Wednesday, May 22, 2019

GOP K-12 plans offer some more money, but more of the same disparities

Now that we've finished discussing what the funding options for K-12, let's talk a little about what the GOP leaders in the gerrymandered Legislature are going to counter with tomorrow in the Joint Finance Committee.

These four paragraphs from Mark Sommerhauser’s article in the Wisconsin State Journal do a good job in summing up the proposal, and its differences with what Gov Evers wants to do with K-12 funding.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, told the Wisconsin State Journal on Tuesday districts would get $200 per pupil in 2019-20, then an additional $200 more per pupil in 2020-21.

That approach would mirror the centerpiece of the school-funding increase in the most recent state budget that former Gov. Scott Walker signed in 2017, which translated to about a half-billion increase in state aid to districts.

It contrasts with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ proposal for the next budget. Evers wants to pump $611 million into general school aids through a revised state funding formula that would guarantee a basic level of funding for each student, but provide additional funding for low-income students.

The per-pupil funding stream gives districts a flat amount per student, not accounting for a district’s property-tax base.
The GOP plan goes directly against the state’s Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding, as the Legislative Fiscal Bureau tells us in their summary of K-12 funding methods and revenue limits.
The Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding was a bipartisan Commission consisting of sixteen members, including legislators, school administrators, and other stakeholders. The Commission developed its recommendations following public hearings and informational hearings held throughout the state. In its final report, which was published in January, 2019, the Commission recommended that the Legislature provide future increases in resources for school districts through increases in the per pupil adjustment under revenue limits rather than per pupil aid, and that any per pupil adjustment provided under revenue limits be annually indexed by inflation. The Commission also recommended that the Legislature provide future increases in state support through the general school aid formula rather than through the school levy tax credit.
The LFB had already calculated that the GOPs' proposed aid increase would be just under $494 million for the next 2 years, based on the projected K-12 student population for the next 2 years.
For example, as shown in the fifth line of Table 4, if the per pupil aid payment were set at $854 per pupil in 2019-20 and $1,058 per pupil in 2020-21 and each year thereafter (thus providing the same increase to per pupil aid as the proposed per pupil adjustments in the bill), estimated general fund expenditures would increase by $163.5 million in 2019-20 and $330.6 million in 2020-21 compared to the base. Relative to the bill, per pupil aid funding would increase by $166.9 million in 2019-20 and $335.9 million in 2020-21.

The per pupil adjustment under revenue limits and the level of per pupil aid funding provided also affect payments under the private school choice programs, the independent charter school program, and the special needs scholarship program, as well as the aid transfer amounts under the open enrollment program. Under current law, the respective per pupil payment under each of these programs in a given year increased by the per pupil revenue limit adjustment for the current year, if positive, plus the change in the amount of statewide categorical aid per pupil between the previous year and the current year, if positive. Under the bill, the change in the per pupil aid payment amount would replace the change in statewide categorical aid in the indexing mechanism. If the Committee modifies the bill with respect to the per pupil adjustment or per pupil aid, the respective payments and aid reductions for these programs would need to be adjusted as well.
Basically, that second paragraph means that WisGOP’s proposed increase in per-pupil aid is a back-door way to increase money to vouchers and charter schools. Win-win for a GOP that gets a lot of assistance from front groups for Betsy DeVos and the Bradley Foundation.

The other question with this increase in per-pupil aid is whether that extra funding will go along with an increase in a school’s revenue limit. Up until the Age of Fitzwalkerstan began in 2011, this was generally how per-pupil “aid” worked – not as money given to districts, but as a way to allow them to allocate more funds without having to go to referendum. But in the last 8 years, that’s generally not happened, and in fact, the increased money to districts hasn’t allowed for the flexibility to do much more with the funding in recent years.

Now it looks like revenue limits will at least be raised by the same amount as the per-pupil increases, if I’m reading this tweet from Wispolitics’ J.R. Ross correctly.

Those numbers match what Evers wanted in his budget, so there is some semblance of compromise in a few places. With higher revenue limits, there’s less of a chance that we’ll repeat the same cycle of “limited funding/ask for referendum” that so many Wisconsin districts have had to deal with in recent years.

On the down side, if I’m reading the reports right, it means that there will be NO increase in General school aids, as all of the increase will be in the form of per-pupil aids. That means our already-large disparities across school districts for resources will be even worse, as growing suburban districts get more of this increase, and declining enrollment districts in rural and urban areas get less of a benefit.

Former State Schools Superintendent Tony Evers was elected not only promising to increase funding to public schools, but to change our current funding system in a state that has some of the worst racial disparities in America, both in schools and other statistics. While the extra funding flexibility is nice, it’s still not close to repairing the damage that has been done to public schools over the last 8 years.

Instead, the GOPs want to continue a two-step where they claim “see, we gave more state aid for schools” while keeping the same failing funding method. Much like with some other topics this budget season, GOPs are trying to seem like they’re compromising and adding some funding, because they’ve lost the policy argument on the issue, but they’re still going to try to Evers’ hands from full effectiveness through other means.

Don’t fall for it, and don’t let your neighbors be tricked either.

K-12 budget hearing preview - Will long-neglected areas get the boost Evers wants?

The Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee meets tomorrow to decide what kind of package for K-12 school spending gets out of the committee and into the full Legislature. So let's take a step back, take a look at where we are, and what are some of the options on the table.

One of the many items that GOPs on the Joint Finance Committee removed from Evers’ budget earlier this month was a provision that would used $1.09 billion in “school funding” that currently goes to property tax credits, and move it over into the formula that is used to determine General School Aids for K-12 districts.

So the K-12 General Aid fund under the budget as it stands today would involve increases of around $200 million in each year (4.4% for the next school year, 4.3% the year after). And when the Legislative Fiscal Bureau looked at that and other General Aid possibilities a couple of months ago, it said the effect would work this way.
If the state is able to provide additional K-12 funding in the upcoming biennium, there are different mechanisms through which it can be distributed. Attachment 3 shows the breakdown of state support funding for each district under [Evers’ proposed budget] bill had it applied in 2018-19 (as also shown in Attachment 1) compared to the breakdown for an option where $413.7 million in additional funding (the sum of the $406.3 million base funding increase for general aid and the $7.4 million in hold harmless funding estimated under the bill) were instead appropriated through the current law general aid formula in 2018-19. A total of 227 districts would have received more state support funding under the provisions of the [original Evers budget] bill, while 190 would have received more funding under the current law formula [if $413.7 million was added to it]. State support to four districts would have been equal under both options.
In looking at the LFBs “winners and losers” under the action that GOPs already chose in regard to school aid funding, the winners generally seem to be suburban districts, while many rural districts in northern Wisconsin are losers, as are urban districts like Eau Claire (-$2.23 million), Kenosha (-$2.80 million), and Madison (-$6.75 million!).

We’ll see how much of that proposed increase in general school aids will stay after Thursday’s Joint Finance meeting. But let’s also look at the bigger increase that Evers proposed in his K-12 budget – $606 million more to districts to help pay for the costs of special education. As the LFB mentions, the amount of special ed aid from the state of Wisconsin hasn’t been increased for a decade, and now the state pays for barely ¼ of a district’s costs for these required services.

This has required local districts to eat these special education costs, to the point that nearly $1.1 billion is being taken on by Wisconsin school districts this year, which impedes these revenue-limited schools from providing other services.

Evers’ proposal has a target of having the state cover 30% of these costs in the next school year, and then jump to 60% in the year after that. But as you’d imagine, it comes with a significant price tag, and Republican leaders in the Legislature have already signaled they won’t give Evers that much. So the question becomes “What increase might they give?” The LFB’s analysis of special education funding gives us an idea.
The Blue Ribbon Commission on School Funding recommended a substantial increase in the state's special education categorical aid in its January, 2019, final report. The bipartisan Commission, which consisted of sixteen members, including legislators, school administrators, and other stakeholders, held public hearings and informational hearings throughout 2018 in locations throughout the state. During public hearings, the Commission heard testimony regarding increasing special education costs and the decreasing proration rate, which results in school districts using their general funds to cover a portion of special education costs.

The Commission recommended a range of options that would increase the proration rate in the special education aid appropriation in the existing sum certain appropriation. The recommendations ranged from $45.1 million GPR to $119.0 million GPR in 2019-20, or a proration rate of 28% to 33%, and from $81.3 million GPR to $531.1 million GPR in 2020-21, or a proration rate of 30% to 60%. Alternatively, the Commission recommended an approach under which the appropriation would be modified to be sum sufficient, and prior year aidable costs would be reimbursed each year at a rate set in statute. Under this approach, the appropriation would reimburse 26% of eligible costs in 2019- 20, and that percentage would increase by one percentage point in each of the next ten years, until it reaches 36% in 2029-30. Based on DPI's cost projections, an additional $15,533,100 GPR in 2019- 20 and $36,309,500 GPR in 2020-21 would be required compared to base level funding under this proposal….

During public testimony on the [budget] bill, the [Joint Finance] Committee heard testimony supporting additional funding for special education. Several members of the public identified a 30% proration rate as a realistic but still significant increase. To reach this target, the Committee could consider providing $75,060,900 in 2019-20 and $81,060,900 in 2020-21.
But it looks like Republicans aren't even going to cover 30% of special education costs. WisPolitics' JR Ross reports that only $50 mil of Evers' $606 million request for special education will be added over the next 2 years. Looking back at the LFB paper, it appears that the GOP has chosen what is described in the second paragraph, which means 26% of projected costs would be covered next year and 27% the year after. I supposed it's more than we've seen the last decade, but still a lot of costs are going to have to be picked up by local districts.

Lastly, let’s also keep our eyes on what the GOPs will do with voucher schools during budget deliberations. Many of these Republicans received vital donations from Betsy DeVos and other voucher supporters to get to the positions they hold today, and they’ve paid that investment back many times over in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan by funneling more money into vouchers.

Vouchers also played into the mega-motion that JFC Republicans used to remove numerous Evers proposals. One of the items involved a plan to freeze enrollment after next year for both vouchers, as well as a program that pays over $12,000 for each student with special needs that a voucher school takes on (3 times what public schools get in state aid for regular special education students). By not freezing those programs, Republicans added more than $50 million to them for 2020-21, although some of that is offset by $27.5 million in aid reductions to public schools as a result (to be more “fiscally responsible”, ya know).

As it is with most state budgets, K-12 education funding and policy is a centerpiece, and after Thursday we will see if the former State Superintendent we elected governor will actually get a chance to direct funds in a way that he long wanted to do in his old job. And we’ll likely have a good idea just how much money is available for other needs after GOPs slice and dice Gov Evers’ proposals in the Committee room, as it seems possible that the $915 million in cuts that WisGOP needs to make to balance the budget could be done through K-12 alone. .

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

GOPs want to spend more money on certain state employees? It happened today

I wanted to riff off of the rundown by WisPolitics of today's Joint Finance Committee meeting (hey! I do have a real job, you know).

First off, there was a discussion in JFC over how much money the state should pay for its tourism efforts. Not surprisingly, Governor Evers didn't get everything that he wanted from the GOP-controlled Committee, but there might be a bit of a boost in tourism funding at a later point in the upcoming biennium.
The centerpiece of Evers’ plan was a call to put $5 million for the agency’s marketing appropriation while putting in another $186,700 for a new marketing position. He also wanted to add $200,000 over the budget for Tourism’s Native American Tourism budget, which is funded by tribal gaming.

Instead, Republicans approved placing nearly $1.6 million in general purpose revenue in the committee’s supplemental appropriation that Tourism could come back to seek later.

Republicans said they were hesitant to approve the proposed increase without additional information on how it would be spent. The agency plans to complete in July a new strategic plan to guide its future marketing strategy and didn’t have a defined role for the proposed new position.

The state now spends $12.5 million on tourism promotion, including just more than $1.8 million in GPR. The bulk of the effort is funded by tribal gaming revenues, and it hasn’t increased significantly since hitting $12.3 million in 2011-12.
I'm kind of on the Republicans' side here, but they're not going to like the reason why.

First of all, Wisconsin tourism rose to a $21.6 billion impact to the state's economy in 2018, led by Milwaukee County ($3.73 billion) and Dane County ($2.24 billion). If things are going in the right direction on tourism anyway, how much extra would we get from a bigger investment into tourism marketing? Especially given that the state will be on full display in 2020 with the Ryder Cup and the Democratic National Convention...and maybe the NBA Finals in a week??

This is the Milwaukee that America needs to see.

Second of all, you know what's a better way to boost tourism? Investing in clean water, conserving natural beauty, and other quality of life improvements. And stopping the "divide and conquer" mentality that has turned a previously fun and kind state into something that doesn't attract outsiders. That's NOT what the Republicans want, and what they won't invest in, but I think using the state's natural beauty and not letting our roads deteriorate more will go a lot further than a couple of million in ads and pamphlets.

The other main topics today were Corrections, and it connected to the discussion of state employee pay in general. Republicans on the JFC ended up adding more even more money than Evers wanted in order to try to attract more workers to the understaffed prisons, and they raised the starting pay above $19 an hour for prison guards.
The move also would push up the corrections guards pay increase to Jan. 1 rather than April 2020. But it wouldn’t apply in 2020-21 to those prison guards who are now receiving the $5-an-hour boost to work at some of the state’s maximum security prisons that are facing staffing shortages.

The GOP motion also would create one-time bonuses that would be: $250 after 10 years of service; $500 after 15 years; $750 after 20 years; and $1,000 for completing 25 years and every five years after that.

Overall, it would mean $13.1 million more into correction guards salaries than Evers had proposed.
Huh, funny how it took a Democrat to be Governor for the Republicans to actually put up money to deal with the staffing shortages and excessive OT at the prisons. Almost like being attached to Scott Walker's "pose over policy" method of governance made them choose poorly, and makes the costs to make up for the incompetence that much more later on.

The flip side is that apparently the money for those Corrections raises was taken away from the $64.7 million a year that Evers designated for overtime, a figure that was based on last year's totals. The hope is that the extra staff and extra base pay will reduce the need for all that OT, but if the GOPs are wrong, that's more money that'll have to be found somewhere in the next 2 years.

Other types of state employees will get 2% increases for each of the next 2 years - not exactly lucrative in a time when average hourly wages are rising by 3% right now, but that number might not seem so bad in 2 years, given what I fear the economy will look like. However, another Evers proposal to put in $15 minimum wage for a number of state jobs was shot down, as was his desire to set aside more money to allow other state employee wages to be more responsive to market forces.
Evers has also called for setting a new minimum wage of $15 an hour for executive branch employees other than at the UW System. The move would require an estimated $93,300 in GPR to cover the costs. The committee didn’t approve the provision, but the Legislative Fiscal Bureau said the Evers administration could still take the move if it wanted. It would just have to find money to cover the cost with existing funds.

Evers also had called for $12.1 million to fund market wage and parity adjustments. Those were created to address recruitment and retention problems with some state positions because salaries are below market levels. The committee instead kept funding at the current level of $4 million for the two-year period.
Free market Republicans seem to always draw the line when it comes to paying market rate at the UW and other state jobs. So it goes.

I didn't see what they decided to do with the new proposed prison buildings, now that we are apparently going over every building project in JFC after the GOP teabagged Evers' capital budget in the State Building Commission. But it's again interesting to see Republicans meeting Evers halfway (and then some) on prison pay, employee raises and tourism, much like we saw with Workforce Development last week.

I'm not counting on it to continue much longer during this budget debate but it sure tells you that GOPs are feeling the heat to do something beyond what we got in the Walker era.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Coming soon - budget tricks and tactics to abound at the Capitol

It's not just dollars and sense that go into a state budget, and it's not just debates in public that happen. With that in mind, there is a Wisconsin State Journal article saying there is “no progress” in budget talks between Dem Governor Tony Evers and the GOP-controlled State Legislature as of this time.

The article spent a lot of time on K-12 education issues, and I’ll talk about that some later this week, ahead of Thursday’s Joint Finance Committee meeting that’ll have votes on those topics. But for now, I wanted to take a step back and discuss what steps might happen as the Legislature passes the budget, which the article indicates will happen some time next month, and what happens as the bill lands on the desk on Governor Tony Evers.

To start with, Assembly Speaker Robbin’ Vos told attendees at this weekend’s Republican state convention one thing that certainly won’t be in the budget will be Medicaid expansion.

Actually, it’ll be over the dead bodies of thousands of Wisconsinites that had to wait for adequate coverage, Robbin’. Way to keep it classy and in perspective, Napoleon.

The stances of Vos and the rest of the Republicans are likely in conflict with what Evers told the State Journal last month.
“We have to make sure we have affordable and accessible health care, we have to make sure we have increases in resources for our education system, and fix the damn roads,” Evers said.
And all 3 of those topics are likely to come up in Joint Finance in the next couple of weeks. But then we found out this afternoon that Vos and other WisGOPs are considering a method to make major changes to the budget bill, and not just on the funding side.
GOP legislative leaders are considering splitting the budget into two bills — one that would outline spending and the other containing policy — in an attempt to get around the guv’s partial veto authority.

Gov. Tony Evers has the most powerful partial veto authority in the country, but can only use it on legislation that includes appropriations. Splitting the budget into two bills would mean Evers couldn’t rework policy Republicans want to include as part of the plan and would be forced to either sign the full bill or veto it.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, told he likes the idea of splitting the budget into two bills, but was still studying any possible downsides and said no final decision has been made about whether to send one bill or two to Evers...

An Evers spokeswoman said it was the first the guv’s office has heard of Republicans considering the option and didn’t have an immediate comment. But Dem Sen. Jon Erpenbach, a member of the Finance Committee, said Republicans seemed to be “begging” Evers to veto the budget.

When Reagan Youth never grows up.

Naturally, Vos is whining that Evers won't negotiate with him (translation - "We're not talking with Evers because he won't give us everything we want."), and that is why the WisGOPs are considering this tactic.

It seems to exploit a loophole in Wisconsin veto laws. The Legislative Council described the governor’s partial veto powers this way a few years ago.
· Although the Governor may exercise the partial veto only on bills that include an appropriation, nonappropriation parts of appropriation bills may be partially vetoed.
· The part of the bill remaining after a partial veto must constitute a complete, entire, and workable law.
· The provision resulting from a partial veto must relate to the same subject matter as the vetoed provision.
· Entire words and individual digits may be stricken; however, individual letters in words may not be stricken.
· Appropriation amounts may be stricken and a new, lower amount may be written in to replace the stricken amount.
· The Governor may not create a new sentence by combining parts of two or more sentences of the enrolled bill.
The part I bolded is where this "split it in 2" strategy comes in. Basically, this would involve the GOP Legislature passing one bill with all the money for various intiaitives, then uses a second bill to lay out what those agencies can and cannot do. Which forces Evers to go "all or nothing" on what those policies are, and could hold funding changes hostage to the policies that would explain what the money is intended for. It could be used cynically to get other policy changes and concessions that is closer to what the GOP wants (and with the ALEC crew, you can bet they will try).

In addition, Evers is constrained in what he can add back in terms of funding if extra money isn’t there in the first place, so if funding is less than what is under current law, then Evers could restore us back to what we have today, but no more. Likewise, it may prove difficult to move money around between different priorities, because while one item could be vetoed, that money can’t be used to add to an item that hasn’t had its funding reduced (as I read it). And if the GOP throws some tax cuts in that Evers deems to be unneeded, I’m not sure how that added money could go many places other than into the “bank” for other bills that have to be passed at a later date.

Interestingly, the State Journal article indicates that there is another method Evers could take on that would make the appropriations a two-part process.
In 1991, then-Gov. Tommy Thompson vetoed much of the funding in the second year of the two-year budget, forcing lawmakers to reconvene later to once again take it up, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
Now there’s an interesting idea, and would turn the tables on Vos and the rest of the GOP Legislature, and put them on the spot to re-discuss these issues closer to the 2020 elections. And it would give the opportunity to make funding changes that adjust to what may have happened to the state’s fiscal picture and/or services in the time since the budget was passed.

Yes, a lot of this is dry minutae and game-playing. But I have a bad feeling that’s what a lot of this budget debate is going to end up coming down to. And barring significant public pressure, I’m not counting on seeing too much of a change from the messed-up priorities on the funding side that we’ve had to go through over the last 8 years. HOWEVER, the new Governor at least is in a position to keep things from getting worse and cut further, and the ability for Gov Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul to replace GOP hacks in the day-to-day operations and enforcement of our laws is a major boost.

Which wis likely why Robbin' Vos and other GOPs are thinking about playing games like forcing Evers to sign or veto a policy bill that prevents him from carrying out the policy changes that people voted for. And would prevent us from starting to get out of the hole that the last Governor left us in.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Rising prison costs will take the spotlight on Tuesday at the Capitol

This week will see the start of discussions of the highest-cost items in the Wisconsin state budget, starting with our Correctional System on Tuesday. As mentioned before, what taxpayers shell out for the state's Corrections has been higher than the state's investment in the UW System for several years now, and it's widened in the last 5 years.

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates that populations in Wisconsin prisons will be sizable over the next two years, but won't grow by as much as was feared a few months ago.
For the 2019-21 biennium, as with prior budgets, the Department of Corrections reviewed its monthly growth rates to determine the appropriate rate to estimate projections. Regarding the inmate population for 2019-21, the Department projected a median monthly growth rate of 0.15% for males and 0.33% for females, based on population data through July, 2018, to forecast an average daily population of 24,187 inmates in 2019-20 and 24,659 inmates in 2020-21. These population estimates were used by the administration when the bill was introduced in March, 2019...

However, eight more months of population data, August, 2018 through March, 2018, is now available to reevaluate the Department's population forecast. Based on a review of more recent population data and longer-term population trends, the prison population projections should be reestimated. Utilizing this data, a lower monthly growth rate for males (.12%) and for females (.26%) results in an average daily population of 23,964 in 2019-20 and 24,326 in 2020-21. The revised estimates project 223 less individuals in 2019-20 and 333 less individuals in 2020-21 when compared to the bill.
So that gives a bit of a break from this rising cost, and reduces the need to use "contract beds", which is when some prisoners are sent to county lock-ups to relieve overcrowding and the state pays counties to take on those inmates. The slightly reduced population estimates means that $8.5 million could be cut from Governor Evers' to match the lower contract bed and everyday costs, but we'll still be projected to pay $90.8 million over our current costs during the 2019-21 budget for those everyday incarcerations.

There will also likely be a discussion regarding overtime costs for staff at Correctional institutions. The LFB notes that the Walker Administration underestimated these costs in their final budget.
In 2017-19, the Department was budgeted $39,953,300 GPR and $1,476,300 PR annually for overtime and $8,250,500 GPR and $332,200 PR annually as an overtime supplement. In total, the Department was provided $48,203,800 GPR and $1,808,500 PR annually...

While the use of overtime is necessary in the operation and management of twenty-four hour, seven-day-a-week correctional institutions, high overtime costs have been an ongoing issue for the Department. Under the 2007-09 biennial budget, statutory language was created requiring the Department to report to the Finance Committee every two years on the amount and costs of overtime at each of its correctional institutions. In reviewing the most recent report submitted on January 8, 2019, the Department paid $50,642,784 for 1,805,106 hours of overtime at adult institutions in fiscal year 2017-18. The most common reasons for overtime in 2017-18 were position vacancies, sick leave coverage, and medical vigils. [Note that other positions in the Department also incur overtime costs and are not included in the reporting requirement.]
When you add in the other areas in Corrections that have employees who work overtime, and the LFB says those annual costs rise to somewhere between $64.7 million and $69.7 million a year, or 29-38% higher than what the Walker Administration has budgeted for the 2019 Fiscal Year.

The Evers Administration counted on a $64.7 million OT expense when it submitted the budget, but there are also extra costs that were inserted into other parts of the state budget to deal with the understaffing problems. The LFB notes that these vacancy rates have been rising and causing many of the OT increases, due to chronic understaffing of these facilities in the Walker era. And it is likely to get worse over the next 10 years if nothing is done.
In comparison to other reasons indicated for overtime usage, position vacancies constituted the largest share of overtime hours worked at adult institutions by reported category in 2017-18, accounting for 844,195 overtime hours (at a cost of approximately $23,561,100). This is 46.8% of all overtime included in the report and a 34% increase in the use of overtime to cover position vacancies when compared to fiscal year 2015-16 (approximately 629,800 overtime hours). The average vacancy rates for all positions at all institutions, including the juvenile correctional schools, between fiscal years 2011-12 and 2016-17 ranged from 7.50% to 10.65%. The average vacancy rate for all institutions in 2017-18 was 11.74%. Waupun Correctional Institution had the highest vacancy rate in 2017-18 at 19.98%. In the first half of 2018-19, the average vacancy rate across all institutions has been 13.36%...

...While some correctional employees volunteer to perform necessary overtime hours, other employees may be subject to mandatory performance of overtime. According to the administration, many correctional employees who quit after working for a short time do so due to requirements to perform overtime on a regular basis. Although overtime may be viewed as a source of additional income for many employees, not all employees want to work long hours consistently. Work-life balance is reportedly a reason often cited by individuals who choose to seek employment elsewhere.

11. Position vacancies may additionally increase over the next five to 10 years due to growing numbers of retirement-eligible employees. At the four maximum security correctional facilities with high vacancy rates (Waupun, Columbia, Dodge, and Green Bay), the percentage of security employees who are eligible to retire are estimated at: (a) 4% to 11% of current staff; (b) 20% to 36% within five years; and (c) 33% to 49% within 10 years. Therefore, improvement of employee recruitment and retention now could serve as a preventive measure with regard to further position vacancy increases in future years.
To deal with these problems, the Evers Administration has a number of incentive ideas designed to encourage recruitment and ease the staffing shortages. This includes sign-on bonuses of $1,000 to $2,000 in several places, and it also includes recent moves to raise base pay at a number of state institutions.
21. Pilot Supplemental Pay Provisions for Corrections. With regard to the hourly add-on program modifications recently highlighted by the administration, the Department of Corrections currently has a supplemental $5 per hour add-on program in effect at WCI, CCI, DCI, the Green Bay Correctional Institution (GBCI), the Taycheedah Correctional Institution (TCI), and Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake Schools for correctional officers, sergeants, youth counselors and youth counselors-advanced. The add-on is: (a) in effect until June 20, 2020; (b) only applicable for hours worked (not applicable to leave hours); and (c) not permanent. The site-specific hourly add-on was designed to address high vacancy rates at the state's maximum-security institutions (except the Wisconsin Secured Program Facility) and at the juvenile correctional schools. While the add-on does not address all correctional officer/sergeant, youth counselor/advanced, or psychiatric care technician/advanced positions, the intent is to assist facilities with the most acute needs.

Prior to April, 2019, other hourly add-on pay incentives were utilized for correctional security positions, at lower rates and at fewer institutions. From May 29, 2016, to January 7, 2017, a $0.50 per hour add-on was approved for WCI, CCI, GBCI, and Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake Schools. In 2018 and 2019 (through April 27, 2019), a $1 per hour add-on program was implemented for the same facilities (WCI, CCI, GBCI, and Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake Schools) and was also expanded to include DCI. The hourly add-on was increased to $5 and expanded to TCI effective April 28, 2019.
The reason those specific facilities were given the $5 add-on pay was because those are the facilities with the highest vacancy rates for those types of positions, ranging from 19.8% at Green Bay to 31.8% at Waupun.

If these extra payments for Corrections staff were added to the state budget, the LFB says that would cost an additional $16-$17.5 million a year that is not part of Evers' budget. And that would add to budget pressures that already exist, as the GOPs on Joint Finance and the Legislature have to cut Evers' budget by approximately $915 million just to make the numbers balance after refusing to go along with Medcaid expansion and Evers' desire to end tax cuts to the rich and corporate.

And these are just the staffing provisions and costs to house inmates. I'm not even going into the proposals of new facilities and the staffing associated with those places that were included in Governor Evers' capital budget, but is now up in the air after Republicans on the State Building Committee tea-bagged every project 2 months ago, complaining about the $2.5 billion in requests that Evers made.

Yes, there are a few items in the Corrections topics that discuss alternative treatment and other diversion methods. But after Republicans on JFC removed all of Evers' budget provisions on marijuana, there isn't much else in the budget that discusses ways to reduce penalties or release certain types of prisoners to ease costs and capacity issues. And so the costs of incarceration seem likely to keep going up in Wisconsin over the next 2 years, it's only a question of how much more they'll jump.

Do I agree with John Nygren on what to do with extra money? For now, but not the future

After the announcement of a surprise burst of revenue in the state of Wisconsin's treasury this week, there are a number of options on the table as to what to do (or not do) with this money.

The fiscally conservative Wisconsin State Journal is out today with an editorial supporting the ideas of Joint Finance Co-Chair John Nygren (R-Marinette), who said that he and his fellow WisGOPs in the Assembly would rather carry over much of the money, and deposit some of it in the state's rainy day fund.
Unfortunately, some of his Republican colleagues who control the Legislature would rather go on a spending spree. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, suggested the money be spent on tax cuts and infrastructure. Fitzgerald also has suggested he’s willing to undermine McCallum’s law, which serves as a strong incentive for fiscal responsibility.

Cutting off the relatively meager amount of money going into the state’s backup account would be a mistake. If not for [former Governor Scott] McCallum’s rainy day fund, the state’s savings account would be virtually empty. And the next time state leaders ran into a recession or emergency, they would have little to fall back on, prompting steep cuts in vital public services and higher taxation.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has proposed paying off $53 million in state debt, spending $33 million more on worker training and technical colleges, and transferring the rest of the windfall to the rainy day fund. That’s more fiscally responsible than Fitzgerald’s grab-and-spend approach.

Yet Nygren’s suggestion is best — especially when you consider the influx of money isn’t anticipated to continue. State officials say the surge in revenue is largely due to businesses shifting their income across fiscal years in response to federal tax law changes. So the extra dollars are a one-time addition of cash.

State leaders should listen to Nygren, sock the money away and adopt a state budget with a bigger rainy day fund to fall back on.
I'm about halfway there. I agree that the increase in revenue has little to do with any economic growth in Wisconsin that can be counted on to help things in the next two years (the Legislative Fiscal Bureau's explanation of the new money in its revenue projections makes that clear), and that means using the extra money to significantly increase spending in the next 2 years would likely lead to larger budget deficits in the near future.

In fact, all the recent revenue estimates did for the 2 years of the next state budget is return the totals back to where they were at the end of last year, before the GOP Legislature passed a one-time income tax cut for the rich in the Lame Duck session.

Because the LFB says that there won't be much more money to work with between 2019-21, the only real benefit to the budget's flexibility comes with what can be carried over on June 30. Which explains the need to sock away the one-time revenue for later if it's needed, or to use it to accelerate road projects or building projects that would have the benefit of reducing the backlog that developed during the Walker years in those areas.

After Nygren and his fellow Republicans decided to continue tax cuts to the rich and corporate earlier this month, it means there is still a budget hole of more than $915 million to fill in over the coming weeks, even with the large projected carryover of more than $1 billion. You put those numbers together, and it means that the Evers budget is now more than $1.9 billion out of balance before spending adjustments are made.

But this is also where I diverge from what the State Journal editorial board, Nygren and the other WisGOPs, because they assume the current tax structure will largely stay in place for the next 2 years (other than a targeted income tax cut to middle-income Wisconsinites that is in the Evers budget). I will ask those conservative groups "why can't we reverse these wasteful tax cuts to the rich and corporate and instead expand the amount of money we have available for the next 2 years?"

Continuing to give everything away to those at the top isn't going to do that, especially when our job growth is stagnant at best with a declining labor force. We need to be encouraging people to want to come to our state, and use public funding for activities and services that actually improve our economy and quality of life will be more likely to do that.

Instead, this newly-created budget deficit will likely be the excuse given by Republicans in the coming days when they decide to cut some if not all of Evers' proposed increases to K-12 and special education (while continuing increased funding for voucher schools). We should be asking why this direction is being chosen, and why John Nygren and the rest of the ALEC crew want to continue on our present path of "austerity for the everyday person, and socialism for the connected few".

That's not what Wisconsinites voted for in November, when Dems won every statewide office with record midterm turnout. And we need a state budget that reflects what the voters want, and to gather the resources necessary to carry out those wants. They are not infinite, but we can definitely get more than we'll have under the WisGOPs.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Midwest is struggling for jobs, and Wisconsin is the worst of the group

Just wanted to give a quick update from another month of job losses in Wisconsin. The Bureau of Labor Statistics followed up yesterday with their state-by-state rundown on jobs, and this fuller, 50-state picture tells a lot.

First of all, the Midwest has noticeably trailed the rest of the country for job growth, which likely explains why all this talk of a "booming economy" seems like such BS. While over 500,000 jobs have been added in the last 3 months, the Midwest has flatlined. And Wisconsin has been the worst of the bunch

Change in jobs Jan 2019 - Apr 2019
Ill. +4,000
Mich +4,000
Ind. +1,400
Minn -2,700
Iowa -4,200
Ohio -5,700
Wis. -10,900

The same pattern repeats for the last 12 months. While non-farm payrolls in the US have gone up by 1.8%, 5 out of the 7 states in the Midwest are at 1% or below.

Wisconsin also brings up the rear for this time period.

Change in jobs Apr 2018 - Apr 2019
Ill. +1.37%
Ind. +1.23%
Mich +0.85%
Ohio +0.80%
Minn +0.78%
Wis. +0.51%

And yet the Wisconsin GOP is claiming at their convention this weekend that they need to "protect their progress"? Other than keeping an advantage in the gerrymandered legislature, what are they talking about? Wisconsin's brutal recent record on job growth is a shining example of why this state chose a different direction in every statewide election in November, and why this state has to change direction from the ALEC agenda that has kept us so far behind for so long.