Saturday, May 11, 2013

Wisconsin Reading

Other critics, though, say the job cuts suggest that waging war on public-sector worker unions, cutting funding for public education and proclaiming the state “open for business” won’t magically turn Wisconsin into a new economy powerhouse. 
“What it says to me is that political rhetoric is irrelevant,” says Jack Norman, past research director at the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future. 
Norman says companies make hiring and other decisions based on demand for their products and whether they can do business better in a different location. The effect of government policies is somewhere on the fringe, he says. 
On the other hand, Norman says one could argue the cuts to public worker take-home pay and other cost-savings measures under Walker have actually made Wisconsin’s economy worse. Here is a graphic showing job growth in Wisconsin before and after he took office. 
“I think we’re seeing a local version of the austerity vs. investment debate going on across the capitalist world,” says Norman. “And right now, some countries are getting rid of their austerity policies because they aren’t working.” 

Light rail from downtown Milwaukee to Waukesha? Republicans at the state killed it
Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee (KRM) commuter rail? Republicans at the state killed it
Extending the Amtrak Hiawatha Service to Madison at 110 mph (with stops in Brookfield and Watertown)? Republicans at the state killed it
Building a maintenance base for trainsets the state had already purchased from Talgo? Republicans at the state killed it
Rebuilding the train shed at Milwaukee Intermodal Station? Republicans rejected federal funds to fix the non-ADA compliant shed and are now left with a situation that will cost Wisconsinites millions
A streetcar starter system in downtown Milwaukee? Republicans killed it. 
The common link? All the projects were proposed by Democrats, had a presence in the City of Milwaukee, and involved steel wheels on steel rails. 
Since becoming Governor in 2010, Scott Walker will have effectively rejected over $1 billion in federal money for rail transportation projects. The loss of high-speed rail funds to connect Chicago, Madison, and Milwaukee represent $823 million. The KRM funds would have beenat least $140 million. Assuming Walker (who has made clear his opposition to the Milwaukee streetcar) ultimately supports the amendment proposed by the Joint Finance Committee, he will also be rejecting $54.9 million for the Milwaukee Streetcar, which is the last of a $289 million 1991 federal grant.

The Fiscal Bureau reports that case law is on the side of Milwaukee on the subject of residency, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court and various state courts "have tended to uphold the constitutionality of the municipal residency requirements, generally siding with the public interests of governments and its policy reasons for such requirements."
Sweeping aside a 75-year-old City of Milwaukee residency ordinance and others like it, Republicans on the Legislature's budget committee voted Thursday to allow police and firefighters to live at least 15 miles outside of any community in the state and bar utility ratepayers from having to bear any costs for a proposed streetcar in the city - potentially killing the project. 
On several votes Thursday, the Joint Finance Committee loaded up the state budget with policy items that had little to do with Wisconsin's finances. Many of the other policy items also limited the powers of local governments, such as a measure barring them from regulating the size of sodas.
GOP fakes up a controversy over the UW system's financial reserves

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