The Constitution lives…for now, and Open Records Request

As if her first amended order wasn’t enough, Judge Sumi this morning issued the following clarifying order declaring WI Leg Act 10 not enacted under the law:

http://thewheelerreport.com/releases/March11/0331/0331sumi.pdf

In response, the Administration fell back from its previously held opinion, agreeing to stop enacting the “law”:

http://host.madison.com/wsj/news/local/govt-and-politics/article_0abe773a-5ba2-11e0-a42c-001cc4c03286.html

So for now, The Walker Administration is following the judge’s order, and honoring the Judicial Authority set forth in the Constitution.  With hearings resuming tomorrow, the thought of being held in contempt certainly was the deciding factor. We will soon find out the effect of the Open Meetings Law on this legislation, and whether or not the GOP will begin to understand the meaning of Democratic Process. Needless to say, it will be another eventful Friday. The events of late certainly underscore the importance of the election next week. Get out and vote, and make sure your friends and neighbors do the same – we are seeing the result of a relaxed attitude toward excercising our right to vote. Several previous posts have addressed the Constitutionality of Walker/Fitzgerald’s actions, feel free to share links and ideas – knowledge is power.

In another story, I have filed Open Records requests with the Governor’s Office and the DOJ for information regarding the nature of “Security Personnel” seen in this video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aYc0urhGX2g&feature=related

This video has been widely viewed, and we need to know who these plain clothed “personnel” are. I have ruled out one prominent Security Firm, and several local Law Enforcement Agencies. That leaves very few options. I will keep updating progress here as information is made available, as we have a right to know whether or not Private Security have been bought and paid by taxpayer expense in a questionable role.

For now, keep fighting, stay informed, and On Wisconsin!

This is what “Constitutional Crisis” looks like – thank you Scotts Walker and Fitzgerald

wi separation of powers lrb 

2007_OML_Compliance_Guide

Ever since Judge Sumi’s Temporary Restraining Order preventing the “Budget Repair Bill” from being enacted into law (until the hearings can determine the legality of the mechanism used to pass the law), there have been consistent and boisterous calls from Scott Fitzgerald and the GOP that the Judge has no constitutional authority to intervene, citing “separation of powers” clauses in the Constitution. In the context of this argument, the State et al. are denying any violation of law in the passage of this bill; therefore the Judge has no right to intervene in the passage of a “constitutional” piece of legislation. Their continued action in implementing this law is not only in contempt of this TRO, it is putting us on the brink of Constitutional crisis.

In his 2007 Open Meetings Law Compliance Guide, JB Van Hollen gives a very clear opinion from the Attorney General on governmental conduct to comply with this law. It would seem he has forgotten his own opinion. On pg. 10 of the opinion (page 15 of the document), he explains that proper meeting notice must be given to the public and media in regard to “time, date, place, and subject” of the meeting. In Section 2, page 12-13 (pg. 17 of the document), the time of notice clause is explained – important as this is at the heart of the controversy. Here is the verbatim excerpt:

3. Time of notice  

The provision in Wis. Stat. § 19.84(3) requires that every public notice of a meeting be given at least twenty-four hours in advance of the meeting, unless “for good cause” such notice is “impossible or impractical.” 

If “good cause” exists, the notice should be given as soon as possible and must be given at least two hours in advance of the meeting. Wis. Stat. § 19.84(3).

No Wisconsin court decisions or Attorney General opinions discuss what constitutes “good cause” to provide less than twenty-four-hour notice of a meeting. This provision, like all other provisions of the open meetings law, must be construed in favor of providing the public with the fullest and most complete information about governmental affairs as is compatible with the conduct of governmental business. Wis. Stat. § 19.81(1) and (4). If there is any doubt whether “good cause” exists, the governmental body should provide the full twenty-four-hour notice.

The significance of this opinion demonstrates that by the AGs own opinion, the Open Meetings Law was violated – further, there is reason to believe that Walker and Fitzgerald are aware of this opinion. As blogged earlier, there is certainly cause for contempt here, but more disturbing is the continuation of law implementation by the Executive Branch.  The Separation of powers, as outlined by the link above to the Legislative Reference Bureau’s own guide to the subject, is what we all know it to be – a check and balance against one branch of power exercising too much power over another, or THE PEOPLE. Under the section regarding the Judiciary, the LRB Guide paraphrases the Constitutional Duty of the Judicial Branch:

“The judiciary can moderate the powers of the other branches. It can declare that acts of the legislature (statutes) violate the constitution, and it can rule that the executive branch has broken the law.”

This section also explains :

“Courts have inherent authority to incarcerate any person who disobeys a lawful court order.”

We do not have separation of powers to allow one branch of Government to have free reign over the people (or the other two constitutional branches) as Scott Fitzgerald would have us believe. We have separation of powers to assure the prevention of illegal and unconstitutional actions by one of the other branches; also to prevent one branch from consolidating too much power. The Executive and Legislative Branches in this case are clearly violating the law in two separate actions – violation of Open Meetings Law in passage of the bill, and now acting in Contempt to further execution of the “law.” Judge Sumi is well within her authority to slow down this process until the legality of the law is confirmed or denied. The Legislature would be well within their authority to reconvene and pass the bill with proper notice. The issue is the denial and contempt of the Governor and Legislative Leadership towards a co-equal branch of Government. They are putting us in the situation of Consititutional crisis by their actions. If the Judicial is ignored in deciding the legality or Constitutionality of Legislation, there is nothing preventing a complete authoritarian take over of the state. Judge Sumi may very well find the Defendants in Contempt – but what is the relief of this decision if they choose to continue implementing this law? As this is decided in Court, people’s paychecks are being altered, and there are huge financial and social repercussions to this action. It could take years to remedy these actions – pending the outcome of lawsuits and elections. Meanwhile, Scott Walker and Scott Fitzgerald have taken us to the depths of a crisis – completely invalidiating one branch of our constitutional government as a means to their own arrogant end. Who will stand to enforce the Constitutional Authority of the Court? Are there any Republican Legislators left with a moral compass? I envision Sheriff Dave Mahoney going to Scott Fitzgerald’s house or the Capitol to compel him to appear, to face contempt charges in Sumi’s Court. I envision the illegality of his actions leading to his impeachment and Scott Walker’s recall. I envision the Supreme Court striking this law down as being conceived and passed unconstitutionally – with the Republicans no longer having the votes to pass it again. That is my eternal optimism and belief in justice prevailing. In the middle of this crisis, we can only continue to make our voices heard, rally, vote, and never give up. One more day.



A.L.E.C. – Destroying individual liberty by promoting Corporate anarchy

Merriam Webster’s primary definition of  “anarchy” is a) “absence of government” and b) “a state of lawlessness or political disorder due to the absence of governmental authority.”

Liberty is defined as  a : the power to do as one pleases b : freedom from physical restraint c : freedom from arbitrary or despotic control d : the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges e : the power of choice. The definition liberty invokes is the ability to excercise those freedoms and choices free from despotic control, and with individual rights protected under the law (i.e. a Constitution).

The group ALEC – or “American Legislative Exchange Council” was virtually unknown prior to a few weeks ago. That’s the way they wanted it. Thanks to historical scholar William Cronon at The University of Wisconsin, the functions of this group are becoming widely known, and that is a good thing for democracy. The following links can be used as reference for specific programs, information, members, and schedules for this group – save them and browse as you wish.

ALEC’s recently uncovered State Budget_toolkit is the document they want us to see the least. Literally titled a “toolkit”, it outlines policies and legislation for implementing their plan through Scott Walkers all over the nation, state by state.

ALEC is a semi-secretive group formed in 1973 by Henry Hyde, Lou Barnett, and Paul M. Weyrich. The visible, front membership is composed of thousands of state legislators, who pay a small fee for membership and conference attendance. In the past, this has given the group an image of looking non-partisan with broad public support – in truth, its corporate members pay large fees for membership, sponsorship, and access to member legislators. Almost 82% of its income is paid by these large corporations, only about 2% comes from legislator members. In 2009, over 100 ALEC- authored bills were passed in statehouses across the country, including the controversial 2010 Arizona Immigration bill. The list of ALEC supporters reads like a who’s who of big American business and political influence. Koch Industries, Exxon, Enron, Wal Mart, Shell, Pfizer, Philip Morris, RJ Reynolds, AT&T, the list goes on. The legislation drafted and proposed by ALEC serves one purpose – the advancement of interests profitable to these corporate entities. Their documented legislation is proof of their motives – solidify the position of corporate America as the only remaining political influence, eliminating the competition.

The group specializes in research and drafting legislation to consolidate power. Creating a form of corporate management, with reduction of legislative oversight to drastically cut services they consider “low priority.” Members are taught at expense – paid conventions and seminars to “prioritize” spending as necessary functions of government. The group admits in their “toolkit” that this will bring about ideological battles – an intentional action that will pit middle class workers against each other. These seminars are attended by legislators who are given “cut-and-paste” bills ready for enacting in their state. Under current political donation statutes, these “donations” in the form of “education” do not need to be reported, even though they amount to hundreds of millions of dollars (NPR Report). Resolutions such as this have appeared almost simultaneously in multiple states; this one calling for a resolution to withdraw said state from Regional Climate Initiatives based on the groups denial of climate change science:

“WHEREAS, there has been no credible economic analysis of the costs associated with carbon reduction mandates and the consequential effect of the increasing costs of doing business in the State of ______;
WHEREAS, forcing business, industry, and food producers to reduce carbon emissions through government mandates and cap-and-trade policies under consideration for the regional climate initiative will increase the cost of doing business, push companies to do business with other states or nations, and increase consumer costs for electricity, fuel, and food;
WHEREAS, the Congressional Budget Office warns that the cost of cap-and-trade policies will be borne by consumers and will place a disproportionately high burden on poorer families;
WHEREAS, simply reducing carbon emissions in the State of ______ will not have a significant impact on international carbon reduction, especially while countries like China, Russia, Mexico, and India emit an ever-increasing amount of carbon into the atmosphere;
WHEREAS, a tremendous amount of economic growth would be sacrificed for a reduction in carbon emissions that would have no appreciable impact on global concentrations of CO2;
WHEREAS, no state or nation has enhanced economic opportunities for its citizens or increased Gross Domestic Product through cap and trade or other carbon reduction policies; and
WHEREAS, Europe’s cap and trade system has been undermined by political favoritism, accounting tricks and has failed to achieve the carbon reduction targets,
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the legislature of the State of ______ urges the Governor to withdraw [state] from the regional climate initiative.”

The group’s initiatives have influenced legislation in Health Care Reform (“Repeal Obamacare” movement), Anti-Environmentalism, Climate Change, Telecom fronting (legislation prohibiting municipalities from offering broadband service), Tobbacco Policy, and Immigration reform. Looking at the list of corporate sponsors, it is not hard to draw the line to who benefits from this legislation – and who is harmed.

Up until a few weeks ago this grouped functioned under a cloak of partial secrecy. Millions of dollars being spent to further the profiteering goals of a select group of companies, creating a myth of “junk science” to discredit climate change data, feeding self-serving legislation to easily manipulated lawmakers – all without any public oversight or accountability. It is imperative to understand what is at stake. The success of ALEC means the death of democracy as we know it. A single party controlled government, elections funded by big corporations for their own interests, no corporate regulation or oversight, private profiteers performing essential services at the lowest bottom line (again no oversight or public accountability). Also, these corporations paying no taxes, with people being employed at the whim of the employer (it’s happening already – as in the case of GE showing record profits and paying no taxes). The tax burden on the working middle class will increase, and the middle class will disappear. 98% of the population working at a barely living wage because they have to – working for the benefit of the other 2% – how far away from this vision are we today? That is corporate anarchy - a small group of wealthy individuals divesting any oversight power and authority  away from the government for the corporate benefit. Taking away, little by little, the balance of power previously afforded individuals protecting their rights to participate in a fair and representative republic.

Here’s the good news – in their greed and arrogance, they forgot a crucial factor in the equation. The people of Wisconsin. This is still a state and nation of laws and rights. We are still one person, one vote. And we are greater in number than they – that needs to be the moral of the story. The knowledge of this group and the ability to defend and protect Wisconsin from the Corporate Anarchists is thanks to William Cronon; who will undoubtedly energe as one of the heroes of this movement. Spread the information, freedom is knowledge – and knowledge is power.

Constitutional Civics Class to convene in Judge Sumi’s Court

On Tuesday morning Judge Sumi’s court will reconvene in the hearing of Dane County v. State of Wisconsin. If the separation of powers under the Constitution is to be upheld, expect a strong rebuking of the actions taken last week by the Walker Administration and Scott Fitzgerald to happen in her courtroom.

The Temporary Restraining Order set down clearly intended to prevent the law from moving forward – which Scott Fitzgerald ignored, and the Walker Administration has set out through their words AND actions to execute. The ruling by Judge Sumi was not set aside by the Appeals Court, nor did the Supreme Court choose to take the case. The result – the judicial branch, under authority of the Constitution can and did prevent a potentially illegally constructed and “passed” law from taking effect. A law which has drastic consequences for thousands of Wisconsinites, and the State.

The Republicans following Scott Walker over the cliff, like lemmings into the sea can posture all they want – the law applies to everyone. In their single-minded attempt to co-opt power, they have ignored a very important part of the equation. The people. The people who lived and died to create a document that guarantees even the minority has rights and liberties. They forgot the Constitution and the idea embodied therein. Their lesson in civics should, and I think will, begin in the Dane County Courthouse tomorrow morning.

Keep up the fight, keep up your spirits, stay peaceful – Forward!

Friday Surprise…or Fitzgerald’s Waterloo?

Everyone was looking forward to a relatively relaxing weekend…with Judge Sumi’s court reconvening next week, the Court of Appeals declining to intervene, and the political firestorm the Supreme Court race is in, it seemed that nothing new would happen with Act 10 of the Legislature (the “Budget Repair Bill”) as of Friday morning. As the Walker-Fitzgerald triumvirate has proven time and again – never underestimate their ability to find ways to skirt the spirit, if not the letter, of the law.

Judge Sumi’s order is very clear. The order is to restrain the Secretary of State from publishing Act 10 of The Legislature until the case is heard before the court. No appeal has reversed that decision, so under the law, regardless of where you stand politically, the function of this order is to stop the law from taking effect under the Constitution since doing so would cause irreparable harm to those affected by said law. The Wisconsin State Constitution very clearly defines how a law takes effect once passed by both Legislative bodies and signed by the Governor (as outlined here in the Wisconsin Blue Book Legislative guide, pg. 268, under “Session Laws”)http://legis.wisconsin.gov/lrb/bb/09bb/pdf/253-320.pdf  . To paraphrase, the Secretary of State must publish the law within 10 days (the date set aside by the court) in the state newspaper of record, The Wisconsin State Journal. The law takes effect the next day.  The function of the Legislative Reference Bureau is as publication for State Legislative “Wisconsin Statutes” publication and to forward the authoritative copy to the Secretary of State.

Scott Fitzgerald’s continued insistence that they can proceed as the law is now “published” is borderline delusional. As early as Friday night, Constitutional scholars weighed in on these statements http://www.todaystmj4.com/news/local/118690744.html . In Professor Fallone’s own words, he cannot understand the legal thinking behind this maneuver. Here is the problem – there was a great deal of thought behind this maneuver. On Greta Van Susteren (Fox News Channel) Thursday night, even though he was grilled by the host for not “re-doing” the entire process since he presumably has the majority, Fitzgerald exuded confidence in the legal system. Granted, some Republicans have shown signs of wavering, but one might conclude by the timing that he was aware of the bomb he was about to drop on Friday.  That brings us to intent. The intent of Fitzgerald’s maneuver was to circumvent the order of the Court – to prevent further execution of the law, until the legality of the nature of its passage is settled. The Legislative leadership clearly attempted to violate that order in their actions. That is contempt. This brings us to a point where other Legislators need to examine the moral and legal aspects of their “leaders.” Even Republicans who will someday face the electorate must be seriously questioning the continuance of this course. The members of both legislative bodies need to denounce this action, as it is illegal and unconstitutional. During the Assembly debate on Act 10, Peter Barca called on a vote to remove Jeff Fitzgerald from his position as Leader of the Assembly. It was denounced as a stall tactic – delaying the inevitable. Now, it appears this may be the only rational course that can begin to repair the damage done to these once-honorable bodies, where open debate is guaranteed by the Constitution they are sworn to uphold.

The Wisconsin State Constitution http://legis.wisconsin.gov/rsb/unannotated_wisconst.pdf (scroll to page 9, Article VII, “impeachment”) outlines the procedure for impeachment. The Assembly has the power to impeach for corruption in office, or all crimes and misdemeanors. This recent action violates the Constitution and is potentially grounds for contempt. Members of the Legislature should prepare to hold impeachment hearings, as motions to show cause for contempt will very likely be filed Monday morning. It is difficult to envision a reasonable interpretation of Judge Sumi’s ruling not finding contempt in Scott Fitzgerald’s actions. If he is found in contempt, he should be impeached under Article VII. Even if he is not found guilty of contempt, he should lose his Leadership position for his willful neglect of the Document he took an oath to protect and uphold. It is time for the rest of the Legislature to stand and defend the people and Constitution they are sworn to defend. Time to see who the real leaders are in the Republican delegation…if any. And time for Mr. Fitzgerald to receive a lesson in how the Constitution really works and who he really serves.

Scott Walker – Sacrificing Children and Families, part II

http://www.wisconsinbudgetproject.org/budget_comparative_analysis_2011-13.pdf

In part I, education cuts from pre-K through college funding and services were examined, and the effects of those cuts on middle class and low-income families. Today, Medicaid and BadgerCare Plus. If you need any more evidence of the agenda being forwarded by Scott Walker via corporate influence and money – look no further than health care, as the link between poverty and population health is critical to understanding the true cost of these cuts.

Medicaid – The governor’s budget summary points to $500 million in cuts over the biennial. Most of the specific cuts have not been disclosed yet, but once the budget goes into effect the cuts are made and authorized by administration-appointed panels. This is a significant change in Wisconsin policy. Previously, Medicaid had legislative oversight with broad public input, covering a diverse range of opinion. This puts the program squarely in the Governor’s office, with little or no public input, and worse, no legislative oversight.

BadgerCare Plus – Again, the specific cuts are not outlined and have yet to be determined. In reality, regardless of the amount that will initially be eliminated; the bill gives sweeping authority to a governor appointed DHS Secretary to issue any “emergency” rules  that supersede any existing legislation. The bill will reduce income eligibility levels to participate, reduce covered services, and increase premiums and co-pays. One of the least reported portions of the budget requires participants to be dropped from BadgerCare if ANY alternate insurance is available, regardless of the cost to the insured. To a low-income family, or a family who is just starting a new job after months of unemployment, the ability to stay on BadgerCare is critical to remaining in the health care system while getting back on your feet. The high cost of some plans could make it impossible to make ends meet. And let’s be clear – with the sweeping powers of a cabinet-level DHS position determining eligibility requirements with no oversight, eligibility will certainly become more stringent.

Family Care – $111 million in cuts over two years. This would create a freeze in the number of counties participating, and the number of participants in each county. The result – a waiting list for home and community-based health care for elderly and people with disabilities, as well as limited access to care.

Senior Care – $15 million in cuts over 2 years. The plan, as broadly reported, would require participants to enroll in Medicare part D as their primary prescription coverage. This would greatly increase costs to seniors, and coupled with the Family Care cuts above would not only increase cost, but limit access to affordable care to seniors.

Contraception - unknown cuts in the budget summary. Virtually eliminate all family planning services and STI testing for eligible males age 15-44. Also eliminates family planning and physician-approved contraception coverage for eligible women. By all reasonable estimates, this will increase unintended pregnancy and STI transmission.

The obvious effects of these cuts are drastically reducing health access and services to at-risk, low-income groups – especially children and senior citizens. One needs not think too hard over the short-term consequences of these cuts. Obviously the wealthy, upper class and higher earning middle class will feel no effect – in the short-term. They will continue their normal health care, have ready access when they need it; while the low-income, at-risk populations steadily slip through the cracks of the system. The long-term consequences of this are well documented. There is a direct correlation between the income gap and health in a large population. Lower income populations are more at risk for chronic diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease, Cancer, among others. There is also greater research and evidence (The Whitehall Studies http://www.ucl.ac.uk/whitehallII/ ) pointing to a person’s socio-economic status and their overall health. Moreover, epidemiologists have been investigating the link between the fact that nations with larger income gaps have less healthy populations that those with lesser gaps http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1733121/ as reported in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, based on a study of 21 developed countries.

The healthcare policies of Scott Walker’s budget will take a large number of currently at-risk people, and restrict access, increase costs, and reduce services to them at a time when they are desperately needed. The policies could very likely create another at-risk group who are currently just getting by with current services and assistance and put them further at risk. Bottom line – the end result of this ENTIRE budget, through all the cuts to services and programs outlined over the last 2 days negatively impact one group. The working people of Wisconsin. Whether a teacher making $50,000/year, or a single mom making $20,000/year, we are being asked to sacrifice basic rights and services that have made Wisconsin a role model of progressivism and bi-partisan co-operation. The benefactors are in one group – the currently wealthy who contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Scott Walker’s campaign. I challenge the Walker administration to dispute this using fact – not rhetoric and ideology. By far, the greater damage being done in this budget is continuing to widen the income gap, especially in Wisconsin. David Obey was recently on Wisconsin Radio News, and stated the facts as supplied by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. Since Rep. Obey took office in 1968 to today, the top 5% of wage earners in Wisconsin (those earning more than $210K) have had a tax CUT of over 20%. Those in the lower brackets have faced an INCREASE of 70%. There are fewer people controlling more of the wealth than ever before, and this budget will widen that gap. Worse yet, it is to the detriment of our health and well-being this is happening. Read the report, share the facts, and understand that in David Obey’s words – if we bring back the upper tier tax rate to a portion of what it was in 1968, we can pay for all these services and still have a surplus. Or does sacrifice only apply to those who can’t buy their way out of making a sacrifice? Anyone paying attention over the past two months already knows the answer – unfortunately, so does Scott Walker.

Scott Walker – Sacrificing Children and Families, part 1

http://www.wisconsinbudgetproject.org/budget_comparative_analysis_2011-13.pdf

“Shared Sacrifice.” Those are Scott Walker’s words to describe his budget plan, necessary to get Wisconsin’s fiscal house in order. The above link is to a 21- page brief released by the Center for Children and Families, outlining the impact of Walker’s biennial budget. The summary includes references and links to the specific portions of the budget documents. The motive behind this budget – who is sacrificing and who is gaining needs to be fully disclosed, discussed, and debated by the people of Wisconsin before any vote on this budget is taken. It changes the basic premise of one of the strongest public education systems in the US – that every child has a right to a free and quality public education.

Let’s start with the bottom line budget facts. The nature and source of the deficit is debateable, but we’ll take the budget as written for the sake of this examination. The projected biennial deficit is $3.6 billion. The tax cuts amount to $83 million in the budget, on top of $117 million from the special session adjustments. Add to that the governor taking $106 million from the General Fund and transfering it to the Transportation fund, and the deficit has increased due to the Governor’s own allocation of funds. More on who benefits from these cuts later.

Early Childhood Education – The budget would cut $227 million over two years from the Wisconsin Shares program (base budget of $402.5 million). Wisconsin Shares assists low-income, working families to afford childcare in licensed daycare operations throughout the state. For many families, no daycare means no work. The budget would also give DCS the authority to adjust co-pays, provider re-imbursements, and gross income requirements at any time to save money. Head Start and 4K programs see an annual reduction of 10% from state contibutions to local prgrams.

K – 12 Education – General Equalization aid paid directly to districts cut $850 million over two years ( 8.4% in 2012, 7.7% in 2013).  The budget claim is that reduced benefit contibutions and reduced mandates will make up the difference, but analysis of the equations used by the governor cast doubt on this claim. 

School district revenue caps have no fiscal impact on the state, yet Walker’s budget would reduce the cap per student local districts can spend. The revenue limit must be reduced by 5.5%, or $846 per student compared to the current law. This budget would eliminate the ability of districts to raise property tax revenue to fund education in public schools, also eliminating the ability to take such a request to referendum in a local election process.

Almost $60 million in cuts by eliminating some services entirely under “Categorical  Aid Repeals” – including the elimination of nursing services, at-risk programs, and alternative education grants.

Parental School Choice - Almost $41 million in increases over two years. Eliminates income eligibility – translation, even if you make $250,000, the state will pay your child’s tuition to any public or private  school. Repeal of the requirement of charter schools to use student testing to track student achievement. Repeal of teacher licensing requirements for charter school teachers, and repeal the cap on virtual charter schools. Expand the authority to create charters to the UW system and any local school district. This favors higher income earners, as the removal of income requirements allows for state tuition payment at any income level – even the very wealthy.

Repeal School Mandates - Repeal of the minimum 180 day school year statewide, and the minimum 200 service day requirement in Milwaukee Public Schools. Repeal the requirement to have a full time Reading Specialist on staff in public schools. These cuts have NO fiscal impact on the state – they merely reduce services to students in public schools in an attempt to “offset” cuts to local state aid. The DOA (under the Governor’s control) receives $1.2 million over two years to develop a third grade student reading assessment. This puts reading assessment and evaluation solely under the Governor’s authority.

Wisconsin Covenant Program - Even though there is no fiscal effect in this budget period, since scholars who signed the covenant prior to September 2011 will receive their grants – this popular program is eliminated. Wisconsin Covenant creates a path which guarantees low-income students grants and a guaranteed place in a UW system school after high school; based on income and grade point average.

That’s just the basic education cuts. Every one of these cuts has one thing in common – they seriously impact services and education for public schools and especially lower income families, and favor higher income levels.  There are winners in Walker’s budget, and if you examine the Tax Cuts portion of the budget you can see clearly what this is Budget is all about. $36.2 million dollars in Capital Gains exclusion and allowing the practice of “combined reporting” for business groups to combine losses to elude paying taxes. In addition, it would remove the authority of the State Depatment of Revenue to investigate any such loss reporting. Transportation is increased by at least $136million over two years (combined General Revenue transfer and sales tax transfers), and up to $200 million per year after that. This is due to the shift of revenue from the General Fund, and a new transfer of auto sales tax (growing up to 50%) over time to the transportation fund.

The people who funded Scott Walker’s campaign – large corporations and transportation construction interests profit. Period. Regardless of the rhetoric, this budget will cripple our progressive education system, take authority and autonomy out of the local districts; and reward the corporate, financial, and transportation construction money that put Walker and company where they are. In Wisconsin, everyone is entitled to a high quality, public education. Our state and republic depends on it – which is why we used to invest in it. Children who need a great education, and the low income families who need assistance to access education should not be sacrificed. When does the “sharing” refer not to the sharing of more wealth and resources amongst the already wealthy? Sharing of sacrifice by those who can really afford it, and believe the prosperity of everyone takes precedence over their acquisition of more wealth and power is the true essence of “sharing.” Tomorrow – Medicaid, Badgercare Plus, and the relation of the wealth gap and healthcare costs.

Scott Walker is no Tommy Thompson…gasp

I never thought I’d say this – I miss Tommy Thompson. Yes, Tommy…the same ex-Governor Scott Walker invoked himself to be so much like in his budget address. Just like so many things Walker has said in the past 6 months, that’s a stretch – some would say a downright lie. It’s too bad that Governor Thompson thinks so little of himself as to not call out the current Governor on his lack of historical insight. Let me state one thing – I am not a fan of Tommy Thompson. He was a large opponent of women’s reproductive rights, among other women’s issues including pay equity. He created a rift between teachers and school boards as municipalities came to grips with his Qualified Economic Offer policy, among other issues. Say what you want about his policies, the reason I miss Thompson is you always knew where he stood on an issue. Never duplicitous, he always told you what he thought. He was also a great cheerleader for Wisconsin – let’s face it, he loves Wisconsin, and enjoyed engaging the public in dialogue and conversation. Seeing a difference? Just in case Scott Walker (or anyone else) needs a little history lesson, let’s take a glimpse of Tommy Thompson – then you decide if the current Governor is anything like his Republican predecessor.

Tommy Thompson was first elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly in 1966. He became the Assistant Minority Leader in 1973, the Minority Leader in 1981. Representative Thompson was known for his vast knowledge and use of Parliamentary Procedure (remember Robert’s Rules of Order?) to be sure his minority party was heard during debate and hearings in the Democrat controlled Assembly. His primary tactic was one of delay and obstruction – to allow the full bill to be considered and not rammed through by the majority (sound familiar?) – earning him the nickname “Dr. No.”

Thompson served as Governor from 1987 – 2001. His major achievements during that time were pioneering and controversial. As mentioned, there were many opposed to the following changes to Wisconsin – let’s focus on what they were, and why the basic difference between Thompson and Walker is so critical at this point in state history. First, Wisconsin Works. Thompson saw this as a path off welfare – a way for those on welfare to engage in the state economy by eventually earning a living wage. Yes, the program had its detractors and downside. But financially, the state spent $145.2M in 2004 on the program (http://legis.wisconsin.gov/LAB/reports/04-Scope_W2.pdf).

The first parental school choice program allowed parents of low-income families to allow their children to enroll in the public or private school of their choice – at state expense. As part of his education reform, Thompson initialized a complex formula to calculate aid to districts, including the controversial QEO (Qualified Economic Offer) capping pay increases to 3.8%. The original Milwaukee Public School program cost the state $2.8M/year, and expanded becoming a national model. The program was controversial yes – but seeing a trend here?

Badgercare – a program that has benefitted so many, and continues to this day, began under Thompson. He fought for its implementation and waivers from the Federal Government. In the initial fully implemented year, it cost the state $97.6M with some of the cost offset by the Federal Government. It enables thousands of Wisconsin’s neediest families and children to access necessary healthcare, instead of falling through the cracks, creating a larger financial burden on the state. http://www.wccf.org/pdf/badgercare.pdf .

Say what you will about Tommy – you hated his policies, or you thought he was the best thing to happen to Wisconsin since cheddar cheese. He had his moments – the Ojibwa spearfishing controversy, the medical conflicts of interest in his investments, his dedication to AMTRAK having fiscal ramifications(which led him to support high speed rail in the 1990′s!), etc. The above achievements of his administration show a trend. Tommy Thompson is a conservative, yes – but he was progressive in the sense of investing state resources toward the improvement of his state. In his way, he became an activist who believed “you have to spend money on welfare to end welfare” (Mordecai Lee). He was quoted as saying we “have to put money into those (state) resources, and we’ve done that.”  http://www.governing.com/poy/tommy-thompson.html During his administration, the state invested hundreds of millions of dollars on these and other programs. Yes, they followed his philosophy – remember, this is not a defense or glorification of Thompson. Here’s the difference between Thompson and Walker, in case I have to spell it out. Through engaging in a dialogue with the people of Wisconsin (including the Unions – he saw value in the collective bargaining system – his first state of the state address stressed the benefits of working WITH labor), he pursued an aggressive investment program in the state. The above mentioned programs were meant to help the struggling middle class families in the state. He INVESTED in them, in his own way, but he did invest money in these programs. This will be controversial to say, but it needs to be said. Thompson started as a minority member of the Assembly who bucked the majority, and made sure the minority was heard. He started programs that assist the needy in this state to this day, and face their abolishment to the DETRIMENT of those living and working in Wisconsin. And remember, Tommy always said what ne thought (for better or for worse), with Walker, well…this list is just a start http://www.educationminnesota.org/en/news/edmnupdates/2011/~/media/Files/Sections/News/Education%20News/Top%2010%20myths%20from%20Scott%20Walker.ashx - the top 10 lies with sources compiled by Education Minnesota. You can look deeper into this blog for more misleading untruths.

I stand by my statement – Scott Walker is no Tommy Thompson. If he were, we would be in a very different place in this debate. At least there would be a debate.

Truth about Walker’s emails

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/22/scott-walker-email-analys_n_839265.html

Just a quick post to update a previous story regarding the emails that swamped Scott Walker the week of February 11th, as obtained by the AP and Isthmus through FOIA lawsuit. The Isthmus had reviewed, through the Center for Investigative Journalism at UW Madison, a random sampling of almost 2,000 emails. They concluded that the Governor had received a majority of emails in favor, with many of those coming in from out of state. The AP article cited here reviewed a greater number (26,000) of emails, and accounted for the timing of the emails. It is key to note that in the early days of the emailing – when Wisconsinites were first finding out about the nature of Walker’s “Budget Repair Bill” – the emails were overwhelingly (5-1) against Walker’s plan. It was not until Walker took the podium addressing the state that the tide turned, and closed the gap. The end result was about 55-45 in favor. One certainly has to wonder, also, if there was an organized email campaign in support since the trend shifted so dramatically, and simultaeneously. Look for more updates as these emails are analyzed, and a later posting here today.

Wisconsin is open for Walker’s Business

It’s everywhere – bumper stickers, billboards, press conferences, releases, and always, out of Scott Walker’s mouth. “Wisconsin is open for business”. Scott Walker took great pleasure at a stick-in-the-eye jab at Pat Quinn (who was not so kind in his remarks toward Walker and his anti-union policies) while touting the immediate success of HIS policies in luring businesses such as Catalyst Exhibits from Illinois to Wisconsin. Conservative pundits and Walker supporters are declaring a victory for Walker’s policies; but to coin a phrase, at what cost victory?

First, the “jobs” gained. Catalyst Exhibits will be moving from Crystal Lake, IL to Pleasant Prairie WI in a move that has been heralded by Walker as a harbinger of things to come as businesses begin flocking to Wisconsin because of our “business friendly” environment. There are several problems with this claim, especially the claim that this was all to Walker’s credit. Most important to note is the developer who owns the new plant in Pleasant Prairie, is the same as the business’ current leaseholder (as reported in the Chicago Tribune). This developer reached out to the Kenosha Area Business Association to negotiate the move – to fill his new development. As anyone in business can attest to – a move like this is not a quick decision. There are months of planning and negotiations involved. So sorry, Scott – there were a lot of people involved before you even knew who Catalyst was. Now the financial reality. Catalyst received a check for almost $500K from Wisconsin – remember, we’re broke, we have no more money. Here’s the best part – under Walker’s new business incentives, this corporation will not have to pay corporate or personal income tax for two years. That’s right, two years. That’s a hefty price to pay for a little over 100 jobs in  a state that is broke.

The next “victory” for Governor Walker is the expansion money for City Brewery of LaCrosse – another $500K free and clear from our “broke” state (that’s already $1M – in case you were wondering). If you think City Brewery is a small, locally owned business, look again. City Brewery also owns Latrobe Brewery in Pennsylvania, which brews and bottles Sam Adams beers. It is listed as one of the largest “third-tier” brewers and one of the largest contract brewers in the US. Among the products they produce and bottle – Arizona Iced Teas, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Smirnoff Ice, Game Day Beer (private label for 7 Eleven stores), Milwaukee Premium Lager, and LaCrosse Lager, among others. The workers there are union, and in fact joined protestors outside the brewery during the ceremony with Scott Walker present(see link here http://lacrossetribune.com/news/article_06787eb6-51dc-11e0-ae33-001cc4c002e0.html). Sounds like Walker scores a victory here – more union jobs, expanded production capacity, a little lost state revenue, but hold the phone – according to Rep. Jennifer Schilling, who was at the ceremony, released this statement http://www.wkbt.com/Global/story.asp?S=14279468 , confirming that this expansion again has been in the works for a long time – and is in fact a result of Doyle Administration efforts. This makes sense, since one of the principal owners of the company, George Parke III, made donations to Republican campaigns (www.wisdc.org), but most of the line jobs will be union. Nice try, Scott – that is most likely $1M in a little over a week that you’ve cost the state, and with very little total benefit to the state based on tax incentives.

Now the bad news – ask Invenergy how friendly they think Walker’s policies are to business. This green energy company was looking to create a 150 Megawatt wind farm south of Green Bay. If you consider the Koch Industries stake in the coal and energy industry in Wisconsin, and their financial investment in Scott Walker et al, it is an easy connection to WHY Walker would want to make it difficult for a Wind Farm to succeed. But what is the cost. Wind Farms are clean, quiet, and very efficient. Let’s get a little specific. The average US home uses about 10,000 kWh/yr. A 1 Megawatt wind turbine can generate 2.4 million kWh/year – on the low-end, based on wind speeds. That equates to a 1 Megawatt turbine generating electricity for 240 homes/year. That translates to a 150Megawatt farm supplying electricity for 36,000 homes per year – on the conservative side. That’s a lot of money out of the Koch Industries coffers, but more importantly – a lot of green energy investment gone in Wisconsin – including jobs and clean power investment by an Illinois company. The company stated that the regulatory climate in Wisconsin is too unstable to warrant a long-term investment. Yes, they wanted to make a long-term investment in Wisconsin. Not anymore, and it sets a bad precedent for other potential green energy investment. All because of Scott Walker’s ideology via the Koch Industries pocketbook. Another loss for Wisconsin is Aluminum Extrusion in Beloit, which will be moving its 130 job expansion project to Roscoe, IL – just across the border from its Beloit plant.

Stoughton Trailer has received a check for  $750K from the state for its re-opening program in the form of a low-interest loan from the state. The company plans to re-open and hire about 1100 new employees through 2012, after a peak of 1600 workers pre-recession. This re-opening is good for the local, and state economy, without a doubt. We should all hope the Stoughton Trailer re-opening is successful, and the employees make a good wage in secure, productive jobs, even though the new Stoughton Trailer will be non-union. But without a doubt, this situation is happening all over the state, and there are many companies and individuals that need the state’s help at this time. There are many of us in the middle class who, through the greed and amorality of corporate barons, need the help of the state and federal government. The fact is, Scott Walker is playing favorites based on his ideology. A search on   http://www.wisdc.org/, shows the Wahlin family with Stoughton Trailers having contributed over $52,000 over a 10 year period to Republican campaigns – that doesn’t include any anonymous money given to partisan PACs in the last election cycle, which don’t have to be declared, and make no doubt, the Transportation Industry was one of Walker’s biggest supporters. And one wonders if that money would have been available to a union employer.

That’s almost $1.75M in just these instances, again, from a state that “is broke”. We should ALL have access to good jobs, and hold no grudge for the hard-working people who earn them. And that’s the point. Jobs for ALL. Not just the people who think and feel the way Scott Walker does. We are in a time when we should be beyond favorites. Teachers, Police, Firemen, Auto Workers, Parents, everyone has the right to participate in this state economy in a fair and just environment. We will be in dire straits should we play the exclusion game with anyone, and that is what is happening – with Scott Walker et al making the rules. Stealing the game board from a progressive state with a history of FORWARD progress for everyone could very well be the legacy left by Scott Walker.

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