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Monday, September 22, 2014

WEDC Administrative Budget Up 35% Under Walker's Mismanagement

According to a recent Legislative Audit Bureau report, administrative spending in Gov. Scott Walker's flagship agency, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), ballooned 35% after its first year.

Keep in mind this substantial increase is for operational staffing (mostly patronage hires) and utility costs, not for the so-called tax incentive venture capital slush fund the scandal-plagued governor keeps topped off for his political donors. In fact, you won't want to go to that side of the WEDC budget equation if government secrecy or misuse of taxpayer's dollars are among your pet peeves.

Walker's highly contradictory brown-bagging facade as governor however becomes again evident in his visible role as the WEDC board director, as it tells the same story of wasteful spending, reckless accounting and failed jobs creation ...

Wisconsin Gazette Excerpt:
The Legislative Audit Bureau’s report examined the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s finances over fiscal years 2011-12 and 2012-13. Auditors found the agency’s spending on administrative expenses such as salary, marketing and travel grew from $11.2 million in the first year to $15.1 million in the second.

Read more here.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Walker Booster Critiques Tax Cut Driven Deficit. Next Day Walker, "More Tax Cuts!"

The Janesville Gazette, a big booster and apologist of Gov. Scott Walker's (endorsed him both times), published an amusing editorial the other day criticizing republican legislators in a "I told you so" fashion that their election year tax cuts went too far now that a revised projection shows the state budget heading into a $1.8 billion deficit.

At first glance, it's easy for the reader to think they're including Walker in their criticism, but the editorial mentions Walker merely by association. The editorial's title, "Republican tax cuts don't look so wise given fiscal estimates" pretty much sums it up that in the Gazette's view, it's "republican," tax cuts, not Walker's that are to blame.

The truth is, they can conveniently use republican lawmakers as their whipping boys for all the state's troubles because they know their gerrymandered districts protect them. They can't lose. The editorial creates a final separation and elevation for Walker when they conclude, "Walker demonstrated his fiscal chops soon after taking office." Really.

But here's the best part. The very next day after their editorial, Walker unveiled his re-election platform and among his priorities are guessed it ...more tax cuts in the face of spiraling budget deficits. Gotta' wonder what the Gazette's WMC-owned editorial staff are thinking now, but you can bet they will be endorsing Scott Walker for governor - no matter what.

After hearing this audio of Sen. Fitzgerald posted at the Democurmudgeon, it's really beginning to look like Walker and state republicans are suddenly satisfied with large budget deficits driven by tax cuts. That's not necessarily a surprising concept from supply-side "conservatives" since their policies are largely responsible for driving the nation's debt. It was only in their electioneering rhetoric, where they pretended tax cuts will drive greater economic activity enough to cause an actual increase in tax revenue. They don't even pretend that anymore.

Deficits NEVER did matter with conservatives. It's all about winning re-election.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Scott Walker's Budget Sink Hole Is Deeper Than It Looks

Press Release

Wisconsin State Sen. Jennifer Shilling Excerpt:
Walker budget deficit grows to $3 billion

MADISON – After state agencies submitted their 2015-17 budget requests this week, Gov. Walker’s budget deficit is now projected at nearly $3 billion.* The overall budget deficit could exceed $4 billion once state transportation, school funding and other agency budget figures are released.

Current Fiscal Year (FY15) Budget Deficit:
$396 million (LFB memo 9.8.14)
Projected 2015-17 State Budget Deficit numbers:
$1.8 billion structural deficit (LFB memo 9.8.14)
$1.1 billion in new spending requests (DOA agency budget requests 9.15.14)
Estimated $680 million Transportation Fund deficit (Associated Press 9.15.14)
Estimated $568 million in K-12 Fair Funding costs (WI DPI 2013-15 budget request)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

City Council Operates Outside Of The Law, Power Slams Citizen Initiative. What's next?

I hope the Wisconsin attorney general's office is paying attention to what's going on in little ol' Janesville. Afterall, isn't it the AG's job to enforce state laws?

In brief, a Janesville resident didn't like the way things were going with the city's planning and spending for a new central fire station, so he took the initiative and started a petition drive to place two questions on referendum to local voters. He met the guidelines as written in state law. The petitions were deemed valid by the county clerk's office and went to the city council as per Wisconsin Statute 9.20.

That is when things got very messy.

Instead of following state statutes regarding the handling of his petitions, the city council, following some bad advice from the city attorney and the local newspaper, the Janesville Gazette, proceeded to turn the tables on the resident and his supporters. They basically said we're going to ignore you and your petitions and you'll have to sue us to make us follow the law. Apparently, the city council is banking on the notion that if they shirk the law or operate outside its parameters, they can end the process established by law. Got it? That's it in a nutshell.

Regarding petitions of direct legislation, there are state statutes that local governing bodies are expected to follow ...assuming they follow the law in the first place.

But what makes this moment in time somewhat special is it comes after a 30 day period the common council was given to deliberate over the petitions. The law is fairly specific. It outlines...

Wisconsin State Statutes Excerpt:
9.20 (4)
The common council or village board shall, without alteration, either pass the ordinance or resolution within 30 days following the date of the clerk's final certificate, or submit it to the electors at the next spring or general election…
(my emphasis)

That’s the law.

But the Janesville city council followed a law the city attorney pulled out from Oz called the "take no action" law. Taking no action is not an option listed under 9.20, but that is exactly what the Janesville city council did with these petitions. They did NOT adopt the resolutions OR submit them to the county clerk, nor did they give the petitions an up or down vote within the specified 30 day time frame.

That is against the intent of the law according to the state's handbook on Direct Legislation...

Initiative and Referendum in Wisconsin Excerpt:

Limitations On Use Of Municipal Initiatives: A series of decisions by the Wisconsin Supreme Court have dealt with “Direct Legislation,” Wisconsin’s statutory term for the indirect initiative. In particular, Landt v. Wisconsin Dells, 30 Wis. 2d 470 (1966); Heider v Wauwatosa, 37 Wis. 2d 466 (1967); ans State ex rel. Althouse v Madison, 79 Wis. 2d 97 (1977) have set limits on the use of this procedure. The court ruled that:

5) If it does not enact a direct legislation proposal, the municipal board must put the question to a vote, even if it declares the measure to be invalid or likely declared unconstitutional.

That's worth repeating. The municipal board "must" put the question to a vote ...even if they declare the measure invalid or likely declared unconstitutional.

But they did not put the question to a vote and now the time is up.

The 30 day period is over and there is one week left to get the petitions on the ballot for the November General Election. This is where it all stands and time is of the essence.

Fact is, the Janesville city council put the cart before the horse AND is playing dirty pool against the electorate. And, so is the Janesville Gazette.

The question at hand isn’t about the question on the petition. The question is about the question going to the ballot box for voters to decide on. It’s also about a citizen and citizenry operating in good faith according to the law. It’s not about whether everyone agrees with a single citizen, who did his due diligence and played by the rules, or the 3500 signers who agreed with him. He met all the requirements of Wisconsin State Statute 9.20. It was up to the council to vote on the petition’s resolutions, adopt them or submit them to Janesville voters.

As a spectator, I think this episode is a very big deal for the city of Janesville. Not just because I think the council has done irreparable harm to the office and themselves, but with the message they send to others that shirking the law is a viable strategy to settle your differences.

That, much like Gov. Scott Walker, if you can find ways to circumvent laws, you can operate outside its limits and redirect the burden and pursuit back onto those who want justice. It's just bad public policy all around.

The council is also telling Janesville residents that their civic engagement and participation is meaningless and their petitions are useless as long as the council operates outside of the law.

No doubt, the city council's decision to shut down citizen initiative has its supporters, but I predict it will have a chilling effect on future civic engagement and cooperation that will likely last until there is a complete turn over of the council's membership. That's a truly sad predicament.

Stay tuned in on this one, because regardless of where these petitions are headed, it still won't be over.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Janesville Newspaper Spins Tax Hike Referendum Into a Spending Referendum

Several items stand out after reading this article from the Janesville Gazette, but for the sake of brevity, I'll stick with only two.

One, in a story that centers on shared state revenue shortfalls for Janesville and cuts in local road funding, Forward Janesville is not mentioned at all. Why is that? After all, Forward Janesville membership clinked champagne glasses when Scott Walker won the governorship, and posted editorials criticizing and opposing Tom Barrett for suggesting local roads and shared revenues would be among his top funding priorities if elected governor.

Back then, Forward Janesville lobbied against the restoration of state aid for local roads so they can carve out a bigger share from the zero-sum revenue pie for the I39/90 expansion. Since city officials seem so heavily vested in Forward Janesville's legislative agenda, it's an eye-roller now to see officials talk about funding problems that have worsened due to their lobbyist efforts, without mentioning them. Most people can see right through it.

Two, the Janesville Gazette laughably described a tax hike referendum as a "spending" referendum.

JG Excerpt:
The city is floating a spending referendum for street repairs. The referendum asks residents for permission to exceed state revenue caps to pump as much as $1.2 million into street repairs over a five-year period.

To be fair, it's not an out-an-out lie ... but it's still bullshit. The city council is floating pushing a "TAX INCREASE" referendum earmarked for street repair. The city intends on spending $1.2 million more annually for street repairs whether the referendum is approved or not. THAT means it is NOT a referendum on city "spending." It's a average $37 tax hike that will be buried in property tax bills of Janesville homeowners if voters approve. Council members said if the referendum fails, they will likely approve a borrowing note to pay for the additional spending - referendum not required.

People of Janesville, aren't you sick of having a news service constantly work and rework the angles of a story until it fits a particular narrative to serve their political agenda?


RNR - Local Walker Cartel Gear Up To Provide "Cover" For Political Cronies

Friday, September 12, 2014

Did Scott Walker Sic His Media Dogs On Congressman?

According to this blog posting by Rep. Mark Pocan, MediaTrackers put in a request for his travel records. It was no big deal for the congressman or his staff as they immediately complied with the request. But something strange happened along the way...

Pocan Blog Excerpt:
Madison, WI — On Friday, the Pocan campaign for Congress put a request into the Wisconsin Department of Administration for Governor Scott Walker’s air travel from June 4 to September 5, following a previous request for the balance of his time as Governor. Campaign staff personally delivered the request at approximately 10 a.m. Friday, September 5 and confirmation email was sent at 10:36 a.m. CST from the Walker administration.

At 1:33 p.m. EST/12:33 p.m. CST that same day, an allegedly independent, disreputable right-wing organization, Media Trackers, sent Representative Mark Pocan’s official office in Washington a request for his official travel schedule, through September 1. That request came just hours after the Pocan campaign made the request of Governor Walker’s office.

There are 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week and 8,766 hours in a year, and the only time MediaTrackers bothered to ask Rep. Mark Pocan for his travel records was within two hours after Pocan made a request into the Department of Administration for Governor Scott Walker’s air travel records.

It's business as usual.

By the way, Walker's staff has yet to fulfill the open records request after 71 days and counting - according to Pocan's posting.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

State Transportation Fund Referendum Could Create Road Lobby Budget Supremacy

Do you know on the November ballot there is a referendum question asking Wisconsin voters to change the state constitution to make it illegal to use transportation fee and tax revenues to repair state budget issues, but does nothing to protect other state programs including the state's general fund from raids by transportation?

Although there have been no "raids" on transportation funds in the state's current budget, a DOT report shows that the reverse is already in progress. The 2013-15 Biennial Budget Act 20 legislated approval for the Department of Transportation to raid the state general fund of $107.5 million to meet DOT spending obligations.

If the referendum becomes law, and it certainly looks like it will, it is very possible that the demands from DOT bureaucrats and road lobbyists will reign supreme in state legislative budget decisions.

Crony capitalists always win.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Video Forum: Wisconsin's Mining Standoff

The Rock County Progressives present a video and forum:

"Wisconsin's Mining Standoff" by 371 productions ...a short film about the proposed mine in the Penokee Hills of northern Wisconsin

Wednesday, September 10
6 PM-6:30 PM cheese & cracker reception (nonalcoholic potluck)
6:30 PM- 7:45 PM, speakers & discussion

Senator Tim Cullen, District 15, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Mining

Devon Cupery, Producer at 371 Productions (which also made the emmy-nominated 'As Goes Janesville.')

371 productions - Video Screening Schedule

Devon also worked as lead researcher for 371’s BizVizz project, the first mobile app to make corporate tax & campaign finance data accessible.

**Basics Food Cooperative
1711 Lodge Dr.
Janesville, Wisconsin

(**This is an independent event not affiliated with Basics)

Directions: from Madison route 90 until 1st Janesville exit, south on Route 26 past route 14, look for Toys R Us on the right, right on Lodge Drive, on right across from Toys R Us.

The Community Room is to the left when you come in.