the Fox-con in the coming days, Citizen Action of Wisconsin reminded us of one of the top reasons we should be skeptical about that giveaway - because the bill has the scandal-ridden Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) be the overseer of the payments to and job creation attainment of Foxconn.

Citizen Action put together a spreadsheet on the tax credits handed out by WEDC over its 6-year history, and it shows that most of the companies that receive taxpayer-funded WEDC handouts don't create the jobs that the press releases said they would.
Of the 337 WEDC awardees with established job creation goals at least 3 years old, 60% (203 awardees) failed to meet their goals.....

--Of the 203 awardees that have not met their job creation promises, the difference between their actual job creation as reported by WEDC and their goals are 14,744 jobs. This means the WEDC job creation gap is larger than the total number of direct jobs being proposed by Foxconn in the best case scenarios (13,000 jobs).

--The numbers would be even worse if WEDC kept net job creation numbers, because it is well documented that many WEDC recipients have outsourced other jobs while taking state tax credits.

--WEDC has a very poor record of taking back tax credits when corporate recipients fail to fulfill their job creation promises. WEDC has only sought to claw back $9.9 million from 24 companies, less than 12% of companies who have not met their job creation goals after 3 years. WEDC does not report how much of this money has been successfully recovered.

--The 203 companies that still have not hit their jobs goal in at least 3 years have already received $94.8 million in verified tax credits from WEDC, with another $158 million awarded but not yet dispersed.
And the Fox-con dwarfs any other WEDC handout, but we're going to let those guys oversee it when they clearly can't track and verify smaller deals?

Let's not also forget that WEDC CEO Mark Hogan negotiated the Fox-con with that foreign corporation, and has been actively going around the state for the last 6 weeks trying to sell it. Do you think that guy and the Walker lackeys running the WEDC Board are going to admit the truth when Foxconn is failing to deliver and that taxpayers are getting ripped off? COME ON, MAN!

Would you trust these guys?

But let's be honest. WEDC was never intended to be a legitimate oversight agency that kept a careful watch over taxpayer dollars. From day 1, it was designed as a Walker/GOP slush fund to kick back campaign donations to.

Let's also remember Mary Bottari's 2014 expose in The Progressive dealing with WEDC's willful incompetence. Not only was WEDC recklessly handing out loans and grants while spending lavishly on itself, but the REAL mission of WEDC was revealed when its former director of compliance started asking too many questions about what was going on.
"I was once told by an administration higher up, 'We have one customer, and our job is to make him look good. . . . [former DOA Secretary Mike] Huebsch is the prince, Walker is the king.'"
Among the many reasons to oppose the Fox-con, the fact that the slush fund known as WEDC was chosen to "oversee" this operation is right at the top of the list. And anyone who votes for this is accepting of that corruption.

Revenues end up decent for 2016-17, so WisGOP gives more away to cronies

With our state budget hitting the Assembly floor tomorrow, I wanted to take a look at the taxing side of things, as many new bits have been busted through in the past week, and I wanted to discuss where things stood today.

First of all, the long-awaited 2016-17 final tax revenues were released on Friday, and it turns out there wasn’t much worthy of hiding, as the numbers virtually matched the Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s projections from January.
The final estimate of tax collections projected last January was $15,503.6 million. Actual collections were $14.0 million, or 0.1%, above the estimated amount.
That’s nowhere near enough of a difference to assume any kind of notable change in the budget outlook, and the bigger effect will likely come from tax changes that are in the budget bill. That situation doesn’t look as good if you give any kind of a damn about fairness or the state's fiscal stability.

In looking through the 39-part tax omnibus that went through last week, I was trying to find any positives in the tax items that Joint Finance passed, and I came up with two things. The first was the removal of Walker’s stupid $1-a-week income tax cut, and a proposed sales tax holiday in August that would not have boosted the economy and likely been more trouble than it was worth for retailers to deal with. Those moves restored $225 million for use in other places.

Then there is one provision added by JFC that could actually help the state in our 21st Century economy, although it involves writing a check to companies by making a certain credit refundable.
Modify the nonrefundable research expense credits (including the engine and energy efficiency credits), as computed under current law, to be split into two components. Specify that one component of the research credit be a nonrefundable credit equal to 90% of the current credit amount, which could be claimed and used in the same manner as under current law. Specify that the other component of the credit be a refundable credit equal to 10% of the current credit amount. Specify that these provisions first apply to new research credit claims beginning in tax year 2018. Estimate increased used credits of $2.1 million in 2018-19, $7.5 million in 2019-20, and $9.0 million in 2020-21.

Otherwise, it’s a lot of giveaways to the rich, connected and corporate. The state’s Alternative Minimum Tax was repealed by Joint Finance, which is well-documented as a move that overwhelmingly helps the rich. In addition, businesses can now write off “machinery, tools, and patterns not including such items considered manufacturing property” from their property taxes, which will cost taxpayers $74 million next year.

There are also a number of special-interest giveaways, like one that allows construction companies to write off $2.5 million in sales taxes for building materials if they are working on a UW or Tech College building (the Fox-con has a similar exemption), small ones that allow beekeepers and people who sell fish to fish farms to avoid sales taxes, and this one for broadcasters.
Specify that, under laws governing the individual income tax and corporate income/franchise tax, a "broadcaster" means a television or radio station licensed by the Federal Communications Commission, a television or radio broadcast network, a cable television network, or a television distribution company, but does not include a cable service provider, a direct broadcast satellite system, or an internet content distributor. Specify that a broadcaster's gross receipts from advertising are in this state only if the advertiser's commercial domicile is in this state. Specify that a broadcaster's gross royalties and other gross receipts received for the use or license of intangible property are sales in this state only if the commercial domicile of the purchaser or licensee is in this state and the purchaser or licensee has a direct connection or relationship with the broadcaster pursuant to a contract under which the royalties or receipts are derived. Specify that these provisions do not apply to the gross receipts of members of a combined group that are not broadcasters

Specify that these provisions first apply to taxable years beginning on January 1, 2019. Estimate decreased general fund tax revenues of $3.2 million in 2018-19 and $13.0 million in 2019-20 and reduced segregated revenues from the economic development surcharge of $120,000 in 2018-19 and $470,000 in 2019-20. Increase estimated sum sufficient GPR expenditures in WEDC's operations and programs appropriation by $120,000 in 2018-19.
Gee, wonder if that might get these legislators some “nice coverage”, after the bosses know they have $16.2 million in writeoffs coming?

But look who DOESN’T get a tax break- low-income workers. The JFC Republicans even went against Governor Walker to cut out a proposed expansion of the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit.
Delete the modifications recommended by the Governor to: (a) increase the rate of the state EITC for families with one child (Alternative 4 in LFB Paper #287); (b) enhance the state EITC for claimants who become married (Alternative 3 in LFB Paper #288); (c) create a state EITC for noncustodial parents (Alternative 2 in LFB Paper #289); and (d) deny eligibility for the credit to claimants who have disqualified losses in excess of $15,000 (Alternative 2 in LFB Paper #290). In addition, decrease funding by $2,100,000 GPR in 2017-18 and increase funding by $450,000 GPR in 2018-19 to cover the cost of the credit under current law (Modification in LFB Paper #286).
This knocks out $8.7 million in GPR in 2018-19 that would have been needed relief for the working poor. But priorities like dumping the AMT and personal property tax were considered more important by WisGOP.

I also notice that many of these tax breaks have larger price tags in 2019-20 and 2020-21, which means that the already $1 billion structural deficit in the General Fund will likely grow larger. Combined with an awful can-kicking job on Transportation that will multiply the state’s many potholes and funding issues on that side, and it’s pretty obvious that Wisconsin is looking at a horrid budget after the 2018 elections.

But that’s the way the ALEC-GOPs like it - pass special interest tax cuts first, get the campaign donations for 2018, then screw over the rest of the state with budget cuts and tax hikes on everyday people in 2019.

And it only ends when voters finally say “enough” and boot this crooked fiscal vandals out of power.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Wisconsin's "labor shortage" could be fixed. But not with the current crew in charge

Big, in=depth article in today's Wisconsin State Journal from Matthew DeFour on "Wisconsin's Looming Crisis: WORKERS WANTED." I view it as a positive sign to see this issue get a large amount of attention in the state's second-largest newspaper on a Sunday, but the reasons given shouldn't come as much of a surprise if you read this place...or have a set of eyes and an IQ above 80.
"Employers want workers with various sets of skills, but the pay can be very low," said Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO. "When you're seeing stagnating wages and lower benefit packages and that compensation isn't keeping up with inflation, why would workers want to pursue those sorts of things?"

Wage increases aren't always possible in a heavy manufacturing state like Wisconsin where competitive pressures have resulted in thin profit margins, said Sasha Wesolowski, human resources manager for Marquis Yachts in Pulaski. The company, which offers starting pay of $12.50 an hour, has advertised its several dozen job openings on billboards, on a local parade float and recently in postcards to many of the 1,000 workers it laid off before declaring bankruptcy during the recession.

"If we can't find the people, then we can't continue to increase production," Wesolowski said.
Hmmm, wonder what the problem is? Could it be that $12.50 AIN'T ENOUGH IN 2017, YOU DIPSHIT? Amazingly, Wesolowski later whines that if he paid people a higher salary to start, he'd have to raise other salaries too (the horror!), and that would make it "harder to maintain profitability." Then don't bitch about the situation that you aren't willing to fix, you greedhead.

This graphic in the article reveals the absurdity of Scott Walker and other GOP hacks saying "What's the problem? Our website has all sorts of jobs listed." The jobs don't pay a living wage, and there aren't enough people replacing the Boomers that are retiring.

When you don't have demographics on your side, you need to take on a strategy that tries to change those demographics. Unfortunately, things are going the other way in Wisconsin, and so it becomes even harder to find talent to fill jobs.
Wisconsin has certain characteristics that may intensify the shortage, such as an already high workforce participation rate, a broad manufacturing base that, as it increasingly automates, replaces high school graduates with more highly skilled workers, and a comparatively poor record of attracting college graduates.

"Having people moving into the state or even moving out or back in, it really energizes the economy," said UW-Madison economist Steven Deller. "Wisconsin doesn't seem to be doing a good job bringing people into the state."

Gee, you think that might have something to do with the regressive garbage that comes out of the State Capitol? This includes
1. Constant attacks on the UW System (including initiatives to put faculty "on the clock" instead of in the research lab),
2. Defunding of K-12 public education, and denigration of teachers and the teaching profession.
3. Slackening environmental standards for mining companies and other polluters like Foxconn.
4. Having fewer state dollars put into transit now than there were 7 years ago,
5. Social policies such as racist "divide and conquer" voting laws and rhetoric in media, and adding Inquisitions into payments to Planned Parenthood for women's medical services.

Being an icebox for 5 months a year is already something that works against Wisconsin, and makes it difficult to get people to choose to come here. But the backwards steps we have taken during the Age of Fitzwalkerstan have made it much worse. Look at the difference between us and an even colder state with a similar population since Wisconsin chose a Republican governor in 2010, and the other state chose a Democrat that same year.

Population, 2010-2016
Wisconsin 5,687,289
Minnesota 5,303,924

Wisconsin 5,778,708 (+91,419 +1.61%)
Minnesota 5,519,952 (+216,028, +4.07%)

Think things would be different regarding this "worker shortage" if Wisconsin had another 125,000 people coming to it in the last 6 years? Let's note these stats as well.

Job growth, QCEW, March 2011- March 2017
Wisconsin +202,677 (+9.15%)
Minnesota +259,727 (+12.04%)

average weekly private-sector wage, March 2017
Minnesota $1,171
Wisconsin $931

average weekly manufacturing wage, March 2017
Minnesota $1,306
Wisconsin $1,131

Any questions from you on why we've fallen behind Minnesota so much? Not many from here, other than "How soon can we fire these pro-corporate dimwits running Wisconsin's government?"

PS- Great article here from the Tim Slekar, the Dean of the School of Education at Edgewood College in Madison. He notes that the lower take-home pay and prestige given to teaching has led to an understandable shortage of new talent wanting to enter the profession, which leads to WisGOP trying to play "race to the bottom" on who can be a teacher.
Enough with the teacher “shortage” narrative!

When teachers are leaving their jobs across the state and enrollment in teacher prep programs is at an all time low you don’t have a “labor shortage.” You have a toxic work place environment (Walker and Act 10). A toxicity that has spurred an EXODUS from the classrooms of our children and a plummeting enrollment in teacher preparation programs.

Once you come to terms with this fact, then understanding how a “fast track” no standards-teacher prep program landed in the budget is simple. Politicians don’t want real teachers. They want cheap labor that won’t question a work place environment that has created a mental heath crisis.
And if the quality of teaching goes down, people aren't going to want to move their families to Wisconsin, and the "labor shortage" in other areas will get even worse.

And yet the WMC and MMAC oligarch organizations back every one of these anti-education and regressive GOP policies. Maybe this guy isn't so good when it comes to dealing with 21st Century economic reality. No wonder why he's so upset.

All but 1 WIsGOP in Congress voted AGAINST storm aid this week

As Irma pounds onto both coasts of Florida, Congress was voting this week on assistance to help repairs from the previous massive storm- Harvey in Texas and Louisiana. This bill was tied in to a 3-month increase in the country's debt ceiling, and the vote came after President Trump sided with Democratic leaders in Congress for the short-term debt ceiling increase, resulting in an interesting Dem vs GOP breakdown in the vote.
The House on Friday overwhelmingly backed the Senate's version of a bill raising the nation's borrowing limit for three months, funding the government and providing $15.3 billion in aid for victims of Hurricane Harvey.

The final count was 316 to 90. The motion received unanimous support from Democrats and from more than 130 Republicans.
Hilariously, the agreement and vote came right after House Speaker Paul Ryan said a short-term debt limit increase "ridiculous". He also made the incredibly cynical comment about members of Congress "playing politics with the debt ceiling"- a maneuver that never existed under Ryan and his fellow Teabag GOPs started messing with it in the 2010s.

In Ryan's typically cowardly fashion, he used his position as Speaker to avoid a vote on the Harvey aid/debt ceiling package. And it turned out that only 1 of the 5 Republicans "representing" Wisconsin in the House of Representatives voted to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey,as the roll call of the vote showed.

Democrats — Kind, Y; Moore, Y; Pocan, Y.

Republicans — Duffy, N; Gallagher, N; Grothman, Y; Ryan, X (the speaker by tradition often does not vote); Sensenbrenner, N.
Seriously, GLENN FREAKING GROTHMAN is the one WisGOP in Congress to do the right thing here?

In the Senate, 17 GOP senators voted against the bill, and guess who was on that list of shame.
Republicans No

Corker, Tenn.; Daines, Mont.; Enzi, Wyo.; Ernst, Iowa; Fischer, Neb.; Flake, Ariz.; Graham, S.C.; Grassley, Iowa; Johnson, Wis.; Lankford, Okla.; Lee, Utah; McCain, Ariz.; Moran, Kan.; Paul, Ky.; Risch, Idaho; Sasse, Neb.; Toomey, Pa.

As James Rowen points out at The Political Environment, Johnson explained his vote this way
"My vote was not against the victims of Harvey and Irma," Johnson said. "I would have voted for that stuff in a heartbeat. My vote was against an increase in the debt ceiling with nothing attached to it."
Nice priorities (mo)Ron. So much for believing in JFK's statement of "Pay any price, bear any burden."

Can you people in outstate Wisconsin and suburban Milwaukee stop voting for these a-holes? PLEASE?

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Barca is OUT. And it was overdue

Look, it's my birthday week, so I haven't had the time to go into all of the events of the week up here in Fitwalkerstan. But I do have to give a few quick thoughts on Peter Barca being booted out as the leader of the Assembly Democrats.
Barca’s resignation — effective Sept. 30 — came after the meeting in a conference room at the U.S. Bank building on the Capitol Square during which some Assembly Democrats were planning to raise the question of whether Barca should be replaced.

Some members of the caucus have privately expressed skepticism over Barca’s leadership as minority leader.

Last month, Barca was one of three Democrats to join majority Republicans to vote in favor of a nearly $3 billion tax incentive package to lure Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn to southeastern Wisconsin, a project that could bring jobs and research money to his district.
And that mentality right there is why Barca had to go. You can't have your party leader acting selfishly and stepping on the party's message that the Fox-con is an expensive giveaway and sellout of our state's environmental laws. Sure enough, Gov Walker and the Wisconsin GOP used Barca's vote to claim the Fox-con was "bipartisan", making it seem like a reasonable deal (it is not reasonable in any way).

The past is over

Peter is a good guy and often had his head in the right place. But he still operated under a mentality from a previous time where the minority party could work with the majority to come up with a good deal. That is NOT how today's "divide and conquer" GOP plays, and Peter's inability to understand that is why he had to go. I said as much back in November, when I called for Barca to be replaced after the disastrous 2016 elections.
Peter, you did some great things during the Act 10 struggle 5 ½ years ago, but this “let’s work together on solutions” crap needs to be left in the 20th Century where it belongs. The WisGOPs do not care about solutions to real problems facing Wisconsinites, they care about grabbing as much political power and money that they can for themselves and their donors. THE END. And being seen as a contributor to that system doesn’t make you the nice guys in the eyes of a voting public who have a lot of bigger things to worry about than day-to-day politics, and it doesn’t get rewarded at the polls in less-educated, rural parts of the state that Dems need to win back.
Published reports also indicated that a lot of the newer and younger Dems in the Assembly had enough of getting rolled and losing elections, and the Fox-con was the last straw. And it looks like the new leader will be in that "younger" subset of the Assembly caucus.
Oshkosh Democrat Gordon Hintz is emerging as a top pick to lead the Assembly Democrats.

Hintz, a member of the Legislature’s budget-writing committee who had been considering a run for governor, told the Wisconsin State Journal on Friday he is running to lead Democrats in the Assembly — a caucus that has seen its ranks diminish to levels not seen in 60 years....

Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, who served on the Legislature’s finance committee with Hintz until this year, said she would not run and was “excited” to support Hintz. Rep. Jonathan Brostoff, D-Milwaukee, also said he is backing Hintz.

“I think Rep. Hintz is a really bright guy and someone who’s really good at building leaders and engaging talent and I think his ability to identify and grow talent is something that is fantastic,” said Brostoff, who added that he believed Barca was “someone who worked incredibly hard” and was “very committed” as leader of the Assembly Democrats.
Chris Taylor and Jonathan Brostoff are two opinions I take very seriously at the Capitol (in fact, Taylor would have been my first choice for Dem leader, and Hintz a close second). There isn't anyone that has ripped the Fox-con and much of the rest of the regressive GOP agenda with the accuracy and eloquence that Hintz has done in the last 6 weeks.

Those of who you read this blog shouldn't be surprised that I am completely behind the idea of Gordon leading the Assembly Dems. Hintz won't take any shit from Robbin' Vos and the rest of those cyncial, crooked thugs, and he'll be able to relate the Dem position to the public in a more effective (and often humorous) way than Barca ever could.

Let's go kick some WisGOP ass

In the 2010s, you have to have fire and appeal to the voters' guts, in addition to having some charisma and a policy position. Too many Wisconsin Dems think that this is still a debating society, and that "appearing reasonable" and "grabbing consensus" is what enourages rational voters too choose them. This decade has proven that this is not the case, and Dems need to have people who say in public "The crooked Republicans are screwing you and hurting this state."

Gordon Hintz is a great guy to do that, and I welcome the overdue move to change leadership in the Assembly.

Friday, September 8, 2017

In case you missed it- Wisconsin still missing the "gold standard" in job growth

While the budget was being wrapped up this week, we also got another report from the “gold standard” Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages (QCEW). As you’ll see, the news inside of the report was largely insignificant, as it showed Wisconsin again in the bottom half of job growth, with the gains being spread unevenly throughout the state.

Inside the state, it’s us crazy socialist hippies in the Madison area leading the way for the state yet again when it comes to adding jobs outside of government. In addition to Dane County, private sector job growth was heavily contained to highly populated metro areas, with 6 counties accounting for more than half of the state’s new jobs.

Private sector job growth, Mar 2016- Mar 2017
Dane County +4,606
Waukesha Co. +3,844
Kenosha Co. +2,316
Brown County +1,785
Outagamie Co. +1,374
Winnebago Co. +1,153
REST OF WIS. +12,519

Notably missing is Milwaukee County, which only added 530 jobs. Which makes me wonder why are we still listening to Tim Sheehy and the rest of the GOP shills at the MMAC for advice on how to grow.

On the other end, 21 of the state’s 72 counties lost private-sector jobs over the last 12 months, with over 1,100 jobs lost in the northeastern counties of Calumet and Manitowoc combined (insert Steven Avery joke here). In fact, Manitowoc County has fewer jobs now than they did 6 years ago, but for some reason, these guys and many other declining rural counties keep Standing with Walker. Just head-shaking stuff.

Looking at the national rankings, Wisconsin ended up 30th in the nation for private sector job growth. Sadly that subpar level is the best it has been since Scott Walker and the Wisconsin GOP have been in power, as Senate Dem Leader Jen Shilling pointed out.

Wisconsin also “improved” to mediocrity compared to its Midwestern neighbors. Instead of residing in its typical spot at or near the cellar, Wisconsin ended up in the middle of the pack for the Midwest for job growth in this 12-month period.

Private sector job growth March 2016- March 2017
Minn +2.2%
Mich +1.9%
Ind. +1.5%
Wis. +1.2%
Ohio +0.8%
Ill. +0.7%
Iowa -0.2%

But that 1.2% is still well below the levels we had 6 years ago, when Act 10 was signed into law, and the overall trend of the last 2 years isn’t going the right way.

And the QCEW confirms one other trend has continued in Wisconsin - low wages.

Average weekly private sector wage, Midwest
Ill. $1,217
Minn $1,171
Mich $1,046
Ohio $973
Wis. $973
Ind. $925
Iowa $893

Average weekly manufacturing wage, Midwest
Ill. $1,463
Mich $1,366
Minn $1,306
Ind. $1,277
Ohio $1,214
Wis. $1,131
Iowa $1,117

So with this record, what kind of bubble is ALEC Queen Leah Vukmir living in when she says she wants to take “the Wisconsin Way” to DC? Lower job growth, repressed wages and a declining quality of life?

No thanks Leah, and one positive of your run is that your bought-off amoral self isn’t “representing” Tosa anymore. Now it’s time to bang Koo-Koo out of office when that Ryan wanna-be inevitably runs for Vukmir’s gerrymandered Senate seat and make it a two-fer. I'm sick of Wisconsin lagging behind under this ALEC Wrecking Crew, and I hope you are too.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

DOT bill leaves us worse off than when this budget started

As I calculated yesterday, with the Fox-con passing earlier in the day, there was no way for the Joint Finance Committee to keep borrowing at a relatively low level unless they cut spending on highway projects from Scott Walker’s proposed budget. And a $75 hybrid tax and a $100 electirc car tax wasn't making up the difference.

And I turned out to be right as I looked at the motion that was passed last night. First of all, the Foxconn project will slow down work on the Zoo Interchange. Part of this will be because of less money going to the other projects in the “Southeast Megaprojects” area of the DOT budget ($20.8 million), but also includes this specific language.
Specify that DOT would not be permitted to expend southeast Wisconsin freeway megaprojects program funding from any source (SEG, FED, or bond revenue) for the north leg of the Zoo Interchange project (between Swan Boulevard and Burleigh Street in Milwaukee County) in the 2017-19 biennium. Further, prohibit DOT from using any contract let savings from construction contracts funded from the southeast Wisconsin freeway megaprojects program in the 2017-19 biennium for construction work on the north leg of the Zoo Interchange project.
You hear me Tosa, Falls, and Washington County! You get to deal with Zoo Interchange construction through at least 2020. Don’t like THAT”? Then take it up with your “representatives” that voted to keep you in traffic, including Koo-Koo Kooyenga, ALEC Queen Vukmir and Bertie Darling.

There are also cuts throughout the rest of the state. This includes the major projects outside of Southeastern Wisconsin, including I-39/90 south of Madison, Hwy 18-151 in the Madison/Verona area, and Highway 10-441 around Appleton. The second will involve other state highways, generally 2 or 4-lane roads that aren’t freeways. I’ll give a comparison to what was spent in these areas in the last budget, as well as what was cut from Walker’s budget.

Highway funding change, 2015-17 vs 2017-19
Major projects
vs. 2015-17 DOWN $78.6 million (-12.3%)
vs. Walker budget DOWN $106.2 million (-15.8%)

All other state highways
vs. 2015-17 DOWN (-4.6%)
vs. Walker budget DOWN $82.2 million (-4.8%)

Oh, and for you GOP voters in the 920?

So yes, these are cuts and we will see delays and a further backlog by the time the next budget comes around in 2019.

In other parts of the DOT motion-

1. JFC reduced the increase in funding for the Local Roads Improvement Program (LRIP) by $2 million from where Walker wanted it. Given that there was no ability for local governments to impose sales taxes to fix the roads (something that has been proposed for more than 2 years by members from both parties), this will mean it’ll be more likely that even more communities will turn to wheel taxes in the coming years to try to keep up with increasing needs to fix local streets. Green Bay is the latest and largest place to be looking at adding one.

On the flip side, the JFC agreed to add another $7.5 million to the state’s Local Bridge Improvement Program, making for a $10 million increase compared to 2015-17. So at some part of our road system has a chance of getting fixed in the next 2 years.

Was there pork sent out to key parts of the state where the GOP has a good chance of losing in 2018? OF COURSE THERE WAS. Even with the highway spending cuts, Highway 23 between Sheboygan and Fond du Lac is now at the front of the line to have $19.4 million in reused funds in the next 2 years, and there will be a third lane put onto I-94 in St. Croix County at a total cost of $144 million.

In addition, other pet projects got a boost, including $4 million to the Wisconsin Rapids airport (apparently to accomodate private jets flying into the new golf courses in CAFOland), $3.2 million sent to Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding in Door County for a new dock wall, and $1.7 million to the Appleton airport to make it a site eligible for rescue and firefighting capabilities. There are also lame symbolic things like signage to private businesses and parks.

Did the WisGOPs use the DOT budget to screw workers even further? OF COURSE THEY DID
Approve the Governor's recommendations that previously had been removed as a non-fiscal policy item. The restored provisions would eliminate the state prevailing wage law for state building projects and state highway projects as well as retain the current law prohibition against local governments enacting or administrating their own prevailing wage laws or similar ordinances. Specify that for a project of public works that is subject to bidding, the prevailing wage repeal first applies to a project for which the request for bids is issued on or after September 1, 2018. Specify that for a project of public works that is not subject to bidding, the prevailing wage repeal first applies to a contract that is entered into on or after September 1, 2018.
I can’t say this enough, if you work construction or trades and vote GOP, you are a SUCKER, and are cutting your own throat.

But the topper is the deregulation and other payoffs to corporate contributors and puppetmasters that was part of the DOT omnibus. In addition to several pages limiting local communities from regulating quarries and fracking-type activities (bad enough), we had this paragraph.
Create a provision under the Chapter 66 municipal law requirements of the statutes to prohibit a political subdivision, defined as a county, city, village, or town, from enforcing an ordinance if any of the following applies: (a) a statutory provision expressly prohibits the political subdivision from enforcing the ordinance; (b) the ordinance logically conflicts with a statutory provision; (c) the ordinance defeats the purpose of a statutory provision; or (d) the ordinance violates the spirit of a statutory provision.
Not only does this motion say that “state law trumps local law”, but it also is extremely broad and can basically shoot down any attempt by a local community to enact tougher standards (like for work conditions or environmental protections, for example) than the state has. This is the exact opposite of how most of these things work, where the state usually has a minimum standard and locals are allowed to go further.

But this is how ALEC-owned legislators operate, using the power of the state to keep local governments (who aren’t as bought as the puppets in Madison) from passing laws and standards that fit what they think is their community’s best interest. The most notorious recent example of this was when the GOP Legislature in Missouri actually lowered the minimum wage in the city of St. Louis from $10 down to the state level of $7.70. Oh, but the GOP is the “party of small government and local control”? MY ASS!

Since the hybrid tax only will raise $5.8 million a year, the $1 billion hole for the DOT will remain in the next budget, with the costs likely going higher due to inflation and neglect over the next 2 years. So we end up back in the same hole we were in the DOT budget, except with more restrictions on local control, more wage suppression, and more fees slapped onto "those people" driving hybrids.

THIS is what WisGOP haggled over for 2 ½ months for? FIRE THEM ALL.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

WisGOP's WisDOT deal still doesn't add up- no final details yet

The Joint Finance Committee is scheduled to finish up the state budget tonight, and a main item would be what is sure to be a multi-part measure on Transportation funding. Mark Sommerhauser reported on a few aspects of the deal and the effect on borrowing for the budget in a story for the Wisconsin State Journal this afternoon. Sommerhauser says that the one revenue-raiser in the DOT deal would involve an additional $75 tax registration fee for hybrids and $100 for electric cars.

However, that provision would only raise at most $14 million for this biennium (based on Page 12 of this paper from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau), and with another Southeast Wisconsin project being added onto, there won't be much less in borrowing than what Scott Walker's original budget proposed.
Nygren said Tuesday that the budget plan includes about $410 million in borrowing for roads and bridges, slightly less than Walker's plan, which called for $500 million.

Of the $410 million in borrowing in the legislative plan, $252 million would go to a project to expand and rebuild U.S. Interstate 94 south of Milwaukee. Walker's budget provided just $31 million for the project.
That last item for I-94 south of Milwaukee is part of the Fox-con, but it also raises spending for highways by $220 million. And whatever federal money they might use for the Foxconn highway should be added in. The problem is that diverting the money down to I-94 means there's less money to go to all other projects. Nygren insisted to reporters that the Hwy 18-151/Verona Road mess in the Madison area would stay on track, but the head of the state's Road Builders isn't so sure.
Nygren said the plan won't cause additional delays beyond what was proposed in Gov. Scott Walker's budget. He specifically said it would not delay an ongoing expansion of Verona Road in Fitchburg, south of the Madison Beltline.

But transportation advocacy and road-building groups questioned how that is possible.

"If the numbers and bonding levels are what we're hearing ... I just don't see any way that you can't have delays," said Patrick Goss, director of the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association.
Yeah, I'm doing the math and I don't see it either, Patrick. I'll assume the $250 million in borrowing and extra spending on I-94 South cancel each other out, and that we use the full amount of $66 million in US DOT redistribution money for other highway projects, and I'll include the $93 million in extra money that Gov Walker already claimed back in April .

Highway borrowing/spending 2017-19
Walker budget borrows $500 mil

Added balances, etc from FY 2017 $93 mil
Redistribution funds $66 mil
Hybrid/electric veh fee $14 mil

I-94/ Foxconn work $250 million

TOTAL BORROWING $577 million

Feel free to correct my math if I am wrong, but if I'm lining up things right, there's $167 million that's being cut to get down to Nygren's stated level of $410 million. Or the money is being cut and/or transferred from some other area.

Guess we'll have to wait to see what the final proposal is (JFC was supposed to be back an hour ago...there are clearly deals being made) to see where the numbers add up, and to see what other parts of the shell game is being played when it comes to DOT spending.

EDIT- State Sen. Jon Erpenbach just tweeted this out- the more alarming part is that it is one of AT LEAST 45 ITEMS being revealed and voted on in a matter of hours. What a bullshit way to do things.

Who needs due process when you have a Fox-con to jam through?

Hate to say I called this. But I did.

I can't believe that the GOPs on Joint Finance could make the Fox-con even worse. But they're apparently doing so.
Ahead of the committee's Tuesday vote on the bill authored by Gov. Scott Walker, lawmakers added a new provision that would require parties of lawsuits related to the Foxconn project to appeal circuit court decisions directly to the Supreme Court, bypassing state appeals courts. The lower court's decision would be automatically stayed if it is appealed under the proposal, too.

The new provision is another way Wisconsin lawmakers are proposing to speed up the process to get the proposed 20 million-square foot facility off the ground. The Foxconn incentive package proposed by Walker also includes exemptions from sales taxes and environmental regulations, which could eliminate delays to the construction process related to state environmental officials analyzing the project's effects on air, water and land quality in the area Foxconn will build.
Oh, so the Wisconsin Supreme Court will decide on whether Foxconn is breaking state laws on the environment? The same Wisconsin Supreme Court with a majority of "Justices" bought by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the Dairy Business Association in no small part because they wouldn't enforce environmental laws? And that majority wouldn't go away until 2020 at the earliest, when the environmental damage from the Foxconn facility would already be done.

This is total Banana Republic-an crap, is likely unconstitutional for having two sets of laws and processes in the state (one for the Foxconn zone, and one for the rest of Wisconsin), and shows that there are two goals to legislation like the Fox-con and the Mining Bill.

1. A great way to solicit and then kick back campaign donations to certain connected corporations.

2. A back-door way to gut and change environmental laws and working conditions.

We are run by the worst elements of GOP thuggery in this state. It puts me somewhere between laughing or shooting at this point (except these slugs aren't worth going to prison over).

EDIT- Looks like State Rep. Jimmy Anderson thought of the same thing I did.

Total hack AG Brad Schimel will claim he'll "uphold the law" and stand by as SE Wisconsin becomes a cesspool, and you know the Trump/Pruitt EPA won't do shit either, and. This Fox-con will prove to be literally sickening.