Sunday, April 9, 2017

Walker-Vos spat- Bad budget numbers, but also bad blood?

You probably heard about the great Twitter/texting slap fight between Governor Scott Walker and Assembly Speaker Robbin' Vos that broke on Friday, but I wanted to give a little context to what the argument was all about, and how both are likely off the mark when it comes to what's really can be done with the state budget.

Let's start off with Vos responding to Walker's tweets about how he will care more about DC BubbleWorld right-wingers than Wisconsin not consider an increase in the gas tax. Vos accused Walker of having his staff write those tweets and that it was causing problems in the Legislature when it came to working out the budget.
"The more your staff keeps injecting themselves into the (Joint Finance) process the more difficult you will make it. Lobbying by Twitter isn't going to work here," Vos wrote Walker.

"That's not staff. That's me," Walker texted back. "Your members [in the Assembly] ran ads saying they were against my (2015 proposed) cuts to education so I'm assuming they will support my increases."

"We will support an increase but I'm not sure if we can afford what you propose," Vos responded. "... Do you think it's responsible not to make any interest or debt service payments (on) transportation over the next couple of years?"
I've seen this "no debt service on transportation" reference before, but in looking at the Legislative Fiscal Bureau's write-up on the Transportation Fund, it appears the Walker budget planned to make those payments, and in fact planned to pay more dollars on that debt. But if some of those figures are indeed deferred, then the $880 million structural deficit in the Transportation Fund would even go higher in the next budget, because that's when we'd have to pay back some of that debt (not unlike how we are paying more for debt due to Walker's past tactic of skipping debt payments when it looked like there wasn't going to be enough money to pay the bills in each of the last 2 fiscal years).

Either way, Walker's unrealistic plans for transportation funding it helps explain why the Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee decided to rip up the Governor's DOT budget and start from 2017's figures as they debate in the coming months.

The other part of the argument comes from Vos saying that the $618 million of additional money that Walker wants to give to K-12 public schools may hurt other parts of the budget. Walker's correct that many GOP Assembly members ran ads in 2016 that touted their "independence" by voting against Walker's budget plans, as a way to convince the rubes to keep them in power (even more remarkably, some of these ads came from the voucher lobby, who want to funnel money AWAY from public schools and into privates. That's how skeezy those people are, and how much GOPs in the Legislature hide their true agenda from the voters back home). And it's why Walker cynically included this one-time increase ahead of the 2018 elections, to try to make people forget the damage that he and Vos have both helped inflict onto Wisconsin public schools.

Why Vos is saying that the increase may not be affordable is twofold. The first is the release from the LFB that says there will be a $1 billion structural deficit for the next budget if Walker's 2017-19 budget were to be approved, in no small part because of the large increases in K-12 education, as well as a number of gimmicks like a $1-a-week income tax cut, and making the state spend General Fund tax dollars for the Foresty Property Tax and one-time UW tuition cut without raising the taxes to keep those initiatives going.

Vos doesn't think that's the best way to spend those limited funds, and the Speaker wants to move some General Fund money into the Transportation Fund to reduce borrowing and help reduce cuts to highway projects. Walker seems to be willing to negotiate on this, based on the texts.
"I'm willing to work with you on ways to move more money into the transportation fund," Walker said.

"Well I'm more than willing to sit down with you (but) to somehow say that it's a choice between funding our schools and having roads we can drive on really isn't all that helpful, is it?" Vos shot back.
But that is part of the choice, isn't it Robbin'? There's only so much money to go around in the General Fund, and part of the budget debate is figuring out where to put that money. By nature, if you choose to move money from the General Fund to the Transportation Fund (or borrow from the General Fund, as Senate GOP Leader Scott Fitzgerald has indicated), there's less to go into schools or other programs in the General Fund.

But one line from Walker shows where both of these Republicans are off-base.
I believe we will have decent growth in the future.
- Scott Walker
Vos doesn't even dispute that suggestion, which strikes me as absurd. I already have strong suspicions of the Legislative Fiscal Bureau's rosy revenue assumptions for 2017-19, which is the only way Walker's budget balances in the first place. Then Walker thinks things will continue to grow for the next 2 years, which would mean our current economic expansion would reach 12 straight years by 2021? That has never happened in the post-World War II era, and certainly doesn't seem likely in Wisconsin, where the state's population growth is slowing and aging, nor does it seem likely given the regressive, sleazy clown show of Trump/Ryan/McConnell in DC.

But one other part of the Walker/Vos texting fight indicates a deeper reason may exist for the split, beyond mere budget numbers.

Amoral balding ex-Reagan Youth slap fight!

Check out this part of the exchange that the Journal-Sentinel's Patrick Marley noted.

A lot of this seems to be turf war stuff, where Vos is angry that he and the Assembly GOPs weren't much in the loop before Walker dumped the budget on them, and Walker is still resentful from the disaster of his last budget in 2015-17, which tanked his approval ratings (along with his failed presidential run, which the budget was written for). Vos is also rightfully angry that Walker put all of these pre-election gimmicks into the 2017-19 budget with the full intent that the GOP Legislature would play "bad cop", and be forced remove some of these items in order to make the state somewhat inhabitable by 2019.

And as Cognitive Dissidence's Jeff Simpson pointed out, it may also stem from the fact that Walker's huge failure on the national stage in 2015 blocked the career advancement goals for of these Gen X men.
A huge wrench was thrown into those plans though when Scott Walker, after running for President for four straight years was soundly and thoroughly rejected by the base of the Republican party for an overweight, bad haired, TV reality "star".

That left Walker without a path forward and since he has done nothing but suck off the public teat, he has no intentions of going anywhere. While Scott holds the Governor's office, Robin can not run for it. It is not looked upon very well if someone within a party challenges an incumbent(See Nehlen, Paul) without express consent of the party leaders(See Marklein , Howard).

At the moment Walker can not be President and Vos can not be Governor. That means there is conflict between the two and it boiled over in a series of text messages. You would think that since they both are paid full time wages to work, they could just have sat down together in the Capitol and ironed it out. That would of course mean that they would have to actually be working and in the Capitol. Which we know is a rarity.
And don't believe that Walker's staff doesn't know Vos (and his girl Shelly?) wants that Gov job sooner than later. Which leads to my last point- who told Patrick Marley and other state media about this text/Twitter argument in the first place, and why was the Walker Administration so willing to follow the media's open records complaint and release this information within a week? By comparison, the Walker Administration sat on an open records complaint asking about the King Veterans Home for 3 months, until after the 2016 elections, so it's not like springing fast into action is just the way these guys do things.

They got this Vos/Walker texting fight out for a reason- they think it makes Walker look better to voters and RW BubbleWorlders, and makes Vos look angry and heartless. While I think the Walker people have Vos pegged, I don't think this makes Walker look any good either, but there's definitely more at play here than just a battle over the budget. And given that both the budget and the 2018 election prospects for Republicans are declining by the day, you wonder if the strife gets even worse in the coming months...or if some of this "discussion" all an act to satisfy the unholy alliance of oligarchs, fundies, gun nuts and angry blue-collars that make up today's Wisconsin GOP.

Keep your eyes peeled as the budget debate heats up with the weather in the coming months. Will dick-measuring between these shrimpy dweebs at the Capitol be every bit the problem as the bad budget numbers when it comes to getting something agreed upon?

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