Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Whether Russians, rigging, or legit, WisGOP helped by lower voter turnout in 2016

By this time, you're probably aware of the Russian government's efforts to hack into registered voter databases in several states, and took some voters' private information int he process. As of this time, there is no evidence that vote totals were changed after ballots were cast, but that leaves out the question of whether potential voters were either influenced by targeted propaganda, or if changes in registration information or GOP voter suppression measures prevented them from casting ballots in the first place.

And if you look at the results in Wisconsin, a key state where Donald Trump broke through the "blue wall" on the way to his upset victory, combining the Russian hacking story with November's results should give you pause. That's because Wisconsin had one of the largest dropoffs in voter turnout in America in 2016, with the total vote for president dropping by more than 92,000 votes compared to 2012. And more remarkable is where the largest drops in the state were- in Dem-leaning cities in southeastern Wisconsin.

Take a look at this chart, and notice that the cities of Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, Janesville and Beloit had significant dropffs vs 2012. By comparison, the more Republican-voting remainder of the counties those cities were in had small dropoffs, and the rest of the state had little dropoff at all.

If the Russians and the Republicans wanted to suppress the vote and increase their chances of winning in Wisconsin, this would be the types of turnout changes they'd want.

The pattern of low turnout in blue Wisconsin cities repeats if you look at last year's Senate election between Ron Johnson and Russ Feingold.

And when voters cast ballots in that race, few were aware of the extent Russian hacking, its effect on what they were seeing online, and their possible effect on voter turnout. They also didn't know that Ron Johnson was fully aware of the Russian interference, and said nothing and did nothing. Remember this article from Urban Milwaukee's Bruce Murphy from January.
As chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Johnson was one the so-called “Gang of 12,” the top 12 congressional leaders, who were invited to the meeting. (House Speaker Paul Ryan also attended the meeting.) Johnson later confirmed to Politico that he participated in the briefing.

“In a secure room in the Capitol used for briefings involving classified information, administration officials broadly laid out the evidence U.S. spy agencies had collected, showing Russia’s role in cyber-intrusions in at least two states and in hacking the emails of the Democratic organizations and individuals,” the Post reported...

Johnson, in short, had an opportunity to be a patriot and condemn the fact that Russia was now engaged in such activities in the United States. But he issued no resolutions — in fact, not one word — on Russian’s cyber attacks on America.

Worse, he has engaged in his own pattern of misinformation on the subject. After the CIA publicly released a report in January concluding that Russia meddled in the presidential election to help Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump win the election, Johnson issued a statement to the Wisconsin State Journal saying he would “would need more definitive information before drawing further conclusions.” Johnson did not reveal that he had been informed back in September this was happening.

Johnson went on to complain to CNBC that the CIA refused to brief him on Russian hacking, saying “I have not seen the evidence that it actually was Russia,” while failing to note the CIA report’s echoed the briefing he’d received from other intelligence leaders in September.

We now know that President Obama informed both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate GOP Leader McConnell about the Russian interference and asked them to be part of a bipartisan front against it, but because McConnell whined that Obama was trying to tilt the election towards Clinton and Senate Dems, the Obama Administration backed down from more public exposure of the Russian hacking before the November election. That strategy really didn't work well, did it?

Now to be clear, I'm not saying that it voter suppression that caused these changes. It's entirely possible that Hillary Clinton was such an uninspiring candidate that Dems (and especially African-American Dems in Milwaukee) didn't want to turn out for her like they did for Barack Obama, and/or Team Hillary/DNC/DPW dropped the ball when it came to increasing turnout in those Dem cities. Some of it could be related to population declines in some of these cities and counties over the last 4 years. Certainly the change in where the votes came in could account for why polls were off when they indicated before the November election that Clinton and Feingold would win close elections in Wisconsin.

But I'm sure Scott Walker, Donald Trump and Ron Johnson were happy to see the drop-offs in votes fro, those pro-Dem cities in southern Wisconsin. And I'm betting that reality is why these guys don't seem too fired up to look into how the Russians fucked with our elections last year, and what steps we can take to prevent it in 2018 and 2020. That's a dereliction of their taxpayer-funded jobs, but at the same time, not that surprising with today's Republican Party.

GOPs in Congress continue to sabotage health care. Especially clueless Ron Johnson

The pathetic act that Republicans have been pulling as their health care bill goes down the drain is so transparent and easily debunked if you know the issue. But the fact that the GOP's sauce is weak sure doesn't keep them from trying to spin their way out of this mess, and to avoid taking any responsibility for the problems they have caused.

The great Charlie Pierce relays a report showing how the GOP talking point of "Obamacare (exchange) collapse" is because of past sabotage from the GOP Congress through defunding of risk corridors, along with current and potential future actions of the Trump Administration.
...just today on the electric Twitter machine, Charles Gaba—an essential follow for information on all the nooks and crannies of the ACA and the current debate (@charles_gaba)—laid out in detail another cheap trick that the administration is trying to pull. Insurance carriers, explains Gaba, already have been warning that premiums might go up by double-digits next year. (Obamacare raises premiums!, scream the flying monkeys.) However, as Gaba also notes, this is due to a couple of factors: First, the administration, through Secretary of HHS Tom (The Wolf of Wall Street) Price, has threatened to not enforce the individual mandate; and second, they have threatened to withhold the ACA's Cost-Saving Reduction Subsidies to the carriers. Gaba then takes us to the very last page of Mitch McConnell's current dead fish, where we learn that, if the dead fish passes, the CSR reimbursements would be reinstated for two years, before disappearing entirely after that.

The cynicism on display here is breathtaking. Republican sabotage makes the premiums go up. Then the Republicans put together a bill that partially repairs the sabotage for long enough that they can boast—during the 2018 midterms, let's say—that they brought down premiums. Then, of course, after the dust clears after the election, the patchwork repairs disappear and everybody gets screwed so that billionaires get their tax cut, which was the whole point of this exercise in the first place. And if, for some reason, the dead fish doesn't pass, they continue to decline to enforce the individual mandate, and they continue to stiff the carriers on the CSR payments. Premiums go up, and the 2018 campaign becomes a referendum on the cost of Democratic obstruction. I have no faith in the ability of the elite political press to see through this obvious charade.

But there's a bit of hope in that Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer seems to have discovered just a bit of his inner [LBJ]. McConnell already has tried to spook his fellow senators and the administration by raising the awful specter of having to deal with Democrats to get a bill passed. (The High Broderite wing of the bipartisanship cult is conspicuous by its silence on this.) Meanwhile, Schumer is raising holy hell about what backroom deals McConnell might be cutting to get his caucus to 50 votes, and he is doing so at the same time in which he's extending the delicate hand of bipartisanship to his good friend from Kentucky, who is having such a bad week. From The Washington Examiner:
"I would make my friends on the Republican side and President Trump an offer: Let's turn over a new leaf. Let's start over," Schumer said on the Senate floor. He called for Trump to invite all 100 senators to Blair House — the president's guest house in Washington — to discuss the issue as former President Barack Obama did in 2010. "President Trump, I challenge you to invite us, all 100 of us, Republican and Democrat to Blair House to discuss a new bipartisan way forward on healthcare in front of all the American people," Schumer said, pointing to Trump's campaign promise to cover everybody.
And one of the biggest liars GOPs in Congress trying to pull this clueless and cynical act is Wisconsin's own Dumb Senator, Ron Johnson. (mo)Ron has been making the cable and network TV rounds complaining about the health care bill, partly because of a lack of open discussion, but mostly because he thinks it spends too much and covers too many people. And Johnson is proving himself to be an absolute fool (or a dishonest POS) when it comes to what's happening with the ACA exchanges, having the gall to question the CBO's analysts, and claiming their figures don't account for the number of people who might lose insurance due to the sabotage of the exchanges that he and his colleagues caused.

CNN's Chris Cuomo finally had enough, and called out (mo)Ron this morning. The good part starts around 4:30, and (mo)Ron continues on his Dunning-Kruger/Ayn Rand act even after being exposed as a dope.

When (mo)Ron says people should have the "freedom" to have cheaper exchange premiums, he means THE "FREEDOM" TO HAVE CRAPPIER INSURANCE THAT COVERS NOTHING, OR TO LACK INSURANCE AND MAKE US ALL PAY THE DIFFERENCE WHEN SOMETHING BAD HAPPENS. Also remember this passage from the CBO analysis, which explained where that "lower premium" might come from.
Under this legislation, starting in 2020, the premium for a silver plan would typically be a relatively high percentage of income for low-income people. The deductible for a plan with an actuarial value of 58 percent would be a significantly higher percentage of income—also making such a plan unattractive, but for a different reason. As a result, despite being eligible for premium tax credits, few low-income people would purchase any plan, CBO and JCT estimate.
And many Americans will have to pay more out of pocket under the GOP Trumpcare bill, despite having the overall "premium" be less, partly due to lower subsidies. But Republicans never bring up this fact, instead choosing to mention the full-price premium, and not counting what people actually end up paying on their bills. It is a classic lie by omission.

These people are disgusting, and do not be fooled by their deflections and gobbledy-gook. And if (mo)Ron Johnson wants "competition" for health coverage, then he should be in favor of a public option that people can choose if insurance companies are charging too much. Or Johnson should allow individuals to buy into Medicaid or Medicare. Any other argument is BubbleWorld Bullshit.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

WisGOP in full meltdown as leggie leaders have bitchfest

I knew the GOP Legislature was having trouble in getting the 2017-19 budget together, and that they weren’t likely to get anything done until after that two-year cycle started on July 1. But I wasn’t anticipating that it would completely melt down like it did today.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, called Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’s position on transportation “laughable” as he detailed differences between the two GOP caucuses on transportation during an impromptu availability in the Capitol press room.

Vos, R-Rochester, then came to the room minutes later to return fire, insisting the only thing laughable was the idea of putting more debt on the state’s credit card to pay for roads.

The blistering exchanges came after a 40-minute meeting at the Legislative Fiscal Bureau in which both sides accused the other of breaking off talks.
Apparently Fitz thinks the idea of actually paying for projects with real money is “laughable”? And these guys are considering blowing up the Constitution over demands that Congress balance ITS budget? Ohhh, kayyy.

But then Lil’ Robbin’ decided to one-up Fitz by pulling a pout of his own.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos says he's willing not to increase funding at all for roads if Senate Republicans and Gov. Scott Walker refuse to consider higher gas taxes or fees to pay for construction projects.

Vos said Tuesday that Assembly Republicans continue to refuse borrowing as much money as their colleagues in the Senate are proposing to pay for roads. Senate Republicans have proposed $850 million in additional borrowing but refused to consider higher gas taxes or fees.
This would be a cut to Governor Walker’s budget that comes on top of Walker/WisGOP delays that have already happened for major highway projects due to the last budget’s limits on spending (but not borrowing). Good luck selling “even less road work” to Wisconsinites who are already dealing with enough potholes and construction delays.

And another big area of the budget that was thought to be near agreement might not be that close after all

This is apparently related to Vos wanting to greatly expand voucher eligibility to families making 3 times the poverty rate, nearly double current income limit. Because apparently giving a tax break to those families for paying private school tuition wasn't enough, and Robbin' wants those people to get even more of their school costs paid for by taxpayers!

Fitz got so frustrated today that threatened to have the Senate go it alone, and not wait for the Joint Finance Committee to finish debating the budget.

That comment from Fitz about having the Senate pass their own budget and then work out a separate Assembly plan in a conference committee would delay things even further. In that instance, a conference committee would have to reach an agreement on the budget, and then both houses would have to pass the same document.

JFC member Gordon Hintz (D-Oshkosh) seems to be bemused by the GOP infighting, and offered a few “Helpful Tips to Pass a Responsible Budget” for his Republican colleagues if they wanted to learn how to share, and break the budget impasse.
Pass a long-term transportation funding solution to address the ongoing shortfall. As long as transportation funding relies on increased borrowing or delayed projects, budgets will remain difficult. If you continue borrowing, more transportation revenue is spent paying off debt and interest. Plus important building projects in the UW System will be cut in order to manage total state debt. If you raid the general fund to pay for roads, that funding comes at the expense of other state investments like K-12 public education. If you continue to delay projects, those cost increase, the state spends more on maintenance, and the problem will get worse for the 2019-21 budget. You increased fees to fund our state parks so it is hard to understand what is different here. Just fix it.
And with the added breakdown in K-12 agreements among the Republicans, Hintz said that perhaps they need to figure out what they really want to pay for, and realize that they can’t have it all in this budget of limited resources.
2. Fund your most important priorities first. If funding K-12 education is truly the most important investment, then start there and pay for Wisconsin’s public schools first. This might mean you don’t have enough money to repeal the state forestry mill tax for $180 million or fund the Governor’s increased school levy credit at the full amount. But if putting dollars in classrooms around the state is really a priority, then there should not be a disagreement.

3.Don’t create new spending programs when you are unable or unwilling to fund existing ones. If you are struggling to fund K-12 education or the UW System’s existing programs, don’t create new ongoing expenses like expanded taxpayer supported private school vouchers for kids that are already going to private school. And reconsider the new $3 million already approved for a new redundant public policy school of conservative thought.
It’s quite the troll job by Gordon, because it reminds us what a mess the GOP has placed themselves (and us) in with this house-of-cards budget. Now with no money lying around to pay for all of these pre-election talking points (and giving a kickback to their puppetmasters), they are lashing out amongst themselves like a bunch of kids who have to make grown-up choices that they are incapable of dealing with.

Yeah, I’m thinking we may have to wait a while before we get a budget in place for the next two years, even though the two-year cycle starts on Saturday. And even scarier- what happens if Obamacare repeal actually does become law, and they have to rip up the budget numbers even more?

Maybe we should give the Dems a turn at handling this, both in the Legislature and in the Governor’s chair. Seems like they might actually be more successful in getting something done, and they might not wreck the state’s finances (and cars) in the process.

Monday, June 26, 2017

CBO score on Senate GOP health care. No surprise- this bill is awful

This afternoon, the Congressional Budget Office dropped its analysis of the Senate GOP's health care bill. Obviously the big headline from the CBO analysis is the estimate that 22 million more Americans will become uninsured by 2026 than under Obamacare, making for a total uninsured population of 49 million. This includes 15 million who will become uninsured next year. and it shows almost no improvement from the 23 million in new uninsured that was in the bill that passed the House of Representatives.

So why would people become uninsured? The CBO says the largest increase will come from people being booted off of Medicaid, as the Senate bill reduces reimbursements to states.
Medicaid. Enrollment in Medicaid would be lower throughout the coming decade, with 15 million fewer Medicaid enrollees by 2026 than projected under current law in CBO’s March 2016 baseline (see Figure 4). Some of that decline would be among people who are currently eligible for Medicaid benefits, and some would be among people who CBO projects would, under current law, become eligible in the future as additional states adopted the ACA’s option to expand eligibility.
In fact, the CBO says that Medicaid's cut will get worse as the years go on, and the damage will continue well past 2026. And states would be the ones that would have to carry out the cuts as they can't afford to make up the difference.
Over the next decade, CBO projects, a large gap would grow between Medicaid spending under current law and under this bill (see Figure 2 on page 13). In later years, that gap would continue to widen because of the compounding effect of the differences in spending growth rates: CBO projects that the growth rate of Medicaid under current law would exceed the growth rate of the per capita caps for all groups covered by the caps starting in 2025.

Under this legislation, after the next decade, states would continue to need to arrive at more efficient methods for delivering services (to the extent feasible) and to decide whether to commit more of their own resources, cut payments to health care providers and health plans, eliminate optional services, restrict eligibility for enrollment, or adopt some combination of those approaches. Over the long term, there would be increasing pressure on more states to use all of those tools to a greater extent. CBO and JCT do not have an insurance coverage baseline beyond the coming decade and therefore are not able to quantify the effect on insurance coverage in the long term. However, the agencies expect that after 2026, enrollment in Medicaid would continue to fall relative to what would happen under current law.
Another large source for the 22 million increase in uninsured is due to people not choosing Obamacare exchange policies because they either won't be able to afford them after the Senate bill takes away assistance to help them pay, or they'll choose not to be insured because they no longer face a penalty for going without insurance.
Nongroup coverage. On net, CBO and JCT estimate that roughly 7 million fewer people would obtain coverage in 2018 through the nongroup market under this legislation than under current law; that figure would be about 9 million in 2020 and about 7 million in 2026 (see Table 4, at the end of this document). Fewer people would enroll in the nongroup market mainly because the penalty for not having insurance would be eliminated and, starting in 2020, because the average subsidy for coverage in that market would be substantially lower for most people currently eligible for subsidies—and for some people that subsidy would be eliminated.
Of course, we'll all pay a price when those people face medical hardship and go to the emergency room to get treated, but hey, it's FREEEEE-DUMMM!

And which group of people that is likely to get screwed the most under this bill? Low-income working Boomers - the white portion of whom is a big part of Donald Trump's base!
CBO and JCT expect that this legislation would increase the number of uninsured people substantially. The increase would be disproportionately larger among older people with lower income—particularly people between 50 and 64 years old with income of less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level (see Figure 3). This section provides additional information about two major sources of coverage as well as about stability of the health insurance market.
The CBO says the part of the 50-64 population that will become uninsured will more than double under this bill, from just over 10% to nearly 25%.

On the budgetary side, the CBO does say that the Senate health care bill will reduce the deficit from current law between now and 2026, and the Medicaid cuts and the lower subsidies to help buy insurance are the reason why.

You'll also notice the $541 billion in tax cuts to rich people and corporations are being "paid for" through the measures that cause more people to become uninsured. That's a classy touch, isn't it?

Lastly, if Republicans try to claim this bill ends up lowering overall premiums, they are LYING BY OMISSION. They don't mention that cost-sharing subisidies go down, and that the CBO notes a lower overall average premium is a result of many people choosing lower-quality plans...or no plan at all.
Although the average benchmark premium directly affects the amount of premium tax credits and is a key element in CBO’s analysis of the budgetary effects of the bill, it does not represent the effect of this legislation on the average premiums for all plans purchased. The differences in the actuarial value of plans purchased under this legislation and under current law would be greater starting in 2020—when, for example, under this bill, some people would pay more than the benchmark premium to purchase a silver plan, whereas, under current law, others would pay less than the benchmark premium to purchase a bronze plan.

Under this legislation, starting in 2020, the premium for a silver plan would typically be a relatively high percentage of income for low-income people. The deductible for a plan with an actuarial value of 58 percent would be a significantly higher percentage of income—also making such a plan unattractive, but for a different reason. As a result, despite being eligible for premium tax credits, few low-income people would purchase any plan, CBO and JCT estimate.
Not that this is a surprise, but this is an awful bill, and it needs to be sent to the dustbin.

As mentioned earlier, feel free to click on the CBO analysis and slice and dice it as you want.

Walker Debt Collectors, Inc. The source of another budget hole

If we ever start debating our budget again, there are a couple of items on the docket that deal with the state trying to get money back from people who have either failed to pay taxes, or are skipping out on other responsibilities. Unfortunately, updated information indicates that there may need to be some adjustments in the 2017-19 budget that will likely need to more cuts, because Governor Walker overstated the value of one provision, and may be overcharging Wisconsinites in another.

The first item I want to discuss relates to debt collection. As the Legislative Fiscal Bureau discusses, the state Department of Revenue (DOR) has people whose job it is to try to get back money that individuals owe to state agencies or other governmental entities, mostly for items such as unpaid fines and charges for services.
The SDC (Statewide Debt Collection) program was created as a pilot project in the 2007-09 biennial budget bill. Prior to that time, DOR contracted with private collection agencies to take actions against delinquent tax accounts. DOR believed it could generate a greater return on investment if the state were to use its own compliance and audit staff to aggressively pursue delinquent accounts that would otherwise be referred to private collection businesses. The Department has the authority to take certain actions under the SDC program, such as to attach wages, levy nonwage assets, seize monies and personal property, and negotiate installment agreements, which are not available to private collection agencies. The Attachment shows the types of collection activities that DOR may engage in under current law….

The Legislature expanded the SDC program several times during the 2015-17 legislative session. Funding was provided to DOR under 2015 Wisconsin Act 55 to increase the number of dedicated SDC revenue agents from seven positions to 18 positions and to upgrade its information technology systems so that the Department could collect debts jointly-owed to state agencies and the federal government, such as debts owed the Department of Veterans Affairs and student loan debts owed to the University of Wisconsin. Restitution payments certified as owed by the Department of Corrections or the Clerk of Circuit Court were authorized to be included in SDC agreements pursuant to 2015 Wisconsin Act 355. In addition, 2015 Wisconsin Act 59 authorized debts owed to certain ambulance service providers operating under a contract with a municipality or county to be referred to DOR under an SDC agreement. Table 1 shows information regarding SDC participation and collections since 2013-14.
Now while this sounds good to go after deadbeats (well, unless the state misidentifies the individual and tries to use collections to garnish tax refunds against innocent people….not that I’d know what that’s like), these SDC fees have also been used to bolster the state’s piggy bank in recent years. And Governor Walker wants to do even more of this.
As shown above, the fee paid by debtors to DOR has exceeded SDC program expenses by between $1.6 million and $2.1 million, or by between 157% and 362%. DOR estimates that fee revenues will exceed expenditures in 2016-17 and in each year of the 2017-19 biennium such that the transfer to the general fund will increase by approximately $5 million annually compared to the amount transferred in 2015-16. The administration estimates the additional 8.0 project positions would increase the estimated transfer to the general fund by $750,000 in 2018-19. Based on information provided by DOR, it is estimated that the amount transferred to the general fund from the SDC program would be almost $15 million (almost 400% more than estimated program expenditures) over the 2017-19 biennium if the Governor's recommendation were adopted.

12. The Committee could consider whether imposing a fee that is five times the cost incurred by DOR to collect debts on behalf of state and local units of government is an appropriate method for raising revenues that transfer to the general fund. As a comparison, private sector debt collectors are generally prohibited from collecting a surcharge above the amount of debt owed under the Wisconsin Consumer Act, but retain a portion of the repaid debt owed to the contracted entity.
But if the Legislature wants to reduce the extra fee that debtors have to pay to a level that is near what it costs to run it, the LFB says that this would reduce revenues in the budget by nearly $15 million. Even if the LFB allowed the “profit” from the fee to be limited to twice the amount it costs to run it, there’s still a budget hole above $11 million for 2017-19. And as I've frequently mentioned, there isn't breathing room in this budget to fill most of these holes.

In a related initiative, Walker’s budget has plans to hire more auditors for the Department of Revenue, with the idea of catching more tax cheats and recouping more revenue in the process. However, the LFB says those returns won't be as good as Walker advertised, partly because the new DOR agents will not be on the job for the entire budget.
The administration's estimates for the amount of revenues generated per billing agent appear slightly high, but the amount of revenues generated per central compliance agent appears slightly low. On balance, the annual fiscal estimate of revenues generated by approving these positions appears reasonable. The administration has not accounted for a non-revenue generating training period, which is plausible if most of these positions would be filled by individuals already employed in expiring tax enforcement project positions. However, the administration estimates that revenues generated by these positions would be $32 million in each year of the biennium, even though the positions would only be authorized for nine months in 2017-18. The estimate for revenues associated with these positions has been reduced by $8 million in 2017-18 to account for the shorter period of authorized employment (nine months) in that year.
And that’s assuming the budget would be signed on time for July 1, so the auditors can be hired and trained. That July 1 deadline certainly isn’t going to be met, so the longer this budget stalemate drags on, the larger that $8 million gap will grow.

Yes, these are small amounts in a budget that collects more than $16 billion in General Fund money each year. But all of these little dings hurt a bottom line that can't afford to be hurt, and the idea of the state making money off of people's debts (especially people that don't have the funds to defend themselves or have had bad luck befall them) strikes me as a bit ghoulish and excessive. Especially when these people are charged fees that are more than it costs for the state to collect the debts, which makes it a money-raising scheme instead of an attempt to maintain justice and fairness.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

WisGOP sabotage of Obamacare has come at a high cost

With all the news in DC about the Senate GOP's TrumpCare bill, I wanted to focus in on a few notes from back here in Wisconsin that relates to this issue and health care. The first was when Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield announced that they would not offer new plans on the ACA exchanges in 2018, and they pointed directly to the turmoil in DC and Congress's past and potential future changes to those insurance exchanges.
A stable insurance market is dependent on products that create value for consumers through the broad spreading of risk and a known set of conditions upon which rates can be developed. We are pleased that some steps have been taken to address the long term challenges all health plans serving the Individual market are facing, such as improving the eligibility requirements that allow consumers to purchase a plan outside of open enrollment and improved risk adjustment. However, the Wisconsin individual market remains volatile, making planning and pricing for ACA-compliant health plans increasingly difficult due to a shrinking and deteriorating individual market, as well as continual changes and uncertainty in federal operations, rules and guidance, including cost sharing reduction subsidies and the restoration of taxes on fully insured coverage.

As a result, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield has made the difficult decision to reduce its 2018 Individual plan offering in Wisconsin to one off-exchange medical plan in Menominee County only. This decision does not affect people who previously purchased a transitional Individual or family health plan — otherwise known as grandfathered (purchased before March 2010) or grandmothered plans (purchased before December 2013) – nor does it impact Anthem’s employer-based, Medicare Advantage or Medicaid plans.
Note the part that I bolded. All of those things mentioned have been the result of Republicans in Congress trying to damage Obamacare through negligence and sabotage. With the cost-sharing subsidies being taken away and the future of the ACA being up in the air, it’s no surprise that some insurance companies aren’t willing to stick around to see what happens in 2018.

So is Governor Scott Walker going to do anything about this, to help thousands of Wisconsinites who might be in the lurch when they look for their 2018 insurance during open enrollment? OF COURSE NOT! Instead he threw out a gleeful press release saying how “Obamacare is collapsing”. Classy, caring guy, isn’t he?

And while Walker says Wisconsinites “deserve better health care coverage options and the time to act is now,” he offers nothing to fix the problems caused by GOP sabotage of the exchanges. This includes Walker’s turning down of federally-funded expanded Medicaid, which forced many people near the poverty line to get insurance through the same exchanges that the GOP in DC are trying to screw up.

Walker claimed that other state should copy his “reforms” that opened Medicaid to all Wisconsinites living below the poverty line (while kicking off many parents and caregivers who were living above it), and Scotty tried to hype up Wisconsin’s low amount of uninisured individuals as some kind of self-promoting proof that his plans work. Well sorry Scotty, you didn’t build that, and in fact Wisconsin is lower in the national rankings since you took over after 2010 (the Census Bureau is a good source for this).

National ranking for least uninsured, Wisconsin
2007 4th
2008 5th
2009 4th
2010 5th
2011 9th
2012 7th
2013 T-7th
2014 7th
2015 T-6th

While you can debate whether Walker's decision not to take the expanded Medicaid was a good or bad thing, what you cannot deny is that it has come at a high price to Wisconsin taxpayers. We are slated to pay more than $1.1 billion a year above what we paid 6 years ago, when Walker and the WisGOP Legislature decided against Medicaid expansion.

State funding for Medicaid assistance program benefits

This cost would go higher if the Senate GOP's bill that severely cuts Medicaid becomes law, since Wisconsin taxpayers would have to make up the difference to maintain coverage. Or it would result in significant reductions in the number of people receiving Medicaid. These are the choices that would have to be made, and Scott Walker should have to be put on the spot as to what choice he would make if TrumpCare ever becomes law.

It was heartening to see Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Martha Laning spare no words in calling out GOP actions that have led to Obamacare's exchanges becoming less effective, and the Wisconsin budgetary difficulties that are a direct result of this WisGOP "politics over policy" mentality.

"The majority of Americans want everyone to have access to affordable health care, and yet since it's inception, Republicans in Wisconsin have sought to sabotage the Affordable Care Act.

"Gov. Scott Walker rejected the federal funds available for Medicaid Expansion and priced tens of thousands of his own constituents out of health care insurance. Adding insult to injury, it's the taxpayers who paid mightily for his decision that cost our state $679 million - and health care experts warn that the state would lose out on $37 billion in federal funds by 2025.

"It's unacceptable for Wisconsin Republicans to hold their own constituents health care hostage just to score political points with extremists instead of doing the right thing for all Americans. Wisconsin Republicans should urge their colleagues to ensure all Americans have access to health care - not supporting taking health insurance away from 23 million people."

And I was glad to hear Laning use this word, which is one that Dems should yell long and loud over the next 17 months. Because most of the problems of the ACA (other than its reliance on private insurance companies) is because of the GOP willfully damaging it, and disrupting the lives of tens of millions of Americans in the process

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The anti-WEDC- Historic Rehab Credit works- so Walker wants to limit it

I wanted to take a post to talk about Wisconsin's Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit, which piggybacks off of a similar program at the federal level, and is used as an incentive to fix up and remodel historic homes and older structures, and turn them into new facilities that have residential and/or improved business purposes.

This tax incentive has proven quite popular in recent years, as the Legislative Fiscal Bureau says that since 2014, over $156 million in Historic Rehab Credit awards have been handed out for projects throughout the state.

Historic Rehab helped pay for some of the construction at this site

But in the state budget, Walker wanted to limit the amount of Historic Rehab Credit award to $10 million a year beginning in 2018, with potential clawback provisions allowing WEDC to take back some of the credits if the project wasn’t (yes, this is very ironic). This means that there would less of the Historic Rehab Credit write-offs and higher tax revenues coming in for the state as a result.

And Walker’s office underestimated just how big an effect this would be, as the Legislative Fiscal Bureau says that it means that many more potential projects would be affected, which would raise the amount of taxes that the state retains in future years....and raise the taxes of the individuals working on the homes and buildings.
7. The bill would limit the amount of tax credits that could be certified by WEDC to $10 million per year, beginning in 2018, and to the greater of $10 million or the amount WEDC certified between January 1, 2017, and the effective date of the bill for 2017 (Attachment 1 shows that WEDC has entered into contracts for historic credits of $10.5 million through March 24, 2017). The administration estimates that this provision would increase state tax revenues by $3.0 million in 2017-18, $14.1 million in 2018-19, $26.7 million in 2019-20, and $27.7 million in 2020-21.

8. Based on certification data for the historic credits provided by WEDC, including the final date that credits can be earned under WEDC contracts and current projections from DOR, our office has reestimated the fiscal effect of this proposal higher beginning in 2020-21. The Governor's estimates for 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2019-20 have not been revised, but the impact of the annual limit has been reestimated to increase state tax revenues by $34.0 million in 2020-21, $39.1 million in 2021-22, $44.2 million in 2022-23, $48.6 million in 2023-24, and $50.1 million in 2024-25 and annually thereafter. Once fully phased-in, the Governor's recommendation would reduce the fiscal effect of the credits to 16.6% of the current estimate.
Now, if Walker is concerned that too many Historic Rehab Credits are causing revenues to fall short and jeopardize his spending priorities (STOP LAUGHING! It might be true!), then maybe this budget provision might make sense, even if it’ll prevent a few projects from happening. The flip side of limiting the Historic Rehab credit means that less people will likely be able to use it even though they want to, as evidenced by the large number of requests and awards from 2014-2017.

If the Legislature doesn’t like that idea, and wants to keep the program operating as it has been, then the Fiscal Bureau says that it’ll cost the state $17.1 million in this budget. But keeping the current law for Historic Rehab Credits has its own problems, since this budget is already being held up due to a lack of revenues available to fund transportation and K-12 education. There may not be $17 million in breathing room in this budget to clear up without messing up some other GOP 2018 talking point that they want to preserve.

While taxes hasn’t gotten much attention as part of this budget (mostly because Walker’s tax proposals are so gimmicky and pointless),the Historic Rehab Credit shows things to be turned on its head from what we’re used to seeing in the Age of Fitzwalkerstan- a tax credit that actually works to spark economic activity and improve aesthetics and quality of life of communities. And this time it is Walker that is trying to keep it from happening (why? No idea. Is it because he's truly concerned about the cost, or because the rehabbers don’t pay him enough in donations?).

If/when the Joint Finance Committee ever meets again, let’s see how they maneuver through this, as the Historic Rehab Credit is a popular program for many community revitalizations. And even though the program seems to be working in encouraging new developments to get off the ground, it may have to go by the wayside due to past and current fiscal foolishness in other matters.