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Friday, March 28, 2014

Wisconsin Voters Are In For A Big Surprise

Somewhere in between a Walker spokesperson telling a group of veterans to stop opposing a bill that will deny justice to those seeking damages from exposure to asbestos because ...their protest will only irritate Walker more ...AND flying out to Las Vegas to dance for casino scoundrel Sheldon Adelson ...Walker quietly signed a stack of 30 bills that among them lets lobbyists make campaign donations to candidates for office seven weeks earlier than previously allowed, and another one that places new restrictions on early voting, including cutting hours for morning, evening and weekend voting. Whew! And that was only two of the bills.

It's really unbelievable that Walker continues to have approval ratings above 40%, maintains a minimum range of 41% to 48% in the polls and is considered presidential material. But he remains unintimidated against the folks who have seen through him since day one. We're supposedly to be the bad people persecuting him while he pretends to be doing God's work. I'm used to it. We're used to it.

It also seems like the more rights he takes away from the common person and the more he gives away to billionaires and lobbyists, the higher his approval ratings go. I have no explanation for it.

But you got to hand it to him. Scott Walker played the victim card once again when he began this latest episode with a foreboding tweet preempting those who might dare question his motivation or authority.

Governor Walker ‏@GovWalker Mar 16

Philippians 4:13

The verse Philippians 4:13 reads, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,”

What others are saying:

Democurmudgeon - Walker's Voter Suppression Law means longer lines, fewer low-income two shift workers and works against the will of the people

Slate - Cursed With Nation's Second Highest Voter Turn-Out Rate, Wisconsin Restricts Early Voting

The Wire - Wisconsin's New Law Only Allows Voting While Most People Are Working

Think Progress - Scott Walker Signs Early Voting Restrictions Making It Harder For Low-Income Voters To Vote

Star Tribune - Wisconsin governor signs bill allowing lawyers to appeal non-final rulings blocking state law

Thursday, March 27, 2014

United Sportsmen Member Wins Area GOP Straw Poll For State Treasurer

According to the Janesville Gazette, Scott Feldt, a Janesville resident, won a local GOP-conducted candidates poll for Wisconsin state treasurer.

JG Excerpt:
JANESVILLE — Scott Feldt, Janesville resident and candidate for state treasurer, won nearly two-thirds of a 3rd Congressional District GOP straw poll vote last weekend, according to a written statement.

“It's great to have the support of so many of the people in western Wisconsin,” Feldt said in the statement. “People all across Wisconsin want an elected, accountable state treasurer as their chief financial watchdog.”

Left out of the Gazette story is any mention that Feldt is a member of the controversial United Sportsmen group. United Sportsmen you may recall, was the "hunting group" with direct ties to GOP politicians that tried to finagle a $500,000 grant out from under taxpayers noses. The grant was approved by Scott Walker but eventually canceled after improprieties were exposed in their application.

I bring this up not because Feldt is a republican, but simply because had Feldt been a Democrat and a member or former member of the local UAW or teachers union, the Gazette would have been sure to mention that affiliation.

So, in the interest of balance and fair play, why did the Gazette leave out this affiliation with Feldt and will they continue to do so in subsequent stories?

As George Carlin once said mockingly describing protected members of the establishment, "it's one big club, and you ain't in it."

Facebook - United Sportsmen Membership

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

News Of Historic State Borrowing Takes a Back Seat To Election Year Tax Cuts

While Walker's signing of the tax cut bill is splattered over the state's establishment news headlines, you'd have to look deep into your larger state newspapers, a Wisconsin blog or an out-of-state publication to find these seemingly deliberately obscured, but important pieces of information.

Picked up the first story at the Democurmudgeon and found the second searching Bloomberg News.

Bloomberg Excerpt: (3/19/2014)
Titled: Wisconsin Plans Biggest Transport Borrowing for Highways

Wisconsin is set to issue as much as $393.6 million of revenue bonds today in its biggest transportation borrowing ever.

The debt is backed by vehicle registration fees, according to bond documents. The transaction includes $270 million of securities to finance highway projects and $41 million to refund debt. Officials may also sell $82.7 million to refinance bonds maturing further out, putting the proceeds in escrow until the debt can be repaid, Kevin Taylor, the state’s capital finance director, said in an interview.

If the state issues the entire amount, it would be the largest transportation-revenue borrowing ever for Wisconsin, Taylor said.

Is that right? The biggest transportation borrowing ever?! I'd call that historic.

Of interest here is the context detailing what the borrowing note is backed by - vehicle registration fees. The borrowing isn't backed by the "surplus" because the surplus doesn't exist. It's a projection and the state needs the cash right now, so the surplus isn't mentioned.

And another, different story ten days earlier...

Bloomberg News Excerpt: (3/10/2014)
Titled: Wisconsin to Sell Debt as Tax Take Produces $1 Billion Surplus

Wisconsin will sell $294.8 million in general-obligation refunding bonds this week in a negotiated sale as the state projects a budget surplus of almost $1 billion.

The surplus was mentioned in this story, but only as a boasting point. "Wisconsin Readying To Borrow Millions Despite Reports of Surplus" would have been a far more accurate title.

It's almost as if the writer was told to accentuate the so-called billion dollar surplus and re-invent the $294.8 million figure as a positive "sell" action and not the borrowing note that it is. Either that or Bloomberg just regurgitated Walker campaign talking points. You got to wonder if Bloomberg News is in the tank for Walker by using the state's empty "surplus" as a carrot to sell bonds.

In budgeting terms, when government "sells" debt, it's borrowing by selling bonds (promissory notes, etc.) that pays interest to the buyer (lender). This increases long-term debt. When government "buys" debt, it means paying down debt or buying those bonds back. This lowers long-term debt.

So, in just the past two weeks, Wisconsin is getting ready to borrow $688.4 million. But ...but...but the surplus ...the ...the tax cuts.

Sounds like more of that old shuck and jive.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Friday, March 21, 2014

Fear Of Walker’s Centralized State Power Killing Economic Growth?

If your head is spinning after this one, it is completely unintentional.

The news, Janesville will not pursue land annexation" from city officials is very good from the angle that locals still have some power to control their destiny, however at the expense of losing greater potential opportunity. At the same time, I fear Wisconsin’s Koched-up ALEC state legislators will pick up on this and figure on an end-around amendment to destroy what little is left of local control.

Here’s the story as briefly as I can tell it.

In late 2013, a Rock County landowner approached the small city of Milton and later Janesville officials with a request to annex parts of or in whole, 1,500 acres of his land. As the landowner proceeded forward with negotiations, the “deal” became more baited with promises of a yellow brick road leading to a privately funded interstate exchange, industrial parks and of course, hundreds of new jobs. Over the last decade or two, sprawl hungry TIF-crazy Janesville and Milton officials would move the heavens and the earth if they had to, to annex anything offering this promise of tax base expansion.

In the past, several city council members would even insist it is their DUTY to never deny annexation requested from a landowner. That was like their holy grail to unsustainable land development. There was no stopping them and anyone opposing these expansions would be marked as a tree-hugging anti-business librul or malcontent by the local media.

But now, something has changed. Area townships, including Milton and Janesville officials are suddenly reluctant to annex this land and more importantly, refuse to change the zoning.

Why? Well, it turns out the landowner will NOT agree to a deed restriction or covenant (in writing) that would permanently prohibit mining (sand/gravel) on the land. Why is that so necessary or important? Because new laws pushed by the WMC and mining companies covering metallic and non-metallic mining and signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker have taken away local authority to prohibit or place limits on sand mines.

In fact, the new law specifies that the only way local governments could regulate sand mines was through zoning, but not other means. Or ...if the landowner signed on to a deed restriction. That would be about the only exception and without that, once his land is annexed and rezoned for commercial development, there is no stopping a mine. Under the old rules, local councils and boards could annex and rezone the land to allow development plans to proceed and later separately vote on whether to deny or permit mining. But that is no longer an option.

Now, things would only get worse for locals once the land is rezoned from AG and a mine is started. State republicans have also barred local governments from requiring mine operators to get local air or water permits or require them to install air or water monitoring equipment. And who can forget the statement from Sen. Tom Tiffany, (R-Hazelhurst) that practically guarantees mining companies immunity from legal challenges on adverse environmental impacts.

"If the law is challenged and ends up in court, the judge needs to know it was the Legislature’s intent to allow adverse (environmental) impacts. That way, a judge can’t find fault if the environment is impacted.” --Tiffany

What local government would want to start the wheels of an industry that has that level of pre-determined protection heading into a court battle if defending the water supply, public safety or the environment?

So, Janesville officials made the right decision to back away from annexation and they can play it politically safe by claiming they don't have sufficient local support or that the timing is bad, or that "the conditions are not right to proceed." But we know the truth here. The conditions will never be right to proceed as long as local authority is stripped away.

Centralized state control pushed by Walker and Republicans under the guise of uniformity leads to uncertainty and chills economic development. It is wrong for Wisconsin and to think, this is just one example.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Politically, Republicans Own Everything. But Local Newspaper Finds Blame For Democrats

This article (pay site) from the Janesville Gazette is an amazing piece of local political story-telling propaganda.

The story begins with a local property owner/developer stating he lost a lease from a business who would have moved 200 jobs from Illinois to Janesville if the money he wanted to borrow to the company could be paid back through state tax credits. It could not - so the deal fell through.

But first, to bolster the moral of the story, we must ignore the fact that local conservative business leaders expect and demand an expanded role from government and require collectivism to coerce private industry. Now that we got that out of the way ...

Basically, the owner/developer wanted the tax credits the newly moved company would have qualified for, to be used as collateral for a loan to pay for re-location, but the state requires that the credit can only be used as an offset for taxes on profits. For whatever reasons and there could be many, the original qualifying company was not reporting sufficient profits to apply the credits effectively.

The Gazette then implies the so-called deal fell through because ...BECAUSE a revised bill to make these kind of tax credits transferable was stalled in the legislature by a local democrat, Sen. Tim Cullen and a few other legislators.

JG Excerpt:
The bill stalled because Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, and other lawmakers believed its language did not specifically hold a company accountable for job creation and capital investment benchmarks.

"The bill stalled because" ...

Here's the problem, there is no way one democrat (Cullen or even a few) can block or stall a bill in the Wisconsin legislature or its committees. If that's the case, then why aren't democrats stopping the entire right-wing ALEC Kochtopus being forced down Wisconsin's throat? Simply because they can't stall or stop it.

From what I understand, Cullen rightfully opposed the original portable tax credit bill because it lacked accountability and that the tax credits did not incentivize job growth. But he's just one legislator. Pointing to Cullen and attaching his position as primarily responsible for preventing 200 jobs is not only plain wrong, it is willfully dishonest.

That a company chose to move or not to a new location unless for government aid is a free market decision. But if you're looking to point fingers at the legislative process, only Republicans can stall or stop bills because the state assembly and the senate are held by republican majorities. Politically in Wisconsin, republicans own everything.

But the Gazette wasn't finished. After they painstakingly constructed a villain in Democrat Cullen, they now needed a republican hero.

JG Excerpt:
Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, authored the revised Assembly bill that allows for up to $15 million of economic development tax credits to be re-assigned over a three-year period under regulation from the state Department of Revenue and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

Basically, they're saying there's free money on the table and that they doctored the bill just right for the profit takers ...come and get it!

JG Excerpt:
It would allow the transfer of tax credits if the original recipient is a company that either is headquartered in Wisconsin or plans to move to the state and base the majority of its employees here. It further mandates that the original recipient increase its Wisconsin workforce by 10 percent or make a significant capital investment in its Wisconsin operation.

Well whoop-de-doo. But that is not completely correct.

The bill doesn't mandate the original recipient must increase its workforce by 10 percent. The "fixed" bill merely stipulates that the WEDC must authorize the transfer of tax credits if the business meets only ONE of four conditions (one of which is 10% workforce increase) in addition to being authorized to claim the credits. The "end" recipient of this "jobs creating" tax credit need not create even one job. The only requirement for the end recipient is it must be an existing vendor or supplier in the network of the tax credit eligible business AND have enough profits to claim the credit against. Plus, nowhere in the "revised" bill is there the mandate to return equal value from the tax credit back to the original recipient, such as to pay back the "loan" described in the set-up prop.

Basically, this tax credit is an anti-free market redistribution give-away for the top covered up with a series of invisible hoops and phony job creation convolutions. Early opponents such as Sen. Cullen had little choice but to support it in the end or risk forever being labeled as anti-jobs and anti-business by the local media.

On Amy Loudenbeck's ties to the American Legislative Exchange Council

Loudenbeck is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and serves as an alternate on the ALEC Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force. In the 2011-2012 legislative session, Rep. Loudenbeck co-authored 1 bill that reflects ALEC models, according to an analysis by the Center for Media and Democracy. About ALEC

ALEC is a corporate bill mill. It is not just a lobby or a front group; it is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, corporations hand state legislators their wishlists to benefit their bottom line. Corporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. They pay for a seat on ALEC task forces where corporate lobbyists and special interest reps vote with elected officials to approve “model” bills.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Republicans Aim To Spread Disenfranchisement Under The Guise Of Uniformity

In a audio presentation from WISN, story teller Dan O'Donnell tries to make a case that concerns over disenfranchisement in larger Wisconsin communities and cities stemming from a GOP bill making early voting hours across the state uniform are fraudulent.

Titled Decimating Claims of 'Voter Suppression' in Just Six Minutes," O'Donnell however makes the claim that voters in smaller communities are indeed disenfranchised, which is a strange case to make if you support the GOP's bill to cut early voting access hours in larger communities so that they match the hours of the smaller (disenfranchised) communities. You're simply saying that you support action that will result in disenfranchising voters across the state - equally.

Excerpt from audio -- "If anything, allowing city clerk's offices in larger municipalities like Milwaukee to stay open on weekends or late at night when smaller communities don't have that option - disenfranchises people in those smaller communities who can't take advantage of the same voting hours as people in Milwaukee."

In the above statement, "disenfranchises" is supposed to mean depriving a person or a community of their right or access to vote, but O'Donnell is claiming smaller communities are disenfranchised simply because clerk offices are open during weekends in OTHER communities. Really? This sounds more like a case to create voter envy out of thin air to divide and conquer constituencies.

So, are people in smaller communities really saying, "I'm deprived of voting access during the weekend BECAUSE voters in larger communities stole my access?" That would be bordering on insanity to make such a claim. But the narrator does veer in that direction.

Later in the segment, O'Donnell defines disenfranchisement correctly as "to prevent a person or group of people from having the right to vote," but then states that "it's clear this bill disenfranchises one." In other words, he concludes the GOP bill will end disenfranchisement among voters even in smaller communities, but only as long as the disenfranchisement is spread around EQUALLY in all communities. Got that?

This brings about a few simple questions...

Question 1A. If voters in smaller communities feel disenfranchised from less access, why isn't that issue more popularly known and corrected with MORE access?

Question 1B. If voters in smaller communities are NOT disenfranchised, why does O'Donnell try to transpose responsibility of their non-issue onto those trying to prevent disenfranchisement in the larger communities?

Question 2. Why would anyone care about the hours of early voting access in other communities so long as ballots are available and others have access they are satisfied with?

Question 3. If by chance an individual or community is not satisfied and feels shortchanged as O'Donnell implied, how does shortchanging others end your disenfranchisement?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Janesville Council Member: State Budget Invites Outsourcing

During a Janesville City Council candidate's forum, candidates were asked what they think about outsourcing local services. Candidates Kealy and Farrell are incumbents:

JG Excerpt: (Pay site)
Bobzien, Brunner and Farrell all were against outsourcing.

“We have a great set of employees with the city of Janesville. I've seen them work. They work hard,” Bobzien said. “Janesville is a top-notch employer, and we need to continue that.”

Kealy said he hopes the city is giving the best possible service at the best possible price, but with state lawmakers cutting off revenue to municipalities, outsourcing should be considered.

On the subject of changing city government to democratic ward representation from the current at-large system:

JG Excerpt: (Pay site)
Brunner said at-large representation has worked well. He said he would worry that alderpersons representing wards would trade favors and votes to get things for their own districts, and that different parts of the city would be pitted against each other.

Oh by all means ...why have some neighborhoods (wards) "pitted against each other" to compete for their tax dollars, services and needs when special interests can roll over them, have it all and keep the peace.

Was Paul Ryan Channeling Scott Walker At CPAC?

You've probably heard much by now on Congressman Paul Ryan's notoriously cruel "full stomach empty soul" speech he gave at CPAC. There's very little I could add to the mix of reports except for this one observation. Immediately after Ryan introduced his story as being first told from a member of the cabinet of his "buddy" Scott Walker, Ryan does his Gomer impersonation as if he swallowed a cat, closes his eyes and then flips a chip off his shoulder. Both comical and definitively bizarre for its timing.

Watch for it between 1:20 and 1:28:


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Reminder: Attorney General Candidates Forum

Rock County Progressives present ...

Meet Candidates for WI Atty. General: Ozanne & Richards

Ismael Ozanne, District Attorney for Dane County

Jon Richards, Wisconsin State Assembly 19th District, Milwaukee’s Lakefront and East Side areas.

Wednesday, March 12th
6 PM-6:30 PM cheese & cracker reception (nonalcoholic potluck)
6:30 PM- 7:45 PM, speaker & discussion

**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.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Paul Ryan Schedules First Listening Sessions Since His Failed VP Run


Excluding Congressman Paul Ryan's CPAC lectures and a secretive meeting with the Koch Brothers during summer recess in 2013, Ryan has held zero listening sessions for district constituents since his failed run as the vice-presidential nominee for the White House in 2012.

Correction: Paul Ryan did hold listening sessions in April/May of 2013.

Listed below are two locations for upcoming sessions in Rock County. See the full schedule here.

Wednesday, March 19
Holiday Inn, 3100 Wellington Drive

Friday, March 21
The Gathering Place, 715 Campus Street

ALSO: Washington Post - A story too good to check: Paul Ryan and the tale of the brown paper bag

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Mary Burke Launches "Record" Ad

It was only expected that the Republican Governors Association (RGA) negative Backward ad attacking Mary Burke distorted information dating back to 2007, the last year she served as the state's Secretary of Commerce under Gov. Jim Doyle.

But when Burke's latest ad shows that the state's unemployment rate was 4.8% in 2007 as a matter of her record, Walker's political hacks cry foul claiming if Burke wants to play the game, she should mention that it went up to 9.2% under Doyle.

Except, Jim Doyle is not running for governor. Burke is.

Watch Burke's ad:

Also see:

Democurmudgeon - Burke Campaign, PolitiFact Demolishes Republican Governors Association Lies