Saturday, March 31, 2018

Some Trump/Russia links, snooping is leading back to Wisconsin

With recent developments in the Trump/Russia investigation, one organization that has come up a lot recently is Cambridge Analytica, a data firm who has been accused of using profiles of tens of millions of Facebook users without their consent, and then bombarding them with propaganda ahead of American elections. And a few stories this week connected Cambridge's operations right back to elections here in Wisconsin.

Mary Spicuzza and Dan Bice put some of the pieces together in a story this week in the Milwaukee Journal_Sentinel. The Wisconsin connections start with GOP operative Mark Block, who not only was fined and banned from Wisconsin politics for illegally coordinating with a right-wing Supreme Court candidate 21 years ago, but he also headed up the Kochs’ American for Prosperity Astroturf group during Scott Walker’s and the Wisconsin GOP’s rise to power in 2010.

Block then left that job to become Herman Cain’s campaign manager during Cain’s 2012 presidential run, and was accused of using $40,000 from a Koch “non-profit” as an in-kind donation to the Cain campaign (this theme will come up again).

After the Cain campaign lost in the 2012 primaries, Block was on to his next venture, and that’s where a recent Mother Jones article notes a 2013 meeting between Block, now-suspended Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix, billionaire right-wing donors Robert and Rebekah Mercer,and Steve Bannon. Mother Jones goes on to say that the Mercers soon invested $15 million into what became Cambridge Analytica.

And sure enough, Spicuzza and Bice caught on to reporting from the Guardian which showed that Cambridge was getting paid very close to home.

This is sketchy enough, especially given Block’s direct ties to the Kochs and the way those guys have become a major puppetmaster of state government here. But then Spicuzza and Bice bring up even more intriguing connections at end of the article.
Emily Cornell, who served as deputy campaign manager for Walker's short-lived presidential campaign, went on to become Cambridge's senior vice president of political affairs.

Matt Oczkowski, who worked on Walker's 2014 re-election bid and his 2016 presidential run, became head of product of Cambridge Analytica, working out of San Antonio….

And former Walker campaign staffer Molly Schweickert is now serving as vice president of global media for the company.
It would defy belief that fellow Wisconsinite Reince (“the Wisconsin GOP had complete unity with the Koch groups in Wisconsin”) Priebus wouldn’t have been tuned in to what Block and Walker’s campaign was up to since 2012. Which makes me wonder if the vaunted “GOP turnout operation in Wisconsin” is actually a Cambridge Analytica-style psyops and misinformation campaign on unsuspecting voters, mixed in with race and hate-baiting from GOP spokespersons on AM radio.

Related to that psy-ops work by Cambridge, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) just filed a complaint against John Bolton’s SuperPAC alleging that foreign workers from Cambridge Analytica were illegally working as de facto GOP campaign staffers in 2014 and other elections, using those .
On July 7, 2014, the John Bolton Super PAC paid Cambridge Analytica $25,000 for “research.” According to Christopher Wylie, a former employee of SCL Elections Ltd., the John Bolton Super PAC hired Cambridge Analytica LLC and SCL Elections Ltd. in the summer of 2014 “to provide microtargeting and boost the super PAC’s advocacy on national security issues, according to a copy of the signed contract Wylie provided to the Post.” Cambridge Analytica LLC and SCL Elections Ltd. established three goals for the John Bolton Super PAC and John Bolton personally: to help the John Bolton Super PAC “elect Republican Senate candidates in Arkansas, North Carolina and New Hampshire; to raise the issue of national security; and to boost Bolton’s profile, according to a memo obtained by the Post from [a] former Cambridge Analytica employee.” To achieve these goals, Cambridge Analytica LLC and SCL Elections Ltd. were contracted to work with the staff of the John Bolton Super PAC “to craft and deploy a communications program in the target states,” according to the contract between Cambridge Analytica LLC, SCL Elections Ltd. and the John Bolton Super PAC. According to the memorandum provided to the Post, the John Bolton Super PAC “made use of significant input from SCL on messaging and target audiences.” “Using . . . psychographic models, Cambridge helped design concepts for advertisements for candidates supported by Mr. Bolton’s PAC, including the 2014 campaign of Thom Tillis, the Republican senator from North Carolina, according to Mr. Wylie and another former employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid being dragged into the investigations that now appear to be engulfing Cambridge.” Most importantly, “SCL Elections deployed an operative on the ground to help the super PAC track and modify advertising for targeted groups, documents show.”….

Foreign nationals, including Christopher Wylie, were involved in providing strategic advice to the John Bolton Super PAC regarding the independent expenditures the super PAC made to support the election of several federal candidates, including Thom Tillis in North Carolina. “Chris Wylie, a 28-year-old Canadian who ran messaging for Cambridge out of its London office in 2014, said he worked on all the company’s U.S. political campaigns in 2014, ‘and stopped at most of them, like Thom Tillis’s campaign.’ Tillis ran for and won a U.S. Senate seat in North Carolina in 2014.” “Wylie said that many foreign nationals worked on the campaigns, and many were embedded in the campaigns around the U.S. ‘It was not just me,’ he said. ‘Like 20 other people were. We had Canadians, British, Eastern Europeans, Lithuanians, Germans, Romanians, Greeks.’” Most importantly, Wylie said that foreign nationals were participating in the decisions that U.S. political committees, including the John Bolton Super PAC, made with regard to how the political committees made campaign expenditures. “‘We weren’t just working on messaging. We were instructing campaigns on which messages go where and to who.’” “Wylie said that Bannon ... was deeply involved in [CA’s] strategy and approved spending nearly $1 million to acquire data, including Facebook profiles, in 2014. ‘We had to get Bannon to approve everything at this point. Bannon was Alexander Nix’s boss,’ said Wylie.”
Also note that Bolton’s SuperPAC is currently planning to pay up to $1 million to prop up the campaign of empty suit Kevin Nicholson for the US Senate in Wisconsin ….by promoting Nicholson’s “patriotism.”

If these allegations from CREW are true, and if it you put it together with Walker campaigners that have ties to Cambridge Analytica, it sure seems possible that WisGOP was illegally working with organizations like Cambridge that are supposed to be operating independently from candidates and parties in both 2014 and 2016. And if Walker and WisGOP were not reporting those expenses, that’s a major campaign law violation.

The Cambridge connections make the $1.1 million that Ukrainian oligarch and Putin buddy Len Blavatnik gave to Walker’s epic fail of a presidential campaign interesting, doesn’t it? It also makes me wonder what favors may have been returned to these outside groups from the Governor, Legislature, and other WisGOPs in return for all of this “research”?

There are so many strands in the Trump/Russia story that it’s often hard to keep things clear in your mind. But the money train is always a good track to ride on, and it seems like an unusual amount of that cash and the related collusion leads back to Wisconsin. Let’s see if others in our state media start following the trail, and ask why Scott Walker and the Wisconsin GOP keep getting connected with this type of sketchiness.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Scotty keeps driving the hole deeper on elections fiasco

I see Governor Unintimidated backed down and finally allowed special elections in 2 districts in the State Legislature today. The elections will be held on June 12, 5 1/2 months after they first came open, but Scott Walker couldn't let the declaration go by without unleashing a string of Tweets whining about how he was forced to do his taxpayer-funded job.

Click on those tweets, and you will see a sizable reply-to-retweet ratio. Want to know if someone unpopular has said something really stupid? It looks like that.

I understand that the favorite holiday of Scott Walker and other Wisconsin Republicans is tomorrow, because just like what many Christians will do on Good Friday, these people celebrate being persecuted. The whining and failure to take responsibility for being a crooked a-hole may be the thing I hate the most about Republicans in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan (well, that and the authoritarianism and failing policies that are turning the formerly great state of Wisconsin into a regressive craphole that can't attract talent). But then again, this has been a Republican tradition for at least 50 years.

I couldn't help but respond on my lunch hour to the massive pile of cynical bullshit Scotty was trying to sell.

This is all on Scott Walker and the Wisconsin GOP for pulling this fascist routine. It's especially absurd given that Walker caused these vacancies when he hired the 2 legislators for big-money jobs in late December. He knew better than anyone else that these seats were becoming vacant, and he could have done the fiscally responsible thing by matching it up with the Spring elections that are taking place next Tuesday, April 3. HE CHOSE NOT TO.

And now Walker's campaign and likely the already-troubled Supreme Court bid of Michael Screnock has taken a notable hit, especially in the two usually-Republican leaning districts that Scotty screwed over. And it couldn't happen to a better group of scumbuckets.

You do it to yourself, you do
And that's what really hurts
Is you do it to yourself, just you
You and no-one else
You do it to yourself
You do it to yourselllllf

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Scotty, Schimel, WisGOP getting smacked down all over on special election fiasco

What a hilariously awful last 2 days for Scott Walker in Wisconsin courtrooms, as our Fair Governor kept trying to avoid calling special elections for seats in the State Legislature that were vacated 3 months ago.

Yesterday was smackdown 1, when Scotty and Brad Schimel's Department of Justice Attorneys pleaded to give Scotty another 10 days, so the WisGOP Legislature could pass its (retroactive and likely illegal) bill preventing the elections.

This is exactly right. The only reason there have been delays and extra costs incurred by taxpayers in this circumstance is because of the actions of one man - SCOTT WALKER. Heck, Scotty was the guy who hired Frank Lassee and Keith Ripp , so he knew they were leaving, and he could have called elections to coincide with the Supreme Court elections that we are having on Tuesday. HE CHOSE NOT TO, and he and the rest of WisGOP doesn't get to whine about the situation that their sleaziness led to.

And by the way, there's an obvious cost savings to be had if you take Walker's words of '"session over, no need for an election" literally.

Maybe the WisGOP legislators or the Walker campaign could donate the funds from their multi-month paid vacation to the local community so the hard-pressed taxpayers won't have to foot the bill for WisGOP's selfish decisions. (Yeah, I'm not counting on that either).

Instead of shrug and admit their Hail Mary maneuver failed, Scotty and Schimel doubled down and tried an emergency appeal late this morning to try to keep from having to follow Dane County Judge Reynolds' court order. It only took a couple of hours for Appeals Court Judge Paul Reilly to laugh them out of his Waukesha courtroom.

The next instinct of Scotty and Schimel was to try to bypass the Appeals Court and send it to the right-wing controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court to see if they could step in at the last minute to keep Scotty from having to (GASP!) allow 230,000 the chance to choose their own reps for the next year. And a few hours later...

POLLING'S BACK, and Scotty and WisGOP are clearly losing big on this one. It also just made an easy argument for why Rebecca Dallet should be elected over the WMC/NRA/Walker rubber stamp she's running against (VOTE ON TUESDAY, YOU FUCKERS!).

So let's see if Scotty officially caves by Noon tomorrow, or we have to lock him up for contempt. And I'd love to see if the WisGOP Legislature is still stupid enough to try to illegally override the court orders to hold the elections, since that'll keep this losing issue in the news, and piss people off even more.

What a complete own goal by Walker and WisGOP here, and what a dumb hill to want to die on. Their hubris has made them and our state government a laughingstock this week (well, other than the courts, who actually did their job). It's a stunning combination of fascist arrogance, lame arguments, and complete incompetence.

Yep, this is definitely the Walker 2018 campaigns theme song. These guys are just running around in complete desperation these days.

Foxconn keeps racking up the taxpayer-funded help

Another week, and more evidence that the Fox-con is going to be much more costly than its proponents ever sold it to be. This has evidenced in 3 different ways in recent days.

The first came from this startling story in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, where a state study shows that the Foxconn campus and manufacturing plant would lead to notable increases in air pollution in an area that already has emissions restrictions.
Emissions from the company’s operations in Mount Pleasant would rank among the highest in southeastern Wisconsin for pollutants that create smog, also known as ozone pollution, state documents show.

Smog poses a health threat, especially for the elderly, children and people who suffer from respiratory problems like asthma. But it can also lead to reduced lung function for people working and exercising outdoors, and environmental groups are concerned about Foxconn's impact on air quality….

The emissions are produced during the manufacturing of super-high-resolution panels for medical imaging, consumer electronics and other uses. The $10 billion plant — a project on no one’s radar here until a year ago — could employ up to 13,000 people and represents the most significant economic development in Wisconsin in decades.

Together, VOCs and NOx emissions would have ranked fourth-highest in southeastern Wisconsin if the company had been operating in 2016, according to DNR figures.

The only higher sources would have been a trio of coal-fired power plants in Oak Creek, Pleasant Prairie and Sheboygan.

Well that’ll drive up the home values in Racine County, won’t it? Add that lost value of property along with the social costs of pollution and inevitable mitigation to the “Foxconn pile” of taxpayer subsidies, because you know Foxconn isn’t going to be paying for any of that damage.

The second case of taxpayers shelling out more for the Fox-con came from what seems to be a positive headline – “Gateway Technical College developing new degree programs for Foxconn jobs”.
Gateway Technical College in Kenosha is finalizing two new degree programs to train workers for the massive Foxconn electronics manufacturing complex planned for nearby Mount Pleasant.

The associate's degree programs — eventually there could be four new, two-year degrees — would also be feeders for other area manufacturing companies investing in the so-called industrial internet of things, once described by The New York Times as "bringing the digital magic of the internet economy to the machines that run the world" to make manufacturing "smarter" and more efficient….

Foxconn says it will provide internships, in addition to job placement.

Foxconn's offer does not promise jobs to Gateway graduates but says graduates of Gateway or similar programs at Gateway's partner technical colleges "will be considered as candidates for hire."

Foxconn anticipates needing advanced manufacturing technicians with knowledge and skills in automation of manufacturing systems/mechatronics, robotics, industrial control systems and the internet of things, for example.
So state taxpayers and students will pay for the equipment and instruction costs for Gateway to get this new program up and running. Since Foxconn is getting bags of cash from WEDC instead of paying corporate taxes, they’re getting basically getting another tax-funded subsidy in the form of new workers that they can choose from their labor pool, without having to do much other than be in the area (OK, they say they’ll give some training to a few unpaid interns, so….YAY?).

The last added subsidy for Foxconn came as part of a committee discussion today at Milwaukee’s City Hall to discuss transit options on how to get city residents to the Foxconn plant. It included Milwaukee Alderman Bob Bauman promoting a plan for commuter rail, as well as the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC) discussing a county plan to have regional bus service bring workers down to Racine County.

Bauman’s latest idea, which would take riders from a station at N. 35th St. and W. Capitol Dr. to Highway 11 in southern Racine County in approximately 45 minutes, competes with two other public transportation proposals that could deliver Milwaukee residents to Foxconn’s front door. The first, introduced recently by Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors Chairman Theodore Lipscomb, Sr. would have the Milwaukee County Transit System operate a bus line to factory campus from downtown Milwaukee. The other, introduced in February by Bauman, would leverage the expansion of the Amtrak Hiawatha Service between Chicago and Milwaukee to provide fast service between the city and rural factory campus. All of the options would require additional public financing, something Bauman says should be a non-issue given the state’s willingness to commit over $4 billion to Foxconn.

The commuter rail option would rely on a public entity acquiring and improving the 30th Street Corridor rail line, which runs from the Miller Valley near Highway 175 to W. Hampton Ave. and N. 34th St. The line, which is entirely grade-separated from city streets, is currently owned by the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad. Trains would originate from Century City, running south into the Menomonee Valley, stopping at the Milwaukee Intermodal Station at the edge of downtown, and continuing south to the Foxconn campus…

[SEWRPC Deputy Director Kevin] Muhs presented SEWRPC’s recent study of a bus route between downtown Milwaukee and Foxconn. The limited-stop service, prepared at [Milwaukee Coutny Board Chair Theo] Lipscomb’s request, would have a bus stopping along Wisconsin Ave., then at the College Ave. and Holt Ave. park-and-ride facilities before ending at Foxconn. A second line could connect to downtown Racine from Foxconn. “This isn’t by any means an all-day service,” said Muhs. Travel times from downtown to Foxconn would be 45-to-50 minutes according to Muhs, with the schedule designed to sync with Foxconn’s anticipated 12-hour shifts.

SEWRPC has found that the county contracting out the operations of the route could provide more capacity and a higher-quality ride. A coach bus operator would use 55-set coach buses versus the 36-seat county transit buses. Costs would be 10 to 40 percent higher, but if the system is well utilized, the net cost per passenger would likely be lower. If the county operates the service themselves they would need to purchase additional buses at approximately $500,000 each.

Under either scenario a one-way trip is expected to cost $4 if paid for with cash, but much lower on average (MCTS would get an average of $1.80 per trip) because SEWRPC projects there will be substantial use of weekly or monthly passes that offer bulk discounts, and a number of riders paying only a transfer from another MCTS trip. Four daily round trips, a capacity of 220 employees, would require an annual operating subsidy of $150,000 to $530,000, depending on ridership. Increasing the service to 12 daily round trips would increase the subsidy to an estimated maximum of $1.59 million annual expense.
There is also the possibility of a Foxconn-related upgrade of the current Amtrak line between Milwaukee and Chicago, to the tune of $195 million. Note that Foxconn is not mentioned to be contributing a DIME toward these projects, but they’d sure reap the benefits of them.

Which leads to an obvious question – why do numerous levels of Wisconsin government continue to bend over backward to shovel billions of tax dollars to help this one company, when we could pay to meet many other needs in the state that would benefit far more people for a much lower cost? The insanity of the Fox-con continues to grow with each story you read.

I keep going back to this book that I read a few years back, and occasionally go back to it. Especialy as the Fox-con looks like it'll end up being one of the worst examples of this in America's history.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

School safety scam drains whatever is left of the state's coffers

With the recent flurry of activity and extra expenses that have happened at the Capitol, let's give a look at where we stand at budgetarily, and also look at one big-ticket item in particular - the special session bills on school safety.

In going back to a memo released by the LFB earlier this month, it showed that if the Wisconsin Senate used its previous last session day to sign off on all parts of Governor Walker’s and the Assembly GOP’s spending spree, it said that we would only have a cushion of $117 million (after $75 million in required reserves).

While most of the items in that list eventually passed the State Senate, there were two major exceptions.

A sales tax holiday was drastically limited in both scope and maximum write-offs, which lowered that tax cut from $51.5 million to $12 million.

Walker’s wish for a $50 million “rural WEDC” program was shot down by the Senate last week and seems unlikely to be revived.

The proposed Kimberly-Clark bailout was not on the LFB list, so there’s no “savings” to be added in due to not taking that action, so the total added back would be $89.5 million. However, that memo also didn’t take into account the new $100 million “school safety” package that sets aside a new pot of money, which will all be set aside in this fiscal year (although it can be drawn from in a number of years after that).

Add in another $450,000+ for administration of the “school safety” funds for the Department of Justice, and the projected budget numbers look like this

2017-19 budget under newly passed bills
Opening balance 2017-18 $579.0 million
Ending balance 2017-18 $541.2 million
Ending balance 2018-19 $181.1 million
MINUS required reserves $75.0 million
Cushion remaining $106.1 million

In other words, we are forecast to be down an additional $11 million from that $117 million figure, to $106 million That’s less than 0.7% out of a General Fund budget of nearly $17.5 BILLION in the next fiscal year. One bad hiccup in the economy, and Wisconsin will be flailing just to stay above water.

And let me talk a bit about that band-aid of a “school safety” bill. This is what Attorney General Brad Schimel sent out yesterday as part of a press release on the new grant program.
Until the formal grant application is finalized, any school that is interested in applying for grant funding may submit a short letter of interest to the DOJ at, identifying the following information: (1) a single point of contact for the school along with contact information; (2) the type of school safety project you hope to implement; (3) the name of the law enforcement agency that will review and approve your project; (4) an approximate dollar amount of the grant you plan to request; (5) whether your project could be in place for the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, and; (6) when you will be in a position to submit a fully developed application and plan.
That’s right, Schimel’s Department of Justice is saying “just send us a letter and we’ll figure out if it makes sense.” The DOJ gives no guidance what will or will not be allowed (that includes arming teachers, which Schimel has already said he was in favor of). There also seems to be no idea if there will be limits on how much one school can get, or if the DOJ will care one whit for equity across school districts.

Which makes me think this “school safety” scam program is simply $100 million that Schimel’s DOJ can play with much like a WEDC handout. Isthmus's Alan Talaga beat me to it on Twitter, and said it better.

I already figured this school safety stunt was a pre-election move to try to deflect heat from the NRA-bought WisGOPs like Walker, Schimel, and most GOP legislators. The cynical side of these bills to make the WisGOPs seem like they give a damn about keeping students safe, but without having to deal WITH THE GUNS AND ARMED PEOPLE THAT MAKE IT UNSAFE.

One other clear flaw in the school safety scam is that it's one-time money- once it's handed out, it is gone, and there has to be further action to keep the program going. Which'll happen in a time when money for all services will likely be even more constrained than it is today.

That also reveals the plan as a slapped-together stunt by Walker to try to slide through the November 2018 elections. You can see where him and fellow cynical GOP hack Walker will use the distribution of these funds as cheap photo ops instead of any kind of long-term strategy to make schools less likely to be afflicted by violence. And it has the side effect of making an already-bad 2019-21 budget even worse, partially because the lack of cushion will lead to a sizable deficit that'll have to be figured out, and because a choice will have to be made to see if more money should be used for this school safety initiative (which will take away from something else), or if we are sent back to square one because WisGOP didn't make a real effort to solve the problem in the first place.

Monday, March 26, 2018

GOP plowing ahead with fascist attempt to stop elections. They scared.

Despite lots of national attention and disgust, it appears Scott Walker and the Wisconsin GOP are trying to proceed with their plans to avoid special elections in 2 legislative seats that have already been vacant for 3 months. And today we found out how the GOP would try to do it.
Under the proposed bill special legislative elections couldn't be held after April spring elections in even-numbered years and would have to be called by early December in the preceding year.

Moreover, there would no longer be statutory language directing the governor to call a special election on a specific timeline.

The proposal comes in response to a Dane County judge's ruling last week that Walker call special elections to fill two legislative seats that were vacated in late December. One is in the 42nd Assembly District, which includes the town of Dane. The other is in the 1st Senate District, which includes Door County....

Fitzgerald criticized the ruling last week as not taking into account the practical effects of forcing a special election in June when the Legislature has already adjourned for the year.

The bill language seeks to circumvent the judge's ruling, stating "this act first applies to a vacancy existing on the effective date of this subsection, notwithstanding any other law, court order, or order of the governor."
It is fascist and awful that the GOP's legislative leaders are attempting to invalidate a court order (which would touch off a constitutional crisis), and is doing so to prevent 230,000 Wisconsinites from being represented. But if you read the “amendment”, there also other changes to special election laws, as the Legislative Council describes.
Under this substitute amendment, no special election for the office of state senator or representative to the assembly may be held after the spring election in the year in which a regular election is held to fill that seat. Under current law, any vacancy in the office of state senator or representative to the assembly occurring before the second Tuesday in May in the year in which a regular election is held to fill that seat must be filled as promptly as possible by special election.

The substitute amendment also provides that the date for a special election may not be less than 124 nor more than 154 days from the date of the governor’s order calling for the special election and that the primary must be held on the day that is eight weeks before the day of the special election. Current law provides that the date for a special election may not be less than 62 nor more than 77 days from the date of the governor’s order calling for the special election and that the primary must be held on the day that is four weeks before the day of the special election.
Why would you want to have seats be vacant for MORE time, especially if the individual resigns at the start of a session to take a state job (as often happens when a new governor and/or party move into power), and the state budget is being debated? So in typical WisGOP fashion, they have to add bad details to an already-awful (and likely illegal) bill.

Original reports said that Fitzgerald was recommending the amendment route so that there wouldn't have to be any public hearings or committee votes on this "cancel the special election" bill. But apparently that was too deceptive even for Fitz, so now the Senate's Elections and Utilities Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday morning on the amendment. And no vote on the bill would happen in the Senate until at least Wednesday, April 4, which makes me wonder if that might be related to the outcome of the Supreme Court election on April 3 (as if you need another reason to vote for Rebecca Dallet over the stooge of Walker, WMC and the NRA).

So why are Walker and Fitzgerald and Robbin' Vos going through all of this? Seriously, why are they making even more people hate the Wiscoinsin GOP, in order to hold up seats that wouldn't cost the GOP their majorities even if they lost both elections? Why not just hold the elections and let the chips fall where they may?

Well there may be a second consideration in play, as Allegra Kirkland of Talking Points Memo floated this afternoon.

If this is true, it underscores just how scared the Walker and the Wisconsin GOP really are these days. And given the underperforming, corruption-stained state they've left us with, they SHOULD be scared if elections are anything close to even.

Walker likely has an extra reason to be scared these days. In looking at the judge's ruling, Scotty has until Noon Thursday to call a date for the special election, and if he doesn't, then it's time to LOCK HIM UP FOR CONTEMPT. Let's see if Scotty is willing to sit in the joint for Easter Weekend for this. You know, like any other lawbreaking thug would have to do if he violated a court order. I bet the little guy would back down.

Let's also not let WisGOP legislators off the hook either. It only takes 2 GOP Senators or 15 GOP Assembly members to decide not to be part of this charade, and the entire effort to retroactively change state law blows up. Here's a list of phone numbers that you can dial to let your Senator or State Rep know that he or she is being watched, and if they try to pull off this illegal act, they won't have a job in the Capitol to go back to when the next regular session begins.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Budget Guy reminds us that GOPs budgeting in DC continues to get worse

With all of the craziness in DC going on this week, the fact that we came within 1 day of another federal government shutdown didn't get a lot of attention. A massive 2,200-page bill was able to pass Congress and be reluctantly signed by President Trump before Friday night's deadline, and there's no imminent threat to government operations for now.

In Forbes, "Budget Guy" Stan Collender had a good rundown of the mess of an omnibus that is now law. Collender noted that the budget deal that became law cemented that we're in a new era of fiscal irresponsibility, rife with cronyism and localized goodies. Which proves that all of the wailing that Tea Partiers made about "soaring debt" at the start of the 2010s were lies filled with crocodile tears as things are worse now than they were 8 years ago.
1. $1 Trillion Or More Annual Federal Budget Deficits Are About To Become An American Tradition

This spending bill plus last year's big tax cut means that the American fiscal realignment is now set and balanced federal budgets have become pure fantasy. Annual deficits of $1 trillion to $2 trillion are here to stay and, realistically, the U.S. has abandoned the possibility of running a surplus and reducing the national debt. In the future, elected officials will take victory laps if the deficit is close to $1 trillion.

2. Earmarks Are Definitely Back

No one used the word while this bill was put together, but there should be no doubt that "earmarks" -- money set aside for a specific purpose -- were used extensively to buy votes. Some were the traditional small amounts for a particular state, district, industry or company; others were the inclusion of whole programs. Either way, they were almost precisely what congressional Republicans, led by former Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), swore to stop doing. To quote the movie "Poltergeist II..."They're back."
Collender also noted that the omnibus package wasn't merely a continuation of spending on current programs, but also included other tax law changes and adjustments along with some new programs. He calls this approach the "Veg-o-matic" method of legislating, where a bunch of stuff is chopped together with the idea of keeping members of Congress from having to explain why they voted for some of the crap that was in the bill, since that provision is never split off.

Governing magazine went over some of the added funding in the omnibus, and it seems to sound like something that Democrats would sterotypically pass - increases in numerous areas of domestic spending, in contrast to the cutbacks Trump's Administration had called for in its budget document, and the tough talk that Paul Ryan has made for most of his 20 years in Congress.
The funding boosts are not a total surprise since February’s spending deal included increases in domestic spending. But states were still doing a fair amount of guesswork when it came to anticipating exactly how much money certain programs would get from the feds, says John Hicks, executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers.

“This is a really good budget for states as it relates to traditional programs where they partner with the federal government,” he says. “I’d say the numbers here in many areas are even higher than what states were counting on.”

For example, highway funding will get a $3.5 billion boost. More than two-thirds of the increase will come in the form of discretionary funding and will supplement what's coming from the Highway Trust Fund.

Education funding will see a $2.6 billion increase, with $400 million of that being set aside for charter schools.

Child care development grants, which help pay for child care so that low-income parents can find work or go back to school, are set to almost double to a historic $5.2 billion in funding. The Center for Law and Social Policy called the boost a “significant win” that will help 230,000 children and their parents across the country.
The increase in discretionary funding is what Collender refers to as "the return of earmarks", and while it's a bit dangerous in that it seems to put a lot of power into the Trump Administration to decide how to spend that money vs a set aside that is passed down to states and communities, it likely will make it easier for these areas to afford projects.

So if you thought Tea Partiers were all about transparency in spending and cutbacks in domestic programs and passing off more spending decisions to the states, I got one word for you - SUCKER!

Collender also warns that the new spending deal only runs through the end of the 2018 Federal Fiscal Year, which ends on September 30, 5 weeks before the November midterms. But given that the Republican leaders in Congress and the Republican president that are trying to avoid the hard choices while also trying to strike poses of strength for low-info voters, the Budget Guy says that it's very possible that things could blow up right before Americans go to the polls.
..As much as most congressional Republicans and Democrats will want to avoid even a near-shutdown just before the 2018 midterm elections, there is little time left for all the negotiations that will be needed to enact even a straightforward continuing resolution that just extends the 2018 funding levels. As I noted in a previous post, as of April 1, the House and Senate only have about 45 legislative days left before the next fiscal year begins.

Add to this limited time frame (1) a Trump 2019 budget that effectively has already been abandoned by the White House and rejected by Congress, (2) a new chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee (current Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) will retire for health reasons on April 1), (3) the House and Senate not planning to adopt a congressional budget resolution this year, (4) increasingly partisan congressional politics heading into the election and (5) a president who has now promised never to sign another massive spending bill and you get a recipe for yet another fiscal cliffhanger with a government shutdown tied to the railroad tracks.
Notice how poorly and dysfunctionally Congress runs when Republicans are in charge, and how fiscal issues that had been set aside in the Obama era are now worse than ever within 15 months of the GOP running everything in DC? Not a coincidence folks.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

New populations show Dane County leading while Milwaukee Co, rurals are bleeding in Fitzwalkerstan

In between the hundreds of millions of dollars being handed out and the suppression of elections going on at the Capitol in recent days, this bit of news seemed to slip up the radar in a lot of places around the state.
Milwaukee County’s population has dropped by nearly 6,800 over the last three years, according to new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, including a 0.34 percent decline from 2016 to 2017.

The drop left the county with an estimated 952,085 residents as of July 1, 2017. It was the third consecutive year with a decline, but the population is still up nearly 0.5 percent since the 2010 census.

For the second year in a row, the decline in Milwaukee County’s population means the broader metro area – which also includes Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee counties – saw basically no population growth over the last year. Waukesha was up 0.6 percent, Washington increased 0.54 percent and Ozaukee was up 0.29 percent from 2016. The area’s population has grown by 1.3 percent since 2010. The WOW counties on their own are up nearly 2.1 percent

Wisconsin added 22,566 residents statewide, a 0.39 percent increase from 2017 and up 1.91 percent since 2010.

Compared to other states, Wisconsin is in the lower half for population growth. The state ranks 40th since 2010 and was 30th in 2017. Seven states – Texas, North Dakota, Utah, Florida, Colorado, Nevada and Washington – and the District of Columbia have seen double digit percentage increases in their population since 2010.
That isn't good for economic growth in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan, either for Wisconsin in general, and specifically for the state's largest city.

Those Census numbers can be broken out in a number of ways. You can click on the various county and metro area Census estimates through this link, and I encourage you to check it out and use it as you need. In looking at Wisconsin, the drop in Milwaukee was a notable exception to the overall trend of urbanization/ suburbanization, as the largest population counties outside of Milwaukee were the ones that added the most people in 2017.

Largest population growth, Wis Counties 2016-17
Dane County +6,159
Brown County +2,466
Waukesha Co. +2,396
Outagamie Co.+1,405
Racine County +1,061

That Racine County stat is intriguing, since that increase allows Racine to go into positive territory for population change in the 2010s. As for the rest of the state in the 2010s, Marquette University's Charles Franklin had a couple of good graphics that show how the more urban parts of the state have gotten almost all the growth, while many rural areas and mid-sized "Rust Belt"-type counties (like Racine prior to last year) have declined.

Interesting that Franklin won't use that reality of major Dane County growth to adjust his Marquette Law polls to include more people from the Madison media market, and won't include more liberals in the electorate. Maybe he'll adjust next time (HINT!).

Not only did Dane County have the highest rate of growth, but it accounted for more than 40% of the state’s entire population growth, and barely 3 1/2 times more than the next nearest county.

Largest population growth, Wis Counties 2010-17
Dane County +48,341
Brown County +14,045
Waukesha Co. +10,685
Outagamie Co. +9,364
Eau Claire Co. +4,786
St. Croix Co. +4,345
TOTAL +108,195

On the flip side, the areas in the state that has lost the most people this decade has been those areas around smaller cities in the east central parts of the state.

Largest population losses, Wis Counties 2010-17
Manitowoc Co -2,267
Wood County -1,623
Marinette Co. -1,439
Waupaca Co. -1,185
Shawano Co. -1,020

It's also worth noting that the Census figures include numbers on net migration, which goes back to what I began this post with. Milwaukee County and its metro area are bleeding a large amount of people. Interestingly, 50 Wisconsin counties had more people moving in domestically than they had moving out in 2017, which is an improvement from past years. But the statewide numbers were still negative, because Milwaukee County had such severe losses.

Domestic migration, 2017
Waukesha Co. +1,425
Dane County +1,343
St. Croix Co. +628
Brown County +584
Dodge County +420

Wood County -150
Clark County -156
Manitowoc Co. -166
Trempealeau -342
Milwaukee Co. -11,588
TOTAL -2,086

And it wasn't just in 2017 that Milwaukee lost people. In fact, the Census Bureau said Milwaukee County was in the top 10 among US counties for population loss for the second straight year, and the trend of people leaving Milwaukee County and not being replaced with people from other places in America has piled up to an alarming number since Scott Walker and the Wisconsin GOP came to power in 2010.

Largest domestic out-migration 2010-2017
Milwaukee Co. -55,601
Racine County -4,980
Kenosha County -2,600
Manitowoc Co. -2,414
Sheboygan Co. -2,356

The only reason Milwaukee County hasn't had an overall drop in population since 2010 is because of its relatively young demograpihcs (+41,950 births over deaths) and that is has added over 18,000 people in the 2010s through international immigration. But it's only up 4,349 overall, and that's not going to be enough in a country that keeps growing outside of Wisconsin.

And yet the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce continues to be one of the biggest cheerleaders of Governor Walker and the ALEC-GOP agenda that the Milwaukee area has floundered under. Just this week, those fuckheads cooked up a pile of BS that claimed the Fox-con would increase the state's economy by billions of dollars, a claim Walker dutifully relayed to the public.

People are voting with their feet, and $6.8 million in state tax dollars or faked reports from corporate oligarchs aren't going to counteract the impression of regressive state that won't invest in the quality of life and infrastrucutre that attracts talent - an image that was broadcast nationwide on November 8, 2016.

And that trend won't change until we remove all of the regressive fools in power that have helped lead to this stagnant population growth in much of the state. That includes Walker, WisGOP, and their mediocre puppetmasters at the MMAC and WMC. Electing Rebecca Dallet in 10 days would be a start in getting this state back on track.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Walker, WisGOP go full on Banana Republican to avoid holding elections

You may have heard this week that our Fair Governor got slapped down by a judge he appointed for failing to call special elections in two vacant seats in the Wisconsin Legislature. But what you may not have heard (or recalled), is the ridiculous argument that Scott Walker and Attorney General Brad Schimel tried to put in front of Dane County's Josann Reynolds.
The law states elections must be called if they occur before the second Tuesday in May in an election year. Walker argued that only covers vacancies that happen after Jan. 1 of the same year as the election, and since these happened on Dec. 29, 2017, he’s under no requirement to act. Plaintiffs contend the requirement applies to vacancies at any point prior to the second Tuesday of May in the election year, not just the same year as the election.

“That is textbook voter disenfranchisement,” plaintiff’s attorney Elisabeth Frost said. “I can’t imagine a more clear case of disenfranchisement of the right to vote.”

The judge agreed. Reynolds said Walker’s interpretation of the law “flies in the face of reason,” ‘’violates basic rules of grammar” and would lead to an “absurd result.” She said voters would clearly suffer harm if the seats were vacant all year, noting that Walker could be forced to call a special election if the U.S. Supreme Court orders Wisconsin lawmakers to redraw political boundary maps in a redistricting case awaiting a ruling.
Seems straightforward enough, but Judge Reynolds made the error of not ordering the elections herself, and for some reason trusting these scumbuckets to do the right thing now that the courts had spoken.

To little surprise to those of us who have paid an ounce of attention in this state for the last 7 1/2 years, Walker and WisGOP aren't going to do the right thing. Instead, they want to change the law so that they can mess with the open seats as they see fit.
Fitzgerald said he wants to "clean up the statutes" before the special elections would be held. The Senate could come in next month to take up the legislation, he said. He did not offer specifics about what the proposal would look like, but said special election timelines should align with the existing elections that are already on the calendar.

"We are very concerned where this whole thing is headed," he said.

In a joint statement issued Friday afternoon, Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said they will call an extraordinary session to take up the legislation.

"A D.C.-based political group wants to force Wisconsin taxpayers to waste money on special elections at a time when our Legislature is ready to adjourn for the year," Walker said in a statement. "Nomination papers for any special elections called now would circulate around the same time nomination papers circulate for the November elections. It would be senseless to waste taxpayer money on special elections just weeks before voters go to the polls when the Legislature has concluded its business."

Walker said he will sign the legislation once passed by the Legislature.

A sickening, amoral troll

First of all, let me introduce these a-holes to a concept called ex post facto. It's in Article I, Section 9 of the US Constitution (you know, that document that Republicans claim they're all about following and never changing because they don't believe in "activism"), and is defined as thus.
1st. Every law that makes an action done before the passing of the law, and which was innocent when done, criminal; and punishes such action. 2d. Every law that aggravates a crime, or makes it greater than it was, when committed. 3d. Every law that changes the punishment, and inflicts a greater punishment, than the law annexed to the crime, when committed. 4th. Every law that alters the legal rules of evidence, and receives less, or different, testimony, than the law required at the time of the commission of the offense, in order to convict the offender.
Parts 1 and 4 sure seem to apply- you don't get to change the laws on special elections retroactively and then say "We're all good" just because you failed to follow the rules the first time.

And also, these are the same guys who were jamming through dozens of bills in an all-night session just to get out of town. Now these guys don't need to go on a 9 1/2 month paid vacation to take care of one more shot at rigging democracy in Wisconsin? And it kinda blows up Walker's whole spin of "Why are we having elections if the legislature is adjourning?", because apparently THEY'RE NOT ADJOURNING.

Just to review, here's the law that goes over the situation that occurred after those two legislators resigned on December 29, 2017. And I am going to emphasize the key parts that should be applying here.
(a) 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.
December 29 was 54 days prior to the Feb 20 Spring primary, and 96 days before the April 3 Spring election, plenty of time for Walker have the election held when Rep. Kevin Ripp and Sen. Frank Lassee resigned to cash in. And IT WOULDN'T HAVE COST AN EXTRA DIME TO THOSE COMMUNITIES, because there already was going to be an election for the Supreme Court in this state.

All Scott Walker and the complicit WisGOP Legislature would have had to do is FOLLOW THE FUCKING LAW, and there wouldn't have been any problems. Instead, they decided to play games, spend taxpayer dollars trying to defend the indefensible, and then (like all abusers do) turn around and blame the people who dare to issue consequences to the Rethugs for not following the law.

If this mentality sounds familiar, it should. This is the exact type of garbage these people tried to pull during the recall elections of 2011 and 2012, when Scott Fitzgerald and Scott Walker encouraged GOP hacks to enter recall races as Democrats to force primaries and delay the elections for 4 more weeks. After the recalls, Robbin' Vos had the nerve to complain about the cost of the extra elections that were caused by the "divide and conquer" act by Scott Walker and the ALEC-GOPs .

And as a Dem candidate for Governor noted, it sure shows you what these GOP "public servants" truly find important.

These people truly do not believe in a concept of "consent of the governed", and clearly do not trust their own ideas to win out in a fair fight. They cannot be allowed to pull this shit any more.

Hey WisGOPS, you better pray that the only price you pay is at the ballot box for this disgusting abuse of power, and don't end up in the clink for contempt of court. You'd better let democracy take its course, and accept your losses like men. Because if you don't allow the democracy option to work out, the other option won't allow you to pull wingnut welfare paychecks after they're out of office. Do you really want that to happen?

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Walker DWD keeps painting a jobs picture that doesn't hold up

After the annual delay due to benchmarking, we’re now caught up on Wisconsin’s jobs reports after today’s release by the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. And Scott Walker and most other state Republicans were talking up this part of the report.
Place of Residence Data: Wisconsin's preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for February 2018 reached a record low of 2.9 percent, down 0.2 percent from January's rate of 3.1 percent, and 1.2 percentage points lower than the national unemployment rate of 4.1 percent. The previous record-low state unemployment rate of 3.0 percent was reached in July 1999. Wisconsin also reached a record high for the number of people employed in the state, with 3,068,200 people employed, while the state's total civilian labor force also reached a record-setting level, with 3,161,000 people considered actively employed or actively pursuing employment and part of the state's labor force. Wisconsin's labor force participation rate also increased from 68.5 percent in January to 68.6 percent in February 2018.
Wow! We’re in a record boom in Wisconsin! What, you're not noticing it and being eternally grateful?

If you answered “No,” there may be good reason why you might not be feeling all of these good stats. Remember that jobs reports have two components- a payroll survey (which tracks the number of jobs are reported by employers in the state), and a household survey (which tracks Wisconsinites that have jobs, and those who are searching for jobs).

So when GOP hacks talk up the “record low unemployment” in the state they’re talking about the household survey, and that’s an important distinction to bring up, as the amount of people “working” in the state has tended to differ from having the jobs actually be located here.

For example, look at the difference in Wisconsinites that are listed as “employed” since the start of 2017, and the amount of jobs added in Wisconsin since the end of 2016.

Jan 2017- Feb 2018 change, Wisconsin
Total jobs +22,400
“Employment” +41,700

Now that may mean a sizable amount of Wisconsinites are finding “gig jobs” and/or working out of state. Or it may mean that the “employment” and labor force stats are being overestimated by Walker’s DWD, like they were to a ridiculous degree in 2017.

Estimates of change Dec 2016- Dec 2017
Original DWD report +86,900
After benchmarking +30,900

Labor force
Original DWD report +55,700
After benchmarking +22,500

In the last 2 months, Walker’s DWD says that the amount of people “employed” in Wisconsin has risen by 10,800 while the labor force has gone up by less than 2,750, dropping the unemployment rate from 3.2% to 2.9%. One of those numbers seems legit, and it isn’t the amount of people employed.

Moving over to payroll jobs, they continued to lag in Wisconsin in February, as 300 private sector jobs were lost in Wisconsin, a month when the US private sector gained 287,000. Combined with a downward revision to January’s private sector jobs total by 900, this shoots the Walker jobs gap even higher, now nearing 140,000.

The one bright spot of the payroll side of the report showed that 2,500 new manufacturing jobs were allegedly added in Wisconsin for February, and January’s totals were revised up by 700. And if you’ve paid attention in the past, your immediate reaction to that stat should be “BULLSHIT!”

As UW-Madison’s Menzie Chinn pointed out, the subsequent release of the “gold standard” Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) has consistently caused the Walker DWD’s “strong gains” to be revised down sharply over the last 3 years.

Magically, manufacturing jobs are up by 10,900 in Wisconsin since that benchmarked figure for September. And since Professor Chinn isn’t Koched up or receiving a Bradley Foundation “grant” to get his job at the UW Department of Economics (unlike Noah Williams, whose “research” Walker tried to talk up yesterday), you see why I’m intensely skeptical those reported gains have actually happened.

After overshooting on these estimates for the last few years, I can’t help but think these DWD errors aren’t accidents, but instead another arm of Scott Walker’s 2018 election campaign. That’s not what our tax dollars should be going toward, and it’s well past time that people with media megaphones start calling that out, along with Walker’s constant taxpayer-funded campaign trips around the state.

But in fairness, if you 24 hours where you had to settle a lawsuit for $19 million due to negligence at a youth prison (that was covered up for two years) and was found to be violating state law for failing to hold elections for vacant legislative seats in a timely fashion, I suppose you’d look anywhere for good news to spin and cling to. So that’s why I expect Walker and the WisGOPs to sell this “2.9% unemployment” claim for as long as they can….until that also becomes untrue.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Walker spending spree might be slowed or an odd reason- GOP dysfunction

After last night's vote-o-rama in the State Senate, let's take a look at where we are budgetarily, and on other bills.

HEADING TO WALKER'S DESK: $6.8 million "talent attraction" program, a bill that slants things heavily for landlords vs tenants, and $24.0 million to adjust the tax code to federal changes.
OUT: The $50 million rural WEDC program, and this potential future expense.

That adds a bit of cushion back, but there's one other category that we have for this session - UP IN THE AIR. One reason is because the State Senate was first to vote on the $100 million "student safety" package (that does nothing about the guns that threaten student safety), and the Assembly hasn't voted on it yet. Ominously, a scheduled vote in the Assembly Education Committee was put off today, which means that maybe even the GOPs know that this thing is being rushed and has a lot of gaps in it.

And oh yeah, there's another sizable bill that leaked out yesterday to add to the pile.

But there's another reason that some of these initiatives are up in the air - because the Senate modified several Assembly-passed bills yesterday, which tosses it back over to the lower house. While you might think it's a formality for the Assembly to shove it ahead tomorrow, the Wisconsin State Journal's Mark Sommerhauser says that's not a sure thing.

So are we going to be seeing more of this tomorrow?

And yes, Walker has been this feckless.

Remember, the Senate is supposed to have started their 9 1/2 month paid vacation today, so if another modified bill comes out of the Assembly, does that mean those bills are dead? Or does Fitzgerald call them back in?

If those bills do die tomorrow, it would be somehow fitting if these pre-election stunts were to avoiding hitting Scott Walker's desk because Vos and Fitz had hurt fee-fees against each other, and insisted on having the bill THEIR WAY. Combined with the fact that most of these bills won't be for anything that helps the overwhleming majority of people in this state long-term, and will tie the hands of future legislatures, it's a big reason why these guys gotta go ASAP.

Racine County residents feeling the Fox-con bulldozer

Whether it makes any sense or not, Foxconn's new facility in Southeast Wisconsin continues to plod ahead. And many of the residents around the planned campus are seeing the Foxconn steamroller come through no matter who lives there and who it hurts.

The people in Racine County sure are finding that out the hard way, and it was reiterated in a meeting with the public at the Mount Pleasant Village Hall yesterday. Since many individuals still want to stay in their houses despite being offered inflated (taxpayer-backed) prices to move out. So now the Village says they're literally going to call say those neighborhoods are blights to get them out of there.

Village officials argued while homes in the area aren't in poor shape, they have the ability to change the land's designation if properties are getting in the way of progress.

"Even though there may not be a single blighted property within the boundaries of the redevelopment area, the area may still meet the definition of a blighted area, which allows the acquisition of non-blighted properties," said Alan Marcuvitz, Mount Pleasant village attorney.

Village officials point to the following clause in which the state defines blighted property: "An area which is predominantly open and which because of obsolete platting, diversity of ownership, deterioration of structures or of site improvements, or otherwise, substantially impairs or arrests the sound growth of the community."

The village argues current homes in the area will stop their sound growth.

The village says using eminent domain is a last resort, and homeowners are being offered up to 140 percent of their home's assessed value and other benefits to move.
On another side of Racine County local government, there was concern that nearby residents would not be able to get good wages and work conditions if they worked for Foxconn. With that in mind, Racine County executive Jonathan Delagrave sent a memo to state legislators asking that a certain “labor reform” bill be stopped.
Local municipalities, under the proposed legislation, could not enact ordinances related to wages; employee hours and overtime, including scheduling of employee hours or shifts; employment benefits; or “an employer’s right to solicit information regarding the salary history of prospective employees.”

It could also affect local hiring provisions.

The Assembly bill included an exemption for the Foxconn Technology Group project and related projects “from unintended negative consequences of this bill.”

However, Delagrave wrote in his memo that he is concerned that: The bill does not exempt work on Interstate 94 or Highway KR and wastewater utility work; the Foxconn exemption might not hold up in court; and there could be other construction projects unrelated to Foxconn “where we want local hiring provisions and worker training incentives or requirements to help Racine County residents get hired. The amendment doesn’t protect any of these projects, so our local workforce efforts would be prohibited.”
So what did the ALEC-owned WisGOPs do last night in the Senate? They made the bill even worse for Delagrave!
The state Senate today approved legislation prohibiting municipalities from creating their own local labor laws after stripping out a change the Assembly made last month.

That means the bill would have to be approved by the Assembly, which plans to be in Thursday in extraordinary session, before it could head to the guv’s desk.

The Assembly provision that was stripped from the bill would have made clear the legislation did not apply to Foxconn.
“Small government conservatism” at its finest. Let’s see if the GOPs in the Assembly (of whom over 95% voted for the Fox-con) are cool with this amended bill tomorrow.

So in addition to removing environmental regulations and grabbing millions of gallons from Lake Michigan, now the locals in the Racine/Mt. Pleasant area can’t even demand that Foxconn pay a decent wage, hire locals, or have any standards above Fitzwalkerstan’s rapidly declining ones.

And just because Wisconsinites are heavily subsidizing the Foxconn facility, it doesn't mean that state and local companies will be the ones who do the work. That was seen again yesterday, as Foxconn announced the contractors for the building project.
Foxconn Technology Group (Foxconn) today announced that it has selected M+W Gilbane, CH2M, and The Sigma Group to serve as the lead contractors and designers for its state-of-the-art display manufacturing campus in Racine County. The three companies all have strong ties to Wisconsin and will begin to work within the next 60 days to hire construction workers to support phase one of the project, which will create 13,000 jobs in Wisconsin and thousands more jobs through construction and the extensive supply chain supporting this project.

(Side note- I love how the GOP hacks try to keep telling the lie that Foxconn will create 13,000 jobs when the actual contract with the state says Foxconn only needs to add 10,400 jobs to keep all of the tax dollars Wisconsin would hand out, and it has 10 years to get there).

In looking at these companies, the “three companies all have strong ties to Wisconsin” claim is sketchy at best. It appears that only one does, as Sigma Group is a homegrown Milwaukee company, and they will deal with much of the environmental and engineering consulting.

But Gilbane is headquartered in Rhode Island and only has a small branch office in Milwaukee for a Wisconsin presence, and as for CH2M, they’re based out of suburban Denver, and were recently bought by the Jacobs Group, an international organization whose Wisconsin presence consists of two local branches in Appleton and Green Bay.

I suppose the local area will get an economic boost when these companies move workers to the Foxconn site in the near future. But many of the gains from these project will still be sent back to the home offices of these businesses, and unlike a road project, few Wisconsinites will actually be able to utilize what’s being built for Foxconn.

So it look like the only people winning with the Fox-con these days are the foreign corporation itself, a few contractors fortunate enough to land something associated with the Fox-con, and the politicians that may get headlines and campaign kickbacks from this taxpayer-funded business. Is that worth $4.5 billion+ over the next 25 years, and a whole lot of other needs going by the wayside in Wisconsin?

The more this thing develops, it looks like more people in SE Wisconsin will end up losing with the Fox-con, other than the handful of people who might get a job out of it (and with the unemployment rate being low, did they really need us to throw money at Foxconn to find a job?). The losers include the residents that are losing their land and homes, but also include those that are left will have to pay the higher local taxes to subsidize this local development.

And all of us will have to deal with the environmental and fiscal wreckage in the coming years from the Fox-con. And when WisGOP inevitably whines in future years “Who could have seen it coming?”, the answer will be obvious: “Anyone with a clue.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

GOP Senate chooses gimmicks > responsibility, and we'll pay the price next year

The Wisconsin State Senate is trying to wrap up their session for the 2017-19 biennium, and two big-ticket items have found their way through today, albeit in modified form.

Looks like the sales tax holiday will only be limited to lower-cost computers, computer supplies, clothes, and school supplies, and the Wisconsin State Journal says this seems to be part of a compromise between Assembly and Senate GOPs, so they can say they got something through before November’s election.
The sales-tax holiday proposal initially was left off the calendar for Tuesday's Senate session. Some Republican senators also had said they thought the proposal was a gimmick.

Fitzgerald said the agreed-to plan for the sales-tax holiday would cost the state about $12 million, compared to the $52 million pricetag for the measure that passed the Assembly.

Fitzgerald said the deal with the Assembly retains provisions calling for replacing the youth prison with new, smaller facilities for juvenile offenders around the state.

But the final plan to replace the prison would be subject to approval by the Legislature's budget-writing Joint Finance Committee, Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald also reportedly said he would call an extraordinary session on some of these bills to speed up the passage, and the Assembly also plans to do the same later this week. Apparently those 9 ½-month paid vacations can’t wait any longer!

As I mentioned last week, there is a real problem with trying to fit all of these pre-election goodies under a cushion of $382 million, and it also leaves a larger deficit looming for the next budget and next Legislature to clean up. And that’s without mentioning the $100 million Walker now wants to throw at schools for “safety measures” (that conveniently don’t involve removing the guns that cause schools to be less safe), where all of that money is set aside this year, even though it may take a few years to spend it all.

And we found out this afternoon that there's now another bill that'll subtract from this cushion.

You can't tell me Scott Walker and his administration didn't know about this 2015 settlement and the $19 million settlement. But hey, why deal with real problems when you can do pre-election bribes that might sucker a few low-info voters?

Anything that passes today, including the added costs that come from closing Lincoln Hills and Copper Hills and moving those inmates to smaller regional facilities, increases the already-sizable built-in deficit for the next budget. And that debt grows larger if this week's votes start a program that continues and needs more money in the next budget (like we'll see with the Lincoln Hills closings and other juvy reforms). With that in mind, I haven’t seen a report on everything that hasn't made the cut from the Senate, but Scott Bauer of the AP mentioned one of them.

Another big-ticket item that seems most likely to end up dead include $50 million a year Walker wanted to spend on a new “rural WEDC” program, so perhaps the entire cushion won’t be blown, but only about half of it. But stay tuned, because I have this sinking feeling that this is not the last we've heard about some of these bills, and the inevitable deficit that will blow up as a result of these pre-election gimmicks.