Sunday, July 19, 2015

More Scott Walker Shenanigans

Scott Walker Sues Feds Over Food Stamp Drug Testing
Doug LaFollette Sues Scott Walker Over State Budget Measures
Wisconsin Deserved Better Than This Budget
The Attack On Government Pensions
Walker And GOP Just Took Away The Weekend
Scott Walker Strips Wisconsin Workers Of Living Wage In New State Budget
Walker Supports Boy Scouts' Ban On Gay Adults Because It 'Protects' Children
Who Is Scott Walker?
Scott Walker's Revolt Back Home
Behind Scott Walker, A Longstanding Conservative Alliance Against Unions
Scott Walker And The Fate Of The Union

Walker's Minions Giving Wisconsin The Business

Just in time for Scott Walker's presidential campaign kick-off, his economic revisionists are spinning yarns about steady improvement and a bright future due to Walker's policies.

Tom Hefty (conservative shill, Wisconsin Policy Research Institute affiliate and Journal Sentinel contributor) started this wishing-and-hoping form of policy analysis back in March. As I described his actions then, "He just rattles off numerous surveys that say Wisconsin is headed in the right direction, Wisconsin is poised for job growth and Wisconsin has a bright job outlook. More or less, opinions masquerading as statistics."

Kurt Bauer, chief executive officer of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, continued the wishing-and-hoping analysis.

First he claims it's really too early to tell if Walker's economic policies are working. Funny, when the data aren't on their side, conservatives are suddenly patient in their proclamations. Yet, the entire time Scott Walker has been governor has coincided with his cronies unrelenting boosterism, despite the fact that reality (the data) disproves their optimism.

Then, like Hefty, Bauer talks of many good business climate rankings and surveys showing good potential for Wisconsin. For conservatives, simply becoming a right-to-work state will somehow transform the economy. Too bad all the research looking at right-to-work has found no such definitive benefit. And, surveying conservatives about whether the policies they favor will be good for the economy is like asking a cocaine addict if he would like more cocaine. Despite the evidence of the damage being done, they still want more, more, more. 

Next, though, he details all of the actual economic metrics where Wisconsin trails Minnesota. You know, reality. Those unimportant things like per capita income, unemployment rate, and education levels. Take that, Minnesota!

This is followed by a host of historical excuses/reasons why/how this has hamstrung Wisconsin. Surprise! Cities and states have histories and experiences that have shaped their progression. Poor Milwaukee is caught between Chicago and Minneapolis. Yet, having these two economically vibrant centers nearby has been good for Milwaukee, not bad. And we would have an even more regional economy, drawing more from both of those cities and strengthening the region as a whole, if we had improved rail transit amongst the three cities. A terrible Walker policy (killing the train) that will have implications in the region for decades.

Bauer then abruptly switches gears claiming Wisconsin is more business-friendly and therefore Wisconsin has a brighter future. "A better Wisconsin business climate will lead to a better Wisconsin economy. The opposite is true for Minnesota."

Doesn't the fact that Minnesota's economy has been performing better than Wisconsin's for the past few decades tell us that they have a pretty good business climate and a productive set of economic policies in place? Wisconsin has improved in the business climate ranking - we're now 32nd. Minnesota's ranking is 9th.

Wisconsin ranks dead last for start-ups, despite Governor Walker’s goal of creating thousands of new companies [post]

Wisconsin is hardly even nipping at Minnesota's heels, even using the supposed indicators that the boosters claim show such promise for Wisconsin.

As was noted back in April, "Even the former mayor of Minneapolis, writing in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, felt the need to highlight the differences between Minnesota and Wisconsin policy-choices since Scott Walker took office:"
In Minnesota, Dayton turned a $5 billion budget deficit into a more than $1 billion budget surplus in just one term. By raising taxes on the wealthiest earners, Minnesota is now in a position to invest more resources into the state’s schools and infrastructure. 
In Wisconsin, Walker was unable to take his state out of the red and is still facing a $2 billion budget deficit. Walker made the decision to cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires, while slashing programs and refusing investments at the expense of middle-class families and Wisconsin’s financial well-being. 
In Minnesota, Dayton has moved forward Democratic policies like increasing the minimum wage, expanding Medicaid and investing in the middle class, and now we are seeing one of the most business-friendly states in the country. Just this year, Forbes ranked Minnesota as the ninth best state for business, seventh in economic climate and second in quality of life. 
In Wisconsin, Walker opposed a minimum-wage increase and equal-pay legislation, rejected federal funds to expand Medicaid, and attacked Wisconsin workers with right-to-work and anti-collective-​bargaining policies. As a result, the cost of doing business in Wisconsin is higher than the national average, and median household income is thousands less than in Minnesota. 
The facts are clear: Walker and the Republican trickle-down economic policies have made it practically impossible for Wisconsin to recover from the recession, and the state consistently sits at the bottom of the region in private-sector job growth.
Bruce Thompson's article, at Urban Milwaukee, asks, Why is Minnesota outperforming Wisconsin? He ultimately concludes Minnesota is doing many things correctly and, "Empirical evidence can lead to better solutions—but not if it is treated only as grist for a pre-determined position." Minnesota is following the evidence, Wisconsin republicans are merely digging in their heels continuing to push policies they know are unfair and inefficient.

For Further Reading:
Scott Walker & Wisconsin's Slow Job Growth
38th, For Republicans, Is The Head Of The Class

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Proposed Milwaukee Arena Musings

These are just a few more of my thoughts regarding the Milwaukee basketball arena boondoggle playing out.

A recent Milwaukee Biz Times article, Milwaukee County comptroller's report raises questions about arena funding, raises a number of issues, but fails to analyze the implications.

Part of the arena plan is for the county to contribute $4 million per year for 20 years. As Dan Bice explains in a separate article, "The county would 'certify' its uncollected debt, allowing the state to hit up Milwaukee County residents for at least $80 million over the next 20 years. The state would cut its aid to the county if it failed to gather up at least $4 million in any year under the proposal."

As the Milwaukee County comptroller, Scott Manske, reported, "While the county is able to make a $4 million annual payment out of existing cash flows from receivables, it is unlikely the county will be able to generate an additional $80 million over 20 years for payments on the arena debt based on the changes to the collection of its receivables."

The Biz Times article does give space to Patricia Jursik's view that this funding mechanism for the county is a "trick" and "a con game." Jursik stated, "The county executive's deal is unconscionable since this bad debt collection will fall mostly on the poor, the elderly, those suffering medical setback or loss of a job. Does the Buck's organization really want to be associated with such a deal?"

Sadly, this is followed by quotes from the usual cast of characters bloviating the usual arena platitudes. The arena will improve quality of life and it will create temporary and permanent jobs.

If work associated with development creates jobs and grows the property tax base, what is the excuse for not spending more on other development projects - roads, bridges, trains, greening public buildings, etc.? If public spending has such good a return on investment, why do the proponents only support such spending when the primary recipients are privately-owned developments?

The article continues, "Arena supporters also say the county should sell 9.8 acres of land in the Park East corridor to the Bucks ownership group for $1 to assist the plans for $400 million in ancillary development around the arena." The article then gives Tammy Maddente, VP at First Weber Group, space to opine how $1 for the land would be a great deal.

Should the state, county and city now have to pay for the sites of private developments. If this arena proposal is such a great deal for everyone involved, shouldn't the Bucks have to at least pay the market rate for the land. Should the public just give away its assets to private developers?

It's amazing how many professional stadiums have been built in Wisconsin, yet it seems we've learned nothing and logic is absent from the discussion.

As I've said many times, if these arena developments were such no-brainers, economic catalysts, why aren't market forces lined up to grab a piece of this low-risk, high-reward income stream? If, comparatively speaking, this arena-investment has such a great return, greater than alternative investments, why is the public footing most of the costs and taking on most of the risk? Why, suddenly, when it comes to building sporting arenas, is the market so bad at allocating resources?

Of course the answer is because these are bad investments. They money spent is basically corporate welfare and the supposed benefits are always exponentially exaggerated. And, don't forget, the costs are always much more than initial estimates.

To borrow a descriptor from Antonin Scalia, this arena-funding scheme for the county, along with the assumed and inflated ancillary outcomes, is complete jiggery-pokery.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Republicans Slash Public Records Access

Lawmakers slash public records access in budget bill
In one of their final votes on the state budget Thursday, GOP lawmakers approved sweeping limits on public access to records that would shed light on future actions of legislators, Gov. Scott Walker's administration, state agencies and local governments. 
The proposals were tucked into an expansive measure that passed the Joint Finance Committee 12-4, with all Republicans in favor and all Democrats against. Hours later, with another party-line vote, the committee early Fridaysent the overall budget to the Senate and Assembly. 
The GOP plan would limit public records requests for lawmakers' communications with their staff and for drafting records of legislation after it's been introduced. It would also exempt a host of records created by the Walker administration, state agencies and local governments and put new limits on public access to information about dismissed criminal charges in some instances. 
The measure would also give lawmakers a broad legal privilege that would allow them to refrain from releasing records when they are sued and bar their current and former staff from disclosing information legislators wanted kept private.
More self-serving policy from Walker and his cronies. Way to cover your tracks, criminals.

For Further Reading:
To Celebarate the Fourth, Scott Walker's GOP Declares Secrecy

Jiggery Pokery

Greece Explained

Greece Over The Brink
A Primer On The Greek Crisis
Some Stuff You Should Know About Greece Before You Lose Your Shit
12 Charts & Maps That Explain The Greek Crisis
The Forgotten Origins Of The Greek Crisis Will Make You Think Twice About Who's To Blame
A Very Short History Of The Crisis
Argentina Shows There May Be Life After Default
Bernie Sanders Blasts Greece's Creditors
What Makes The IMF Think It's Right About Greece?
The Greek Crisis, Austerity And A Post-Capitalist Future
When Greece Forgave Germany's Debt
9 Myths About The Greek Crisis

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Underfunding Tarnishes Milwaukee County Parks

The Journal Sentinel reported, Neglect tarnishes county jewel Boerner Botanical Gardens. Saying Boerner Botantical Garden is "neglected" implies malicious intent. As if the Parks administration is aiming to hinder and tarnish Boerner.

As with almost every other issue facing modern society, this, too, is a taxation issue. Just as diminishing taxation (of corporations and the wealthy) has led to increasing income inequality and crumbling infrastructure, declining funding has restrained park maintenance and upkeep.

The article talks of "limited staff...a dramatic drop since 2003 in the number of hours worked by seasonal staff at Boerner, declining from more than 26,000 hours in 2003 to 7,000 in 2014, according to the audit."

It's awfully tough to overcome losing almost 20,000 hours of work each year.

As a Public Policy Forum report discovered:
The county’s financial commitment to parks, recreation and culture was two-thirds of what it was in the 1970s, after adjusting for inflation. Spending for these functions peaked in 1975 at $77 million and reached a low point of $43 million 20 years later.
In current dollars, tax levy support for parks was $30.6 million in 2000, less than half the $65.8 million in 1975. The tax levy supported 47% of park spending in 2000, down from 78% in the 1980s. The difference was made up by other sources of revenue, including privatized park functions and increased user fees. This outside revenue nearly doubled between 1975 and 2000, to more than $16 million.
As we can see from a study done by the Trust For Public Land, Milwaukee County Parks spending per resident is below the median ($73) of the 50 largest cities. Milwaukee spends $71 per resident. Detroit, the lowest, only spends $10. The highest, Washington D.C., spends $287 per resident.

It's also very tough to uphold certain standards with a comparatively low and declining budget.

The title of the article should have been Underfunding Tarnishes Milwaukee County Parks.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Government & The Economy

Can't See The Forest For The Trees

Scott Walker and Wisconsin Republican legislators have already declared that they want to make the state park system more costly for users. Now they're revealing their plan to allow more of our state forests to be cut down
Currently, there are 296,775 acres designated for intensive timber harvesting in the Brule River, Black River, Coulee, Peshtigo River, Northern Highland American Legion and Flambeau River state forests. 
State forests have other categories not earmarked for the most aggressive type of logging, but the changes sought by lawmakers would lump in other land for heavier cutting. 
The changes could mean adding more logging on nearly 37,500 acres.
Yet another proposal from the Republicans without discussion or public input. Another case of making significant changes without any deliberation.
The proposal was one of several amendments to a funding package for forestry programs the 2015-'17 budget that was approved, 12-4, by the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee on May 7. The measure must still go to the GOP-controlled Assembly and Senate and Republican Gov. Scott Walker. 
Democrats on the panel objected to the changes, which they didn't see until the amendments were introduced at the meeting. 
"You are going to do it without allowing the public to weigh in and you are going to do it without letting us hear from the industries that are impacted," said Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison.) 
"This is not the right way to make law."

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Sneakers And Hardwood Over Fresh Air

In Scott Walker's Wisconsin, public dollars should be spent on a basketball arena, but state parks aren't as deserving.

State parks, which enhance communities throughout the state and can be enjoyed by all, have had it too easy. Park-users need to pay higher fees.

As the Wisconsin State Journal notes:
As part of his 2015-17 state budget, Walker is proposing to remove all general-purpose revenue to operate Wisconsin state parks, trails and recreation areas — a cut of $4.6 million, or nearly 28 percent, of their current $16.7 million operational budget, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
Here's some history on Wisconsin state parks:
The state park system in Wisconsin includes both state parks and state recreation areas. Wisconsin currently has 66 state park units, covering more than 60,570 acres (245.1 km2) in state parks and state recreation areas. Each unit was created by an act of the Wisconsin Legislature and is maintained by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Recreation. The Division of Forestry manages a further 471,329 acres (1,907.40 km2) in Wisconsin's state forests...

Wisconsin became the first state to have a state park in 1878 when it formed "The State Park". The park consisted of 760 square miles (2,000 km2) in northern Wisconsin (most of Vilas County). The state owned 50,631 acres (205 km2), which was less than 10% of the total area.
Yet another Wisconsin tradition Scott Walker is dismantling.

Why can't we just increase the price of basketball tickets to pay for the new arena? Following the  increased park-user-fee logic, let the basketball game attendees pay for the arena.

Walker has proposed bonding over $200 million for a new basketball arena, but $17 million for our state park budget is too much?

State tourism spending is increasing. People are increasingly visiting to see Wisconsin's beautiful coasts, forests and lakes. The park system is an integral part of Wisconsin's allure. Cutting funding makes absolutely no sense.

The Call Is Coming From Inside The House

Karen Madden, of the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune, recently reported, Wisconsin Roads Third-Worst In Nation
The numbers mark a dramatic decline in road quality. As recently as 11 years ago, Wisconsin's roads ranked No. 22 in the nation, and their deterioration affects almost every industry and motorist in the state, according to the study commissioned by the Local Government of Wisconsin Institute. 
Poor roads in the Milwaukee area cost drivers $700 a year in extra vehicle repairs, according to the study; in the Madison area, road conditions cost drivers an additional $615 in annual tire wear, maintenance and accelerated deterioration. Nationally, substandard road conditions cost drivers an average of $377 per year, the study found.
The primary culprit: State budget cuts that have slashed the amount of money dedicated to repairing both state highways and local roads, which has left fewer than half of Wisconsin's roads rated as "good" or better, the report found. 
The numbers come as no surprise to Emily Wattson, a 48-year-old Wisconsin Rapids woman who recently hit a pothole in Rudolph and wrecked the suspension on her 2008 car. 
"I paid more than $500 to get it fixed," Wattson said. "It threw the car out of alignment, ruined a tire and did some other stuff. 
"I don't think anybody is doing anything about the roads." 
Bad roads hurt manufacturing, farming and transportation, three industries that are vital to Wisconsin's economy, according to the Local Government Institute study entitled Filling Potholes: A New Look at Funding Local Transportation in Wisconsin. The group is a coalition of members of the Wisconsin Counties Association, League of Wisconsin Municipalities, Wisconsin Towns Association and Urban Alliance. 
The study found that if the state's roads aren't brought back into good condition, it could harm Wisconsin's struggling economy, which is rebounding from the Great Recession more slowly than other states in the Midwest. Companies that are considering moving to Wisconsin could choose to relocate in states with better infrastructure that doesn't cost them as much in annual repairs.
Yet, Republican Wisconsin legislators are proposing cutting road projects. (Which is understandable for any new road projects. But with the conditions of the current roads we have, it's borderline criminal to not repair them.)

If Wisconsin actually wants to be "open for business" we need to be maintaining, repairing and improving our infrastructure to attract businesses and workers. Defunding rail and road projects, alongside suppressing worker wages through union-busting, does nothing to improve the long-term health of Wisconsin's workforce or its built environment.

Despite all their bluster, Republican policies are actually hurting Wisconsin in every way possible. Wisconsin can't keep cutting off its own nose to spite its face.

Wisconsin Reading

Wisconsin Sinks In Job, Wage Growth Rankings
Wisconsin Roads Third-Worst In Nation
Does City Violence Deserve High-Level Meetings Like Arena?
Think Wisconsin Doesn't Rely On Gambling? Think Again
Scott Walker Is The Absolute Worst
What Makes Scott Walker Run?
$4.9 Million In WEDC Loans Delinquent
Wisconsin On Pace For Most Layoff Notifications Of Walker Administration In 2015
Paul Ryan Loves Talking About Poverty, But He Keeps Getting The Basic Facts Wrong
Scott Walker Has A Plan To Crush What's Left Of Labor Unions In America

Sunday Reading

The Death Tax Deception
Kansas Shows Us What Could Happen If Republicans Win In 2016
NFL Gives Up Tax Breaks To Keep Its Secrets
NFL Voluntarily Ends Tax-Exempt Status
Why The NFL Decided To Start Paying Taxes
Oklahoma City Issues Statement On Legislative Proposal To Limits Cities' Authority To Regulate Oil & Gas Drilling
Most Baltimore Police Officers Live Outside The City
The Long, Painful And Repetitive History Of How Baltimore Became Baltimore
Police Killings Rise Slightly, Though Increased Focus May Suggest Otherwise
David Simon On Baltimore's Anguish 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Bonds & Bondage: Indentured To The Sports Entertainment Cabal

The parade of boosters continues. The chairmen of Johnson Controls and Briggs and Stratton, and the former chief executive of Bucyrus International feel Investing Public Money In A New Arena Is A Smart Bet. Seeing as all three are millionaires, I'm curious how much of their own money they'll be betting? [Just an aside: the belief that their is a smart "bet" is actually what is known as the gambler's fallacy - "When an individual erroneously believes that the onset of a certain random event is less likely to happen following an event or a series of events. This line of thinking is incorrect because past events do not change the probability that certain events will occur in the future." With regards to stadium and arena building, history shows us these are not economic catalysts, to believe the latest construction is going to be "the one" is delusional.]

Robin Vos has called on the city and the county to "Step Up Their Game." The $50 million they've proposed thus far, just isn't enough according to Vos. The city and the county need to offer more corporate welfare to the Bucks billionaire owners.

Even the Commercial Association of Realtors is actively lobbying legislators in favor of more public funding for a new arena. But they're just hoping for a commission on the imagined new units in the area that they'll be able to sell. Too bad, according to the state's proposal, much of the development could be exempt from taxation. Add that to the fact that these are mostly low-wage jobs and most can see this is not a "good bet."

State Representative John Nygren also feels Milwaukee Needs To Commit More Money To New Arena. His main reasoning is that other cities have been blackmailed out of a higher percentage of the total project costs, hence, Milwaukee should put up the same amount of welfare as other cities. He cites flawed and inflated research from other boosters. But the ruse comes crashing down when Nygren writes, "The arena alone provides thousands of jobs and the gross dollar impact of the BMO Harris Bradley Center, both direct and indirect, on the Milwaukee metro area totals $204.5 million annually. However, should we do nothing, taxpayers are still left on the hook for $120 million in maintenance costs and debt related to the Bradley Center." How can anyone claim the Bradley Center is the huge economic driver and money-maker if after all its "greatness" since being built in 1988 it still owes $120 million (debt plus repairs)? Maybe it's time to get out of the stadium subsidization business. If it's so profitable, why are we in debt $120 million because of it?

It's a wonder the Moderne was constructed and all the redevelopment of Pabst City has occurred despite the fact that we haven't had a new arena. How necessary is all this money for an arena? The area is growing despite the "old" Bradley Center and the perpetual cellar-dweller Bucks.

I should note, I'm not saying public financing should never be used on projects. But it is one thing to build housing, provide good jobs, and redevelop blighted areas, it's quite another to subsidize billionaire sport team owners.

According to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the actual cost to the taxpayers, including debt service, could be as much as $488 million. Other monies include: $150 million will be from the new owners; Herb Kohl would kick in $100 million; and $220 million in bonding would come from the State.

Tax-exempt bonds are a loophole that has allowed sports stadiums to get a giant federal tax break for nearly 30 years. Bond buyers don't have to pay taxes on their earnings. President Obama's latest budget would bar the use of tax-exempt bonds to finance professional sports facilities. Just like the good little party and plutocratic shill he is, Paul Ryan Opposes Obama's Plan To Bar Tax-Exempt Arena Bonds. Sometimes you really have to wonder if our elected representatives have Wisconsin's best interest at heart or just their paymasters'.

Bruce Murphy, in numerous articles analyzing the subject, wrote about a Secret Tax Subsidy Society. Basically discussing how most of the details of the costs are hidden from taxpayers until it's too late. Murphy has even opined Bucks Owners Must Build Without A Subsidy. Here Murphy highlights the fact that other cities (only a few) have actually built stadiums with complete private financing, while also pointing out that the Bucks owners are billionaires and can afford to build the stadium. He also notes, "A study by University of Michigan professor Judith Grant Long found that, in recent years, the average public-private partnership has saddled cities with 78 percent of the cost and the teams with 22 percent. In 2010, she found, 121 professional sports facilities in the five major sports leagues required $43 billion in investments in new construction or major renovations."

In looking deeper into the State's plan for funding a new arena, Murphy discovered some disturbing facts:
Though the deal as revised by legislators calls for the state to provide $150 million in funding and the city and county to cough up as much as $100 million, in addition to providing a huge tax exemption to the Bucks, the “sports and entertainment district” spelled out by Gov. Scott Walker’s administration gives all control of the district to the state. It calls for 11 board members, with nine appointed by the governor, one by Milwaukee’s mayor and one by the Milwaukee County Executive. The language calls the sports district a “local government unit,” but the overwhelming majority of state appointed board members leaves no real power to local governments in Milwaukee. When asked, Walker’s spokesperson Laurel Patrick offered no answer as to why the board membership was structured this way.

The proposal also fully protects the state’s investment, noting that “if the team breaks or otherwise fails to fulfill its obligations under the lease, the professional basketball team would have to pay the state an amount sufficient to retire the state appropriation obligation issued for the sports and entertainment facility.” But there is no such protection for any investment provided by the city or county. Patrick offered no explanation for why the proposal offers protection only to the state...

Then there is the matter of the proposal’s lavish tax exemptions for the Bucks. The language of the proposal is quite sweeping, calling it not an NBA arena, but a “Sports and Entertainment District,” and specifying that a property tax exemption will be extended to “parking lots, garages, restaurants, parks, concession facilities, entertainment facilities, transportation facilities and other functionally related or auxiliary facilities or structures.” It would appear that nearly anything the Bucks owners develop in the area is going to be exempt from property taxes.

It was hardly coincidental that when the Bucks owners made their recent announcement of a $500 million, downtown development plan they called it a new “sports and entertainment district” and a “dynamic entertainment district (that) will serve as a destination that draws the people of the region together.” It suggests that the owners and Walker made sure each was using the same language. Indeed, the Bucks’ proposal for an entertainment district calls for building a separate “state of the art” practice facility, a 60,000 square foot public plaza and a new parking facility. By a neat coincidence, the state proposal for the district specifically awards an exemption for a practice facility and “parks” like the public plaza the Buck plan to build. Additionally, any “restaurants” or other “auxiliary facilities or structures” would be tax exempt...

In short, Walker will assure the estimated $10 million in state income taxes on ballplayers isn’t lost, but has created legal language that allows the Bucks a massive property tax exemption. Not only will the $500 million arena be tax exempt, but so will the beer garden, practice facility, public plaza, probably any Bucks apparel and merchandise shops and who knows what else? Assuming everything within the entertainment district will cost at least $700 million (a very conservative estimate) and figuring that value times the current property tax rate of $29.97 per $1,000 of value, that would equal a property tax payment of nearly $21 million per year, meaning local taxpayers would lose far more in tax revenue than state taxpayers would gain. Over the likely 30-year life of the arena that’s a total property tax exemption of $629 million. (That might be a high estimate as property tax assessments for new buildings are often set below construction costs. On the other hand, I’m applying the current tax level for all 30 years of use, while the buildings’ value and taxes are likely to rise over time.)...

The proposal’s language also specifies that the “income of a sport and entertainment district would be exempt from the state corporate income and franchise tax.” This language is very broad and would seem to include anything the Bucks develop under the banner of an entertainment district. Given the state corporate income tax of 7.9 percent, this exemption could be huge and wipe out most of the $10 million in annual income taxes Walker says he wants to protect.

It’s almost comic to hear state legislators repeat the mantra that the city and county must contribute to the Bucks because they will benefit from this huge development coming downtown. In fact, they are getting nothing but a massive non-profit eating up acres of developable land that will now be stricken from the tax base, and at a time when Downtown has become a magnet to new businesses. For the city, county, Milwaukee Public Schools, Milwaukee Area Technical College and Milwaukee sewerage district, this will represent a huge loss of property taxes that could have been paid by business, residential and retail development. This tax exemption is so far-reaching it leaves no way for the city to create a Tax Incremental District to finance a contribution to the proposed arena because no taxes will be collected in the district.
On top of all this, an American City Business Journals report found, "Milwaukee and Green Bay are among 20 markets where total personal incomes (TPI) were deemed to be insufficient for their existing teams, let alone any new franchises. TPI is the sum of all money earned by all residents in a given year." The report, "Analyzed the income bases of 83 major markets across the United States and Canada. It investigated whether those areas have the financial ability to adequately support their existing teams in baseball, football, basketball, hockey and soccer -- and determined whether they have the wherewithal to support new teams."

The promises are false, the costs are high and the jobs are bad. Sounds more like a stupid bet to me.

For Further Reading:
A Public Plan
Drowning in Delusions
Loot, Loot, Loot For The Home Team
Nudging Away Nonsense
Professional Sports Subsidies
Should Cities Pay For Sports Facilities
Stadium Subsidies
Subsidy Resources
Welcome to Walmart
Basket Case 
Buck The System 
Buck You 
Economic Engine Or Albatross? 
Is There Anything A Stadium Can't Solve? 
Overblown Bradley Center Impacts
Stadium Swindle
More Bradley Center Bull
Bradley Center Booster Keep Pounding That Drum
Will Herb Kohl Blackmail Milwaukee?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Ruinous Walker's Downfall (Too Bad He's Been Bringing Wisconsin With Him)

The more Scott Walker garners national media attention, the more he displays his ineptitude. On Glenn Beck, Walker flip-flopped and came out against legal immigration. Walker sputtered and yammered on ultimately saying nothing as Martha Radditz attempted to validate Mr. Walker's foreign policy bonafides with questions regarding Syria.

Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action Wisconsin, details the many failures of Scott Walker:
Scott Walker's historic proposed $300 million cut to the UW System follows his first state budget, which contained slashing cuts to our equally precious and highly ranked elementary schools, high schools and world renowned technical college system. These cuts are a sustained assault on the core concept of the Wisconsin Idea that investments in education are among the most vital we can make to improve the human condition and expand opportunity to everyone... 
This attack on the Wisconsin Idea goes beyond funding. Walker's scheme to spin off our universities, stripping public accountability from a system the people of Wisconsin built together... 
Walker's brand of conservatism is not interested in such knowledge, and in fact runs counter to the facts at its core. In Walker's doublespeak, forcing people off health coverage is innovation, wind farms are a greater threat to human health than fossil fuels, slashing money for education is reform, the failed voucher school experiment is a success, dismal job creation numbers are a comeback, $7.25 an hour is a "living wage," gutting unions raises wages, and a budget deficit is a surplus.
Scott Bauer, of the AP, continues the list of Walker's negligence:
Walker calls for eliminating oversight of for-profit colleges, letting private insurance companies into the state's managed care system and cutting money for public schools that lose students to private voucher schools... 
He's going even farther by proposing a $300 million, or 13 percent, cut in state money for the University of Wisconsin and freezing tuition there for two years while granting it more independence from state laws... 
He's also proposing to eliminate 66 science and education positions at the Department of Natural Resources, in the name of efficiency, but leading to charges that the move will increasingly politicize the agency... 
The Republican-controlled Legislature is also pushing back against Walker's plans for the university and his plan to borrow $1.3 billion for roads and $220 million for a new Milwaukee Bucks stadium.

Read more here:

Read more here:
As you can see, one of the items on Walker's wish list is decimating the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' Science Bureau. Wisconsin is known for its beautiful lakes, rivers and landscapes. Part of the reason for this is the State's stewardship through the Department of Natural Resources. Yet again we have another example of Walker's policies flying in the face of Wisconsin tradition. In a tourist-friendly State, known for its natural beauty, ending the Bureau responsible for such ultimately hampers Wisconsin's future.

The possibility of ending the Science Bureau corresponds with Walker's ban of the staff of the Public Lands Board from talking about climate change. For Walker, Wisconsin doesn't need oversight of our natural resources, nor should we concern ourselves with a discussion about the climate. It appears the chosen platform for Republicans is to bury their heads in the sand and to dig in their heals with more deregulation and tax cuts.

Even the former mayor of Minneapolis, writing in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, felt the need to highlight the differences between Minnesota and Wisconsin policy-choices since Scott Walker took office:
In Minnesota, Dayton turned a $5 billion budget deficit into a more than $1 billion budget surplus in just one term. By raising taxes on the wealthiest earners, Minnesota is now in a position to invest more resources into the state’s schools and infrastructure. 
In Wisconsin, Walker was unable to take his state out of the red and is still facing a $2 billion budget deficit. Walker made the decision to cut taxes for millionaires and billionaires, while slashing programs and refusing investments at the expense of middle-class families and Wisconsin’s financial well-being. 
In Minnesota, Dayton has moved forward Democratic policies like increasing the minimum wage, expanding Medicaid and investing in the middle class, and now we are seeing one of the most business-friendly states in the country. Just this year, Forbes ranked Minnesota as the ninth best state for business, seventh in economic climate and second in quality of life. 
In Wisconsin, Walker opposed a minimum-wage increase and equal-pay legislation, rejected federal funds to expand Medicaid, and attacked Wisconsin workers with right-to-work and anti-collective-​bargaining policies. As a result, the cost of doing business in Wisconsin is higher than the national average, and median household income is thousands less than in Minnesota. 
The facts are clear: Walker and the Republican trickle-down economic policies have made it practically impossible for Wisconsin to recover from the recession, and the state consistently sits at the bottom of the region in private-sector job growth.
Walker has always used Wisconsin's big cities as whipping boys, especially Milwaukee. The cities are examples of crime, excess and un-American activity. Again, Walker's policies fly in the face of reality. The trend over the past decade has been a move back to the city. Companies are trading their suburban locations for the city. Others have noted how suburban sprawl stifles the economy. Right here in Wisconsin, Milwaukee has seen numerous companies move back to the city:
In January 2015 Plunkett Raysich Architects announced it was moving back to the greater Downtown area. 
A long list of companies that have decided to move from the suburbs to Downtown or Walker’s Point in just the last few years, including Stormwater Solutions Engineering (from Pewaukee in 2012), Corvisa Services (Wauwatosa, 2012), Natural Resources Technology (Pewaukee, 2013), Readers Digest (Greendale, 2014), Irgens (Wauwatosa, 2014), HSA Bank (Glendale, 2014) and Stark Investments (St. Francis, 2015). 
In the period from 2006 to 2012, the city was adding a long list of businesses to the redeveloped Menomonee Valley. Many of those companies relocated from the suburbs, including Proven Direct (from Menomonee Falls, 2007), Derse Inc. (Wauwatosa, 2008), Taylor Dynamometer Inc. (New Berlin, 2008), Zimmerman Architectural Studios Inc. (Wauwatosa, 2009), J.F. Ahern Co. (Menomonee Falls, 2012), and a more recent addition, Solaris (West Allis, 2015).
As examples of Republican-policy results: The Fiscal Times wrote, 15 Fortune Companies Paid No Federal Income Taxes In 2014. Bloomberg discovered 10% Of S&P 500 Companies Avoid Paying Taxes. Which coincides with Elizabeth Warren's recent hammering on the failure of Wall Street regulators.

Nationally we've seen the best job growth since the late 1990s. Yet, since Scott Walker, Wisconsin's job growth has trailed the national average.

All of this highlights the fact that Unions Still Matter. They are still the best advocate for good wages, health care, and retirement. They are also the most important institution in the fight against inequality. But the goals of Unions are opposed to the upwardly-redistributive policies of Scott Walker and the Republicans, thus, unions must go.

Maybe Scott Walker should focus more on Wisconsin than his presidential ambitions. Which, by the way, recently cost Wisconsin taxpayers $138,200 for Walker's trip to Great Britain. With his approval rating steadily declining, we can only hope we're in the midst of the downfall of Scott Walker.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Deep Thoughts By Jack Handey

The memories of my family outings are still a source of strength to me. I remember we'd all pile into the car - I forget what kind it was - and drive and drive. I'm not sure where we'd go, but I think there were some trees there. The smell of something was strong in the air as we played whatever sport we played. I remember a bigger, older guy we called "Dad." We'd eat some stuff, or not, and then I think we went home. I guess some things never leave you.

It's sad that a family can be torn apart by something as simple as a pack of wild dogs.

Dad always thought laughter was the best medicine, which I guess is why several of us died of tuberculosis.

It takes a big man to cry, but it takes a bigger man to laugh at that man.

I bet the main reason the police keep people away from a plane crash is they don't want anybody walking in and lying down in the crash stuff, then, when somebody comes up, act like they just woke up and go, "What was THAT?!"

The face of a child can say it all, especially the mouth part of the face.

To me, clowns aren't funny. In fact, they're kind of scary. I've wondered where this started and I think it goes back to the time I went to the circus, and a clown killed my dad.

If a kid asks where rain comes from, I think a cute thing to tell him is "God is crying." And if he asks why God is crying, another cute thing to tell him is "Probably because of something you did."

As we were driving, we saw a sign that said "Watch for Rocks." Marta said it should read "Watch for Pretty Rocks." I told her she should write in her suggestion to the highway department, but she started saying it was a joke - just to get out of writing a simple letter! And I thought I was lazy!

One thing kids like is to be tricked. For instance, I was going to take my little nephew to Disney Land, but instead I drove him to an old burned-out warehouse. "Oh, no," I said, "Disney Land burned down." He cried and cried, but I think that deep down he thought it was a pretty good joke. I started to drive over to the real Disney Land, but it was getting pretty late.

If you saw two guys named Hambone and Flippy, which one would you think liked dolphins the most? I'd say Flippy, wouldn't you? You'd be wrong, though. It's Hambone.

Laurie got offended that I used the word "puke." But to me, that's what her dinner tasted like.

We used to laugh at Grandpa when he'd head off and go fishing. But we wouldn't be laughing that evening when he'd come back with some whore he picked up in town.

As the evening sky faded from a salmon color to a sort of flint gray, I thought back to the salmon I caught that morning, and how gray he was, and how I named him Flint.

Whenever I see an old lady slip and fall on a wet sidewalk, my first instinct is to laugh. But then I think, what if I was an ant, and she fell on me. Then it wouldn't seem quite so funny.

If you go parachuting, and your parachute doesn't open, and you friends are all watching you fall, I think a funny gag would be to pretend you were swimming.

Once when I was in Hawaii, on the island of Kauai, I met a mysterious old stranger. He said he was about to die and wanted to tell someone about the treasure. I said, "Okay, as long as it's not a long story. Some of us have a plane to catch, you know." He stared telling his story, about the treasure and his life and all, and I thought: "This story isn't too long." But then, he kept going, and I started thinking, "Uh-oh, this story is getting long." But then the story was over, and I said to myself: "You know, that story wasn't too long after all." I forget what the story was about, but there was a good movie on the plane. It was a little long, though.

Blow ye winds, like the trumpet blows; but without that noise.

Too bad you can't just grab a tree by the very tiptop and bend it clear over the ground and then let her fly, because I bet you'd be amazed at all the stuff that comes flying out.

I bet a fun thing would be to go way back in time to where there was going to be an eclipse and tell the cave men, "If I have come to destroy you, may the sun be blotted out from the sky." Just then the eclipse would start, and they'd probably try to kill you or something, but then you could explain about the rotation of the moon and all, and everyone would get a good laugh.

I hope in the future Americans are thought of as a warlike, vicious people, because I bet a lot of high schools would pick 'Americans' as their mascot.

Sometimes I think the world has gone completely mad. And then I think, "Aw, who cares?" And then I think, "Hey, what's for supper?"

If you ever go temporarily insane, don't shoot somebody, like a lot of people do. Instead, try to get some weeding done, because you'd really be surprised.

If you ever fall off the Sears Tower, just go real limp, because maybe you'll look like a dummy and people will try to catch you because, hey, free dummy.

It's funny that pirates were always going around searching for treasure, and they never realized that the real treasure was the fond memories they were creating.

Children need encouragement. If a kid gets an answer right, tell him it was a lucky guess. That way he develops a good, lucky feeling.

"The crows seem to be calling my name," thought Caw.

Representation, Dues & Taxes

Two Journal Sentinel readers responses to the right-to-work travesty make great points and are well worth the read.

Sunday March 1, 2015

Make taxes optional
What does it really mean when our state's Republican legislators think an individual should not be required to pay union administrative dues for representation by their union? 
The representatives of union members receive a wage to help achieve improvements to wages, benefits and working conditions for employees of contractors and companies. When members vote on their representatives' compensation within each union, it is often with the knowledge that union rep positions are demanding and often stressful jobs. 
I ask people to consider if there is a difference between a union representative and a legislative representative. Both are there to represent our individual interests in a collective manner. 
I believe if Republican legislators believe so firmly that paying for union representation should be an option, then it is time for taxpayers such as myself to have the same opportunity to decline payment for my representation as a citizen. 
I no longer want to pay taxes that support the wages, per diems, benefits, perks, travel expenses and office costs of state legislators and their staff. I no longer want to pay toward the governor's salary while he is campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, traveling to Europe or conducting other "representation" responsibilities on my behalf. I want to be given the same option as a state citizen to withhold my financial support for the costs of my representation. 
I look forward to fast-track legislation from one of our Republican legislators that gives me the same right-not-to-pay as those granted to other individuals in our state under the right-to-work legislation. Let's call it Representation-Without-Taxation. 
Brent D. Emons

Sunday March 8, 2015

Dues and taxes
In John Breest's letter of March 3, he says he doesn't want his union dues going to liberal causes ("Unions and politics," Letters). 
As an atheist and taxpayer, I don't want my taxes going to private religious schools. Will I be afforded the same "right" to opt out of taxes that go to superstitious organizations such as churches? 
For some reason, I can't see that happening. 
Steve Burek

More Bad News In The Continuing Sad Saga Of Scott Walker

The Pay-To-Play Allegation Walker's Watchdog Isn't Defending
Secret $1.5 Million Donation Uncovered In Walker Dark-Money Probe
State Of The Union Buster
Walker Ends Freedom Of Contract In Wisconsin
Right-To-Work Laws: Designed To Hurt Unions & Lower Wages
Lawmakers' Priorities For Property Tax Cuts Favor Wealthy
Wisconsin Economy Is Nowhere Near The 'Head Of The Class'
Wisconsin's Middle Class Shrinking Faster Than Any Other State
Wisconsin's Shrinking Middle Class
Walker's Wisconsin Still Lags Nation For Job Growth

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Scott Walker & Wisconsin's Slow Job Growth

Following along the lines of a couple recent Brewtown Gumshoe entries (see further reading below), Marc V. Levine offers another take down of Scott Walker and his sycophants' drivel, Wisconsin's economy is nowhere near the 'head of the class'.
Wisconsin has consistently ranked in the 30s and 40s among states in the rate of annual employment growth since Scott Walker became governor in 2010, a major fall-off from the last year of the much-maligned Doyle administration, when Wisconsin ranked 14th. As I documented last year in a study, not only has Wisconsin's rate of employment growth consistently ranked toward the bottom of states since 2010, but all of the net job growth in Wisconsin since the end of the Great Recession has been in low-wage occupations, in jobs paying less than $12.50 an hour. 
Over the past four years, the state's economy has consistently lagged behind the national economy on key economic indicators. Since 2010, both Wisconsin's GDP growth and personal income growth have trailed the national rate. And employment growth in Wisconsin has underperformed the national rate by a staggering 50%. 
It has not always been this way. Between 1990 and 2010, employment growth in Wisconsin (19%) closely tracked the national rate (19.6%). In 2010, the year before Scott Walker took office, the rate of employment growth in Wisconsin was 40% higher than the national rate, thanks to an infusion of federal funds and the effects of the national macroeconomic stimulus. 
And now, while the Wisconsin economy continues to stagnate, the national economy is accelerating, with job growth during the final months of 2014 and early 2015 approaching the impressive rates of the 1990s. Wisconsin's pace of job growth continues to lag far behind the national rate; in 2014, according to the latest BLS numbers, employment grew in Wisconsin at less than three-quarters of the national rate.
For Further Reading:
Walker's Minions & Their Cherry-Picked Statistics
38th, For Republicans, Is Head Of The Class

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Warren Fires Back At Wall Street

Elizabeth Warren Fires Back After Wall Street Threats 
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has a blunt message for the big Wall Street banks that may withhold campaign donations to Senate Democrats in hopes of quieting her calls to break up the banks. 
"It will not work," Warren said in a statement emailed to The Huffington Post... 
"They want a showy way to tell Democrats across the country to be scared of speaking out, to be timid about standing up, and to stay away from fighting for what’s right," Warren wrote. "... I’m not going to stop talking about the unprecedented grasp that Citigroup has on our government’s economic policymaking apparatus ... And I’m not going to pretend the work of financial reform is done, when the so-called 'too big to fail' banks are even bigger now than they were in 2008."

Percentage of U.S. Adults Without Health Insurance

Hidden Healthcare Horrors

One of the odder subplots of the health reform saga has been the almost pathetic efforts of Republicans to come up with Obamacare horror stories. You might think that given the complexity of the law and the almost unlimited resources of the propaganda machine, they’d be able to come up with someone to serve as the poster child of the law’s terrible effects on innocent Americans. As far as I know, however, we have yet to see a single credible example — all the characters featured in Koch brothers ads or GOP speeches have turned out to be potential beneficiaries of the Affordable Care Act, if only they were willing to look at their actual options. 
So Cathy McMorris Rodgers went on Facebook to ask for Obamacare horror stories — and instead got an avalanche of testimonials from people who got essential insurance and care thanks to the ACA. 
Why can’t the GOP find the horror stories it knows, just knows, must be out there? Matthew Yglesias gets at most of it by noting that Obamacare does, in fact, redistribute from the few to the many: 
[O]ne of the main things it does is raise taxes rather dramatically on a pretty small number of high-income people in order to give subsidized health insurance policies to a substantially larger number of low-income people. Indeed, this is one of the main things Republicans don’t like about it! 
But there’s a bit more to the story. Millionaires paying higher taxes aren’t the only people hurt, at least slightly, by the law. If you are a young. healthy person (especially if you’re male), living in a state that didn’t have community rating pre-ACA, you may have had a cheap policy that went up in price once the law went into effect; and if you’re affluent as well, you don’t receive subsidies. So there are victims out there. 
The problem for the GOP is that they’re the wrong kind of victims. What Republicans want are struggling, salt of the earth regular Americans, preferably older and with expensive medical conditions — not healthy, well-paid guys in their 20s. But the profile of the ideal Obamacare victim matches, pretty much exactly, the profile of the kind of person Obamacare was designed to help. 
And the inability of the GOP to come up with true horror stories is, in its own way, a demonstration that the law is working as intended.