Tuesday, June 6, 2023

New estimates, WisGOP actions mean WisDOT budget is back in a hole

Later this week, the Joint Finance Committee is going to take up the Wisconsin DOT's budget, and all of its related parts. And the Legislative Fiscal Bureau gave some bad news about how many state funds might be available to fix the roads and pay for the many services that WisDOT is a part of.
Based on the Committee's action to date, as well as this reestimate of current law revenues and transportation revenue bond debt service, net transportation fund SEG revenues after revenue bond debt service would be lower by $126,613,900 in 2023-24 and $258,193,300 in 2024-25. Compared to AB 43/SB 70 [the state budget bill], transportation fund SEG appropriations, including reserves and lapses, under the Committee's actions to date would be: (a) lower by $144,262,800 in 2023-24 and by $213,011,100 in 2024-25 for DOT; and (b) lower by $154,700 in 2023-24 and higher by $228,000 in 2024-25 for other state agencies with appropriations funded from the transportation fund.
Here's a visual version of those numbers.

Two of the reasons behind this sizable shortfall is because LFB says less gas is expected to be consumed in Wisconsin than the Evers Administration projected, and that there will be less money coming in from vehicle registrations.

But the other big reason is that the GOP-run Finance Committee removed an Evers initiative that would have paid down nearly $380 million of the Transportation Fund's debt, and now it means there are less funds to spend on other DOT needs and services.
Transportation revenue bond debt service is an offset to revenues from vehicle registration and titles fees. Annual revenue bond debt service amounts are estimated to be lower by $5.1 million in 2023-24 and higher by $68.4 million in 2024-25, compared to the amounts included in AB 43/SB 70, which results in an increase in net revenues to the fund in 2023-24 by the same amount and a decrease in net revenues in 2024-25 by that same amount. Of these amounts debt service reductions of $5.1 million in 2023-24 and $7.8 million in 2024-25 are associated with the estimate of current law of transportation revenue bond debt service. The remaining difference in 2024-25 is associated with the Committee's earlier action to delete the proposed general fund transfer related to the defeasement of transportation revenue bond debt service, which would have reduced debt service on these bonds by $76.3 million in 2024-25. These estimated debt service amounts do not include debt service on any additional transportation revenue bonds for the major highway development program and for DOT administrative facilities, which would be authorized at $149.2 million and $18.5 million respectively under AB 43/SB 70. The Committee has yet to address those items.
So because we are still paying off the debt that Evers wanted to use the Gen Fund surplus to pay down, that's more than $76 million in DOT revenues that we have to use up to pay that debt during this budget (as well as more down the road).

The last item that is leading to the shortfall is another offshoot of the WisGOPs on Finance removing Evers' initaitives last monmth. Evers planned to increase the amount of General Fund dollars that is sent over to WisDOT, by diverting some of the sales taxes from auto-related products.
As a result, the recommended revenue increases under AB 43/SB 70 associated with the proposed transfers from the general fund to the transportation fund would not yet be included in the 2023-25 budget bill. These transfers equaled: (a) $43,625,700 in 2023-24 and $52,895,500 in 2024-25 associated with the estimated annual sales tax revenue from the sale of automotive parts, accessories, repair and maintenance services, and tires (APART); (b) $39,300,000 in 2023-24 and $55,100,000 in 2024-25 associated with estimated annual sales tax revenue from the sale of electric vehicles; and (c) $9,000,000 in 2024-25 to offset the loss in railroad property tax revenues to the fund associated with the repeal of personal property tax under AB 43/SB 70.
The upshot of this is that LFB says there is only $28 million available in the state's Transportation Fund to pay for any increased state funding for any DOT services - just more than 1.3% of projected expenses. And the costs of road construction and other needs are likely to go up a lot more than 1.3% over the next 2 years.

That being said, the infrastructure bills should give some more cushion over the next couple of years, and the Finance Committee could/should use some of those extra Federal funds to pay for projects and save state funds in the process. But those funds will go away in the next budget, and the flat gas tax and vehicle registration revenues for the next 3 years indicates that we will need to find new and better ways to pay for our many DOT needs for the rest of the 2020s.

Even in a time of major General Fund surpluses, these updated figures in the Transportation Fund shows that things are still very tight in this key area of the budget. And if WisGOPs choose tax cuts over using the surplus to add more General funds to fix the roads in this budget, they're making a big mistake.

Monday, June 5, 2023

More rail travel coming to Wisconsin. But how much more, and how much better will the rails be?

With the NFL Draft coming to Green Bay in 2025, there are questions as to how the league’s smallest market is going to be able to handle a potential influx of hundreds of thousands of people and media over several days. And one of the pieces of those logistical questions involves transportation, given that Austin Straubel Airport in Green Bay doesn’t offer a lot of direct flights, and that the nearest major market for lodging and air travel is 100 miles away in Milwaukee.

There is one solution now being floated that might allow for increased options to get to Titletown, and possibly lay the ground work for a future, more permanent transportation project in our state.
Green Bay Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy on May 24 mentioned the team had contacted Amtrak about passenger service to help bring some of the expected crowd of 240,000 people to Green Bay.

In a May 31 interview, Marc Magliari, an Amtrak spokesperson, said discussions have been informal so far, but there are precedents for that type of charter train service and the company is interested, but that there are questions to be answered before Amtrak could say "yes."…

In the case of Milwaukee to Green Bay for the draft, the Packers — or another business or organization — could contract with Amtrak for the rail trip or trips. Amtrak would provide the trains, cars and staff, and the contracting organization would then be tasked with selling seats.

In past years, Amtrak ran a charter train to the Kentucky Derby, for example. And, Magliari said, a one-off charter trip between Denver and the Winter Park Ski Resort a few years ago has led to a six-year contract to run the Winter Park Express route every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in January, February and March.
US DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg mentioned the “huge potential” of Amtrak expansion in the Upper Midwest when ex-Mayor Pete was in Green Bay a couple of weeks ago to promote a sizable grant that the Port of Green Bay received.

We already know Milwaukee-to-Green Bay service has been mapped in Amtrak’s future possibilities, along with bringing service to Madison 12 years after Scott Walker put the kibosh on the idea, as part of a significant expansion in funding that was part of the most recent infrastructure bill.

Passenger rail will also be part of this week’s JFC discussions on the Transportation budget, and the Legislative Fiscal Bureau discussed some of the increased options that are now available for Amtrak and other rail travel.

And one of the more immediate items to deal with involves increasing rail service in another part of our state in the next few months.
Wisconsin's share of operating costs for the new Twin Cities-Milwaukee-Chicago (TCMC) service are estimated by DOT to be $303,100 in 2023-24, and $518,100 in 2024-25. The TCMC project will eventually provide one additional daily round-trip between Chicago and the Twin Cities to augment Amtrak's current Empire Builder service, with stops in St. Paul, Red Wing, Winona, La Crosse, Tomah, Wisconsin Dells, Portage, Columbus, Milwaukee, General Mitchell International Airport, Sturtevant, Glenview, and Chicago's Union Station. Through an agreement with partnering states (Illinois and Minnesota) and Amtrak, Wisconsin will share in the costs of operating the service.

TCMC service is currently scheduled to begin in September, 2023. TCMC-related design improvements and construction projects will begin in early 2024, and conclude mid to late-2025. Since the TCMC service will use existing routes, and the planned construction projects are only intended to improve train movements and flow, TCMC service can begin prior to construction. The service is estimated to have $14.4 million in annual operating costs and is projected to generate annual revenue of $6.1 million, resulting in $8.3 million remaining in net operating costs that would need to be covered. TCMC operating costs for the first three years of service will be partially offset by the receipt of a $12.6 million federal grant received by partnering entities, which will pay for 90% of operating costs in 2024, 80% of costs in 2025, and 70% of costs in 2026. The remainder of net operating expenses will be paid for by the three participating states, with Wisconsin and Minnesota each paying a 35% cost-share, and Illinois paying the remaining 30% share. In 2026, it is estimated that Wisconsin's share of cost will equal $0.8 million. According to the Department, the agreement between Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and Amtrak is still under development, so some aspects of these costs will likely change once the agreement is finalized. Also, similar to the Hiawatha agreement, DOT will have an annual payment to Amtrak that will depend on the route's farebox revenues and actual costs incurred.
That annual payment on the Chicago-Milwaukee-Twin Cities train is estimated to be $303,100 in the 2023-24 Fiscal Year, and $518,100 for 2024-25, which doesn’t seem like a bad deal for more frequent service (and likely at a more convenient time).

Coming our way?

There are also $7 million in state funds budgeted for “nuts and bolts” capital work on rail lines that would be scheduled for next year, and another $2.5 million in Fiscal Year 2025. This includes contributions to upgrade WisDOT rail fleet and locomotive upgrades, but also includes some specific projects.
• Muskego Yard freight bypass of Milwaukee Intermodal Station (MIS) (which allows freight trains to avoid using the same tracks as Amtrak, helping ease congestion for both types of rail)
• [Milwaukee Intermodal Station] signal and centralized train control (CTC) upgrades
• Milwaukee Airport Railroad Station (MARS) second platform
• Hiawatha next generation equipment acquisition and implementation
JFC could turn down any or all of these projected upgrades, but given the additional usage of the rail lines with the new Midwest regional service, it makes sense that there would be an additional need to do work on the rail lines and install improvements.

The other wild card would be whether the state could have more announcements from Secretary Buttigieg, this time for federal grants to help the state and local communities build up its rail infrastructure. While the infrastructure bill seems to have given automatic increases for highway funds and other types of aids, it looks like most of the increased FED rail aids are case-by-case. Some immediate upgrade funds from DC would change the calculus quickly in terms of what we can and can't do for passenger rail in this state, but either way, it certainly looks like there will be more opportunities for Wisconsinites to ride the rails soon enough.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Sunday reading - Elon, Zaslav, and other whiny rich a-holes

Wanted to give your attention to a great column by labor writer Hamilton Nolan, where he discusses why the uber-rich get so freaked out by the non-issue of "cancel culture" and other reactions to their general douchebaggery.

Nolan starts with the recent heckling that Warner Brothers CEO David Zaslav received when he was addressing the graduating class of 2023 from Boston University. Nolan points out that CEOs and mega-donors decide to take part because it's a way of promoting themselves, and getting the attention of a group of people who otherwise could not care less about what they have to say.
Boston University invited Zaslav to be its commencement speaker this year. If you were under the impression that college graduations are about the students, you are mistaken. The dreary ritual of commencement speeches and honorary degrees, bestowed as an empty honor upon some guy who the students do not give a damn about but who somehow lends wealth or prestige to the school itself, goes to show that the primary role of students at these events is to be a prop for future fundraising efforts. It’s not too different from the way that companies build lavish offices in which the employees are, above all, a backdrop for the CEO to look at in a self-satisfied manner as he ushers business partners into important meetings. Our open plan office makes it hard for you to do phone calls? I’m sorry, but it’s more photogenic.
Then when the students rightfully call out Zaslav for trying to screw over the writers at Warner Brothers and other generally scummy CEO behavior, he whines about how college campuses are "out of control" and disconnected from "the real world". But Nolan points out that Zaslav and other elites are the real ones that live inside of a Bubble, and can't get the respect from the Real America that they so badly want.
The only reasonable way to discuss cancel culture is not “Why are kids these days canceling people?”— it is “Why is this objectively unimportant niche phenomenon suddenly such a large part of mainstream discourse?” The most basic answer is “Because so much of mainstream discourse is produced by a narrow demographic of upper middle class middle aged uncool people who have never worked outside of media or politics or academia or nonprofits and whose nightmare is getting made fun of by college kids.” But on a more fundamental level, it’s that deep yearning for the things that cannot be purchased. Why do Ken Griffin and David Geffen and David Koch spend “charity” money not on feeding the poor, but to plaster their names on public buildings? Because they are thirsty for—above all—that public love. It is a sort of prestige, but not, ironically, the cheap sort of prestige that can be bought; what they desire deep down is the genuine love and respect of humanity. Their performative efforts to earn it are pitiful. But their desire never ebbs. That respect would amount to immortality for them.

You ain’t gonna get it, fuckers. Though it would seem, rationally, that a bunch of not-rich college kids heckling a guy who makes $100 mil a year would mean nothing to him, that is not the case. The idea of being mocked and shouted down by the unwashed masses strikes fear in the heart of the powerful because it is emblematic of their inability to buy that respect that cannot be bought. This goes not just for moguls and billionaires, but for those who have achieved cultural success—the prestigious newspaper columnists who cannot stop writing dumbass columns about this spectacularly asinine topic because it represents their worst fears. Namely, that a lifetime spent worshiping at the altar of careerism and credentialism was all for nothing. When you have long cultivated a resume that demands respect only to be disrespected by a bunch of nobodies, it can shake you to your core. What was the point of it all, if the cool kids think you suck?
And "being cool and entertaining" is the one area that our modern oligarchs can't break into it. And Nolan says that drives them nuts, because these oligarchs thought that their money and power would give them that.
The common thread is nothing more than a pulsing desire by the already powerful to sew up the last few places in the world that they are forced to deal with regular people on an equal playing field. Elon Musk is rich and powerful, but he looked like an idiot when he tried standup comedy. Thomas Friedman is distressingly influential and comfortable cheerleading a war, but he looked pretty normal when he got a pie in the face on stage. And David Zaslav can force thousands of writers to risk their livelihoods in order to go on strike, but he can’t help looking like a pathetic greed-drunk uncool dad when all the kids start booing him at his commencement speech.

If we lived in a more equal society in which everyone had a fair and democratic chance to exercise their own power and influence, we could have a reasonable discussion about toning down “incivility.” Until then, fuck it. You gotta use what you got. Keep booing these fuckers when you are forced to listen to their speeches. Yell at Stephen Miller when you see him in a restaurant. Make fun of billionaires. They can have everything else, but they’re not entitled to our love. They didn’t earn it.
This explains the entire existence of Elon Musk these days, and his pathetic neediness. The Defector's David Roth commented on a similarly odd comment from former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey last week, and reminded us of a great column he wrote that pegged Musk and other Tech Bros perfectly, when you see them whining all over social media about some (non-)issue.

Online reactionary politics is a fan community before it is anything else; as with Donald Trump, the way to tell that Musk is an active participant is how obviously starstruck he is by the corny dingbats that make up its firmament. Where Trump lived for the approval of Fox News's glitching poreless on-air goblins, Musk has been queasily quick with an "exactly" in the mentions of various reactionary influencers: the anti-trans activist that solicits bomb threats to children's hospitals, or the one fellow from the Koch-backed Turning Point USA organization whose face seems to be shrinking, or Cat Turd 2. If it is embarrassing to know who these people are—and it is extremely embarrassing to know who those people are—it is more embarrassing still to have mistaken these relentlessly self-serving grifters for friends.

What all of that decidedly is not, however, is mysterious. Musk's politics, however heterodox he himself might secretly be, appear very much to be those of an extremely wealthy 51-year-old man with an entirely commonplace conservative media diet. There are only so many interesting ways and even fewer interesting reasons to adopt these politics; the most common one, which again is the one that Musk seems to have chosen, is to simply let the combined inertia of your circumstances and incuriosity back you into them. That he is now someplace so strange—winking at QAnon shit, already—seems mostly to reflect how conservative politics have moved in that direction; Musk, typically, seems not to have given any of it much thought. The extremities of his wealth and strange upbringing, and his personal peculiarities and the limits of his capacities for empathy or insight all probably played some role, but this is true of every other butthead that ever aged into reactionary politics. In time, these people realize what they actually believed all along and embrace what has always mattered most to them. In this sense, too, Musk's little blurts of umbrage and upset are just like those of all the other reactionary pilgrims on their own lonely journeys. Separately but in unison, they slough off everything and everyone that is not them, either out of principle or pique or just because they find themselves losing interest; instead of talking to the people they used to talk to, they just shout at everyone. Twitter has always been a good place for that.
Roth adds that since these ultra-rich folks have no real risk of losing anything tangible, they now treat life and their statements as some kind of sporting event or game show, where they have to "battle and defeat"....something. And they don't dare to question why people like them have are allowed to acccumulate so much power and wealth. So they're no more than the everyday a-hole that normal people who never waste their time with if they weren't so rich and given such a forum to spot their BS.
Socialism and barbarism are now both back on the menu, and each on the ascent. But for members of a generation who saw their politics as inseparable from themselves without ever thinking nearly as hard about the former as they did about the latter, this is all still a matter of performance. Such politics are easy to change because they were never really anchored to any actual system of belief. An obliterating narcissism and sawed-off selfishness is latent in American culture like lead in contaminated water; in the absence of countervailing principles, it will naturally make its presence felt over time. If your politics is just about Opposing Authority, for instance, with no regard for or sense of the structural and material realities of actual power, then remaining true to those politics is just a matter of propping up new authority figures to rage against....

Everyone knows what free speech means to people like this, because they have met these people and noticed how much more they care about talking than listening. There is a tendency, because of how much American culture reveres wealth, to assume that rich and powerful people got theirs on merit. That demonstrably incorrect faith predated and presaged Trump's presidency and survived its idiotic apotheosis; it fueled Elon Musk's ascent, and will almost certainly emerge unscathed from whatever reckoning is or isn't coming.

Which is astonishing because it is all just right there, the wild philistinism and the bullying and the offhand cruelty, the compulsive self-aggrandizement and the giddy vengeful sadism toward everyone he believes he can get away with treating that way—all of it so oafishly performed that it could not possibly be mistaken for anything but what it is. There's no principle to find here beyond spite and distaste; the speech is just noise cast out into the chaos by someone eager to mistake the echo for an answer. And then, even though the fact of it is so plain—and, again, so embarrassing and so implicating in its thudding overage—the mistake gets made anyway. "Maybe," the tech podcaster Kara Swisher mused on Monday, Musk is a few steps ahead of us all, and at work "building a new kind of media company." Leaving aside the characteristic mistake of assuming that "new" means "better," I suppose it's possible that what looks like flailing impulsivity and familiar old cruelties is in fact something finer and more reasoned. But it might just be what it looks like.
These people aren't special, and don't know much beyond maybe One Big Thing that they were lucky to hit on at the right time. They are exhibit A of why we need to go back to taxing the mega-rich at 70-90 (especially in capital gains) and why we need to beef up the IRS to make them think twice before trying some other type of tax scheme or give "donations" to fake charities, which prop up other grifters that pollute the discourse with RW misdirections.

These oligarchs think they can get away with every bit of bad behavior and jackassery, and don't have to deal with the consequences of anything. They need to have some real accountability and be brought back toward the Real America and real issues that the rest of us have to deal with in the wreckage of their self-entered foolishness.

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Another good jobs report for May. And with debt ceiling clearing, things look good

As the threat of a debt ceiling crisis faded on Friday, we also found out that the jobs market was trucking along in a time when default was still in play.

It wasn't all great news in the jobs report, as the rise in the unemployment rate from 3.4% to 3.65% with more Americans identifying as unemployed at the same time that more people entered the US work force. But it appears that a sizable amount of those losing jobs were in the "part time for economic reasons" category in April, which is why the U-6 unemployment rate only rose by 0.1%, staying near multi-decade lows.

While fewer Americans may have been self-employed in May, more were finding work at businesses they didn't own.

While Americans were claiming they lacked consumer confidence and were buying into the RECESSION FEAR being spread around the news (because "healthy economy with solid job/wage growth" is boring), we still see consumer-driven restaurants, bars and recreation services sectords hiring up. In fact, the arts/entertainment/rec sector has now gained back all of the losses it took on in the COVID era, and bars and restaurants will likely get back to pre-COVID levels by the end of the Summer.

The wage growth figures in the jobs report were good-but-not-great, matching a trend of the last several months that goes along with our declining levels of 12-month inflation.

Or maybe we're in a balanced economy that is continuing to need workers, which helps everyday Americans. That's what the Fed SHOULD recognize, and use their meeting later this month as the one to pause on their trend of rate hikes, as the Fed Funds target of 5-5.25% is now above the 12-month gains in both inflation and average hourly wages, and quite a bit more when you look over the last 9 months (where the annual rate is 3-4%).

Combine the strong jobs market with the threat of debt default going away, and the DOW Jones Industrial Average jumped by more 700 points on Friday. We've also seen US gas prices decline in the last month, and go down more than 25% compared to a year ago, as gouging prices were nearing their peaks. After a lot of questions before Memorial Day weekend on the economy, things feel pretty good now, and don't let the wishful BSing of Republicans and scummy hedge funders try to tell you otherwise.

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Debt ceiling bill not as bad as it could be. And we can make it better after 2024.

As the debt limit deal goes through Congress, getting through the House and being debated at the Senate sooner than later, let's go over the AP's summary of the agreement.
The agreement would keep nondefense spending roughly flat in the 2024 fiscal year and increase it by 1% the following year, as well as suspend the debt limit until January 2025 — past the next presidential election.

For the next fiscal year, the bill matches Biden’s proposed defense budget of $886 billion and allots $704 billion for nondefense spending.

The bill also requires Congress to approve 12 annual spending bills or face a snapback to spending limits from the previous year, which would mean a 1% cut.
So does that mean would-be saboteurs in the GOP House can’t shut down the government when the Fiscal Year ends on September 30? Because that’s what I figure would be their next move, because even though a budget would be in place, they could hold up releasing the funds, or some similar monkey business. I would guess that there will be performance artist MAGAts trying some stunts over the next 4 months to move money into one area and take it away from others, but it still seems like a helluva cave by McCarthy and the rest of the House GOPs.

Which hopefully means that Biden privately threatened to walk away and use the 14th Amendment to pay the bills and obliterate the debt ceiling (which is what I wanted him to do all along). And maybe McCarthy and other DC GOP insiders knew Republicans were going to be blamed for the economic damage from a debt ceiling meltdown.

I’m skeptical of that calculation - I think low-info voters would blame the president in charge when the economy takes a downturn, and hurting Biden and the Dems for 2024 was a central part of the GOP’s hostage-taking strategy on the debt ceiling. But because they couldn't get the big stuff, this deal has a lot of symbolic budget cuts related to “concerns” that only exist in the Faux News BubbleWorld.
Republicans targeted money that the IRS was allotted last year to crack down on tax fraud. The bill bites into some IRS funding, rescinding $1.4 billion. Budget scorekeepers said the change would increase deficits by $900 million because less enforcement means less revenue coming into the Treasury.

The White House has said that the deal also includes an agreement to take $20 billion from the IRS over the next two years and use that money for other nondefense programs.
But it also means that IRS funding will be increased by around $60 billion compared to what it was before Biden took office. The Treasury Department has already credited the added funding to improvements in service to everyday taxpayers and increased speed of refunds during this year’s tax season, and in the long run, it will still lower the deficit due to increased enforcement against tax cheats. I’ll take that.

We've also found out over the holiday weekend that our state might be giving a sizable contribution to the "savings."

Wisconsin officials are preparing to send back some of the federal pandemic funding that has not yet been spent under a deal between President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to raise the country's debt limit as a federal government default looms.

Gov. Tony Evers told reporters on Tuesday his administration is planning for the possibility, which could result in Wisconsin losing some of the $447 million in federal funds state officials have not yet spent out of the billions it was allocated as part of federal laws passed by Congress to help states navigate and recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

"We haven't heard anything because I don't think the written document exists so we are planning all across our agencies," Evers told reporters in Brown Deer, according to WISN-TV. "We're looking at what is known and seeing how much money we would have to send back but at this point in time we're not anywhere near because they aren't anywhere near soup yet."…

When the GOP-controlled House passed a bill in April to raise the debt limit in exchange for cutting various types of spending, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated clawing back pandemic funding would save about $30 billion. Government accountants excluded $316 billion in remaining funds that the government is legally obligated to pay out. An additional $16 billion that CBO estimated would be committed before any deal was finalized was also excluded.
Like the Guv, I am unclear how “unused” was determined, and what time period is the cutoff point. The CBO analysis of the debt ceiling agreement gives us some specifics, saying "a majority of the reductions would come from the Public Health and Social Service Emergency Fund and from certain infrastructure and disaster relief programs," and basically takes back some of the money that was budgeted for those duties. So Tony, make an announcement and get that money obligated before Biden signs the bill! (I'm mostly kidding)

If you widen out to CBO's analysis of the full bill, you'll see a similar pattern.

Most of the budget cuts come from "updated projections from lower funding”, and here’s how CBO explains that category.
Caps on discretionary funding in fiscal years 2024 and 2025 would affect CBO’s projections of discretionary funding in 2026 and beyond because of the way that CBO is required to project such funding. In CBO’s projections for discretionary spending, funding in a future year generally is based on the projection (or amount provided) for the prior year. Because the caps would reduce CBO’s projections of funding for fiscal year 2025, the projections for the following year (and each year thereafter) also would be reduced.
Of course, if those numbers are adjusted to reality and future needs higher levels, those “savings” will never exist. But hey, it sounds big!

We’ll see if Coffee Boy is still around in those future years to see his dream of future budget cuts come to fruition.

We also know that this will not be the only cuts imposed onto services that Americans depend on. McCarthy says he and his fellow Republicans will be back for more, if voters keep them in office after 2024. No matter what they claimed what “off limits” in these recent discussions.

God forbid we ask the rich and corporate to give back any of the benefits the GOPs gave them in the GOP Tax Scam of 2017 to reduce the deficit, or other giveaways those privileged few have gotten in my 48-year-old lifetime.

There will certainly be people worse off from this, particularly due to the wasteful "work requirements" that are more likely to take away benefits from working people than it does in getting people to enter the work force.

And that's one of several items that need to be fixed the minute Dems regain total control in DC. This includes the removal of the debt ceiling as a THING, because markets decide if US Treasuries are able to be bought, and budgets decide how much we can spend.

But it's also a deal worth signing onto for the next 2 years, as it will keep us from an economic meltdown caused by failing to pay our bills due to an artificial debt ceiling. Which means it becomes less likely for Americans to lose their jobs and go through more economic troubles through no fault of their own, which is something we should have driving our economic strategy. Take it for now, and remind people just how Republicans endangered millions of people for stupid, symbolic and spiteful reasons.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

GDP revised higher, but prior income revised lower. An overall good spot, without overheating

Last week we saw US GDP revised up for Q1, although the topline number was still relatively tame.

Real gross domestic product (GDP) increased at an annual rate of 1.3 percent in the first quarter of 2023 (table 1), according to the "second" estimate released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the fourth quarter, real GDP increased 2.6 percent.

The GDP estimate released [Thursday] is based on more complete source data than were available for the "advance" estimate issued last month. In the advance estimate, the increase in real GDP was 1.1 percent (refer to "Updates to GDP"). The updated estimates primarily reflected an upward revision to private inventory investment.

The increase in real GDP reflected increases in consumer spending, exports, federal government spending, state and local government spending, and nonresidential fixed investment that were partly offset by decreases in private inventory investment and residential fixed investment. Imports, which are a subtraction in the calculation of GDP, increased.
As mentioned in my observation about the income and spending report, the growth in wages and salaries was revised down for the last 3 months of 2022. In fact, total wage and salary income in Q1 2023 is no different than what was originally reported for Q4 of last year.

This means income growth has been more moderate than we knew, and that the savings rate is lower. Both are a couple more reasons why the Fed should pause its rate hikes at its nexy meeting in 2 weeks.

Also moderating are the massive profits that corporations pulled in early 2022, as “inflation” recedes from those larger rises in price.
Profits from current production (corporate profits with inventory valuation and capital consumption adjustments) decreased $151.1 billion in the first quarter, compared with a decrease of $60.5 billion in the fourth quarter (table 10).

UW econ professor Menzie Chinn notes that while the general trends show an economy continue to move ahead in Q1 2023 and the first part of Q2 2023, there are just enough flatlines and slight declines to cloud the picture.

Given the NBER Business Cycle Dating Committee’s emphasis on employment and personal income, one would be fairly confident that no recession was in place as of April 2023, of course keeping in mind all these numbers will be revised over time. GDP in particular will be revised numerous times so an increase in this series would not be decisive in ruling out a recession (just as the decline in 2022Q1-Q2 would not be decisive in ruling in a recession).

We know that reported GDP is actually not the best indicator of where GDP will eventually be revised to. GDO and GDP+ are two series are more likely to fulfill that condition. Here, we see some troubling signs.

While GDP was revised up to 1.3% SAAR, GDO (the average of GDP and GDI) and GDP+ are at -0.5% and -1.2% SAAR, respectively. As Jason Furman has noted, the discrepancy between GDP and GDI is very large, highlighting the uncertainty we face discerning how economic activity trending. This shows up in a discrepancy in the bean counting exercises, with GDPNow at 1.9% SAAR, but SPGMI (formerly Macroeconomic Advisers and IHS Markit) at 0.4% — essentially zero.
If we don't have any monkey business that keeps the debt ceiling from being raised, these are the underlying factors that we can continue to look at to see where the US economy heads for the rest of 2023. Decent spot for now, but we'll see if the consumer can hold up the strong results we've been seeing so far this year.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

US spending was strong in April, but incomes weaker at the end of 2022, and savings lower.

After a couple of flat months, Americans resumed spending in April, underscoring a still-growing economy.
U.S. consumer spending increased more than expected in April, boosting the economy's growth prospects for the second quarter, and inflation picked up, which could prompt the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates again next month....

"Companies and consumers are in agreement that there are plenty of green shoots to like at the start of springtime and right now the economy is miles and miles away from the cliffs of recession," said Christopher Rupkey, chief economist at FWDBONDS in New York. "Fed officials won't be able to pause their rate hikes, it looks like demand is picking up, not slowing down as it is supposed to do when the Fed hikes rates."

Consumer spending jumped 0.8% last month after gaining 0.1% in March. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, would rise 0.4%.
It's not always been consistent, but inflation-adjusted consumer spending continues to slowly rise after its immediate post-vaccination bump in early 2021. And January and April 2023 have had noticeable jumps.

Moving over to the income side, there was growth there as well, although in line with the increase in prices.
Personal income increased $80.1 billion (0.4 percent at a monthly rate) in April, according to estimates released today by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (table 3 and table 5). Disposable personal income (DPI) increased $79.4 billion (0.4 percent) and personal consumption expenditures (PCE) increased $151.7 billion (0.8 percent)....

The increase in current-dollar personal income in April primarily reflected increases in compensation and personal income receipts on assets that were partly offset by a decrease in personal current transfer receipts (table 3). The increase in compensation was led by private wages and salaries. The increase in personal income receipts on assets reflected increases in both personal interest income and personal dividend income. The decrease in personal current transfer receipts was led by a decrease in “other” government social benefits.
But to me, another major headline of the income data comes inside of this note from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Estimates have been updated for October through March. For October through December, estimates for compensation, personal taxes, and contributions for government social insurance reflect the incorporation of updated fourth-quarter wage and salary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages program. Revised and previously published changes from the preceding month for current-dollar personal income and for current-dollar and chained (2012) dollar DPI and PCE are provided below for February and March.
The February and March figures aren't changed much from their original reporting, but those updated figures from the last 3 months of 2022 show that wage growth took a step back, and was quite a bit lower than first reported.

On the inflation front, the lower wage growth should offer another bit of evidence that inflation isn't much of a future threat, with wage pressures being even less tbut it also means the US savings rate was lower than originally reported, and now is at 4.1% for April after being reported at 5.1% in March's income and spending - a $200 billion difference on an annual rate.

That's not a good sign going forward, as the consumer may be closed to being tapped out than the overall numbers may indicate. It also helps to explain how we have record-high credit card balances, and with higher interest rates than in past times. But despite the fear-mongering about 4.4% PCE inflation, if incomes are growing by a similar amount, and consumer spending stays slightly ahead of that, does that sound like a bad thing? It keeps demand going while not having cost pressures cause inflation to get out of control. And while the downward revision in wage growth indicates that maybe things weren't as great as we thought for Q4 2022, it also means that we aren't overheating, despite our 3.4% unemployment rate.

And while the media thought the Fed would use the inflation reading as reason to tighten when they next meet in 2 1/2 weeks, I hope they also noticed the lower wage and income figures, and the higher credit card balances. If so, the Fed officials should back off and let things play out for the next few months, if they really want us to have the "soft landing" of lower inflation and moderate growth that would keep people on the job, and OK with where the economy is at.

Saturday, May 27, 2023

$2 million for GB for the Draft? Well, Evers wants to put out more funds for more events, so win-win?

Within days of Titletown getting the 2025 NFL Draft, two WisGOPs were asking for state tax dollars to help put on the show.
Two Green Bay-area lawmakers are asking colleagues crafting the next two-year state budget to include $2 million to pay for costs associated with the Green Bay Packers hosting the National Football League draft in 2025.

Rep. David Steffen and Sen. Robert Cowles, both Republicans from Green Bay, said the money would cover a portion of the expected costs to the Packers to host the event, which Cowles and Steffen said could cost $7.5 million overall.

The measure would require the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. to provide a grant to the Experience Greater Green Bay Corp., according to a draft of the budget motion Steffen's office provided to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Wednesday.
Here's a sense of the type of scale of last month's NFL Draft in Kansas City.

Interestingly, that story came out a few days ahead of the Joint Finance Committee taking up the Wisconsin Department of Tourism’s budget, which includes a program that Governor Evers wanted to start which would send out similar types of assistance.
Assembly Bill 43/Senate Bill 70 would provide $20 million GPR in 2023-24 and $10 million GPR in 2024-25 to create what would be known as an Opportunity Attraction and Promotion Fund. Funding would be provided in a new, continuing appropriation intended to support marketing, advertising, and outreach to encourage large events to be held in the state, or to secure features of the state in television or film. The bill would direct Tourism to collaborate with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to implement the provision. The bill would also include 1.0 permanent position with funding of $54,800 in 2023-24 and $69,500 in 2024-25 in Tourism's general operations appropriation to administer the program. Funding of $10 million in 2024-25 would continue in the agency base for future biennia.

2. Tourism reports that the Opportunity Attraction and Promotion Fund would be used for the state to bid competitively for hosting rights of large-scale events and attractions, including professional and collegiate sporting events, large-scale festivals and conventions, state-centric features in television and film productions, and other events where travel into the state would encourage visitor spending and state exposure. Tourism cites the following recent events that occurred in Wisconsin and that demonstrate the scale of event Tourism would intend to bid on, or otherwise assist or pair with statewide promotions during the event: (a) major golf events, such the Ryder Cup, which was hosted in 2021, or the U.S. Senior Open, occurring June 27 to July 2, 2023, in Stevens Point; (b) the Crossfit Games, which have been held in Madison since 2017 and are planned to continue through 2024; (c) NASCAR, IndyCar, or other motorsports races, such as those historically held at the Milwaukee Mile or Road America; (d) the National Football League Draft, of which the 2025 event was awarded to the City of Green Bay and the Green Bay Packers on May 22; and (e) the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in Milwaukee in 2020 and 2024, respectively.

3. Tourism argues that such large events could attract national and international travelers, fans, media, and other guests into the state. A large volume of visitors would be expected to increase activity for numerous vendors in the area for the duration of the events. Media outlets that follow and report on large-scale events may provide television and written exposure to the state through normal reporting, also called "earned media."
In addition to those events, the US Women's Open for golf is set for Erin Hills in 2025, and the Bucks recently put in a bid to have Milwaukee host the NBA's All-Star Weekend for 2025 or 2026.

I want to give props to the LFB staff who quickly were able to add this tidbit about the extra costs that the Pack and the GB area will take on in order to host the Draft, and how the state could chip in to help.
It may be that state funding is warranted to assist local destination marketing organizations or other parties who seek large events and productions to be held in Wisconsin. As an example, the efforts to secure the NFL Draft in Green Bay required an agreement between the NFL and area municipalities committing public support to costs such as public works, law enforcement, fire protection, traffic management, and costs of adverse impacts on local businesses. In addition, the municipalities agreed to waive permitting fees. However, the Packers have also pledged $1 million toward an estimated $6 million to $7 million total needed for support of the NFL Draft hosting. State funding could assist municipalities in offsetting certain costs related to hosting such events, to the extent they are not covered by another organizer.

Gonna be a lot bigger than just this.

So given that the Evers Administration wants to put state dollars to attract Big Sports and other national events to Wisconsin, and given that GOPs Dave Steffen and Rob Cowles want to give some funds to help GB and the Packers put on a show for the April 2025 NFL Draft, it seems like we have the opportunity for bipartisan agreement on this.

You know, if the rest of the Legislature actually wants to be serious and not play more games where getting credit is more important than doing things that a lot of politicians on both sides agree with.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Brewers stadium deal has a ways to go. And no Mr. Manfred, it doesn't need to get done soon.

After getting a lot of injuries and quite a few losses in May, the Brewers had a positive start to this week, winning 2 out of 3 from the defending World Series Champion Houston Astros, and still stand in first place as Memorial Day approaches.

Oh, and now Milwaukee is being graced with a visit from the top guy in baseball as the week ends? Cool beans!

Wisconsin's Legislature and Gov. Tony Evers need to approve a plan to finance $448 million of long-term renovations at American Family Field — or risk the Milwaukee Brewers moving to another city.

That's the message expected to be delivered Thursday by Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert Manfred, who's visiting Milwaukee, a source is telling the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

A Brewers representative declined to comment. But the source, who asked not to be named, said Manfred is planning a news conference at American Family Field because of concerns MLB officials have about funding for the ballpark.
OH COME ON! What’s with the hard sell, Rob?

First of all, the Brewers have 7 years left on their current lease with the SE Wisconsin Ballpark District, While I know the super-rich can a;ways break an agreement for the right price, it would be a massive legal pain and cost more than the relatively small amount of money that the team pays the District to play at AmFam Field. Leaving early would be financially suicidal for whoever owns the team.

That veiled threat from MLB about the Brewers’ future also has a little less relevance after this week, as the Oakland A’s and public officials in Nevada seem to have a deal in place to move the team to Las Vegas and build a new stadium, which takes one location off the table that the Brewers could potentially move to. In addition, the Tampa Bay Rays’ stadium situation is more urgent than the one the Brewers have, and MLB plans to add another 2 teams in the coming years, so 2 more potential relocation sites would go away.

Plus, there is a lot in Milwaukee and the rest of the state that needs to be sorted out before we know how to pay for a Brewers stadium, and which communities would pay for it. Assembly Speaker Robbin’ Vos said last month that the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County should be part of any assistance that the Brewers stadium may receive.
Vos suggested the package lawmakers ultimately approve for American Family Field could resemble the structure of a 2015 bill that included funding from the state, city and county to help pay for the construction of a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, now known as Fiserv Forum.

“I think it's fair to say that most people around the state would expect that (Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee) would have some kind of a participatory role,” Vos told reporters in the state Capitol. “Has that been defined? No.”
But we saw that the Milwaukee County Board is saying they don't want to pay anything toward future Brewers improvements, so there's one item that'll have to be ironed out.

More importantly, we have no idea if the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County would even have funds available to give toward ballpark improvements. The State Legislature and Governor Evers have yet to come up with a workable increase in shared revenue that would reduce the chances of either of those municipalities from having to make significant cutbacks in services and staff in the next 2-3 years. So I would think that's higher priority to discuss and sort out before we can figure out what the locals can chip in for the Brew Crew.

And it’s interesting that Vos mentioned the Bucks arena as a possible model for a Brewers bill, because a key part of the Bucks arena bill was the development of the “Deer District”, with the City contributing land and TIF-backed infrastructure as a key part of their contribution. But in order to put a “Beer District” on the acres of land associated with AmFam Field and its parking lots, it would require any Brewers funding bill to get rid of a property tax exemption the team has gotten for more than 2 decades, as Bruce Murphy noted last year in Urban Milwaukee.

The Governor’s plan to help pay for repairs to AmFam Field would have continued this tax break, as Dan Shafer noted in the Recombobulation Area when Evers’ budget bill came out.
The governor’s budget proposal also includes a “property tax exemption for baseball park development.”

This would include not only the baseball stadium itself, but also any “retail facilities, hospitality facilities, commercial and residential facilities, health care facilities, and any other functionally related or auxiliary facilities or structures.”....

This would mean any future development the Brewers might do around the stadium would not be subject to property taxes.

The Brewers and the district own the majority of the many parking lots around American Family Field, state and city records show, and two lots located north of I-94 are owned by the state of Wisconsin. The collection of parking lots outside the stadium includes more total parking spaces than that of Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, which ranks as one of the largest parking lots in the world.
Would a standalone Brewers bill allow for some of the lots and land around AmFam Field to be developed and add tax base to the City/County (along with a higher levy limit, maybe?), in exchange for the property tax exemption for that land being dropped? And how much would need to be sent to the Brewers to either buy that land and allow it to be sold/developed, or to reimburse the team for lost parking revenues?

Related, why can’t this Beer District and the nearby area (think Bluemound Road and the related ballpark bars) be part of a special taxing district whose funds go to the ballpark? This is what Minneapolis did to help pay for the new Vikings Stadium and other downtown attractions, which includes an extra sales tax for “live entertainment” in the area, and includes additional taxes on liquor and restaurants in designated neighborhoods and sports facilities.

If we want to make it simple on business owners and the Brewers, we don’t need to have all of these subgroups of taxes, and could do a flat 1-5% sales tax on all non-exempt items sold in the special district along with a ticket tax for Brewers games (similar to the $2-a-ticket tax for FiServ Forum events), and that should go a long way toward the repairs the ballpark will need over the next 20 years.

But unlike how Rob Manfred is implying, we don’t need to figure this out in the next month as part of the debate over the state budget. There are a lot of moving variables on more important issues that need to be ironed out, including whether the City and County that the Brewers play in can even pave their roads and keep cops on the beat.

And given that the team is not going to be leaving any time in the next 5-7 years, we have plenty of time to work out a deal that makes sense for the state, the locals, the team, and the fans. Let’s get this right, as this can be a transformational project that all 4 sides can benefit, and not burden either the state or Milwaukeeans with a huge portion of the costs, without less of a payback for the investment.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Since GOPs only care about debt under Dem presidents, why is Biden wasting time with them?

Chris Hayes had an excellent opening segment on MSNBC Monday night which went over just how absurd the GOP's crocodile tears are on the current federal deficit, and the "Democrat spending" they constantly talk about.

Not only does Hayes mention that Republicans have consistently increased discretionary spending under GOP presidents while trying to cut it when Dems are in the White House, he adds that the real reason GOPs do it has little to do with ideology, and everything to do with sabotaging the economy to hurt the Dems in upcoming elections.

And it includes this graphic, which looks at total US spending over the last 40 years, with GOP presidents shaded, and Dem presidents listed in white.

This includes 2 time periods in the last 20 years when Republicans had complete control of Congress and the White House (Most of 2001-2007 and 2017-2019). And Republicans did NOTHING to cut overall spending, even as they were cutting taxes. Because doing so would have slowed down the economy, and made the GOP look like uncaring bastards when people suffered as a result, and they didn't want that.

Now that a Dem is in the White House, they are singing a different tune. The dopiest of the GOP saboteurs aren't even trying to hide it.

Who does Rapey McForehead think is the "hostage"? Joe Biden? The American people who will lose their jobs and 401k values if we default?

Why would we waste our time talking to lowlifes like this? Especially when we have spending levels set through September 30 based on the last US budget, and we have to pay those bills BY LAW. By contrast, the debt ceiling is an IMAGINARY THING. It has no force of law. President Biden should tell House GOPs that he is removing that hostage, invoking the 14th Amendment, paying our bills, and allow Americans to have life carry on as normal.

Why this hasn't been done already is beyond me, except that DC Brain is a real thing with far too many Dems, where they're clinging to episodes of "The West Wing" and a belief in "compromise for the better good" that has been long disregarded by the vandals in the GOP.

Hey Joe, the last 12 years should tell you who these guys are, and the real reason they want to impose spending cuts 4 months before the budget deadline. Why play along and risk dragging the economy and your re-election prospects down, when you don't need to?

Monday, May 22, 2023

GOP Senate isn't on same page as GOP Assembly on shared revenue. We all may be waiting on them

Looks like Republicans have some significant differences to figure out among themselves on this shared revenue bill.
Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu says his caucus will likely drop a requirement that Milwaukee County and the city approve a new sales tax via referendum as part of the GOP shared revenue bill.

That prompted Assembly Speaker Robin Vos to declare such a move could kill the bill.

The speaker’s comments Thursday came a day after he declared Assembly Republicans were done negotiating on the bill and the Senate could take it or leave it. The legislation cleared the Assembly last night, about 12 hours after Dem Gov. Tony Evers said he was optimistic he could reach a final deal on the bill with LeMahieu and Vos in the coming weeks.

LeMahieu was unfazed by Vos’ comments.

“There are two houses in the state Legislature. It’s unfortunate that he’s drawing a line in the sand now with his version of the bill now and stopping negotiations on a bill that not everybody is in agreement on,” LeMahieu said.
In fact, a hastily-called Senate committee hearing for tomorrow deals with the original version of the bill, and not the one that was amended and passed last week by the State Assembly. And that one only allows a local sales tax in both the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County if the voters approve of it.

Marquette professor Philip Rocco followed up an earlier analysis by examining the shared revenue bill that passed the Assembly, and says that while there is more money in it than before, it almost all goes to smaller communities. And while some of most idiotic conditions on the funds were taken out, many remain.
While the last-minute changes added brought the total amount of county and municipal aid in the Republican plan up to $311 million, that is still just over half the size of the aid package proposed by Gov. Tony Evers. Moreover, while Republicans deleted several “strings attached” to the aid that attracted public scorn — notably the illegal quotas on arrests and moving violations that were part of the plan’s “maintenance of effort” requirements — the vast majority of the restrictions in the initial legislation remained in place....

The old criteria for distributing municipal aid —which Evers’ plan would rehabilitate— relied largely on “aidable revenues,” a measure based on local governments’ net revenue effort, their per capita property wealth, and population.

In the initial version of their bill, Assembly Republicans’ formula for municipal aid relies exclusively on population, but assigns a slightly larger multiplier to communities with populations under 5,000. The new legislation doesn’t really change that basic structure. But it adds a specific formula for aid to municipalities with between 30,000 and 50,000 residents.
A trade-off for giving Milwaukee the chance to put in a sales tax is that the GOP bill gives the state's largest city the lowest % increase in shared revenue, and Rocco adds that Milwaukee County does much worse under the GOP bills than they do with Evers' original shared revenue bill.

There is something to be said about changing a formula that has largely been based on the same factors for decades. But let's not kid ourselves - the reason the smaller communities are getting bigger boosts in this bill is because Republicans are more likely to represent those areas. Which yet again proves that Republicans care less about how much is being spent as much as they want to send those tax dollars to their communities while not having it go to THOSE PEOPLE in bigger cities that are more likely to vote Democrat.

However, the Republicans in the Legislature still need to figure a bill that works for both the Assembly and the Senate, and they sure aren't on the same page about this bill as it is. And if those two houses can't figure out a bill that works, do we see that bleed over into a long-term budget stalemate, like we did with Robbin' Vos and Scott Fitzgerald in 2017, which kept the state budget from being passed until mid-September?

Given that 2023 Republicans are outright terrible at anything resembling governance, I'm getting skeptical that they can get anything done in the next month, and that this devolves into a intra-GOP waiting game on something that we all agree needs to be fixed. Or if there is a bill, it'll be so inequitable and filled with poison pills that Gov Evers should rip it up and come back with something legitimate.

I understand that beggars can't be choosers, and I'd recommend signing a bill that even put some conditions on Milwaukee and had a small amount of giveaways to cops (I'd tie the sales tax to pensions and public safety, and call it a day). But let's see what comes out of this Senate hearing tomorrow, and in discussions in the coming weeks on this shared revenue bill. I think it's as important as any part of the state budget, but now it seems like it can go a lot of ways, especially now that it is outside of the budget. (also note how the new Assembly bill has more money, but also funnels even more to the burbs/towns)

Sunday, May 21, 2023

What Happened in the 2022 elections? In close states Dems did well, and it looks good for 2024

Wanted to give attention to a great analsys by the Catalist group that gives their interpretation on the results of the 2022 elections. Catalist digs into who actually voted in 2022, and then they use that information along with the results from communities to figure out how various demographics voted in those elections.
The What Happened project involves dozens of staff at Catalist across a range of expertise as well as input from partner organizations with deep experience in data related to specific constituency groups. Team members acquire voter file data from all 50 states and Washington, DC, including local and county-level data, as well as precinct-level election results. Data scientists and other technical experts standardize and process these data across the voter file, including running data through record-linkage algorithms and relating commercial, Census and other data back to voter file records. Using precinct-level voting records, survey data and other Catalist data and models, data scientists carefully reconstruct What Happened in a given election based on all available data, building up from the precinct level and down from national results to build a coherent view of the electorate.
And Catalist uses that information to note that 2022 was basically a "split-decision" election. The overall numbers may have indicated a Republican-leaning year, but not in the races that were up for grabs.
...in 2022, there was no national wave in either direction. Instead, Republicans enjoyed an overall advantage nationally, but Democrats outperformed them in highly contested races, where Democratic turnout and support levels were higher.

In the elections for the House of Representatives, Democrats received 49% of the two-way national vote, a 3-point drop compared to the 2020 election results at both the Presidential and House levels. However, in the most heavily-contested House races — those rated by the non-partisan Cook Political Report as Tossup or Lean — Democrats did much better, winning 40 out of 64 House races. Altogether, this resulted in Republicans winning a narrow 9-seat majority in the House, smaller than many expected before the election.

When we examine only the most heavily contested Senate and Gubernatorial elections, Democrats did slightly better (51.0%) than they did in the 2020 Presidential election (50.5%). As a result, Democrats won 13 out of 18 elections that the Cook Political report rated as a Tossup or Lean, keeping control of the Senate and many state houses.

Which leads to a theory of mine about the 2022 elections - if there were high-stakes involved in the election, Dems did much better. And Catalist offers further evidence of this when they explain what fell into the "Tossup/Lean" category, which includes both huge statewide races in Wisconsin.
While there is no perfect definition of heavily contested races, this analysis relies on the final pre-election ratings from the non-partisan Cook Political Report. We define “heavily contested” elections as those which were rated Tossup or Lean for either party. These analyses include data about redistricting, polling, fundraising and on-the-ground reporting and have a strong historical track record.

These races include 64 House races; Senate races in Arizona, Georgia, Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin and Gubernatorial races in Arizona, Georgia, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Wisconsin.
The analysis also breaks down the election results by age, which gives two ominous signs for Republicans. First, GOPs did even worse with younger voters than they did in the 2020 election, as they were gaining 3% nationwide. And those GOP gains with voters over 45 went away in the close races, which featured heavy spending and lots of news exposure.

And many of those contested states had governor's races where the Dobbs decision on abortion was especially relevant, as a GOP win would likely translate into enforced bans on abortion and other reproductive health procedures. And this is where you especially see a divergence among white voters, as white voters (and especially white women) in the swing states turned toward Dems, while non-contested places saw white voters lean more towards the GOP.

Also relevant in Wisconsin and other swing states in 2022 was the memory of attempts by the GOP to overturn the 2020 presidential election in those states,and the prospect that they would use the 2022 elections as the way of gaining the power to overturn the 2024 presidential election. And Catalist says the election denial was a definite loser in those closely-contested states, as Republicans that pushed election denial underperformed compared to how they did nationwide.

But there is one finding in the Catalist research that should be concerning for Democrats, and is especially worrysome in Wisconsin.
Support. Black voters remain the strongest Democratic constituency by race, with support levels exceeding 80% and 90% depending on state. In heavily contested races, Black voters essentially matched their 2020 support levels, with overall support at 92% in 2020 and 91% in 2022. Nationally, however, when accounting for states with no heavily contested elections, Democratic support among Black voters fell, dropping from 91% to 88%.

Turnout. Turnout among Black voters also fell from the past midterm, relative to other groups. While we don’t explicitly estimate the turnout rate due to changes in Census data on eligible voters, we do see that the percent of voters that were Black decreased, both nationally (12% in 2018 to 10% in 2022) and in the most highly contested elections (12% in 2018 to 10% in 2022).
Both of these trends hurt Senate candidate Mandela Barnes (a Black Democrat) in Wisconsin, as areas of the state with sizable Black populations had disappointing turnout (especially in Barnes' hometown of Milwaukee). Catalist adds that we had a larger dropoff in Black support for Dems in Wisconsin than we saw in other closely contested states.

Given that a GOP Wisconsin Election Commissioner applauded voter suppression efforts against Black Milwaukee voters last November, and given that state Republicans are trying to overlord over majority-minority Milwaukee with their shared revenue bill and other big-government handcuffs, maybe Wisconsin Dems should push a little harder on some racial issues and stir up a little (rightful) resentment among Wisconsin's Black voters against the GOP. Not unlike how Wisconsin Republicans try to stir it up with white voters against People of Color, except Dems can have actual facts behind those themes.

These findjng are good signs for Democrats in what is sure to be a high-exposure presidential election in 2024, especially if Donald Trump is the GOP nominee. Trumpiness was definitely on the ballot in many swing states in 2022, and Democrats did as well if not better than they did in 2020. And with another 2 years of young voters joining the electorate along with another 2 years of Silent/Boomer generation voters fading out of the electorate.

A Dem win in 2024 is far from guaranteed, but these Catalist findings from 2022 indicate to me that Republicans are losing voters in the places they need to win them in, and given how MAGA types dominate their primary electorates and constituencies in Congress and statehouses, I don't see how they navigate it without alienating even more of their voters.