Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Now THIS is a response ad

I'd been waiting to see serious pushback from the Burke campaign to the GOP-aganda about Burke's campaign reusing words of other Dem candidates in her job plan, and frankly, it was frustrating me. Well, the Burke campaign finally responded with a great ad, with the candidate herself.

This ad WORKS. It not only mentions Walker's complete failure on jobs (4,300 private sector jobs lost in August, dead last in Midwest for his 3+ years in office), but also shows a better way forward. "As governor, I'm going to take the best ideas, wherever I can find them." EXACTLY. Instead of having backroom, pre-written ideological strategies from ALEC, the RESULTS are what would matter under a Governor Burke. And wouldn't that be a welcome change in this state?

Give another month of this type of "compare and contrast," and that might well finish the job. Pass the ad along to others, as hopefully it'll give a lift like it gave me, in the "yeah, they can handle this" kind of way.

Politi-"fact" double-standard continues

Apparently Politi-“fact” Wisconsin has decided it isn’t even going to try to call it fair anymore. Take a look at this pair of “analyses” from Tom Kertscher and Dave Umhoefer.

1. “Scott Walker has cut the average Wisconsinite’s taxes by $322.” This is a claim in a recent Walker ad (when he's not trying to desperately keep the non-story about Burke copying job plans alive). Politifact starts its analysis from looking at Wisconsin’s median family income which Census figures showed to be $65,618 in 2013. If we assume this family is “married, filing jointly,” we’ll take it from there. We’ll leave out the fact that this assumes people would still make the same amount of money if taxes hadn’t been cut, and that job growth would have slowed down in 2013 and 2014 without Walker’s and WisGOP’s policies in place (unlikely since the U.S. job and growth rate has picked up).

Politi-fact uses a request from Jennifer Shilling to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau in July to go over who got the bulk of the tax cuts. Looking at the chart, our married couple filing jointly that makes $65,618 will get $188 off of their Wisconsin state income taxes for tax year 2014. It’s not the $586 that people making between $200 and $250K will get, but I suppose it’s something. So far the analysis seems sound.

Now let’s go into the property tax side of things. I’m guessing Politi-fact is combining two sets of analysis from LFB for their numbers. The first is from $100 million of extra spending into public schools, and the second was $406 million sent off to technical schools (let me also point out that this money could only be used for property tax relief instead of, you know, EDUCATIONAL SERVICES. Priorities, you know). We then compare property value and taxes on the projected 2015 property tax bill, and compares it with what these numbers say for the median-priced Wisconsin home (estimated at $151,000).

2015 estimated tax bill before tax changes - $2,974
2015 estimated tax bill after changes- $2,822
Difference- $152 (Ok, Politifact uses $151).

Put it together, and we're around So Politi-fact comes to following conclusion.
Walker tells TV viewers that "Thanks to our reforms, the average family will have an extra $322 to spend."

Using some solid sources, the governor accurately pegs the combined estimated savings for a median-income family from his income- and property-tax cuts.

The claim needs clarification, though, because not every average family is in circumstances to receive a cut of that size, particularly if they are not property owners.

We rate the claim Mostly True.
That's nice, but note Politi-fact didn’t add in any extra context, such as mentioning that the large majority of these tax breaks went to the rich, while the lower levels of income got far less than $322. And while Politi-fact largely blows this fact off, the fact remains that a large portion of Wisconsin residents don’t own homes and will likely see very little benefit from the property tax cuts (what, you think the landlord will lower the rent or the business owner will pay his/her employees more due to those cuts? HAH!).

What’s also not mentioned is the fact that the tax cuts were due to projected surpluses that happened in the wake of Act 10 “savings”, which resulted in major reductions in take-home pay for hundreds of thousands of public employees, and reductions in services and lower job growth that has affected the economy of most corners of Wisconsin. Note that LFB's projected median 2014 home value in Wisconsin of $151,000 is slightly lower than the $151,148 that was estimated as median home value in 2012 for the 2013 payment of taxes. OK, you may be paying lower taxes in that situation, but your home investment didn’t grow at all under these tax cuts. Is that a worthwhile trade? And now we have a massive budget deficit that is exploding due to these gimmicky moves, which will require higher taxes and further service cuts in the next budget.

That reality and context of the Walker tax cuts is left out by Politi-fact, they just go with Walker’s statement at face value. Keep that in mind when you look into the following breakdown.

2. This deals with One Wisconsin Now’s recent press release mentioning that Gov Walker made a campaign promise not to fundraise as the state budget was being deliberated, and then broke it by raising big money during the last 2 budget deliberations. Check out what Politi-crap does to allegedly shoot this claim down.
"In an ‘Ethics Reform Plan’ Scott Walker proposed while running for governor, he promised he would not accept contributions from the date of his inauguration until the signing of the state budget.

"A review of Governor Walker’s campaign finance records by One Wisconsin Now shows that for each budget he introduced between Jan. 1 and the date the budget was signed into law, he raised nearly $5.6 million from 54,000 contributions."…

Our rating

…Walker made such a promise during his failed campaign for governor in 2006, specifically noting the period would begin Jan. 3, 2007.
But he did not make it again during his successful run in 2010.

We rate the claim False.
Note how Politi-crap adds words into One Wisconsin Now’s claim that “Walker promised not to fund-raise while the budget was deliberated.” OWN didn’t say that the promise was only for the 2006 campaign- they just mentioned that Walker said it, never formally retracted it, and did not follow through on it later on. This is the same “we’ll add the context” trick Politi-crap pulled when it tried to claim gave the Wisconsin AFL-CIO a "mostly false" for implying that only school voucher recipients were millionaires that would get a $10,000 tax exemption. The AFL-CIO said no such thing- they just said that millionaires could get the tax cut- which even Politi-crap admitted was true! But Kertscher added in his own "special context" to the claim to make it seem less true.

The only reason Politi-crap would add their own impressions to one group’s ratings and not the other’s is if they want to favor one side over the other. In this case, they are clearly grading Scott Walker and their WisGOP allies on a lenient curve, while taking a hard line against Mary Burke and Dem-leaning interests. But unsuspecting readers who think Politi-“fact” is objectively making these ratings sees a similar end-result, and ends up saying “Oh, they’re all liars, and I can’t support any of them.”

Which makes politics a low-turnout insider’s game - just the way the oligarchs like it. Given that we know JournalComm CEO Steven Smith is a member of the Walker-supporting MMAC Board, it is not hard to imagine that the decision to make these absurd rulings isn’t coming from Tom Kertscher and Dave Umhoefer’s “factroom”, but from another office well above their pay-grade. And it’s not being done with the intention of being fair or guaranteeing accuracy, but to get their boy Scotty another term in office.

Monday, September 29, 2014

What Wisconsin media chooses to miss- more WEDC failure

With all the recent GOP-aganda about Mary Burke’s campaign lifting job ideas from other candidates (that the same campaign consultant wrote about earlier), may I remind you of an example of Scott Walker and WisGOP copy-catting when it came to jobs strategies? That would be the train wreck known as the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).

As a former resident of the Hoosier State, I called out WEDC from the start, because I recognized that it was a carbon copy of Mitch Daniels’ IEDC in Indiana (the “EDC” even stands for the same words). IEDC was set up in 2005 and has been rife with cronyism, taxpayer dollars flying out the door without accountability, and “overpromising and underdelivering” when it came to job creation.

Then you look at Wisconsin in 2014, and WEDC has the exact same issues, except if anything, it’s worse here. Here’s a WEDC scandal that WKOW’s Greg Neumann has been on top of for the past few weeks, but one that is strangely being ignored by many state media outlets. It’s the continuing saga of the Scott Walker donors - WEDC aid recipients at Plexus Corporation and their sketchy descriptions as to why they cut Wisconsin jobs. This was also the company that had a Walker appearance to describe alleged “job expansions” and WEDC awards during the 2012 recall election campaign (raise your hand if that sounds familiar), and then cut jobs within a few months of that event.
In the past week both Politifact Wisconsin and Gov. Scott Walker have stated that Plexus Corporation never outsourced jobs after receiving WEDC tax credits, but simply lost business to a competitor that replaced their jobs overseas.

All of the evidence suggests that fact is indeed fiction, but despite that, the U.S. Department of Labor is reopening its investigation into whether or not 116 workers should have received Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) benefits after Plexus replaced their jobs overseas….

Late Friday afternoon, a U.S. Department of Labor spokesperson told me the investigation was reopened due to an email from a reporter at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (who runs Wisconsin Politi-“fact”) . The newspaper reporter sent the Department of Labor some questions for a story, along with a copy of the Plexus Commitment To Wisconsin press release.

The press release ultimately prompted TAA officials to take another look at the case.

Ironically, the latest entry includes an explanation of the TAA’s original findings that is even more detailed than before, stating: “During the investigation, the Department received information from the subject firm (Plexus) confirming a shift of production by the subject firm of an article like or directly competitive with the printed circuit boards produced by the workers from Neenah, Wisconsin to a foreign country.”
Neumann mentions that Gov Walker, as Chairman of the WEDC Board, was repeating Plexus’s line about how they first lost a customer, and then the customer outsourced, so it really wasn’t their fault that the outsourcing happened (I’m sure the donations Plexus executives have made to the Friends of Scott Walker has nothing to do with his stance). Regardless, the WEDC Board still passed a rule change last week requiring new regulations on companies that get taxpayer dollars through WEDC, in light of Plexus’ outsourcing job cuts.
Companies that outsource would also have to disclose that information in their annual reports to WEDC, while new companies seeking funds would have to sign a document stating no WEDC money will be used to outsource Wisconsin jobs.

The measure also states that companies who accept awards, then later reduce their net number of jobs in Wisconsin, cannot get any more actual money until they get their workforce back to where it was when the award was originally given out.

Plexus was awarded a $15 million tax credit in 2012 and has already received $4.7 million. But since that time, the company has dropped its Wisconsin workforce by over 300 employees. Plexus won't get any more money until the company returns its workforce returns to its original level.
Also discussed in that WEDC Board meeting was the agency upcoming job creation goals. Assembly Dem leader Peter Barca serves on that Board, and described the goals for WEDC’s “number of jobs to be impacted,” which basically admitted that WEDC is ineffective at creating jobs.

And you gotta love the Walker Administration using the word “impacted” for jobs and WEDC- a vague term that could be used in a variety of ways to describe certain activity. There’s a real vote of confidence isn’t it?

The WEDC Board meeting followed a report released earlier this month on WEDC from the Legislative Audit Bureau.Among the findings was that WEDC had “made progress” in reducing the amount of taxpayer-funded loans to corporations that it couldn’t track. But not necessarily because they had improved oversight.
As of June 30, 2013, the outstanding loan balance for which WEDC was responsible totaled $60.5 million. From June 30, 2013, through December 31, 2013, the total potentially uncollectible loan balance decreased by $7.7 million, including $6.6 million because WEDC wrote off loans it turned over to the Department of Administration, amended loan contracts, and forgave loans that had been considered delinquent as of June 30, 2013, because WEDC staff did not complete forgiveness reviews.
In other words, WEDC just sent the information off to the DOA to be “written off”, with those millions in taxpayer dollars thrown down the drain. Oops, guess that gamble just didn’t pay off.

Also worth noting in the report was this passage,
Administrative expenditures increased from $11.2 million in FY 2011-12 to $15.1 million in FY 2012-13 primarily due to increases in expenditures for staff salaries and fringe benefits and marketing. Grant expenditures decreased from $15.2 million in FY 2011-12 to $14.7 million in FY 2012-13. The amount of grant funds WEDC expends in any year may vary and is related to when costs are incurred by grant recipients. WEDC indicated that 62 grants were awarded in FY 2011-12 and 81 grants were awarded in FY 2012-13.

In FY 2012-13, 24 WEDC employees received merit awards totaling $77,700. Merit awards, which ranged from $1,000 to $5,000 per award, were given to employees across multiple WEDC divisions. In addition, merit awards totaling $7,500 for three employees were approved in FY 2012-13 but were paid in FY 2013-14. We note that the approval of merit awards for these three employees was not documented in accordance with WEDC’s procedures.

In addition to merit awards, WEDC managers may give their employees recognition awards of either one or two $25 gift cards. Employees select the desired gift card(s) from a predetermined list of entities. Employees are eligible to receive multiple recognition awards during the year. In December 2012 and January 2013, WEDC staff purchased 87 gift cards totaling $2,175 from six entities. In FY 2012-13, 12 WEDC employees received 21 gift cards, with a total value of $525, as recognition awards. WEDC staff indicated that they performed a review, implemented physical controls, and separated duties related to gift cards in early 2014.
We will further review WEDC’s procedures related to gift cards in our next biennial audit.
Given that a former WEDC employee accused the organization of being more concerned with propping up Gov Walker than creating jobs, sure makes you wonder what actions led to the merit awards and gift cards, eh?

And what have we gotten with this strategy of funneling job incentives to this crony-laden, sketchy organization? The worst job growth in the Midwest, and more money being paid on WEDC staff salaries than going to actual companies.

So what the hell’s going on out there, and what the REAL goal of WEDC is? You’d think a few more journalists other than Greg Neumann would want to find out. Strangely, “No Quarter Journal-Sentinel Watchdog” Dan Bice refuses to go after WEDC’s copy-catting, double-talk and underperformance. Is it because Danny hasn’t gotten the order from JournalComm management and hasn’t gotten the tips from his right-wing sources, so he won’t report on it? Inquiring minds such as me and Mike Plaisted want to know.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A sweet September Sunday

On a ridiculously gorgeous "last warm weekend of the year", no major need to gripe. Been tied up with actual activities outside of blogging, and taking care of a God-daughter. Went down to New Glarus for their Oktoberfest today, soaking up sun and suds and an early onset for Fall colors.

Yep, for at least one day, things seem quite normal in Wisconsin. And speaking of "back to normal."

More number-crunching and smackdowns once the clouds roll in. For now, I'll just R-E-L-A-X and savor a high-quality weekend.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

An open letter to Jeff Tyler at WIBA-AM

Mr. Tyler-
As the program director at WIBA-AM, you are the one that decides what goes on the airwaves at a hallmark station in the fastest-growing city in the state. With that in mind, I would urge you to raise the level of your daytime broadcasts, and make some changes in what you present to the people of this area.

You decide to broadcast the racist, hate-filled filth of hosts such as Vicki McKenna, Rush Limbaugh, and Shawn Hannity. These programs often stoop to anti-minority race-baiting (as most recently seen in the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and in the question of illegal immigration), and smears against unionism and other workers. These words and actions are disgusting enough, but worse is that much of it seems to be orchestrated by Republican politicians and right-wing interests, turning the shows from mere discussion and information, into outright propaganda.

John Doe documents have mentioned scripted interviews between Governor Scott Walker and Ms. McKenna, and Limbaugh and Hannity have been reported to receive huge sums of money to repeat talking points from Koch-funded organizations such as the Heritage Foundation. Your station is broadcasting hateful propaganda that has divided and paralyzed this country to levels not seen in at least 40 years, and therefore WIBA is not carrying out its duty under its FCC license to “broadcast in the public interest”. In addition, having 9 hours of right-wing propaganda limits the ability of your news staff to report on issues fairly, as they cannot be seen to upstage and/or reduce the hosts’ credibility (I’ve worked in the business, and I know that you cannot keep the houses talk and news separate, as much as we would like to think we can).

Look at the past few weeks, and ask yourself if this is acceptable. Hannity has advocated beating children with a strap and chided "politically correct liberals" for being concerned about the kids' well-being, and his show is chocked full of Islamo-phobia, including having the Dad from Duck Dynasty on his show to say that the way to deal with Islamic militants was "to covert or kill them." Rush has gone on the air to advocate for date rape, saying "no means yes if you know how to spot it", in a time where on-campus sexual assault is a growing concern. If these hosts were saying this stuff on an FM morning show, you'd never accept this, and the washed-up Limbaugh has become more ridiculous, hateful and embarrassing by the day as his ratings and sponsors dry up. Cut the cord with this garbage.

More locally, look at McKenna, who last month embarrassed your station by shrieking all over the airwaves about "slander" when her 1997 arrest record was brought to listeners' attention. This is not a person that can handle the responsibility of the stage that you give her - someone who constantly posts drunken, violent rants on Twitter and encourages listeners to harrass those that dare to give a dissenting opinion, including this memorable gem from last December.

Then last week, we saw the story about racist Wisconsin whites threatening to send armed poll watchers to intimidate (minority) voters in "heavy democrat districts" where the voters "have a look about them." Naturally, these wimps backed off when the public got word of the plan and started reporting them the Department of Justice, and tried to claim they were "just kidding," but where do you think they get the idea that this kind of mentality is OK? The latest Marquette University poll shows that low-educated white males with mediocre jobs are pretty much the only non-rich group in Wisconsin supporting Scott Walker, and it is in no small part due to the uncorrected lies and hateful resentments that pour out of outlets such as yours.

On a side note, you fired Mitch Henck to cut costs but kept THAT? What is wrong with you?

You may claim that broadcasting these types of shows brings higher ratings, but that is a specious claim, as WIBA already has a large, built-in audience due to its decades-long establishment as a flagship station for local news, as well as carrying Badgers, Packers and Brewers games. Any host you have on will likely draw similar if not better ratings, solely because the average listener is often too lazy to change his or her pre-set habits. So it is a choice by you and the others at Clear Channel Madison to broadcast this often-false, always debasing programming to your listeners during the daytime hours, and it has played a significant role in soiling what was once a great state. You can reverse this by choosing to tone down the hate, remove these vile, no-talent propagandists, and improve the level of debate and discussion on your station. You can even choose to keep the hosts conservative (despite the fact that it flies in the face of what most people in your listening area agree with), as long as the on-air talent doesn’t lie and constantly smear those they disagree with.

If you choose not to go this route, I and several others are more than willing to respond with a billboard campaign discouraging people from listening to your station, with a punch-line of “After the game, TURN OFF HATE RADIO 1310.” We will also identify advertisers who decide to associate with such hate-talk, and make it clear to casual people in the listening area that those businesses have no problem with such divisive, denigrating shows. We are near a breaking point in this country, and you are helping to break it by continuing to have WIBA-AM be a one-sided propaganda machine instead of the “news-talk leader" you claim to be. If you choose to continue on that path, we will have to take you down with the others in this state’s Wrecking Crew, and it won’t be nice for you to go through, nor will it be the pleasant for the community that we both call home.

Or you can reverse your course, raise the game at your station, and everybody ends up better off (well, except for the hate-mongerers and the GOP politicians who support them behind the scenes). You’ve got a month to decide.

Jake _________
Madison, WI

Thursday, September 25, 2014

$4 billion budget deficit? More possible than last week's "surplus"

Another day, another question asked of “what's really happening with the budget?” Last week it was the absurd spin of a budget “surplus” from the GOP Co-Chairs of the Joint Finance Committee who made rosy revenue assumptions for this year and ignored any new spending that will be needed over the next two years (debunked in this post). This time it’s from Dem State Senator Jennifer Shilling, who turned those budget assumptions on its head, and asked LFB to crunch some different numbers. She even starts with the GOP assumptions of 2.9% revenue growth for each of the years in the 2015-17 biennium, then injects the following items on spending.
2. 2015-17 agency budget requests of $1.07 billion would be appropriated in 2015-17.

3. In addition to Item#2 , above, appropriations for educational programs would increase by $568 million in 2015-17 over base year levels (I believe this is the estimated amount of extra school aids that would be required to carry out the Department of Public Instruction’s “Fair Funding for Schools”initiative).

4. In 2015-17, $680 million would be transferred from the general fund to the transportation fund (this is the most popular estimate of the Transportation Fund deficit for 2015-17, but given current projects, it could be over a billion).

Under these assumptions, the 2014-15 gross, general fund balance would be -$397 million and the balance for 2015-17 would be -$2,767 million.
YIKES! But also not that surprising, since this includes an extra $1.25 billion that needs to be come out of the General Fund on top of the budget requests to make everything solvent. It also tells you how in the hole we are for this year, as that $397 million figure keeps the LFB revenue growth assumptions, and not the ridiculous 5.6% assumption that the GOP “surplus” had.

By the way, Shilling also got a projection from LFB that showed if there was 0% revenue growth (as done in the structural balance), and there was the same amount of spending described above, we would be staring at a deficit of more than $4 billion! That’s higher than the "$3.6 billion figure" that Walker and WisGOP throw around in regards to 2011's alleged defict, and they were using the exact same assumptions Shilling is making in the $4 billion figure. So in other words, we’re worse off now than when we were allegedly "broke" 3 years ago!

But I’ll give the 2.9% revenue growth scenario the bigger emphasis. And yes, some of that spending will not likely happen- because we know all $2.767 billion won’t be made up by state tax increases (though refusing to raise any state taxes will make it extremely likely your local property taxes and fees will go way up). So further spending cuts are on the way, and it’s in no small part due to two stupid rounds of tax cuts that were put in place before a surplus ever became reality. Since those tax and shared revenue cuts haven’t translated into jobs and economic growth (in fact,Wisconsin job growth and home sales declined again in August, and are down 7 out 8 months this year). If anything, trickle-down Walker policies have been counterproductive, and some of these tax cuts should be reversed to stabilize our budget - but you can bet that reality won’t be discussed over the next 40 days.

These are the numbers. You can try to spin em all you want, but it doesn’t change the fact that we are in an absolute budget mess resulting from 4 years of neglect, and the “business and consumer confidence” genie aren’t going to be able to clean it up.

MMAC oligarchs, JournalComm media, and railroads make their way into Walker "inner circle"

The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) had a big document drop yesterday that yanked back the curtain on just who gets to be part of the "in crowd" to GOP decision-makers at the state level. And I know this will stun you, but the Walker Administration and Wisconsin corporate oligarchs are heavily mentioned as part of this story.

The New York Times followed up on the document dump, and fleshed out the details surrounding a conference held by the Republican Governors’ Association in 2013, and its tax-exempt sister group the Republican Governors’ “Public Policy Committee”. The Public Policy Committee is an especially nice touch, as it’s one of those 501-c-4 dark money “social welfare” groups that allow donors to have their information hidden (until groups like CREW out them) . And just like with American Express, membership in the RGA’s inner circle has its privileges.
With Congress producing so little legislation, governors’ offices have become attractive targets, Mr. Wertheimer said. Last year, the Republican Governors Public Policy Committee allowed corporate donors to make their cases on how to carry out the Affordable Care Act; discuss hydraulic fracturing, an oil- and gas-exploration method regulated at the state level; and hash over state budgets just as coffers began to loosen….

One 2009 document states the benefits of a Governors Board membership, for a $50,000 annual contribution or a one-time donation of $100,000, saying it “offers the ability to bring their particular expertise to the political process while helping to support the Republican agenda.”

Board members received two tickets to “an exclusive breakfast with the Republican governors and members of their staff”; three tickets to the Governors Forums Series, where “a group of 5-8 governors discuss the best policy practices from around the country on a particular topic”; and a D.C. Discussion Breakfast Series, among other events.

If they bump up to Cabinet Membership — $100,000 annually or a single payment of $200,000 — contributors also receive two invitations to "an exclusive Gubernatorial Dinner," an "intimate gathering with the Republican governors and special Republican V.I.P. guests" at the Willard InterContinental Hotel in Washington.
Blogging Blue gives a good list of the Walker staffers and campaign personnel that were at the 2013 RGA retreat in California - often attending the same seminars (no coordination there, noooooo).
Among those who were slated to attend the conference and retreat in California in July 2013 were Walker’s Chief of Staff Eric Schutt, Secretary of Administration Mike Huebsch, campaign manager Stephan Thompson and political adviser Keith Gilkes. Also listed were Deputy Chief of Staff Rich Zipperer, senior advisers Eileen Schoenfeldt and Waylon Hurlburt and Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health Services Kevin Moore.
This list leads to some obvious questions.

Who paid for those staffers to fly out there? Is it like how the fake David Koch promised to fly Gov Walker “out to Cali and really show you a good time?” And isn’t this bribery of a public official if they’re going on the “treat” of a group lobbying them?

If they weren’t being bribed or paid back for their “good works” in helping out their corporate benefactors, and they’re out there on the taxpayer’s dime, wouldn’t this be an improper use of taxpayer dollars? And doesn’t this sound a lot like how Walker’s security detail got to accompany him on 110 out-of-state trips, causing taxpayer costs for security to triple? There are a lot more questions that need to be answered with this revelation, but other than the Gannett-associated Appleton paper, I don’t see a lot of Wisconsin media reporting on this today…..so far.

Then when you read the documents from this 2013 conference, you get an idea why some of our local media don’t want to talk about this. In addition to the typical Koch, health insurer, oil and pharmaceutical organizations that ponied up $250,000+ to be “Statesmen” of the RGA (as opposed to, you know, hiring people and paying them a better wage), take a look at these three guys.
Steve Baas, Director, Governmental Affairs, Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce

Buddy Julius, The Firm, LLC, Guest of Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce

Robert Garvin, Wisconsin Energies, Guest of Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.
Yes, that’s the same MMAC that has Steven Smith, CEO of Journal Communications, sitting on its Board of Directors. And you wonder why the J-S and AM 620 has become a cesspool of right-wing garbage, with no piece of GOP-aganda ignored? And you wonder why they don’t want to talk about this type of influence-buying? Look no further than their membership to the “independent” group of right-wing oligarchs in the MMAC.

Down at the “Cabinet” level of $100,000-$250,000, we get some more local flavor.
Andrew Johnsen, Assistant Vice President, Government Affairs, BNSF Railway Company

Mark Martinez Area General Manager, Johnson Controls, Inc.
We know what a big player Johnson Controls can be, particularly in energy and manufacturing policy, and that explains their interest in shaping some things, but why does BNSF sound familiar in these parts? Oh yeah, here’s why.
In Wisconsin to promote the importance of transportation infrastructure investments, [U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony] Foxx met with state and local leaders as well as representatives of Citizens Acting for Rail Safety (CARS), a group organized in the last year in response to increased crude oil shipments as well as the BNSF railroads’ plans to add a second set of tracks through La Crosse….

CARS also presented Foxx with photos of BNSF bridges along the Mississippi River showing cracked and crumbling concrete. One bridge in Stoddard appears to be supported by stacked timbers.

“What I’m about to show you scares the living crap out of me,” said Guy Wolf, who called on Foxx to order an immediate independent inspection of the bridges.

Railroads are required to inspect their bridges each year, but those inspection reports are not available to the public. The Federal Railroad Administration reviews the railroad inspection plans, but it does not send out structural engineers to perform independent inspections.
Hmmm, now why would BNSF want to lobby states about policy? Couldn’t have anything to do with getting around maintenance rules and possibly getting bailout money for those repairs from taxpayers, could it?

And the BNSF and other rail lines have been in the news in Wisconsin for other reasons, as heightened frack sand shipments are leading to the rail lines becoming massively congested, and you can bet BNSF doesn’t want fracking limited in any way, as it’ll lower some of their revenue stream. Bill Lueders summed up the changes in this article from two months ago.
Chippewa Falls resident Patricia Popple, an activist opposed to frac sand mining, recalls that train traffic in the area was once much less frequent, and the trains were shorter.

Now, she said, “They go through here any hour of the night and day … and have to sound whistles every time they go through an intersection.”

Jeff Plale, the state’s railroad commissioner, [speaking of sketchiness] confirms that more trains really are chugging through Wisconsin. He said there is “no question” that a 63 percent increase in state freight rail revenue between 2002 and 2012 was caused in part by the rapid growth in frac sand mining in western and northwestern Wisconsin.

Rail transportation of frac sand is fueling another increase in train traffic in Wisconsin. Last week, The Associated Press and the La Crosse Tribune, citing newly released figures, reported that three dozens trains loaded with flammable crude oil extracted by fracking now rumble through the state every week.
The congestion is also slowing down passenger rail for Amtrak in the area, since they have to share the tracks and railways such as BNSF own them (and handle a lot of the maintenance). If only there would have been some kind of project that could have added rail lines and relieved some of that congestion, paid for entirely by the feds….

Is there any doubt that “pay-to-play” and "politics and power by any means necessary" are the top agenda items in the Wisconsin right-wing world? Not jobs, not balancing the budget, not improving quality of life. As they say in Goodfellas, it is “Eff you, PAY ME!,” from GOP politicians, their top advisors, their donors, and their allies in the media. That's what directs their course of action, not silly ideas like "public good" or "ethical decency."

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

John Doe back on. DROP THE BOMB

I'm not surprised, but corrupt federal judge Rudolph Randa has been reversed, and John Doe Deux is back on. The key pats to rt in this decision is that not only does the federal appeals court say they think Randa overstepped by trying to stop this investigation, but also the panel brings up that coordination and donation limits are still illegal, even under Citizens United and McCutcheon. Disclosure and direct donations are still items that have a state interest, and good luck having Eric O'Keefe and the oligarchs try to argue otherwise in front of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, when most of the GOP justices owe their current standing to Club for Growth and related right-wing donations. (recusal or recall? You make the call, Justices).

And even without these crooks having to respond to subpeaonae, there should be more than enough evidence to indict these people for illegal coordination and money laundering. Walker may be part of this, or not, but either way, it is well past time to DROP THE BOMB on these bastards, and charge them. And if John Chisholm doesn't have the guts to make this move, the job of Milwaukee Co DA is too big for him, and he needs to be replaced with someone that will bring the crooks to justice- no matter how big these people are.

The time to hesitate is through, and the door is now open to bring these crooks to justice. DO IT.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

TeaBagging Obamacare + voucher expansion = WisGOP budget BUNK

Despite the repeated avoidance by Gov Scott Walker and the Wisconsin GOP to mention how they will solve our budget problems in Wisconsin, reality keeps intruding on that. Department budget requests show that at least $1.1 billion in new spending has been requested just to keep these programs operating as is. And if you look at how that $1.1 billion is split up, one area in particular stands out.

That giant blue circle that takes up ¾ of the pie is the increase required to allow the Department of Health Services to keep giving the same services in 2015-17 that they are today- just over $831.5 million. This number assumes that the state continues to follow Scott Walker’s policy of refusing to expand Medicaid and comply with Obamacare, a fiscally foolish decision that has already cost state taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, and as the Wisconsin Budget Project notes, will cost us a whole lot more if we stay on the Walker Way.
To sum up, the [Legislative] Fiscal Bureau estimated in August that expanding BadgerCare to 138% of the federal poverty level would save state taxpayers $261 million to $315 million in the next biennium, even if the expansion doesn’t take effect until January 2016. Based on the latest enrollment estimates in the DHS budget request and their assumptions about the federal match rate, we estimate that the lower end of the potential savings is $31 million GPR more than the LFB indicated (or $41 million more if the change took effect by July 1, 2015). To close the $760 million hole in the Medicaid budget, it’s critically important for Wisconsin to expand BadgerCare and accept the increased federal funding.
So in other words, expanding Medicaid as part of the 2015-17 budget would reduce the projected 2015-17 deficit by at least $300 million, or more than ¼ of the funds needed in order to fill these budget requests.

And that’s before you start counting any extra funding that may be needed for either public schools or (if Governor Walker wins) an expansion of the voucher program. Those costs weren’t included in the Department of Public Instruction’s request, so I’d count on that $1.1 billion figure going even higher. The fact that Walker wants to spend even more on unaccountable vouchers was something that Dem candidate Mary Burke hit mentioned at an education policy forum in Madison yesterday. Burke used DPI stats that indicate a statewide expansion of vouchers would increase the number of families getting payments in the program more than sixfold (to nearly 193,000), said that it would inevitably lead to cuts to public schools.
Burke pointed to a $1.2 billion projected total annual cost of the voucher system if it expanded, which she said would likely be at the expense of programs and teachers in public schools.

“We’re all smart enough to realize that if there’s a certain amount of funding that is going to the voucher program, unless the taxes are raised to pay for that or it comes from another part of the budget, it’s going to come from the public schools,” Burke said.

“What we need to do is make sure every parent and every child has a great choice in their neighborhood schools.”
Compared to the $200 million we currently spend on vouchers (with subpar results), that’s another $1 billion to add to the multi-billion dollars in budget holes that would have to be made up in a second Walker term.

And as State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout has brought up, the school districts in the state that would likely take the biggest hits under any further GOP voucher expansion are the rural public schools that have no market or need for vouchers, but would still face major reductions in state aids, leading to higher property taxes and closed schools. Several of these districts have had or will have referenda asking to raise property taxes just to perform upkeep and keep the lights on, let alone improve facilities or change to meet current-day needs. And with Burke gaining on Walker in rural areas that Scotty dominated in 2010 and 2012, it’s not hard to think a big reason why is that people in small-town Wisconsin are catching onto what a screwjob vouchers are for their schools and communities.

So another day means more evidence that Wrong-Way Walker and his band of WisGOPs have put this state down in the hole, and as much as they try to spin the situation with rosy assumptions, the mess will still be there, and it will have to be cleaned up in the coming months.

P.S. Here's more from Sen. Vinehout on the voucher program, in particular how these schools don't do any better on tests, but do succeed in directly subsidizing students and parents who already attend these schools, while stealing funds from public schools. She assumes 120,000 students would take vouchers statewide, at a cost of $677 million a year- both are less than Burke's numbers, but still a whole lot of money for a second publically-funded school system. And the last paragraph is a direct shot at Walker and WisGOP's plans.
It’s foolishness to think Wisconsin can afford unlimited taxpayer subsidized vouchers, keep our high quality local schools and lower taxes. Actions have consequences. Cuts to local schools hurt students and raise property taxes.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Madison economy thriving in spite of the WMC/Walker Way

This week's Isthmus featured an intriguing and in-depth article from Mark Eisen explaining how Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce ignores the growing tech industry in the state. Take a look at this set of quotes from actual job creators- people who have started and successfully run new tech businesses in Wisconsin.
"I only know about WMC because their building is near my house," says Niko Skievaski, the cofounder of tech-focused 100State and 100Health. "I walk by it and wonder: 'What the hell do they do?' I haven't heard of any of their representatives reaching out to entrepreneurs."

Skievaski's colleague in Milwaukee, Matt Cordio of Startup Milwaukee, says the same: "Nobody from there has ever reached out to us. I have no idea of what they really do."

Ditto Matt Younkle, a principal in the music storage service Murfie.com and a cofounder of Capitol Entrepreneurs, the influential tech-leaders group in Madison: "I've never been approached by WMC -- I don't know much about it."

And, yup, Forrest Woolworth, a cofounder of both PerBlue mobile gaming and Capitol Entrepreneurs, tells the same story. "WMC is pretty much in a whole different world from us," he says. "We've had no interaction with them good or bad."
And while the WMC types whine about Madison’s “anti-business attitude” (because it believes in horrifying things such as paying taxes for services, strong city planning and worker’s rights), it’s worth noting that this “anti-business” area keeps growing jobs. Eisen points out data from researcher Joel Kotkin that notes the Madison area had jobs go up 3.6% between 2008 and 2014 (which account for the Great Recession and its current recovery), while cities such as Milwaukee and Chicago still aren’t back to where they were six years ago. The recently-released Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages also showed that Dane County is the place to be when it comes to job growth in Wisconsin, with nearly twice as many jobs added as the second-place county.

Most private sector jobs added, Wisconsin Mar 2013-Mar 2014
Dane County 4,218 (+1.8%)
Marathon Co. 2,290 (+4.0%)
Waukesha Co. 1,850 (+0.9%)
Sheboygan Co. 1,710 (+3.4%)
Kenosha County 1,363 (+3.1%)
Milwaukee Co. 1,130 (+0.3%)

The same trend holds when you expand it back to the last 3 years. While much of the rest of the state has floundered to the worst job growth in the Midwest, Dane County has stayed strong.

Top Wisconsin private sector job growth, Mar 2011- Mar 2014
Dane County 14,120 (+6.4%)
Milwaukee Co. 8,869 (+2.2%)
Waukesha Co. 8,790 (+4.4%)
Marathon Co. 3,856 (+6.9%)
Brown County 3,729 (+3.0%)
Rock County 3,551 (+7.3%)
REST OF THE STATE 51,614 (+4.5%)

As Eisen’s article in Isthmus notes, WMC (aka, where GOP staffers and hacks cash in) is overloaded with old Wisconsin businesses and oligarchs, and don’t really talk too much about how to attract new business and entrepreneurship to the state. Hilariously, WMC President Kurt Bauer is quoted in the story as saying Judy Faulkner, CEO of the fast-growing Epic Systems in Madison, won’t even meet with him when it comes to talking about to attract young up-and-comers into Wisconsin. Maybe it’s because Judy knows how the Old Boys Club does business in Wisconsin, and decided she wasn’t all that interested in dealing with the “Mad Men” mentality that these guys have.

There's another telling statement in Eisen's companion article that talks more about the younger leaders in Madison's tech scene and the politics involved. And it's an older guy on the scene that illustrates how Walker's policies don't really do much to help up-and-coming businesses.
Mark Bakken, 49, is a leader in the new Wisconsin economy. His Nordic Consulting, which counsels medical facilities on optimizing Epic's electronic medical records, has proved a huge success. Nordic's revenues this year are expected to hit $120 million just four years after the company launched. The company's workforce totals 430, including 190 in the Madison area.

"Tax credits are worthless," Bakken says. "They're just handouts. They will not sway one person on whether or not they're going to invest in a startup."

Bakken, who is a serial entrepreneur, explains that investors put their money on the strength of a company's business plan and the savviness of its management team. "If there happens to be a freebie from the state, great. But it's a freebie," he says. "I've personally invested in 15 different startups. I'm not doing this because of some crazy law."
In other words, it's about good ideas, cultivating TALENT, and having the market for it to work. Tax credits change next to nothing in that equation, and often make it worse by decreasing investment in the very factors that make a start-up more viable.

And let’s be honest, WMC isn’t really about “raising the game” or “improving competitiveness” when it comes to Wisconsin business. It openly advocates for candidates that have voted to disinvest in public schools, destroy local services (in the hopes that they’ll be privatized for profit), back regressive social policies on issues such as abortion and marriage equality, refused to take advantage of federal assistance to develop new initiatives such as solar energy, rural broadband, and high-speed rail, and WMC has no problem with taking money out of the pockets of hundreds of thousands of workers. Instead, all the WMC types care about is maximizing profits for themselves, and they don’t care whose expense that comes at, or if it eliminates the quality of life metrics that would make the state better for business.

WMC is filled with disgusting greedheads and nepotism cases that care more about hiring politicians than employees, and they not people that should be listened to when it comes to figuring out a strategy to move the state’s business climate ahead. It is telling that Scott Walker trusts these types to organize much of his economic strategy, and that Wisconsin is dead last in job growth over the 3 ½ years that strategy has been carried out.

Hmmm, maybe Scott Walker shouldn’t rip on “Madison liberals” and have his puppetmasters file lawsuits to screw over Dane County public workers. Maybe instead he should thank us from keeping the state from being either further in the hole on jobs than we already are, and learn something from Dane County’s success. Maybe we need someone from that overeducated socialist city of Madison to lead this state out of the doldrums. After all, we seem to be one of the few places in the state that are doing well when it comes to 2010s-style capitalism.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

WisGOP leggies can't lie their way out of exploding budget deficit

Boy, the Republicans must really be feeling the heat from the exploding Wisconsin budget deficit. Take a look at the crap that GOP Joint Finance Chairs John Nygren and Alberta Darling are trying to pull. They decided to take Department of Revenue Secretary Rick Chandler’s claim about “no revenue shortfall” (mentioned in the pathetic spin job DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch gave to Dem legislators earlier this week), and then they threw a set of rosy assumptions at the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, and asked them to “score” it.
1. Tax collections in 2014-15 would be $14,725, as suggested by Secretary Chandler.

2. Net appropriations would be reduced, on a one-time basis, in 2014-15 by $116 million in order to end the fiscal year with a gross balance of $0.

3. Revenues in 2015-16 and 2016-17 would increase annually at the rate of tax collection growth over the previous five fiscal years. The average annual growth in tax collections in tax collections for the five-year period (since 2008-09) has been 2.9%.

4. Net appropriatons for 2015-16 and 2016-17 would remain at the 2014-15 level, adjusted for one-time amounts and 2015-17 commitments
And so Bob Lang did his job, crunched those numbers, and said if all this happened, it would mean a balanced budget in 2014-15, and a surplus of $535 million to play with in the next budget. So the GOP co-chairs used this to say “Crisis? What crisis?”

One problem. THOSE ASSUMPTIONS AREN'T REALITY. For many reasons.

GOP Fallacy Number 1 “Secretary Chandler assumes FY2015 revenues will be at $14,725.” As mentioned before, that would mean revenue growth of 5.57%, well above the LFB’s own projection for 2015 of 3.49% revenue growth. And the “better revenues” that Chandler says happened in July and August 2014? Matt DuFour of the State Journal reported that those numbers were still 0.16% below the same months in 2013.Explain to me how that projects to 5.6% revenue growth?

So let’s stick with the LFB’s original projections of 3.49% revenue growth for this fiscal year, and that’s probably being charitable given the reduced job growth we’ve seen in 2014 and the disappointing revenue numbers that have hit since the second round of tax cuts were passed earlier this year. This means that the revenue shortfall would be around $290 million in year 2 of the budget, which means a budget deficit of roughly $406 million to make up.

GOP Fallacy Number 2 $116 million in “net appropriations will be reduced.” This is an additional step that will have to happen on top of the huge increase in revenue (which likely won’t happen, but for this, let’s assume they will). So these cuts will just magically be imposed? Ok, in which departments? We already have $317 million in lapses built into the 2014-’15 budget. So this’ll just be increased to $433 million? And given that we may well be overspending as it is (with programs with budget shortfalls- like Medicaid), there’s going to have to be overcompensation somewhere else. NAME THE CUTS, or admit you're going to tap the $270 million Budget Stabilization Fund to fill out the deficit.

GOP Fallacy Number 3 Revenues in 2015-16 and 2016-17 would increase annually at the rate of tax collection growth over the previous five fiscal years. OK, we’ll roll with this one. I won’t even assume that 2.9% figure for 2014-’15, and leave it at the LFB’s 3.49% (I’m a nice guy that way). Let’s see what we get, and I’ll also include the changes in tax laws listed on the LFB’s 2015-17 projections from May.

FY 2014 Revenues- $13,948.1 million
FY 2015 Revenues-$14,434.9 million
FY 2016 Revenues- $14,853.5 millon +$122 in changes = $14,967.5 million
FY 2017 Revenues- $15,284.3 million + $44 in changes = $15,328.3 million

Then you add in $559 million in extra revenues to the General Fund (gaming compacts, other items) with no changes to expenses, that means the budget balance in the following years looks like this.

FY 2015-16 -$205.5 million
FY 2016-17 +143.3 million
TOTAL -62.2 million + $65 mil reserve = $127.2 million deficit

OK, so Nygren and Darling were off by $662 million, but it’s a minor deficit that can be easily modified, right? Uhhh, no.

GOP Fallacy Number 4 Net appropriatons for 2015-16 and 2016-17 would remain at the 2014-15 level, adjusted for one-time amounts and 2015-17 commitments. THIS IS FANTASY, and it’s been proven by the budget requests that have come in so far the Department of Administration. Those numbers (which are merely to continue doing what we’re currently doing) are nearing $1.1 billion over current expenses before we even discuss items such as state aid to public schools and any General Fund money that goes to our deficit-riddled Transportation Fund. Nearly 75% of that number is due to a Medicaid shortfall resulting largely from the WisGOPs’ TeaBagging of Obamacare, and with Scott Walker running ads against Obamacare today, I’m guessing he wouldn’t be too keen on saving Wisconsin tax dollars by expanding Medicaid.

And as State Senator Kathleen Vinehout mentions, much of these requests are for services THAT HAVE TO BE GIVEN, and will continue to be given without changes in the law. So with that in mind, we need to count these requests, and rack up the figures.

$127.2 million revenue deficit
$1.1 billion in extra expenses
TOTAL $1.227 billion General Fund

If you split up the $1.1 billion in added budget requests over the two years, it comes to $820 million having to be made up in year 1, and $407 million in year 2, meaning there will be massive damage in calendar year 2015 in particular. And that’s using the WisGOPs’ assumptions of 2.9% revenue growth. If that continues to fall short…..the Scott Walker budget ditch will take more than a regular-size ladder to get out of. I'm not even mentioning the $1.1 billion likely needed to shore up the Transportation Fund, which means that even with normal revenue growth, we will likely need to make up at least $2.3 billion in the 2015-17 budget when the Legislature gets back into session in January 2015, and an estimated $406 million by the end of June.

Now you can choose to beLIEve Nygren and Darling’s spin job of a "surplus" if you want to stay in your little bubble. You can also choose to beLIEve the Brewers still have a chance to win the NL Central, despite being down 7 games to the Cardinals with 7 games to play. But those of us who are in the adult, above-ground world know better, and need to deal with the fact that unlike Karl Rove, we can’t create our own reality. And since the GOPs refuse to deal with the budget mess they’ve made, looks like we need Mary Burke and others to clean it up.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Yeah, the updated jobs figures don't look so great for Walker either

Been tied up taking advantage of a great football weekend in Wisconsin, but here's quick rundown of stats from the state-by-state jobs report released yesterday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. First of all, only 5 states lost more private sector jobs in August than Wisconsin’s 4,300. They were Michigan (-9,200), Ohio (-8,000), Massachusetts (-6,800), Mississippi (-5,200) and New Hampshire (-4,700). Interestingly, Midwest neighbors Illinois (+13,000), Minnesota (+5,700), and Iowa (+2,800) each had sizable private sector job gains last month while we were falling behind.

But obviously one month is a small sample size. Let’s see where we’ve been since March, since that was the end date of the Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages, and put these two figures together to get a big-picture comparison over the last 3 ½ years. We’ll start with the private sector job figures since March 2014, and then work back from there.

Total private sector job change, March 2014-August 2014
Ind. +28,100
Mich +27,300
Ill. +17,800
Iowa +9,200
Minn +7,000
Wis. +7,000
Ohio -2,800

Given that Minnesota has fewer people employed than Wisconsin (although the gap is closing), this means we are 6th out of 7 in the last 5 months for private sector job growth- still in the ditch. So now let’s add it to yesterday’s “gold standard” report, and see what this brings us to. Ohio’s drop becomes pretty obvious on this chart.

Yes, that red line is Wisconsin, and we’re still DEAD LAST since Act 10 was jammed through the Legislature. In fact, we’re a little further behind the FIBs than we were when I ran the March numbers on Thursday (0.07% behind Ill vs 0.01% through March). And no matter how many right-wing memes Dan Bice chases and gives a megaphone to on the pages of the Journal-Sentinel (what a disgrace that guy’s becoming), it can’t hide the fact that Scott Walker has failed miserably at the one thing he promised to do in 2010 and 2012- add jobs by making Wisconsin “Open for Corruption Business.”

Heck, even Politi-crap had to admit this week that their boy Scotty will fall far short of his signature promise of 250,000 private sector jobs, and you know it had to have killed editor Greg Borowski and writer Tom Kertscher to do that. And even in that Politi-crap admission, they try to include the Madison area as having "weak growth", but the QCEW shows that us dirty socialist hippies in Dane County have added 14,100 private sector jobs in the last 3 years- more than 1/6 of the state's total. Not bad for a place that's still less than 1/10 of the state's population. Maybe instead of denigrating Mary Burke as a "Madison liberal" and knocking Dane County for refusing to use the tools of Act 10, maybe the rest of the state could learn something from the place that's growing a whole lot better than much of the rest of the state.

And maybe we need to remind folks that Scott Walker's policies of ignoring reality and deciding to use trickle-down and "pay-for-play" as a job-development strategy isn't a very good idea. Maybe we need someone in charge who believes in a high quality of life that attracts TALENT and ENTREPRENEURSHIP instead of giving handouts to greedy corporations in the hopes that they might one day give the average person a crumb or two. Just a thought.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wisconsin- still DEAD LAST for jobs, and dropping in 2014

Both Wisconsin jobs reports that were released today gave some added information on the failures of the Fitzwalkerstanis. We'll get to the "gold standard" report in a minute, but let's start with the current-day, as the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development released the August jobs numbers this morning. Not surprisingly, the Walker Administration's report promoted a drop in the state's unemployment rate of 5.8% to 5.6% (it's actually a drop of 0.12%, from 5.77% to 5.6499%, but as you'll see, the Walker boys need all the breaks they can get). And the reason they led with the change in the unemployment rate is because of this other part of the report.
...The number of private sector jobs declined by 4,300 from July to August on a preliminary basis (seasonally adjusted), which is within the margin of error for the monthly series.
Let's repeat that. WE LOST 4,300 JOBS LAST MONTH. That's the fifth time in the 8 months of 2014 that Wisconsin has lost private sector jobs in this survey, and even with an upward revision in July of 2,100 jobs, that still leaves us 2,200 jobs below where we thought we were going into today. This means we've only added 8,800 jobs in the first 8 months of 2014, putting it on pace to be by the state's slowest job growth in Walker's 4 years. And it blows the Walker jobs gap up to near 73,000 in the 3 1/2 years of this guy's reign of error.

We'll see where that 4,300 job drop compares to the rest of the nation when the state-by-state numbers come out tomorrow, and I may also look to see where we shape up compared to the rest of the country for 2014 so far. It probably won't be very good for either stat.

Now, let's take a look at the QCEW numbers, and the spin by Walker cheerleader and DWD Secretary Reggie Newson is quite pathetic.
"Our ongoing efforts to grow Wisconsin’s economy and develop the workforce helped the private sector create jobs at a faster rate than two of our Midwest neighbors – Minnesota and Illinois – during the 12-month period ending in March 2014," Department of Workforce Development (DWD) Secretary Reggie Newson said. "The addition of over 28,700 private sector jobs during this time means more opportunities for Wisconsin's workforce and is in line with many other indicators showing our state's economy continues to grow and add jobs."
Wow, we beat two states in our region over these 12 months! How'd we do against the other 4? Oh, not so good.

Private sector job growth, QCEW, Mar 2011-Mar 2014
Mich +2.18%
Iowa +1.75%
Ohio +1.56%
Ind. +1.51%
Wis. +1.26%
Ill. +1.24%
Minn. +0.84%

So the Walker Administration is trying to claim that having slightly more private sector job growth than Illinois and Minnesota means that we're doing OK and that we've somehow "turned the corner" when it comes to job growth. Uhhh, NO. We still trail the rest of the Midwest over the last 12 months measured, and as you can see Wisconsin's private sector job growth is still well short of what it was before Act 10 was passed in March 2011.

As you'll also see, Minnesota's low job growth from March 2013 to March 2014 is a case of taking a breather after a hot job market in the previous two years, as they were second in the Midwest for private sector job growth from 2011-2013, and are middle of the pack for the last 3 years. By comparison, Wisconsin is still DEAD LAST in the three years since Act 10 was jammed through the Legislature in March 2011.

Geez, with these crappy numbers, no wonder Walker's releasing two desperate ads today, including one against Obamacare (despite the fact that strong majorities of Wisconsinites want expanded Medicaid), and one touting "tax savings." Well, we've seen the result of all those Walker "tax-savings" moves- well below-par job growth and a budget deficit that seems to be blowing up by the day.

Keep talking WisGOP. You look more failed by the day.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tomorrow's coming job attractions in Wisconsin

We get a two-fer here when it comes to Wisconsin jobs tomorrow. The morning will feature the release of the "gold standard" jobs report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages (QCEW). This will compare the March 2013-March 2014 job growth standards, and the Walker Administration tried to hide the state's QCEW figures to the public last month until they were shamed into it by leftie bloggers and Dem legislators. And while the Department of Workforce Development's release on jobs was light on details, you could still put enough together to see that the state's projection of 28,653 private sector jobs added in those 12 months continued a stagnant trend, and a lower amount of job growth compared to when Walker took office in 2011.

The big thing with tomorrow's release is we get to see how the state matches up with the rest of the nation, and to see if it can get out of the "bottom third" standing for job growth that it's had for much of the last 2 years. In addition, I might compare the 3 years of Wisconsin job growth with the other Midwestern states, as March 2014 would 3 full years since Act 10 was jammed through the Legislature, and we'll see if the state can climb out of the "last in the Midwest" standing that it was in for the Age of Fitzwalkerstan through December 2013.

Then in the afternoon, we'll see the DWD release the monthly Wisconsin jobs report for August. Nationwide, August was a bit of a disappointment job-wise, with only 134,000 private sector jobs added and 142,000 overall- the lowest monthly addition in 2014. However, that was after a strong start of the year nationwide, and combined with Wisconsin's tepid addition of only 11,000 private sector jobs through July in this survey, meant that the Walker jobs gap has ballooned further in 2014. We need to add 2,900 private sector jobs in this month's report in order to keep up with the "disappointing" numbers in the rest of the nation, and to keep the Walker jobs gap from becoming even larger than the 68,000 jobs that it was at in July.

So keep your eyes open for both of these jobs releases, and they'll be big ones. It'll be the last QCEW report to come out before the November election, and the next-to-last monthly jobs report from DWD. You can bet there'll be plenty of spin (including from yours truly), but the numbers are the numbers, and having them in front of you will separate the BS from the honest smack.

Turnout matters- in the Marquette Law School Poll

My immediate reaction to seeing today’s poll from Marquette Law School was to give a giant “WTF?” The Walker campaign had been acting increasingly desperate in recent weeks as round after round of bad news hit almost daily, but this poll says Scotty was doing BETTER among likely voters than he was a month ago? On its face, it made no sense, but given that you’re dealing with small samples and the fact that Walker led by 3 points among registered voters in the previous poll, maybe there was something to it.

Then I noted a comment by Marquette Law School’s Charles Franklin, and it set off my BS detectors

That comment about "increased enthusiasm" made me want to look inside the numbers at the crosstabs, to see what he meant by that. And when I did, the answers behind Walker’s “improvement” became obvious. The poll sample added a ton of Republicans to the mix.

Take a look at the question of “Are you a Democrat, Republican, or Independent?” in the September Marquette Poll, and then compare it with the answers to the same question in August.

Dem, Republican, or Indy? Reg. voters
Aug 2014 Marq. Law Poll- 30.9 D, 27.0 R, 37.9 I
Sept. 2014 Marq. Law Poll- 27.9 D, 28.8 R, 40.7 I

So that sample went from D +3.9 to R +0.9. Yet at the same time, Burke IMPROVED by 3 points among registered voters, from -3 to a tie. The "likely voter" poll was even more GOP-leaning, at R +3.7 vs D +6 in August- no wonder why Burke lost 5 points. So there's a lot of your change right there- it's not Walker gaining support. And to pollster Charles Franklin's credit, he admits this party ID stat is a huge factor.
“It is unusual to see a 5-point net shift in partisan composition,” Franklin said. “People should be appropriately skeptical since it is always possible this sample is simply an outlier. However, the shift to more Republicans and fewer Democrats occurred across all regions of the state and most demographic groups, demonstrating that it was not a localized difference in response rates.”

In fact, if anything, Walker is losing some of his core backing. Previously, polls had had the Dem and GOP vote going around 90-5 for each party’s candidate, and Walker slightly favored among Independents (because a sizable amount of them are TeaBaggers). Well, there was a slight change in this breakdown for the September poll.

Sept. 2014 Marq. Law Poll by party
Democrats- Burke 93.2-3.4
Republicans- Walker 88.8-8.0
“Indys”- Walker 44.1-43.0

Scotty then got about an extra 1% from a scattering group, so that’s where you get the 46-46 Registered Voters result from. It shows a bit of erosion from Scotty’s own GOP. I think that's a result of some of them seeing the light, and realizing a crony capitalist that blows a gigantic hole in Wisconsin’s budget is no old-school, good government conservative.

Now with this in mind, let’s use those same Dem-GOP-Indy responses, and plug it into the August sample of registered voters in the Marquette Poll. The result? Burke leads by 4.6 points, 47.3- 42.7.

I understand that sometimes party IDs do switch and reflect people latching onto certain “teams” as they get more fired up for an election. It also reflects who is more or less likely to vote in a certain election (the voters more likely to drop out at a midterm are generally young, single, and/or minority- all three of which lean Dem). But let’s take a look at the gov exit polls from 2010 and the recall election of 2012 along with the 2012 presidential exit poll , and see what’s more likely to be the electorate in Wisconsin in November 2014.

Party ID, Wisconsin exit polls
2010 Gov- Dem 37, GOP 36 (D+1)
2012 recall- Dem 34, GOP 35 (R+1)
2012 presidential- Dem 37, GOP 32 (D+5)

And casual Dems are likely more fired up in 2014 than they were in 2010, or even 2012, as some wussed out on the idea of a recall (how’d that idea work out for you?). At the same time, the September Marquette Poll shows some GOPs probably aren’t as likely to “Stand with Walker.” So a D+4 electorate (as was done in the August Marquette Poll) seems to be a more likely outcome in November than an R+1 electorate (which was in the September poll). which would give the advantage to Burke.

That being said, maybe the Marquette Law Poll is closer to right this time and was off the last. Their record in 2012 was pretty good when their final polls came out for the recall and presidential election. And I’m also aware that this sounds pretty close to the “unskewing” phenomenom that GOPs fell victim to in 2012, where those dingbats beLIEved that Romney was going to win, all the way to Election Night (which made their crash all the more hilarious).

But these figures are striking, and help explain why Walker and his supporters are trying to so hard to suppress the vote with the increasingly insane ramifications from an all-GOP Appeals Court panel’s decision to reinstate voter ID for the November election. Walker and WisGOP can’t win a statewide election unless the Democratic electorate is shrunken or discouraged to the point that it’s near even on Election Day. If it’s a strong Dem turnout- Walker’s done.

Which is what makes it all the more important to educate and assist Wisconsinites with getting that ID (at least until the ruling is tossed due to not being workable), and in making them know that it’s the Republicans that don’t want them to vote. And that anger and outreach effort is why the voter ID decision could prove not to be a boon to Republicans (like the suburban slimeballs think it will be), but instead could be one of the final blows to their chances in the Fall.

So instead of despair, today’s Marquette Law Poll tells me IF WE GET OUT TO VOTE IN NOVEMBER,WE WILL WIN IN WISCONSIN. Period. So make it happen!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

DOA Secretary keeps digging hole on budget deficit spin

Another day, another dishonest statement on the budget by the Walker Administration that has to be refuted. This time, it’s from Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch, who oversees the State Budget Office, and is clearly feeling the blowback from the current and future budget deficits that are projected due to Walker policies.

Huebsch sent a response letter to a request that Dem Senators made last week demanding to know what cuts the Walker Administration was planning to make to the budget between now and June 2015, in order to make it balance. Naturally, Huebsch ignores that question, but does bring a bit of news in his response.
….to help satisfy your inquiry, I asked Revenue Secretary Rick Chandler to provide me with a written update regarding collections in the first two months of fiscal year 2015. We are in a stronger financial position than forecasted with tax revenues $48.8 million higher than expected for July and August 2014, which keeps us on track to meet the Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s May 2014 projections for the current fiscal year.

As I’m sure you are aware, State revenue tax collections typically fluctuate month-to-month throughout a two-year budget cycle, and Governor Walker and the Legislature prepared for this variability when building the biennial budget. It is important to remember that the Legislative Fiscal Bureau forecast assumes zero revenue growth in this biennium or the next.
One problem with Huebsch's comments- that last sentence is FALSE. One look at those May 2014 Fiscal Bureau projections shows that there is revenue growth forecast for the current biennium.

General Fund tax projections, LFB May 2014
FY 2014- $14.229 billion (actual number $13.948 billion)
FY 2015- $14.725 billion
Projected rev. growth in May 2014 projections- 3.49%
Growth needed based on FY 2014 actual for $14.725 billion- 5.57%

As Sen. Dave Hansen noted last week, a 5.57% revenue increase is extremely unlikely, given the state’s past history. In addition, what does Huebsch mean when he says revenues were “$48.8 million higher than expected” in July and August? Compared to what? The end of June? July-August 2013? I’d like to see the actual numbers on that one (which of course, are not provided). Also worth noting is that the month of August got 1 extra day of the Labor Day weekend in 2014, which in a tourist-based state like Wisconsin is kind of a big deal when you’re talking sales taxes and related revenues. Let me see the September revenue numbers before I start thinking this budget is anywhere close to back on track.

For another clue on the budget, I found it interesting that Huebsch and DOA released the General Fund Cash Report to the Joint Finance Committee today. This is a regular report that gives a look at the state’s cash flow, and while it is not an exact match for General Fund revenues and expenses, it’s not a bad proxy. This cash balance number goes up and down throughout the year based on when certain bills come in and get paid, and it had slipped earlier this year, portending the revenue shortfall and bad budget numbers that followed.

Projected opening cash balance forecast for October 2014
April 30, 2014 +$1,785.5 million
July 30, 2014 +$1,260.4 million (down $525.1 million)
September 16, 2014 +1,537.3 million

Sept. #- UP $276.9 million vs. July. DOWN $248.2 million vs April.

So maybe there’s some truth to Huebsch’s claim that the current budget isn’t in as dire shape as it seemed last week. But it also shows that we’ve only made up a little more than half the hole that was dug in the earlier part of the Summer after two rounds of Koo-Koo tax cuts hit.

There’s also this interesting whine that Huebsch throws in for the Dem Senators in his response letter.
The only exercise more negligent [than to assume no revenue growth] would be to add the new agency 2015-17 budget requests DOA has recently received and proclaim that we now have a new financial crisis on our hands.
OH REALLY? So we can ignore the $760 million in extra state Medicaid spending and the $831.5 million in total state tax dollars that are needed just to keep the Department of Health Services operating at the same level as today? We shouldn’t add those figures to the base expenses for 2015-17, because this situation magically will be magically fixed over the next 9 months? And we should assume revenue growth will happen over the next two years but throw out any extra costs due to inflation or population or additional Wisconsinites in need of assistance?

Sorry Mike, it doesn’t work that way. Especially when in your letter you repeat the Walker Admin’s lie about a “$3.6 billion budget deficit” in the next paragraph- a number based on the same type of budget requests that Huebsch says shouldn’t be counted! I seem to recall you guys claiming that all these unmet needs meant there was a budget crisis in 2011, which is why the “bomb” of Act 10 had to be dropped. Were you lying then about a crisis, or are you lying now?

Sometimes it’s better to lay back and let the complaints drop instead of answering them, because trying to talk your way out of it just makes your dig your hole even deeper. And speaking of digging holes, look what’s hitting the airwaves….

Keep talking, WisGOPs. The spin on your failed record looks lamer by the day.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Wall Street says high inequality, Walker Way is hurting state budgets

As a former resident of the Hoosier State, I found this article of interest today. Indiana has a 7% statewide sales tax rate, with local sales taxes pushing that number as high as 9% in cities like Indianapolis, and the S&P report indicates that this fact has led to a lot of fiscal pressure in the state over the last 35 years.
That sales tax is Indiana's largest source of revenue. But it is tied to consumer spending, and Americans have become increasingly reluctant to spend as median incomes have remained virtually stagnant over the past 30 years.

"It's by the far the largest source of revenue for the state, and it's so economically sensitive that if the economy's not doing well, it shows up pretty quickly in the state's revenue," said John Ketzenberger, president of the Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute.

The S&P report said Indiana's overall tax revenue grew by an average of 9.29 percent a year between 1950 and 1979 — the year that the gap between the most affluent Americans and the rest of the nation began growing.

Indiana's average annual tax revenue growth has fallen every decade since, dropping to 4.35 percent between 2000 and 2009, the report found. Annual revenue growth has fallen even lower since 2009, to 3.24 percent.
The S&P report was just released today, and you can take a look at it yourself by clicking here. The upshot of the report is that many states are quite dependent on sales taxes to raise their revenues, and because of increasing inequality and a higher share of income going to the rich, state tax revenues aren’t as likely to increase as much as economic growth would indicate it would. This is because the rich are less likely to spend as much of their money from increased income as the middle and poorer classes.

In addition, S&P stated that states with higher amounts of income going to the 1% were less likely to see the fruits of that growth.
Our regression model measured the annual percentage changes in state tax revenues since 1980 for the 50 individual states as reported by the U.S. Census Bureau. The independent variables included the following for each state:

•Income concentration in the top percentile (measured by the share of total adjusted gross income going to the top one percentile), (2)
•Annual rate of total personal income growth, and
•Annual percentage change in the state coincident economic indicators index (a summary of four main statistics), compiled by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. (3)

As expected, the results from this regression analysis found a positive relationship between changes in both overall personal income and the coincident economic indicators index and state tax revenues. Regarding the income inequality measure, we found a negative relationship, consistent with our hypothesis…. That is, a one-unit increase in the share of income going to the top percentile had a negative impact on tax revenue growth, holding personal income growth and the state coincident economic indicators index constant. All of these findings were statistically significant at the 1% level.
S&P also compared the effect on tax revenues between states with the top 10 income tax rates, and the top 10 sales tax rates. What they found is that the effect of “more money to top 1% = lower tax revenue” is nearly three times larger in high sales tax states than in high income tax states. On the flip side, the high income tax states seem to get a larger revenue benefit from higher personal incomes and general economic growth. In S&P's study, 0% income tax states like Florida, Washington and Tennessee have had lower increases in revenues since 2000 compared to the 10 states that are most dependent on income tax for revenues. Indiana has also lagged those income tax-reliant states for revenue growth since 2009, despite the Hoosier State's strong rebound in jobs due in part to the Obama Recovery being especially strong in the Midwest (well, except for Walker's Wisconsin).

With that in mind, it is interesting that red states have pushed higher sales taxes as a way to offset income tax cuts they’ve laid on in recent years, with the argument being that a better economy (through lower income taxes and trickle-down) will raise sales, and therefore offset the income tax cuts. This S&P report shows the exact opposite to be true – especially if the gains from any growth go to the top 1% (as they have been more likely to do as income taxes on the rich have been lowered over the last 35 years).

Keep this in mind when you hear Scott Walker’s insane promise of expanding the current tax cuts if Wisconsin voters are foolish enough to give him a second term. There's not any room for tax cuts with a $1.8 billion budget deficit caused by Walker's earlier income tax cuts anyway, but further income tax breaks would likely be offset by higher sales taxes and other ALEC-like revenue gimmicks. Remember last December when the Walker Administration floated an idea about reducing Wisconsin income taxes to 0%, and people realized that it meant the sales tax rate would have to be raised to 13%? You can bet a version of that is being cooked up in the backrooms of Walker’s fiscal policy team (also known as the members of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and ALEC).

Maybe we should ask about that, after Walker’s silly pose of a “jobs plan” got released over the weekend – basically a lot of whining about Jim Doyle and doubling down of the same failed policies that led to the worst job growth in the Midwest from 2011-2013 and the growing budget deficit that we see today. Because the Walker Way would likely make our growing fiscal deficit even worse and leave the state in a position to have its debt downgraded, it would then mean drastic cuts with the selling of state assets to make up the difference resulting from such a revenue shortfall.

Oh wait, drastic service cuts and the selling off state assets to campaign contributors investors IS part of the ALEC plan. So maybe the Walker folks aren’t that na├»ve that they still buy into trickle-down after 35 years of evidence shows income tax cuts do not increase revenue. Maybe they’re just that cynical that they think the rubes will fall for their BS, while they and their allies steal their way out of town with a whole lot of our cash in their pockets.