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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Walker Shuts Down Public's Right To Know About WEDC Subsidies. Cites Fear

When the public's right to know is threatened, and when the rights of free speech and free press are at risk, all of the other liberties we hold dear are endangered.
-- Christopher Dodd

One Wisconsin Now published a stunning report that showed the bulk of incentive dollars delivered by Gov. Scott Walker's quasi-private WEDC agency have gone to campaign donors of his, with supporters receiving nearly 60% of this funding despite making up 30% of the recipients.

Now, almost two months later, comes a news report in the Wisconsin State Journal that Walker's office is redacting names of companies seeking taxpayer funds from the WEDC.

On two different fronts, Walker's travel record and WEDC subsidies, his office cites a "balancing test" that weighs the public’s right to government information against the fear of disclosure. They claim this information could potentially harm the public's interest.

Point is, we're not talking about top secret national security information here. If they can apply a balancing test based on fear for that, they can apply it to all government information.

“There is a public interest in knowing who the state is meeting with over subsidies. If you want money from us, you should be willing to accept that the public has a right to know it.” -- Bill Lueders

Totally agree. I've learned to hope for the best, but always expect the worst when public officials have to make fear the excuse to justify blocking public information. In this case, the public should also fear that the 30/60 ratio presented by OWN has probably gotten even worse, since those involved see a sudden urgency to keep it hidden.

The blunt truth is very unfortunate; as long as voters keep electing people like Scott Walker to executive public office, we simply don't deserve to know.


One Wisconsin Now - Gov. Walker's WEDC Secrecy Is 'Arrogance' (Response to Wisconsin State Journal article)

Democurmudgeon - Walker's troublesome WEDC goes Dark, until after the Election!!!

Jake's Economic TA FunHouse - Walker Administration not so "Unintimidated" on WEDC, transparency

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Is Court Ruling Against Obamacare Or Against Failed Red State Governors Like Walker?

Remember this, "NO HEALTH CARE COVERAGE GAP IN WISCONSIN." They said all Wisconsin residents will have access to affordable health care beginning January 1, 2014 and it's all due to Gov. Scott Walker's "reforms!!" Yowza, yowza, yowza.

Of course, Wisconsin's no gap in coverage health care was due to Obamacare, not Scott Walker.

It is true, Gov. Scott Walker is a diehard party guy, but deep down he craves Obamacare. For the past 3 years, he fulfilled the political wishes of party bosses by not setting up a state-run health care exchange, but he has also gone on record stating that he hopes Obamacare succeeds, thought repealing it is a mistake and even taunted Sen. Tammy Baldwin to join him in an effort to EXPAND Obamacare to ALL policy holders. Remember that?

Walker and his enablers, never to give proper credit to Obamacare, also made sure to take full credit for something referred to as "no gap in coverage" mysteriously created through his "reforms."

The "no gap in coverage" was created to give a boasting meme to states whose access to health care programs would cover all residents up to the ACA established new minimum Medicaid eligibility level of 138% of poverty income. After Walker severely tightened income eligibility requirements for the state's Badgercare program and refused to expand Medicaid forcing everyone left out into Obamacare, they repeatedly boasted that Wisconsin is the only state that does not have a gap in health care coverage WITHOUT expanding their Medicaid programs as part of the Affordable Care Act. Got that?

The common narrative was that it's Scott Walker and his reforms that did it all. They don't need the big bad federal government or Obama or the Medicaid expansion to insure state residents. Except, we do and most of that narrative is a lie.

So how could a recent federal appeals court ruling in DC seemingly against Obamacare affect Walker's health care reforms?

The health care law specifically authorizes subsidies in "an exchange established by the state," and the plaintiffs in both cases said the administration violated the law by also extending subsidies to the 36 states using the federal system. They said Congress meant for the tax credits to serve as an incentive for states to establish their own exchanges.

The ACA and Congress envisioned people below 138% of poverty receiving Medicaid – not tax credits through the ACA. So if the federal ruling sticks, those governors that did not expand Medicaid (Wisconsin) will not have Obamacare to kick around anymore.

As you know, Wisconsin is one of those 36 states that does not have its own exchange. That means those Wisconsin residents currently signed up to Obamacare could potentially lose those tax credits ...IF the ruling stands. However, the tax credits are still available until a full 11-member US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit makes a decision. That ruling could be put on hold yet again for a final SCOTUS ruling.

Following the DC court ruling, Walker said he has no plans to create Wisconsin's own health care marketplace to preserve those tax subsidies. Of course he has no plan. He never did.

Under Walker, Wisconsin's state health care coverage has been strictly reliant on Obamacare. If the ruling sticks, that means his faux "gap" meme that he has so preciously taken credit for, will fully collapse. The fact is; you can't genuinely boast the importance of no gap in coverage without coveting Obamacare. The wild card with Walker on this is he never really cared about state residents health care concerns. Obamacare was simply a convenient tool to reframe for his political advantage.

Personally, I think it was the intent of Congress to deliver tax credits to all states - with or without its own state exchange. But I'll go out on the limb here and say that Obama and ACA advocates should drop their appeals and let the DC Circuit Court ruling stand. I think it actually might be politically beneficial for Obamacare if the federal ruling denying tax credits for states without their own HC exchange ...sticks. This way, red state governors like Walker would no longer be able to have their cake and eat it too.

Walker could say 130,000 people were cut off from health care coverage due to failed Obamacare provisions written in law. But that would not be true since residents in 14 other states have Obamacare. If you want it along with that coveted "no gap in coverage" talking point's available - you'll just have to embrace it.

I also don't think the DC ruling would end Obamacare. The federal government delivering it would be 14 states big and growing, and Gov. Mitt Romney proved you can operate nearly the same program in only one state. It's just a matter of juggling population to beneficiary ratios.

But ohhh ...the political fall-out in non-conforming states could be game-changing since we're not talking about 10,000 or 20,000 people. But up to 130,000 in Wisconsin alone!! I shudder to think.

Obviously, health care coverage should never be used as a pawn in a political game when lives are at stake. But these are extraordinary times and we're dealing with people who don't care at all. Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire.

Friday, July 18, 2014

If Money Is Speech, Out-Of-State Cash Told Walker To Repeal Common Core

Funny thing here.

Out of the blue, Gov. Scott Walker called on the Wisconsin State Legislature to repeal Common Core and replace it with standards set "by the people of Wisconsin."

This coming after 3 years of DPI (State Department of Public Instruction) working to implement the standards leaves Walker's motivations in question since the legislature is not in session. Mary Burke spox Joe Zepecki was right calling Walker's sudden Common Core statement a "desperate" attempt to shore up his base.

Post Crescent Excerpt:
"My problem with Common Core is, I don't want people outside Wisconsin telling us what our standards should be," Walker said Sunday at the the governor's conference.

So he really doesn't have a problem with the substance of Common Core's more about politics and its source? Really?!

But since right-wing zealots like Walker believe money is speech and 68% of his campaign cash (post June 5th, 2012 Recall) comes from outside Wisconsin, it's obvious who told Walker to undermine Common Core. If Scott Walker was serious about not wanting people outside Wisconsin telling us what our standards should be on anything, he would stand up with Mary Burke on her call to ban out-of-state campaign cash.

Mary Burke is right again. If you don't want people outside Wisconsin telling us what our standards should be - pledge to ban out-of-state campaign cash in state elections.

Stop being hypocritical, Governor Walker. It's that simple.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Walker: Media Should Ask Only About Campaign, Not About Governor's Positions

Throughout his scandalous governance, Walker has repeatedly avoided answering questions by claiming his opinion doesn't matter, that he was "cleared," or that he is out of the loop on many decisions. Both, Cindy Archer and Josh Inglett come to mind on the last one.

Here he is again not only batting away some straight questions from reporters but making an obvious attempt to demonize questioners as tools of his opponents and he - the victim. Why is he in a executive position if he has nothing to answer for?

Watch it:

H/T to Uppity Wisconsin for posting this story.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Starve Them First, Then Trade Food For Control. Works Every Time

To some of my readers who may have felt a bit confused by my opposition to the BTC referendum question asking for an annual $4M tax hike into perpetuity, I ask you to click this link to Blue Cheddar and read their take about a state study committee expected to convene soon on Wisconsin’s technical college system funding and goverance.

Blue Cheddar Excerpt:
Committee Mission:
“The Special Committee is directed to review the current governance model of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) in the interest of transferring governance responsibilities of local district boards to the state WTCS Board and examine the current funding model for the WTCS with a preference toward reassigning current local property tax revenue to a broader state tax source.”

Well now, there wasn't a major funding problem until Scott Walker came along and made it a problem. Remember he cut a quarter's worth of "broader state" funding (state aid) away from the schools, returned only a nickel later forcing property taxpayers into a referendum question to restore the rest. As Blue Cheddar so accurately described this entire situation local taxpayers have suddenly found themselves in, the tech colleges are now set up "for some of Walker’s patented “cares too much” treatment."

Of course this is not a new ploy of his. Much of Walker’s budget agenda is designed to make publicly funded utilities and institutions so imbalanced and unaffordable to local taxpayers that they have no choice but to hold restoration funding tax hike referendums, sell them off or happily give up local control entirely. The Janesville landfill is another local entity that quickly comes to mind facing the same consequences.

But first, the only way Walker can accomplish his goal is by cutting state aid funding to the bone on those publicly-held targets, and then generously offer to restore state funding later, BUT only if you’re willing to give up something in return – like local control of the schools to private interests. Remember, he balanced his budget. He's the hero. Why can't you balance yours? But that's OK because Walker is coming in for the "save."

Never mind the fact it was Walker who put the tech schools into this heightened state of funding desperation in the first place.

Regarding the BTC budget and much of the state of Wisconsin, the state money was always there. The state budget office projected a surplus of nearly a billion dollars. But projected surpluses don’t help Walker’s central state controlled privatization agenda as much as it serves as a tax cut meme to win re-election. Does this all sound familiar? It should. It's happening in real time.

I've stated my reason to oppose the local BTC tax hike referendum and I admit it's not based on the substance of the referendum question itself, but on politics. I'm a political guy so nothing on my position about the referendum has changed.

But the story posted at Blue Cheddar might help you fill in the gaps to better decide for yourself on the local referendum question coming in August. Keep informed.

I'd like to think that we're all up against a real funding problem, but we're not. The deliberate cuts in state aid, the tax credits to his business donors, the spending down of a projected surplus through tax cuts and then the plan to wrest away local control in trade for a restoration of state funding appears to be a well-oiled and deliberate redistributive agenda of no fault to local officials or those local institutions. We can expect to see this play out again and again if Scott Walker wins re-election in November. It's not the Wisconsin way.

Representative John Nygren, Chair; Senator Sheila Harsdorf, Vice-Chair
Wednesday, July 24, 10:00 a.m., Room 411 South, State Capitol Organizational matters.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

If Donors For Issue Advocacy Can Remain Anonymous, Why Not The Speaker?

With all the controversy over the Citizens United ruling and Gov. Scott Walker's scandal surrounding his use of taxpayer funded office and employees for his election campaigns, much of the diversion away from Walker's misuse of public office seems to be hinging on the words, issue advocacy vs express advocacy.

Without offering details, Walker continues to insist he's done nothing wrong, assuming though that he is indeed regularly coordinating with issue advocacy groups from the governor's office, but is convinced he is protected by a twisted interpretation of pre-Citizen's United state campaign finance laws.

Issue advocacy properly understood, includes communications by parties or groups intended to further or derail a political issue, legislative proposal or public policy - not to advocate the election or defeat of political candidates.

And ...

Cato Excerpt:
If disclosure of spending on issue ads, i.e. political discourse, were required, how would it be enforced? It could only be enforced by requiring citizen groups to respond to the demands of federal officials for information regarding the times, places, amount, and manner of speech. And it would have the same chilling effect on speech that led the Supreme Court to strike down limits on issue advocacy in Buckley. [ ... ] After all, most speech is, to some extent, intended to influence public opinion. The ensuing chilling effect on speech makes such forced disclosure unconstitutional.

The general rule seems to be that disclosure (identity of donors can remain anonymous) is not required if spending does not call for the election or defeat of a candidate. Somehow they claim, this all falls under protections of the First Amendment. So let's cut to the chase.

People who speak out on issues at local city council, school board or county board meetings are asked to identify themselves and where they live, etc., but isn't that disclosure unconstitutional under these rulings? Doesn't the expectation of that disclosure have a chilling effect on speakers who might otherwise attend? After all, these citizens typically speak out on current relevant issues and almost never about "express advocacy" for or against a political candidate. Clearly, they want to influence public opinion and elected officials on the issues.

So, does it matter who they are or where they live? They could come from Texas or Georgia and speak out about fracking, sand mining, water quality, budget cuts or public school issues in Janesville, Wisconsin. Under these new interpretations, it really shouldn't matter who they are. Their speech is protected.

My question is; Is it issue advocacy money that's protected, or is it issue advocacy speech that is protected under the First Amendment? Can someone point me to the part about money or capital in the first amendment?

Monday, July 14, 2014

It's Baaaack. Tax Hike Into Perpetuity Referendum For BTC

Hey, don't blame me folks ...I did not vote for Scott Walker.

According to the Janesville Gazette, Beloit business chambers fully support the Blackhawk Technical College August referendum asking Rock County voters to exceed the school's levy limit by $4 million annually. No surprise.

The Gazette newspaper does a nice job playing clean up hitter for the Walker ballbat team. They've got it all lined up in favor of the referendum where practically your taxes will be decreasing if the referendum is approved. Of course none of this surprises me since the area business chambers, including the tax-shifting and spend group Forward Janesville and the Rock County 5.0 got their billion dollar road builders plum, deep income tax cuts to the top and transferable tax credits thereby shifting a greater burden onto those who can least afford.

In other words, "they got theirs." Did you get yours?

But did you notice there weren't referendums for any of that. For the "special" people, it only takes some lobbying on their part with career state bureaucrats and sold-out legislators to work a deal for their wants and needs. Who's representing us, the people, at the table? Kinda' like ...nobody.

Just a reminder folks, keep in mind these "business groups" are the people who supported Scott Walker and his deep cuts to education INCLUDING deep cuts to the state's technical colleges. Their allies also wrote editorials ripping into defenders of maintaining state aid for local roads. But you can bet Forward Janesville, the Gazette and the rest of their redistributive pals will support the BTC tax referendum AND the expected Forward Janesville road tax hike referendum. It's almost funny how these business organizations fought for every little tax cut for themselves, but now lead the way for substantial tax hikes on everybody else.

In fact, some the most recent stories coming from the Janesville city administration and the Gazette almost seem like straw man spending sprees so ridiculous that the only way to justify them is to assume they're psychologically designed to spur residents into supporting their more docile tax hiking referendums.

It's like, "Hey, let's plan to build an elevated Jetson's style gold-plated hi-speed bullet transport around Janesville so we can avoid the downtown area like they do in Milton, right after we build our $9 million fire station." Awww, nawwww. That's not a very good idea. You crazy liberals love spending other people's money, they'd say. The least we can do is take some responsibility and tax ourselves again to fix our roads and fund our technical college. Support those tax hike referendums and stand with Gov. Scott Walker.

See what I mean? *facepalm*

The point is, they (corporate collectivists) desperately want the BTC perpetual tax hike and road tax referendums to be approved and yet, these folks will vote again in November for the guy who literally cut billions away from those same roads and schools and throws nickels back like they're manhole covers.

Why? Because they already "got theirs." Did you get yours?

Of honorable mention is the list of reasons given by the Beloit Chambers for supporting the BTC perpetual tax referendum. With a little substitution, it reads like a list of reasons why no one should ever vote for Scott Walker. Here's one ...

JG Excerpt:
The groups believe the referendum would lead to an increase in the quality of life in the area by lowering health care costs, lowering the crime rate, increasing the productivity of citizens and keeping vital education affordable to the workforce in the region.

Gee. Why not claim approving the referendum will bring about the fountain of youth and turn coal into gold while you're at it?

But conversely, what they're saying is Walker's "reforms" cutting state aid from education decreased the quality of life in the area, raised the crime rate, decreased productivity and made vital education unaffordable to the workforce in the area.

Did they say or hint at that before about Scott Walker when he was cutting education? Not that I know of. Only you can prevent the sky from falling - not Scott Walker, seems to be the message.

You might not agree with me on this, but I'm convinced those who supported Gov. Scott Walker and simultaneously promote and support local tax hiking referendums to fund the same public institutions he cut from are being disingenuous, if not outright dishonest. Until I see those organizations and their key membership completely rebuke Walker and his wrong-headed reforms, I will be in total opposition to those referendums they support.


RNR - Blackhawk Technical Seeking Ability To Increase Taxes Into Perpetuity (Dec. 2013)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Gov. Walker's Donors Collect State Incentives After Shipping Jobs Out

There's definitely a pecking order to the concept of outsourcing jobs.

Make no mistake, the outsourcing of jobs is an unfortunate but inevitable part of domestic free markets doing business in a global economy. It's no consolation when American businesses decide to outsource jobs based on market pressures or principles completely uncoerced and without government interference. It is what it is.

Next up and far worse than that is the outsourcing of American jobs by way of vulture capitalism.

Vulture capitalism is a "business model" where companies are taken over by "investment" companies, leverage them up with debt, and then sell them off for scrap, allowing investors to walk away with the borrowed money to re-animate the companies in places like China or Mexico. All the while domestic remnants of the remaining assets are further cannibalized in bankruptcy court, laying off American workers and reneging on benefits. Many right-wing hardliners, free market types and Wall Street boosters consider this a normal, honorable way to conduct business. See Mitt Romney.

Next up and possibly even worse than vulture capitalism is the extremely questionable if not twisted use of taxpayer dollars to reward political business donors under the guise of job creation, that instead result in moving jobs out-of-state. That's the current story on Gov. Scott Walker's latest misuse of WEDC tax dollars.

Now, maybe it's just the over-exuberance to reward political business cronies *eyeroll* with taxpayer funded kickbacks who also happened to outsource jobs after the fact. Some might even say it's all a mistake, that somehow the provisions and benchmarks of these agreements have been unknowingly circumvented by unforeseen circumstances or poor reporting requirements. Bullshit! I don't buy those excuses at all.

Not when we have local governments writing loosely constructed tax credit agreements that intentionally allow companies to shrink to meet benchmarks for job creation or worse yet, when a state legislature unanimously approves the transfer of tax credits to businesses that created zero jobs.

Yeah that's right, business lobbyists lobbied because unclaimed tax revenue remained in a dedicated slush fund for job creation. Well gee, somebody has got to get that free money. Why not it be us job creators? Are you kidding me? In fact, these folks celebrated the legislation as the greatest thing to happen since apple pie. They think it's a feather in their cap.

Clearly, the game is rigged.

We know free market capitalism can't seem to clean up its act. Don't look for it. It's not going to happen. Capitalizing through any means necessary is the mark of the beast. But this stuff is becoming embedded in our state's government and political culture when we expect our elected leaders to know better. It's called corruption. There's no excuse for it. See Scott Walker.


Prairie Badger - Scott Walker’s outsourcing problem: WEDC gives millions in tax breaks to companies that shipped jobs overseas

Democurmudgeon - Scott Walker helping companies Offshore Labor with WEDC taxpayer money

WKOW - Companies that outsourced jobs donated primarily to Walker campaign