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Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive

Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive

Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive. Before moving to Green Bay in 2008, he was the Assistant Director of Human Resources for Milwaukee County. A graduate of UWM in 1971, he moved to Madison, where he was Executive Personnel Officer and Technology Manager for the State Department of Employment Relations. He is a former Vice Chair of the Democratic Party of Brown County, Director at the Human Resources Management Association of S.E. Wisconsin (now SHRM), and Technology Commission Chair for the City of Franklin. Bob is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force (1965-1971).

Blog entries categorized under Wisconsin

Last Minute Kimberly-Clark Agreement Protects Taxpayers and Workers

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
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on Friday, 14 December 2018
in Wisconsin

kimberly-clarkPassing of AB-693 as originally touted before election was a bad deal for taxpayers and would have opened the floodgate for more Foxconn deals.


GREEN BAY, WI - Kimberly-Clark Corp. and Gov. Scott Walker announced an agreement in Fox Crossing Thursday that will keep the company’s Cold Spring plant open. The deal comes after more than 10 months of political posturing, including an earlier more costly incentive package that stalled in the state Senate.

Under the deal, Wisconsin will give Kimberly-Clark $28 million in tax incentives in exchange for the company keeping the facility open, retaining 388 jobs and making a capital investment of up to $200 million in the plant, according to an article by Maureen Wallenfang in the Appleton Post-Crescent.

The last minute deal was made by Walker using powers the Legislature recently voted to strip from his successor, Gov.-elect Tony Evers. Previously, K-C had announced that the Cold Spring facility and Neenah Nonwovens facility would close as part of its global restructuring and some in the legislature pushed a bill (AB-693) that would have given the company more than $100 million to keep the two facilities open.

kc-workersThe bill stalled, as legislators objected to the cost, and the issue became a Walker re-election talking point during the fall election. Thursday's deal could have been offered by Walker under his powers all along.

Neenah Nonwovens, which employs about 110, is still slated for closure, according to the Appleton Post-Crescent.

Responding to an announcement, State Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) said it shows that a deal could have been reached without passing a law that would have cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars more and opened the floodgate for other corporations to ask for similar “Foxconn-type” deals.

dave-hansen“This is a victory for the taxpayers, the union workers at Cold Spring and for common sense,” said Hansen who opposed the bill authored by Senator Roth and promoted by Governor Walker.

The bill, AB-693, was the reason Republicans gave for going into a lame duck session that they used to strip power from Governor-elect Evers. But it never made it to the floor for a vote because of broad bi-partisan opposition to it.

“I said throughout this process that I didn’t like the legislation, that it was too expensive for taxpayers at a time when our schools are underfunded, people are going without health care and our roads are in such poor shape. Thanks to cooler heads prevailing in the State Senate taxpayers got a much better deal than the one initially negotiated by Governor Walker.

“It begs the question of what type of savings taxpayers could have seen on the Foxconn deal had the initial agreement been done by a politician with better negotiating skills,” Hansen said.

*****

State legislative writer Jay Wadd contributed to this story.

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Kimberly-Clark Bailout Plan Questioned

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
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on Thursday, 26 July 2018
in Wisconsin

kc-layoff-wbayAfter management wrestles $20,000 pay cuts from workers, Green Bay's Senator Dave Hansen doubts company's sincerity in fulfilling their part of the $115 million bailout deal.


GREEN BAY, WI - Back in January, Kimberly-Clark Corporation (KC) of Neenah announced it was considering closing two manufacturing facilities in the Fox Valley. These included the Neenah Nonwovens Facility, within the next 18 months, and the Cold Spring Facility in Fox Crossing after consultation and negotiation with the plant's labor stakeholders.

According to Kimberly-Clark, the whole thing would result in at least 600 people being cut around here. Given the $4.5 billion state incentive package then being heaped upon Foxconn, local politicians quickly asked for something to be done in Madison to save these jobs.

The Assembly passed a tax break package for KC 56-37 in February and sent it to the state Senate where it stalled. Many in the Senate balked at the cost. The tax credit on jobs alone would cost the state between $100 million and $115 million over the 15 years, or over $191,000 per job saved, and the company itself was noncommittal on whether the tax breaks would even entice them to reverse their decision.

After it ratified a new labor agreement Monday night with it's labor stakeholders (United Steelworkers), KC now says it would consider the tax incentives to keep Fox Crossing plant open. Unfortunately, union sources say the new pact would cut workers pay by more than $20,000 per person.

dave-hansen-gb“While I am pleased to hear that there is an opportunity to avoid the closure of Kimberly-Clark’s Cold Spring and Neenah Nonwovens facilities I still have serious concerns," says Green Bay Sen. Dave Hansen in a statement released Wednesday. “At a time when there is a worker shortage and the Legislature is offering over $100 million to Kimberly-Clark to keep the mills open it is deeply disappointing that K-C’s precondition for accepting such a generous offer from the taxpayers is to force their workers to accept deep cuts to their pay and benefits."

Hansen, at least, is one senator who still doubts KC's sincerity in fulfilling their part of the bailout deal.

“Under the bill introduced earlier by Senator Roth," (Sen. Roger Roth, R-Appleton) "there is no guarantee in place for how long the mills will stay open and Kimberly-Clark could lay off as much as 7% of their workers and still receive the taxpayer funded subsidies," said Hansen. "Nor are there any protections for workers at K-C’s mill in Marinette."

The Green Bay Senator also feels the Roth bill falls short in that it fails to address challenges faced by the state’s paper industry as a whole.

“When the deal with Foxconn was voted on I joined a number of my Democratic colleagues warning that Republicans and the Governor were opening the door for other businesses to ask for similar treatment," Hansen concludes. "If this Foxconn-style bailout is approved for Kimberly-Clark how many more businesses will be stepping forward looking for a handout from the taxpayers?”

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FULL VIDEO: Rewatch the Democratic Gubernatorial Debate

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
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on Friday, 13 July 2018
in Wisconsin

demgovdebateOn Thursday, the eight major remaining Democratic candidates for Governor met at WUWM studios in Milwaukee. Here is the video of the debate in its entirety.


MILWAUKEE - On Thursday, July 12, 2018, the eight major remaining Democratic candidates for Governor, Tony Evers, Matt Flynn, Mike McCabe, Mahlon Mitchell, Josh Pade, Kelda Helen Roys, Paul Soglin, and Kathleen Vinehout, met at WUWM studios in Milwaukee. Here is the video of the debate in its entirety.

Rewatch the Democratic Gubernatorial debate in its entirety as it was aired on TODAY'S TMJ4 and tmj4.com below.

*****

Video provided by YouTube.

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Court Decision Calls For Special Election in NE WI Senate District

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
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on Friday, 23 March 2018
in Wisconsin

kewaunee-harbor-familyJudge in Madison orders Governor to hold special elections to fill seats vacated in December. Sen. Dave Hansen and fellow Democrats had pushed for the elections.


GREEN BAY - For months, Sen. Dave Hansen of Green Bay has been calling on the Governor to hold special elections to fill seats vacated in December by Republicans Frank Lasee of De Pere in the 1st Senate District and Rep. Keith Ripp, of Lodi. On Thursday, Hansen and fellow Democrats who have pushed for the elections saw their efforts rewarded.

A judge in Madison Thursday ordered Gov. Scott Walker to call special elections to fill both of legislative seats.

Both Lasee and Ripp had resigned to take jobs in Gov. Walker’s administration. The Senate seat, which covers the Door County peninsula northeast of Green Bay, had been under Republican control for nearly 40 years.

eric-holderA national Democratic group led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder filed the lawsuit on behalf of voters who argued they were disenfranchised by Walker’s decision not to call elections to fill the vacancies.

dave-hansen“The decision by Judge Reynolds that Governor Walker should immediately call special elections in the 1st Senate District and 42nd Assembly District is a victory for anyone who still believe in democracy and that the people deserve to have their concerns represented in the Legislature," said Hansen in a statement released Thursday. “Unfortunately, for the parents of the approximately 26,000 students that go to school in the 1st Senate District, Governor Walker and Senate Republicans successfully denied them their voice in the school safety debate on Tuesday."

“It is clear, now more than ever, that in the case of Governor Walker and the Republican politicians in Madison absolute power corrupts absolutely as they chose to put their own political interests ahead of the concerns of the people in the 1st Senate District and 42nd Assembly district," Hansen concluded. “Fortunately, Judge Reynolds, appointed by Governor Walker himself no less, cried foul and ordered that special elections be held.”

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Eric Genrich to Run for Green Bay Mayor

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
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on Tuesday, 13 March 2018
in Wisconsin

eric-genrich-wbay-announcAnnounces he will not seek a fourth term in the State Assembly to promote the future development of Green Bay and restore civility at City Hall.


GREEN BAY - Local progressive leader and current State Representative Eric Genrich (D - Green Bay) announced in a statement released Monday that he will run to replace Jim Schmitt as City of Green Bay Mayor.

Schmitt announced last fall that he would not seek re-election. He has been mayor since 2003 and has sought to improve and modernize Wisconsin's third largest city, most notably downtown. He has come under fire recently by several aldermen, including Guy Zima, and has said he would consider re-entering the race if he wasn't happy with the candidates.

eric-genrich-family"These last few months I have spent a lot of time talking with family, friends, and community members about the prospect of my run for mayor," Eric said in his statement. "As a result of those encouraging conversations, and because of my continued commitment to public service and my love for this city, I am announcing my candidacy today."

Genrich has served the people of the Green Bay area in the State Assembly for the last six years, having won three straight elections in District 90. He announced Monday that he is stepping down for that post in Madison to come home to take on the challenge here.

"I am simultaneously announcing my decision not to seek reelection to the state Assembly. I make that decision with mixed emotions, recognizing how much work remains to be done," Genrich said. "But I also never intended to make a lifelong career of legislative service. At the end of my term, I will have served the people of Green Bay for six years in the legislature, which has been the honor of my professional life. I am proud of my record of advocacy and bipartisan accomplishment, and I plan to carry forward with that spirit into the future."

Genrich is the first announced candidate to replace Schmitt, but several current aldermen have been rumored to be interested in a run. Prospective candidates for the District 90 seat are also beginning to surface, including Brown County Supervisor Patrick Buckley. Buckley is a retired Green Bay police officer and businessman who franchises Subway restaurants in northeastern Wisconsin.

Schmitt's current term will end in 2019, and Genrich is taking on a year long challenge to replace him.

"As I begin this campaign, I want to make it clear that this race will not be about one person or a collection of candidates," Eric says in his statement. "Instead this effort must be about the people of Green Bay - people in every corner of the city and from all walks of life. During these next twelve months, I will talk to my fellow citizens in every neighborhood, listen to the hopes and dreams they have for our community, and give voice to those ideas as best I can."

"I am a proud son of Green Bay who deeply loves our community’s story," Genrich concludes. "I’m ready to help write the next chapter, and I ask my fellow citizens to join me."

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Green Bay Sen. Dave Hansen Responds to Republican Criticism of Foxconn Statement

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
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on Friday, 28 July 2017
in Wisconsin

foxconn-wisconsin-plantState Republican cheerleaders for $3 billion payoff to Foxconn for new plant call Hansen's caution “beyond appalling” and “insane.” Anyone concerned about Wisconsin taxpayers should be urging caution says Hansen.


GREEN BAY - Yesterday, on these pages, State Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) said that Wisconsin should be extremely cautious in any use of taxpayer dollars to lure Foxxconn to the state citing concerns that new technologies could eliminate any promised jobs.

Hansen was referring, of course, to the much ballyhooed announcement in Washington that Taiwanese technology giant Foxconn, maker of the LCD displays on iPhones among other things, planned to build a factory in southeastern Wisconsin creating something like 3,000 to 13,000 jobs. On top of that, the average pay for jobs would be around $54,000 a year.

Republicans from President Donald Trump to Governor Scott Walker were quick to claim it as one of the greatest deals of the century and one that would put "rust belt" Wisconsin back on the manufacturing map. Walker especially wanted the glory of landing a big one to justify his rather lackluster record on job creation. He has still not reached, well into his second term, his campaign promise to create 250,000 new jobs by the end of his first.

Industry observers were more skeptical of the Taiwanese company, highlighting Foxconn's poor record on worker rights, its goal of replacing workers with robots, and a history of grand promises that don't always play out.

Another bump in the road was that Foxconn wants a massive $3 billion in state tax breaks to build it's new plant here. The Washington Post was quick to report that the "Foxconn deal to build massive factory in Wisconsin could cost the state $230,700 per worker".

In this environment, any "legislator thinking of supporting what could be a $3 billion incentive package should be very wary,” said Hansen. “To do otherwise would be a serious case of legislative malpractice."

Simple good sense in stewardship of our tax dollars one would think. But not so for four Republican lawmakers from northeast Wisconsin who called Hansen’s concerns that Foxconn could replace jobs at the plant with robots after taking the money “beyond appalling” and “insane.”

david-steffenAs reported by the Post, “One need look no further than the shipyards and foundries in Marinette or the paper manufacturers scattered throughout the area to see that our area’s economy thrives on manufacturing,” said state Rep. John Nygren, co-chair of the Legislature’s budget committee. Rep. David Steffen, of Green Bay, said there will be countless economic benefits across the state. “To think that someone would actively cheer against this type of economic growth is insane,” Steffen said.

dave-hansenSenator Hansen had this response late today on the comments by the Republican Foxconn deal cheerleaders:

“As someone who worked successfully with Senator Herb Kohl and Governor Doyle to bring over a 1,000 new jobs to Marinette Marine, efforts to paint me as anything but supportive of manufacturing and new jobs are disingenuous at best and a deliberate distortion of my comments at worst.

“Nowhere in my statement did I say I am opposed to what could be a great opportunity for our state. But pardon my skepticism when the comments made in regard to my call for caution are from the very people who still have not been able to produce a budget and who created WEDC with its long history of failing to hold companies that receive state tax dollars accountable when they fail to create jobs.

“Anyone concerned about Wisconsin taxpayers should be urging caution when it comes to offering a foreign corporation $3 billion of our precious state tax dollars. Especially when it involves a corporation which recently replaced 60,000 low-paid workers with lower cost technology and has stated that its goal is to automate its manufacturing facilities to the fullest extent possible.”

Wisconsin has been burned before by Walker's blind faith in big business and trickle down economics. Hansen's cautions should be taken seriously.

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Gallagher Misses Out on Green Bay Town Hall

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
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on Wednesday, 31 May 2017
in Wisconsin

mike-gallagherConstituents show up to talk about health care and other issues with the person elected to represent them. He didn't show up to listen.


GREEN BAY - About a hundred constituents showed up last night at the Brown County Central Library last night to share their concerns with their new Congressman Mike Gallagher. He didn't show up to listen.

Granted, the "Town Hall" listening session had been organized by local liberal and Democratic advocacy groups, but did that make them any less his constituents? Gallagher had been elected last fall to represent the 8th Congressional District and all the people who live in it.

I had the "good fortune" to be on a stage in 2009 with then Congressman Steve Kagen as he fielded questions from Tea Party advocates about the bill that would become ObamaCare. It was not very pleasant. But he hung in there, and answered every question as best he could. He was elected to represent them too.

Many Republican elected officials today seem to prefer hiding out from their constituents, "speaking" only to them on FaceBook, on telephone conference calls, or at pre-arranged campaign stops at friendly venues. They screen all questions, and answer only those they select. They certainly don't dare to meet all the people they represent face to face.

According to news reports, health care coverage and the American Health Care Act (AHCA), a Republican bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, was the topic most wanted to discuss. Gallagher had supported the bill during a House vote earlier this month. A line of area residents presented their personal concerns, told stories about children with pre-existing conditions, told their fears about losing their health care, and fears about rising costs. An empty chair sat on the stage where their "representative" was supposed to listen.

Some critics called it political theatre. But that's the easy political cop out. So was Gallagher's "out of town on business" excuse. If people cannot talk to their representatives, who do they represent?

It appears many in Washington today, and not just Republicans, represent only the industries and businesses who pay their bills. Gallagher is just joining the long line.

That's not what our "representative form of government" was supposed to be about.

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Wisconsinites Draft Mike McCabe for Governor

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
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on Thursday, 04 May 2017
in Wisconsin

mike-mccabePeople from all walks of life call on Blue Jean Nation's Mike McCabe, a non-partisan author and true independent, to step into the political arena and run for Governor in 2018.


GREEN BAY - Looking for a new type of candidate to challenge Scott Walker for governor? That's what a grassroots group of 190 concerned citizens from all parts of Wisconsin and many different walks of life all say we need.

On Wednesday, the group delivered a letter to Blue Jean Nation founder and president Mike McCabe, of rural Altoona, who they believe would be the ideal Candidate for Governor in the 2018 election.

McCabe, 56, is the author of Blue Jeans in High Places: The Coming Makeover of American Politics and for 15 years was the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a nonpartisan watchdog group that specializes in tracking the money in state elections and works for reforms aimed at making people matter more than money in politics. He has been a frequent contributor and blogger on these pages.

These citizens are tired of the procession of traditional Republican and Democratic politicians who they say have seized the levers of government in Wisconsin and are now being manipulated by those interested primarily in self-enrichment and personal power.

"We need you to run because of who you are and where you are from," they say to McCabe in their letter. "Rural Wisconsin is in crisis, and the rural-urban divide is growing disturbingly wide. You are farm raised and have deep rural roots, so you have what so few of today’s politicians have, namely an understanding of rural life and the challenges small-town residents face and an ability to speak their language."

The citizens believe Mike is "a public servant in the truest sense" and are asking him to run because "Wisconsin politics has grown corrupt and there is no one in our state who has worked harder for a longer time and done more to fight political corruption than you."

Before joining the Democracy Campaign’s staff in 1999 and becoming its director in 2000, Mike worked for six years as communications director and legislative liaison for the Madison Metropolitan School District. He has run a statewide civic education program for the nonprofit Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance. He also formerly worked as a newspaper reporter and as a legislative aide for three Republican members of the Wisconsin State Assembly.

In his early years, Mike served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the West African country of Mali. While at the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Mike co-authored Democratic Renewal: A Call to Action from America’s Heartland for the Midwest Democracy Network and while at the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance co-wrote The Framework of Your Wisconsin Government as well as a curriculum guide on state and local government for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

McCabe is a true independent and has shined light on the misdeeds of Republicans and Democrats alike. He has been speaking truth to power for decades as a nonpartisan government watchdog.

When contacted for comment by the Green Bay Progressive on Wednesday, Mike told us that he "is interested" in a possible run for Governor and may try to put together a "campaign after Labor Day" should interest continue to grow. As of now, no money has been raised for the campaign, but Mike hopes to follow the "small individual donor" model used by Bernie Sanders when and if the campaign begins.

****

A copy of the letter including a complete list of the signers is presented here.

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Hearing Needed on Requiring Presidential Candidates to Release Tax Returns

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
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on Tuesday, 18 April 2017
in Wisconsin

donald-trumpOver 90% of Americans believe there are too many tax loopholes for wealthy people and corporations. People have a right to know what potential conflicts exist for their President.


MADISON - State Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and State Representative David Crowley (D-Milwaukee) called for a public hearing here today on legislation that would require candidates for president and vice president to provide their tax returns in order to get on the ballot in Wisconsin.

According to a recent poll reported on by The Hill, sixty-four percent of Americans believe the President should release his taxes. The poll also showed that “ninety-two percent of those surveyed say there are currently too many tax loopholes for wealthy people, and 90 percent say there are too many loopholes for corporations.”

david-crowley“The continuing controversy over the President’s refusal to release his tax returns reinforces the need to pass this legislation,” said Crowley. “The public has a right to know if decisions made by a president are being made out of concern for what’s best for the nation or what’s best for their personal bottom line.”

dave-hansen“People are very concerned about taxes and who is paying them and who isn’t. They clearly see our tax code benefits the wealthy and corporations at their expense,” said Hansen. “Before we can have an honest debate about taxes, people need to know that those politicians proposing changes don’t have conflicts of interest that might further skew our tax code in favor those who are already unfairly benefitting from it.”

Senate Bill 166, was referred to the Committee on Elections and Utilities. Hansen said a hearing is necessary to give the public an opportunity to weigh in on the issue and how best to prevent similar controversies from happening in the future:

“Time will tell how this current controversy is resolved. For our part, we can take steps to make sure this doesn’t happen in the future by requiring all candidates running for president and vice president to make their tax returns public in order to be on the ballot in Wisconsin.”

Under the SB-166, candidates for president and vice president would be required to file their tax returns for the three most recent years with the Wisconsin Elections Commission which would be required to post the returns online within 48 hours of receiving them.

“These candidates are asking to assume the most powerful office in the land,” Crowley said. “The people have a right to know what potential conflicts may exist with a candidate before they cast their vote.”

***

Legislative writer Jay Wadd contributed to this story.

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History of Gov. Walker's Record On Job Creation

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
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on Saturday, 25 March 2017
in Wisconsin

walkerGovernor Scott Walker talks a lot about jobs, but the real record does not back up his rhetoric.


GREEN BAY - From the day he took office as Governor, Scott Walker has been talking about jobs. He wants to be seen as the jobs governor, taking credit here for the economic turnaround nationwide after the disastrous crash of 2008. It seems that every time somebody hires more than three workers in Northeastern Wisconsin, Walker shows up to give a speech.

When he ran in 2010, he promised to create 250,000 new jobs in Wisconsin during his first term, and it was an elusive goal. His strategy was tax cuts for the rich and union busting, with his own state employes and public school teachers his favorite targets. Now, well into his second term, Wisconsin still flounders behind our neighbor states and his jobs goal has not been met.

So, what is the real record on Walker and jobs? Below is a brief history of Gov. Scott Walker's record on job creation, courtesy of Brandon Weathersby of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin 2nd in U.S. in job losses last month, new estimates show
Wisconsin was second in the nation in total job losses last month, a somewhat surprising development considering the state’s unemployment rate has reached its lowest level since November 2008. Employers in Wisconsin shed an estimated 9,500 total public and private sector jobs in February, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported late last week. Along with North Carolina (11,300 job losses) and Alaska (2,300 job losses), Wisconsin experienced a “statistically significant” decline in employment, according to a press release from the BLS.

Wisconsin suffers fourth-highest monthly job loss under Scott Walker in August
Even as its unemployment rate dipped to its lowest level since 2008, Wisconsin lost 4,300 private-sector jobs in August, according to preliminary estimates. It's the fourth-largest monthly jobs loss since Gov. Scott Walker took office in January 2011, according to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Current Employment Statistics program. The unemployment rate fell two-tenths of a point to 5.6 percent in August, but that figure and the monthly jobs change often can be disconnected.

Frustrated Wisconsin business owner moving company to Minnesota
The owner of a Wisconsin construction company said he's taking his business to Minnesota thanks to the passage of right-to-work. The Hoffman family has been in the Wisconsin construction business for a long time. "We like to say our company got started 100 years ago this year in 1915 when my great grandfather got his first road contract,” Jim Hoffman said..."I'm happy to offer the state of Minnesota a better alternative," Garofalo said. That alternative is a state that has no right-to-work law Hoffman said the move will keep his workers well paid and well trained.

Oscar Mayer plant in Madison will close; headquarters to move to Chicago
Madison’s Oscar Mayer plant — a fixture on the East Side for nearly 100 years — will close and its headquarters will move to Chicago, putting 1,000 employees out of work, parent company Kraft Heinz announced Wednesday. 
The loss of one of Madison’s signature companies is part of a plan by parent company Kraft Heinz to close seven factories in the U.S. and Canada, four months after the two food giants merged.

Wisconsin ranks dead last in startups
According to a report issued last week by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Wisconsin is now last in the nation in new startup activity. The state fell five spots, from 45th to 50th, the report said, putting it behind West Virginia, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Alabama among the bottom five states. The top five states on the Kauffman list were Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, Colorado, and Vermont.

Uncertainty growing after several Wisconsin companies announce job cuts, relocation
Almost 200 jobs are about to leave a company that has been a staple in Racine for generations. S.C. Johnson announced, Thursday, it is relocating 175 positions to Chicago. This comes after a number of other companies across the state recently announced layoffs. Joy Global in West Allis announced in September that more than 100 union and non-union workers would be temporarily laid off. Oscar Mayer is cutting nearly 1,200 jobs in Madison and General Electric announced in September it's plan to cut hundreds of jobs. When you have job loss anywhere, it's always a little uncomfortable at the onset. While not everybody is losing sleep, they may be feeling a little uncertain. Some of that uncertainty is growing in Racine after people learned of the jobs at S.C. Johnson moving to Chicago.

Wisconsin layoff notices topped 10,000 in 2015
Wisconsin employers notified the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) of 10,104 planned layoffs in 2015, a new high for Gov. Scott Walker's administration and the most in the state since 2010.

Manitowoc Company Moving To Pennsylvania, 528 Jobs Leaving Wisconsin
A major employer is closing its plant in Manitowoc, putting more than 500 employees out of work when it moves its crane manufacturing operations out of the state. The closure of Manitowoc Crane is the latest in a string of factory shutdowns that have affected the city. The company will remain open until it completes its current projects. It’s expected to close the manufacturing facility in stages beginning this year until it fully closes in 2017 when it moves. The company said it can save up to $30 million a year by leaving. It has been in Manitowoc since 1902.

Wisconsin lost 8,500 private sector jobs in September
Wisconsin lost more than 10,000 non-farm jobs in September, including 8,500 in the private sector. But the state’s unemployment rate also declined to its lowest level since early 2001, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state lost a seasonally adjusted 10,500 nonfarm jobs in during the month, including both the public and private sectors. Many of the jobs lost were in the leisure and hospitality industry with a drop of 4,000. The non-seasonally adjusted figures show the state losing 22,100 jobs in that sector alone as the summer tourism season came to an end. Labor force participation increased slightly to 68.4 percent with 3,132,300 people in the civilian labor pool. The unemployment rate was down from 4.2 to 4.1 percent, the lowest level since February 2001, according to the state Department of Workforce Development.

Why does Wisconsin lag at job creation?
It's a question that's dogged Scott Walker for years, and one that's sure to keep nipping at his heels as he runs for president: Why is Wisconsin in the bottom third of states when it comes to creating jobs? It's a perplexing question, and one that has had many observers scratching their heads. Unemployment is down, labor force participation is in line with other states. But despite his promise to create 250,000 jobs during his first term, Walker was only able to deliver about half that, leaving the Badger State with a dismal 35th place in private sector job growth rankings over the course of his first four years in office.

Wisconsin ranks 38th in private-sector job growth in 2015
Wisconsin has fallen to 38th in the country in yearly private-sector job growth. Preliminary, seasonally adjusted estimates for December, released Tuesday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed that Wisconsin added 23,600 private-sector jobs in 2015 for 0.96 percent growth. By percentage, 37 states did better between December 2014 and December 2015, including all but two other Midwest states. Only Illinois at 45th (loss of 2,800 jobs, minus-0.06 percent growth) and North Dakota at 50th (loss of 18,700 jobs, minus-4.8 percent growth) were lower among the 10-state Midwest group.

Wisconsin ranks last again for start-ups
According to the report released Thursday by the respected Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, start-up activity in the U.S. overall rose in 2016 for the second year in a row. But among the 25 largest states, Wisconsin came in either last or second-to-last in each of the three categories the foundation evaluated.

Wisconsin ranks 33rd in job creation
As employment in Wisconsin's massive manufacturing sector switched into reverse, the state continued to lag the nation in the latest quarterly census of job creation. Wisconsin added 37,166 private-sector non-farm jobs in the 12 months from March 2015 through March 2016, a tally that includes non-manufacturing as well as manufacturing positions, amounting to a 1.58% increase that ranks the state 33rd among the 50 states in the pace of job creation during that period.

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Legislators Unveil Equal Pay Proposals

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
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on Wednesday, 22 February 2017
in Wisconsin

women-workersEqual Pay Transparency Act tackles discriminatory practices that help create the pay gap in the first place by creating new protections for employees, wage transparency in the workplace, and a ban on employers asking job applicants for their salary histories.


MADISON – Senators Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and Janis Ringhand (D-Evansville) and Representatives Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee) and Tod Ohnstad (D-Kenosha) unveiled the Equal Pay Enforcement and Transparency Acts Monday, two proposals that aim to narrow the wage gap in Wisconsin.

The Equal Pay Enforcement Act first became law in 2009, only to be repealed by the Republican Legislature two years later. It strengthened enforcement of our job discrimination laws with stronger penalties on employers guilty of discrimination. Under the Act, employers may be held liable for compensatory and punitive damages, rather than merely providing back pay or reinstatement to victims.

dave_hansen“Paying women less because they’re not men is a version of wage theft and without the Equal Pay Enforcement Act, our Fair Employment Law is like setting a speed limit without giving police the tools or officers to enforce it. It just doesn’t work,” said Hansen. “We need to strengthen enforcement and the penalties for people and businesses that break the law. And our Equal Pay Enforcement Act does just that.”

“The Equal Pay Enforcement Act made a difference for Wisconsin’s working families,” said Rep. Ohnstad. Wisconsin’s wage gap for women narrowed from the 37th widest in the nation to only 25th under our 2009 law. Companies work harder to avoid discriminating if they face stiff consequences for breaking the law. Gov. Walker should never have repealed the law, but he and the Legislature now have the opportunity to correct that mistake by supporting this common-sense proposal.”

The Equal Pay Transparency Act tackles discriminatory practices that help create the pay gap in the first place by creating new protections for employees regarding information about their wages.

christine-sinickiThe bill creates wage transparency in the workplace, by first of all requiring employers to allow voluntary discussions of salaries among their employees. “Employers often forbid their workers from discussing wages or salaries with each other, and some enact penalties for doing so,” said Rep. Sinicki. “The Equal Pay Transparency Act helps employees find out if and when their pay is lower than that of co-workers doing equal work.”

The Equal Pay Transparency Act also includes an important ban on employers asking job applicants for their salary histories. “Many employers set salaries for new hires using past pay as a baseline,” said Sen. Ringhand. “If this happens to women in their early jobs, then their initially lower wages can follow them through their entire careers, cementing in for a lifetime and lowering their Social Security accounts and pensions.”

The Equal Pay Enforcement and Transparency Acts would protect Wisconsin workers of either gender and also cover veterans, people with disabilities, minorities and other groups that may also be subject to pay or other types of employment discrimination.

###

Legislative writer Jay Wadd contributed this story.

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We Owe Donald Trump Nothing But A Job

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
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on Tuesday, 15 November 2016
in Wisconsin

trump-rncIn January, Donald Trump will start his new government job. He can expect no more loyalty or support than President Obama received. It will be his job to win us over using only the dull tools we give to our President in a democracy.


GREEN BAY – On November 8th, we held an election for the job of President of the United States and Donald Trump won. In January, barring anything unforeseen at the Electoral College in December, he will start his new government job.

The current holder of the job, President Barack Obama, has met with Trump and begun the process of showing him the ropes. About half of people with a vote in the selection process are happy with the choice, and the other half are not. We will see how he works out.

Despite all of the talk in the media about electing a world leader and the most powerful man on earth, it is important to remember that it’s just a job and a government job at that. We did not elect a King, and Trump Enterprises did not buy a controlling interest in the U.S. government.

Working in government is quite different than the private sector and often frustrating. In any Executive job, like President or Governor or Mayor, you have a lot of bosses and they are the people you serve. Our founders set it up that way.

Donald Trump will probably get real frustrated in his new job fast. He is used to being his own boss, the king of his domain, who can hire and fire and pretty much do what he likes. That’s the private sector model we still use based on the days of lords and kings.

Most successful businessmen understand the difference, and that’s why most are not interested in running for any government job. They don’t need the hassle, and for what?

Donald Trump has a new job, and being successful in it will require a whole set of skills he has yet to demonstrate. Can he convince bosses he cannot fire that his idea is the one they should follow? Can he rally their loyalty? Can he convince foreign leaders that his word can be trusted? Can he do the job?

President Obama started his new government job with very little support from nearly half of the American people and even less from the opposing political party in Washington. Donald Trump should expect no more.

It will be his job to win us over using only the dull tools we give to our President. Will he appoint people we can trust to his cabinet? Will be propose policies we agree with and can follow? Will he demonstrate he is there to represent us and not promote himself?

If not, we have the power to fire him, and not just by waiting four years and voting him out. That is our right, and responsibility, as our founders envisioned.

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Donald Trump Wins Presidency With Stunning Victory In Wisconsin

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
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on Wednesday, 09 November 2016
in Wisconsin

donald-trumpBusinessman turned politician wins state with 48% of the vote after all the political professionals, pollsters, and national media under estimated an appeal that did not fall into the comfortable patterns of past campaigns. Victory sweeps along GOP politicians down the ballot.


GREEN BAY - Republican Donald Trump won a stunning upset victory Tuesday in Wisconsin, part of a series of Rust Belt victories that propelled him to the White House.

The Associated Press called Wisconsin for Trump just after 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, immediately triggering a projection that Trump would win the national election after he was already declared the winner in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

With 3615 of 3620 or 99% of Wisconsin's Precincts Reporting, Donald Trump had 1,404,869 or 48% of the vote, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton followed with 1,377,880 or 47% of the vote.

To say that these results are stunning is an understatement. As little as two days ago, the Marquette Law School poll had Clinton holding a six-point lead. Based on polling, most political observers thought she was positioned to win the state's 10 electoral votes despite becoming the first major-party nominee since 1972 not to set foot in the state.

UW-Madison political science professor Barry Burden said Clinton's decision not to visit or invest heavily in the state proved to be a mistake.

"This is one of the only states where the Trump ads outnumbered the Clinton ads," Burden said. "This may have been the only state where her ads were drowned out by his."

Trump campaigned hard in the state, making five visits over the past three months. In the final month his campaign spent nearly $2 million on advertising in the state. Clinton spent nearly $3 million in the state during the last week, but it was too little too late.

The Trump surge across the state also swept along GOP politicians down the ballot. Incumbent Senator Ron Johnson defeated Russ Feingold in Wisconsin's U.S. Senate race, and in NE WI's 8th Congressional District Mike Gallagher easily defeated Tom Nelson with a vote of 227,732 (63%) to 135,648 (37%). Green Bay's Democratic State Senator Dave Hansen was an exception with a win.

It is clear that all the political professionals, pollsters, and the national media under estimated the appeal of the businessman turned politician in Wisconsin and across the nation. Trump managed to grab the mantel of change in the minds of many, and the statistical models used by pollsters were based on trends of the past. Donald Trump surprised many, because he was a new media phenomenon that did not fall into the comfortable patterns of past campaigns.

Democratic Party insider loyalty to Clinton had given her the nomination, but never gave her much grass roots support in Wisconsin, where Independent Bernie Sanders had won 71 of 72 counties in the primary.

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Republican AG May Investigate Leak of John Doe Documents

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
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on Friday, 16 September 2016
in Wisconsin

walker-recallJust weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court is set to review the Wisconsin decision that squashed the investigation, Republicans scramble over 'the apparent violation of the secrecy orders'.


MADISON, WI - Attorney General Brad Schimel is considering investigating the recent leak of sealed documents from the halted John Doe investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s recall campaign.

The Guardian US, an arm of the British-based newspaper, on Wednesday posted more than 1,300 documents related to the investigation into whether Walker’s recall campaign circumvented state campaign finance law. The documents were supposed to be held under seal by a Wisconsin Supreme Court order, which previously had ordered them destroyed.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and other top Assembly Republicans had asked Schimel to consider appointing a special prosecutor to investigate “this apparent violation” of the Supreme Court’s order and state law earlier in the day.

But, why all the concern about documents from an investigation that Gov. Scott Walker has repeatedly claimed was ‘baseless’?

The documents posted Wednesday provide the most complete record yet of how Walker raised millions of dollars for a supposedly independent, tax-exempt group during the 2011 and 2012 recalls — activity that prompted the John Doe investigation. Walker, Assembly Republicans, and several of the Supreme Court Justices themselves directly benefited from the campaign activities of that very same group.

brad_schimelSchimel “is very concerned about the apparent violation of the secrecy orders issued by the court in this case, and is currently reviewing the available options to address the serious legal questions raised by the leak and publication of these sealed documents,” Schimel’s spokesman Johnny Koremenos said in an email to the Wisconsin State Journal.

“Should this potential crime go unprosecuted it runs the risk of undermining the integrity of our courts and judicial system,” said Vos in a letter Thursday to Schimel.

But Republican lawmakers — including Vos — have not previously publicly called for an investigation into apparent leaks to other publications, including the Wall Street Journal’s conservative editorial page.

For example, Wisconsin Club for Growth director Eric O’Keefe acknowledged in 2014 in an interview with conservative radio show host Vicki McKenna that the subpoena he received during the 2012 John Doe investigation included a gag order, which if violated could result in a contempt of court ruling.

Later Thursday, at another stop in the state, Walker said he is no longer raising money for Wisconsin Club for Growth, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

The document disclosures come just weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court is set to consider a petition by prosecutors to overturn the Wisconsin Supreme Court 4-2 decision quashing the investigation.

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LAB Investigation of State Corrections Needed

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
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on Thursday, 10 March 2016
in Wisconsin

boy-in-docMedia reports last month revealed state officials at the highest levels have known for years of attacks and sexual assaults at Lincoln Hills School for Boys without either contacting or fully disclosing the details to concerned local officials or even the family members of the victims. This mistreatment of inmates and the underlying issues it reveals in DOC cause twelve legislators to request independent investigation by Legislative Audit Bureau.


MADISON - The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in February that in repeated cases stretching back at least four years, state officials at the highest levels have known of attacks and sexual assaults at Lincoln Hills School for Boys. What's more, they admit no one bothered telling parents and local officials about the assaults on teenagers at a troubled prison.

The pattern of not sharing glaring problems continued for years, according to leaders in two counties, state officials, former Lincoln Hills staff and a parent of a juvenile inmate.

The whole mess was uncovered last December when federal agents raided the school and a massive federal and state investigation at the Northwoods prison and the sister facility on its campus, Copper Lake School for Girls went public.

Gov. Scott Walker's administration initially blamed the problems on front-line staff alone. But soon it became clear it was a larger failure at the Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Walker administration that had been covered up. Senate Republican legislators have since shirked their legal responsibility to investigate.

The appalling treatment of juveniles at Lincoln Hills is only the tip of the iceberg. Underlying grave issues of safety, overcrowding, repeat offenders, mental illness among inmates and management issues exist in our corrections system that are costing the state in dollars and safety of residents. It is time to bring these problems into the light of day.

kathleen-vinehoutOn Tuesday, Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) was joined by Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and ten other state legislators in a written request to Joint Legislative Audit Committee co-chairs Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay) and Rep. Samantha Kirkland (R-Salem) for a public hearing to approve an audit of DOC by the independent Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB).

“The Department of Corrections is facing severe difficulties that require our immediate response,” said Senator Vinehout Tuesday. “I call upon my fellow members of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee to approve an audit of DOC. This audit is necessary to address grave issues of safety, overcrowding, repeat offenders, mental illness among inmates and management issues that are costing the state in dollars and safety of residents.”

Vinehout authored a letter requesting the Joint Audit Committee Co-Chairs to schedule a hearing to consider an audit of DOC. The letter was co-signed by over 40 legislators from around the state. The legislators share concern related to a number of issues including staff shortages, forced overtime and the reports of appalling treatment of juveniles at Lincoln Hills.

“The well-respected, nonpartisan, Legislative Audit Bureau has the know-how to understand the systemic problems faced by DOC and help lawmakers craft solutions,” said Vinehout. “A comprehensive program evaluation could identify challenging safety issues before people are hurt; help policy makers target resources to alleviate overcrowding; and spur needed changes in mental health treatment and the reintegration system to address the extraordinarily high number of those returning to prison.”

“Lives are at stake – the lives of staff, children and adult inmates. Enough anecdotal evidence exists to give us stark warning signs – something must be done. A nonpartisan audit could provide direction to move forward from the current crisis,” concluded Vinehout.

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Walker Signs Bill Changing Civil Service in Appleton

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
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on Friday, 12 February 2016
in Wisconsin

walker-signsWalker flees the angry crowd in Madison to sign bill undermining "Merit System" into law at private sector temporary help giant Manpower. Many employees fear Walker wants to take action against "recall signers". Democrats contend the bill will open the door to cronyism.


APPLETON, WI - Gov. Scott Walker plans to sign a Republican-backed bill to overhaul Wisconsin's civil service system in this northeastern Wisconsin city on Friday, far from Madison and the thousands of state workers angered by his action.

Walker's office says the GOP governor is scheduled to sign the bill into law at Manpower Group in Appleton. The location is choice, since Walker made Manpower a favorite source of temporary help to replace civil service employees during his two terms as Milwaukee County Executive.

The bill eliminates job applicant exams, centralizes hiring decisions within the governor's Madison Department of Administration, does away with bumping rights that have given more experienced workers first call on remaining jobs during layoffs and allows agencies to keep new hires on probation for up to two years before they can receive regular employee status. Until now, new employees were in probationary status for six months before their boss had to make the final decision to hire them.

The bill also adds a definition of just cause for termination and lists infractions that would result in immediate firing. These provisions would add nothing new in actual practice, since state employees committing serious infractions have been subject to immediate termination for just cause for many years.

Walker has been outspoken in his support of the proposal, claiming efficiency as his motivation. However, many employees fear Walker wants the power to take action against so-called "recall signers", meaning the thousands of state employees among the nearly 1 million Wisconsinites who signed the petition to recall the governor during his first term.

Democrats contend the bill will open the door to cronyism within state agencies.

peter_barca“By dismantling our state’s civil service system, Governor Walker and legislative Republicans are kicking down the door for cronyism and corruption in Wisconsin," said Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) on Friday. “The civil service system was founded on the idea that state employees should serve the public interest, not partisan political interests. Republicans have made it clear they will stop at nothing to consolidate their own power while rewarding their cronies with taxpayer-funded jobs."

Early in his administration Governor Walker was caught in a couple prominent situations where he placed allies in key positions with thin to no qualifications. Back during his Milwaukee County days, Walker was also known to place key aides into "holding" positions to draw large salaries. This law will make it easier to more broadly do this unencumbered by the rules.

Additionally, Walker used this approach at WEDC, where he eliminated civil service for hiring staff and we saw continuous problems with turnover and ethically questionable conduct with potential pay to play and taxpayer funds at risk.

"Republicans want to make that (the WEDC) the model for our entire state", concludes Barca. "This is truly a dark day for Wisconsin’s proud heritage of clean, open and transparent government.”

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New Poll Shows Walker Still in the Dumps Four Months after President Run

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
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on Friday, 29 January 2016
in Wisconsin

scott-walkerNew Marquette Poll shows support for Gov. Scott Walker is still floundering locally since his failed out of state adventure last fall for the Republican Presidential nomination. Other issues on guns, local schools, the Wisconsin economy and water quality remain important to voters.


MILWAUKEE – A new Marquette University Law School Poll released Thursday shows statewide approval of how Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is handling his job stands at 38 percent with 57 percent disapproving. In November, 38 percent approved and 58 percent disapproved.

Thirty-six percent say they would like Walker to seek a third term as governor, while 61 percent would not like to see him run. In September 2015, 35 percent supported a bid for a third term while 62 percent did not.

Walker's approval rating has remained low ever since he returned to Wisconsin from his failed bid last fall for the Republican Presidential nomination. While his followers in the state legislature have continued to push his pro-capitalist anti-worker agenda in Madison, he has failed to regain the leadership of the party he enjoyed before leaving the state to campaign.

Guns Remain An Issue

In related state issues, guns and gun laws continue to be an issue for Wisconsin residents. In 2012, three Marquette Law School Polls asked whether respondents favored or opposed “legalizing possession of concealed weapons” while such legislation was under debate. Between 46 and 47 percent supported legalizing concealed carry, while between 49 and 51 percent opposed the proposal. Concealed-carry legislation was passed and became law in 2012.

In the current poll, respondents were asked if they favor or oppose the “current law allowing residents to obtain a license to carry concealed handguns.” Sixty-three percent favor the current concealed-carry law, while 31 percent oppose it.

Respondents were also asked about a proposal to allow concealed-carry permit holders to have a gun on school grounds and for local school boards to have the option of allowing permit holders to enter schools with concealed weapons. On this issue, 31 percent favor the proposal while 65 percent are opposed.

Background checks for private gun sales and sales at gun shows have also been a recent issue in state. Eighty-five percent of registered voters favor background checks for private and gun show sales, while 12 percent oppose them. When last asked in May 2013, 71 percent favored and 26 percent opposed such checks.

Local Schools

Registered voters continue to express concern for education funding in the state. Fifty-seven percent say their local public schools are receiving too little funding from the state, while 30 percent say they receive enough and 7 percent say schools receive more funding than they need.

Asked how they would react “if your local school board proposed a referendum to increase taxes for schools,” 55 percent say they would be inclined to vote for the referendum while 35 percent say they would be inclined to vote against.

Wisconsin's Economy

Voters have become somewhat more negative in their views of the economy since April 2015. Twenty-six percent say the economy has gotten better over the past year while 31 percent say it has gotten worse. In April 2015, opinion was reversed, with 31 percent saying the economy had improved over the past year while 26 percent said it had gotten worse. As for the outlook for the coming year, 27 percent expect the economy to improve while 25 percent say it will get worse. Last April, 31 percent looked for improvement with 18 percent expecting a downturn.

Interest in Water Quality Low

Nine percent of respondents say they have heard reports of contamination of drinking water in their county in the past two years, while 86 percent have not heard of any such reports. Statewide, 27 percent have heard that the City of Waukesha is currently unable to meet state and federal standards for the amount of radium in its drinking water, while 72 percent have not heard.

The City of Waukesha has submitted a proposal to divert water from Lake Michigan for its water supply and return an equal or greater amount of treated waste water to the lake. Thirty-four percent of respondents state-wide favor this proposal while 51 percent say the city should find other solutions.

About the Marquette Law School Poll

The Marquette Law School Poll is the most extensive statewide polling project in Wisconsin history. This poll interviewed 806 registered Wisconsin voters, by both landline and cell phone, January 21-24, 2016. The margin of error is +/- 4.0 percentage points for the full sample. For Republican presidential primary voters, the sample size is 313, with a margin of error of +/-6.5 percentage points. For Democratic presidential primary voters, the sample size is 312, with a margin of error of +/-6.5 percentage points.

The partisan makeup of this sample, including those who lean to a party, is 42 percent Republican, 47 percent Democratic and 10 percent independent. The long-term estimate over the previous 31 statewide Marquette polls, with 26,727 respondents, is 42 percent Republican and 47 percent Democratic, with 9 percent independent. The partisan makeup excluding those who lean to a party is 25 percent Republican, 32 percent Democratic and 40 percent independent, compared to the long-term estimate of 27 percent Republican, 31 percent Democratic and 38 percent independent.

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Governor Walker Fails Student Loan Holders

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
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on Tuesday, 12 January 2016
in Wisconsin

uwgb-studentWith student loan debt in Wisconsin at $19 billion and rising, we need a plan that allows loans to be refinanced at lower interest rates. Gov. Walker's rejection of refinancing leaves hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin residents at the mercy of Wall Street.


MADISON - With student loan debt in America standing at a record $1.2 trillion and more than a million Wisconsinites currently burdened by student loan debt, Governor Scott Walker announced his student debt proposals during a news conference at the Waukesha County Technical College Monday.

The Governor's plan includes increasing Wisconsin grants for technical college, deducting student loan interest from taxes, and creating grants for students in emergency financial need.

"It`s taking an existing program that`s in place -- and this just adds money, about $1 million more, which will add assistance for about 1,000 more students but it`s on a needs basis. It`s taking a program but expanding," Governor Walker said.

Walker says his new plan will make higher education more affordable and will build on the historic four-year UW System tuition freeze.

Few students, former students, educators or Democrats agree that Walker's plan will be much help.

"It`s not going to do anything to help the hard-working student loan borrowers in the state of Wisconsin who have done the right thing," Scot Ross with One Wisconsin Now said.

A study by the Institute for College Access and Success finds 70% of Wisconsin college graduates have student loan debt. The average exceeds $28,000. Walker’s college affordability initiative fails hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin residents with student loans because it does not provide needed relief from high interest rates.

What former students say they need is a plan that allows loans to be refinanced at lower interest rates like car and home loans.

Saul Newton is one of those students. "My highest interest rate on one of my loans is 7.5%. If I could refinance that down to 3% or 4%, that would be thousands of dollars a year that I could put back into the economy," Newton said.

Walker said that the most important thing he's done to improve college affordability is push a four-year tuition freeze for the University of Wisconsin System, which began with the 2013-'14 academic year and is to continue through 2016-'17.

dave-hansen-gb“Unfortunately the Governor is not proposing a serious plan to help the over 815,000 Wisconsin residents who have student loans,” said State Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) co-author of the Wisconsin Higher Ed/Lower Debt bill.  "This seems to be more of an attempt at a political solution rather than a real effort to fix the problem."

Wisconsin ranks third in the nation for the number of residents with student loan debt. Seventy percent of college graduates now have student loan debt and sixty percent of those with student loan debt are 30 or older.

The amount of total student loan debt in Wisconsin is at $19 billion and rising with the average student loan debt at over $28,000. Research has shown that the high cost of student loans is also hurting Wisconsin’s economy. Over $200 million in annual lost new car sales have been attributed to the student loan crisis as borrowers often settle for used cars rather than buying new.

“If the student loan plan being put forward by the Governor and Senate Republicans was a class project it would get a failing grade," said Hansen. "It amounts to little more than lip service to a growing crisis that is crushing the hopes and dreams of hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin residents and stifling any chance we have of real economic growth.”

Since 2013 Senator Hansen and Representative Cory Mason (D-Racine) have been promoting the Higher Ed/Lower Debt bill that would make it possible for Wisconsin residents to refinance their student loans at lower interest rates.

The state of Rhode Island, which has a student loan authority similar to the one proposed by Hansen and Mason, has been offering low cost student loans since 1981 and is currently offering student loan financing at rates as low as 4.24%.

“The only affordable way to address this growing crisis effectively is to offer borrowers the ability to refinance their student loans like home or car loans," concludes Hansen.  "Anything short of that is to leave Wisconsin borrowers at the mercy of Wall Street and the student loan giants.”

Wisconsin's stagnant economy would also benefit. “Wisconsin’s economy would clearly do better if we had a real policy solution to student loan debt and the governor’s plan isn’t it”, added Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha).

***

Legislative Staff writer Jay Wadd contributed to this story.

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President, Critics Connect at CNN's Town Hall on Guns

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
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on Friday, 08 January 2016
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pres-obama-town-hall-2016President Barack Obama, trying to do something about gun violence, and critics who believe he's determined to confiscate their weapons came face-to-face Thursday in a CNN town hall televised nationally. The President fielded tough questions from gun owners in a rare respectful and reasoned interlude in one of America's most poisoned political debates.


FAIRFAX, VA - President Barack Obama, who has vowed to do something about our nation's blight of gun violence, and critics who believe he's determined to confiscate their weapons came face-to-face here Thursday in a rare respectful and reasoned interlude in one of America's most poisoned political debates.

The President fielded tough questions from gun owners in the CNN town hall moderated by Anderson Cooper and televised nationally. For once, the nation's bitter, polarized politics failed to swamp a conversation on gun violence.

President Obama faced off against critics of his new executive actions, including expanded background checks for gun sales, but both sides listened carefully, referred to shared concerns and avoided histrionics. One absent voice was the National Rifle Association, which declined CNN's invitation to participate.

The event at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, came as Obama rededicates himself to an effort to reduce gun violence following a string of mass shootings and his own failure to get expansive reform efforts through Congress.

Obama fielded questions from supporters of his actions, including a priest, gun violence victims and a Chicago schoolboy who fears being shot, as well as critics ranging from a gun executive to a sheriff, a rape survivor and a murder victim's widow.

The meeting of about 100 people invited by CNN on all sides of the debate was an unusual forum for the President. While Obama has conducted hundreds of town hall events as a candidate and president, it's rare for him to hear so directly from ordinary Americans who oppose his policies.

While the President respectfully conversed with those who questioned him in person, he did not spare his foes in the gun rights debate, accusing them of spouting "imaginary fiction" about his motives and evoking the partisanship that typically encompasses the issues.

"The way it is described is that we are trying to take away everybody's guns," Obama said. "Our position is consistently mischaracterized ... If you listen to the rhetoric, it is so over-the-top, it is so overheated."

He dismissed the notion that he was behind a plot to take away everybody's guns "so we can impose martial law". And he tried to dispel it by pointing out that he lacked the time remaining in office to take away the nation's 350 million firearms.

The President had sought tougher laws after the Newtown massacre that killed 20 small children and 5 teachers, but said he was foiled by the NRA. He has made his changes this time using his lawful executive powers, enraging Republicans who say he has overstepped his authority.

"All of us need to demand leaders brave enough to stand up to the gun lobby’s lies," Obama had wrote in column in the New York Times that was published on Thursday.

It is not clear if Obama's efforts this time will cut through the wall of suspicion that has been built up over many years by the gun lobby and their Republican allies in Congress. But it is clear that the President has not given up the fight.

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Corrections Reform Measures Proposed To Improve Public Safety

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
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on Wednesday, 06 January 2016
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boy-in-docA high-profile investigation into claims of child abuse at the Lincoln Hills Juvenile Detention Center and serious assaults on correctional officers this year at Green Bay, Racine, Columbia and other correctional facilities across Wisconsin have prompted Democratic legislators to take action.


MADISON - Amid growing concerns with the rise in assaults at Wisconsin’s correctional facilities, Democratic legislators here are urging immediate action to strengthen worker protections and improve public safety.

A high-profile investigation is currently looking into claims of child abuse and assaults at the Lincoln Hills Juvenile Detention Center. In addition, serious assaults on correctional officers have been documented this year at Green Bay, Racine, Columbia and other correctional facilities across Wisconsin.

While Republican leaders have known about these serious safety concerns for more than a year, conditions have deteriorated as a result of additional state budget cuts and worsening staff shortages.

In an effort to improve safety in correctional facilities, Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton), Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and several Assembly Democrats are putting forward a package of legislative proposals. The bills aim to improve worker training, limit the use of forced overtime, increase workplace safety, strengthen reporting requirements and ensure appropriate staffing levels for first responders.

jon-erpenbach“Safety in our Department of Corrections institutions in not a new issue. The staffing shortages that were a direct result of Governor Walker’s Act 10 have never been resolved by the administration or the DOC. The burden for staffing shortages continues to fall solely on the backs of officers working in our institutions. They are the ones who have to live with more consecutive days of overtime because of inadequate staffing levels,” said Senator Erpenbach in a statement released this morning.

dave_hansen“Safety within our corrections institutions should be a top priority in light of the growing number of incidents we have seen take place, in large part due to the inability of Corrections officials to recruit, properly train and retain staff,” said Senator Hansen, noting that 500 positions are currently unfilled in the department putting public safety at risk. “As a result we are asking fewer officers to take on more shifts and more responsibility to the point that it is putting their safety at risk.”

Hansen has announced he will join Senator Erpenbach and corrections officers at a press conference at the Brown County Courthouse at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, January 7th to discuss the growing crisis in Corrections and to announce his support for the package of bills.

Currently seeking co-sponsors, Erpenbach and other authors of the proposals expect introduction of the bills next week. To receive a copy of the draft legislation, contact Senator Erpenbach's  office at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 608-266-6670.

jennifer-shillingAs part of the Corrections Reform package, Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) and Rep. Dianne Hesselbein (D-Middleton) are introducing the Correctional Officer Workplace Safety Bill (LRB 4225). The proposal will restore the right of correctional officers to collectively bargain over workplace safety issues.

“The lack of urgency by Gov. Walker’s administration and the Republican majority to address complaints of child abuse and assaults in our correctional facilities is appalling,” said Sen. Shilling. “In the past two months, serious assaults and nearly-fatal suicide attempts have shocked families and communities who had been told not to worry about safety concerns in our correctional facilities. Wisconsin children, families and public safety officers can’t afford to continue waiting for action. It’s time to address the serious safety issues in our correctional facilities before this dangerous situation spirals further out of control.”

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