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Wis. Republicans - what you don't know will let us hurt you

Freedom of Information

At the end of every budgetary session the JFC usually passes a sort of grab bag of "stuff" that they want to throw into the bill at the last minute. This year is no exception, as they tossed in a pile of wishes and hopes. Worry about those wishes and hopes, particularly with the current legislature. 

Some things in the final motion are not unexpected, like removing the "anybody graduating from the school of hard knocks can be a teacher" provisions - for which the JFC was skewered widely. But some new stuff slipped in out of the blue, as seems to be happening with regularity during this legislative session. Particularly disturbing is a collection of measures intended to remove a lot of documents from public disclosure, including blocking access to almost all communications during the work of making laws. As always,  none of the legislators seem to have any idea where the proposal came from - it apparently just got there on its own.

These documents have been crucial to understanding what is going on in the legislature, and restricting access to them could make it very difficult to prove wrongdoing or illegal acts. Additionally all drafting documents for bills would no longer be retained by the Legislative Reference Bureau. Perhaps this is an attempt to stave off any future John-Doe-Like investigations, or just to save embarrassment. In any case, it's a terrible step in the wrong direction. If we have learned anything in the last few years it's that the public deserves to know more about what is going on in government, not less. 

The text of the motion is attached.

Bernie Sanders in Madison last night

Despite what everyone seems to be saying is a "long shot" campaign, Bernie Sanders managed to fill (and then some) the Coliseum in Madison last night. Reports go as high as 13,000 people in attendance. I could not get there for any number of reasons, but if you missed it as I did, here's video of the event. If we can convince the media that money is not the only thing that matters in dogfight politics, maybe they'll pay more attention to candidates like Bernie more than they pay attention to people like Donald Trump.

Why do we devote so much of our air time, web space, and newspaper space to the gazillion Republican candidates (because they're entertaining? ) and so little to someone like Bernie Sanders, who represents a real choice to the electorate? Because Sanders is frightening to the powers that be, I think.

Bernie Sanders Rally in Madison, Wisconsin

At Wisconsin's top newspaper, just a slight sense of political disproportion

A business-as-usual juxtaposition in today's political coverage at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Bernie Sanders fills up the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, capacity 10,000, and while the paper covers that Wednesday event, the story runs on page 3. Aside from a crowd photo there's only a sidelong mention of the turnout: "thousands." That's in keeping with the paper's previously announced policy of avoiding hard-number crowd estimates, coincidentally imposed just when mass progressive moments were becoming more frequent in Wisconsin.  

Assembly Majority Leader from Kaukauna blames Milwaukee for Republicans' destroying Wisconsin's State Budget and Economy

Jim Steineke

The Assembly Republican Majority Leader, Jim Steineke from Kaukauna (pictured at the left) tweeted that,

“MN doesn’t have a first class city that is a drain on the rest of the state."  

This illustrates again how the Republicans are incapable of understanding anything about economy, demographics, cultural geography and society in general.

The recent article in the American Prospect that compares Minnesota’s “high road” to Wisconsin’s “low road” summarizes the difference in the two state’s major metropolitan areas below.

Why I think Charles Dickens named WEDC

Dickens

One of the most fascinating things about the work of Charles Dickens is the unique and colorfully appropriate names for the characters in his work: Names like Mr. Sloppy, Wopsle, Sweedlepipe, Bumble and Scrooge, were purely the product of Dickens' unique imagination, and the names described the characters.

For example;

Scrooge: a mean, selfish person who put money ahead of people. 

Toodle: the word sounds friendly and kind, and the character is exactly that.

Pumblechook: a puffed up, important-sounding word for a man full of self-importance.

Four (Not so Easy) Ways to Balance the Transportation Budget

Kathleen Vinehout
 
Four (Not so Easy) Ways to Balance the Transportation Budget
By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“If it was up to you,” the Chamber of Commerce moderator asked area legislators, “How would you solve the transportation problem?”
 
Budget talks are stalled. Legislators can’t seem to find a way through the labyrinth of interests stalking the Capitol halls. One main sticking point is how to balance the transportation budget.
 
Governor Walker left lawmakers with $1.3 billion in new debt to pay for roads over the next two years. Among many decisions the governor made was to increase spending in the Major Highway Development Program by $100 million or over 13%. He borrowed $109 million to pay for this spending.
 
One decision the governor did not make was to take any of the two-dozen suggestions of his Secretary of Transportation to make possible changes in revenue – new taxes or fees.
 
Of course, borrowing $1.3 billion to pay for spending means someone in the future would have to increase taxes and fees. This is true because, by the end of the budget nearly a quarter of the spending on transportation is on debt service –an unsustainable amount.
 

If you are driving a 2000 Kia Rio with an "I Stand with Walker" bumper sticker, this MJS article is for you.

WEDC Maserati

I have been amazed by the number of ten year old Kia’s, Hyundai’s, and Plymouth Voyagers in parking lots and on the road in Milwaukee’s suburbs with “I Stand with Walker” bumper stickers.  It may be time for these Walkerites to contact WEDC and get an upgrade for their loyalty. 

The first two paragraphs of this article from today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel sums up the depth of the corruption of Walker’s administration.  Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse.

 

WEDC backed firm after learning state money was for luxury car debts

By Jason Stein and Patrick Marley of the Journal Sentinel

 

Madison — Officials at Wisconsin's top jobs agency sought federal tax incentives for a failing Milwaukee business for a year after being told that the owner was seeking the money to pay off business debts such as the leases on luxury cars.

State Health Marketplace Needed to Protect Wisconsinites

Kathleen Vinehout
State Health Marketplace Needed to Protect Wisconsinites
by
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“Wisconsin has relied heavily on the exchange to expand health insurance coverage,” wrote President Eric Borgerding of the Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA). In a recent letter to Legislators, he warned a looming Supreme Court decision “could strike down premium assistance.”
 
Many Wisconsinites are waiting to hear if they will still be able to afford their health insurance bill.
 
The U.S. Supreme Court will soon rule on the legality of health insurance subsidies for those living in states that did not create a state-based health insurance marketplace.
 
The WHA estimates over 180,000 Wisconsinites receive tax credit assistance from the federal government for health insurance purchased through healthcare.gov, the federal marketplace. That is roughly like the population of Green Bay and Racine losing an average of almost $3,800 a year.

Transportation Spending: It’s time for a comprehensive audit

Kathleen Vinehout
Transportation Spending: It’s time for a comprehensive audit
By
Senator Kathleen Vinehout
 
“Senate leader on budget deal: ‘I don’t know where we are at’” was the headline of a recent Associated Press story on the budget deal. The story went on to report there’s “no agreement yet on how to pay for transportation projects…”
 
While the Senate leader gathered up votes, I gathered up a few studies to understand if all this borrowing was necessary.
 
Here’s what I found:
 
Transportation spending is about $6 billion - 8.5% of our total state budget. About 40% of that comes from the federal government.
 
Last April, the budget committee received good news that low fuel costs meant residents were driving more and gas tax money is up – by about $13 million over 3 years.

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