Tuesday, June 29, 2021

In today's edition of "Bad idea budget theatre"

I'd seen Dem types such as Citizen Action and State Sen. Chris Larson say they wanted Governor Evers to veto the entire state budget if it got to his desk in its current WisGOP-modified form. We found out today why this would be a very bad idea.

Those packages — one signed by President Biden this spring, one by former President Trump in December — include a requirement that states maintain their current spending commitments to K-12 and higher education to qualify for the money.

The Cares Act, which Trump signed, requires that maintenance of effort extend into the 2021-22 fiscal year. Under the American Rescue Plan Act, which Biden signed, the commitment must be met in both 2021-22 and 2022-23.

If the budget is vetoed and no new one is approved, the state would continue with the appropriation levels in place for the 2020-21 fiscal year, which ends tomorrow.

In a memo requested by Sen. Jon Erpenbach, LFB estimated the state wouldn’t meet the maintenance of effort requirements under either package if that happened.
I know I said a month ago that Evers should consider tossing the whole budget out, but that was before the WisGOPs ended up adding enough state money to K-12 to guarantee the stimulus funds (yes, it's a gimmick to reduce property taxes vs investing in schools, but it still gets us the $2.3 billion from the Feds).

As it stands today, Evers can veto or rewrite bad parts out of the budget while accepting some other parts, and then if those big revenues do appear in the coming months, turn around and demand WisGOP to use those funds in 2022.

I also have no doubt that if Evers did veto the whole budget, WisGOP would laugh, do nothing (a skill they are very good at), and then cynically blame Evers for not allowing districts to get the stimulus funds. No sense playing that game.

Speaking of games, it looks like a giveaway WisGOP is planning on giving to certain business owners is hitting some snags.

That legislation, Assembly Bill 191, is focused on eliminating the personal property tax paid by businesses. It would save the businesses about $200 million a year.

But the legislation would also expand an income tax break for manufacturers and agricultural operations.

That tax break is now available on income generated by manufacturers, as well as warehouses and office structures "when located at the site of the (manufacturing) activity."...

The tax legislation coming up Tuesday would eliminate the phrase "when located at the site of the activity." According to the Department of Revenue, a manufacturer based in China, Mexico or anywhere else would now be able to claim the tax break for its warehouses and offices in Wisconsin....

The issue came to light just days after lawmakers learned that their plans to end the personal property tax would likely also lead to a tax break of $45 million a year for railroad companies.
See what happens when you allow WMC to write bills for you?

So the budget is being held up for a bit as WisGOP tries to remedy the hash that they've made of their tax cut giveaway, and it will likely cost taxpayers more money to fill in the holes caused by the extra giveaways that this language is causing. Or given that this is a standalone, Evers could veto this and tell WisGOP to put it back into the oven to get it right.

Wouldn't it be nice to stop the games and posing for interest groups, and actually do something that's smart and workable? Evers likely will, but I'm not so sure about a lot of others these days.

As stimulus and COVID fade, our growing economy is hitting a crossroad

If you just looked at the overall numbers from the recent income and spending report for May, you'd think we were in an economy which is seeing fading stimulus lead to a leveling off of overall spending.
Personal income decreased $414.3 billion (2.0 percent) in May according to estimates released today by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (tables 3 and 5). Disposable personal income(DPI) decreased $436.3 billion (2.3 percent) and personal consumption expenditures(PCE) increased $2.9 billion (less than 0.1percent).

Real DPI decreased 2.8 percent in May and Real PCE decreased 0.4 percent; goods decreased 2.0 percent and services increased 0.4 percent (tables 5 and 7). The PCE price index increased 0.4 percent. Excluding food and energy, the PCE price index increased 0.5 percent (table 9).
The decline in incomes is a direct result of a reduction of $560 billion in stimulus checks (annual basis) and $36 billion in unemploymenty benefits. Take that out, and we would have had a decent increase in incomes, particularly in wages and salaries.

And look on the right side of that graph. For the first time since COVID broke out, the growth in wages and salaries vs February 2020 is more than the growth in unemployment benefits. Not really what the oligarchs and their GOP puppetmasters are spinning about "lazy people on unemployment", is it?

The spending side is even more interesting, even though the overall consumption numbers barely changed in May and real consumption had a small decline. It indicates a shift back toward pre-COVID spending patterns as vaccinations grew and weather warmed. Goods spending had significant drops (and may also reflect supply chain difficulties, particularly in autos), but services continued to claw its way back from the severe depression that it fell into when COVID first broke out.

In particular, spending in leisure, entertainment and transportation spending has benefitted from the fading of COVID and increased activities to go along with warmer May temperatures. These industries are not all the way back by any means, but the recent shift is clear.

There is little question that the economy picked up between February and May, largely due to stimulus and improved public health. But now the question is whether this elevated level of activity keeps up. The stimmy checks have already been paid, but job and wage growth is continuing. And there are clearly adjustments going on where increased demand for services and decreased need (and supply) for goods is going to lead to disruptions in good and bad ways.

You also can see that we are not all the way back, and need to keep demand going for the second half of 2021 in order to continue the Biden Boom that we have had for the last few months, so more Americans can continue to get back toward the pre-COVID normal.

Monday, June 28, 2021

So where does the Wisconsin budget stand today, and for the next 2 years?

As the Legislature prepares to vote on the state budget in the next couple of days, I wanted to give a step back to see where we've been, and where we are.

I'm going to start the Evers budget from March, which includes the early tax cuts put in to match up tax codes to many of the Federal changes put in through CARES and other COVID stimulus measures. And if you begin from that point, you'll see where the LFB estimated a jump in revenues of $1.1 billion for 2021 in June, and then how that translated into a sizable bump in revenues for the 2022 and 2023 Fiscal Years.

You'll also see how the WisGOPs on Joint Finance used that improved situation to cut revenues back to levels similar to what Evers' original budget projected a few months ago.

On the expense side, we see where the increased federal spending in 2020 and beyond combined with an improving economy to lessen the need for expenses from what the Evers budget thought we were going to see. The WisGOPs on Finance first removed many of Evers' spending initiatives (reflected in the silver LFB totals for 2022 and 2023), and then added back some spending of their own.

But what the WisGOPs spent state funds on was very different than what Evers wanted to spend on. Some of this is related to variables that didn't exist when Evers first submitted the budget in February - particularly the ARPA stimulus and the huge projected increase in revenues. But much of the increased "spending" by WisGOP are one-time transfers that trades surplus funds for the normal method of spending.

GPR transfers in WisGOP budget, 2021-23

To Unemployment Insurance Fund $120.0 million
To Transportation Fund $276.2 million
To Budget Stabilization Fund $550.0 million
To Medicaid Trust Fund $702.8 million

LFB says that due to the moves made under the WisGOP budget, most of the $2.5 billion that is projected to be carried over into the next budget will be gone by the time the 2-year cycle ends on June 30, 2023. And under the LFB's projections of laws that would carry over into 2023-25, a structural deficit appears that would have to be filled through increased revenues or other means.

In theory, Governor Evers could veto some or all of these changes, but all that would do is to "bank" the funds. Not necessarily a bad idea, as Evers could use the extra funds to call for items that Republicans threw out of this budget, such as more funds for Special Education or the UW System, more shared revenues for local governments to lessen the pressure on property taxdes, or in having WisGOP take up tax cuts for the working poor that Evers wanted, but the Republicans rejected.

But given that WisGOP allows little debate in public among its members, I would guess the budget would largely pass as-is over the next couple of days, and then the guessing game will begin as to how Evers will react.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

WisGOPs chose lower prop taxes vs helping schools + communities. Dems should ask "why not both"?

Now that the Joint Finance Committee has pushed through the WisGOPs' version of a state budget, it's time for the Legislative Fiscal Bureau to release their reports that tell us where we stand as the full Legislature plans to vote on the document next week. One of these traditional reports from the LFB deals with what would happen to property taxes under current law, and compare it to what Gov Evers had in his budget, as well as the WisGOP budget. One key part of JFC's changes was to drop property taxes by a significant amount through a few methods.
The Joint Finance Committee modified a number of the Governor's provisions affecting property tax levels. For counties and municipalities, modifications included deleting the Governor's recommended changes to county and municipal levy limits. The Committee also included a reestimate of the current law lottery fund condition to reflect higher projected lottery sales during the biennium, as well as a higher opening balance in 2021-22. As a result, an additional $75.9 million in 2021-22 and $29.8 million in 2022-23 is available for property tax relief through the current law lottery and gaming credit, compared to estimates under AB 68/SB 111. For school districts, modifications included deleting the Governor's recommended changes to the revenue limits. The Committee increased base funding for general school aids by $110.0 million in 2021-22 and by $298.0 million in 2022-23. The Committee also deleted the general school aid reduction associated with certain independent charter schools, which would increase the net general aid payments to districts and reduce the gross school levy by an estimated $82.8 million in 2021-22 and $83.9 million in 2022-23. In total, the Committee's actions would reduce school levies by $192.8 million in 2021(22) and by $381.9 million in 2022(23), compared to current law, which would represent reductions of $147.8 million in 2021-22 and $326.9 million in 2022-23 from the Governor. In addition, the Committee also increased property tax relief aid to technical colleges by $29.0 million in 2021-22 and by $43.0 million in 2022-23, which would reduce their levies by an equal amount each year.
All of these moves will result in a notable drop in property taxes for the typical Wisconsin homeowner.
As a result of the preceding changes, gross property tax levies are estimated to increase on a statewide basis by 0.3% in 2021(22) and by 0.5% in 2022(23), and net tax levies would decrease by an estimated 0.7% in 2021(22) and increase by 1.2% in 2022(23). These tax changes would result in tax bills for a median-valued home estimated at $3,214 in 2021(22) and $3,246 in 2022(23). These represent a decrease of $101 (3.0%) in 2021(22) and an increase of $32 (1.0%) in 2022(23). Compared to estimated tax bills under AB 68/SB 111, these tax bills would result in a decrease in the estimated tax bill of $72 (2.2%) in 2021(22) and $135 (4.0%) in 2022(23).

None of this is surprising, as the GOPs on Joint Finance chose to use the billions in excess state money to cut property taxes vs allowing K-12 schools and the state’s Tech Colleges to use the added resources in the classroom and on fixing buildings. The WisGOPs will argue that federal stimulus funds can make up the difference for the next two years, but as I noted earlier this week, for many districts, this isn't the case.

While the LFB says that property taxes going to education are slated to drop by nearly $150 million next year under the WisGOP budget, all other local governments are slated to have their property taxes continue to rise. So total property taxes paid in Wisconsin won't end up being that different, although increased properties allows for a lower tax bill to individuals.

I find it odd that WisGOPs had no problem with replacing property taxes with state aid when it came to education, but they did little to add shared revenues for cities, villages, towns or counties, which means those places are going to have to tap property taxes to maintain their level of services. WisGOPs could have gone along with Gov Evers’ plan to allow these communities to put in their own sales tax, and not even had to send another dime in state tax dollars in order to get property taxes lower. But they didn't choose to do that.

So WisGOPs really aren’t using this surplus as an opportunity to lead a reform away from property taxes as a method of funding Wisconsin’s schools and local governments, they just want a tax-cut gimmick to run on in 2022. With that in mind, I’d say Evers and WisDems should take the next step, and say that we should be going away from property taxes in general.

We can do that by having the rich and corporate, who have gotten tax break after tax break at the state and local levels throughout the last decade, start paying more of the burden instead of the typical Wisconsin homeowners. Especially now that it isn't worth it for many Wisconsinites to write off their property taxes anymore, due to the GOP Tax Scam!

The advice is worth what you paid for it, WisDems. But I think a message of lower property taxes combined with better funding of schools/communities is a winner. And yes, we can do both if we choose.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Even as capacities grow, Evers realizes that Wis entertainment and travel biz still need help.

A lot of us are excited that the large reduction of COVID cases will let us use more entertainment options this Summer and Fall. Wisconsin sports teams are returning to full capacity, including the Bucks for the playoffs, and the Brewers tomorrow.

In addition, I got an email from the alma mater yesterday which shows that they see no problems with packing the house when students comes back next Fall.

In addition, Summerfest looks to be ready to go on full-bore in September and more movie theatres have reopened in recent months, along with more new movies being released to theatres. But that doesn’t mean those sectors of entertainment are close to returning to pre-COVID levels, and a lot of jobs and venues are still at risk halfway through 2021.

If you look at movie box office numbers, each June since 2008 had over $1 billion in ticket sales, until we got to 2020. And while many more movie theatres are open compared to this time last year, Box Office Mojo reports that we just passed $1/4 billion in ticket sales for June, leaving the US down well over 70% on a daily revenue basis.

On another entertainment front, live music shows are finally coming back, but that’s only happened recently and still not at the levels that we saw before the pandemic. As today’s article by Bruce Murphy in Urban Milwaukee points out, while the Summerfest grounds might be getting shows and stimulus funds, many other live music places are still waiting for both business and assistance.
The irony is not lost on Gary Witt. The CEO of the Pabst Theater Group, who helped lobby Congress to create the $16 billion Shuttered Venue Operators Grant to reimburse entertainment venues across the nation, has yet to get a dollar of that dough. Nor have the vast majority of venues nationally and across the state, some of them small operations teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

But Summerfest, the big kahuna of local concert promoters is among the few that got aid, a windfall of $10 million in federal pandemic aid, the maximum allowed by the program, and far more than any other organization in the state.

…it was the group co-founded by Witt, the National Independent Venues Association (NIVA), that successfully lobbied Congress to create the special pandemic aid program, which passed last December. Since then the money has been delayed by a confluence of issues, leaving concert venues desperate for money. Witt told Rolling Stone magazine that due to the pandemic the Pabst Theater Group lost 97 percent of its annual revenue and he lost nearly all of his life savings.

“I feel confident that we will survive,” he tells Urban Milwaukee. “But will the Cactus Club or Club Garibaldi or Shank Hall?”

Shank Hall, he notes, just received its grant, as did the Rave. But they are the exceptions. As of Monday, the SBA reported that 1,445 grants had been awarded for a total of $833.4 million, CNBC reported. All told, 7,118 applications remain in the submitted phase and 5,853 are in review. The combined requests yet to be processed represent $11.6 billion in grants.
These Wisconsin entertainment venues still have to pay rent and other fixed bills in the meantime, which is why it was likely a welcome sight for them to see this news out of the Governor’s office today.
Gov. Tony Evers today announced more than $140 million in grants to businesses and organizations that play an integral role in Wisconsin's tourism and entertainment industries. The new grant programs will be invested in industries hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, including live event venues, movie theaters, summer camps, minor league sports, and the lodging industry. Additional investments will be made in reopening Wisconsin historical sites and marketing support for Wisconsin's tourism industry…

These investments are being funded by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) and will be administered by the Wisconsin Department of Administration and the Department of Revenue.

The lodging funds are also a reminder that even though the Dells and Door County may be seeing a rebound in business from leisure travelers and aren’t able to hire enough people to meet the demand, the convention business and other work-related travel is still way down, which means many hotels are still in need of help.

So even as COVID fades as a health barrier and as a barrier to some types of discretionary spending, a lot of the travel and entertainment industries are still in a significant hole. So if we want a large number of these spending options to be available to us in Wisconsin and the US for the 2nd half of 2021 and beyond, we need to support these places, both with our private dollars, and also with some public ones in the near term.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

While GOPs spread Big Lies on 2020 elections, it's their red counties that packed ballot boxes

As WisGOPs pass their latest voter suppression bills to try to keep the Big Lie going (thank God we have a Governor who will veto this trash the moment it comes to him), I wanted to go back to a story that the Journal-Sentinel's Craig Gilbert did last week.

The data show that lower-frequency voters made up a larger share of the turnout in places where Donald Trump gained ground between 2016 and 2020. Many of these were small, rural Wisconsin counties that saw bigger than average spikes in turnout last fall....

“The rural areas were almost the hero that Trump needed them to be,” said Brian Kind, a Republican data strategist based in Wisconsin.

“There were new voters on all fronts,” Kind said. But in his analysis, he found that rural areas made up a larger share of the statewide vote in 2020 than they did in 2016 — a difference he called small but significant.

(A Journal Sentinel analysis found that turnout — total votes cast — in all Wisconsin cities combined grew from 2016 to 2020 by 7.9%, while turnout in all Wisconsin towns combined grew by 13.6%).
This is something I've touched on in the past. If you look at the vote totals by county and the City of Milwaukee, you'll see that Dem areas didn't have the turnout burst that a lot of GOP areas got. And the City of Milwaukee had a significantly smaller share of the electorate than it had in the past (7.5% vs 9.4% in 2012), while the outstate counties made up more of the voters, with a huge leap in 2020.

Yet many of these areas aren't growing in population, which makes the overperformance in rural, Trumpier places all the more....interesting. Seriously, can you imagine the complaints on RW hate media and other areas of WisGOP BubbleWorld if Dems overperformed like that and squeaked out a win by less than 1%? Especially now that we know that Trump benefitted from a lot of new voter registrations?

You may remember that I created a stat that looked at the growth in voter turnout in 2020 vs 2016, and then adjusted for the growth in population a county had between 2016 and 2019. Then I created a chart to show whether that county shifted more toward Joe Biden vs Hillary Clinton's result in 2016 (in blue) or if turned towards Trump (in red).

Keep in mind statewide average in this stat is just below 10%, and its bar would be blue.

Lotta red on there, isn't it?

I'll throw in that Brown County's turnout vs population increase was below the state average (9.69%), which I bring up as context to this absurd piece of garbage sent out by a GOP State Rep today.

So where is Rep. (Not So) Magnafici from? Amery, in Polk County. Which is on the chart above, finishing 8th out of 72 counties for increased turnout vs population. In all, Polk County saw its turnout jump by nearly 16% in 2020 vs 2016, while its population only grew by 1.3%.

Donald Trump won Polk County by 27.5% in 2020, not much different than the 27.7% Trump won that county by in 2016 by percentage, but the added turnout allowed Trump to win Polk County by an additional 1,000 votes last November. This type of result explains why GOPs continue to promote the Big Lie for two different reasons.

1. If Trumpism gets a certain type of Wisconsinite (I'm being kind) to go to the polls and vote GOP, then GOPs are looking at that data and doubling down on that type of strategy. Which shows they don't care how much wreckage to our state and political system happens, as long as they get to be in charge of it.

2. And/or GOPs found a way to stuff the ballot box with "new voters" in November 2020, and they're spreading lies about "fraud" to distract people from the scumbaggery they pulled in 2020.

I'm not saying I believe Number 2, but I am saying that maybe we should audit places like Polk County to make sure no funny business was going on. I'm sure WisGOPs like Rep. Magnafici would agree, out of the interests of fairness and to clear up "concerns" over the odd vote totals from the last election.

Monday, June 21, 2021

If you live in Wis burbs, you're not likely to win under stimulus or WisGOP funding scheme

After WisGOPs on Joint Finance revised their K-12 spending plans to avoid blowing $2.3 billion in stimulus funds from DC, Wisconsin school superintendents were saying it's not enough. And that's because the added "state spending" to qualify for the stimulus isn't going to go for the schools. Here's more detail from a Capitol rally in Madison demanding more for K-12 in 2021, to make up for years of underfunding.
“All students and staff across our state deserve better than zero," Verona Area School District Superintendent Tremayne Clardy said outside the Capitol "This budget simply does not meet the needs of students and families across the state."... Per-pupil spending on public education nationwide grew by 23% from 2008 to 2018, but only 15% in Wisconsin, an increase that places the state 38th in the nation in public education spending, according to a September report by the nonpartisan Wisconsin Policy Forum. According to the report, Wisconsin’s overall per-pupil K-12 spending levels have lagged well behind the national average in recent years. Between 2011 and 2018, Wisconsin’s per-pupil spending increased by 4.3% (from $11,774 to $12,285). That increase ranked Wisconsin 49th in the nation in terms of percentage change during that period and compares to 18.9% nationwide.
Combine the spending limits with a crazy COVID year for schools, and Wisconsin schools are slated to be the next group of workplaces where it might be difficult to retain and hire staff.
Nathan Knitt, director of business services with the Columbus School District, said his district has already seen at least three recent teacher resignations, vacancies the district has decided not to fill due to budget concerns. The district has roughly 1,300 students enrolled in grades 4K-12, and its student-to-teacher ratio has seen a steady increase over the years. Knitt said it’s becoming more difficult to retain teachers with highly sought-after skill sets in the district.

“We were in the high teens, now we’re about in the low 20s, about 21 students per teacher,” he said. “For Columbus, we’re going to see negative effects if the budget passes as is.”
So how is the stimulus not taking care of all these problems? If you take a look at the projected list of funds that would go to districts from March’s ARPA package, there are huge disparities among Wisconsin districts in terms of how much they will get.

It is true that some districts will be getting a lot of money per student. This includes the largest district in the state, but otherwise includes small, rural districts in low-income areas.

Top stimulus funds per student
Washington Island $12,766
Granton $9,256
Milwaukee $7,127
Menominee Indian $7,021
Norway Joint District $6,522
Hillsboro $6,547
Goodman-Armstrong $6,122
Dover $6,061
Phelps $5,825
Linn Joint District Number 4 $5,714

But others don’t, especially if they are in affluent areas that often have higher property values. While the Department of Public Instruction put together a distribution plan that tried to guarantee that each district would get $600,000 of stimulus funds, that doesn’t go far in some larger suburban districts that weren’t getting much stimulus.

Districts receiving less than $200 per student
McFarland $98
Elmbrook $129
Waunakee $139
Sussex Hamilton $149
Kimberly $153
Kettle Moraine $172
Mequon-Thiensville $172
Mukwonago $177
Germantown $178
Hortonville $181
Slinger $182
New Berlin $184
Monona Grove $191
Hudson $191
Cedarburg $195
De Pere $199

While the WisGOP Legislature manipulated $114.6 million of the stimulus funds to try to raise that number to $781 a student for schools that had more days of in-person instruction in this school year, it is still possible that some small districts won't get the $600,000 minimum that Evers' DPI planned to give.

Oh, and the WisGOPs also earmarked $781 per student in stimulus funds to end up at Beloit’s Lincoln Academy, a charter school that's opening next year and is run by....GOP mega-donor Diane Hendricks.
It’s a Big Club, and you ain’t in it.

What the WisGOP Legislature didn't do in their K-12 budget motion was to redistribute state aid over these next 2 years to make up for these big disparities, and they didn't raise the revenue limits. Which means a lot of districts in Wisconsin are going to continue to struggle despite billions in stimulus coming to the state overall, unless changes are made by the full Legislature in the next 10 days.

If nothing is changed, many districts could be stuck having to go back to referendum and/or make budget cuts in the next year or two, bause they are not receiving enough to make up for the double-duty that teachers often had to pull in 2020-21, or in upgrading their school buildings to lessen the chance of having viruses fly around their school and infect people.

Maybe WisGOP politicians who get a lot of money from Betsy DeVos and Diane Hendricks might be fine with that, but I'd hope that a whole lot of Wisconsinites won't accept us falling even further behind. Especially when it's happening in a time when we have plenty of money available to re-invest in a public good that we used to take pride in - something we used to use as an advantage in getting people to want to come to and live in our state.

But attracting talent might be something else that the WisGOPs don't want.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

No matter how they try to "localize" it, any GOP redistricting scheme is map-rigging garbage

Last week, the gerrymandered WisGOP Legislature took the next steps in laying poout the groundwork for the upcoming round of mapmaking in Wisconsin.

New lines must be drawn every 10 years to account for population changes. Many city and county officials say it's impossible to do the job on time this year because the U.S. Census Bureau is so far behind in producing data they need to draw their districts.

Assembly Bill 369 would let them conduct the spring 2022 elections using their current districts. New maps would be in effect for local races starting in the spring of 2023.
Seems innocent enough, unless you have an issue with the State Legislature ordering the locals (and it is an order) to delay the setup of their districts and wards. And you should wonder why the "party of local government" wants to mandate when locals can put in new districts, but otherwise, what's the concern? And why would all Dems vote against it?

Melanie Conklin of the Wisconsin Examiner is a former Capitol staffer who knows what to look for when it comes to going behind the scenes in looking at how this bill was put together, and you will not be surprised who she discovered to have come up with the scheme plan.

The drafting note file — used by the Legislative Reference Bureau to write a bill — contains a memo from Assembly Speaker Robin Vos requesting the bill be drafted. More detailed instructions came from Vos staffer Joe Handrick, a former Republican legislator and one of the architects of the 2011 rigged maps that a federal judge described as among the most gerrymandered in the country. In addition to serving as Vos’ “outreach director” according to his Linkedin resume, Handrick is also the current director of the new conservative policy group, “Common Sense Wisconsin.”

Always be scheming. Always.

And "Minocqua Joe" (who's set up shop in Madison for decades) is far from the only Republican hack involved.

Others involved behind the scenes on the bill are GOP stalwarts, strategists and lawyers who have been active in Republican politics. One party on the emails attached to the drafting notes was Jessie Augustyn, who was on former Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald’s staff and who also represented Fitzgerald as his attorney in election lawsuits as well as lawsuits brought by Jere Fabick fighting Gov. Tony Evers’ emergency public health orders. Augustyn also works with The Federalist Society.

Andrew Phillips, who is representing the Wisconsin Counties Association as outside counsel, represented Vos and 13 other Assembly Republicans who were sued in 2019 for refusing to disclose information under the state open records laws.
All coincidence that it's WisGOP wingnut welfare folks that wrote up this bill. Totally.

Conklin goes on to point out that the staff on the current Senate GOP Leader also wanted to put their stamp on this bill.
The bill was pushed to a public hearing on Monday [June 7], but drafting notes indicate that the request to have it drafted was made on March 16 — nearly three months ago. Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu’s staff person Brian Radday also sent an email suggestion, which Handrick apologized to the Legislative Reference Bureau for forwarding at the last minute after they said they were all done. This was on April 26.

The bill went through a number of different revisions, but the one presented as something new that needed to be acted on immediately so it could be voted on next Wednesday in the Assembly was drafted, reviewed, submitted and jacketed (the process of crafting a bill) by April 27.
The Senate version of this bill was put through a committee on a party-line vote on Wednesday, and that house will likely vote on it sooner than later. But I'd be confident on Governor Evers vetoing the bill as soon as it hits his desk, and not just because it overrides the ability of local governments to draw lines and account for new development and population shifts over the last 10 years (an especially big deal in places like Madison).

The real reason is because the WisGOP's plans with this bill have little to do with how local governments redistrict, as my State Senator pointed out the moment this bill was released.

It's part of a larger scheme for WisGOPs to try to run out the clock on redistricting, so they can't draw up new maps for 2022. Then they'll try to shrug, say "nothing we can do, guess we have to keep what we have", and run on these crooked, out-of-step maps for one more cycle. And if their gamble really pays off, not only does the gerrymandered Legislature stay in power, but they'll have a GOP hack for Governor who will sign onto newly gerrymandered maps for 2023 and beyond.

My guess is that the Republicans will be forced to draw something at the state and federal levels, but with 21st Century WisGOPs, they'll try anything (or do nothing) until they are legally prevented from doing so. All Dems and good government groups are tuned into these mentality of these lowlifes after a decade in Fitzwalkerstan, and they saw through it from the minute this bill came out.

Let's be real, WisGOPs will only stop being map-rigging scumbags when it costs them by being so, either through being voted out by an angry public, or through being sent to jail for obstructing justice and/or other corruption.

More Wis jobs data shows more keep coming back to work, no matter what WMC tries to tell you

Through all the budget action and as the GOP-run State Legislature passed a bill trying to take away the $300/week add-on for unemployment, we got another Wisconsin jobs report on Thursday. And it indicated a continuation of steady if not spectacular progress in bringing back the jobs lost in the COVID-induced recession.
The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) today released the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) preliminary employment estimates for the month of May 2021. The data shows that Wisconsin added 3,600 total non-farm and 3,400 private-sector jobs in the month of May. Wisconsin's unemployment rate in May was 3.9 percent, equaling April's rate of 3.9 percent.
It's a bit concerning to see us only add 3,600 in a month when the country had 559,000 additional jobs (we should be around 10,000 at that rate), but Wisconsin also gained 8,700 the month before as the US had a "disappointing" gain of 278,000, so no major concerns.

We're still up by nearly 44,000 jobs compared to November (when COVID was peaking at 50,000 cases a week in Wisconsin), which is a nice pace to be at.

And contrary to the WMC/WisGOP memes, more Wisconsinites continue to enter the work force in 2021, even with the enhanced unemployment benefits that began in December. In the household survey, over 31,000 more Sconnies are either working or looking for work in that time, and even more of them have said they have found jobs.

The numbers from May look even better when you realize that they're seasonally adjusted to account for Summer jobs and other warmer-weather effects. It shows that in raw numbers, someone's taking jobs. It just might not be at the levels to accomodate the jump in demand that's happening in industries that were depressed this time last year.

Non-seasonally adjusted figures, May 2021, Wisconsin
All jobs +29,500
Private jobs +35,000

Household survey
Labor Force +15,500
Employed +27,900

We also saw unemployment claims drop in Wisconsin throughout May and the first part of June, although there was a slight bump up in new claims last week as the school year ended in many places.

That doesn't mean all of our job market issues are solved in Wisconsin. We are still 137,500 jobs below our pre-COVID peak, with more than 53,000 of those being in the Leisure/Hospitality sector. And I think we're seeing some of those painful adjustments happening now, where businesses cut a lot of jobs (and some closed entirely), and now they're struggling to find people to get those jobs restored because many of their prior workers have (understandably) moved on over the last year.

But the problem isn't that people are sitting at home in Wisconsin and eating potato chips, no matter how much the mediocre businessMEN in WMC/WisGOP try to tell you.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Are WisGOP's tax cuts regressive? Sure they are! Is it worth vetoing the budget over? No

Here are a few items that jumped out to me in the wake of Thursday's budget wrap-up at the Joint Finance Committee.

To begin with, let's talk about the billions in income tax cuts that the WisGOPs on JFC gave out. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau gave this chart that showed who would benefit from the tax cuts, and by how much.

That’s a whole lot to upper incomes (74% of the total tax cut goes to filers that make at least $100,000), and not a whole lot to the working poor. Good thing the Biden stimulus (and especially its child tax credit) is going to help reduce poverty, because this tax cut isn’t likely to.

It also carries a sizable price tag, at $1.37 billion in the next fiscal year, and over $994 million in the next one. That’s fine when you have the billions we have to play with for this budget, but those declines in revenues will continue past 2023 (it’s a permanent drop in rates). So the next budget could get tricky if things eventually slow down from the strong recovery that we’re currently having.

In addition, the GOP measure goes along with Evers’ proposal to adjust the income tax withholding tables next January 1. Not only will that boost Wisconsinites’ take-home pay by catching up to inflation over the last 8 years, but it’s a one-time expense of $331 million in a time when there’s money to use. Win-win situation for 2022, but not so great when you file taxes in 2023 and find out that your refund have gone down. (Conveniently, that's after the November 2022 elections)

But don’t worry, GOPs say that your property taxes will be much less by then! And it’s done in a way that I predicted, and have called for during this entire budget, by bumping up state spending for education and making property taxes less important in funding for at least the next 2 years.

So here’s what they’re going to add

K-12 Education
$110 mil next year
$298 mil in 2022-23

Tech College System
$29 mil next year
$43 mil in 2022-23

The catch is that not one dime of that money can actually go into the schools, because the revenue limits aren’t changing at all. It’s just a shifting of what type of tax dollars pay for it. I’ll use the projections of property tax levies that LFB sent out at the start of this budget, and compare them to what the state-local resources would look like under the WisGOP budget.

This isn't perfect by any means and it'll change based on how much new construction actually happens, but it'll give you a good idea how it'll work out over the next two years.

Now what the WisGOPs will tell you is that the stimulus funds will take care of any make-up costs for the COVID year of 2020-21 and the added costs that might happen over the next 2 years. But that still keeps low revenue limits in place for the next two years, and if you're a low-poverty/high property value district that isn't getting that much in stimulus, it might not help you all that much.

But I do like the general trend of spending more state aid on schools vs property taxes. If you've been reading this blog and my tweets, I think this is something Evers can present as a "reform" that should continue in his second term, particularly as more middle-class and upper-middle class Wisconsinites can't write off their property taxes at the federal level due to the GOP Tax Scam.

And as I've also said in the past, it wouldn't be a GOP tax cut if it didn't have some kind of giveaway to the WMC folks.

I'm no fan of this, because machines and other possesions are a part of a building's value, and now businesses get more write-offs that will inevitably throw more of the burden onto residential homeowners. But this is typical WMC-style tax shifting, and not surprising in itself.

But the two-part process that WisGOP chose to have this personal property tax repeal take place is odd.

In fact, the $202.4 mil in makeup payments to Wisconsin communities is held up in the JFC's supplemental appropriation, so they basically hold those make-up funds hostage until the actual repeal bill goes through the Legislature and Evers signs it.

If not, then the $202.4 mil doesn't get spent at all, and if I'm Evers, I'm strongly considering letting that happen. God knows businesses have plenty of other tax breaks to lean back on in this state, so why give another and spend more money if we don't have to? Given that the separate business property tax repeal bill will go through committees in the next week, I suppose we'll find out soon enough.

I don't think the tax provisions and lack of state/local resources for schools is a great thing, but I also don't think Evers can give a full veto to the budget. If that happens, WisGOPs will laugh, teabag the entire budget, and hold up billions in stimulus that is badly needed. And the fact that WisGOPs got caught shortchanging K-12 and higher education, and had to pull these tricks to get the stimulus funds, shows that the public caught onto them, and that Evers has the upper hand with the public.

Sure, I'd like a more progressive budget reach Evers' desk, but until the Legislature changes and/or we get fairer maps, that's not going to happen. So I'd use the veto pen to line-item/adjust a few things, take a lot of the rest, get the stimulus/stabilization funds out the door, and keep working on making things better for the next 18 months.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

GOP tax cut isn't too surprising, and also bails themselves out of K-12 stimulus error

We're getting some outlines of what the WisGOP tax cut package will be. What they're planning to do on income taxes isn't surprising.

The good news is that this would give a tax cut to a lot of Wisconsinites...except for the poorer ones. But it also gives the biggest tax cut to people with higher incomes, and after we blow this surplus over the next 2 years, where would that leave us in 2023? A rebate would have been a better route, but GOPs are gonna GOP.

And the WisGOPs apparently have been reading this blog, because they've figured out how to give enough to Wisconsin education while cutting taxes in the same move.
Multiple GOP sources said the package keeps in place current spending caps on K-12 schools and tech colleges. In doing so, the additional state aid would drive down the amount of property taxes that locals can collect.

In all, the additional state aid going to K-12 and tech colleges is about $600 million, legislative leaders said. That doesn’t include the cost of moving a school aid payment up a fiscal year, a practice used in recent budgets to reduce costs.

The GOP leaders said the package also will meet the federal government’s maintenance of effort requirement to qualify for some $2.2 billion in the last two COVID stimulus packages.
So schools won't be able to do much more beyond the help they're getting from the Feds. Unless there's some kind of adjustment to who gets state aids based on stimulus dollars, this will actually help urban and poorer districts more than richer ones, although property owners in richer districts will get a bigger break.

And it wouldn't be a WisGOP tax cut unless WMC didn't get them to throw in some kind of giveaway to business owners.

Now why they're doing it in a separate bill is beyond me, unless the WisGOPs don't actually want to see the personal property tax get cut, and think having Evers veto a bill that gives bigger property tax breaks to big businesses is a loser (you run on that, guys).

I'll dig into it more when I see all the provisions, but not much of this surprises me. The bigger question is how much of the surplus gets frittered away on this, and whether this creates a giant landmine that looms over the next 2 years.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

WisGOPs ties themselves further in knots to get stimulus thru budget tricks

I expect dumb things from the WisGOPs as they try to hack up the state budget. But they've backed themselves into such a corner due to their previous Koched-up foolishness that now they're crossing over into the absurd.

When I saw this tweet cross (as the Bucks were in the process of their pathetic choke job) last night, my face went into weird contortions and I said "WHAAAT?"

So the WisGOPs want to borrow money for broadband, in a time when we have $5.9 billion in extra CASH projected over the next 2 years. And here you thought Republicans hated debt!

As Ross points out, the reason is because by borrowing the money, less state tax dollars are spent in this budget. Which means that less state tax dollars have to be spent in order to get the $2.3 billion in stimulus for K-12 (and more for higher education) that we are currently falling short of.

Brilliant strategy there, guys! And it's also a tell that the WisGOPs are feeling the heat for putting those billions in education funds at risk for no legitimate reason beyond trying to handcuff the recovery in this state ahead of the 2022 elections.

You may recall that there was an easier way to cut state spending and make it easy to qualify for that K-12 stimulus with the small increase WisGOP has given it - just expand Medicaid! But they haven't taken money from right-wing oligarchs for all these years to admit that they were wrong, even though the Finance Committee were discussing Medicaid last night.

But that doesn't mean that WisGOPs had a problem with grabbing more Federal money for Medicaid yesterday. Take a look at the motion that JFC passed on Medicaid yesterday, where
1. Medical Assistance Cost-to-Continue Estimate (LFB Summary, Page 250, #2; LFB Paper #335). Adopt the MA cost-to-continue reestimate, which would provide funding of $1,361,991,300 ($120,307,000 GPR, $987,447,400 FED, $192,843,400 PR, and $61,393,500 SEG) in 2021-22 and $1,258,573,900 ($397,244,700 GPR, $652,366,400 FED, $214,277,400 PR, and -$5,314,600 SEG) in 2022-23. In addition, adjust the cost-to-continue reestimate to provide $25,900,000 ($9,600,000 GPR and $16,300,000 FED) in 2021-22 and $51,400,000 ($20,500,000 GPR and $30,900,000 FED) in 2022-23, reflecting the impact of the Department's proposed rate increase to managed care organizations providing services under Family Care, PACE, and Partnership, subject to approval by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Notice that increase in 2021-22 of $987.5 million FED vs $120.3 million GPR? How is that happening? Let's dig back into the Paper #335.
....Over the past several years, the FMAP has generally been between 58% and 60%, meaning that the state's share of costs has been between 42% and 40%. However, a provision of the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which was passed in March of 2020, provides a temporary 6.2 percentage point increase to the state's FMAP, applicable for any quarter that the federal public health emergency associated with the COVID-19 pandemic is in effect. Thus, in federal fiscal year 2020-21, while the standard FMAP would have been 59.4%, the enhanced FMAP under FFCRA is 65.6%, reducing the state's share from 40.6% to 34.4%. This increase also affects the applicable matching percentage for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), since the Medicaid FMAP is the basis for the CHIP formula. In federal fiscal year 2020-21, the enhanced CHIP FMAP is 75.9%, up 4.3 percentage points from the standard CHIP FMAP of 71.6%.

6. A key assumption for the cost-to-continue estimate, as it relates to the state's FMAP, is the duration of the federal public health emergency, since this will determine how many additional quarters the FFCRA enhanced FMAP will be in effect. CMS has told states to expect the public health emergency will remain until at least the rest of calendar year 2021.
Based on this notice, the administration's cost-to-continue estimate assumed that the enhanced FMAP will expire at the end of calendar year 2021, meaning that the standard FMAP would be applicable in the final six months of state fiscal year 2021-22 and all of 2022-23. While it is possible that the public health emergency willbe extended further, there would be considerable risk in making this assumption for the purposes of establishing the GPR budget for MA. Thus, the estimate presented in this paper adopts the same assumption as the administration's estimate for the expiration of the enhanced FMAP.
So WisGOP has no problem with grabbing more Federal money for Medicaid as part of the COVID-19 bill. But saving $1.6 billion by using another stimulus bill to pay for Medicaid? Not so much.

WisGOP also educed the amount of state money going into Medicaid by hundreds of millions of dollars by using money from other sources.

2. Transfer from the Permanent Endowment Fund to the Medical Assistance Trust Fund. Modify a statutory provision that requires an annual transfer of $50,000,000 in each year from the permanent endowment fund (tobacco settlement sale proceeds) to the medical assistance trust fund (MATF) and the remainder to the general fund to specify, instead, that all amounts in the permanent endowment fund are transferred each year to the MATF. Increase estimated MATF revenues by $47,290,000 in 2021-22 and $53,562,400 in 2022-23 and reduce estimated general fund revenues by corresponding amounts. Increase the MATF appropriation for MA benefits by $47,290,000 in 2021-22 and $53,562,400 in 2022-23 and reduce the GPR appropriation by corresponding amounts.

3. Transfer from the General Fund to the Medical Assistance Trust Fund. Transfer $174,665,900 in 2021-22 and $527,783,700 in 2022-23 from the general fund to the medical assistance trust fund. Increase MATF SEG appropriation for MA benefits by $174,665,900 SEG in 2021-22 and $527,783,700 FED in 2022-23 and reduce the GPR appropriation for MA benefits by corresponding amounts.
Theoretically, it's not so bad that we are using these Trust Funds to pay for services - it generally happens anyway, as sort of a revolving fund. But it lowers the amount of state funding that we have to base the next budget off of, and it makes it harder to fill in future deficits if costs and/or enrollments increase.

Put it together, and it means that despite there being a projected increase of $3.555 billion in Medicaid spending, GPR only accounts for 1.3% of that increase ($47 million). Which means that there's fewer dollars needed to reach that MOE, and more room for WisGOPs to try to shove through exorbitant tax cuts, which they will likely do in tomorrow's JFC meeting.

What yesterday's Finance Follies illustrate is the series of bad decisions and twisted logic that followed WisGOP's decision back in 2013 not to take the expanded Medicaid from the Black Man in the White House. As each year has gone by and Obamacare continued to save money, the reasoning has gotten dumber and dumber, to the point where WisGOPs now have no problem using a lot of money from DC to pay for Medicaid, or for the working poor to get coverage under Obamacare - they just can't allow us to save money by giving the working poor the option of BadgerCare.

No, it makes no sense, but when you live inside of a Bubble of RW BS and gerrymandered districts, having to make sense isn't as necessary.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

WisGOPs could bail out K-12 and get us $4 billion with one simple move...that they won't make

A headline from today.

"..dismayed with actions of lawmakers to date," eh Mr. Bauer? What actions might those be?
Superintendents of the Milwaukee, Madison, Racine, Kenosha and Green Bay school districts urged lawmakers in a letter to set aside partisan differences and to do what is best for the state’s schools.

The state budget being written by the Legislature’s Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee does not include enough funding for K-12 schools to ensure that Wisconsin would be able to keep $2.3 billion in federal coronavirus relief money. Republican leaders have repeatedly said they will ensure the funding wouldn’t be lost. The budget committee plans to complete its work this week.

As it stands, the new budget would include $128 million more in state funding for K-12 schools than the current one, which is about one-tenth of what Democratic Gov. Tony Evers requested. Evers and Democrats have urged lawmakers to spend more on K-12 schools, especially in light of rosier projections showing the state will collect $4.4 billion more in taxes than originally expected.

“We are dismayed that the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee voted to place ESSER dollars at risk,” the superintendents wrote, referring to the name of the federal aid bill.
You mean the REPUBLICANS on the Joint Finance Committee, right supers?

But hey, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau tells State Sen. Jon Erpenbach that there's a way out, and the GOPs wouldn't even have to add money to schools! What is it?
At your request, I am providing information relating to the potential effect of Medicaid expansion on federal maintenance of effort (MOE) calculations relating to federal education funding provided under the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

Based on Joint Finance Committee actions through June 10, 2021, it is estimated that an additional $256 million GPR in 2021-22 and $177 million GPR in 2022-23 of education funding would be needed to comply with the federal MOE requirements under the CAA and ARPA. You asked what the implications would be for the state's MOE calculation if the state adopts full expansion of Medicaid and uses the resulting net GPR savings ($838 million in 2021-22 and $821 million in 2022-23) to reduce GPR spending on the Medicaid program by the same amount. Because the federal MOE calculation is based on the total amount of GPR spending, no additional education funding would be needed to meet the federal MOE because of the major GPR spending reductions under this option.
And what a coincidence, today's JFC meeting goes over Medicaid spending! Are you telling me that all GOPs have to do is to pass Medicaid expansion, and we'd save $1.6 billion in state tax dollars while guaranteeing the $2.3 billion in Fed K-12 dollars? Well, that's a lucky break for the WisGOPs, isn't it?

You think they'll do it?

Really had you going there, didn't I?

Nah, they'll try some overcomplicated measure that allegedly raises K-12 state spending but doesn't get the money into the classroom, and tie up other investments with an overly-huge tax cut in order to play some kind of gotcha game. And with taxes slated to come up later this week, I guess we'll find out soon enough what the game is.

Monday, June 14, 2021

From many miles away, it’s obvious that WisGOPs know they must stop Biden Boom

Ive been on vacation for the first time in 15 months, and it has been great to see old friends once again and take advantage of being vaccinated.

But that didn't stop me from noticing a few things back in Wisconsin, including this gem from the Number 2 GOP in tye Assembly.

Not helping families with children doesnt' seem like a winning strategy to ne, but it seem like WisGOPs are so drunk with power and gerrymandering that they think they can get away with it.

But it is quite a "tell" from Shrimpy, because he is admitting that

1. The economy is bouncing back strongly right now.

2. Direct payments and other Biden stimulus are the main reason why (along with vaccinations to restore consumer confidence).

But this really shouldn't surprise you, because modern Republicans really dont believe in less govt spending as much as they care about DIRECTING WHO GETS THAT SPENDING.

They dont care if they give tax dollars to "economic development" projects like the Fox-con, or in resirecting funding so that it goes to schools and roads in their rural districts. They just dont want it to go to THOSE PEOPLE that aren't part of their tribe.

And I don't recall Shrimpy Jim Steineke saying anything about a deficit-funded "sugar high" when the $1.9 trillion GOP Tax Scam was handes out to the rich and corporate. A Scam that at best gave crumbs to 95% of us while the well-connected used the money to buy back stock vs actually making something or paying their employees.

Funny about that, isn't it? And now Shrimpy and the rest of the WisGOPs are going to try their best to make sure things aren't better for most of us a year from now.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Budget update - it's mostly dumb and petty. But occasionally interesting

Here are a few catchups from recent budget events and other Capitol shenanigans.

First, file this one under "I told you so."

That's because the failure of WisGOPs on Joint Finance to adequately fund K-12 education last week not only endangers the stimulus funds from President Biden's American Rescue Plan, but it also is needed from December's mini-stimulus that was signed by President Trump. Which is what I was telling you 3 weeks ago.

Of course, we didn't know that we had $5.9 billion in state funds to play with at the time, so I would think the WisGOPs could find another $450 million or so to get the $2.3 billion in stimulus funds. You know, if they actually care about taking advantage of a once-in-a-generation chance to repair the damage done by a decade of defunding public education, and possibly even allow for a funding reform where property taxes don't have to pay for so much of our public schools. We'll see if WisGOP actually wants this state to get better, or if they've gone all in for this "strategy" for 2022.

Moving onto transportation, the WisGOPs used some of those extra funds to help fix our roads, and may have inadvertently come up with a new method of funding WisDOT. Take a look at this item from the mega-part transportation bill that passed Finance on Tuesday.
2.One-Time General Fund Transfer (GPR Transfer) (LFB Summary, Page 563 Item #2). Increase the GPR transfer to the transportation fund from 0.25% of general fund tax collections to 1% of general fund tax collections in 2021-22 on a one-time basis. Increase the estimated 2021-22 GPR transfer by $147,079,500 GPR Transfer, from $49,026,500 (SEG-REV) to $196,106,000 (SEG-REV).

3. Ongoing General Fund Transfer (GPR Transfer) (LFB Summary, Page 563 Item #2). Increase the GPR transfer to the transportation fund from 0.25% of general fund tax collections to 0.5% of general fund tax collections starting in 2022-23 on an ongoing basis. Increase the estimated 2022-23 GPR transfer by $51,207,000 in 2022-23, from $51,207,000 (SEG-REV) to $102,414,000 (SEG-REV).
That's on top of an additional $7.44 million that already was going to be sent over under the current 0.25% total, after the huge jump in projected revenues that the Legislative Fiscal Bureau revealed earlier this week.

Put it together, and the total transfer is $205.7 million, which might give a blueprint as a way to reform how we pay for transportation in the state. The down side is that if we're using $200 mil of regular tax dollars to pay for WisDOT items, that's $200 mil that's not going for health care or schools or other needs. Which might be a long-term plan, even if the Republicans didn't intend it that way.

The WisGOPs also used the transferred revenue to reduce the level of borrowing for highway rehab that Governor Evers had in the budget that was sent in back in February - a time when we thought there would be a lot fewer dollars available than we have today. There also was slightly more money put in for rehab in year 1 of the budget, but slightly less for year 2.

The Major projects are basically the same as the Evers budget (both in SE Wisconsin and in the rest of the state), with the JFC motion using around $20.8 million of existing borrowing instead of new bonds. The local aids for roads also seems to be in line with what Evers wants, except JFC added a $100 million grant program for next year where WisDOT would give out funds for various projects (not surprisingly, rural towns and counties get a disproportionate amount of this money).

But the WisGOP move that drew fire from Dems and others was made on another WisDOT function that targeted the two largest cities in the state. Thosse cuts are for Calendar Year 2022, with $32.7 million being taken from the Milwaukee County Transit System, and $8.6 million being taken from Madison Metro. Although to be fair, Madison and Milwaukee are slated to get a lot more stimulus aid for their systems that all other Wisconsin systems.

(Side note, there is also $1.66 million that will go to transit systems in communities that aren't in any of these urbanized areas).

But it's also worth remembering that the transit funds are intended to make up for all of the losses of revenue from riders that these systems had to take on in 2020 and beyond, as the COVID World lessened the need for people to use buses to commute to work or school. And as others note, those other urbanized areas can keep their $25 million+ from the feds, and they don't have to take on any loss of state aid.

The DOT moves show yet again that WisGOPs aren't against more government spending when it helps communities they like. They only become "frugal" when it comes to funding the blue-votiong communities that they don't. And we will likely see more of these types of spending shuffles as the budget deliberations wrap up in Finance over the next 2-3 weeks.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

As WMC/WisGOP spread Big Lie on unemployment, real data shows workers using leverage, taking jobs

There's another Big Lie going on in GOPWorld - and our gerrymandered Legislature took action on that false narrative.
The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature voted Wednesday to eliminate a $300-a-week federal bonus for unemployed people, a measure that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has made clear he's likely to veto.

The federal payment, approved to help the unemployed during the coronavirus pandemic, is scheduled to end on Sept. 6. Twenty-five other states have already approved ending it early, saying it has exacerbated worker shortage problems.

That's the argument that Republicans, state and local chambers of commerce, trade groups and others made for for passing the bill in Wisconsin.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos insisted Wednesday that the $300 payment is keeping people at home.

“Do you believe we should help the small business community?” Vos said. “Work should be what pays, not waiting for a government paycheck."
And you can guess who fed Robbin' that theory.

But those GOP claims of "lazy workers on unemployment not wanting work" is belied by what was in this week's Job Openings and Labor Turnover (JOLTS) survey. It showed that the fading of COVID and high levels of stimulus have led to a major jump in the need for workers, and it gave strong evidence that many American workers are feeling confident enough that they can walk away from their current job.

But no, GOPs, they are not quitting so they can hang at home and collect the $300/week add-on in unemployment (you usually can't collect unemployment after quitting anyway). They're quitting because they're taking jobs that better fit what they want to do, and are coming back to sectors that laid off a huge amount of workers in 2020.

Take a look at the seasonally-adjusted hires numbers in the food service, lodging and entertainment industries, and compare them to where they were at the end of 2020.

Let me remind you that this was in the "disappointing" month of April, when only 278,000 jobs were added and COVID made a slight resurgence. I would think these numbers will look even better in the May report, when more than twice as many jobs were added, including 220,600 in Accomodation + Food Services, and 71,700 in Arts, Entertainment, and Rec.

Interestingly, by April, there also were a large number of people leaving jobs in these same industries, as well as the warehousing industry that had gained jobs during the COVID World. And that increase in separations is because of quits, as layoffs went down in the same time period as quits jumped.

It's pretty obvious what is happening here. Many people who lost their jobs as COVID broke out had to settle for other work, and I have to think that they and a lot of others have questioned the point of settling for menial jobs that don't pay much, and put them in contact with large amounts of people that may not be vaccinated against a virus that has killed nearly 600,000 Americans.

So when they get a chance to move on for something that is safer and/or pays better and treats them better, they're taking it. It just hurts the fee-fees of greedy, mediocre business owners that people are taking what they have (don't) have to offer.