Monday, January 1, 2018

GOP legislators cash in, Walker tries to avoid letting the people replace them

Before another 3-day holiday weekend began, we had some movement going on in the Wisconsin Legislature last Friday, as State Sen. Frank Lasse and State Rep. Keith Ripp decided to cash in and take state government jobs instead of face the voters in November.
Ripp resigned Friday to take the No. 3 position at DATCP as assistant deputy secretary.

Ripp, 56, raises livestock and grows grain on the family farm in Lodi. He and his wife also operate a trucking business. Ripp is the former president and vice president of the Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board and the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association.

Ripp has been in the Assembly since 2009. He will make about $105,000, more than double his $50,950 salary as a legislator...

Lasee has been in the Senate since 2011 and previously served in the Assembly from 1995 to 2007. He resigned to become the administrator for the Department of Workforce Development's Worker's Compensation Division. Lasee will make about $101,000 a year.
It's a bit eye-rolling, but not unusual, especially since this raises what these guys can get on their pension when they retire. And I sure wouldn't want to be a Republican having to defend this crap in November either.

But the real story is that the resignations immediately took effect on December 29 (try that in your job), and the Walker Administration's insisted that no one needed to replace Ripp and Lasse until 2019.

I'm sure the people of NE Wisconsin and of Columbia and northern Dane County appreciate having their voice taken away in the Legislature for more than a year. As for whether the Walker Administration can even do that...

In other words, the Walker Admin is saying that if those resignations had happened in calendar year 2018, they would have had to fill it. But since these two GOP legislators quit in at the end of 2017, 3 DAYS EARLIER, they don't have to fill the opening?

That's laughable on its face, and even more absurd when you look at the statute itself.
The date for the special election shall be not less than 62 nor more than 77 days from the date of the order except when the special election is held to fill a vacancy in a national office or the special election is held on the day of the general election or spring election. If a special election is held concurrently with the spring election, the special election may be ordered not earlier than 92 days prior to the spring primary and not later than 49 days prior to that primary. If a special election is held concurrently with the general election or a special election is held to fill a national office, the special election may be ordered not earlier than 122 days prior to the partisan primary or special primary, respectively, and not later than 92 days prior to that primary.

(b) If a primary is required, the primary shall be on the day 4 weeks before the day of the special election except when the special election is held on the same day as the general election the special primary shall be held on the same day as the partisan primary or if the special election is held concurrently with the spring election, the primary shall be held concurrently with the spring primary, and except when the special election is held on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November of an odd-numbered year, the primary shall be held on the 2nd Tuesday of August in that year....

Any vacancy in the office of state senator or representative to the assembly occurring before the 2nd Tuesday in May in the year in which a regular election is held to fill that seat shall be filled as promptly as possible by special election. However, any vacancy in the office of state senator or representative to the assembly occurring after the close of the last regular floorperiod of the legislature held during his or her term shall be filled only if a special session or extraordinary floorperiod of the legislature is called or a veto review period is scheduled during the remainder of the term. The special election to fill the vacancy shall be ordered, if possible, so the new member may participate in the special session or floorperiod.
In other words, the "2017 loophole" that the Walker Admin is trying to pull is complete bullshit, and the only way that they could avoid having an election would be if the entire Legislature went on a paid vacation for 2018 and did nothing. While it looks like little will happen at the Capitol 2018 (and even less action that will be any good), there still are floorperiods scheduled for January, February, and March.

So let's admit the real reason behind why the Walker folks don't want these special elections to happen- both of these districts are marginal enough to fall to the Democrats, given past history and the Dems' current advantages in enthusiasm. Look at what happened in the last November election when Dems did well in Wisconsin - 2012, when both Barack Obama and Tammy Baldwin won statewide.

Vacant district results, 2012
SD-1 52-47 Romney
AD-42 51-48 Obama

Looks competitive to me. Yes, Republicans did better in these places in 2014 and 2016, but that was the case in a lot of the state, and the dynamics seem a lot different than those "angry white male resentment" years today. (Also noteworthy, Romney only won by 6 in SD-10 in 2012. Patty Schachtner can flip that district in that special election on Jan 16).

Also, those special elections could/should coincide with this Spring's Supreme Court election in April (if the special election was called in mid-January, then it could be held on the same day (lessening costs to these communities). Higher Dem turnout in those special election races would also make it likely that a non-GOP hack would win that Supreme Court seat and cut into the WMC-bought majority.

If Dems or anyone else that believes in democracy is awake in this state, the Walker Admin's attempt to avoid the election should be the subject of a lawsuit as soon as people get back to work tomorrow. My guess is that Gov "Unintimidated" and his crew would back down really fast. 2018 is here, whether WisGOP likes it or not, and they should man up and deal with the electoral consequences that will be inflicted on them.

Sure, it may prove to be a pain, as the person who wins would stand for election again in November. But that doesn't mean those 230,000 Wisconsinites deserve to be "represented" by an empty chair in the Legislature. Fill the seat, Scotty. And do it in April.


  1. One topic that deserves a dedicated article is the growing difference between MN and WI minimum wage rates and how that difference might affect population growth, who moves where and how it could affect state finances. I saw a recent article that was confused how Minnesota was one of the only states regionally that pulled in population from other states for the first time in 15 years for 2017. Could it be the change was caused by offering a higher minimum wage that attracted more talent from near and far? The article assumed some of the change was caused by Illinois but my guess is that was only a small piece of it. Another article stated that most don't feel the minimum wage difference has affected WI that much but the gap is growing wider. As of New years, the state difference is $2.40 hourly(7.25 vs 9.65) and will increase further with inflation. Mineapolis went up to $10 and will be $11.25($4 difference) as of July 1st on it's yearly increase up to $15. St. Paul plans a similar wage ordinance soon(which is 12 miles from the border and will likely cause more workers to cross the border and most likely move because most low wage workers discover most expenses for them are cheaper across the border(Property tax, gas prices, no food/clothing tax, cheaper tabs on vehicles 10 years and older and even income taxes can be less at some earning levels. Tax reciprocity also ended years ago between the states and MN has no interest in reinstating since it was losing so much money on the old agreement and because the number of WI workers keeps increasing. The main point I'm making is, when you appeal to lower income groups, you can gain far more residents because far more people fall into the low wage bracket classes than the far smaller upper class. Rich Business owners forget that you lose your low end labor if wages are too low. At last count, unfilled jobs were much higher in MN at 133,000 openings as of October. The question is, where will companies find workers if people keep crossing the border? Albert Lea near the MN/IA border announced they will reimburse ALL property taxes on new homes(built legally) for 5 years because they are worried about housing shortages and their taxes there are already very low. I haven't seen any WI cities offer that yet! Recent articles talk about housing shortage across most of what changed in the last few years? Why has the growth coefficient, population and income growth been so high in MN for the last few years while other states aren't close. Is it possible paying a higher wage creates a lot of economic growth?

  2. Where did you learn how to write, or didn't you?

    It's not a style issue, but mixing together opposing ideas as one theory, which doesn't clarify anything.

    MN's economy has been helped by raising the minimum wage, but also by progressive taxation, as those with little income should not be expected to pay for State programs--like education, infrastructure, the safety net, etc.--that are truely needed for the survival of this State.

    Business owners should indeed pay their employees more, as their record profits are based on the employer taking wages from their employees to benefit themselves (ignoring the fact that they wouldn't make any money without those needed employees to do the work that employers surely could not do themselves).

    Eventually employers are going to have to pay their workers more money, at a rate that makes working a life-sustaining option. If not, this country will go through another revolution not unlike our Civil War.

  3. Posts here are limited to 4000 characters and my original post was longer and needed to be cut down to size and a lot was removed but my main question for readers to consider was:

    Can WI do much of anything to avoid extensive population losses to MN going forward with the growing wage divide, difference in costs for low wage workers which is partially caused by the state constitution that requires residential and business property taxes at the same rate?

    In the past, WI was more insulated from losses in the past because IL provided far more business opportunity and MN was significantly smaller population wise and economically. With IL starting to collapse population wise and economically, besides Wisconsin temporarily picking up some fleeing residents, is there much the state can even do to try to stop the bleeding of residents crossing the border because my view is that the population losses from WI to MN will become increasingly larger and drain young talent much faster than anyone realizes. WI already traded places with MN and now has a much higher median age and the problem appears to be quickly accelerating. The main action so far has mainly been cutting everything from transportation, UW, services and more, but property taxes, gas prices, and other costs still remain stubbornly high in WI compared to MN. I doubt WI would be able to raise wages high enough to stop the bleeding simply because of the cost differences in taxes and many industries in Wisconsin don't appear to have the ability to pay significantly more because many of them are there because of the low cost incentives in the first place. The problem is, if low cost labor crosses the border, it appears they will face the same fate either way. So what's the solution?

    1. Not sure what this has to do with the Walker Admin's failure to schedule special elections for vacant seats.

      Well, other than the fact that talent,loss and the higher min wage in MN (now $9.85) can and should be exploited by Schachtner in the SD10 race. If St. Croix County wants to keep growing, it needs to invest in quality of life in ways the GOP will not do.

  4. The fact that Lassee and Ripp are doing what they're doing is a reflection of Walker's failed economic policies, yet Lassee and Ripp are going unscathed into the new positions, which pay a lot and so you can cynically rip apart the idea of government. They're doing what Reagan, aided by those Libertarians, preached since 1980.

    Yes, it's bad Walker isn't having special elections, but I think a more useful strategy is to focus on the main problem of the differences between WI and MN on approaches to economics.

    WI's early years were agricultural as a wheat producer, which worked with the many local breweries. After the Civil War, the State changed to a dairy focus, and the 1st cheese company was located in Ladoga (a small crossroads in Fond du Lac County). Milwaukee used to be known as the machine-tool center of America; we made the machines that helped Detroit be the auto center of America, and America's economy was based on the automobile.

    Don't mean to distract from your posts, but economic and political history are what makes Wisconsin what it is. Problem now is that WI used to be much better.

  5. I was just looking for a dedicated article about how the widening minimum wage gap between both states could increase population loss and WI.

    What options does WI have(if any) to try to avoid worker loss increasing every year as the minimum wage in MN continues to increase while WI does not with inflation?

    Border cities like St. Paul could increase population loss by passing additional wage rules(new mayor pushing hard for $15 minimum likely will pass similar to what Minneapolis has that goes up again July 1st to 11.25). Duluth and Rochester might also pass minimum wage bills and also being close to WI could cause more trouble.

    Then if you add in common lower income tax advantages of moving to the state instead of just working there, it seems that population loss could become quite extensive over the next few years.

    Many WI companies chose the state for lower costs, but if more workers move, it seems like a lot of business closures could result by losing too much affordable labor over the border, so it seems like a perfect storm because raising WI minimum wage would cause businesses attracted to the states cheap labor and business costs to not be able to compete and close.

    It also appears WI needs to cut costs to the bone to keep property taxes competitive for low income earners to compete with neighboring states and combined with WI businesses that can't afford higher wages could lose a lot of manufacturing and lower end jobs no matter what the state decides to do or not do. It seems like WI is in a very challenging situation in trying to keep lower wage workers from a wages, services and taxes perspective compared to neighboring states and the only hope I see for workforce gains is fleeing IL residents, but as pointed out before, that isn't really a permanent or long term solution.

  6. How eloquent, and just how old are you and who do you work for? Just why are you so concerned about Wisconsin's economic vitality?

    MN has a number of Tea Party, ALEC, and Michelle Bachmann acolytes, so just where does Jake H fit into the mold of that petri di$$$h???

    There's a big difference between being a prolific typist and being an actual writer. Somehow Noah Williams seems to echo this view, and what's in your wallet?

    1. Actually, it seems like Jake H thinks Wisconsin is losing in the exchange, and I don't think he is shilling for anyone.

      And while I appreciate a "Noah Williams" blast as much as anyone else with decency and honesty, it is time to terminate this conversation.

      Back to your corners, gents!