Friday, February 12, 2016

Wisconsin’s Self-Inflicted Budget Problems

Just six months after Wisconsin’s two-year state budget was passed, state revenues are projected to come in below expectations due to slow economic growth. Less revenue makes it more difficult for the current Legislature to pass bills with any cost. Even worse, the slower economic growth projections forecast significant budget challenges for the future 2017-2019 budget.

But don’t take it from me. On February 2, Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said “I think this next state budget is going to be just as rough as this past one. The economy is not going to continue to soar, it's going to lag”.  As a reminder, that ‘past one’ Senator Fitzgerald is referring to is the budget that slashed $250 million from the UW System and failed to even attempt to address the $1.05 billion cut from public schools over the last five years.  What is most frustrating is these cuts cannot simply be chalked up to a lack of money, since they were made during a budget that spent over a billion dollars more than the previous one.

So why is Wisconsin state government in such bad financial shape? The answer is short-sighted budgeting and poor state economic growth.

Two budget decisions continue to stand out. The first is the ongoing decision to refuse the Medicaid expansion that would save Wisconsin taxpayers $320 million in our current budget alone, while providing health insurance for 83,000 more people.  Wisconsin is the only upper Midwestern state to reject the federal money. Governor Walker and legislative Republicans have decided that denying health insurance to those earning less than $16,240 a year (to make a political point) is more important than funding K-12 public education and the UW System.

The second budget decision has been blindly supporting an expansive tax credit passed in Governor Walker's first budget in 2011 that eliminates most state income taxes on owners of factories and agriculture producers. Originally estimated to cost $128 million a year by 2016-17, it is now estimated to cost more than twice the amount ($283.9 million). Simply delaying the final phase in of this credit by two years could have saved nearly $78 million in the current budget.

These tax cuts are among the more than $4.7 billion in state tax cuts passed over the last 5 years in an effort to drive economic growth. But the reality is that it hasn’t worked: Wisconsin’s economy has continued to lag behind the nation as well as neighboring states.  Over the last four years, Wisconsin has been 32nd in private sector job growth, last in the Midwest, and over the last year Wisconsin has had a job growth rate that is nearly half of the national rate. Last week, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank announced that Wisconsin is one of only seven states that likely has a shrinking economy in spite of the growing national economy.  This news is made worse by the fact that Wisconsin is one of the only states in that group that cannot attribute its sluggish performance to historically low oil prices. This data mirrors the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics preliminary estimates that show Wisconsin lost 8,800 private sector jobs between October and December of 2015.

So, while Senator Fitzgerald and I don’t agree often, I must agree wholeheartedly with his assessment that our next state budget is likely to be ‘rough’. And I will go even further and make the not-so-bold prediction that rough budgets will continue as long the Governor and Republican majority continue to sacrifice valued Wisconsin institutions, like education, on the altar of badly-crafted tax cuts that mostly benefit the wealthy and aren’t designed to create jobs.


The Reality of Act 10!



By Jeff Simpson

Today was a day that will live in infamy in WI history.  Well today 5 years ago.  February 11,2011.  It was the day that Scott Walker Dropped his bomb on the good people of WI, especially public workers, with what he called ACT10.

Scott Walker had planned all along to use his victory and power to punish his political enemies.The problem with Scott Walker though, besides a fundamental lack of economic sense, is that he does not care who he brings down with him.

When he enacted ACT10, we know that after the first year, he bled $1,000,000,000 of demand out of the Wisconsin economy.

Now that we have lived under ACT10 for five years, exactly what we thought would happen, has happened.



Yes, you read that right, Governor Walker, while punishing the public employees for not supporting him, has bled $5,024,000,000 from our economy.   That explains why we have taken the biggest hit in the middle class in the country.

ACT10 is still a very divisive piece of legislation,but that is not surprising when it was enacted by this guy:


The biggest problem with ACT10 though, is that no one really understands what it is.  Even Todd Barry, from Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance gets it wrong.

Todd Berry of the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance said districts took advantage of the law, and the “‘tools’ more or less worked.”
While every district in WI has, by law, used the "tools" provided in ACT10, we have a record number of referendums on the ballot from local school districts(because its NOT working).

Let's take a quick look at what ACT10 actually does and does not do.   It is no surprise to anyone that Maciver got it wrong, but they did the math:

$5.24 billion in savings works out to $910 in savings for every man, woman and child in Wisconsin, or $2,291 for every household in Wisconsin. The DOT could build 2,912 more roundabouts. The savings could fund over 68,000 four-year degrees at UW-Madison, or install 42 separate Milwaukee-style streetcar systems throughout the entire state. Thankfully, however, Walker and the legislature have used the Act 10 savings to provide more than $2 billion in direct tax relief for Wisconsinites.
The reality is Scott Walker and ACT10 has taken $5.24 billion(or as Mr. Healy points out $2291 per family) of Demand out of our economy.  

That is the end though,  of Mr. Healy's expertise as he points out -

. The DOT could build 2,912 more roundabouts. ----  We could have built, but we didn't because the WIsGOP want to limit the amount of roundabouts in WI and our infrastructure is badly failing under the Walker Administration.  

 The savings could fund over 68,000 four-year degrees at UW-Madison -----  We could have sent 68000 Wisconsinites to UW-Madison, instead, we cut $250 million from the UW budget and because you are more likely to go to college if your parents did, and the WI middle class has taken a beating, the enrollment of Wisconsin students at UW-Madison has declined tremendously.  

42 separate Milwaukee-style streetcar systems throughout the entire state. -  We could have, but the MacIver Institute has adamantly opposed the Milwaukee Streetcar since it was first proposed.  

Since we did not invest in any of the items, what did we invest in?  What do we have to show for the massive cut in pay to public employees? 

Well we paid for some extensive legal bills for the unethical way they redistricted, we had to pay massive overtime costs for Scott Walker's security because he refused to pay for them, we also have to now pay for 100% of Scott Walker's campaign bills.   Add to that the fact that Scott Walker's pet project of WEDC, has lost millions of taxpayer dollars and that the latest budget submitted by Scott Walker was the largest spending budget in Wisconsin's history.

While Scott Walker and his Republican shills have touted a decrease in taxes, the reality is our taxes decreased an average of $3 total over two years.  We have not seen the massive tax cuts nor have we seen the advantages of having more money in our pocket to spend.

For the $3 savings, we were given, record debt, less services, lower wages, numerous business closings and layoffs and a divided state.

Not the best record for the Republicans to run on in 2016.  

Don't forget, go to our facebook page and tell us how Act10 has affected you!




Act 10 And The Milwaukee County Executive Race

The right wing is celebrating the five-year anniversary of Scott Walker dropping the Act 10 bomb on Wisconsin and try to delude themselves into believing it was actually a good thing.  Given the timing of this date that will live in Wisconsin infamy, it also shows a glaring example of the differences between the two top candidates in the race for Milwaukee County Executive.

Both State Senator Chris Larson and Milwaukee County Emperor Chris Abele claim to support workers' rights, including the right to collectively bargain.  But only one of them has the history to support their claims.

Larson, recognizing the disaster that Act 10 would pose for Milwaukee and the rest of the state, led his fellow Democratic state senators to leave the state and stay away for weeks in order to give the people a chance to organize and fight back. For the last five years, Larson has worked tirelessly to restore workers' rights.

Abele, who likes to refer to himself as "Boss Abele," took a whole different approach.  In an interview he did with the bloviating James "Snickers Bar" Wigderson, Abele praised Act 10:
In an interview, Abele agreed with the report. "Absolutely Act 10 gives more flexibility."

Abele said the best defense of Act 10 is the effect it has. "Your taxes didn't go up and your services didn't get cut. That is the best refutation to anything the unions would say."

Before Act 10, the Milwaukee County Executive could propose savings in employee benefits in the budget, but they would have to be negotiated. Now employee benefits are no longer part of the collective bargaining process.
Indeed, Abele embraced Act 10 so tightly that the pay cuts he imposed on Milwaukee County workers was more than double those that Scott Walker had put on state employees.  Abele has gone on to try to steal the pensions from county retirees, remove civil service protections and deny county workers due process by refusing to put in a grievance process (even though that is required by Act 10).

The differences couldn't be more obvious.  Larson's record clearly shows that he is a champion of workers' rights and protecting the taxpayers.  Abele, on the other hand, has a long history of wanting to stick it to the workers and to the taxpayers alike as he continues with his plutocratic agenda.

While both men might say that they support workers and workers' rights, only one them really means it.

It is imperative that we support and vote for Chris Larson.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

#TBT: State of the State Promises, One Month Later

By Gordon Hintz 

MADISON – Less than a month after a State of the State address where Governor Walker boasted about ‘stable’ state finances and promised to finally invest in education after over two billion dollars in cuts during the last five years, Republicans in the Legislature are poised to end the session with more bad fiscal news and additional cuts to public school classrooms.  To help keep score, Rep. Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) offers this handy Throw Back Thursday State of the State Guide:

#TBT: “State finances are stable.”
Today: Just 48 hours later, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau released an updated revenue report that showed just six months into the two-year 2015-17 budget, Wisconsin is expected to take in $158 million less in revenue.  The report stated that “The downward revision for personal income growth in 2016 reflects reduced expectation for growth in wages and salaries…”


The projected net general fund balance at the end of 2015-17 has been reduced to just $70.2 million and the state will spend $148,802,100 more in 2016-17 than it brings in in revenue. As a result, the GOP Legislature has been forced to scale back legislation with any significant fiscal impact.

#TBT: “The Wisconsin Comeback is real.”
Today: Last week, the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank announced that Wisconsin was one of only seven states that likely saw their economy contract during the last three months of 2015.  Their measure is an estimate using economic indicators to show how economic growth has changed for each state.  While five of the seven struggling states are oil producing or refining states impacted by low oil prices, Wisconsin joins Illinois as one of just two states with poor economic performance and fiscal issues. 


This data mirrors the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics preliminary estimates that show Wisconsin lost 8,800 private sector jobs between October, 2015 and December, 2015.

#TBT: “Now, we need to do more to reform state government and put those savings into public education.”
Today: Instead of increasing funding to public school classrooms, Republicans have decided in a last minute move to cut our public school classrooms… again.  Just yesterday, Republicans on the Education Committee passed a bill that appears headed to the floor to spread $14 million of cuts across 142 school districts.  This bill ensures that school districts that have voucher students will be forced to reduce educational opportunities for the children that remain in their public schools.


Rep. Hintz                                                                                                                                         
1-888-534-0054

Vote Judge Kloppenburg



"I have background and backbone a justice needs" Judge Kloppenburg 


This campaign is about the future of our Supreme Court, what kind of court it ought to be and what kind of justices we ought to elect to the court. The court ought to be a place where justice is done without fear or favor. We must elect justices who have the courage and skill to stand up against the partisan politics and special interests that have no place on the court.
On Feb. 16, we have a tremendous opportunity to choose a new justice for our Supreme Court. To take advantage of that opportunity we need the right candidate.
We need a candidate who is a strong, clear alternative to Gov. Walker’s choice, Rebecca Bradley.
Gov. Walker appointed Rebecca Bradley three times to three judgeships in three years. One of her conservative supporters wrote to Walker: “Rebecca … will receive the strong support of conservatives. She has paid her dues. That will not be forgotten.”
The other candidate, Joe Donald, supported Rebecca Bradley twice. He endorsed Bradley after Gov. Walker appointed her to Circuit Court. Then, last year, he served as a reference for Bradley’s application to Gov. Walker for her second judicial appointment. When asked by a reporter why he supported Rebecca Bradley, Donald said, “The only thing I can tell you is that I got bamboozled.”
Voters expect — and deserve — justices who cannot be “bamboozled” by the partisan agendas that threaten the ability of our court to function as an independent check and balance on the other branches of government. I alone was first elected, not appointed, to the bench.
We also need a candidate who has the best qualifications. I am the presiding judge on the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, District 4. My colleagues chose me as presiding judge because they respect my ability to encourage the best from everyone, efficiently conduct the court’s business, and respectfully handle issues that arise.
I have a proven track record as an independent, fair and thoughtful appellate judge. I have issued hundreds of written decisions. Rebecca Bradley has issued several. Joe Donald has never written an appellate decision.
Before being elected to the Court of Appeals, I was an assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice for 23 years, handling hundreds of cases in courts around the state at all levels.
Finally, in order to elect a new justice, we need a candidate who knows what it takes to run a statewide campaign. In 2011, I earned 750,000 votes in one of the highest turnout elections ever in a Supreme Court race. I had much support: People of all political stripes, working men and women, judges, law enforcement professionals, attorneys, community leaders all came together during that campaign.
I am building on that support. I am the only candidate who has visited all 72 counties during this campaign. Wisconsin residents from every county are publicly endorsing our campaign, including former Congressman Dave Obey from Wausau, civil rights pioneer Vel Phillips from Milwaukee, and former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk.
There is no other candidate in this race who matches the breadth and depth of my judicial and legal experience. There is no other candidate who matches my ability to reach out, statewide, and build the strong, grassroots network it takes to win this race.
I am the only candidate in this race who has both the background and the backbone to win this campaign and to stand up, as a justice on our Supreme Court, to the partisan politics and unregulated special interests that have no place on the court.
I would be honored by your vote on Feb. 16.

Abele Still Pushing To Make Poor Pay For Bucks Arena

Last year, when the powers that be were trying to hammer out a deal for the Bucks arena, Milwaukee County wasn't going to have to pay anything extra for the arena.  When Milwaukee County Emperor Chris Abele entered the room, he showed off his fiscal conservatism and shrewd negotiating skills and walked out with the county having to pay $80 million for the billionaire's playground.

Abele's plan for coming up with that money was to make poor people in the suburbs pay for it:
To cover $55 million in bonding for the arena, which balloons to $80 million when interest is figured in, Abele plans to turn over the county’s bad debt to the state, which will be responsible for collecting at least $4 million a year for the next 20 years. If the state cannot collect $4 million annually, it will likely deduct the shortfall from the county’s share of state aid, decreasing the county’s revenue.

One of the sources of the county’s bad debt is $16.9 million in unpaid property taxes.

But those delinquent taxes on the county’s books are only from the suburbs—not from the city of Milwaukee, which is responsible for collecting its own unpaid property taxes.

The city’s delinquent property taxes are not part of the Bucks deal at all. Mayor Barrett specifically rejected that source of funding, saying he didn’t want to finance the new arena on the backs of the city’s hardest-hit residents.

That means that suburbanites who are behind on their property taxes will be forced to pay for the new Bucks arena, to be located in Downtown Milwaukee.

In addition, under Abele’s plan the county will lose a lucrative source of income, the 18% of interest and penalties imposed on delinquent property taxpayers. According to a report prepared by County Comptroller Scott Manske, $7.8 million of unpaid interest and penalties is available for collection.

The county expects to collect $3.5 million of interest and penalties this year, which goes directly to the county’s bottom line and offsets the property tax levy.

Manske’s report shows that the county ultimately collects 95% of its delinquent suburban property taxes and 92% of the interest and penalties on those taxes.

If the state takes over the collection of this debt, it could force delinquent taxpayers to pay more quickly. The state can also use collection tools unavailable to the county, including garnishing wages and bank accounts. The state also imposes a 15% fee on collections.
When the arena scheme went to the state legislature for approval, the Republicans couldn't muster enough votes to get it done. So they turned to the Democrats for help.

State Senator Chris Larson, who is running to against Abele, took the opportunity to make sure the proposal still passed but that the poor were taken off the hook for footing the bill.

So, thwarted once again, Abele did what he always does when he doesn't get his way - he ran to his Republican friends in the state legislature and got them to introduce a bill giving him what he wants:

This bill requires that a county having a population of 750,000 or more and containing a first class city enter into an agreement with the Department of Revenue (DOR) to have DOR collect the county's debt, including debt owed to the county circuit court. Other counties are allowed, but not required, to enter into agreements with DOR to collect debt. All such agreements must provide that DOR charge a collection fee to the county for collecting the debt. Under current law, counties may enter into debt collection agreements with DOR, and DOR may charge an administrative fee for collecting debts.

The bill provides that a debt collection agreement between DOR and a county having a population of 750,000 or more and containing a first class city may take effect by the county executive's written proclamation, without any action being taken by, or approval needed from, the county board. The county must certify for collection all debts that are more than 90 days past due, except the county may not certify for collection restitution owed to a person other than the county. If DOR determines that any certified debts are uncollectible, DOR will notify the county of the uncollectible debts and the county may contract with another debt collector to collect those debts.

The bill also authorizes the county executive to establish a division of revenue within the county's department of administration that is responsible for the efficient collection of accounts receivable and the administration of debts collected by DOR. The division is required to establish payment plans for debtors who meet certain income limitations. In general, the division may offer payment plans, including installment plans, to a debtor whose annual household income is less than 150 percent of the federal poverty line for the size of the debtor's household.

Finally, if DOR determines that the county has not certified its debts to DOR to the fullest extent possible, DOR will notify the county of the revenue that it would have collected had the the county completely certified its debts. In addition, DOR will notify the county of the units of county government responsible for not certifying debts and the county must reduce its funding to such units in proportion to the amounts not collected.
There's a few key things to note in this awful piece of legislation.

One, in the first paragraph, it clearly points out that this bill is targeting Milwaukee County and only Milwaukee County.

Secondly, the wording in the third paragraph is Abele's fingerprint on the bill, usurping even more power into his hands. After all, one can't expect Abele to allow the county board to have a say in the matter. They have this nasty habit of listening to the people and representing them. That's a major obstacle for Abele's plutocratic agenda.

Thirdly, as pointed out in the first excerpt, the county doesn't have enough bad debt to cover the cost, so the rest of the bill will be taken out of the county's shared revenue.  Given Abele's love of austerity, the gentle reader knows he's not going to raise taxes.

Instead, Abele will cut services and continue with deferred maintenance and repairs of county assets.  After all, it's not like we have iconic county assets falling apart before our eyes or anything.

Lastly, it should be noted, especially by Milwaukee County voters, that Larson did try to stop Abele's economic jihad against the poor and the taxpayers.  Furthermore, Larson was key in getting the referendum on a sales tax dedicated to the parks and transit systems introduced to the ballot and passed by the voters.

Yet another reason why we need to Toss The Boss and elect Chris Larson as the next Milwaukee County Executive.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

White People Take Credit, As Usual

As usual, Milwaukee’s black folks are doing all of the work. Kind of like across the lake in Flint and now Detroit Public Schools, where they put up black “emergency managers” who would do the bidding of the white Republican establishment (but only in cities where the population is mostly black—natch). Here in Milwaukee, Republican front groups like “Citizens for Urban Justice” (established by white Republican men the week before the 2014 election!) and “Milwaukeeans for Self-Governance” (established in the last few weeks) have figured out that they can prey on the leadership dreams of a whole bunch of people who think they’re being groomed for a future role in the community. What they really do is drive a further wedge between qualified black candidates and nuts like Sheriff Clarke (you don’t think he keeps getting elected with grassroots support, do you?). It’s really pretty clever, because when these white Republican groups write the checks Milwaukee stops focusing on finding more qualified candidates. Plus, it’s cheap, because the goal isn’t to win. These rich white guys never get their hands dirty, and by putting “activists” like attention-seeking Tory Lowe on the ticket you can pretend you are all about “urban culture, urban issues and criminal justice”, as their phony front on Facebook states.

Maybe you have been hearing the ads on the radio, financed by white Republican Craig Peterson?  They feature former alderman Michael McGee, Jr. saying that people in Milwaukee are desperate for a better economic situation. Too true.  Will voting for Alderman Joe Davis— can anybody you know name anything he’s done, besides watch Midtown Mall deteriorate on his watch—turn things around?  Not finding a better candidate was 100% intentional. This should have been an easy “get”, because few people can look at Barrett and think the city’s made much progress lately.  The white Davis-backers know this.  By propping up his futile effort, instead of helping find a viable candidate to run hard against Barrett, their small political donations to Davis can take attention from the fact that as long as Milwaukee is segregated, poor, and dedicated to constant infighting, they will overlook the 100 bills passed in Madison that take away local control. Nobody’s had more of their power taken away than Milwaukee.

What’s even worse than the fake concern about “urban culture”, whatever the hell that is, is that Peterson’s own Facebook page is using the early results of Mr. McGee’s hard work to prove that voter ID doesn’t suppress the vote. Mr. McGee and his dedicated supporters are being used by people who would gladly remove ALL of their voting rights, if they could. The folks writing the checks are well on their way to doing just that.

The group financed by Peterson and his wealthy white friends may call themselves “Milwaukeeans for Self-Governance”, but they in no way actually support Milwaukeeans governing themselves. This should be obvious when you consider how much power Republicans—sometimes with help from people like Chris Abele-- have taken from city residents in the last five years. The end game here is to distract people enough to keep the people really dedicated to improving Milwaukee from running candidates—especially candidates of color—who have a chance at winning. The perfect Milwaukee governance structure would look like the people of Milwaukee, and Milwaukee deserves people who show up, do their work capably, and govern by and for the people.

Reports suggest that turnout for early voting is surpassing past years, especially for winter elections. The credit for the actual work goes to former alderman Mike McGee, Jr. While McGee was at City Hall yesterday encouraging the early voters, the people Peterson and friends truly support were in Madison outlawing community voter registration drives (passed along party lines last night). The question remains: Why muddy the waters with dirty money from a party that is all about suppressing the black vote? Why team up with the likes of Peterson, a Clarke apologist who is using McGee’s great early voting work to “prove” that voter ID laws don’t suppress the black vote? It’s pretty ingenious, actually: prop up people the community trusts, hand pick and finance candidates who can’t win, and try to sink successful campaigns from the safety of your armchair, your fat wallet in hand. Not everybody is fooled. You shouldn’t be, either.


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Mike Tate Lemon

By Jeff Simpson

Mike Tate, the former head of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, continues to cost the people of Wisconsin dearly!  

It was not enough that he oversaw a Wisconsin that went from the Senate, Assembly and Governor being all Democrats to all three branches being not only Republican, but the Democrats are in such a minority that they are irrelevant in our state.

Now the DPW has to pay an extra $23,000 for his past incompetence.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has paid a $23,000 fine to federal regulators for campaign finance violations during the recall campaigns of 2011 and 2012.
Those violations include failing to keep required payroll logs in 2011 and 2012 and underreporting its spending in 2011 by about $185,000, according to an agreement between the state party and the Federal Election Commission. It was first reported by the Center for Public Integrity.

What does $23000 buy in an election?  Three months of a well placed billboard in the Milwaukee area or 7 months of  one in the important Fox Valley!

Instead we have to piss this important money away to cover for a lack of institutional knowledge by the former head of the party.  

We got stuck with a lemon and paid dearly for it!!!




Monday, February 8, 2016

Happy Deanna Alexander Day!


Deanna Alexander is the Milwaukee County Supervisor representing the 18th District.   She is also very conservative.

Being conservative, she holds many of the same values as her other conservatives - bigotry, racism and the love of money, whether it comes from the Koch Brothers or from her buddy, Milwaukee County Emperor Chris Abele.

Being conservative, Alexander also likes to portray herself as being fiscally conservative and oh so ethical.  Her hypocrisy regarding this has been exemplified by her using tax dollars to commit voter suppression.

She also showed her hypocrisy when she used her office to help raise funds for her father's funeral, even as she voted to deny funding for indigent burials.

As it turns out, Alexander seems to be in the habit of using her office for personal gain.

It was five years ago today that Alexander got fired by the State of Wisconsin when she used her position as an Income Maintenance Worker to try to help her get daycare benefits.

As the gentle reader might remember, due to Scott Walker's refusal to properly administer the Economic Support Program, the state had to take it over to avoid a class action lawsuit.  In a most unusual arrangement, the workers remained county employees but worked under the supervision of the state.

It was during this time that Alexander worked for the program. Not only did she work there, she was a client, utilizing the daycare subsidies.  However, she tried to use her position as an Income Maintenance Worker to gain benefits that were not available to the public.  There was no fighting the accusation since they had the emails to prove it.

In other words, Alexander is a typical, run of the mill conservative Republican.

If the voters in the 18th District have the desire for clean government and good government, that their tax money is being used appropriately and that their interests - as opposed to those of the 1% - are being represented, they need to vote for Martha De La Rosa.

Welcome To Wisconsin!

Image via WISN-TV
Ever since I joined the fabulous crew at Crooks & Liars and started sharing the inanity, insanity evilness and downright stupidity of Scott Walker and Wisconsin Republicans, there has been a common theme from many commenters, questioning how the hell they got elected much less reelected.

Now, I could point out that Wisconsin is hardly the only state with a large amount of idiots or corporate sockpuppets. There is also Michigan, Ohio, Florida and Texas, just to name a few.

Or I could go on about iffy voting machines, the flood of dark money into the state, the incompetence of the Democratic Party leadership at the time or a number of other reasons, all of which would be true.

But I think these two stories go a long way to helping explaining it too.

Over the weekend, despite an unusually mild winter with many days above freezing, people attending Winterfest in Lake Geneva, WI, thought it would be a good idea to park on the ice above the lake. I think the gentle reader can see what came next. Yup, about a dozen vehicles went through the ice:
About 15 cars fell into the waters of Lake Geneva in Wisconsin Saturday afternoon after a barely-frozen lake was used as a parking lot.

Temperatures were just above freezing in Lake Geneva Saturday, but Wisconsin has seen a fairly mild winter.

More than a dozen cars were parked on the lake as patrons went to view an ice sculpture competition nearby. The first cars started sinking around 2 p.m.

Natural Resources officials say many lakes in southern Wisconsin have poor ice conditions.

Laurie Oberhelman was one of the drivers who parked on the ice. Saturday evening, she watched as crews pulled her SUV to shore.

"As we came down, we saw that people were parked on the ice so we said, 'Heck yeah, let's park on the ice!'" said Oberhelman.

She came to regret the decision when she noticed her car in the water.

"I think it's stupid to park on ice now," she said.
Umm, yeah. When it's been as warm as it has been, I wouldn't want to walk on the ice much less park several tons of metal on it.

But there's more. In Wisconsin, there's always more.

I will present this copy of an unidentified newspaper's police report without further comment:


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Walker Puts Wisconsin In The Pink

In Wisconsin, deer hunting is a strong tradition that reaches almost religious levels for some people. Every fall, the woods in Wisconsin would fill with men and women dressed in blaze orange as they hope to bag the big one. It's the only time that Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers, is filled with orange instead of green and gold.

But in recent years, the number of hunters - and the number of deer harvested - has been dropping. It could be because Scott Walker and the Republicans have jacked up the cost of hunting licenses. It could be because Walker's hand off approach to the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease isn't working. It could be because of the fact of dropping number of people, it's becoming even more dangerous to be out there.

Ah, but Walker and his buddies have just the solution to cure all our woes!

Walker privately and secretly signed a bill into law which would allow people the option of wearing hot pink instead of blaze orange. When these geniuses first came up with the idea, they tried to sell it as the way to get more women involved in hunting and boost the economy.

No, really:
The bill's authors, Reps. Nick Milroy, D-South Range, and Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, maintain that the measure will encourage more women to take up hunting, give hunters more clothing options and give apparel manufacturers a boost.
Yeah, because I lost count of all the women that have told me that they would love to go out in the woods, maybe get shot or catch a horrible disease, but they just didn't want to get caught in that tacky orange.

I guess it's easier for Walker and company to deal with these kinds of distractions rather than get to work on fixing the economy they've trashed, repairing the damage they've allowed to our environment or, y'know, getting around to creating those 250,000 jobs Walker promised us all those years ago.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Towards Flint

By Representatives Chris Taylor & LaTonya Johnson

Our nation is watching in horror as the Flint water disaster unfolds, a completely avoidable, unnecessary public health crises that threatens an entire town and the health and welfare of its people. A Republican controlled executive and legislative branch authorized unaccountable emergency managers to swoop in, take over municipalities, and engaging in “cost cutting” measures like switching Flint’s drinking water source from Lake Huron to the Flint river, failing to treat the water for corrosive elements at an approximate cost of $100 a day.  This failure resulted in the poisoning of a whole town.

Republican power grabs in Wisconsin have also centered on eroding local control of our most precious natural resource – water.  Specifically, on ways to make it easier for private interests to take it, use it and pollute it, while destroying a community’s ability to do anything about it. The Republicans have bills that allow developers to build on lakebeds, remove local governments’ ability to limit polluting industries, and open the door for private companies to purchase public utilities.

Just this week, Assembly Republicans asked the Attorney General for an opinion on high-capacity water wells. Republicans are now saying the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) can’t even regulate Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), also called factory farms, which harm water quality and quantity. The public has no input on this request and an opinion by the Attorney General on this issue means no legislation would be necessary to further limit the DNR’s power.

Already, the quality of our water is suffering.  One-third of Kewaunee County wells are unsafe for drinking, while other wells around the state are contaminated with nitrate, bacteria, arsenic, atrazine, radium, and molybdenum. Lead pipes like the ones in Flint threaten 70,000 residences in Milwaukee, 10,000 in Racine, 8,000 in West Allis, 6,500 in Manitowoc, 7,000 in Kenosha, almost 2,000 in Green Bay and 3,000 in Shorewood. In fact, the children in the Cities of Milwaukee and Watertown, Racine and Menasha have a greater incidence of lead poisoning than the Flint children, as do our the counties of Buffalo, Green Lake, Pepin, Richland and Rock.

The consequences of lead poisoning for young children can be deadly and lead to a lifetime of cognitive and other ailments. That’s why we are introducing a bill to make sure that when children have lead contamination, their drinking water and paint in their households get tested in state mitigation efforts.

According to a recent poll from the League of Conservation Voters, the public overwhelming supports government action to keep water safe and clean. 84% of people surveyed said that water pollution is an important priority.

But the desires of actual people seems more and more irrelevant to state policy making.  It is telling that several of the bills pending in the Wisconsin legislature that further erode water protections by allowing dredging, pollution, and private development are supported by special interest groups calling the shots – the Koch brother funded Americans for Prosperity and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. These groups have spent millions to maintain a Republican chokehold on all branches of our government. This inundation of unlimited, secret dark money in our elections was recently made worse by the gutting of our state campaign finance laws by Republican policymakers, which the people of this state did not ask for.  Combined with making it harder to vote and some of the worst gerrymandering seen nationally in 40 years, the people of Wisconsin are more and more irrelevant in state policymaking.  And so often, the voices being ignored are from people of color, the poor, and the party not in charge.

And that is the story of Flint. Once democratic government is gone, like clean water, it can be hard to reverse the devastation that follows. The ramifications for people are catastrophic. 


PO Box 8953
Madison, WI 53708
(608) 266-5342
Twitter.com/christaylorwi
Facebook.com/representative.taylor

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Joe Donald Doesn't Merit Your Support

By Jeff Simpson

We have reported before on the upcoming Supreme Court race (primary on February 16th) especially in terms of the Walker flunky - Rebecca Bradley.  Bradley, who was not even a judge before 2010, has been on the fast track of getting appointed to new positions by Scott Walker.  While Ms. Bradley likes to tell people she is an independent, her works speak louder than her words, and we all know that to be complete bull.



Most people who care about the law, and are not bitter partisans, would be disgusted by this blatant show of partisanship by a Judge.  However there is one prominent person that has supported Ms. Bradley through the years - Joe Donald(her primary opponent).  

Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Joe Donald, one of two candidates vying to unseat Justice Rebecca Bradley on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, endorsed Bradley's 2013 campaign to remain on the Milwaukee County Circuit Court and served as a reference for her application to the 1st District Court of Appeals in 2015.

So why would an "impartial" Judge give  glowing recommendation to a bitterly partisan Judge who has not earned her own stripes and is just there to do Scott Walker's bidding?  

The answer from the campaign is probably the worst possible answer they can give:

"Joe usually, unless he has a serious problem with the person, usually supports the incumbents. Left, right, doesn’t matter," Suchorski said. "That was primarily it: as a fellow incumbent judge, he supported her."

Let's look at that again and really let it sink in:

 "Joe usually, unless he has a serious problem with the person, usually supports the incumbents. Left, right, doesn’t matter," Suchorski said. "That was primarily it: as a fellow incumbent judge, he supported her."

The Donald campaign is telling us that Judge Donald's word means absolutely nothing.   That Judge Donald has decided if you have the job of Judge you might as well have it forever and it does not matter how qualified you are (or are not), Judge Donald will write you a recommendation.  

Many positions rely on recommendations in hiring qualified people.  If you recommend people who you feel are not qualified you are doing a great disservice to the people who are being recommended, the people looking to hire and your own reputation?

According to Donald's campaign manager, Mr. Donald does not care about any of the above issues and will just give anyone a standard recommendation that asks.  

How does that laziness, and lack of effort translate into how he will research a tough issue and rule on it according to the law?

That is up to you to decide, but in my mind it is very troubling.

That is why I support Judge Kloppenburg to be our next Supreme Court Justice!!!