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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

Feds Extend SeniorCare Through 2018

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, 24 December 2015
in Wisconsin

elderlyThe federal government has notified the state Department of Health Services that Wisconsin’s waiver to renew SeniorCare through December 31, 2018 has been approved. Green Bay's Sen. Dave Hansen gives credit for bi-partisan support to thousands who signed petitions to save SeniorCare.


MADISON - The federal government recently notified the state Department of Health Services here that Wisconsin’s waiver to renew SeniorCare through December 31, 2018 has been approved. The approval is good news for the more than 85,000 people who are currently enrolled in the popular prescription drug savings program.

The fate of SeniorCare was in doubt when Governor Scott Walker released his budget this year that included plans to eliminate the popular plan. Green Bay area state Senator Dave Hansen, other Democrats and SeniorCare advocates collected more than 13,000 signatures in a petition drive that helped create bi-partisan opposition to the Governor’s attempt to eliminate it.

dave-hansen“This is good news for everyone who depends on SeniorCare to afford their needed medications,” said Hansen who voted to create SeniorCare. "And it’s good for taxpayers too who save $90 million per year as a result of SeniorCare’s ability to negotiate for lower prices directly with drug companies."

Over 4,300 people from Northeast Wisconsin signed the petition that helped save SeniorCare. As a result, Democrats and Republicans opposed the planned elimination and the program was restored in the state budget. It just goes to show that when people get involved legislators will listen.

More than 85,000 people are currently enrolled in SeniorCare, and benefit from the program's simple enrollment process, $30 annual fee, income-based deductibles, and $5 co-pays for generic drugs. Most participants save hundreds of dollars each year, over what their costs would be on Medicare Part D, and taxpayers save $90 million per year through SeniorCare’s direct negotiation with drug companies.

"SeniorCare saves money and SeniorCare saves lives, and that's why so many people were willing to sign their names and share their stories, in support of the program," said Hansen. "Thanks to their efforts SeniorCare will be here to continue helping Wisconsin seniors save money on their prescription drugs.”

***

Legislative staffer Jay Wadd contributed to this story.

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Latest Walker Open Record Scandal

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, 22 December 2015
in Wisconsin

walkerMADISON - News reports last Friday exposed that top Walker aides have encouraged communicating official state business through private channels to limit public access. By doing so, it appears that Gov. Scott Walker is continuing the "secret email network" policy he pursued at Milwaukee County. The Milwaukee County network was uncovered during the John Doe 1 investigation in 2011 that led to the indictment and conviction of several Walker aides.

jenshilling“Gov. Walker is either deliberately misleading the public and press or he’s woefully out of touch with what his top cabinet officials are doing", said Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) and Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) in a joint statement on Friday. "Either excuse is unacceptable."

peter_barca“This latest scandal to limit public records is a gross abuse of political power that follows the typical pattern of Republican secrecy we’ve come to expect", the statement continues. "Simply put, Gov. Walker and legislative Republicans can’t be trusted to do the right thing for our state."

“Legislative Republicans have been laser-focused on covering up Gov. Walker’s political scandals. In doing so, they have undermined Wisconsin's tradition of good government and opened our state to fraud and corruption. Instead, Democrats believe we should be helping working families, investing in our communities and creating economic prosperity”, Shilling and Barca conclude.

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Walker Has Not Repaid Taxpayers for Campaign Debt

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, 11 December 2015
in Wisconsin

scottwalker-dreamThree months have passed since Governor Scott Walker said he would repay taxpayers for bills run up while he was running for President. Has he given himself a no-interest loan?


MADISON - Nearly three months have passed since Governor Walker ended his presidential campaign and the day he promised to repay state taxpayers for costs incurred during his presidential campaign. As homeowners and small businesses begin receiving their property tax bills, the outstanding debt racked up by Governor Walker’s presidential campaign has largely gone unpaid.

The most recent news accounts suggest he still owes Wisconsin taxpayers nearly $70,000 for expenses he charged to taxpayers during the first 6 months of 2015.

dave-hansen-gb“Millions of Wisconsin homeowners and small business owners are in the process of paying their property tax bills while Governor Walker continues to ignore his responsibility to repay taxpayers for the costs they incurred for his presidential campaign,” said Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay). “Essentially he is receiving a no interest loan from state taxpayers. It’s a sweetheart deal that he’s giving himself and it really does seem to straddle--if not cross--an ethical line.”

katrina-shanklandHansen and State Representative Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point) introduced the Taxpayer Protection Act earlier this year that would require state elected officials running for federal office to report and swiftly reimburse taxpayers for campaign related travel expenses.

Said Hansen, “His lack of concern for taxpayers makes our case for why we need to pass the Taxpayer Protection Act, so this never happens again.”

“So far he hasn’t even repaid taxpayers what he owes for the first part of the year. And we don’t even know how much he owes from the remainder of his campaign. Given his million dollars of campaign debt who knows if taxpayers will ever see a full accounting of what he owes them much less receive full payment from him,” Hansen said.

Earlier this month Wisconsin homeowners and small businesses began receiving their property tax bills, many of them containing an increase. As they begin to pay those bills many might be wondering if it’s time for the Governor to pay his as well.

“At this point I think they should go back and add on interest and penalties to his entire bill", says Hansen. "Most taxpayers don’t get no-interest, sweetheart loans like he’s getting."

"If he is looking for guidance he could consult the state tax code and pay the interest rate and penalties that are added on to the bills of those people who fall behind on paying their taxes", concludes Hansen. "Perhaps that would provide some incentive for him to make good on his promise to repay taxpayers.”

***

Legislative Staffer Jay Wadd contributed to this story.

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Public Hearing to Gut Civil Service Just Another Show

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, 06 October 2015
in Wisconsin

workersMembers of Gov. Scott Walker's administration joined with the bill's sponsor as the only testifiers in support of the measure that is moving quickly through the Legislature. Proposal would eliminate objective civil service exams, replacing them with a review of "qualifications" by administration appointees, and cripple workplace protections for our state workers.


MADISON - Today, the Senate Labor and Government Reform Committee held a public hearing on Senate Bill 285 to change the state’s civil service system. It must have seemed like deja vu, from French literally "already seen", to state workers still smarting from Act 10 in 2011.

The bill comes four years after the Legislature passed Gov. Scott Walker's proposal, known as Act 10, that effectively eliminated collective bargaining for most public workers, including state employees. Walker said then that he wasn't interested in making changes to the civil service system.

Today's public hearing was nothing more than a parade of Walker’s political appointees pushing for gutting civil service protections and doubling down on politicizing our state workforce.

The proposal would eliminate objective civil service exams, replacing them with a subjective review of "qualifications" by administration appointees, and cripple workplace protections for our state’s civil servants. These changes open the door to hiring partisan political hacks and making party loyalty a qualification for a state job, the very hiring practices that civil service was established 110 years ago to root out.

A parade of State workers testified the Republican-backed bill that would make it easier to hire and fire public employees, saying the proposed overhaul of Wisconsin's 110-year-old civil service system would lead to political patronage and cronyism.

Members of Gov. Scott Walker's administration joined with the bill's sponsor as the only testifiers in support of the measure that is moving quickly through the Legislature. The Senate Labor and Government Reform Committee hearing came just one week after the bill was publicly released.

"The legislation's not needed and does not address problems that are alleged to exist," said Jim Thiel, a former 40-year state employee representing the Association of Career Employees, which advocates for maintaining the civil service system. "This will lead to a patronage system."

An appeal that fell upon deaf ears from the Republican majority.

chris_larsonDemocratic Sen. Chris Larson, of Milwaukee, said the bill would gut the current system and lead to buddies of politicians in power getting jobs whether they're qualified or not.

"What's to prevent patronage? What's the check? Right now we have a neutral exam to make sure that doesn't happen," said Larson, a member of the committee that held the hearing. "This is the elimination of good government. This is just another step in that."

In a statement released after the hearing, Sen. Larson went on to say:

“Make no mistake, Wisconsinites are not fooled by what Walker and the GOP are trying to do in our state – consolidate power and fast-track corruption. In fact, we already have proof of what happens when we throw out strong hiring standards and replace them with subjective evaluations by looking at the failed Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). The quasi-private state agency does not use the same civil service standards as other state agencies. As a result, corruption and high turnover has run rampant within WEDC since its creation.

“Walker’s Wisconsin already has the fastest shrinking middle class in the U.S., is last in the nation for new business startups, and lags in job creation. Wisconsin families face real challenges every day and are tired of the cronyism and political power grabs by Republican leaders who are focused on undermining our open records laws, eliminating government accountability, and shielding themselves from criminal investigations.

“My Democratic colleagues and I are listening to the hardworking neighbors in our communities. Rather than looking for ways to tear down Wisconsin workers, Democrats are focused on strengthening our middle class, boosting family wages, and ensuring greater retirement security.

“Unfortunately, this bill is more political Snake Oil being pushed at Walker’s carnival of corruption; it fails to remedy the employment problems created by this administration, and poisons our heritage of good government.”

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Higher Ed Lower Debt Bill to Receive a Public Hearing

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, 02 October 2015
in Wisconsin

uwgb-studentPublic hearing on Higher Education Lower Debt Act authored by Sen. Dave Hansen of Green Bay and Rep. Cory Mason of Racine set for the Senate Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges on Wednesday, October 7 in the State Capitol.


MADISON - Legislation which could help thousands of student loan borrowers throughout Wisconsin refinance their debt will receive a public hearing in the Senate Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges on Wednesday, October 7 in the State Capitol.

Senate Bill 194, authored by Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and Representative Cory Mason (D-Racine), is often referred to as the Higher Education Lower Debt Act. If enacted, it would create a state authority to help borrowers refinance their student loans, allow borrowers to deduct student loan payments on their state income taxes, and require borrowers to receive counseling about student loan debt prior to taking out loans.

dave-hansen“I am very pleased that the committee will be holding a hearing on this bill,” said Sen. Hansen. “Since this legislation was first introduced last session I have heard stories from people across the state who are struggling to pay back their loans.”

“These are not deadbeats, these are hard-working taxpayers who sought to pursue the American Dream by furthering their education and training. They only want a better future for themselves and their families. This legislation seeks to help them lessen the burden of paying for that education.”

The hearing will be held in room 300 Southeast of the State Capitol at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, October 7th. The hearing is open to the public and individuals are encouraged attend and testify.

***

Legislative Staffer Jay Wadd contributed to this story.

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Walker, Republicans Want Return to Political Patronage in State Government

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, 24 September 2015
in Wisconsin

scott-walkerWalker and GOP lawmakers want to eliminate the state's civil service exams and replace them with a subjective review of résumés. The current civil service system has kept qualified workers in taxpayer-funded jobs based upon merit for nearly 100 years, and kept out partisan political hacks.


MADISON - Just three days after ending his presidential run, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker sought to reassert his conservative credentials Thursday by backing a proposed overhaul of the state's civil service system for 30,000 employees. The move comes four years after repealing most collective bargaining for public employees.

Walker and two top Republican lawmakers are seeking to eliminate the state's civil service exams, replacing them with a subjective résumé-based evaluation system. They also propose to stop allowing longtime employees to avoid termination by "bumping" other workers with less seniority and shortening by more than half the process for employees to appeal their dismissal or discipline.

More than a century ago, good-government groups engineered the civil service system as a way to place qualified workers in taxpayer-funded jobs and weed out partisan hacks. It has been working well ever since, much to the disappointment of each new group of politicians coming to Madison who normally want to get their friends, family, and donors into state jobs.

jennifer-shillingIn a statement released earlier today, Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) said of the move:

"The repeal of civil service protections is an invitation to more corruption in a Republican administration that continues to be plagued by scandals, cronyism and special interest influence. Rather than looking for ways to tear down Wisconsin workers, we should be focused on strengthening our middle class, boosting family wages and ensuring greater retirement security."

peter_barca2Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said:

"This is yet another politically motivated attack on hardworking state employees. It is especially concerning that this attack on our civil service system opens the door for corruption and cronyism during an Administration rife with scandals and charges of unethical conduct. Also, this once again violates a giant promise the Governor made during Act 10 that public employees would be protected by civil service."

***

The author was one of the chief architects of the civil service selection procedures implemented by the State of Wisconsin in the 1970s and 80s, and at one time ran the State's Civil Service Testing program.

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Scott Walker Quits Republican Presidential Race

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, 22 September 2015
in Wisconsin

walker_wavesWalker leads by retreating following stunning presidential collapse. Democrats swift to rejoice, but good cheer has turned to resolve to undo the damage Walker has done to the state.


MADISON - Yielding to reality in the polls and the exit of donors, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announced here Monday that he was withdrawing from the Republican Presidential Primary race. The move came as a surprise to few who had watched his disappointing performance in the campaign.

In his statement, Walker said "Today, I believe that I am being called to lead by helping to clear the race so that a positive conservative message can rise to the top". Like many of his other confused statements during his official 71 day campaign, it is hard to know what that means.

As little as a month ago, Walker had stood high among the potential Republican candidates. But then the first two debates forced him out from behind his shield of TV ads and staged events before rabid supporters and voters saw that he had little of substance. As of Monday his poll numbers had dropped to essentially 0% and his large donors, including the Koch brothers, were heading for the hills.

Despite Walker's stunning presidential collapse, some state Republicans appeared to harbor hopes of a comeback. Conservative radio host Charlie Sykes tweeted Monday that Walker's bow-out reminded him of when Walker dropped out of the 2006 race for Wisconsin governor: "Chose to live to fight another day."

Wisconsin Democrats were swift to rejoice. "We all let out a cheer when we heard the news that Governor Walker was dropping out of the Republican Presidential Primary," Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Martha Laning said in a statement. "It was gratifying to see Governor Walker's divide and conquer strategy fail this time because everyone has seen what that has done to our state."

But democratic good cheer has swiftly turned to a resolve to undo the damage Walker has done to the state as he pursued his political ambitions. "Wisconsin still has to live with the results of the extreme agenda he pushed here to further his standing in the Republican Presidential Primary", said Laning.

Wisconsin union members have been stung by Act 10 and Walker's attacks on workers have left them disheartened. Jobs have been lost to other states and abroad. Wisconsinites pay more for health insurance and the once proud BadgerCare program has been weakened. Public school funds have been diverted to private voucher schools, and the once great University of Wisconsin system has lost $250 million in funding as Walker questioned whether its' faculty was "working".

It will be interesting to see how many allies the Democrats find among Republicans in Madison, many of whom were thrown under the bus when Walker was riding high.

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Public Hearing Needed on GOP Plan to Merge UW Campuses and Tech Colleges

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, 27 August 2015
in Wisconsin

college-studentAssembly Republicans have been meeting in secret on a plan to merge the state’s 2-year UW campus system and the Technical College system. Such an important plan should not be hatched behind closed doors.


MADISON - According to recent news outlet reports, Assembly Republicans have been meeting in secret on a plan to merge the state’s 2-year UW campus system and the Technical College system. The plan could have a huge impact on the students, faculty, staff and the local communities the campuses serve.

Two Democratic leaders in the State Senate’s Universities and Technical Colleges Committee don't think such an important plan should be hatched behind closed doors. And they are doing something about it.

dave-hansenIn a letter to the committee's chair, Senator Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls), State Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and State Senator Janet Bewley (D-Delta) called today for a public hearing on the impact of the plan. In the letter they said it was “disturbing to learn that meetings on the proposed merger have been held out of the public eye. Such a significant change in our system of higher education is deserving of public input early on in the process rather than waiting until a deal has been struck behind closed doors.”

The senators are questioning why details of the plan, how it would work and how it would impact the campuses and the people and communities they serve have not been available to the public.

janet-bewley“The public hearing and committee process exists to provide people with not only an understanding of legislative undertakings but to make their voices heard during the legislative process," they say. "Certainly such a substantial and significant change to our system of higher education merits early and significant public input.”

Recently Republicans tried to slip major changes weakening the state’s open records laws and the board that oversees the Wisconsin Retirement into the state budget. It was only after the public became aware of those secret efforts that they were dropped from the budget. Hansen and Bewley believe given the complexity that would surround merging the two systems the public should be given a chance to weigh in before a plan is rushed through the legislature.

“We respectfully request that a public hearing be held as soon as possible so that the committee can hear firsthand from all stakeholders about the potential impacts of merging the UW 2-year Campus and Technical College systems," their letter continues.  "This hearing should include testimony from administrators, faculty, staff, students, parents and community leaders.”

Despite major changes made to the UW System including cutting $250 million from UW Campuses and making major changes to tenure and shared governance, to date the Universities and Technical Colleges Committee has held only one public hearing. The hearing was held on June 4th during which the committee heard testimony on five appointments and one senate bill.

***

Legislative staffer Jay Wadd contributed to this article.

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Green Bay Senator Hansen Calls for Passage of Non-Partisan Redistricting Bill

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 Monday, 10 August 2015
in Wisconsin

dave-hansenResearch shows Wisconsin most gerrymandered state in the country and system for drawing legislative district lines is broken beyond repair. Gerrymandering districts thwart the will of the voters.


MADISON - Responding to recent research showing Wisconsin to be the most gerrymandered state in the nation, State Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) called on the Legislature to pass his non-partisan redistricting bill to restore fairness in Wisconsin elections.

“Recently conducted research shows beyond a doubt that Wisconsin’s system for drawing legislative district lines is broken beyond repair,” said Hansen. “Regardless of which party is responsible gerrymandering districts to thwart the will of the voters is counter to fair elections and a cancer on our democracy.”

In 2011 the Republicans assumed total control of state government and set in motion a partisan redistricting process which was designed to protect their members in the State Assembly and Senate and preserve their majorities in both houses for years to come regardless of the overall popular statewide vote.

An example of the advantage Republicans gave themselves is reflected in the 2012 election results in which Democrats received 53.5% of the vote statewide but less than 40% of the seats in the State Assembly.

“Gerrymandering has existed for decades, but the kind that has occurred in Wisconsin under the republican majority is gerrymandering on steroids. It has corrupted our elections and state policy as the Governor and legislative Republicans have pursued an agenda that is far outside the mainstream with no fear of being held accountable at the ballot box.”

The study conducted by Professor Simon Jackman of Stanford University is being used to bolster nationwide challenges to partisan redistricting by both parties shows that Wisconsin’s districts are gerrymandered significantly more than states like Illinois and Texas, states that are commonly viewed has having long histories of corruption in both their elections and their governments. On the other side, Democrats in Rhode Island have gerrymandered their state’s legislative districts to freeze out the voices of Republican voters.

“In a democracy “one person-one vote” is supposed to matter. But here in Wisconsin there are thousands of voters whose voices have been frozen out of the ballot box and in turn their government because the elections have been rigged to the point their legislative votes don’t matter. It is time to begin the process of restoring people’s faith in their government and it starts with passing legislation to end partisan election rigging.”

***

Link to redistricting study here.

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Ron Johnson & The Clown Show that Was the Senate Iran Hearing

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, 24 July 2015
in Wisconsin

ron-johnson-speaksWisconsin's senior Senator Ron Johnson lectures a top-of-his-field nuclear physicist on the nonsense science fiction EMP "threat" at the Foreign Relations Committee. His antics should be of interest to those of us who are really tired of the backwater image he continues to paint on our state.


WASHINGTON - According to a blog by Max Fisher in VOX, our Senator Ron Johnson really distinguished himself with his "scientific" knowledge at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week.

Top administration officials were at Congress Thursday for a hearing before the Committee on the Iran nuclear deal, a subject that has always brought out the crazy in American politicians. No one expected this hearing to be anything other than a circus. The deal is politically contentious, and Republicans are trying to out-hawk one another for the coming presidential primaries.

At one point, a tweet from New York Times economics policy reporter Jonathan Weisman captured the scene nicely, "Now Sen. Ron Johnson is lecturing MIT physicist Ernest Moniz on electro-magnetic pulse weapons".

As we all know here in Wisconsin, Johnson is our current senior senator and a Republican. Ernest Moniz is the secretary of energy and one of the lead US negotiators on the Iran deal. Electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapons are a nonsense science fiction "threat" and a longtime point of obsession among certain conservatives, such as Newt Gingrich and Ron Johnson.

According to Fisher, "Johnson's line of questioning, to a top-of-his-field nuclear physicist, is a little like asking Neil Armstrong if he thinks the moon landing might have been faked".

Moniz, as is the obligation of administration officials at congressional hearings, did his best to entertain the senator's message. According to a tweet by Laura Rozen, a Washington reporter, "Energy Secretary Moniz told Sen. Johnson he was not familiar with the EMP commission's findings. Johnson said he'd forward him some stuff".

According to Fisher, there were other clown show moments. GOP Sen. Jim Risch said anyone who supports the nuclear deal "really joins the ranks of the most naive people on the face of the earth." Risch added that Moniz and Secretary of State John Kerry had been "bamboozled" by Iran, but did not clarify whether they had also been run amok, led astray, or hoodwinked.

But Ron Johnson's antics should be of greatest interest to those of us in Wisconsin who are really tired of the backwater image he continues to paint on our state for the rest of the nation.

Fisher concludes "Sometimes congressional hearings can be productive. But almost always they will include a not-insignificant amount of circus time, particularly if it's on a politically loaded issue or if it's getting lots of TV coverage. This hearing is so far no exception."

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Wisconsin Supreme Court Ends Investigation into Walker's Corrupt Campaign Financing

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, 16 July 2015
in Wisconsin

walkerProsecutors were looking into whether Walker broke state law in his 2012 recall battle by urging major donors to circumnavigate crucial donation limits by giving to outside political action groups. Decision suspect as four majority justices also received $10 million in campaign money from those same groups.


MADISON - The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled 4-2 on Thursday to end a John Doe investigation into Governor Scott Walker’s coordination of dark money during his 2012 recall campaign.

Wisconsin prosecutors were looking into whether Walker broke state law in his 2012 recall battle by urging major donors to support his campaign by giving to outside groups to circumnavigate crucial donation limits he faced.

But Wisconsin’s Supreme Court ruled the investigation was “overly broad” and infringed on First Amendment rights of free speech. The court’s justices, who are elected every 10 years in statewide elections and are themselves dependent upon campaign donations from the same groups, split over the effect of a pair of recent federal rulings which opened the floodgates for money in federal campaigns.

Several watchdog groups, including many who have hounded Walker throughout his tenure, pointed out that the four justices who ruled in favor of Walker and the outside groups supporting him also received $10 million in campaign money themselves from those same groups.

matt-rothschild“It is not only regrettable; it is downright dangerous,” said Matt Rothschild, the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. The decision itself is corrupt, Rothschild added, since it was contaminated by outside spending on behalf of the conservative justices by the very groups that were being investigated.

scotrossScot Ross, executive director of the liberal One Wisconsin Now, said that the conflict of interest among the justices was part of a system “run amok”.

“If this exact scenario were occurring in another country, Scott Walker would be calling for boots on the ground to save democracy,” Ross said in a statement.

But the Governor seemed to know the fix was in from the beginning. “We said all along that the courts would ultimately rule on the side of the original circuit court judge,” Walker said Thursday, during a campaign stop in New Hampshire. “As folks in Wisconsin will tell you, I’ve gone through these battles so many times I don’t get up or too down, I’m pretty even keeled on all this.”

“The Wisconsin State Supreme Court has further embarrassed itself with this ruling,” Rothschild said. “And it is draining the public’s confidence in the integrity of our courts.”

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Republicans "Double Down" on their Assault on Open Government

Posted by Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Bob Kiefert is the Publisher of the Northeast Wisconsin - Green Bay Progressive.
User is currently offline
on Friday, 10 July 2015
in Wisconsin

scott-walker-sworeinNew attacks on Wisconsin’s non-partisan government accountability organization are not intended to improve our state, they are only intended to improve Republicans’ political fortunes and shield Gov. Walker’s administration from scrutiny as he runs for president.


MADISON – After a failed attempt last week to gut Wisconsin’s open records law, legislative Republicans have now issued new calls to dismantle Wisconsin’s non-partisan government accountability organization, setting their sights on the watchdog agency in an effort to prevent investigations into potential ethics and criminal violations.

The move comes just a week after Republicans tried to dismantle the state’s open records laws and a day after Assembly Republicans refused to pledge not to degrade Wisconsin’s open records law in the future. Earlier this week Republicans voted down a Democratic budget amendment that would have taken major steps to ensure accountability and transparency at Governor Scott Walker’s scandal ridden Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).

The timing of the Republicans’ attack on open government comes as Gov. Scott Walker is reportedly planning to formally announce he is running for president on Monday.

In recent years, open records requests have helped shed light on everything from potential corruption at Governor Walker’s jobs agency to criminal activity that led to the convictions of six of the governor’s former aides as county executive, as well as the revelation that major mining company donors essentially re-wrote large sections of Wisconsin’s environmental laws.

jennifer-shillingSpeaking in response to these latest attacks, Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) said:

“Republicans were unsuccessful in their sneak attack on Wisconsin’s open records laws, so naturally their next target is the government watchdog agency that enforces these laws. Other than the possibility that the State Capitol has been overrun by vampires, I don’t know why there is this sudden rush to do business in the dark without any public oversight or transparency."

peter_barcaConcerned Assembly leaders were also critical of the Republican effort to turn Wisconsin's nonpartisan government watchdog into a partisan lapdog.

“The Republicans are doubling down on their assault on clean, open and transparent government," Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said today.

“This brazen attack on government oversight is especially troubling since it comes at a time when citizens and journalists are uncovering potential corruption at Gov. Walker’s economic development agency," Barca said.

“Like so much of their agenda, these proposals are not intended to improve our state – they are only intended to improve Republicans’ political fortunes and shield Gov. Walker’s administration from scrutiny as he runs for president,” he concluded.

###

Assembly reporter Laura Smith contributed to this article.

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Wisconsin Senate Passes Republican Backwards Budget

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, 08 July 2015
in Wisconsin

wisconsinRepublicans betray Wisconsinites by passing a $73 billion 2015-17 State Budget that fails to invest in our traditional, shared values. The only winners are the special interests.


MADISON - The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Senate passed the $73 billion 2015-17 State Budget bill just before midnight Tuesday, sending it to the Assembly after voting to repeal a prevailing wage law for local government projects.

The fight over the prevailing wage law, which sets a minimum salary for construction workers on public projects, had helped delay the budget for more than five weeks as Republicans tried to broker an agreement that could win passage in both houses.

The Senate also unanimously voted to repeal a gutting of the state open records law, changes added in a surprise 999 amendment by the GOP-controlled Joint Finance Committee last week. In the face of a swift and fierce bipartisan backlash over the move that would have exempted nearly all records created by state and local government officials, Gov. Scott Walker and legislative leaders backed off and the Senate voted 33-0 to remove the changes.

Removing those provisions was the only Democratic victory Tuesday.

Republicans hold a 19-14 majority in the Senate and rejected all other Democratic proposals, including reversing a $250 million budget cut to the University of Wisconsin and increasing funding for public K-12 schools, during more than eight hours of debate.

The Assembly, where Republicans have a 63-36 majority, was scheduled to vote on the budget Wednesday night, a move that would send it to Gov. Scott Walker before he is to launch his presidential campaign Monday.

Assembly Democratic legislators met the media today to discuss the day’s Assembly calendar, most notably the state budget bill. It is unlikely they will have any more success than their Senate counterparts.

kathleen-vinehoutAccording to State Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma), “Budgets are all about choices. Unfortunately, the budget passed by the Senate majority party represents political choices, not the choices of Wisconsin families.”

“People from across the state asked the Legislature to invest in public education, in the U.W. System, in roads and bridges, and in family supporting jobs. They asked legislators to protect the health programs and services for our vulnerable citizens,” said Vinehout.

Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Madison) pinned much of the blame on the Republican's allegiance to Walker's presidential ambitions.

“This budget spent over $10 billion dollars more than the 2009-2011 budget. The problem with this budget was never a lack of cash. From day one, the problem has been that this budget is all about presidential politics and not about the priorities of the people of this state,” Erpenbach said. “The decisions made today will have an effect on Wisconsin and I am afraid it will not be a good one."

chris_larsonSenator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) agreed, saying Senate Republicans forced through a special interest budget that surrenders to the demands of the most extreme Tea Party factions while making it harder for our neighbors in Wisconsin’s middle class.

“Governor Walker has made it clear he places his own ambitions over ensuring financial security and prosperity for his own Wisconsin neighbors," said Larson.

“Tonight, Tea Party legislators again returned to their failed slash and burn policies that are bankrupting opportunity in our state and decimating our middle class," he continued.  "It’s like watching a bad rerun: the glamor is gone, the plot is predictable, the dialog is dated, and you’re just left with bad actors stuck in the past. It’s no wonder they tried to keep the public in the dark with their 999 secrecy motion."

dave-hansen-gbThis is the third budget since 2011. During that time Wisconsin has fallen to 35th for job creation and 50th for new businesses. Wisconsin has seen the biggest decline of its middle class of all 50 states.

By all accounts the GOP agenda of tax breaks for the rich and cuts to the services that help grow and sustain a strong middle class has failed.

The impact of this budget will be felt for years to come in the form of an economy that continues to lag our nation and places more pressure on already struggling families. The only winners are the special interests.

Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) concludes “This budget continues a pattern of giving yet millions more in tax breaks for the wealthy at the expense of our public schools and universities as well as our roads and highways."

###

Senate Staffers Linda Kleinschmidt and Jay Wadd contributed to the article.

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Dark of Night Budget Proposal Threatens Wisconsin Retirement System

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, 07 July 2015
in Wisconsin

joint-financeDamaging changes proposed to the WRS Board structure under the cover of darkness, with no debate or public input, which could open the door for political manipulation and corruption.


MADISON - The Joint Finance Committee ended its work on the state budget last week by slipping in some policy changes in it's last minute Motion, #999. One of them affects landline phone service, which may hurt many rural residents in northern Wisconsin. Another changes the composition of the Joint Survey Committee On Retirement Systems (JSCRS).

This committee is responsible for reviewing any changes to the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS). It has been composed of Senate and Assembly legislators of both parties plus representatives of the public, the Attorney General, The Department of Employee Trust Funds, and the Insurance Commissioners office. Under the proposed changes, the committee would become entirely appointed legislators (five Assembly and five Senate).

As with many of the proposals in this budget, this one is a “solution looking for a problem.” The current committee structure has been working. WRS is rated as one of the best public retirement programs in the nation. Why are changes being proposed?

The JSCRS is a powerful committee that is legally required to review any proposed changes to the WRS so that all the long term "effects" are known. This means "effects" on taxpayers, on retirees, on workers, of government agencies, on retention of high quality workers, etc. Recently, the legislature has been avoiding this law and making changes to the WRS without detailed study.

This proposal opens the door for political manipulation and corruption. The ruling party would have complete control over reviewing and recommending changes to the WRS. It reduces broad public oversight of a $100 billion public trust fund.

Governor Scott Walker and many Republican leaders support the goal of the right wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and Wall Street to privatize public pension funds. Under privatization, Wall Street could make billions in fees and control the investments to divert retiree fund monies into their buddies' businesses. Governments could decrease their share of funding of public pension systems and retirees would get smaller pensions.

Is this an overreaction? Maybe. Will the state legislature vote yes on this budget proposal? We don't know. But has your paper, radio or TV station been covering this attempt to change WRS? Probably not.

It is very "Walker like" for the Governor to make an outrageous proposal like the recent attack on open government, walk it back in the face of outrage, then "end run" other damaging changes to public policy with no debate or public input, while the media is busy congratulating itself on their "victory".

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Time to Pass Independent Re-Districting

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, 30 June 2015
in Wisconsin

money-behind-politicsWhere political parties are allowed to pick their voters and protect their majorities we have seen growing polarization as the party in power feels protected from the wishes of the voters. Independent redistricting has been shown to reduce polarization.


GREEN BAY - In response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding independent drawing of legislative districts, it is time for Wisconsin to move forward with passage of legislation that would create an independent Redistricting Advisory Commission to oversee the legislative and congressional redistricting process.

dave-hansen-gb“The conservative U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the ability of states to enact laws creating an independent non-partisan redistricting process. It is time for Wisconsin to join the growing movement to end the ability of politicians and political parties to rig district lines to protect their jobs and their majorities,” said Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay), author of Senate Bill 58 to create a non-partisan redistricting process.

In its decision, the Court upheld the right and interest of the public to have a fair and independent process that takes politics out of redistricting.

According to Hansen, “It doesn’t matter which party is in power, Republicans or Democrats, gerrymandering districts to protect the power of politicians for either party violates the spirit of a true democracy. The people have a right to free, fair elections where their votes actually matter, regardless of where they live.”

Research commissioned by the USC Schwarzenegger Institute showed that after independent redistricting was implemented in California, their state legislature became less polarized with the gap in polarization between the parties falling 15% in the Assembly and 10% in the state Senate based upon the votes taken by members of both parties.

Where political parties are allowed to pick their voters and protect their majorities we have seen growing polarization as the party in power feels protected from the wishes of the voters.

Here in Wisconsin the proposed state budget contains a number of items vastly opposed by Wisconsin residents including a $250 million cut to the state’s public universities, cuts to public schools and taxpayer funding for the Bucks arena.

“If legislators from both parties had to be concerned with the wishes of all the voters we likely would not have seen these provisions in the state budget," said Hansen.  "Instead we might likely see a budget that would have enough votes from both parties to have already been approved by the Legislature."

Now, the budget process is delayed as Republican leaders attempt to pass a budget bloated with special interest giveaways in exchange for cuts that harm the middle-class.

***

Senate Staffer Jay Wadd contributed to this article.

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Court Upholds Affordable Care, Walker Should Stop Political Posturing

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, 27 June 2015
in Wisconsin

aca-workingNow that the U.S. Supreme Court has once again upheld the ACA as the law of the land, Governor Walker should do the right thing for the people of Wisconsin and take back our federal tax dollars to strengthen BadgerCare.


GREEN BAY - Thursday’s 6-3 U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding Affordable Care Act tax credits is an especially important victory for the 183,000 Wisconsinites, including 11,000 children, who stood to lose their health care coverage. Had the decision gone the other way, Gov. Scott Walker made it clear as recently as Wednesday that he would not take any affirmative steps to ensure those families would continue to be covered.

dave-hansen-gbAccording to State Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay), the “decision by the U.S. Supreme Court is a win for those who believe everyone should have access to affordable, quality health care". It "brings peace of mind to more than 166,000 Wisconsin residents who are secure in knowing that their coverage under the Affordable Care Act will continue as it was intended."

Unfortunately, tens of thousands of Wisconsinites still cannot access health care because extreme legislative Republicans refuse to enact the same law that all our neighboring states benefit from, at least in part due to Walker’s presidential posturing.

Joining our Midwestern neighbors in reclaiming our federal health care investments would allow more than 80,000 Wisconsin citizens to access health care coverage at a savings of more than $360 million over the next two years and well over $2 billion over the decade. It would provide health care access to more people at a lower cost to taxpayers and could help Wisconsin invest tax dollars in schools and communities.

Hansen says “Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has once again upheld the ACA as the law of the land, Governor Walker should do the right thing for the people of Wisconsin and take back our federal tax dollars to strengthen BadgerCare. Doing so would provide health insurance to thousands while saving Wisconsin taxpayers over $360 million over the next two years.”

Adds Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha),  “The people of Wisconsin are tired of legislative Republicans forcing them to take a back seat to Governor Walker’s political career. It’s time to do the right thing by taking the health care money.”

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Leader of White Supremacist Group Cited in Charleston Shooter Manifesto Donated to Walker, Johnson, Ryan

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, 23 June 2015
in Wisconsin

roof-flagEarl Holt III, leader of white supremacist group Council of Conservative Citizens cited in 'Dylann Roof manifesto' donated to top Republican politicians, including ours in Wisconsin. Says it is "not surprising" that Roof learned about "black-on-white violent crime" from the group's site.


GREEN BAY - A white supremacist who influenced the Charleston church shooter gave tens of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates and committees in the past five years, including $3,500 to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, $1,250 to Sen. Ron Johnson and $1,000 to Rep. Paul Ryan's leadership committee.

The Green Bay Press Gazette reported Monday that Earl Holt III, president of the Council of Conservative Citizens, which was cited in a manifesto by shooter Dylann Roof, contributed $500 on seven occasions to Walker's campaign since 2011.

Holt also contributed $500 in 2011 and $500 in 2012 to Ryan's Prosperity PAC and gave Johnson's campaign $250 in 2010 and $1,000 in 2013. In Johnson's campaign filings from 2013, Holt lists his occupation as "slumlord."

AshLee Strong, a Walker spokeswoman, said, "The governor will be donating this money to charity."

A spokeswoman for Johnson said his campaign learned about the contributions on Monday morning and cut a check for the full amount to a charity to help the victims in Charleston.

"As soon as we discovered that Mr. Holt had contributed to the campaign, we immediately donated the full amount of his contribution to the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund," Johnson campaign spokeswoman Betsy Ankney said.

A spokesman for Ryan's committee said the PAC will give the contributions it received from Holt to the Charleston church where the shooting occurred.

Roof, the suspect in last week's murder of nine blacks at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., said he learned about "brutal black-on-white murders" from the Council of Conservative Citizens website.

Holt said in a statement posted Sunday on the group's website that it is "not surprising" that Roof learned about "black-on-white violent crime" from the group's site. But the group "unequivocally condemns Roof's murderous actions."

The Guardian first reported Sunday that Holt has given more than $65,000 to Republicans in recent years, including presidential contenders Rick Santorum, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz.

***

Melissa Baldauff, WisDems Communications Director, also contributed to this article.

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Green Bay Senator Hansen Calls for Closure of WEDC

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 Monday, 22 June 2015
in Wisconsin

walker-wedcLatest reports confirm WEDC officials failed to perform critical underwriting for $124.4 million in taxpayer supported loans it made to 27 companies. Provide confirmation WEDC has failed at predicted economic development and jobs creation.


MADISON - State Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) called for the closure of the troubled Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) today after it was revealed that WEDC officials failed to perform critical underwriting for $124.4 million in taxpayer supported loans it made to 27 companies.

WEDC was created in 2011 by Governor Scott Walker and majority legislative Republicans, replacing the former Department of Commerce as the primary agency responsible for economic development and jobs creation in Wisconsin. Since then, it has consistently failed to meet its goals in both.

Governor Walker said the creation of WEDC was central to his promise to create 250,000 jobs during his first term in office. However, according to a recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report, Wisconsin ranks 35th in the nation for job creation since Gov. Walker took office and ranks worst in the nation for new business creation. Reports also showed that Walker created just 129,131 new jobs in his first term, or 51.7 percent of his 250,000 jobs promise.

In addition, a series of non-partisan audits beginning in 2012 show WEDC lost track of $56 million worth of taxpayer funded loans and found that the agency lacked basic internal accounting controls. The quasi-public agency has also written off more than $7.6 million in loans, to include a $500,000 loan to a troubled company owned by a major donor to Walker’s campaign.

dave-hansen-gb“WEDC has been an unmitigated disaster from the start. It has been one scandal after another, squandered millions of dollars and failed to produce any significant numbers of jobs,” said Hansen a longtime critic. “There is no way to justify its existence any longer. It is time to end WEDC. It is beyond repair and the taxpayers deserve better.”

"Since it was created WEDC it has given millions to companies that outsourced Wisconsin jobs, ignored its own rules and state law, and written off millions in failed loans to Republican campaign donors," said Hansen. "According to a recent audit, of the 19,306 jobs WEDC was expected to create during fiscal years 2011-2013 it created only 7,894—barely 40% of the number of jobs promised."

“Unfortunately those of us who said that WEDC was a failed model from the start have seen our prediction come true. After wasting millions of taxpayer dollars amid numerous scandals it is time to admit that the WEDC model is a failure and scrap it in favor of a more open and transparent model that is truly accountable to the taxpayers,” Hansen said.

The Senator concludes “By any measure, WEDC is a failure that taxpayers cannot afford to support. With Wisconsin’s economy still continuing to lag our neighbors and the nation, there is nothing left to do but shut the doors on WEDC and close the book on what has become a very expensive lesson in how not to create jobs.”

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Wisconsin Economy Flounders Under Scott Walker Plan

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, 17 June 2015
in Wisconsin

walkerWisconsin drops to 35th among the 50 states in the pace of job creation in the full four years of Gov. Scott Walker's first term, has consistently lagged behind under Walker's "Open for Business" strategy, bad press over  failures at his flagship jobs agency, the WEDC, to follow state and federal law.


GREEN BAY - While the rest of the country has made a huge recovery from the economic crash of 2008, the State of Wisconsin has consistently lagged behind with Gov. Scott Walker's "Open for Business" strategy.

According to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report today, in the four years from 2011-'14, when the United States posted a 9.3% gain in private-sector jobs, Wisconsin created jobs at a rate of 5.7%, an increase that gives Wisconsin a rank of 35th among the 50 states in the pace of job creation in the full four years of Gov. Scott Walker's first term.

The data released last Thursday morning from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics are based on a quarterly census of American employers that makes them the most accurate and definitive figures available. The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, which tracks jobs and wages in rolling 12-month increments, is published every three months.

The U.S. hit its lowest point of the recession early in 2010, meaning the four-year period of 2011-'14 effectively encompasses most of the economic recovery from the worst national downturn since the Great Depression.

By the end of 2014, Wisconsin had failed numerically to return to its pre-recession employment peaks, before the financial market meltdown in mid-2008. By contrast, the United States had regained and exceeded its pre-recession employment peaks by the end of 2014.

By December 2014, Wisconsin posted 2,400,139 private-sector jobs, still below 2,412,898 in December 2007. By contrast, the U.S. had 117.7 million private sector jobs in December 2014, higher than 115.1 million in December 2007.

Walker continues to campaign outside of the state touting his "Wisconsin Comeback" which portrays his business development policies as a huge success, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

To compound his credibility problems, Scott Walker has been plagued with bad press over the failures at his flagship jobs agency, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), to follow state and federal law.

A series of non-partisan audits beginning in 2012 show WEDC lost track of $56 million worth of taxpayer funded loans and found that the agency lacked basic internal accounting controls. The quasi-public agency has also written off more than $7.6 million in loans, to include a $500,000 loan to a troubled company owned by a major donor to Walker’s campaign.

The Wisconsin State Journal investigation also revealed  a forgivable taxpayer WEDC loan of nearly $700,000 to a Sheboygan company planning to build a combination helicopter and corporate jet, even though they had no experience in aircraft manufacturing and underwriters hadn’t reviewed the company’s finances.

Walker's "Open for Business" strategy has mainly consisted of giving huge tax breaks to the very wealthy to make "Wisconsin attractive" to new business development. Unfortunately for Walker, Wisconsin dropped to dead last among the 50 states in the latest business startup index published by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

***

Journal Sentinel report By John Schmid and Kevin Crowe. Journal Sentinel reporter Craig Gilbert in Washington, D.C. contributed.

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Republican Lawmakers Display “Staggering Ignorance” of Legislative Audit Bureau

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, 09 June 2015
in Wisconsin

david-craigThe Craig/Jarchow bill transfers all legislative oversight of the executive branch and the fraud, waste and abuse hotline to two partisan leaders. Why would legislators want do away with the LAB? There are so many examples of how the exemplary and award-winning work of the Legislative Audit Bureau saved taxpayer dollars.


adam-jarchowMADISON - Republican Representatives David Craig (R-Big Bend) and Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake) have authored a bill to entirely eliminate the Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB) and the legislature’s Joint Committee on Audit as well.

Under the proposal, the independent audit bureau would be replaced by inspectors general who would provide auditing services to all state agencies with more than 100 employees. The inspectors general work under each department head, but are directed to audit their agencies and/or programs by the Speaker of the Assembly and the Senate Majority Leader. Both are Republicans.

The LAB has had a long history of independent audits of the Executive Branch. Governors of both parties have wished it would go away, fearing reviews they could not control.

The timing of this bill is especially curious coming on the heels of the extremely critical audit of the Walker Administration's WEDC, which has been rife with mismanagement and perceived cronyism.

Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma), a frequent spokeswoman for progressive values on these pages and ranking minority member of the Joint Committee on Audit, harshly criticized the bill this morning.

kathleen-vinehout“The breadth of the Representatives’ ignorance of the LAB activities and processes is staggering,” Vinehout said. “Their bill shows a complete unfamiliarity with the skills of auditors, the efficiencies in government that LAB staff helped create and the fraud, waste and abuse that auditors discovered and further prevented through their oversight.”

“The Craig/Jarchow bill transfers all legislative oversight of the executive branch and the fraud, waste and abuse hotline to two partisan leaders,” Vinehout said. “Their bill embeds auditors in the agencies making them ripe for corruption by executive staff and partisan leaders.”

Recent audits of economic development programs and Medicaid transportation provided lawmakers with critical and budget timely information. Last year’s audit of the Supervised Release program showed that the Department of Health Services was spending more for inmate transportation than the Department of Corrections.

“Legislative actions should be based on accurate information,” concludes Vinehout. “There are so many examples of how the exemplary and award-winning work of the Legislative Audit Bureau saved taxpayer dollars. All I can ask is why would legislators want do away with the LAB?”

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