Monday February 19, 2018

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Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig

Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig

Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St., Suite 300, Milwaukee, WI 53204.

Citizen Action Endorses Tim Burns for State Supreme Court

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 15 February 2018
in Wisconsin

tim-burnsBurns a breath of fresh air in corrupt Supreme Court election process says statewide progressive social justice group.


MILWAUKEE, WI - Citizen Action of Wisconsin, a statewide progressive social justice group with members across Wisconsin, announced Tuesday its endorsement of Tim Burns for State Supreme Court in the primary election on February 20. The Citizen Action board of directors is making the endorsement after an extensive process that included a candidate forum, intensive candidate interviews, and input from Citizen Action Organizing Co-op leaders throughout Wisconsin. Citizen Action’s Organizing Co-ops are member-owned democratically elected chapters throughout Wisconsin.

What impresses Citizen Action leaders and members about Tim Burns is his willingness to discuss his progressive values with voters instead of perpetuating the charade that a judge’s philosophy does not influence their decisions. Wisconsin needs a Supreme Court Justice who will fight for average people against the big corporate interests that are rigging the Wisconsin judiciary.

Citizen Action members and leaders believe that the traditional nonpartisan model for State Supreme Court campaigns is now badly outdated because dark money campaigns by right wing groups and corporate interests have taken over the Wisconsin State Supreme Court. To tell voters that a judge’s values or their financial benefactors don’t impact their decisions is misleading and undemocratic.

Tim Burns offers the sharpest contrast to the right-wing candidate Michael Screnock, who is running a typical “trojan horse” right-wing judicial campaign. Screnock claims he will be a nonpartisan judge who merely interprets the law, but is the chosen candidate of Scott Walker and the Republican establishment. Screnock, who was arrested at an anti-women’s choice protest for blocking access to care, cut his teeth at a union busting law firm defending two of the most hyper-partisan actions in Wisconsin history: Act 10 and the partisan legislative maps that may be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. Screnock is receiving more than half of his campaign resources from the Republican Party. Screnock’s radio ad which is running on right-wing talks shows touts his “conservative” credentials and his appointment by Scott Walker.

Screnock’s assertion that he will neutrally interpret the law is also debunked by his support for the John Doe decision to radically rewrite campaign finance law, protecting Scott Walker from prosecution for coordination with dark money groups that was widely believed to be illegal at the time. In addition, Screnock is setting up to have most of his general election campaign bankrolled by the same right-wing dark money groups which coordinated with Scott Walker’s 2012 campaign and have pumped millions into campaigns in support of right-wing Supreme Court justices.

robert_kraig“It is long overdue for a Supreme Court candidate to run openly as a representative of average people against the big corporate interests which dominate Wisconsin government and the current Supreme Court. That is why Citizen Action is proud to endorse Tim Burns for State Supreme Court,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

“The deceitful playbook of right-wing judges is to claim to be neutral while nullifying laws and radically rewriting our Constitution for the benefit of big corporate interests. For two decades Wisconsin Supreme Court elections have been dominated by a series of big money candidates who have grossly misled the public about their partisan and ideological agendas. In this toxic judicial environment, Tim Burns is a breath of fresh air.”

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Citizen Action of Wisconsin is Proud to be a Union Employer, OPEIU Local 9, AFL-CIO, citizenactionwi.org

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Walker Shift on Health Care Not Enough

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 24 January 2018
in Wisconsin

walker-healthplan-2015Will not undo damage from years of sabotage says non-partisan healthcare group. Opening BadgerCare as a public option, and other reforms, are needed to make coverage affordable.


STATEWIDE - Citizen Action of Wisconsin released its preliminary response on Monday to the health care proposals Governor Scott Walker will unveil Wednesday in his State of the State Address.

Walker’s sudden interest in addressing the health insurance affordability crisis will not undo the damage his 7 years of sabotage has done, let alone make coverage affordable for most Wisconsinites. In addition, Walker’s proposal on pre-existing condition exclusions would still leave many vulnerable to life-threatening insurance discrimination.

healthcare-rates-gbWhile Walker’s admission that state government has a role to play in making health care affordable is a small step forward, his proposed policies pale in comparison to the scale of the problem and do not make up for the damage done by his ongoing efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA). According to research released by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, premiums and deductibles have increased by a combined 209% in Wisconsin since 2000, and far more in some regions.

The centerpiece of Walker’s proposal, which will be unveiled in his State of the State Address on Wednesday, is a reinsurance plan which pays public money to health insurance companies for high-cost patients. Walker’s plan to give more public subsidies to insurance companies impacts very few Wisconsinites who are struggling to afford health coverage, and would result in only a moderate impact on affordability.

Reinsurance will not reduce the premiums of 83% of the Wisconsinites who buy health coverage through the ACA marketplace and receive tax subsidies. It will not effect deductibles or copays and will not help small businesses. Although it will modestly help the 17% of enrollees who make too much money to be eligible to federal tax credits, it will according to national research lower premiums only by an average of 4%. According to Citizen Action Wisconsin research, premiums increased by over 50% statewide from 2017-2018 and by even more in some areas of the state.

There are a number of far more effective policy changes that would make health coverage much more affordable if we deployed the full power of state government.

  1. Opening BadgerCare to everyone in Wisconsin as a public option would, at no cost to the state, reduce premiums and deductibles by an average of 24%. It would also help people who buy insurance on their own and small businesses, most of whom cannot afford to provide coverage to their employees.

  2. Reversing Walker’s decision to turn down the Medicaid expansion money in the ACA could reduce premiums by about 7%.

  3. Reversing the Walker Administration's decision to allow the sale of substandard plans in Wisconsin could reduce premiums by as much as 10%.

Walker’s new interest in protecting people with pre-existing conditions from discrimination by insurance companies is grossly inadequate. His proposal would allow insurance companies to trample upon the rights of anyone who’s had a gap in coverage, and does next to nothing to prevent people with serious health conditions from being priced out of coverage.

Walker’s sudden reversal does not go nearly far enough to the reverse the damage he has done through his ceaseless efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act. As Citizen Action of Wisconsin has continuously documented, the Walker Administration has sought to sabotage the ACA by encouraging healthy people to buy substandard policies outside of the market, refusing to enact robust rate review. turning down Medicaid expansion, hamstringing health care navigators, rubber stamping health insurance industry mega mergers, and seeking waivers that would allow insurance companies to take larger profits. Taken together the Walker Administration has aided and abetted the ongoing effort of the national for-profit insurance companies to continue to insure healthy people and find ways to avoid covering people with pre-existing health conditions.

“It is amazing that the best Walker can come up with to address skyrocketing health care costs is more public subsidies for insurance companies. Walker’s refusal to use the power of state government to guarantee affordable health care makes it impossible for him to meaningfully address the affordability crisis,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “Insurance and pharmaceutical corporations are not in the business of securing affordable health care; they are driven by profit imperatives dictated by Wall Street. That’s why insurance companies will deny coverage to sick people and pharmaceutical corporations will price gouge if we let them. It is a simple truth that only “we the people,” through the agency of our own democratic government, can guarantee health care to everyone in Wisconsin.”

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Tuesday's Vote Swing Shows Healthcare Professionals Engaged in Elections

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
User is currently offline
on Friday, 19 January 2018
in Wisconsin

healthcareHealthcare professionals see elections as a necessary part of their work.


STATEWIDE - Healthcare professionals are getting involved in the 2018 Wisconsin elections. “I’m tired of the attacks on BadgerCare and I’m tired of the government not putting any regulations on pharmaceutical companies jacking up prices,” said Lynn Carey, a retired nurse who helped in Dennis Degenhardt’s race in Assembly District 58, “I volunteered for Dennis because of his stance on healthcare.” The seat swung 25% in the direction of the Democrat candidate.

Dawn Garcia, a healthcare consultant, volunteered for Patty Schachtner in her Senate District 10 win. Senate District 10 is a traditionally Republican district, but Schachtner won on the message of fully expanding BadgerCare and increasing mental health resources. Garcia state, “I think healthcare professionals are realizing that they have the power and responsibility to change the US healthcare system, and part of that is getting involved in elections.”

Garcia and Carey are part of Citizen Action of Wisconsin’s organizing co-ops network forming across the state, including the Western Wisconsin Co-op which includes Senate District 10 and Healthcare for All co-op in Southeast Wisconsin and which is made up of doctors, nurses, and other health professionals.

“We are only just beginning,” said Carey. The group is putting on a “Healthcare Jeopardy” governor candidate forum on Saturday, January 27 at 9:30am at MATC Milwaukee. They expect for the room to be full of newly politically-engaged healthcare professionals looking to get involved.

In addition to the health professionals involved, Citizen Action of Wisconsin Western and North Central Wisconsin Organizing Co-ops members also volunteered the Senate District 10 election.

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WEDC’s Poor Accountability Record Makes Foxconn a Scandal Waiting to Happen

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 13 September 2017
in Wisconsin

walker-terry-gou-foxconnIndependent analysis reveals 14,000 jobs deficit for existing corporate tax credits and loans is greater than the direct job creation claim for the Foxconn deal. A full 60% of WEDC-supported corporations have failed to meet job creation goals.


STATEWIDE - On a media call Monday, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, State Rep. Amanda Stuck, and State Rep. Jonathan Brostoff released a new analysis of Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) data showing that the troubled economic development agency has an extremely poor record of holding corporate recipients accountable for their jobs promises. The analysis, which comes from the agency’s own self-published data, provides additional evidence that WEDC is completely unqualified to manage the gigantic Foxconn deal, which would be by far the largest job creation tax credit program ever issued by an American state. Audio of the call can be found here.

The Citizen Action of Wisconsin analysis examines job creation tax credits issued by WEDC three years ago and longer to allow time for corporate recipients to execute the hiring plans they submitted to WEDC. The analysis finds a large gap between “Actual Job Creation” (the jobs companies actually reported creating) and “Planned Job Creation” (the jobs that were promised in return for tax credits).

Key Findings

  • Of the 337 WEDC awardees with established job creation goals at least 3 years old, 60% (203 awardees) failed to meet their goals. (company list available on our website)

  • Of the 203 awardees that have not met their job creation promises, the difference between their actual job creation as reported by WEDC and their goals are 14,744 jobs. This means the WEDC job creation gap is larger than the total number of direct jobs being proposed by Foxconn in the best case scenarios (13,000 jobs).

  • The numbers would be even worse if WEDC kept net job creation numbers, because it is well documented that many WEDC recipients have outsourced other jobs while taking state tax credits.

  • WEDC has a very poor record of taking back tax credits when corporate recipients fail to fulfill their job creation promises. WEDC has only sought to claw back $9.9 million from 24 companies, less than 12% of companies who have not met their job creation goals after 3 years. WEDC does not report how much of this money has been successfully recovered.

  • The 203 companies that still have not hit their jobs goal in at least 3 years have already received $94.8 million in verified tax credits from WEDC, with another $158 million awarded but not yet dispersed.

“The Walker Administration's abysmal record of holding corporations accountable for their job creation promises makes the Foxconn deal a scandal waiting to happen,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “Any Senator or Representative that is thinking of voting for the Foxconn deal this week should think long and hard about whether they want to be held accountable for potentially the biggest economic scandal in Wisconsin history.”

As both data sets used in this analysis are self-reported by WEDC itself, they indicate the best-case scenario for job creation. The Legislative Audit Bureau found in May that all of WEDC’s job creation claims should be treated as suspect because the agency has failed to implement basic verification procedures. Given the continued refusal to implement basic accountability procedures, it is highly likely that WEDC’s performance record is much worse. The Legislative Audit Bureau concluded that WEDC does “not contractually require grant and loan recipients to submit information sufficiently detailed to allow it to determine the extent to which jobs were actually created or retained.” In addition, the Audit Bureau found that “WEDC did not collect sufficiently detailed information from tax credit recipients about their existing employees. Collecting such information will help WEDC determine in future years the extent to which recipients actually created or retained contractually required jobs. WEDC also did not comply with statutes because it did not annually verify jobs-related information submitted by recipients on the extent to which contractually required results were achieved.”

“Given WEDC’s record of scandal, the Foxconn deal does not make sense even if you believe in extreme corporate welfare,”said State Representative Jonathan Brostoff (D-Milwaukee).

“I have been told by WEDC when trying to help my constituents that the agency has no way of verifying with the Department of Revenue which companies have claimed job creation tax credits or how much they’ve recovered from those that don’t follow through on their commitments,” said State Representative Amanda Stuck (D-Appleton). “We have no guarantees that we will get the public’s money back from Foxconn if they do not follow through on their promises. I want to know that we have a system in place to protect our state.”

TABLE 1: Select companies receiving WEDC awards 3 years ago or more

WEDC Award Recipient


Kohl's Corporation

Was awarded $62.5 million in 7/12 to create 3,000 jobs. Currently listed as having allegedly created 473 jobs and received $18.3 million. Company outsourced 67 employees to India in 12/13.

Kestrel Aircraft Company, Inc.

Was awarded $20 million in credits and loans in 1/12 to create 1,265 jobs according to WEDC’s tracking. Currently listed as having allegedly created 45 jobs and received $717,500 in verified credits. Company announced in 10/16 they will not create the facility.

Plexus Corp

Was awarded $2 million in 8/11 and $15 million in 6/12 to create 350 jobs. Currently listed as having allegedly created 43 jobs and received $8.9 million in combined verified credits. In 7/12 the company announced layoffs of 116 workers and moved their operations overseas.

Laserwords U.S. Inc.

Was awarded $375,000 in 12/13 to create 286 jobs. Currently listed as having allegedly created 42 jobs and received $51,168 in verified credits. In June 2017 was certified as having outsourced 48 out of 55 jobs to Mexico

Exodus Machines Incorporated

Was awarded $1.1 million in loans in 10/12 to create 250 jobs. Currently listed as having allegedly created 35 jobs. In 9/16 the company was certified as having outsourced 20 jobs.

Hampton Products International

Was awarded $420,000 in 9/12 to create 140 jobs. Currently listed as having allegedly created 3 jobs. In 4/2015 was certified as having 29 jobs outsourced

W.W. Grainger, Inc.

Was awarded $500,000 in 7/11 to create 130 jobs. Currently listed as having created 0 jobs and received $50,000 in verified credits. In 8/15 the company was certified as having outsourced jobs to Panama

Green Box NA Green Bay, LLC

Was awarded $1.1 million in loans and $95,000 in grants to create 116 jobs. WEDC’s records show it as having created 41 jobs in one record and 64 jobs in another record. The company owner was investigated in 2016 for defrauding financial institutions.

Oneida Seven Generations Corp.

Was awarded $2 million in loans to create 22 jobs. Currently listed as having created 0 jobs. The company was listed as in default and WEDC sought to recover $1.99 million in 9/14, to date it is not clear how much WEDC has recovered.

Novation Companies, Inc.

Was awarded $750,000 to create 88 jobs. Currently listed as having created 68 jobs. The company was revealed to have not been located in the Sherman Park neighborhood of Milwaukee where WEDC listed them, and was actually purchased by another company after layoffs.

 

The full analysis can be viewed here

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Deliberate Sabotage Threatens Health Coverage

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 28 March 2017
in Wisconsin

americanhealthcareactWith repeal efforts in Washington on hold for now, the biggest immediate threat to affordable health coverage may be sabotage by the Trump Administration, Congress, and states like Wisconsin.


STATEWIDE - In the aftermath of the implosion of the Affordable Care Act replacement plan late Friday afternoon, the biggest immediate threat to affordable health coverage may be deliberate sabotage by the Trump Administration, Congress, and states like Wisconsin where conservative politicians are bitterly opposed to the health care law. With the legislative vehicle for radical restructuring the American health care system closed for the time being, State Innovations Waivers with states like Wisconsin may become the new method for achieving the goals of repeal.

After House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled his replacement bill on Friday President Donald Trump said: “I’ve been saying for the last year and a half that the best thing we can do politically speaking is let Obamacare explode. . . . It is exploding now.” But the Congressional Budget Office and independent researchers conclude that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as currently constituted will be stable for years to come. This assumes that the Trump Administration does not use its substantial administrative power to undermine the health care law.

The willingness of conservative politicians to play politics with the health coverage of the American people has been in evidence since the original passage of the ACA. As Citizen Action of Wisconsin has continuously documented, the Walker Administration has sought to sabotage the ACA by encouraging healthy people to buy substandard policies outside of the market; refusing to enact robust rate review; turning down Medicaid expansion; hamstringing health care navigators, rubber stamping health insurance industry mega mergers, and seeking waivers that would allow insurance companies to take larger profits. Taken together the Walker Administration has aided and abetted the on-going effort of the national for-profit insurance companies to continue to insure healthy people and find ways to avoid people with pre-existing health conditions.

The conservative majority in Congress has also played a major role in sabotaging the ACA. For example, they dramatically cut risk adjustment payments to insurance companies who insure more people with health conditions. This hit insurers that were doing the right thing with huge unexpected costs, driving many out of the the ACA marketplace and many new health care Co-ops out of business.

Before the failure of the latest legislative attack on the ACA last week, there were already indications of an intent to sabotage the health care law by not enforcing the individual mandate, pulling public promotion in the final weeks of open enrollment, not defending against a Congressional lawsuit that could pull tax subsidies from moderate income Americans, allowing substandard health insurance policies to be sold, and by cooperating with with states like Wisconsin that want to undermine the law. Trump’s selection of the vehemently ideological Tom Price as Health and Human Services Secretary is also evidence of an intent to disrupt the ACA. Major media outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and Politico are now reporting that the Trump Administration may double down on sabotaging the health care law.

If the Trump Administration adopts sabotage as the next front in it’s attack on the Affordable Care Act, the biggest opportunity for radically changing the health care law may be State Innovation Waivers which under the ACA can be negotiated starting this year. These waivers permit states to submit plans to dramatically restructure health coverage. The Walker Administration would be an ideal partner for Secretary Price to develop a State Innovation Waiver which undermined the purpose of the ACA.

With conservatives in charge of the government they have a solemn moral obligation to uphold the laws of the land and to protect the welfare of the American people. It is stunning that conservative politicians are so bent on getting their way that they are willing to play politics with the lives of their own constituents by throwing sand into the gears of the American health care system. The right of every American to have quality affordable health coverage ought not to be a partisan issue. Now that the American people have resoundingly rejected their disastrous replacement plan, it is time for conservatives to take on the responsibility of actually governing by working with Democrats to move beyond the divisive health care battle and improving and building on the Affordable Care Act.

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