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Thursday, October 30, 2014

MU Poll Tells Us What We Always Knew. Turn Out, Turn Out, Turn Out.


The final Mu Poll before the election shows a huge uptick (11%) in voter enthusiasm for republicans over a period of just two weeks. That uptick translated to Walker pulling ahead of Burke 50% to 43% among likely voters. The poll reported that 93% of republican respondents stated they are certain to vote, matching their numbers in the same poll category before they won the 2012 recall.

MU Poll Excerpt:
In the current poll, 93 percent of Republicans say that they are certain to vote, while 82 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of independents say the same. Two weeks ago 82 percent of Republicans, and 80 percent of both Democrats and independents, said that they were certain to vote.

This is a last call wake up for Democrats.

MU Poll
In this poll, Republicans make up 26 percent of the registered voter sample and 30 percent of the likely voter sample, with Democrats at 32 percent of both registered and likely voters. Independents are 39 percent of registered voters and 36 percent of likely voters.
Full story>>>

There is nothing magical about it. Assuming everything else is equal, it's plain to see that 93% of a 30% sample (27.90) is greater than 82% of a 32% sample (26.24). Point is, IF that lack of enthusiasm for voter turn-out continues to hold on election day for Democrats - Burke will certainly lose.

The thing is, the MU poll numbers favoring Walker are a result of republicans responding at near full saturation. It won't get much better for Walker. Democrats on the other hand have plenty of room to power up their turn out. Going full throttle during a mid-term however is easier said than done. But it can be done.

From the poll results, we can safely assume that if an equal percentage of democrats said they were certain to show up and vote (93% of 32% sample = 29.76 - Burke will win. We know that and our opponents know that. That's why they enacted Act 10 to defund supporters of democratic candidates, eliminated party line ballots, gerrymandered districts, cut early voting, and almost had Voter ID in place just a few weeks before this election. Because republicans know when the percentage of democratic voters "likely to vote" match or exceed republicans percentage, they will lose - Democrats win.

We've been here before with the recall and republicans turned out. It's not magic. They've planned this day for four years using every legislative and campaign trick in the book. They are geared up to turn out and are hoping we don't.

It's about turn out and it is what we must do to win.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Easy Call: Vote "No" On Janesville's Tax Increase Referendum


Janeville's city council continued their derailment on the so-called "street repair" referendum during their last council meeting before the election when they proposed and passed a policy statement that essentially changes ...absolutely ...nothing.

All they are doing now is grasping at straws to change the reality of their failure to "lock in" binding language the first time they voted to approve the referendum. Their policy statement does nothing more than repeat commonly held perceptions of accounting practices the public expects regarding the supervision and dispensation of our tax dollars.

Also, the "lock in" narrative might be a good sound bite for a Gazette headline, but to informed Janesville voters it becomes little more than a sleight-of-hand exercise to divert attention away from the council's clumsy but intentional misdirection.

Another point overlooked in this entire episode is the city council is asking voters to make the decision for a tax increase the council refused to tackle or solve on their own with the wheel tax. Politics in play? You bet!

There are two major reasons why Janesville voters should vote "No" on this referendum. The first is obvious. The referendum question asks voters to increase the tax levy for the next fiscal year (2015) city budget by roughly 4%. Working backwards, this results in a levy of $30,912,286 which happens to be a $1.2M increase over the previous year. That's all there is to it.

As presented in my original posting exposing the city's referendum gaffe, it contains NO "binding" language about streets or maintenance, nor does it imply the money will be in addition to the previous amount allocated for street repairs. It's simply a tax hike referendum to increase the city's levied budget by $1.2M each year for the next five years.

The second reason to oppose this referendum comes only IF assuming its purpose is indeed for street repairs. Because if it is, it intentionally spreads the tax burden among a smaller Janesville tax base, property parcels, as opposed to registered vehicles.

What that does is it puts a bigger hit on property owners ($37 average annually) than it does on Janesville vehicle owners ($10 = $535K, approx. $22 annually) to raise the requested $1.2M. Secondly, by placing it on property tax bills, it arbitrarily charges home owners for the wear and damage done to streets by vehicles. As it stands, property taxpayers are already paying a portion of road repairs but so do vehicle owners. However, a reasonable balance test should levy more onto the primary cost "causer" for existing road repairs. In this case, vehicles.

On the public awareness side, going to the property tax instead of a local vehicle tax also buries the cost for street repair into the inherently murky clutter of the property tax bill. The fee becomes out of sight, out of mind. If voters should approve this referendum, Janesville's street repair "wheel" tax bill (or I39/90 expansion fee, depending on your view) will be equivalent to about $47 annually, with no guarantee it will be used for street repairs. (The current wheel tax is $10)

By keeping the "street repair" fee out of plain sight, there are several obvious advantages for city government, but no good reasons why citizens should go along with the lack of transparency. If the referendum fails, don't worry. The sky will not fall nor will the streets roll up like an unlocked window shade. My guess is the council will come back with another stab at a referendum in spring 2015.

Like it or not, the apolitical and practical way to pay for street repairs in this era of triple-taxation-zero-sum economics, is with a local vehicle or wheel tax apportioned to the type and weight of the vehicle the same way the state charges for annual plate registration. This way, the vehicles responsible for placing the most wear and tear on our streets pay accordingly. For instance, this fee scale could begin with an amount of $10 for passenger cars and progressively climb to $40 for the heaviest trucks and buses.

Unfortunately, the well-informed voter knows there is little chance of that fee structure becoming law with all the special interests controlling the local agenda, and with other rate hikes and taxes being shifted onto the typical wage earner, I'm not sure Janesville's residents can afford any of this.

Without even touching on the central role or adverse effects Forward Janesville's legislative agenda had in reducing state aid to local and rural roads, I recommend a "NO" vote on the City of Janesville Question 1 referendum.

Read more on the Janesville referendum:

RNR - (Oct. 2, 2014) Roads Point To Janesville Politics In Tax Hike Referendum

RNR - (Sept. 23, 2014) Newspaper Misinforms On Referendum While Telling Readers To Get Informed

RNR - (Aug. 26, 2014) Janesville City Council Ignores Citizen's Referendums

RNR - (June 28, 2014) Wisconsin Rural/City Roads Are Crumbling For The I39/90 Expansion

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Marine Vet Asks Wisconsin For a Second Chance


In the video below, Marine veteran Eric Pizer, facing the stark reality that Scott Walker will never issue him a pardon as long as he's governor, asks for help.

Watch It:



To learn more about this veteran's personal struggle, visit Pardon Eric

Sunday, October 26, 2014

What's On The Rock County Ballot


This is the general election ballot for Rock County on November 4, 2014. The following list does not include municipality, school district or other local referenda.

Statewide

Governor and Lt. Governor

Mary Burke and John Lehman (Democrat)
Scott Walker and Rebecca Kleefisch (Republican)

Attorney General

Susan Happ (Democrat)
Brad Schimel (Republican)

State Treasurer

David Sartori (Democrat)
Matt Adamczyk (Republican)

Secretary of State

Douglas LaFollette (Democrat)
Julian Bradley (Republican)

Federal

US Congress-District 1

Rob Zerban (Democrat)
Paul Ryan (Republican)

US Congress-District 2

Mark Pocan (Democrat)
Peter Theron (Republican)

State Legislative

State Senate-District 11

Daniel Kilkenny (Democrat)
Steve Nass (Republican)

State Senate-District 15

Janis Ringhand (Democrat)
Brian Fitzgerald (Republican)

State Assembly-District 31

Amy Loudenbeck (Republican)

State Assembly-District 43

Andy Jorgensen (Democrat)
Herschel Brodkey (Republican)

State Assembly-District 44

Debra Kolste (Democrat)

State Assembly-District 45

Mark Spreitzer (Democrat)

County

Sheriff

Robert D. Spoden (Democrat)

Clerk of Circuit Courts

Jacki Gackstatter (Democrat)


Referenda

STATEWIDE

Transportation Fund Amendment

QUESTION 1: “Creation of a Transportation Fund. Shall section 9 (2) of article IV and section 11 of article VIII of the constitution be created to require that revenues generated by use of the state transportation system be deposited into a transportation fund administered by a department of transportation for the exclusive purpose of funding Wisconsin’s transportation systems and to prohibit any transfers or lapses from this fund?

• YES
• NO

COUNTY

Medicaid Expansion-NON-BINDING

Shall the State of Wisconsin accept available Federal Medicaid funds to provide access to BadgerCare to Wisconsin residents up to 133% of the Federal Poverty Level?

• YES
• NO

Minimum Wage Expansion-NON-BINDING

Should the State of Wisconsin increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour?

• YES
• NO

Friday, October 24, 2014

Scott Walker Was Against Early Voting, Before He Was For It


After signing a law cutting early voting down from three weeks to two before an election, limit hours for in-person absentee voting to no later than 7 PM during the week and completely eliminating weekend voting, Scott Walker is now trolling Wisconsin voters in his Web ads to vote early, to make sure your voice is heard. It's like Happy Labor Day all over again.


There were more like this but I could not capture the ad together with the article title due to ad placement.





Thursday, October 23, 2014

Scott Walker Bamboozles Voters With Bogus $535M Surplus Claim


It's been about a month now since State Sen. Jennifer Shilling laid out a series of state budget documents and press releases clearly showing Wisconsin has a potentially deeper structural deficit than the $1.8 billion hole the state's non-partisan budget bureau had reported.

The best part of her presentation was that she used commonly available fiscal reports (no gimmicks) supplied by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB). Her summary was not based on any new or different assumptions to change the calculations, instead it restored off-balance sheet items such as the state's K12 fund, the transportation fund deficit and reports of revenue shortfalls that added up to real potential for a $4 billion state budget deficit.

What isn't told often enough is that the current projected $1.8 billion state deficit, was an estimate calculated, in order to be historically consistent, using the same set of assumptions and variables the LFB has used since 1995.


By the way, it's the same mathematical exercise that also produced the state's now infamous 2011-13 $2.5B projected structural deficit Scott Walker used to carpet bomb state employees and Wisconsin communities with. Nothing is different in the LFB's assumptions or formula to produce the $1.8B deficit. Except this time, it came on the heels of Scott Walker's and state republican's re-election campaigns and is the direct result of their "reforms."

With their careers on the line and the election just weeks away, there was no way Walker or state republicans would let the truth grow legs and become the reality. Their flacks and hacks responded within days of Shilling's deficit summary and began trashing her simple and honest mathematical calculations in an obvious partisan attack.

To defeat the truth, they've unabashedly resorted to cooking the books.

Believe it or not, they asked the LFB, which by the way operates much like the congressional budget office in D.C., to walk backwards into a new balance using a made up set of assumptions to create a surplus. They could have just as easily told them to count each cranberry in Wisconsin during harvest as a dollar and report it back as farmland tax revenue. Under their politically twisted assumptions, the new fiscal estimate shows a $535 million surplus. It's nothing more than garbage in, garbage out.

With this new but rigged calculation, Scott Walker and state republicans have used the LFB office as the authority to flip a legitimately sanctioned deficit balance into a phony surplus, and then wasted no time using the bogus talking point during his debate with Mary Burke and in political ads.

In private practice, when you defer costs, accelerate revenue (in this case tax revenue), delay transfers, create off-balance sheet items, and develop a false set of assumptions using excess reserves or old sales projections - to inflate assets in a presentation to snooker potential investors and buyers - they call it cooking the books. This is precisely what state republicans did with the LFB's budget projections. They cooked the books, but the "investors" are the voters.

If this happened in a private sector company with Walker as the CEO, directors and stockholders would be looking to file charges against him for fraud and embezzlement. Here in Wisconsin, he is one of two choices for governor.

Come on Wisconsin! We can do better than that.

ADDITIONAL:

WCM COOP - Smoke and Mirrors: Wisconsin’s actual debt and the fabricated "surplus"

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

In Ryan v Zerban, Whose Idea Was a Debate Without Rebuttals?


After watching the first Paul Ryan - Rob Zerban "debate," I wrote "nobody won the debate and nobody got schooled" and I thought, how could that be with anybody having a political debate with the ideologically-locked hyper-partisan Paul Ryan?

It didn't make sense until watching the second debate that I realized (and others did as well) that no rebuttals were allowed during the debate.

How do you have a competitive debate without any rebuttals?

It's worth noting that more than once during each debate, Ryan stated that opponents and others who don't agree with him shouldn't criticize, but should instead present solutions, does seem to imply that he is sensitive to being corrected or criticized.

So, whose idea was no rebuttals?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Divide and Conquer Club Polish Their Badges Over Glowing GDP Report


Sunday's Janesville Gazette headlined an article about how Rock County's GDP growth is among the best in the nation. Sounds great, doesn't it?

Unfortunately, there was alot that wasn't highlighted in the article. The most glaring item is the fact that Rock County's gross domestic product in general was starting at a lower baseline than most U.S. communities since GM closed in late 2008.

An example of this effect is New Orleans. It boasts some of the best economic growth indicators in the country. Why? Because it's rebounding from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina with the help of billions in federal taxpayer dollars. Yes, government plays a huge role.

The housing mortgage crash of September 2008 coupled with the GM closure was our little hurricane. Sure, the devastation was nowhere near what N.O. experienced, but we lost at least 2,000 family raising "production" salaries along with another 1,000 in coat-tail operations. Even though those jobs have not been replaced, my hat is off to those surviving small businesses that have adapted to these new pressures. But any growth starting from that new "bottom" beginning in 2009 will be a greater percentage of the principal than if starting from a higher position in 2006.

The good news is Rock County's establishment did not go further south after the dust settled in the post-GM era. The bad news is the number of Rock County residents on FoodShare has rocketed 107 percent since 2008.

So boasting a leading GDP growth rate in 2014 is not exactly a sure sign of explosive new job growth or an improving economy like it would have been 100 years ago. In 1914, that indicator would have meant Rock County's economy is sizzling hot, but back then GDP growth was a result of job expansion driven by labor. Today, it is job contraction driven by automation and capital.

That also means a higher GDP growth rate today is increasingly the result of fewer people working harder to produce more - for less. According to the Gazette story, production is up 6% since the 2009 Great Recession bottom baseline.

It's not about jobs.

In this new era, it's a report showing that legislative policies designed to increase wealth at the top are indeed working with lower wages and fewer jobs, AND a local economy starting from a comparatively lower baseline than many (but not all) communities. Unfortunately, this is what the GDP growth rate story tells me the most.

Interestingly enough, the Gazette enlists the opinions of the divide and conquer booster club, Forward Janesville, and their county government liaison, whose legislative agenda and economic development principles bolster the logic of my viewpoint.

But instead of keeping their optimism in check, they confidently polish their badges, "we're leading the pack" and give credit to several businesses "expansions." Business expansions whose taxpayer sponsored "incentive" packages were guaranteed not by creating more jobs, but predicated on fewer jobs than they currently provide - not mentioned in the story.

I also sense that timing and political logistics play a role for the claims and credit they seem to be taking just two weeks before an election. To put it another way, had Romney and Ryan won the White House in 2012, the Ryan/Hendricks/Walker Kochtopus would have held up the area’s increased GDP report as a result of their policies and political victory. So on another hand, these folks are gaming the narrative.

Locally, what their displayed optimism (and timing) does is further perpetuate the false notion that incentive packages loaded with tax credits, tax cuts, forgivable loans and free stuff for the top - works - and somehow make businesses hire employees they don't need. They want to keep that gravy train rolling, yet at the same time they lack the same confidence and optimism to guarantee positive job growth in exchange for those incentives. With that said, I'm not trying to justify the "incentive" charade at all. Just trying to align their confidence game with their optimism.

Lastly, these fine folks gloated and giggled over people whose backs were against the wall after GM closed because they were left with no choice but to take considerably lower wages for their work. That's not what I would call an inspiring community spirit. Or, when your economic development team views higher wages, civil rights, pensions and employee medical leaves as burdens on economic development, you're not exactly creating a welcoming environment for workers to provide economic security for themselves or their families.

It's further telling they referred to themselves in the past as the ambassadors of optimism. They had to - because it's not about jobs.

ADDITIONAL:

RNR - How the Janesville Gazette Can Help Rock County (Jan. 2011)

RNR - Janesville Is Not Paul Ryan's Kind Of Town

Mother Jones - Americans Working Harder Charts