Thursday, June 30, 2016

No Scotty, teachers are not like NFL players

I know it was said a couple of days ago, but I gotta get back to a ridiculous gaffe that came out of our fair Governor’s pie hole this week. You might remember this statement from Scotty on Monday.
Walker said school districts can set pay based on performance and hire based on merit.

“It’s about putting the best and the brightest in the classroom,” Walker said. “If someone is an exceptional talent and wants to go into education, they can be rewarded for that.”

When asked whether he thought such incentive-driven salary programs would be a hindrance to allowing school districts to keep quality teachers, Walker compared teaching to being a player in the NFL.

“If the Green Bay Packers pay people to perform and if they perform well on their team, (the Packers) pay them to do that,” Walker said. “They don’t pay them for how many years they’ve been on the football team. They pay them whether or not they help (the Packers) win football games.”
As someone who knows a bit about how sports salaries work, there’s a whoooole lot wrong with that statement.

1.The first obvious point is that NFL teams and its players union collectively bargain for a framework on salaries, wages and benefits, and almost all players use an agent to negotiate their deals with the clubs. You know, things that Walker and the WisGOPs don’t allow teachers to do under the provisions of Act 10.

2. The NFL actually does pay players “for how many years they’ve been on the football team.” In 2016, the minimum salary for NFL players ranges from $450,000 for rookies to $985,000 for a 10-year vet. So there can be guaranteed increases for NFL players, if their current salary is low enough to be below the minimum for their next year of services.

Obviously teams can cut players without needing to pay that increase, but there are also thousands of people looking to take that spot on an NFL roster and get paid at least $450K. That’s not really the same thing as trying to convince a college graduate to teach in Bumblefuck or Inner City, Wisconsin for $35,000 a year.

3.But the worst part about Walker’s “NFL free agent” comparison has to do with a main factor in determining how much the Packers might pay a player- the team’s salary cap. The NFL right now is flush with money, This year’s NFL salary cap is nearly $155.3 million, $12 million more than in 2015. The league is doing well, and through the current COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT, a chunk of those profits are funneled down to players in the form of a higher salary cap.

That is nothing like the situation that public schools districts have had, as Walker and the WisGOPs have cut aid to K-12 public schools over the last 5+ years, and have put tight limits on the property taxes that can be raised to make up for the cuts. As a result, the local districts have been under a lower “salary cap”, and the one-time shot of Act 10 “tools” that shifted some of those costs onto teachers has now been used up. In addition, the usually-higher copays that teachers have had to pay in the post-Act 10 world means that even if those teachers receive a higher base salary, they are often taking less home than they did 5 years ago. And because almost all public districts around the state have not had the flexibility under their salary/revenue caps, it proves what BS Walker’s claim that teachers can be “rewarded” in the classroom with a fair market value. Simply put, there isn’t enough money out there for most teachers to demand or receive top dollar, even if they and their district would want that to happen.

Also, NFL teams get to pick and choose the talent they want to give their clubs the best chance to win. Public schools? Not by a long shot. In fact, they often have to try to clean up the damage from the impoverished, hopeless situations that students face outside of the home, and frankly, there’s only so much that can be done in the time that a child is in the classroom (if the child is even in the classroom).

In addition, not unlike sports, subjecting teachers to “pay for performance” leads to very bad incentives to cheat and cut corners. Remember this story from Atlanta that came out last year, which led to jail time for some administrators and teachers?
The inquiry, which was completed in 2011, led to findings that were startling and unsparing: Investigators concluded that cheating had occurred in at least 44 schools and that the district had been troubled by “organized and systemic misconduct.” Nearly 180 employees, including 38 principals, were accused of wrongdoing as part of an effort to inflate test scores and misrepresent the achievement of Atlanta’s students and schools.

The investigators wrote that cheating was particularly ingrained in individual schools — at one, for instance, a principal wore gloves while she altered answer sheets — but they also said that the district’s top officials, including Superintendent Beverly L. Hall, bore some responsibility.

Investigators wrote in the report that Dr. Hall and her aides had “created a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation” that had permitted “cheating — at all levels — to go unchecked for years.”

Officials said the cheating allowed employees to collect bonuses and helped improve the reputations of both Dr. Hall and the perpetually troubled school district she had led since 1999.
Then again, athletes bend the rules on the field and use PEDs off of it so they can get advantages, improve achievement and get paid more. And we know the Walker Administration constantly plays fast and loose with its interpretations of the law. Maybe Scotty was trying to take the “if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying” ethos over to Wisconsin school teachers?

What a complete maroon, and it’s fitting that Walker made the “teachers=NFL players” gaffe after stepping out of another of his invite-only “listening sessions”. This guy does not have a clue how the average Wisconsinite is living and barely scraping by these days, and instead of figuring out why people are struggling, he just retreats further and further inside the Bubble, continuing to embarrass this state with his (lack of) leadership.

Surprise! Another Walker buddy/WEDC recpient is laying off

With the holiday weekend approaching, it's typical to see bad news get dumped out. Not just in the political world, but also in the business world, and with that in mind, hearing that SE Wisconsin manufacturer HUSCO, Inc. will lay off 100 workers next year isn’t all that shocking. It's been a rough time for manufacturing with the strong dollar and the oil bust, so these statements aren't unusual to see these days.
The layoffs come following a protracted downturn in the energy, mining, construction and agricultural industries, according to the statement from the company.

HUSCO International will consolidate off-highway assembly, machining and maintenance operations from three to two domestic manufacturing facilities.

The layoffs include both salaried and hourly positions.

HUSCO International will maintain off-highway production at its plants in Whitewater, Wisconsin, and Maquoketa, Iowa.

Off-highway manufacturing at HUSCO’s Waukesha facility will end in early 2017.
While the layoffs suck, that's not the only reason this story grabbed my attention. The name HUSCO tripped a few triggers to me, and after a couple of checks of the Google, my instincts were confirmed.

Governor Scott Walker knows HUSCO very well. He was at that Waukesha plant in the week before the Wisconsin recall election of 2012. And check out the press release from the event, which allegedly came from the company, but sure sounds like something the Friends of Scott Walker would put out.
Austin Ramirez, HUSCO’s CEO and Agustin Ramirez, Executive Chairman both spoke before Walker, outlining how the choices the governor has made has helped create a business environment where positive growth has precipitated into increased hiring for the company and the community.

Governor Walker has been making appearances across the state to support his jobs initiatives. His platform rests on creating a business-friendly environment in order to stimulate job growth. Speaking at HUSCO was one of the stops on his tour highlighting the improving business climate in Wisconsin and companies who have seen positive job growth over his term. There are no tags associated with this post.
And look, here’s Walker addressing a captive audience at HUSCO right before his 2014 election, in another “jobs photo op” appearance.

And how did Walker know to go to HUSCO? It helps to remember the name of Michael Grebe, the soon-to-be-retired head of the Bradley Foundation, and Scott Walker's longtime campaign chair. Coincidentally, Walker put Grebe's son on the UW Board of Regents last year, and take a look at where little Grebe worked.
Michael M. Grebe is currently Executive Vice President & General Counsel for HUSCO International Inc., a global leader in the development and manufacture of hydraulic and electrohydraulic components. Previously, Mr. Grebe was a partner at Quarles & Brady LLP, where he served as a member of the firm’s Executive Committee and provided legal services in Business Law and Mergers and Acquisitions. Throughout his professional career, Mr. Grebe has devoted much time to local nonprofits and serves on various boards of directors throughout the state, including Columbia St. Mary’s, Managed Health Services Corporation, and the Zoological Society of Milwaukee. Mr. Grebe graduated from Dartmouth College and the University of Wisconsin Law School.

“Michael is a valuable addition to the UW System Board of Regents,” Governor Walker said. “His leadership skills, coupled with his diverse professional knowledge and expertise in corporate and business law, will undoubtedly serve the Board of Regents well as they work to establish rules and policies for the efficient governing of the UW System.”
I'm sure you'll be surprised to learn that the Ramirez family that runs HUSCO has given tens of thousands of dollars to Republicans in the 2010s, including several thousand to both Walker and Attorney General Brad Schimel.

And yes, of course HUSCO received a taxpayer-funded kickback from the Walker-created Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). This is from June 2013.
HUSCO International is embarking on a multi-year $45 million capital expansion project in Wisconsin that is expected to generate over 150 permanent new jobs by 2015.

“I congratulate HUSCO for making this major investment in its operations to grow in Wisconsin,” said Governor Scott Walker. “HUSCO is well-positioned to expand its leadership in automotive engineering efficiency technologies, and I’m pleased the State of Wisconsin is a partner in supporting the company’s growth.”

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has made HUSCO eligible for up to $800,000 in tax credits to support the company’s major investment.
Huh, and in 2016, here goes HUSCO cutting 100 jobs after Walker has suckered enough people into re-electing him, and the cameras are gone. Funny that.

Seriously, getting these people blown out of power ASAP seems like too kind a fate.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

11 Wis-oligarchs get $21.5 mil written off. And other M&A garbage!

A few numbers from today's bombshell LFB memo which shows just how slanted the WisGOP-signed Manufacturers and Agriculture giveaway tax credit is for the rich. The big number that State Rep. Gordon Hintz (who made the request of LFB) and most of the media is centering on is that 11 Wisconsinites making $35 million or more are slated to get over $21.5 million of their taxes taken off the books in 2017 due to the M&A credit.

But there are plenty of other figures to add from this memo.

1.Just under 1/8 of the people projected to use the M&A credit as a write-off on their income taxes make $1 million or more. However, over ¾ of the $209 million in income tax reductions will go to these mega-millionaires ($161.8 million of $209.1 million).

2.By comparison, less than 2% of the benefits of this tax cut go to Wisconsin tax filers who make less than $100,000 (just over $4 million). This is despite the fact that tax filers who made $100,000 or less were just under 89% of the state’s tax returns in 2013 (see page 28 of this PDF).

3. The separation between the “pretty damn rich” and “absurdly rich” is really notable with the M&A tax cut. The $21.5 million that the 11 mega-millionaires are slated to get from this giveaway is almost as much as the $23.8 million that over 1,000 people with incomes of $500,000-$1 million would get. And the average tax cut for the mega-millionaires is nearly 83 times bigger than the ones for Wisconsinites who make $500,000-$1 million.

And as Hintz rightfully brings up, the M&A tax cut is simply a cash giveaway, with no activity required other than making shitloads of money to make it worthwhile move. And it puts a spotlight on the choices that have been made by the ALEC/WiGOP crew.
“If you divide up each UW System student’s share of Governor Walker’s $250 million cut to the their school in this budget alone, it comes out to about $1,400 in funding cuts per student over two years. Yet at the same time we are giving away over $21 million to 11 multi-millionaires who don’t have to create a single job. This is tax policy at its most reckless and regressive.”
I’ll differ with Rep. Hintz on one item- I don’t think this is reckless as much as it is intentional. After all, mega-millionaires are a lot more likely to give campaign contributions and set up superPACs to kick back some of that tax cut to political candidates that help them.

I’ll leave to the always straight-shooting State Sen. Dave Hansen to sum up the regressive obscenity known as the M&A tax cut, which is blowing up at the same time that the state claims it lacks money for other needs.
“Critical road construction projects and local road repairs are delayed because Republicans are unwilling to adequately fund the transportation budget. They even refuse to help nearly 1 million residents refinance their student loans at lower rates.

“Their only reason for getting elected seems to be to give more and more of our hard-earned tax dollars to millionaires and billionaires…. [Hansen said]

“These are people who already pay less than their fair share of taxes, yet Wisconsin workers and their families are expected to dutifully hand over their hard-earned tax dollars and watch their quality of life sacrificed on the altar of a failed trickle-down tax scheme run amok.

“Is it any wonder that a majority of Wisconsinites think we are on the wrong track? This isn’t tax reform. It’s a travesty.”

For another take with more detail on this, check out the Wisconsin Budget Project's updated post on this new memo on the M&A giveaway credit.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Milwaukee residency ruling shows WisGOP as the real party of big gov't

As a former resident and worker for the City of Milwaukee, I took notice of last week’s Supreme Court decision upholding a WisGOP-passed law that banned a requirement from having a municipality require its workers to live in the same city or village. It was a law clearly aimed at removing the residency requirement that the City of Milwaukee has had since the 1930s, and the righties on the Supreme Court ruled 5-2 that the law was OK because it gave the same rules for all communities throughout the state.

Personally, I’m not sure residency requirements are all that great an idea, as I’d prefer the municipalities not limit themselves to talent. Ironically, the Milwaukee police and fire fighters unions (who were the main players in trying to get rid of residency) are likely to be the ones I’d MOST want to see have a residency requirement, as those workers are most likely to need to be close to their places of work, due to response times and emergencies. But I definitely don’t agree with the legal theory of the “WMC 5” justices on the Supreme Court went along with, which said that the state should be able to supersede the locals whenever it feels like it.
In the decision, Justice Michael Gableman, wrote on behalf of the majority that the 2013 state law “precludes the city [of Milwaukee] from enforcing its residency requirement,” arguing that “the Legislature has the power to legislate on matters of local affairs when its enactment uniformly affects every city or every village, notwithstanding the home rule amendment.”

Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and Shirley Abrahamson dissented, arguing that Wisconsin’s Home Rule Amendment gives Milwaukee greater autonomy over local affairs and the power to self-govern.
Marquette Law Professor and former Supreme Court candidate Ed Fallone had a few thoughts on this decision, and he pointed to a concurring opinion from the Court’s newest member where she admitted that this law really was about changing things for Milwaukee cops and fire fighters.
The purpose of the Home Rule provision is to prevent state-level government from dictating rules to local governments on matters of local concern. The state has no interest in who works for Milwaukee or in whether those persons must live in Milwaukee. Only by elevating the question to the macro level of whether residency rules should ever be permitted can one claim that the subject is a matter of concern in Madison or Stevens Point. Indeed, at such a macro level, everything is a matter of statewide concern.

In other words, if the legislature can avoid the Home Rule provision by casting the issue in terms of whether a particular policy is good or bad, then the Home Rule provision will never apply to anything. Either the legislature should seize complete legislative control over a subject and impose uniform state-wide rules (i.e., take over the process of hiring all municipal employees and impose uniform rules for every city) or it should leave each municipality free to adopt its own rules. The “rule” in Home Rule means the sovereign power of local governments to govern themselves.

In this regard, Justice Rebecca Bradley is undoubtedly correct when she states “To conclude as the majority does, that analysis of the home rule amendment stops if the legislative enactment at issue addresses an issue primarily of statewide concern and that the uniformity requirement applies only to legislation concerning issues primarily of local concern, simply does not comport with the text of the amendment” (para. 56).
But expanding the reach of state government is par for the course for this WisGOP crew, as they have decided to erode local control well over 100 times in the last 5 years. This is especially true if the WisGOPs’ action lets them stick it to some blue-voting area of the state, and if “those damned locals” get in the way of the ALEC/WisGOP agenda at the Capitol. Examples include overriding Dane County’s plans for development by allowing towns to opt out of zoning, or in prohibiting UW-Madison or the City of Milwaukee from having their own photo IDs be adequate for voting. Or you have this Supreme Court case, where residency was required residency for Milwaukee city employees, and the police and fire fighter’s unions didn’t want to have to follow that law.

The big lie that WisGOP tells is that they passed these bills out of a desire to have “uniformity” throughout the state. Instead, much like what was shown in the court case involving voter ID, these new laws are targeted towards specific communities and constituencies, and are nothing more than political paybacks and punishments. Don’t forget that the Milwaukee Police and Fire Fighters unions along with the State Troopers union have backed Gov Scott Walker and Wisconsin GOP legislators, and it is no coincidence that police and fire fighter unions were among the few public employee groups that were not touched by Act 10.

Of course, the WisGOPs couldn’t care less about what happens to Wisconsin’s largest city as a result of this power-grab, or what kind of effects ripple through the economy as a result. As the 15 members of Milwaukee’s Common Council noted in a joint statement, residency requirements were not a heavy barrier to getting qualified employees, and getting rid of those requirement will cause further chaos in a community that had plenty of problems before this decision came down.
Not only has the Wisconsin Supreme Court overlooked more than 75 years of legal standing (residency requirement), the decision undermines our efforts to create safe and stable neighborhoods with middle class families and family-supporting jobs.

It's interesting to note that one of the justifications for lifting the residency requirement was to attract better quality applicants for city jobs. There's absolutely no evidence that we haven't been attracting quality applicants for city jobs, as we consistently have waiting lists for every public safety job and nearly every civil service job in the City of Milwaukee. From 2008-2010, the city received 17,563 job applications for general city positions, and 86% of applicants were already Milwaukee residents. In our most recent recruitments, the city received 5,711 applications for the position of firefighter and 3,569 applications for the position of police officer. Our residency requirement has not impeded our ability to retain quality city employees.

The Legislature, the Governor, and the Supreme Court justices should realize the challenge of running a city where 29% of residents live below the poverty line, and where city employees are an important component of the existing middle class.
Now the WisGOP Legislature and the right-wing owned State Supreme Court have thrown up another barrier by interceding in the City of Milwaukee’s agreements with its workers, and deciding they know what’s best for how the city should run its affairs. And of course, the WisGOPs are doing this while drastically reducing the city’s shared revenues from the state, but police expenditures keep going up. You may recall this graph from an article by Urban Milwaukee’s Bruce Murphy, which shows that the City gets less now from the state than it did a decade ago, before inflation is even taken into account.

Also note that the WisGOP Legislature has refused to allow the City of Milwaukee and/or Milwaukee County to have any additional ability to generate its own revenues to make up the difference for that lower amount of shared revenues (despite being the largest draw of tourism dollars in the state).

It’s no wonder Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett expressed frustration after the residency ecision at how his city has been singled out and micro-managed by a GOP group at the Capitol, and Barrett said he was tired of the political game-playing and field-slanting that WisGOP has specialized in.
Obviously, I’m angry about this decision because of the impact that it has on this community. This is not the Wisconsin that we have lived in before, and the people of this state have to recognize the dangers when you have one political party who controls every lever of power. When that happens, you don’t have checks and you don’t have balances….

“What happened here was a special interest came in who has supported many legislators, the Governor, and many Supreme Court justices in the past, and they wanted their way. Local decision-making, local control and local home rule are now just principles that the Republicans pay lip-service to. Aligning with special interests and paying back political favors are now the real values of Wisconsin’s political power elite.

"Manufacturers tax cut" doesn't add jobs, just big cash to rich!

The Manufacturing and Agriculture Credit has been mentioned a few times on this page as an example of how ALEC tax policies have failed Wisconsin, but a new report by one of my favorite state organizations have put into focus just how bad the M&A Credit is. This tax write-off was passed by Wisconsin GOP Legislators and signed into law by Governor Walker in 2011, and the amount that can be written off has gradually increased to the point that it is now maxed out at 7.5% of income, which means it can reduce the amount of taxes owed to somewhere between 0.15-0.4% (depending on whether an individual or corporation uses it and how much of their income applies).

The Wisconsin Budget Project’s Tamarine Cornelius did an excellent analysis on the M&A Credit, and called it “The Big Giveaway”. Cornelius looked into recent tax-filing figures, and it showed that rich Wisconsinites get a huge payback from the M&A Credit, while everyday Wisconsinites get basically nothing from it.
Information on the income of the filers who receive the credit is available for the portion of the credit distributed through the individual income tax, but not the corporate income tax. Most of the credit value — about 70% — is distributed through the individual income tax, meaning that comparisons of distributions by filers of different income levels for the individual income portion would likely hold true for the full amount of the credit. Figures describing the distribution of the MAC are taken from Wisconsin Department of Revenue estimates, and are based on Wisconsin Adjusted Gross Income.

Tax filers with the very highest incomes receive much bigger tax cuts from the MAC on average than do filers with lower incomes. Tax filers who had incomes of $1 million and higher receive an average MAC credit of $27,632, according to estimates for tax year 2016. That amount includes filers who receive credit amounts of zero. Filers with incomes between $300,000 and $1 million receive an average tax cut of $958 in 2016. Tax filers with incomes of under $300,000, a group that makes up nearly 99% of tax filers, receive an average tax cut of $5.
In addition, the Budget Project notes that the MAC is more than 100 times more likely to be used by someone making $1 million compared to anyone making under $300,000. And the fact that rich people are likely to use the credit and get much bigger write-offs from it helps to explain why the cost of this tax cut has exploded well beyond what was predicted when it was signed into law 5 years ago.

Even worse, as this write-off has gotten bigger, it seems to have done nothing to encourage manufacturers to actually hire people, which was the reason it was allegedly put into place. As the Budget Project notes
If the Manufacturing and Agriculture Credit helped Wisconsin’s manufacturing industry to expand, we might expect that the number of manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin would grow significantly faster than the national average in the period after the credit took effect. That did not happen, again demonstrating that the credit is doing little to expand Wisconsin’s manufacturing industry.

Both before and after the credit took effect, Wisconsin added manufacturing jobs at about the same rate as the national average. Between December 2011 and December 2013, the two years before the credit, Wisconsin manufacturing jobs grew by 2.1%, close to the national average of 2.3%. After the credit was implemented, the number of manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin grew by 2.1% between December 213 and December 2015, nearly identical to the national average of 2.0%. Wisconsin ranked exactly in the middle — 25th among the states — in the rate of job growth in manufacturing in the period after the credit was implemented.
That 25th-place standing in job growth looks even worse because Wisconsin has the second-largest proportion of jobs in manufacturing (behind Indiana), so if manufacturing was expanding nationwide, you’d think we’d be picking up more of those gains.

Cornelius completes her analysis by noting that not only has the Manufacturing and Agriculture Credit failed in boosting Wisconsin’s economy and job growth, the lost revenue due to this tax cut means that the real job-creating machine of the state has suffered- human capital.
The focus on cutting taxes has not boosted job creation, but it has reduced the resources available to invest in Wisconsin’s public schools, workforce, and communities. Wisconsin’s cuts in state support to public schools are among the largest in the country, and Wisconsin’s cut to higher education between 2015 and 2016 was the second-largest in the country, measured in percent change in state spending per student. These cuts will make it harder for manufacturers and other businesses to hire the skilled workers they need.
Any honest group of legislators that looked at a report like this would immediately be demanding that we give a second thought to this failed policy, and many would ask to dump it in favor of something that actually might improve our state’s substandard economy.

But the ALEC Crew at the Capitol won't do this, and the refusal to do so speaks volumes about how bought and/or clueless these people are when it comes to decisions on taxing and spending. And it's yet another reason these people have to get the boot this Fall.

Fitz now trying to spin vouchers, but makes them look worse!

Apparently the Wisconsin GOP is still scared and flustered over the reports showing state taxpayers give more to private schools that teach a voucher student than the state gives to educate the same kid in public schools. That can be the only explanation behind the release WisGOP Senate Leader Scott Fitzgerald put out yesterday. And just like the dishonest fail of a release that Assembly Speaker Robbin’ Vos sent out 3 days prior (broken down in this post), Fitz’s defense of WisGOP K-12 policy features obvious cherry-picking that can be brushed aside with any modicum of investigation. But Fitz’s figures are an even bigger FAIL, as they show some things that WisGOPs shouldn’t want voters to know.

First, Fitz’s central claim is that voucher schools are a cheaper option than public schools, concluding with this statement.
So while choice school participants make up 3.2% of total K-12 pupil enrollment, they only make up around 2% of the total state cost of K-12 education. Perhaps state democrats will keep these figures in mind the next time they want to attack the small percentage of Wisconsin families trying to provide a better educational opportunity for their children.
But where do Fitz’s numbers on cost come from? Well, he was nice enough to give the LFB memo which gave these figures, and reading them makes his argument laughable.

First of all, Fitz is pulling the WisGOP trick of including property taxes in “$10.1 billion” in public school costs, but ignoring other funding sources for voucher schools, like tuition and donations. Here are the numbers he’s using.

Spending in K-12 education, 2015-16
State payments to vouchers $229.9 million
State payments to public schools $5,244.5 million
Local property taxes to K-12 $4,854.7 million

In fact, if we limit the costs to state aids, voucher schools are taking 4.2% of combined state aids, so by Fitz’s own standard, vouchers are taking well ABOVE what they should be getting from the state, based on enrollment figures. Even better is that Fitz claims comparing state aid figures across different types of schools is the “apples and oranges” move, not the bait and switch he tries. Fail #1

But it gets much better. The LFB memo also lists the aid reductions that voucher schools have caused for public school districts since 2009. Originally this was just limited to aid being taken from Milwaukee Public Schools, but as vouchers have been expanded to Racine and then statewide, the aid has been taken from other districts as well.

By the end of the 2015-17 budget, this taking of money out of public school because of vouchers will increase by nearly 60% in the 6 years since Fitzgerald, Vos and the rest of the Wisconsin GOP came to power.

State aid reductions due to vouchers, 2010-2017
2010-11 $50.2 million
2011-12 $55.4 million
2012-13 $59.4 million
2013-14 $56.7 million
2014-15 $61.1 million
2015-16 $72.7 million
2016-17 $80.0 million

So Fitz’s own memo proves that vouchers are not only getting a larger amount of money from the state, but they are stealing funds from public schools in increasing amounts.

But here’s the topper. Remember how Scott Walker and the rest of the WisGOPs have tried to sell Act 10 and many of their other moves as a way to reduce property taxes? Well, take a gander at what Fitz’s LFB memo says, especially after the one-time bullet of Act 10 “tools” hit most schools in 2012 and 2013.

Gross property tax levies for K-12 schools
2010-11 $4,692.2 million
2011-12 $4,646.7 million
2012-13 $4,656.1 million
2013-14 $4,694.4 million
2014-15 $4,754.3 million
2015-16 $4,854.7 million

That’s an increase in property taxes of nearly $200 million in the last 3 years, and $160 million since the Age of Fitzwalkerstan began in 2011. All the while, state aid to public schools has been cut more than $80 million compared to 5 years ago, showing that the WisGOPs have kicked the burden of funding public schools down to the local level, which explains the huge amount of school referenda and rising property taxes.

Oh, and while state aids to public schools have been cut by $80 million, payments to vouchers in 2015-16 are up by just under $100 million compared to 2010-11, an increase of more than 75%. The connection seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it?

So was that the message you were trying to send, Fitz? That you’re raising people’s property taxes and cutting aid to public schools to fund your WisGOP voucher scam? Because that’s sure what the numbers in your memo say, and if I were the Dems running in this Fall’s elections, I’d say that as well. Guess Fitzy doesn’t want to be in charge of things at the Capitol any more, does he?

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Vos argues WisGOP/ALEC way on K-12 schools is working. FAILS

Apparently Thursday's press release from Dems, which used an LFB analysis to show that voucher schools are stealing from K-12 public schools and grabbing increasing amounts of state taxpayer dollars, has left a mark. I summarized those findings in this blog post, and found that post getting retweeted over 30 times, and nearly 900 pageviews in the 48 hours since, which means some people must be nodding their heads with the conclusions (I just throw stuff up the flagpole here, I have no control over whether people notice or care).

It's also telling that the voucher lobby and Assembly Speaker Robbin' Vos (R-ALEC) felt a need to respond within a day of that Dem release on voucher schools. There must be serious concern in their polling that people have caught onto the scam that voucher schools are, because they wouldn't make such a big effort pushing back if they felt their position was solid and/or believed by the general voter. Let's break down what appeared in Robbin's Friday release, which he titled "The Spin Facts on School Funding," see where his claims come from, and whether they add up.
Funding for public education is the largest general fund area making up 45 percent of the Wisconsin state budget. Republicans allocated nearly $10.6 billion for K-12 education over two years, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) budget analysis. This investment is larger than the amount Democrats put toward public schools when they were in the majority during the 2009-11 budget cycle.
The claim is technically true (watch for this rating to show up on Wisconsin Politi-"fact"), as we do spend $158 million more in this budget from GPR for public schools vs 2009-2011 under GPR (state taxpayer) aids. But Vos conveniently leaves out that 2009-11 was a budget drastically affected by Bush's Great Recession, and practically all areas of the budget had to take cuts as more people were out of work and the state lacked revenues as a result.

He also leaves out that this is a paltry 1.52% increase over 6 years, and that's in total dollars. When you adjust for inflation, we're spending less today (and Robbin, I'm being generous here, as I'm not assuming any inflation between 2015 and 2017). I'm using the combined amounts of regular K-12, High Poverty, and Categorical aids to come up with these numbers.

2009-11 Public school aid in 2015 dollars $10.995 billion
2015-17 Public school aid in 2015 dollars $10.553 billion

So that's over $400 million LESS going to public schools in this budget if you adjust for inflation, despite there being more resources available due to the growth of the Obama Economy over that time. In addition, even if you adjust for the slightly lower enrollments in public schools (most of which is due to the expansion of vouchers over that time), it's still a drop in aid of around $215 per student today vs 2009-11.

Robbin' also tries to argue that "we're spending a lot of money so get off our WisGOP backs." Also note the tired (and disproven) quote that vouchers improve choices and quality of K-12 education, despite 25 years of evidence in Wisconsin that it has not.
“Over the next decade, LFB estimates spending on public schools will top $94 billion while the funding level for school choice will equal less than 1 percent of K-12 education spending over the next decade,” said Speaker Vos. “We are committed to providing the best possible education to every child regardless of where they live or where they choose to attend school.”
This is a classic case of mixing and matching when spinning figures. $94 billion over the next 10 years for K-12 education would be a massive increase from today, but it also uses all sources of funding (GPR and otherwise) for all types of schools (including vouchers) That's not what last week's memo discussed, as it was limited to GPR funding for K-12 public schools. And projecting any future expenses for education is a sham because any legislature can change those figures on the spot, including the funneling mechanism that gives taxpayer dollars to the GOP campaign contributors that run voucher schools.

This is pathetic spin by Robbin' Vos, and it doesn't work when you look into the figures for more than 5 minutes. Strike one. Let's see what else the Speaker tries to argu.
The cost to educate a choice student in this budget (LFB weighted average) is $7,353. The average per pupil spending for public students is more than $13,000, which is higher than the national average. In addition, LFB has found that if the choice program didn’t exist, most public schools would get less state support.
More RW BS of mixing and matching stats to make an argument. When discussing cost of education, it leaves out that private schools also have funding sources beyond state aid, just like public school do. This includes donations and tuition from non-voucher students, but does Robbin' actually produce a stat which shows TOTAL COSTS OF EDUCATION for a voucher school, not just the payment by the state? Of course he doesn't! In fact, I'm not sure one even needs to be reported by voucher schools, which seems pretty amazing given that taxpayers are funding these schools like public schools, and should therefore get the same level of accountability as public school spending.

Also not mentioned is the fact that much of that private school tuition for non-voucher students can now be written off on the parent's taxes, and both the voucher payment and the tax write-off enables private schools to raise tuition to a higher level than the market would otherwise indicate. Strike two, Robbin'. What else you got?
By looking at just a few basic standards from the Department of Public Instruction, it’s clear Wisconsin has excellent schools that provide a quality education to students around the state. In 2015, reading scores for 4th and 8th graders went up. Plus, the state’s graduation rates are above the national average.
The reading score stat is nice overall, but leaves out that within that same test, Wisconsin has the worst gap in the nation between black and white students. This is something voucher schools were supposed to diminish in Milwaukee through "competition", and instead the gaps have become worse and more disgraceful over time.

In addition, having "above-average" graduation rates is something Wisconsin has had for years, mostly because of the state's previously-strong investment in public education. In fact, since DPI changed its measurements in 2004, Wisconsin's graduation rates have been among the best in the best in the nation. This was true before the Age of Fitzwalkerstan began in 2011, and last year's figures actually signal a decline from previous years (click here to see many of these measurements).

Wisconsin HS graduation rate
2004-05 88.8%
2008-09 89.0%
2010-11 90.5%
2012-13 92.1%
2014-15 88.8%

Now 88.8% is still pretty good, and a testament to the foundation of strong schools that we had before then. But there is no proof to Vos's assertion that the increase in voucher schools under GOP policy has helped the performance of Wisconsin's K-12 education, and if anything, things are worse now than when the WisGOPs came to power 5 years ago. Strike three Robbin', now get the fuck out!

This attempted spin to justify vouchers leads to this question. What was so messed up in Wisconsin schools that Vos and the rest of the ALEC crew decided to screw it up? Here's what the ALEC boys thought was screwed up- public school unions tended to back Dems, and voucher schools tend to give money to Republicans. So Vos and the ALEC crew decided to use our taxpayer dollars to funnel money to their financial backers, and then they try to cherry-pick stats and make up ideological reasons to keep the scam going. It was all a political move (as was Act 10) and it used the state treasury to kick back rewards to their allies.

The ALEC crew in the Capitol is not interested at all in improving K-12 education, or in increasing the investment in public education, and they don't care that past, current and future de-investment hampers our communities and economic competitiveness. Don't believe any whiny WisGOP press releases that come out over the next 4 months that try to claim otherwise.

Friday, June 24, 2016


The day after Great Britain shocked the world by agreeing to Brexit the EU, and after seeing the Dow Jones drop 611 points (with overseas markets doing even worse) this seems like an appropriate tune.

I mostly jest. No, this won't go well for the UK as they have to adjust their policies and government (with Cameron resigning and Labour's leader also likely to be gone), and also they'll have to likely adjust to Scotland and N. Ireland leaving the union (which makes sense, both places voted to stay in the EU and they can likely do so as separate countries). But if there's a country that can probably separate itself from the EU and stay reasonably afloat, it's the UK, even if the London financial markets get their asses kicked for a while.

But there's a bigger lesson to be learned, and it applies here in America. Lots of people are living their economic lives close to the edge, or over the edge, and they don't see where it's going to get better as things currently exist. And they're not going to trust some connected elite like Tony Blair to tell them a corporate-based, internationalist free-trade economy is a good thing (and frankly with good reason, because it hasn't been good for most people). The status quo is not being accepted by many, and if people are not given tangible, legitimate reasons to back it, or to reject the alternative, they're more than willing to give in to racism, xenophobia, and nostalgia, and vote in very bad ways. And more than a few people are willing to "blow shit up", because the current system is failing anyway, so perhaps something good can come from the ashes.

Sorry DNC, but Third Way corporatism and a smug attitude of "Well, you're not going to vote for DRUMPF" isn't going to be enough in 2016. People are tired of having smoke blown up their asses, and they will vote for something they can see and feel, even if it's counterproductive to their lives and their country. You have to say WHY something is good or unacceptably bad, because whether we like it or not, fear-mongering alone isn't enough to win for the thinking political parties these days, especially if you live in mostly-white, blue-collar places (aka- much of Wisconsin).

Thursday, June 23, 2016

New figures confirm how voucher schools have stolen from public ones

Not that we didn’t already know that Walker/WisGOP policies on K-12 education in Wisconsin show a preference for voucher schools over public ones, but we now have new data which gives numbers behind that favoritism. These figures show that not only are public schools being shortchanged in state aid, but that those funds aren’t being saved, and instead increasing amounts of money are being sent to unaccountable voucher schools.

State Sen. Janet Bewley asked the Legislative Fiscal Bureau for figures comparing the 2010-11 budget on K-12 education (the year before Walker and WisGOP came to power) and the budget for the soon-to-be completed 2015-16 fiscal year. These figures were split up between the aids to K-12 public schools, and to vouchers, and then total public school enrollments were used to determine the aid per student (the per-student aid for vouchers is set by statute).

Here’s what we found, and I’ll add that I’m projecting 2015-16 All Public School aids by using the budgeted amount of $751.75 million for categorical aids (the actual expense will likely be less).

General K-12 Public School Aids per Student
2010-11 $5,318
2015-16 $5,108 (-$210)
2015-16 in 2011 dollars $4,732 (-$586)

All K-12 Public School Aids per Student
2010-11 $6,011
2015-16 $5,998 (-$13)
2015-16 in 2011 dollars $5,556 (-$455)

K-12 Voucher School Payments per Student
2010-11 $6,442
2015-16 $7,214 (+$772)
2015-16 in 2011 dollars $6,682 (+$240)

2010-11 $6,442
2015-16 $7,860 (+$1,418)
2015-16 in 2011 dollars $7,281 (+$839)

So not only has the state cut public school aids while voucher school payments per students went up, but those voucher school payments went up well beyond the rate of inflation. Talk about enabling with free money! I’m sure this funneling funds out of public schools and into vouchers has NOTHING to do with convicted criminal Scott Jensen throwing big sums of “independent” voucher money behind GOP candidates in elections, would it? Nooooooo.

And the fact that over ¾ of new voucher students were already attending a private school means that the state funding is nothing more than a subsidy of those schools’ tuition. That move also gives more flexibility to those schools up to raise tuition by a higher amount, since fewer people are paying full price anyway (that’s a line GOPs use to argue against student loans and state aid to colleges, so why can’t I use it?). And those who are paying that higher tuition are likely to get some of that cost back, since Wisconsin parents can write off up to $10,000 of private school tuition.

State Rep. Sondy Pope (the top Democrat on the Assembly’s Education Committee) put the results of this money-funneling into a proper perspective.
“Our public schools and students have been struggling to maintain high-quality education under massive budget cuts. They’ve cut resources, staff, educational offerings and more to make way for Republicans’ irresponsible budgeting. All-the-while, private school students have been sitting pretty, having their tuition covered by massive taxpayer subsidies….

This information shows yet again how Republican legislators are choosing special interest groups over their constituents. With the voucher lobbying heavily padding their campaigns, these legislators have chosen to ignore and further damage our public schools – all for more money in their own pockets.”
Yeah, that pretty much sums it up, Sondy. WisGOP K-12 policies have ZERO to do with improving education or the talent that is produced by those schools, but has everything to do with funneling resources to those who support their campaign. And the state’s economy and budget continue to suffer as a result of the selfish political decisions that allowed this voucher theft to occur.

In DC and in Madison, WisGOPs think public should be kept in dark

You likely have heard about how Democrats in the House of Representatives had a sit-in on the House floor yesterday to demand that Speaker Paul Ryan hold votes on gun issues. But what caught my eye was the fact that not only did Ryan and his fellow House Republicans lack the guts to bring up the topic for debate, they also tried to keep people from seeing it on TV. Here's the Washington Post's Chris Cilizza's breakdown from yesterday.
…House Democrats, led by civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), seized the floor and demanded a vote on gun-control measures. They literally sat down on the carpeted floor to demand a vote and said they’d stay there as long as it took to negotiate one.

D.C. perked up. We turned to C-SPAN. And C-SPAN had nothing to offer us.

That’s because House Republicans presiding over the floor at the time gaveled the Congress on a break as the sit-in started. There was clearly a disruption going on, and they weren’t sure what to do. (The House isn’t like the Senate, where one lawmaker can force it to stay in session for hours and hours.) So the House went on recess, and per the rules, the C-SPAN cameras shut off.
That didn’t keep House Democrats from using social media and other tech apps to broadcasted the sit-ins themselves, continuing to draw attention to the issue, and making Ryan look even more cowardly, and making the "bury the bill" gambit backfire.

I find it noteworthy that Purty Mouth Pau-LIE’s decision to avoid a vote and attempt to keep the American people from having the gun issue be brought to their attention happened in the same month when he worked to hide other information from the public. Just last week, Ryan and his fellow House Republicans voted in favor of keeping people from knowing who the people in these big-money "independent groups" really are.
The House approved a bill Tuesday that would bar the IRS from collecting the names of donors to tax-exempt groups, prompting warnings from campaign-finance watchdogs that it could lead to foreign interests illegally infiltrating American elections.

The measure, which has the support of House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., also pits the Obama administration against one of the most powerful figures in Republican politics, billionaire industrialist Charles Koch. Koch’s donor network channels hundreds of millions of dollars each year into groups that largely use anonymous donations to shape policies on everything from health care to tax subsidies. Its leaders have urged the Republican-controlled Congress to clamp down on the IRS, citing free-speech concerns.

The names of donors to politically active non-profit groups aren't public information now, but the organizations still have to disclose donor information to the IRS on annual tax returns. The bill, written by Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., would prohibit the tax agency from collecting names, addresses or any “identifying information” about donors.
Remember, these organizations are given tax-exempt status because their main purpose is supposed to be non-political. The IRS making sure that these groups were worthy of that status is what led to the GOP screaming that they were being singled out (a fake “scandal” if there ever was one). And not ONE House Republican voted against the bill that would give a shield to these groups.

You thought Walker was the biggest Koch whore in this state?

What the GOP and their Koch puppetmasters are really scared of isn’t abuse of power by the IRS, but that their money train will be revealed. It helps explain why right-wing oligarch groups have gone through such an effort to block the John Doe investigation here in Wisconsin. Because these fake charities and social welfare organizations are front groups that are being used to dodge taxes and launder money, allowing the rich a-holes who pull such shenanigans from being exposed to the public.

Mary Bottari of Madison’s Center for Media and Democracy has an excellent example in today’s Capital Times of how the CMD and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) discovered how this type of deception and money=laundering works. It involves Brad Schimel, and how dirty oligarch money got him elected Attorney General in 2014, under the guise of something called the “Rule of Law Project” (ROLP).
The Madison-based Center for Media and Democracy was first to link the ROLP to the Washington, D.C., law firm of Boyden Gray and Associates. A founder of the Federalist Society and former White House counsel, Gray is the chief architect of the 40-year attack on regulations protecting public health and the environment. Gray's firm represents dirty power companies in the fight against the president’s plan, which if implemented would reduce greenhouse gas pollution by up to 32 percent in 2030.

CREW alleges that ROLP violated the law when it spent nearly $200,000 on political ads but later told the IRS that it did not engage in any political activity in 2014….

CREW was not able nail down the ultimate source of the funds, but followed the fingerprints on various IRS tax filings to [Federalist Society VP Leonard] Leo’s Judicial Crisis Network and the Wellspring Committee. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Wellspring is "little more than (a) UPS mailbox” created to hide the identity of donors, which, experience tells us, are discredited industries that want to cloak their agenda in anonymity.

The filings have other fingerprints. If dark money groups have a dark arts leader, it is Sean Noble of the Center to Protect Patient Rights. Noble was implicated in a multimillion-dollar campaign money laundering operation in California. CPPR was fined and ordered to disgorge the $15 million that was spent in the state. It was only later revealed that CPPR was largely bankrolled by the Koch brothers' Freedom Partners operation. DCI Group is a PR firm that has dirty coal and Koch’s Americans for Prosperity as clients. It was recently subpoenaed in the Exxon Mobile climate denial investigation.
And now you can see why Paul Ryan and his GOP buddies in the House wanted to keep the IRS from finding information about who donates to these “charities.” Because following the money leads to some ugly findings and inconvenient truths.

Hiding from the public seems to be quite the Wisconsin GOP habit these days, isn’t it? From Governor Walker trying every avenue possible to go around open records laws, to going through great lengths to conceal which businesses are funding their campaigns, this crew has no interest in letting the public know what’s really going on in their taxpayer-funded jobs. And they especially don’t want you to know who are giving the orders to the puppets politicians who “work” in those places.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

WisGOP's solution four our lousy economy? LOWER PAY!

You want to know why this state continues to flail economically? Take a look at these two items released in the last 2 days.

The first came from the Bradley Foundation's lawsuit mill and stink tank, which released a report showing that Wisconsin teachers are taking home a lot less money than they were 5 years ago.
Full-time teacher salaries declined by an average of about $2,000 after Gov. Scott Walker signed Act 10 [in 2011], restricting collective bargaining rights for most public employees, according to a study from a conservative legal group.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty report released Tuesday called the average inflation-adjusted base pay decrease "statistically significant." Over the same period, the average years of experience for state teachers dropped less than a year, to 14.2 years of experience....

The study says that the average salary and fringe benefits were $2,095 and $5,580 lower, respectively, when averaging the salary level of the three years before Act 10 and during the three years after the law passed.
That'll encourage the talent to enter the teaching profession!

Amazingly the WILL stink tank and righties are trying to use this report to imply that less classroom experience and less pay for teachers is a good thing for Wisconsin, because it allegedly saved a handful of dollars in property taxes. Or something about how it's not so bad because the state is merely mediocre and not a full-fledged disaster (yet). Nice value system, dumbasse. And you wonder why people with talent don't want to locate here?

The other absurd and telling statement comes from another Bubble-Worlder, State Sen. Duey Stroebel. Herr Stroebel went on Mike Gousha's TV show over the weekend and said that studies from the US Department of Transportation which say Wisconsin has the 3rd worst roads in America aren't worth listening to. Instead, we should trust right-wing stink tanks to give us the "facts," because they say things aren't so bad.
Stroebel opposes tax or fee increases to help pay for what some claim is a crumbling state transportation system. He said other studies show a different picture for Wisconsin's roads.

A report by the conservative Reason Foundation showed Wisconsin's highway ranking improving from 31st in 2009 to 15th in 2012.

Stroebel said that in the Reason Foundation report, the four states ranked as having the worst roads have prevailing wage laws and no right to work law. The 10 states with the best roads, he said, do not have prevailing wage and have instituted right to work.
This is quite reminiscent about how ALEC rates bankrupt, failing states like Kansas and Louisiana in their top 10, while booming states with surpluses like California and Minnesota rank in the bottom 10. Anyone who trusts a right-wing stink tank's ratings as a basis for policy is either a paid-off liar or a blubbering fool who couldn't get elected in any part of the state worth a fuck (in Stroebel's case, I'll go with the latter).

But Dewey wasn't done. He has a solution to the state's huge Trasnportation Fund deficit.
Prevailing wage sets a minimum pay level for construction workers on state projects, while right to work laws prevent workers from being required to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

"That is a place that we need to move to," Stroebel said. "We've begun to move there now with right to work and a partial repeal of prevailing wage, but we need to go all the way there. And then those are the things that are going to help us stack up better."
Yes, because rating higher with the "Reason" Foundation is a much more important thing than having stable revenues to fix roads or encouraging high quality on those repairs through better standards of pay. These people don't have a goddam clue about attracting that talent that produces a quality produce or service, do they? Nor do they seem to understand that an economy generally does better when everyday workers are paid more and are treated with respect.

With these dimwits in charge and being the "thought leaders" of today's Wisconsin GOP, is it any wonder we're dead last in the Midwest in jobs over the last 5 years?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Remember in November- Senate version

Igor Volsky has continually done a great public service over recent years, using Twitter to identify which members of Congress are bought by various special interests, and linking them to their votes. This is especially true when it comes to the gun fetishists at the NRA and the (mostly) GOP politicians they pay off. And yes, Our Dumb Senator is on this shameful list.

.@SenRonJohnson - who described gun votes as "nonsensedebates" - just voted down expanding background checks:

— igorvolsky(@igorvolsky) June 20, 2016

In other words, Wisconsin has a Senator who values NRA cash over increasing the safety of his constituents. As if you needed another reason to remove this bum and vote in Russ Feingold to restore integrity to the Senate this November, there it is.

Here's the roster to cheer and jeer.

Senators who voted for/against expanding background checks to all gun sales. Amendment failed 44-56

— igorvolsky(@igorvolsky) June 20, 2016

GOP's built in House advantage can erode quickly with Drumpf

With the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump coming up with a new absurdity by the day, it might be time to get an idea about what kind of wipeout might occur downticket. On the Senate side, a combination of favorable states for Dem pickups and a positive Dem voting year means the Dems have a strong possibility of winning the 4 seats they would need to control the Senate if the Dems also stay in the White House. However, it’s not going to be nearly as easy for them to take command of the House of Representatives.

In an interesting post from the Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman, he notes that while Dems would be likely to win back some seats in the House this Fall. But Wasserman adds that there is a tipping point where it becomes a lot more difficult for the blue team to pick up seats.
The great sort — The House is just a lot less “elastic” than it used to be. Today, the Cook Report rates just 36 of 435 districts as competitive — about 8 percent of the House. Even if Democrats were to hold all their own seats and sweep out all 26 Republicans sitting in districts Obama carried in 2012, they’d still be four seats short of a majority (and, by our tally, just five of these 26 Republicans have endorsed Trump by name so far). By contrast, if Democrats were to defeat all seven Republicans running for Senate in Obama states, they would win a 53-seat majority, assuming they hold all their own seats.
The other part that makes the Dems’ attempts to control all three parts of decision-making in DC is the gerrymandering that has been a main part of politics in the 2010s. Wasserman notes that the combination of sorting and gerrymandering means it would take a massive Dem win in November for them to take the lower chamber.
Second, Republicans’ astounding state legislative gains in the 2010 midterms — the year before the decennial redistricting cycle — allowed them to redraw four times as many congressional districts as Democrats in 2011 and 2012, stretching their geographical edge even further. As a result, in 2012, Democrats won 51 percent of all major-party votes cast for House candidates but just 47 percent of all seats. In 2014, Democrats won 47 percent of all major-party votes but just 43 percent of the seats. Amazingly, just 16 of 247 House Republicans won their races by fewer than 10 percentage points.

If Democrats’ seat share continues to lag their national vote share by about 4 percentage points in 2016, the party might need to win about 8 percent more votes than Republicans nationally just to reach the barest possible majority of 218 seats.
Interestingly, this Dem +8 standing is around where the Clinton-Trump matchups are today, which makes you wonder if that’s playing into the rumors of certain GOP delegates thinking about trying to dump Drumpf at next month’s convention.

We saw similar outcomes in Wisconsin with the 53-46 Obama win in 2012. There was no change at the Congresisonal level, as the state’s delegation stayed at 5-3 GOP in 2012, with no race being decided by less than 10 points. In addition, “great sort” theory also holds true in Wisconsin, which is why a recent study from Binghamton University on our redistricting showed that a “fair” map for the State Legislature would still have a 2-3 point advantage for Republicans.

But that same study also mentions that the 2-3 point GOP advantage was turned into 5-6 points by jiggering with the district lines, both at the state and federal levels. which in an even system would likely mean a closely divided State Assembly. Instead, Republicans held a 60-39 advantage in the Assembly after 2012. The Binghamton study says this means Dems would have to have a uniform win statewide on the order of Obama’s 56-42 win in 2008 to get a majority in the State Assembly, and if you look at this neat spreadsheet set up by Daily Kos and see how this translated in 2012. This Daily Kos page has votes for statewide office by each individual Congressional district and how all 99 State Assembly districts voted in Wisconsin.

As you'll see, 5 of the 8 Congressional districts voted for Romney in 2012, but a uniform swing of 4 points in each of those districts (the equivalent of going from 53-46 Dem to 57-42 Dem) gives Dem majorities to 7 out of Wisconsin 8 districts. Likewise, 57 Assembly districts voted for Mitt Romney over Obama in 2012, with the median seat being 51-48 GOP (Hi, David Steffen!). But a 3 point uniform swing to the Dems vs 2012 turns 11 of those Assembly seats into Dem majorities, resulting in a 53-46 lead in Assembly districts.

Interestingly, Wasserman points out that even if the GOP did keep the House after November, that might not work out so well for them. In fact, his analysis points out that perhaps a 15-seat House win for Dems (keeping them in the minority) might be better than a 35-seat win (giving Dems a slight majority), and that a small GOP majority could especially be damaging to a certain Wisconsinite.
….Back in October, we predicted that Paul Ryan wouldn’t have it any easier than John Boehner did when it comes to fundamental spending and debt votes, thanks to rebellions from the very conservative House Freedom Caucus.

If Ryan were to lose half his 30-seat majority, he could be the last backstop against a Democratic White House and Senate. But Ryan would also likely be forced to reach across the aisle for Democratic votes even more often than Boehner did, giving the minority more leverage and possibly branding him as the GOP’s RINO-in-chief for good.
And making Purty Mouth Pau-LIE look like an even bigger waffling buffoon than he does today, whether Pau-LIE is discussing the candidacy of Donald Trump, or bouncing back and forth between “positive ideas” in one sentence, then doing typical GOP dog-whistles and fear-mongering in the next.

And with the Dem advantage for president expanding quite a bit in the last week, you can see where it’s possible that a whole lot of new seats are going to be in play if a fool like Drumpf is heading up the GOP ticket, or fracturing it in a third-party run. Yes, it's an uphill climb for Dems to take control of the lower House, both at the state and congressional levels, but it's also not impossible. Long way to go, but keep these “tipping point” numbers in mind both at the state and federal levels if you’re trying to set expectations for November’s outcomes.

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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sometimes a picture can say 1,000 words

Great cartoon from the Wisconsin State Journal's Phil Hands, who seems to have had enough of Gov Walker's excuses and spin jobs. Lots to see in this one.

The shadow of John Doe alludes to this, but you could probably add "GOP courtroom shenanigans" to this list. This includes the revelations in the federal trials on voter ID and redistricting showing how WisGOPs conspired to rig elections, and in the pro-Walker State Supreme Court shooting down Walker's attempt to run the Department of Public Instruction, which has led to Walker and Attorney General Brad Schimel going to disgusting lengths to keep the DPI from defending itself in a case brought up by the Bradley Foundation's lawsuit mill to try to give extra money to a voucher school in the 262.

Hands' cartoon also illustrates one of the biggest problems in fighting the Destruction Crew known as Walker and the WisGOPs- there are so many places that they are messing things up and grabbing power that it's very hard to focus in on just one!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Marquette Poll indicates Feingold can gain more- if he tells the kids who he is

I noted a disparity in this week’s Marquette Law School Poll in the U.S. Senate race, it made me want to look into things further. To review, among “likely/certain voters”, Democrat Russ Feingold led the GOP’s Ron Johnson 51-42, but only led 45.5-40.8 among all registered voters. So that led me to dig into the crosstabs from the Marquette Poll to see what might be causing the disparity.

Once I did so, the answer in the difference became obvious- young voters. Take a look at the difference in these figures among these two subsets of people ages 18-29 in the Feingold-Johnson polls.

Feingold vs. Johnson, age 18-29
Registered Voters Feingold 41.4-40.4
Likely Voters Feingold 51.5-38.6

That right there explains half of the difference between 4.7 and 9 that we see between registered and likely voters in that senate race. Interestingly, you don’t see that difference in the Clinton vs. Trump matchup - Clinton leads in registered voters 18-29 by 1, but Trump leads by 0.3 among likely voters 18-29.

I have a lot of skepticism on whether the tightness in Registered Voter totals for young voters will hold up, because it doesn’t jibe with recent exit poll data among young voters in Wisconsin. 18-29 year-olds in Wisconsin backed Barack Obama 60-37 and went 58-39 for Tammy Baldwin in 2012, and were the only age group supporting Mary Burke vs Scott Walker in 2014. Also note this accounting of a recent Bloomberg news poll indicates Hillary Clinton may be likely to repeat President Obama’s big margins among younger voters. although it seems to have more to do with Drumpf’s idiocy vs approval of Hillary.
Clinton, in this week's Bloomberg Politics national survey, enjoys a lead of 3 to 1 among likely voters aged 18 to 29, and more than a 3-to-2 advantage among 30- to 39-year-olds. These millennials still aren't wild about the presumptive Democratic nominee. Her favorable ratings are far below Barack Obama's. But Trump's negatives are stunning: Among 18- to 29-year-olds, 83 percent have an unfavorable view of him.

In 2012, voters under 40, who made up more than a third of the electorate, provided the winning margin for Obama. Trump in this poll, conducted by Ann Selzer, does considerably worse than the 2012 Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, with these voters.
But yet Wisconsin millennials in 2016 are so different that Clinton vs. Trump and Feingold vs. Johnson is a 1-point race for the 18-29 group? Forgive me if I think that doesn’t reflects reality, and I’m not necessarily ripping Charles Franklin and company for it. Younger people are notoriously hard to reach compared with older voters who have landlines and answer phone calls. You can only report based on the data you get.

But given that a whopping 82% of those same 18-29 year-olds voted for Bernie Sanders in April’s Dem primary, and that Sanders told his supporters yesterday that a top priority for November is that Trump “is defeated and defeated badly,” it seems a safe bet that Hillary will have major support from the younger Wisconsinites come November.

The same goes with Feingold, who had Bernie-like positions on campaign finance, the Iraq War and civil liberties before Bernie was ever a U.S. Senator, and is a candidate that Sanders is already raising money for through emails. Other demographic data from the Marquette Law Poll shows that Russ would be wise to link himself with Bernie, as right now Feingold is being seen as “generic Democrat” in key groups instead of a “Bernie Sanders independent.” I draw that conclusion by comparing Feingold’s crosstabs with the Clinton-Trump and Sanders-Trump matchups in the poll, and I’ll use the registered voter numbers, as that shows a closer race for both Clinton-Trump and Feingold-Johnson, to show where the opportunity exists for Dems in November.

Pay extra attention to the numbers with self-described Independents and voters that ended their education after high school.

2016 election matchups Wisconsin, RVs
By Party ID

Clinton-Trump- Trump 78.5-2.6
Feingold-Johnson- Johnson 87.0-6.3
Sanders-Trump- Trump 74.1-14.7

Clinton-Trump- Clinton 91.3-1.6
Feingold-Johnson- Feingold 83.9-5.0
Sanders-Trump- Sanders 95.1-2.1

Clinton-Trump- Clinton 32.5-31.9
Feingold-Johnson- Feingold 43.7-39.1
Sanders-Trump- Sanders 55.4-26.2

By Education

No HS Diploma
Clinton-Trump- Trump 31.6-30.2
Feingold-Johnson- Feingold 48.7-32.1
Sanders-Trump- Sanders 54.1-23.7

HS Diploma only
Clinton-Trump- Trump 41.6-35.4
Feingold-Johnson- Johnson 44.9-36.7
Sanders-Trump- Sanders 54.5-37.4

Some College
Clinton-Trump- Clinton 43.7-34.2
Feingold-Johnson- Feingold 48.4-38.2
Sanders-Trump- Sanders 61.6-26.1

2-year degree
Clinton-Trump- Clinton 38.9-35.7
Feingold-Johnson- Feingold 43.8-41.8
Sanders-Trump- Sanders 55.3-28.5

Interestingly, voters with 4-year college degrees don’t change all that much across all 3 polls, as the Democrats have solid double-digit leads in all 3 races, so that wouldn’t seem to be as much of a demo of emphasis for the Feingold campaign.

But the demo data above sure makes it seem like a few Bernie-Russ rallies in some blue-collar towns with plenty of young voters could be the way to go (sounds like cities such as GB, Kenosha, Superior and Oshkosh to me!). And these figures show that if Russ can get the relatively low-info, low-interest voter to get past their default position of favoring incumbent Senator Johnson, that he has room to expand on his already-sizable lead. Not a bad position to be in before casual voters start to pay extra attention for the Fall elections.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Income tax drop in May leaves Wisconsin budget in uphill battle

I had mentioned before that May's revenue report would tell us if the state had a good chance of meeting the Legislative Fiscal Bureau's revenue estimates for Fiscal Year 2016, or if we were looking at a shortfall. The inconclusive April revenue report made this especially crucial, because of a large upward "adjustment" in income tax revenues, anticipating that many of April's month-end income taxes would post on Monday, May 2.

Well, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue dropped those figures late Friday afternoon (uh oh) and while the DOR was right to anticipate a large posting on May 2, it wasn't enough to save the month. In addition, Fiscal Year 2015 had Memorial Day fall on the 31st, which meant that those revenues didn't show up until June 1, leading a large upward adjustment for that year, but not this year. The bottom line- May's income tax revenues sucked.

Adjusted income tax revenues, May 2016 vs May 2015
May 2015 $502.232 million
May 2016 $470.736 million
CHANGE -$31.496 million (-6.27%)

This is doubly interesting in light of the fact that the May jobs figures released yesterday showed Wisconsin jumping into the 20th place in the US for year-over-year job growth, the highest mark in Scott Walker's 5 1/2 years in office. But the lousy income tax figures draw the strong job numbers into question- either we really aren't adding that many jobs and these rosy numbers will be revised down, or the jobs that are being added are lower-wage ones and not adding much to income taxes.

The bad May income tax revenues also leave the state below the 6.61% growth rate that the Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimated the state would have back in January, as year-over-year income tax revenues are only growing at a 5.45% rate with 1 month to go. If that rate would hold for the June and year-end postings, it would mean an income tax shortfall of about $85.0 million for Fiscal Year 2016, and leave us a bit further in the hole for the new fiscal year that would start on July 1.

The DOR report showed that other taxes are generally in line with the LFB estimates (in fact, the trend indicates that all other taxes will be around a combined $10 million above estimates). But even in those stats is one worrying trend, and that's in corporate tax collections. In the first half of Fiscal Year 2016, corporate taxes were coming in 7.6% above the same time period in FY 2015. But then the calendar flipped to the actual year of 2016, and the accompanying tax season, and corporate tax collections have nose-dived in Wisconsin.

Corporate tax collections, Jan-May 2016 vs Jan-May 2015
Jan-May 2015 $341.014 million
Jan-May 2016 $298.972 million
CHANGE -$42.042 million (-12.33%)

In addition to a profit recession, you have to wonder if this is a direct effect of certain tax changes that have hit with the new year. And what's especially concerning is that the LFB projected corporate tax revenues to rise by 5.56% in the next Fiscal Year. That would be quite a turnaround from where we're going today.

We're not in immediate need a budget repair bill with this potential revenue shortfall- the sizable cushion put into the budget and Scott Walker's skipped debt payment of $101 million should keep the balance well above $0 for this year. But with a built-in deficit of $151 million for Fiscal Year 2017, and revenues more likely to be revised down than up as the year moves on (both due to the shortfall and the slowing US economy), an already-tenuous state budget may be getting even more tricky going forward.

Tommy Bartlett guy tells Walker to stop the absurdity. Fix the roads

This picture is so fitting for our Fair Governor. The latest way it applies is on the subject of road funding, where the state is already dreadfully behind when it comes to funding major projects as well as everyday maintenance. And yet despite that reality, Gov Walker insists on digging his ditch deeper and deeper.

In typical Walker fashion, he’s continuing to double-down and make excuses for his idiotic "no-tax, no-fee" stance on road funding. Take a look at this garbage that he sent out yesterday.
Good roads and bridges are important to Wisconsin and our economy. Since we took office, more than $18 billion has been invested into our transportation system, and we increased the amount sent to local governments to help maintain their infrastructure in 2015.
Whoop-de-fuckin’ do! I’m not entirely sure where the “$18 billion” estimate comes from (it seems to be related to the entire DOT budget, which is $5.6 billion for this next 2-year budget), but I do know several of those billions in the DOT budget are federal dollars. Apparently that’s a source from DC which is OK for Scotty to take if it’s for roads and bridges, as oposed to trains or broadband or health care. Funny that.

And Walker's mention of a one-year, 4% increase in 2015 to local governments ignores the fact that local roads aids are still below the amount that they were getting when Walker and WisGOP took office 5 ½ years ago. In addition, the bullet of Act 10’s “tools” (which Walker and WisGOP used to justify cuts to local governments starting in 2012 and going through 2014) has already been shot. Also, those aids will stay the same for the next 18 months, despite the fact that the cost to build and maintain roads continues to go up.

General Transportation Aids to local governments, Wisconsin
2011 Counties- $104.417 million
2011 Municipalities- $328.507 million

2015 Counties- $98.400 million
2015 Municipalities- $321.261 million

2017 Counties- $98.400 million (-5.76% vs 2011)
2017 Municipalities- $321.261 million (-2.21% vs 2011)

That’s a cut in ACTUAL dollars over the course of 6 years. We’re not even taking into account inflation or additional roads and population to take care of since 2011. How are cities, villages and town are supposed to keep potholes from opening up with that revenue source being taken away?

We continue with Scotty's justifications.
There has been a lot of talk recently by some who believe we should raise the gas tax so politicians in Madison can spend more of your hard-earned money. That is not leadership. During the 2014 campaign, I made it clear I would not support a gas tax increase or a vehicle registration increase without a corresponding decrease in other state taxes. I will not raise the overall tax burden on the hardworking people of Wisconsin.
So instead, you’ll raise the property tax burden and continue the trend of numerous new wheel taxes around the state as the costs of repair inevitably get shifted down to the local level. And you’ll raise the chances of an out-of-pocket burden “the hardworking people of Wisconsin” will face in having to deal with repairs to their vehicles because you clung to this ridiculous notion. Nice strategy.
*** Keeping my word is incredibly important. So is keeping the state's economy headed in the right direction. At the time of this writing, the average price of unleaded gas in Wisconsin is $2.50 per gallon. Of that, 30.9 cents are state taxes. According to the American Petroleum Institute, which tracks gas taxes across the 50 states, Wisconsin is in the top 10 for the highest gas excise tax in the nation. If you include federal taxes and fees, Wisconsin drivers are paying more than 50 cents in taxes per gallon. Jacking up taxes would throw a wet blanket on our economic growth.
Whoop-de-fuckin’-do again! Do you really think a 5-cent or 10-cent increase in the gas tax will stop all growth from happening in the state? Especially when compared to the sizable drop in gas prices over recent years, and the reality that these lower prices haven’t done a damn thing to raise our Wisconsin’s sales tax revenues or job growth in recent years? Why would you think the reverse would be true, where slightly higher gas prices would somehow slam activity shut? It’s even more telling that Walker thinks a pose of “keeping taxes low” is more important than the added investment in infrastructure and new jobs that would occur from better maintenance and improvements to roads (and who are you concerned about keeping your word to, anyway?).

Bitng the bullet and paying more taxes to fix the roads might improve the public image of a state whose highways can’t be impressing the typical tourist and traveler these days. How can the Walker Administration talk up Wisconsin tourism on one hand, and then allow the roads that the tourists take to go to shit, and discourage them from wanting to come back here as a result? And don’t take my word for it, listen to what the co-owner of the Tommy Bartlett enterprises in the Dells has to say about it today.
The vast majority of Wisconsin tourists drive to their final destinations. That’s why it’s crucial to consider the needs of the tourism industry when developing statewide transportation priorities and funding strategies. We want to create a system that moves our visitors safely, efficiently and with the least amount of stress possible. Visitors to Wisconsin don’t spend money when they’re stuck in traffic or delayed due to poor road conditions.

My fear is that Wisconsin’s transportation funding problems are beginning to hurt the state’s tourism industry. Big projects like the Zoo Interchange in Milwaukee and I-39/90 from Madison to the state line are facing multi-year delays. Future projects like Interstate expansion south of Wisconsin Dells and I-94 in western Wisconsin are decades away from reality because of demands on dwindling transportation revenues.

In order to grow our economy, tax revenues and job opportunities, we need to invest in and build up Wisconsin. If Wisconsin is truly “open for business” then policymakers and the Governor must develop a bipartisan long-term transportation funding solution so tourists aren’t detoured to destinations in other states because of poor road conditions.
When you compare that statement with Walker’s excuses and symbolism, it’s really obvious that Gov Dropout has never worked a real job in his adult life, isn’t it? And when the GOP Speaker of the Assembly is openly opposing Walker’s no-tax “word” on the road funding issue, and increasing numbers of news stories from around the state feature citizens complaining how bad the roads are, it tells you that people throughout the state aren’t buying the fairy tale Scotty is trying to peddle.

The Wisconsin State Journal's Phil Hands had it right earlier this month.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

May jobs look very good in Wisconsin. Really

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development’s new monthly jobs report says the state got back on a positive track in May, in marked contrast to the slowdown in job growth for the country as a while.
Place of work data: Based on preliminary data, the state added a statistically significant 45,900 private sector jobs and 47,700 total non-farm jobs from May 2015 to May 2016, and 9,700 private sector jobs from April 2016 to May 2016. Other significant changes include the year-over-year additions of 9,000 jobs in Transportation, Warehousing & Utilities and 5,700 jobs in Health Care and Social Assistance.

·Place of residence data: A preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 4.2 percent in May 2016, down from 4.4 percent in April 2016. The 4.2 percent rate is the lowest rate since March 2001, is lower than the 4.6 percent rate in May 2015 and is lower than the national unemployment rate of 4.7 percent in May 2016. Based on preliminary estimates, Wisconsin's total employment remained at a record high in May, growing by a statistically significant 62,600 year-over-year. Additionally, the number of unemployed individuals in the state decreased to its lowest point since May 2001 and Wisconsin's labor force participation rate of 68.7 continues to outpace the U.S. rate of 62.6 percent.

DWD Secretary Ray Allen issued the following statement: "Today's numbers show Wisconsin is continuing to see significant job growth with the addition of over 45,000 private sector jobs year-over-year and nearly 10,000 jobs over the month. Additionally, employment remains at an all-time high, the number of unemployed individuals is at its lowest point in 15 years, and our labor force participation rate continues to outpace the national rate. In a month where the nation added only 38,000 jobs, its lowest monthly increase since 2010, it is encouraging that indicators show Wisconsin's economy continuing to thrive."
“You hear that, we’re THRIVING! Believe it!” Gotta love the Walker DWD’s constant happy-talk in these releases.

However, the positive spin is likely warranted this time. In a rarity, I don’t have a lot of “yeah, buts” to throw in with this jobs report. Most of the sectors in Wisconsin saw growth in May outside of Construction, which lost 3,200 seasonally-adjusted jobs in the month, and had April’s numbers drop be revised down by another 300. But even that Construction drop isn’t all that bad, because that seasonally-adjusted “loss” of jobs reflected lower-than-normal May hiring of 5,100 in that sector, and with April Construction gaining 3,200 on a seasonally-adjusted basis(even with the downward revision), it seems logical that warm weather in April pulled a bit more seasonal hiring into that month vs. May. Construction employment was still up 8,500 jobs in Wisconsin over the 12 months through April 2016, and remains a standout industry for Wisconsin in recent times.

The unemployment rate’s drop from 4.4% to 4.2% was more due to a seasonally-adjusted drop in the labor force of 3,300 over job growth (+1,600 in that survey). But there’s not much room for me to complain over that when the US unemployment rate went down by 0.3% in the same month because of similar drops in the seasonally-adjusted work force.

The one bit of water I do want to throw on this report comes from the fact that a lot of the job growth was concentrated in two low-wage sectors. Trade (retail and related industry) added a seasonally-adjusted 4,800 jobs, and Leisure and Hospitality (bars, hotels and related industries) chipped in another 3,300. Both indicate that Summer hiring was stronger than normal, which could mean that those businesses anticipate big spending from consumers in the coming months. But it also could mean that there will be seasonally-adjusted losses in the coming months when the weather turns cooler and many entry-level workers go back to school. So keep an eye on it.

Obviously, we’ll see if those figures hold up with the “gold standard” Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages, which will have numbers for the first months of 2016 in September, and it doesn’t erase the major hole the first 5 years of the Age of Fitzwalkerstan have left us. However, that reality shouldn’t take away the fact that this is a very good May jobs report in Wisconsin, and it makes for 4 sizable private-sector job growth gains in the first 5 months of 2016, along with unemployment now dropping in tandem with the rest of the nation. Given the low employment gains reported for the country as a whole in May, it’ll make tomorrow’s state-by-state jobs report very intriguing to see where we shape up.