Sunday, October 29, 2023

Brewers action not over yet for 2023. Stadium bill has lots of work left

As the MLB season wraps up this week, I wanted to drop in an update on the bill to pay for the ballpark for the state's own MLB team. The bill to help the Milwaukee Brewers pay for hundreds of millions of dollars in upkeep and maintenance for AmFam Field got through the State Assembly earlier this month, and it appeared that this thing may be able to get done sooner than later.

But it looks to be a harder sell in the State Senate, which hosted a public hearing on the Brewers bill last week. The Majority Leader of that house indicated that he and his fellow Republicans can't pass the Assembly's version of the bill, and will have to change it.

We got an answer about how many Dems are in support of the bill after this comment from my State Senator this weekend.

Given that less than 1/3 of the Democrats in the Assembly voted against the Brewers bill, it surprises me that it would be 0 for 11 in the Senate. But perhaps this is simple negotiations, and the Dems recognize that if they are needed to get this bill through, then they'd better get more of what they want out of that bill.

As alluded to by Channel 58's Fannon, one item that seems certain to be added to the final Brewers deal is ticket tax on concerts and other one-off events at the ballpark. Bill sponsor Rep. Rob Brooks said such a ticket tax could be used to cut the amount of general taxes that would be used toward the ballpark.
Brooks said he thought that a lower state contribution could be achieved by implementing a ticket tax on non-Brewer events.

Brooks said that a ticket tax on Brewers events are a “nonstarter” for the team, but that a ticket tax on other events at the stadium is a possibility. He said the team wants to keep ticket costs low for Brewers fans.

“Do I think we’re going to get a ticket tax for Brewers games?” Brooks said. “No. Because the Brewers have said we would rather pony up with some additional money and they have, to the tune of $100 million.”
However, it does look like others want to see the Brewers games be the direct contributor, much like how Bucks games have a ticket tax to help pay for FiServ Forum.

I'm with Sen Roys in that I would prefer the ticket tax to be levied on each of the Brewers' 2 million+ admissions a year, as a way to make sure users from out-of-town pay towards the stadium upkeep. But I understand where the Brewers are coming from on that (they don't want to be seen as raising ticket prices), and that they'd rather pay the money out of their own pockets. As long as it takes some of the burden off of Milwaukee and statewide taxpayers, I'm relatively indifferent as to how that gets done.

Another complaint brought up by Democrats during the stadium bill debate is the fact that there are no representatives of either the City of Milwaukee or Milwaukee County on the Stadium Board, even though those local governments are slated to send a total of $135 million. Brewers president of Business Operations Rick Schlesinger was asked about that at the hearing, and said he was sensitive to that complaint (he made a historical reference to "no taxation without representation"), and it does look like this will at least be a topic of discussion.
Brooks said that the board composition has gone through several iterations, and they are prepared to amend the bill.

“If it’s adding a city and county representative or something, I think we can certainly look at that,” Brooks said. “It was anticipated all along that that’s what it would look like, but I wasn’t about to put it in the bill until I had a commitment on the money.”“If it’s adding a city and county representative or something, I think we can certainly look at that,” Brooks said. “It was anticipated all along that that’s what it would look like, but I wasn’t about to put it in the bill until I had a commitment on the money.”
I get that, although I don't get why it wouldn't be the other way around, where the locals get to help decide what to do about the money, and then they agree to chip in funds toward the upkeep.

I don't see an Executive Session scheduled in the Senate committee discussing the Brewers bill, which is the place where the bill could be amended and then voted on. That could change quickly, depending on how things work out behind the scenes, but I also think there are enough moving parts that it could take a while to figure all of this out.

And I do think events involving the on-field product will have an effect, particularly with this story that came out last week.

If the Brewers aren't going to use the benefit of these public funds to pay to keep the Wisconsin-raised manager that has overseen the best run of success this franchise has had, some might ask "What's the point of paying in for this if the team isn't going to use those funds to adequately compete in the Big Leagues?" Conversely, will the debate at the Capitol encourage Mark Attanasio and the rest of the ownership group to shell out to keep Counsell to keep that criticism from happening? (I hope so, but I am very skeptical of that).

And I wonder if this gets done at all in this session, given the uncertainites with redistricting and the 2024 elections. Would everyone roll the dice for a new Legislature and a better deal? The Brewers wouldn't be leaving for at least a couple of years (and their current lease runs for another 7). Lots to look out for in the coming weeks and months.

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Great spending numbers exceeding decent income figures. So which wins out?

This wasn't surprising after Thursday's blowout GDP Report, but Americans finished out Q3 with strong spending numbers.
U.S. consumer spending surged in September as households boosted purchases of motor vehicles and traveled, keeping spending on a higher growth path heading into the fourth quarter....

Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, accelerated 0.7% last month after an unrevised 0.4% rise in August, the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis reported. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast spending gaining 0.5%.

The increase in spending was spread across goods and services. Outlays on goods increased 0.7%, led by prescription medication, new light trucks, food and beverages as well as recreational goods and vehicles. Spending on services shot up 0.8%, boosted by international travel, housing and utilities, healthcare and airline transportation services.

The data was included in the advance gross domestic product report for the third quarter published on Thursday, which showed consumer spending accelerating sharply, contributing to the fastest pace of economic growth in nearly two years.

Adjusting for inflation, consumer spending rose a solid 0.4% in September after ticking up 0.1% in August, a strong hand-off from the April-June quarter that bodes well for consumption and overall economic growth in the fourth quarter.
Inflation-adjusted consumer spending has increase by more than $375 billion in 2023, and continues the mostly steady growth that this country has had since most Americans were able to get COVID vaccinations in early 2021.

On the income side of the report, total income went up by nearly $78 billion (annual rate), and disposable income was up by more than $56 billion. But that wasn't nearly as much as the increase in spending, which was nearly $139 billion. And that meant the US savings rate dropped to a measly 3.4%, back to the inflation-influenced low levels of 2022.

On a related note, inflation-adjusted disposable income fell in September. This was the 4th straight month real disposable income has gone down in the US, and while we're still well above the inflation-peak depths of June 2022, it's no different than what we had in May 2021.

Which means we enter Q4 in an odd spot. Consumers are clearly better off than they were a year ago, and are freely spending and lifting the economy. The jobs market is staying strong, although income growth has leveled off, which helps the inflation outlook, but keeps pocketbooks from getting fat. The question now is if the strong output figures lead to higher incomes, or if the lack of incomes cause spending and economic growth to level off.

The first bits of October data start to roll in next week, and it does feel that the next few weeks tell us a lot about where this economy is heading for the election year of 2024.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

A big GDP number for Q3. Keep it ROLLIN'

Most of the economic data had been pretty good for the last few months, and it was expected that today's GDP report would show a good number. But I'm not sure a lot of people saw this number coming.

And when you dig into the report, you see that along with consumer spending being impressive between July and September, most other parts of the economy also improved.
The increase in consumer spending reflected increases in both services and goods. Within services, the leading contributors were housing and utilities, health care, financial services and insurance, and foodservices and accommodations. Within goods, the leading contributors to the increase were other nondurable goods (led by prescription drugs) as well as recreational goods and vehicles. The increase in private inventory investment reflected increases in manufacturing and retail trade. Within nonresidential fixed investment, a decrease in equipment was partly offset by increases in intellectual property products and structures.

Compared to the second quarter, the acceleration in real GDP in the third quarter reflected accelerations in consumer spending, private inventory investment, and federal government spending and upturns in exports and residential fixed investment. These movements were partly offset by a downturn in nonresidential fixed investment and a deceleration in state and local government spending. Imports turned up.

See that small green bar going above zero for the last quarter? That's the first increase in residential fixed investment (aka - new home building) in 2 1/2 years, indicating that the decline in that part of our economy may have bottomed out, even in the face of high interest rates.

And if you ask "what about inflation"? That also continues to trend the right way in Q3, especially in the "core" measure that takes out food and energy prices.

Let's also remember that gasoline prices have dropped by 30 cents a gallon nationwide over the last month, which portends for inflation levels to continue lower for October, and possibly for the Holiday shopping season. It is worth noting that disposable income growth didn't keep up with the torrid spending pace, which fell by 1.0% after inflation for Q3 while inflation-adjusted spending was increasing by 4.0%. This resulted in a drop in the savings rate for Q3 from 5.2% to 3.8%, which isn't a great sign. But due to strong disposable income growth in the first half of 2023, Americans are still saving above the 3.2% rate we saw for the last half of 2022, and the 3.3% average for last year. So Q4 seems crucial in seeing which way things go for both disposable incomes and savings, and the resulting prospects for growth in 2024.

But for now, things are still in a very good place. Real GDP growth is up nearly 3% compared to a year ago, and unemployment and inflation both are below 4%. Instead of aiming for an arbitrary 2% level of inflation, and costing us jobs and billions in unnecessariltyhigh interest rates, our policymakers should be trying to have the economy keep performing like it did in Q3 2023.

Monday, October 23, 2023

GIANNIS will be sticking around here a bit longer

There are some things going on that can bring a guy down this time of year. Both in the world at large, and with tragedies striking far too many family and friends in recent weeks.

But there are other things that can raise spirits, and make you realize that there is still a chance for decency and goodness to work out, even in 2023.

This is everything right with professional sports. A top-level athlete who cares most about winning and being in a place where he and his young family can be comfortable. And now he's staying in our state for another 5 years.

And I also concur with this statement.

It's hilarious how Coastal Media thinks they are somehow "entitled" to these great players, and that it's somehow more important that they be successful in the big markets compared to other places. They don't understand that it doesn't matter at all in 2023. The NBA is a international sport where individual stars and their personalities matter. Where they play doesn't, and all of the owners are absurdly rich and making money. So why wouldn't Giannis have stayed in the place he could (by NBA rule) make the most money, and continue to have a great chance of winning?

It's not like Giannis lacks for endorsement dollars, even if he plays in one smallest markets in the League.

Heck, Giannis' new teammate had huge amounts of national ads and exposure while he was playing for a bad team in even-smaller and more remote Portland.

Got the people in place, and the franchise guy locked up through 2028. Now time to start the season and bring back another title to the Brew City. Being able to witness a great performer like Giannis on a daily basis is something we should never take for granted, and the fact that he sees the bigger picture and wants to thrive in our state is something that's even better.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

In construction - more apartments now, more single homes coming.

Wanted to go over a few observations on the housing market, in light of last week's release on residential construction from the Census Bureau.

One item that’s an important difference over the last year is that more single-family homes have had permits taken out for them in the last 12 months, but multi-unit housing units have declined by a larger amount, meaning total housing permits are down.

But the homes under construction and being completed have become more likely to be multi-units over single-family.

And even as home starts have risen and fallen since 2020, the rate of completions haven’t changed all that much. That indicates to me that construction work fell behind demand in 2021 and 2022, and now has caught up. So even though there may be concerns over a lack of housing starts, I’m not sure that’s translating into a lack of home construction activity, which likely means that there will be little to no impact when it comes to jobs and business activity in that sector.

Where there is a clear decline is in the amount of homes being sold in America.
U.S. existing home sales dropped to a 13-year low in September as surging mortgage rates and tight supply combined to reduce affordability for many first-time buyers.

Existing home sales fell 2.0% last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3.96 million units, the lowest level since October 2010, the National Association of Realtors said on Thursday. They are counted at the closing of a contract and last month's sales likely reflected contracts signed in August, when the rate on the popular 30-year fixed mortgage vaulted above 7%.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast home sales slipping to a rate of 3.89 million units. Sales dropped 1.1% in the South and decreased 4.1% in the Midwest. They rose 4.2% in the Northeast and slumped 5.3% in the West.

Home resales, which account for a big chunk of U.S. housing sales, declined 15.4% on a year-on-year basis in September.
And this makes sense. If you have a home, you might have a fixed-rate mortgage that is well below anything you might get with a new loan today, so there’s an added cost to changing homes. Likewise, if you don’t own a home and want to, the costs to buy a home have gone up, not only because of higher asking prices, but because of higher mortgage rates.

So we have very disparate impacts on our housing market, and on Americans in general. If you’re facing higher rents and have higher interest rates get in the way of your plans of buying a house, these are tough and frustrating times. If you’re a realtor and rely on more home sale activity for more income, this is not good.

On the flip side, if you own your home and are locked into a low-rate mortgage, you are somewhat immunized from the higher shelter costs we see in the monthly CPI reports. That means you are likely not being hurt as much by inflation, and it means your wealth continues to increase in most parts of the country as your home appreciates in value.

It's that appreciation in wealth that led to a somewhat surprising finding by the Federal Reserve in recent days.

Net worth surged for the typical family during the pandemic era, largely on the back on higher home and stock prices and government stimulus measures, the Federal Reserve reported Wednesday in its triennial Survey of Consumer Finances.

Net worth is a measure of household assets after accounting for liabilities. After accounting for inflation, median net worth jumped to $192,900, a 37% increase from 2019-22, the Fed found.

That percentage growth was the largest since the Fed started its modern survey in 1989. It was also more than double the next-largest increase on record: Between 2004 and 2007, right before the Great Recession, real median net worth rose 18%....
But this is also something where some groups benefitted much more than others from this pandemic-era wealth growth.
Of course, not everyone benefited equally: Assets like homes and stocks are generally not held by families in the bottom 20% by income, for example, the Fed said.

And wealth gaps are still big: Families in the bottom 25% by wealth had a median net worth of $3,500 in 2022. The top 10% had $3.8 million.
So this is why we need to throw out some of our priors when it comes to looking at what data tells us might happen with both the home market and the economy in the coming months. We have a widely varied situation where many are better off than they were 4 years ago, and jobs are continuing to grow. But others haven't seen the same benefits, and are now growing their credit card balances to record levels, with higher interest rates compounding that debt.

And our policymakers and central bankers need to realize that with inflation is ebbing but debt rising, and we should get our monetary and fiscal policies back into balance. And it needs to be soon, before those who haven't seen much of a boost in recent years start to feel significant economic pain, and drag our currently growing economy down with it.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Sept Wis jobs report - more jobs, more in labor force, but more unemployed

This afternoon featured the release of another monthly jobs report for Wisconsin, which showed September to be another month that had more jobs, and higher unemployment.
The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) today released the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) job totals for the month of September 2023, which showed Wisconsin's total non-farm jobs hit another record high of 3,017,800. This is 34,500 more jobs than a year ago and an increase of 8,300 over the previous month.

Preliminary employment estimates for September 2023 showed Wisconsin's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3.1%. The total labor force grew by 5,400 and employment decreased by 1,800 over the month. The state's total labor force participation rate increased to 65.8% during that time.
The good news is that Wisconsin continues to add jobs, with its 6th straight month of total jobs exceeding 3 million.

That report also said construction jobs continue to be added in Wisconsin, and even manufacturing had more jobs in September for the first time since February.

But it’s also the first month in 2023 that where Wisconsin’s unemployment rate has gone back above 3%, so that seems worthy to keep an eye on. It goes along with information we got on the state-level JOLTS report, where (seasonally adjusted) layoffs and discharges increased from 25,000 in July to 47,000 in August. We did see another month of a higher labor force in September, and we now have more people in the work force than we’ve had in nearly 6 years.

This leaves us back to a similar percentage of Wisconsinites working that we had when the COVID pandemic first broke out in early 2020. And it underscores the bigger picture with this Wisconsin jobs report - it's still a good spot to be in, near full employment, with a labor force that is finally growing again.

Monday, October 16, 2023

On Child Care - Senate WisGOP plays tax cut games, so Evers goes out on his own

We already knew that there was a lot of money still left in the state's bank account even after Governor Evers signed the state budget back in July. And we found out today that there will be even more funds available to pay for child care costs, tax cuts, or other needs, if we so choose.

It's nearly $200 million above the $6.877 billion that we were projected to start the 2023-25 biennium with, as General Fund expenses turned out to be below budgeted and projected amounts.

Evers had asked to use more than $1.078 billion of those funds to pay for a number of workforce initiatives in a special session last week. And among those items were a state-funded family leave program, and $304 million in state funds to continue the Child Care Counts program that was funded by the Feds during the COVID pandemic.

The State Senate held a hearing on that package of bills last week, but in typical WisGOP fashion, they used it as a pretense to play games with Evers' plans.

The Wisconsin Senate’s Republican leader put out a top-to-bottom rewrite Friday afternoon of the workforce bill Gov. Tony Evers proposed in August that replaces every item in the original $1 billion package with a $2.5 billion tax cut that Evers has already vetoed once....

The centerpiece of the substitute amendment to the original bill is another attempt to cut the state’s second-highest tax rate to 4.4% from 5.3%. According to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, the incomes of taxpayers in that bracket range from $27,000 to $304,000 for single filers.

“Governor Evers has said that he would provide tax relief for the middle class in exchange for state-level investments in the child care industry,” LeMahieu said. “We hope he keeps his word.”

Calculations from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy in Washington, D.C., on an identical tax cut that Republicans proposed in August found that nearly two-thirds of the savings would go to the highest paid 20% of Wisconsin taxpayers with average incomes of $304,000. Along with the tax cut, this package of GOP Senate changes is generally a bunch of regressive junk that will be an immediate veto from the Governor (and anyone else with a fiscal clue and/or a drop of empathy), I do note that it includes a sizable increase in a tax break for child care.
Under current law, an individual who is eligible to claim the federal child and dependent care tax credit may claim a state income tax credit equal to 50 percent of the amount the individual may claim as a federal income tax credit. However, the amount of employment-related expenses that an individual may claim to determine the amount of the federal credit is limited to $3,000 if the individual has only one qualifying dependent, and $6,000 if the individual has two or more qualifying dependents.

The bill increases the amount of the state credit that an individual may claim by increasing the employment-related expense limitation to $10,000 for one qualifying dependent and $20,000 for two or more qualifying dependents, and by allowing an individual to claim a state income tax credit equal to the full amount that the individual could claim for the federal child and dependent care credit determined using the individual's employment-related expenses.
However, let's also note that this is something that wouldn't benefit lower-income Wisconsin parents as much (since they have less state tax to write off). And getting a tax writeoff for child care costs when you file in early Spring doesn't do much to pay the bills associated with child care today.

After the developments of the last few days, Governor Evers has made a counter move, saying that he is going to fund Child Care Counts on his own with left-over COVID funds.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers authorized spending $170 million Monday to continue providing subsidies for child care providers in Wisconsin after Republicans repeatedly rejected his attempts to fund the program.

The federal funds Evers put into the program Monday represent about half the amount he asked the Legislature to spend to continue the pandemic-era Child Care Counts. The program has distributed around $600 million to over 4,900 child care providers in the state, according to the state Department of Children and Families.

"I promised I’d do everything I could to stabilize our child care industry, support kids and working families, and reduce barriers to work to ensure our workforce can meet the needs of the 21st Century,” Evers said in a statement.

Evers added that "this stopgap measure isn’t a permanent solution to the looming child care crisis facing our state," encouraging Republicans to fund the program permanently.
That'll at least keep us from going over a cliff in the next year or so. But I'm not counting on Republicans stepping up to keep Child Care Counts whole for the near future, given that they believe in outdated crap like this.

But maybe we have new maps and a new Legislature in 2025 that recognizes the realities of what working parents and businesses are dealing with, and this state doesn't have to be held back by Republicans that continue to try to jam 20th Century ideas into the reality of 2023.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

INFLATION WATCH - still under control, but higher than Summer and hitting some worse than others

We got another update on the inflation picture this week, and I'd categorize it as "not great, but not awful."

Digging deeper into the report, it shows that gas prices weren't up as much as they were in August. And the always-key "core" inflation rate also continued to be around that 4% figure.
On a "core" basis, which strips out the more volatile costs of food and gas, prices in September climbed 4.1% over last year — a slowdown from the 4.3% annual increase seen in August. Monthly core prices rose 0.3%, on par with August. Both measures met economist expectations…..

The shelter index was the largest factor in the monthly increase in core inflation, increasing 0.6% month over month — higher than August's 0.4% monthly jump. The index rose 7.2% over the last year, down slightly from August's 7.3% annual gain.

The indexes for rent and owners' equivalent rent rose 0.5% and 0.6% on a monthly basis, respectively. Owners' equivalent rent is the hypothetical rent a homeowner would pay for the same home.
I'll add that the gain in energy prices seems likely to reverse in October’s CPI report, as AAA reports that gasoline prices are down nearly 20 cents a gallon compared to this time in September (and 34 cents per gallon in Wisconsin).

In another positive sign, food prices have continued to be in check, up 0.2% for the 3rd straight month, and food at home (aka groceries) only up 0.1% in September, and 2.4% for the last 12 months. Take out the increase in shelter prices, and the CPI increase over the last year is right at the Fed’s 2.0% target.

Which indicates that there is a disproportionate strain being thrown onto renters vs people in fixed-rate mortgages (who aren’t paying 7% more for their home in 2023). This also helps explain how we can have packed Madison eviction courts at the same time that Dane County has a sub-2% unemployment rate, and continues to add the most jobs and people out of any county in Wisconsin.

This tweet and accompanying graphic by the Chief Investment Strategist at Charles Schwab really illustrates how two-sided the inflation situation has been over the last year.

CPI’s categories

— Liz Ann Sonders (@LizAnnSonders) October 12, 2023

Things like fixing your car, paying for insurance and paying your rent are things that a sizable number of Americans notice on an ongoing basis, and are annoyed by the bills that they have to pay. And they aren't as likely to notice that prices in other items have leveled off after the big increases in the previous couple of years. 4% inflation is still a lot better than 6% unemployment, but I also note that the last two months have seen inflation outpace the increase in average hourly wages, and that needs to reverse in October (probably will, but still).

It would be nice if we had a Federal Reserve that recognized raising credit costs and limiting housing options is a much bigger economic problem that inflation in late 2023, but given the Bubble that those bankers live in, those higher rates are also likely something we have to deal with for at least the next several months. So maybe doing something to cut down on land/property speculation and helping people stay in their homes and afford child care and insurance costs will be what's needed in the meantime, before we see consumers reach their breaking point and cause a cutback in the real economy.

Thursday, October 12, 2023

GOPs won't admit reality, because they rely on a Bubble of BS. And now it's failing hilariously.

Yesterday, it seemed like reality continued to seep in when it came to ending Assembly Speaker Robbin' Vos's absurd (and possibly illegal) idea of impeaching new Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz.

Vos asked three former justices to review the possibility of impeachment, but he refused to name them. Prosser told the AP that he was on the panel, but other justices either said they weren’t on it or did not comment.

In a court filing, Vos identified the other two as Roggensack and Wilcox. All three of those picked by Vos are conservatives. Roggensack served 20 years on the court and her retirement this year created the vacancy that Protasiewicz filled with her election win in April.

Wilcox was on the court from 1992 to 2007 and Prosser served from 1998 to 2016.

A state judiciary disciplinary panel has also rejected several complaints lodged against Protasiewicz that alleged she violated the judicial code of ethics with comments she made during the campaign.
So when Vos was asked about this ahead of today's transphobic assembly session, he brought out his dancing shoes.
Vos told reporters Thursday that while he is not moving forward with impeaching Supreme Court Justice Janet Protasiewicz on the floor today, it's possible lawmakers will make the unprecedented move in the future.

After first warning in August that impeachment could be possible for Protasiewicz if she did not recuse from a lawsuit before the court challenging the Legislature's boundaries, Vos backed away from the idea earlier this week after after a former conservative state Supreme Court Justice advised Vos not to pursue the idea.

On Thursday, he suggested if Protasiewicz sides with Democrats on the redistricting lawsuit, Republican lawmakers could still pursue impeachment.

"If we see that the contributions that the Democratic Party made, expecting a result, result in that ... (impeachment) will certainly be something that we have to keep on the table because she will not live up to her oath," Vos told reporters at a press conference in the state Capitol ahead of an Assembly floor session.
That's quite a bit different than Robbin's original threat of impeaching before Janet even heard a case, and would at least wait until an actual decision is rendered before any impeachment action might take place.

At least that would be legal (albeit it would still be BS), and wouldn't get in the way of any redistricting decision. But look at how Robbin' has to still try to convince the MAGAt trash that he is still considering impeachment, and is trying to two-step his way through a self-inflicted mess he and other GOPs have made in a cynical attempt to appeal to "the base".

Just a pathetic clown show. But not the worst clown show in a Capitol this week.

And the reason is that the GOP Bubble of BS has now made Republicans incapable of governing. Republicans have to rely on feeding garbage to their base of MAGAts in order to stay in power, and to survive primaries once they stay in power. There also is a sizable amount of elected Republicans who think their "job" is to run in front of cameras, say and do stupid crap, and watch the donations roll in from the rubes. Like this Two-Faced fool.

Know what they and Faux News hosts don't care about? POLICY! Just like their boy Trump. And because these Republi-fools think their entire job is a show and don't involve having to get any real work done or even connecting to reality, we get nothing beyond big talk and spectacle.

GOPs have earned a massive loss in 2024. Both in the Wisconsin courts, and in the voting booths. And crushing these MAGAts at every level is the only way that we can get this state and this country back into a place where we would have a chance of a politics where there is a real attempt to figure out real solutions to real problems. Until then, it's got to be the Dems that have to do it all.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Brewers bill in need of changes, development. Let's see if that starts tomorrow

After a public hearing last week, it looks like the Wisconsin Assembly's Committee on State Affairs is going to try to push through the Brewers Stadium bill tomorrow.

And even in last week's public hearing, we got indications that there will be at least some changes to the bill when that committee takes it up. Particularly involving how much the local goverments might pay toward future AmFam Field repairs, and the possibility of development around the stadium.

Milwaukee writer Dan Shafer recently made a comparison between the Brewers stadium bill and the Bucks' arena deal in 2015. Shafer points out that while the City contributed a lot in rebuilding and improving the area around FiServ Forum, it also got a payoff in the form of large-scale development in that part of downtown.
For Fiserv Forum, the City’s portion of this deal was significant. It was the final linchpin making the larger agreement possible, and it passed the Common Council with a 12-3 vote. This was done through tax incremental financing (TIF), a common development tool utilized by the city to borrow against future projected property tax revenue to fund new projects. This TIF plan included $35 million in funding for the construction of a new parking structure at 6th and Juneau, with revenue being split 50-50 between the city and the Bucks. It also included $12 million toward building what is now the Deer District, which also involved closing one block of then-4th St., now Vel R. Phillips Avenue, and taking down a city-owned parking lot to free up space for the new developments.

While the overall funding level is greater for the AmFam Field deal, there is no equivalent to the City’s development portion of the Fiserv Forum deal. Unlike the stadium or arena themselves, which are property tax exempt, the Deer District and other ancillary developments are now generating property tax revenue for the city of Milwaukee, which will repay the initial investment made through the TIF agreement (kind of like a loan), and will eventually be funding the city’s budget....
Shafer goes on to say that the FiServ deal offers a good template for the Brewers and the state to work off of for AmFam Field's future.
....the state owns this ballpark. That is an obligation we have, and there are costs to be incurred regardless of whether or not the Brewers extend their lease beyond 2030. And the Brewers do provide a real benefit to the region, and the Milwaukee area would be worse off without them. To reiterate: I want the Brewers to stay in Milwaukee for the long term.

So, the bottom line, then, is this: A deal to keep the Brewers in Milwaukee can and should get done, but it needs to be done right. You only get one chance to do this right. Luckily, we have this very recent local example of how an arena funding package can be done right. The deal to fund Fiserv Forum has been a successful one, and an example of how a sizable state investment in an arena or stadium can be leveraged for meaningful transformation, catalytic impact, and the type of regional economic development often touted as a reason to make deals of this nature in the first place. What we need to do is learn from this very recent history to inform the negotiations and conversations in the present.
But at last week's public hearing, Brewers president of Business Operations Rick Schlesinger didn't express support for denser development near the ballpark, or in using a ticket tax to help fund repairs to the ballpark (which was also part of the package that paid for FiServ Forum). And Schelsinger gave some lame reasons in the process.

How would having ground-level development in the back of the parking lots cause a problem with trying to get out of the remaining lots? It would probably allow for more exit points and improve traffic flow, especially if the freeway spur around the Stadium is brought down to street level. And while I agree that affordability is a concern with pro sporting events in general, I don't see where an extra $1-$2 per ticket would make much of a difference when it comes to someone deciding to attend a Brewers game. And given that it could replace local or state taxes that would be getting paid into the stadium.

Urban Milwaukee’s Bruce Murphy (an avowed opponent of stadium subsidies) recently gave a list of 9 reasons why this stadium bill is struggling, and the final 4 of those reasons seem to best explain why the bill needs fixing.
6. Politicians Are Negotiating With Themselves Rather Than The Team. Evers’ plan cost $290 million [in state dollars only] and was expected to grow with interest to $378 million before it began being spent. Even at $290 million, it was estimated as the biggest per-year MLB lease subsidy in history by Neil deMause, whose website Field of Schemes tracks all pro sports subsidies. And the Brewers were happy with the deal. Yet the Republicans decided this wasn’t enough and created an even more expensive package. That’s going to make it harder to sell to voters.

7. Milwaukee Can’t Afford to Pay $200 Million. The law requires $2.5 million per year from the city and $5 million from the county, for a total of $202.5 million over 27 years. But both have just been rescued from fiscal insolvency by a legislative plan Republicans signed onto, after having been given profuse details on Milwaukee’s plight. And the city’s situation, even after getting a 2% sales tax, has just worsened: as the nonpartisan Wisconsin Policy Forum found, Milwaukee now faces an annual budget gap of $35 to $45 million beginning in 2025.

It’s clear the Republicans understand the situation. Rep. Robert Brooks (R-Saukville), their point man on the Brewers bill, said ”I don’t want (local) service cuts to pay for the Brewers,” saying the $7.5 million was just “a placeholder” and might be reduced to $5 million. The clear implication is that Republicans need to find some way to make it look like Milwaukee is paying much of the cost, so they can tell their constituents this. That’s also one of the reasons Vos objected to Evers’ plan, which had no cost for Milwaukee. But threading the needle of making the local cost both affordable and yet significant is looking pretty impossible. And even if Milwaukee does pay big, the proposal’s $400 million in state money may still anger outstate voters.

8. The Brewers Won’t Do Any Development. Mayor Cavalier Johnson (and probably Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley) would like to see some development around the stadium. It might be a fine area for a hotel, apartment complex and restaurants along the Menomonee River, which would normally generate property taxes for both the city and county. Except that the land and any developments are currently exempt from property taxes and the Brewers aren’t likely to support paying any taxes on it. Moreover, they’ve repeatedly indicated they have little interest in doing any development.

9. Winterized Stadium May Increase Costs for Taxpayers: This, too, wasn’t included in the Evers plan the team fully supported. It’s another Republican add-on with a cost of $25 million that would allow the Brewers to make more money by hosting concerts and other events throughout the year and would include a ticket tax on non-Brewers events to help pay for the winterizing. But Brewers Business Operations President Rick Schlesinger reacted negatively to the ticket tax. At this point the idea looks like yet another cost for taxpayers with all the benefits going to the Brewers. The more state officials mess with the stadium deal, the higher the costs get.
Which is why I think a more workable deal should include at least the following 2 modifications.

1. A condition of the new lease that includes the team giving up some of its parking lot space, which allows for more development in the area (likely east and south of the ballpark). Much like FiServ Forum, perhaps the City/County’s share can be done in the form of added infrastructure for this new development.

2. A ticket tax that takes the burden off of taxpayers living in both the City and County of Milwaukee, and spreads it out more to people who attend events at AmFam Field.

Sure, the Brewers may not like that, since it takes away some of their parking revenues (although I’d like to have an audit tell me how much), and they may feel they have to raise ticket prices to offset the ticket tax (but is that really going to affect attendance much? I bet not).

Even with these changes he Crew would still be getting a really good deal - paying a pittance of the market value of the rent of this state-owned facility and most of its land , and keeping all of the money generated from concessions, parking, and tickets for games.

But like a lot of things, Robbin’ Vos and the Assembly Republicans have gotten out over the skis with their hubris (it's worth noting that in the introductory media event for this bill, the only legislators present were 2 Assembly Republicans, 1 Republican State Senator, no Democrats, and no local politicians). Now Vos and company need to be reigned in and brought back to reality by the Governor, the team, and likely the State Senate.

It's unlikely that this bill can get to Governor Evers' desk with Republican votes alone, so there needs to be open input and a lot of improvements to this bill before that happens. Let's see if that starts tomorrow at the Capitol, and see who ends up paying more and who might not pay as much under whatever changes get made to the Brewers bill.

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Big September jobs report shows Bidenomics still rolling along

Throughout the summer, we'd seen evidence of a slowing US job market, with 7 straight months of job growth of 281,000 or less. And September's jobs report was expected to show the same. It did not.

And after months of downward revisions to data, this report said that job growth in late summer was stronger than we first knew.

In fact, we've added more jobs than the Congressional Budget Office thought we would have before COVID was a widespread thing in this country.

And sizable increases in the entertainment sector and in bars/restaurants meant that both of these sectors have finally climbed above their pre-COVID job levels after 44 months.

In addition, average hourly wage growth was decent but not overheated at 0.2%, and 4.2% over the last 12 months. Non-supervisory workers (aka everyday line workers) also had a 0.2% increase in wages in September, and are growing at an even faster 4.34% over the last year. And the key blue-collar sectors are seeing pay grow even faster than that.

Average hourly wage growth, non-supervisory workers, Sep 2022-Sep 2023
Construction +5.50%
Manfuacturing +5.42%
Mining/Logging +4.73%

The stock market initially panicked on the strong jobs news, on fears that this may drive the Federal Reserve to raise rates even higher than their current 22-year peaks when they meet next month. But then Wall Streeters decided to recognize reality.
U.S. stocks rallied on Friday, led by technology shares to a sharply higher close as investors assessed a jobs report that showed U.S. hiring rose broadly in September with slowing wage growth.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq registered their biggest daily percentage gains since late August, and the S&P 500 rose for the week, snapping a four-week losing streak.

Information technology was up the most of any S&P 500 sector, followed by communication services.

Stocks initially fell after the jobs data, which showed U.S. employment increased by the most in eight months in September, but began to rebound by late morning.
So we've got strong job growth, inflation and unemployment below 4%, and wage growth above 4%. Seems pretty darn good to me, and both policymakers and the Fed shouldn't mess around too much in trying to slow down a still-strong US economy. In fact, we should be more concerned with keeping this going instead of continuing to chase an inflation ghost that is not an economic problem these days.

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Janet isn't playing Vos's stupid games - bring on the new maps!

Stayed in last night ahead of a long day today, and you bet I saw this go through the wires.

Damn straight. Much like we saw in DC, it's not Dems'/liberals' jobs to hold ourselves to a higher standard than Republicans set for themselves in order to keep Republicans in power. Justice Janet and the others on the good side of the Court looked at Robbin' Vos, pointed to the ruling of the Wisconsin Judicial Commission (who ruled Protasieiwicz did not violate the state's Code of Judicial Conduct when discussing the "rigged" state maps) and went along with the doctrine of a much better Wisconsinite.

As I've said before, saying that Wisconsin's maps are rigged is simply repeating a statement of fact. Robbin' Vos will likely use state tax dollars in court to argue it's his RIGHT to rig the state's maps. And hopefully last night's action means that his time in using those rigged raps to cling to unearned power is now ending.

Isn't it a good feeling when Dems don't play Republicans' stupid games, and use the power the voters gave to them? Let's continue that, shall we?

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Winner of the “Impeccable Timing” Award

Given that manager Craig Counsell and (former?) ace pitcher Corbin Burnes have their futures up in the air with the team, and may well be gone, I'd sure be waiting to see if the owners are going to step up to keep this team competitive for 2024. You want the ballpark to be kept up? I want the on-field Crew to be kept up.

Oh, and here's the only other item to remember from this train wreck of a 2-game series.

Yeah, I think we can develop some of that. And given that the state owns all of that empty concrete, I think we need to have the Beer District be a requirement of any public funding.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Wisconsin maps rigged? OF COURSE THEY ARE! So what's the problem with admitting it?

With the possiblity of Wisconsin's gerrymandered maps being taken up by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in the coming weeks, this post from a UW-La Crosse PoliSci professor piqued my interest.

PlanScore is done by a group of PoliSci professors throughout America, and tries to figure out how fair (or unfair) district maps are across the 50 states. It also looks at the last 50 years of these maps, and how they affected outcomes.

Having that history helps illustrate how slanted Wisconsin's maps are today. Here's the analysis done by PlanScore on Wisconsin's legislative maps for the 2000s, when courts drew the maps following a deadlock between a split Legislature and Republican Governor Tommy Thompson.

So in a 50-50 vote split under those maps, Republicans would win around 55 seats in the Assembly (55.6% of the seats), and Democrats 44. That's quite a bit different than what we have under the current GOP gerrymander, which is set up to give a 63-36 GOP advantage in a 50-50 year.

But PlanScore also has a measure known as mean-median, which gives an idea about where the "crossover" percentage is where control of the chamber can flip.

So the "50th seat" was around less than 54-46 GOP, allowing Dems to be likely to win the Assembly in a year they won by more than 8 points. And in 2008, when Barack Obama won Wisconsin by 14 points in the presidential election, Dems did take control.

But that wouldn't come close to happening under the current GOP gerrymander, as that "50th seat" ends up around 58-42 GOP.

Bruce Thompson made a similar observation in his Data Wonk column in Urban Milwaukee. Thompson imputed the vote totals in the close Wisconsin Senate race of 2022 (where GOP Ron Johnson won by 1%), and broke down the results by Assembly district. Using that information, he developed the following chart to predict how both Democrats and Republicans would fare with various % totals statewide.

Look at that gap between how GOPs and Dems do when they get between 45% and 55% of the vote. Thompson says this results in an advantage of 20+ seats in the Assembly for Republicans.
How much more generous is reflected in the next graph, showing the number of districts won by each party, depending on their statewide vote. If Democrats received 44.5% of the statewide vote, they would win about 32 of the 99 Assembly districts. By contrast, Republicans would win 52 districts if they received 44.5% of the vote. Thus, while losing the state-wide vote, they would still control the Assembly.

These numbers and other analyses are why the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Craig Gilbert wrote a recent breakdown that was titled: "Are Wisconsin's election maps 'rigged'? Here are the reasons the answer is yes.
Today’s map and the previous [2010s] map were intended to significantly boost [Republicans'] “natural” advantage by creating the greatest number possible of safe GOP seats. Doing so also required minimizing the number of competitive seats, which meant there would be fewer individual districts in play and less uncertainty about the overall outcome.

My conclusion from studying the previous gerrymander was that both factors — partisan line-drawing and the state’s political geography (where Democrats and Republicans live) — contributed significantly to the partisan tilt in the map.....

If Wisconsin ends up in the months or years to come with a non-gerrymandered legislative map, that map will probably still leave Republicans with a better chance than Democrats of winning the Legislature.

But that advantage won’t be nearly as lopsided as it is now. And it won’t be deeply artificial. It will make the overall battle for legislative control in this 50/50 state less predetermined (or “rigged”). It will almost certainly increase the number of competitive districts. It will make the outcome of legislative elections more meaningful and more responsive to public opinion and election swings, which will make the party in power more accountable.

That would be good for the state, good for elections, and good for voters.
Heck, Robbin' Vos admitted that is was HIS RIGHT to rig the maps for himself and his fellow Republicans.

So when Janet Protasiewicz was running for Supreme Court earlier this year, and said Wisconsin's legislative maps are rigged, she was making a statement of fact. She didn't say if it was the Supreme Court's role to do anything to those maps, or what they would do to them. And besides, Robbin' Vos is proud to admit he rigged the maps, since the victor (from 2010) gets the spoils (13 years later).

So explain how can you impeach a justice for a factual statement, and before the justice has ever taken any action to change the rigged maps? Under state law, you can't. Justice Protasiewicz and the rest of the Wisconsin Supreme Court should ignore the whining from the gerrymandered GOP Legislature, hear the case, make a decision and impose the remedy, and take it from there.