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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

GOP Plan to Kill State's Non-Partisan Watchdog Bureau An Overreach of Power

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 Monday, 08 June 2015
in Wisconsin

scott-walkerTiming 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. "Having an employee audit their boss is essentially a joke," said one veteran agency manager.


MADISON - Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin on Monday were circulating a bill that would eliminate the state's independent Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB).

GOP sponsors of the bill said the state would be better served by auditors working within state agencies.

Under the proposal being circulated among GOP lawmakers, the independent audit bureau would be replaced by inspectors general who would provide auditing services to all state agencies with more than 100 employees, according to analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau.

Since its creation in 1966, 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. But none before Gov. Scott Walker has seriously attempted to kill it.

The existing audit bureau is a free-standing watchdog office that operates independently of the agencies it reviews. The bureau audits the practices of state agencies in addition to their books under the oversight of a bipartisan Legislative committee.

Having internal "inspectors" who report to individual department heads would essentially mute any effective audit function within state agencies, according to one 33 year veteran agency manager. "Having an employee audit their boss is essentially a joke", said our source. "Anyone really trying to be independent would quickly find themselves looking for work. That's why the audit function must be beyond the reach of the executive."

peter_barcaAssembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) agrees. In a statement issued Monday, Barca said of Rep. Dave Craig’s proposal to eliminate the Legislative Audit Bureau:

“In a session filled with bad ideas, this is one of the worst in terms of adversely affecting the taxpayers' long-term interest.

“One of the greatest strengths of the Wisconsin Legislature is having nonpartisan service agencies like the Audit Bureau, Fiscal Bureau and Reference Bureau. Through these agencies, citizens can be assured they are getting the pure facts and that the information released is not being clouded by partisan judgment or political spin.

“Changing the nonpartisan, award-winning Legislative Audit Bureau into partisan appointees continues the Republican efforts to reduce oversight of state government. The move would allow for more partisan and special-interest influence and further erode Wisconsin’s tradition of clean, open and transparent government.

“The timing 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. Taxpayers deserve more oversight and accountability, not less.”

***

During his time in the legislature, Rep. Barca has twice co-chaired the Joint Legislative Audit Committee.

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Walker Republicans Cut UW Funding $250 Million

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 May 2015
in Wisconsin

2015-budgetMADISON - Action taken today by the Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee cuts $250 million from our UW campuses. While this is $50 million less than the $300 million cut Gov. Scott Walker had originally proposed, it is still a devastating cut to higher education in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin will become one of only six states in the nation to cut funding for its public universities. As a result students and returning adults will find it more difficult and more expensive to get the classes they need to graduate.

dave-hansenAccording to Sen. Dave Hansen (D - Green Bay), “Had the Legislature and the Governor focused their energy on creating jobs like they promised instead of giving billions in tax breaks to the wealthy and millions in taxpayer giveaways to their special interest friends, Wisconsin wouldn’t be one of the worst states for job creation and Wisconsin families wouldn’t have to endure the increased costs they will now have to bear in order for their children to graduate from a UW school."

While our neighbors are using the increased revenue from their improved economic performance to increase funding for their universities, under the current leadership Wisconsin continues to fall further behind.

It is time for the Governor and Legislative Republicans to admit their agenda of placing corporate profits before the needs of average Wisconsinites has failed and to take back our $400 million in federal tax dollars like our neighbors have done and use it to restore affordability for Wisconsin’s UW students and their families.

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Budget Actions Leave Elderly And Disabled Needing Long-Term Care in the Cold

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, 28 May 2015
in Wisconsin

disability-oldWisconsin lawmakers tweaked Gov. Scott Walker's plan to expand the state's Family Care program and wrap the IRIS program into it on Wednesday, ignoring advocates for the elderly and disabled who have balked at the plan. Change made to allow ADRCs to be operated by out-of-state corporations.


MADISON - Republicans on the Legislature's budget committee Wednesday backed some but not all of Gov. Scott Walker's sweeping proposals to overhaul the state's long-term care system for elderly and disabled people.

The Joint Finance Committee voted 12-4 along party lines to clear the way for major changes to Family Care and IRIS (Include, Respect, I Self-Direct), two programs that care for tens of thousands of vulnerable individuals outside nursing homes. They also made significant changes to the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) program.

The action ignored much of the testimony at recent hearings. Advocates for the elderly and disabled have said the budget proposal could force vulnerable people into turmoil by eventually requiring them to change doctors, care workers who visit their homes, or even the group homes where they live.

They also have pointed to problems that the state encountered after a separate change that shifted to a single statewide provider of medical rides. An audit released earlier this month confirmed complaints about "no-show" and late arrivals for nonemergency medical rides by the contractor, MTM Inc.

Family Care provides long-term care outside nursing homes to some 41,000 elderly and disabled people throughout Wisconsin using state and federal money. Lawmakers backed Walker's proposal to expand Family Care by Jan. 1, 2017, to the state's eight remaining counties without it, including Dane County.

In the biggest change to Family Care, the proposal approved Wednesday would aim to combine both long-term care and ordinary medical care. The program would even seek to coordinate the state program with federal Medicare coverage — an effort that critics said would be difficult to achieve without the consent of patients.

Lynn Breedlove, a leader of the Wisconsin Long-Term Coalition, said he remained concerned that the proposal would shift the system to large out-of-state insurance companies and away from its current network of regional nonprofits that provide most of the care.

"Let's be clear, this new plan is just the governor's proposal in sheep's clothing," Breedlove said. "Thousands of people expressed opposition to dismantling the current system, but the Legislature is doing it anyway."

dave_hansen“Wisconsin ranks 8th in the nation for the quality of our long-term care due in large part to the success of our community-based Family Care program," said Senator Dave Hansen (D - Green Bay). "It makes no sense to change it over to a for-profit system unless you are a politician who places the pursuit of corporate profits over the lives of everyday Wisconsinites."

The IRIS Program is a Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) which allows adults with long term care needs to self-direct, including hiring their own caregivers, which is not currently available to the same degree in Family Care. The budget proposed would effectively eliminate the IRIS program, requiring the 11,000+ participants to enroll in Family Care if they wish to continue receiving long-term care.

jon-erpenbach“IRIS has proven to be a strong, family supporting plan for those that are elderly, disabled, and otherwise unable to live on their own without support of their community and family. We heard over and over again at the four public hearings around Wisconsin how IRIS was a lifeline for those that contribute in our communities working and volunteering, without IRIS those doors close, we know this works and anything short for a full repeal is not acceptable for our most vulnerable adult communities,” said Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton).

The ARDC program operates like efficient, locally based one-stop shops for people with disabilities. Under the budget proposal, functions of ADRCs could be operated by different for-profit entities that may no longer be local, creating barriers to access.

"ADRC’s open their doors to our frail elderly and their families, helping guide them in their own communities when tough decisions need to be made, working to keep people in their homes for dignity and cost savings. It is incredible that Governor Walker ever thought his plan was a decent idea for Wisconsin,” said Erpenbach.

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Joint Finance Committee Passes Omnibus Education Package on 12-4 Party Vote

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, 20 May 2015
in Wisconsin

kids-milwWhile the plan increases K-12 funding, it also expands School Choice in Wisconsin and approves Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) Reform Plan allowing the County Executive to appoint a commissioner to run a type of recovery program for public schools.


MADISON - In a long debate Tuesday night, legislative Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) proposed an extreme plan for dismantling the public education system in Wisconsin. Finally, at about 1:30 in the morning Wednesday, the omnibus education motion came to the JFC. There it passed 12-4 on a party line vote just as it would have before the debate.

The Republican plan comes straight out of Gov. Scott Walker's campaign rhetoric. While the plan does include some additional K-12 public school funding, it also expands both Racine and the statewide school choice programs with an enrollment cap of one percent per district until total enrollment is 10 percent higher than it is now.

In a further slap at Milwaukee Public Schools, it creates the Opportunity Schools and Partnership Program (OSPP) in which County Executive Chris Abele appoints a commissioner to run a type of privatized recovery program for public schools. The commissioner would select one to three schools in the first few years and up to five schools starting in 2017 to be handed over to the OSPP program. The program would select an operator, public or private, to run the selected schools. Existing staff at these schools would have to reapply for employment and the commissioner would have discretion over employment at the schools.

According to the right wing MacIver Institute, "JFC Republicans introduced the package to deal with the entire K-12 education agenda in one fell swoop."

peter_barcaAccording to Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) in a statement released this morning:

"Last night, legislative Republicans proposed an extreme plan for dismantling our public education system that not only harms education – it also undermines the will of voters. As part of an extreme budget proposal, Republicans will drastically change the system of educating children with disabilities without even holding a public hearing to shovel more funds to the private voucher school community. Overall, the net effect of the changes is the millionaires who fund Republican campaigns were popping champagne corks celebrating their great fortune last night.

“This Republican plan further defunds public schools and destroys local control. The taxpayers of Racine certainly did not ask for 12 Republican legislators to dismantle their way of electing their local, democratically created school board. And that sort of disrespect and knee-capping of local control will be happening in communities across Wisconsin. It is clear this Republican education budget is not meant to serve our Wisconsin communities and values – it is meant to curry favor with Republican presidential primary voters and out-of-state special interest groups that bankroll legislative Republican campaigns.

“So-called ‘Opportunity Schools and Partnership Programs’ were not requested by Milwaukee or any of the other large cities that could be affected, no hearings were held and the effects could be devastating to our large school districts.

“Republicans continue to mislead the people of Wisconsin by claiming they have made schools ‘whole’ while they are only funding one element of our school formula and draining public schools of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars they are giving to private schools. The Republican end goal to allow unlimited taxpayer dollars to go to private schools signals the end of public education as we know it in this state.

“There are so many bad aspects of this Republican education budget, but I am especially appalled by their creation of a special education voucher system that takes additional money out of public schools and leaves parents and special needs students with no resources or rights. It is clear that by not requiring services for children with severe needs or complicated medical issues that this burden will still fall upon public schools. It is the height of arrogance to add an entirely new approach to educating children with disabilities without so much as a public hearing to allow educators an opportunity to offer their insights.

“Republicans’ arrogance of power knows no bounds and their disrespect of the citizens of this state to undermine local control and make dramatic and even radical changes to education late in the night without any notice, hearings or consultation with the communities they disrupt is a terrible abuse of power.”

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It's Time to End the Scandals at 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 Tuesday, 19 May 2015
in Wisconsin

walkerNew questions about a $500,000 loan granted by Gov. Scott Walker's troubled Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to a donor follow allegations that nearly $585 million of the $975 million in taxpayer assistance provided by WEDC went to companies that had contributed to Walker’s campaign.


MADISON - Over the weekend, the Wisconsin State Journal broke another story about Gov. Scott Walker's troubled Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC). This time, it appears that WEDC may have granted at least one loan totaling $500,000 as a favor to one of the governor’s campaign contributors.

The State Journal reported that Gov. Scott Walker’s top aides and a powerful lobbyist pressed in 2011 to award a $500,000 unsecured loan to Building Committee Inc., owned by William Minahan, for a proposed project to retrofit bank and credit union buildings for energy efficiency. The taxpayer-funded loan eventually lost the state half a million dollars, created no jobs and raised questions about where the money went.

This recent revelation follows allegations that nearly $585 million of the $975 million in taxpayer assistance provided by WEDC went to companies that had contributed to Governor Walker’s campaign either directly or indirectly.

Equally troubling was the recent audit that found that staff at WEDC ignored both WEDC policy and state law while providing taxpayer assistance to companies under questionable circumstances. A number of companies actually outsourced Wisconsin jobs to foreign countries after receiving taxpayer assistance that were supposed to be used to create jobs here in Wisconsin.

dave_hansenSenator Dave Hansen (D - Green Bay) has been a consistent critic of the Governor's use of the WEDC as the State's primary economic development tool since 2011.

According to Hansen  “Recent news stories concerning the approval of a $500,000 loan from WEDC to a wealthy donor of the Governor serves to confirm what we have been saying for years, that WEDC is a failed model for economic development that is ripe for corruption."

“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 and changes in staff, 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 added.

Short of closing down WEDC the Governor should clean house from top to bottom, put in place stronger methods of accountability that hold all company officers accountable for failing to repay taxpayer loans or create Wisconsin jobs, and close the loopholes that allow taxpayer dollars to be used by companies that outsource Wisconsin jobs.

Or maybe, as Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D - Alma) argued recently, we should just go back the a Department of Commerce.

Hansen's conclusion: "With Wisconsin’s economy still continuing to lag our neighbors and the nation we can no longer afford the kind of failure that WEDC has become synonymous with.”

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Republicans Block Student Loan Reform

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, 13 May 2015
in Wisconsin

joint-finance-statebud800,000 Wisconsin residents carry on average nearly $30,000 in student loans. Republicans more concerned with helping their corporate friends than average families.


MADISON - Republicans who control the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee blocked passage of an amendment that would have made it possible for thousands of Wisconsin residents to refinance their student loans at lower interest rates.

dave_hansen“It is unfortunate that Republicans controlling the Joint Finance Committee chose to protect the profits of big banks on Wall Street than the financial health of thousands of Wisconsinites who could save real money if they were able to refinance their student loans at lower interest rates,” said senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay), author of the Higher Ed/Lower Debt bill that would create a student loan refinancing program.

Currently 815,000 Wisconsin residents carry nearly $20 billion in student loan debt with an average student loan debt of $28,000. Research shows that young people with student loan debt are less likely to buy a home or new car while older people with student loan debt are less likely to be able to send their children to college or save for their own retirement.

“We had a chance today to help thousands of people refinance their student loans to lower their cost like you can already do for a home or auto loan. Helping them lower their interest rates makes it possible for them to buy new homes and cars and help grow our economy. And by doing that we can help stop the “brain drain” too by giving college graduates a very strong incentive to stay here rather than move to another state.”

“Unfortunately, the Republican members of the Joint Finance Committee appear more concerned with helping their corporate friends rather than helping average families.”

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Governor Walker’s WEDC Failure

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 May 2015
in Wisconsin

walker-no-jobsAudit reveals additional problems at persistently troubled agency. Can Walker continue to evade responsibility?


MADISON – A new audit of Governor Scott Walker’s persistently troubled Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) released this month revealed another round of critical shortcomings.

Statutes require WEDC to develop and implement economic programs that provide support, expertise, and financial assistance to businesses that are investing and creating jobs in Wisconsin, as well as programs that support new business start-ups and business expansion and growth in the state.

Walker has held out the WEDC as the main tool of his administration to promote job development in Wisconsin. He claimed he could grow jobs by 250,000 in his first term. Instead, despite heavy outflows of taxpayer dollars to corporate friends and a huge income tax cut for the wealthy, Wisconsin continues to lag behind neighboring states as the nationwide economic recovery continues.

The Governor continues to claim "Good news for all of us in Wisconsin" with campaign style sunshine columns spread on the opinion pages of local newspapers. But the real record of the WEDC's failure is plain to see.

jennifer-shilling-2014Can Walker continue to evade responsibility? In response to the WEDC audit, Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) said:

“How many more years of failure do we have to put up with before Gov. Walker and legislative Republicans get serious about fixing the deep-rooted issues with this horribly mismanaged agency? As Chairman of the WEDC, Gov. Walker must accept responsibility for the ongoing financial mismanagement issues and troubling news of tax breaks going to companies who outsource Wisconsin jobs. Instead of dealing with these serious issues, Gov. Walker continues to shirk his responsibilities as he jets around the nation in pursuit of his presidential campaign ambitions.”

The WEDC Audit findings show continued problems with the agency. In summary, they were:

  • WEDC did not consistently follow statutes or its policies when making financial awards.
  • WEDC did not comply with all statutory requirements related to program oversight.
  • Staff did not consistently comply with policies established by WEDC’s governing board.
  • Additional efforts are needed to help ensure that WEDC administers its state-funded programs effectively.

The Governor’s 2015-17 Biennial Budget Proposal would combine WEDC and the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) into the Forward Wisconsin Development Authority, a newly created organization that would begin operation on January 1, 2016, and administer economic development programs. That would provide the show of a reorganization, but little change to the underlining problems Walker faces in job development.

A copy of the audit report may be found here.

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Sluggish Revenue Numbers Reflect Irresponsible Republican Budgeting

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, 07 May 2015
in Wisconsin

scottwalker-dreamMADISON - The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau reported this week that the state is on track for 3.7 percent growth this year as predicted in January, with no changes expected in the forecast for the next two years. That means the windfall revenue growth Gov. Scott Walker predicted in his re-election campaign last fall will not materialize to offset the $2.2 billion deficit he ran up in his first term.

The disappointing forecast forces the Republican-controlled Legislature to consider alternatives to reduce Walker's proposed budget cuts this year, including accounting moves, increasing borrowing, making other reductions or raising taxes and fees.

peter_barcaAccording to Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha), who responded to the latest numbers that predict zero additional state revenue on Wednesday, “These weak revenue projections are another indication of the harm that three rounds of Republican budgeting, as well as their anemic economic development efforts, has done to our state".

While our neighboring states take advantage of an improving national economy and are experiencing large budget surpluses, Wisconsin continues to lag behind due to Republicans’ irresponsible budget choices and their poor economic development policies that have left Wisconsin 40th in the country in job growth. We can do better for the people of Wisconsin to ensure long-term economic prosperity.

Our community schools are hurting from Republicans’ actions and schools will continue to struggle even if Republicans restore their own proposed cuts. Time and again, Republicans have sold out Wisconsin schools and instead chosen massive tax giveaways for the corporate special interests and donors who fund Gov. Walker’s campaigns.

dave-hansen-gbAnd then there is the politically motivated decision by Walker not to accept $345 million in federal Medicaid money. According to Sen. Dave Hansen (D - Green Bay), “The recent revenue numbers from the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau confirm what many of us have been saying for some time now. It is time to put partisan politics and ambitions aside and reclaim $345 million of our federal tax dollars to strengthen BadgerCare and avoid unnecessary cuts to our schools and UW campuses.”

Perhaps Sen. Barca has the best conclusion, “The sad truth is that Gov. Walker’s presidential ambitions – which are being carried out by Republicans in the legislature – will harm Wisconsin communities for years to come.”

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Genrich Calls for Sensible Approach to School Testing

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 May 2015
in Wisconsin

students-testingBipartisan effort by Wisconsin Legislators seeks to lessen burden on students and teachers.


GREEN BAY - On Tuesday, State Representative Eric Genrich (D-Green Bay), along with a bipartisan group of 23 Wisconsin legislators, sent a letter to the Wisconsin Congressional delegation urging their support for legislation to eliminate annual federal testing requirements.

The Student Testing Improvement and Accountability Act, introduced by Sen. Tester (D-Montana) in the Senate and Rep. Sinema (AZ-9) and Gibson (NY-19) in the House, replaces the current provision in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that requires every public school child to sit for an annual test in grades 3-8 and once in high school with one that instead requires testing in three grade spans: elementary, middle and high school.

eric-genrich"The current federally-required testing regime reduces instructional time, sidelines creativity in the classroom, and has not proved to be successful in the effort to improve academic success," said Genrich. "This legislation allows teachers to place more of the focus where it belongs: on classroom teaching and learning."

As the Congress moves to reauthorize the ESEA, a diverse set of lawmakers and advocates have stepped forward to support efforts to remove the burdensome annual federal testing requirements and empower local teachers and school boards to determine educational priorities.

Genrich continued, “Now is the right time to acknowledge that annual standardized tests do not drive student success. While we face an uphill battle in the fight to reduce unnecessary testing in our classrooms, I am encouraged by this bipartisan recognition of the need to free our students and teachers from a system of testing that has failed them.”

The U.S. Senate is anticipated to begin its floor debate on ESEA reauthorization later this month. Sen. Tester has pledged to offer his legislation as an amendment at that time.

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Hansen Says Governor’s Admission of Outsourcing Problems at WEDC is Not Enough

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, 02 May 2015
in Wisconsin

walker-no-jobsMADISON - On Thursday, Governor Scott Walker told WKOW TV 27 Madison that he was open to more sanctions against companies that take state job creation money and then outsource Wisconsin jobs.

This is a major reversal for the Walker, whose administration has repeatedly denied claims by Citizen Action of Wisconsin and others that it is still perfectly legal for companies to outsource and to also receive large grants, loans, and tax credits from the Governor’s jobs agency, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).

Walker's admission followed an announcement last Wednesday by Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay), who said he was drafting an outsourcing accountability bill. Senator Hansen’s bill bans companies who receive public economic development money and then outsource jobs from state aid for a period of five years.

dave-hansen-gbIn a statement released Friday, Sen. Hansen acknowledged Gov. Walker’s admission of outsourcing problems at WEDC. Hansen said:

“It is heartening to hear the Governor admit there are problems with businesses applying for and receiving tax payer assistance from WEDC on the promise they will create jobs here in Wisconsin only to turn around and send Wisconsin jobs to foreign countries or other states."

However, it is clear that Sen. Hansen believes Walker's admission of problems at the WEDC last week is too little, too late for the troubled agency.

"Governor Walker and WEDC officials acknowledged the outsourcing problem last summer yet so far they have made little if any effort to stop it. In addition to paying back the tax dollars they received, businesses that commit this kind of fraud should be banned from receiving any taxpayer assistance for a minimum of five years," Hanson said.

Walker's plan of re-branding WEDC under a new name and merging it with WHEDA will not be enough, says Hansen, to make taxpayers forget about the disaster that WEDC has proven to be or stop the continued use of tax dollars to help companies ship their jobs overseas.

Hansen concludes Walker's plan does not "provide much hope that such a move will solve WEDC’s problems rather than hurt WHEDA. Without fundamental changes that put safeguarding the taxpayer’s money first and foremost the merger between WEDC and WHEDA is bound to fail.”

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Hansen to Introduce Legislation Banning State Taxpayer Money to Companies That Outsource Jobs

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, 29 April 2015
in Wisconsin

dave-hansen-gbGreen Bay's Senator is drafting legislation to ban companies that outsource jobs from receiving taxpayer assistance for five years. Recent news reports show outsourcing continues while number of delinquent loans has tripled.


MADISON - State Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) announced today that he is drafting legislation to ban companies from receiving taxpayer assistance for five years if they are found to have outsourced jobs from Wisconsin after receiving state aid.

“We are seeing all too often under WEDC cases where companies have received help from state taxpayers for the purpose of creating jobs only to send Wisconsin jobs out of state or overseas while state officials appear to ignore it or look the other way,” said Hansen.

Corporations taking state tax dollars intended for job creation only to layoff Wisconsin workers in favor of lower cost labor in other countries are becoming an increasing problem. According to Channel 27 News in Madison outsourcing by Eaton Corporation is just the latest example:

“A global power systems management corporation that has received nearly $370,000 in tax incentives from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) since 2012 is shipping jobs from Wisconsin to Mexico for the second time in three years.

Eaton Corp. announced last week it is permanently discontinuing the manufacture ofprinted circuit boards at its facility in Watertown, which will result in the elimination of 93 employees there.”

“When a corporation promises to create jobs here in order to receive $370,000 in taxpayer money and then actually eliminates jobs here and sends them to a foreign country one can only assume there is no fear they will be held accountable for their actions,” said Hansen.

Under Hansen’s bill any company that is found to have outsourced jobs from Wisconsin after receiving taxpayer funded assistance would be banned from applying for future taxpayer help for five years.

According to Hansen: “Protecting Wisconsin jobs requires more than lip service. There needs to be consequences for taking taxpayer money on the promise that you’re going to create jobs and then do the opposite. If we are going to hold people on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder accountable when they do not fulfill the responsibilities required of them to receive taxpayer help we should hold those at the top accountable as well.”

Governor Walker’s administration continues to struggle to meet his promise of creating 250,000 jobs amid reports that Wisconsin has fall to 38th in the nation for job creation and Wisconsin is on track to see its highest number of layoffs since Governor Walker first took office in 2011.

“Given the dismal performance of this administration you might think they would be taking a tougher stand on outsourcing. But given this latest report it appears to be business as usual—corporations taking taxpayer dollars while giving their jobs to foreign countries,” Hansen concludes.

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Author and Government Watchdog Launches New Citizen Movement

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 April 2015
in Wisconsin

Blue Jean NationMike McCabe, popular author of 'Blue Jeans in High Places' and former director of the nonpartisan watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, starts Blue Jean Nation. ‘First-party’ effort addresses failing political system.


GREEN BAY - With the goal of getting regular people back in the driver’s seat of government at a time when democratic institutions are failing the country, a new citizen group called Blue Jean Nation announced its formation Tuesday.

“We aim to make a household for the politically homeless and in so doing transform parties that are failing us,” Blue Jean Nation founder Mike McCabe said. For 15 years McCabe headed the nonpartisan government watchdog group Wisconsin Democracy Campaign where he was among Wisconsin’s leading whistle blowers and the nation’s best political money trackers. Last year he authored the book Blue Jeans in High Places: The Coming Makeover of American Politics.

The new group starts with an organizing committee of citizens from all of Wisconsin’s eight congressional districts and 19 different counties. The website BlueJeanNation.com is now live, as are social media accounts for the group on Facebook and Twitter.

“We are not starting a third party. We are neither elephant nor ass, but we recognize that America has a two-party system and we plan to work within that system to get the parties truly working for all of us and not just a favored few who are well connected politically,” McCabe said, describing Blue Jean Nation as a first-party movement.

“Our end goal is to make concern for the common good far less uncommon,” he said. “To reach that goal, we will work every day against political privilege.”

To accomplish its aims, Blue Jean Nation will engage in community outreach, civic education and engagement, grassroots organizing, and public policy advocacy and social action.

Read Blue Jean Nation's creed.

Take a look at the group's five aims.

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Plan to Eliminate SeniorCare is a Giveaway to Big Pharma

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 March 2015
in Wisconsin

dave-hansen-listeningGovernor Walker’s scheme would save big drug companies over $44 million dollars says Green Bay Senator Dave Hansen.


GREEN BAY - State Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) today called Governor Scott Walker’s plan to eliminate the popular SeniorCare prescription drug plan a $44 million giveaway to the big drug companies at the expense of seniors’ health.

Over 80,000 Wisconsin citizens depend upon SeniorCare to help them afford their needed, and in many cases lifesaving, medication. The ability of the state to negotiate lower drug prices provides significant savings to both SeniorCare participants and taxpayers.

SeniorCare is able to provide needed prescription drugs at lower prices than the federal Medicare Part D plan because the state is able to use its buying power to negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs. As a result, people who qualify for SeniorCare pay a small annual fee and low deductibles and co-pays compared to Medicare Part D which charges a monthly premium as well as deductibles and co-pays.

According to Hansen:

“SeniorCare is one of the most successful, bi-partisan plans approved in our state in recent history because it does exactly what it was intended to do: Help low income seniors afford their needed medication by negotiating the best deals with the drug companies."

However, thanks to Governor Walker and his desire to help his corporate friends SeniorCare is once again targeted for elimination.

“Because Governor Walker is more concerned with helping the pharmaceutical industry than doing what’s best for Wisconsin residents ... seniors could be forced to pay higher prices than they can afford,” said Hansen who voted to create SeniorCare.

The pharmaceutical industry has been a major source of support for Governor Walker and legislative Republicans. According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Eli Lilly alone has donated over $20,000 directly to Governor Walker and fellow Republicans not including any dark money contributions made to outside groups to support them.

Senator Hansen has said that despite support for the program voiced by some Republicans he remains concerned for the future of the program. Hansen said “Anything less than full restoration of SeniorCare in its present form is not acceptable.”

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Walker Signs So-Called 'Right to Work' 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, 09 March 2015
in Wisconsin

walker-open-businessMADISON - This morning, Gov. Scott Walker, who in 2011 succeeded in slashing collective bargaining rights for most public sector workers, signed a private-sector right-to-work bill that makes Wisconsin the 25th state to adopt the policy and has given new momentum to the business-led movement.

For decades, low wage states across the South and Great Plains have enacted such policies, known as “right to work” even though the right to work has nothing to do with them. They really are simply designed to prevent organized labor from forcing all workers in a shop covered by their collective bargaining agreement to pay union dues or fair share fees.

Also for decades. the higher paid industrial Midwest has resisted. Those days are gone, as Wisconsin follows neighbors Michigan and Indiana. While it may take years before the full effect of the new law becomes apparent here, most expect it to weaken unions and drive down the wages of union employees.

"This freedom-to-work legislation will give workers the freedom to choose whether or not they want to join a union, and employers another compelling reason to consider expanding or moving their business to Wisconsin," Walker said in regard to the signing, even though there is little evidence that either claim is true.

Walker’s real motivation is much more likely about politics than job creation: breaking a dwindling union movement in Wisconsin and boosting his standing as the conservative choice for the Republican presidential nomination next year. In the long run, the new laws throughout the region are intended to help Republicans build a favorable electoral map for 2016, by weakening the labor groups that have traditionally provided muscle and money to Democratic candidates in crucial swing states.

So the political ambitions of Scott Walker and his big business donors once again trump the interests of the people of Wisconsin, who still face a lagging economy and a $2.2 billion state budget deficit. Only time will tell how the events of the last two weeks will affect Walker's electability.

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GOP "Right-to-Work" Show Moves On to Assembly 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 Tuesday, 03 March 2015
in Wisconsin

rtw-outside-2015The Republican fast tracked bill would ban any requirement that nonunion members in the private sector pay union dues. The majority of those speaking Monday were against the measure, viewed as a distraction from Governor Walker’s harmful budget.


MADISON - Six days after the Senate Labor Committee held it's controversial public hearing on the same subject, the Assembly Labor Committee heard testimony into the night on Monday on Assembly Bill 61 – the so-called “Right to Work” bill. The bill would ban any requirement that nonunion members in the private sector pay union dues.

Just like last week's Senate hearing, where opponents vastly outnumbered supporters, the majority of those speaking Monday at the Assembly Labor Committee were also against the measure.

The few supporters, including the state chamber of commerce, said they represented many other people who were reluctant to speak publicly. Backers argue that the change will make Wisconsin more competitive with other states, in particular Indiana and Michigan, and allow workers to decide whether they want to pay union dues rather than have them deducted automatically.

Union members, construction contractors, and other opponents reiterated their arguments that the measure would weaken unions, leading to lower wages and unsafe workplaces. They also questioned who really wanted the law, given that coalitions representing hundreds of contractors and other businesses had formed in opposition, and said it was wrong to rush the bill through in less than two weeks.

peter_barcaIn a statement released after the hearing, Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said:

“We just heard hours of thoughtful, compelling testimony from business owners, workers, researchers and everyday citizens who agree that ‘Right to Work’ is wrong for Wisconsin and recognize that it will drive down wages and hurt our middle class. I want to thank everyone who came out today – including those who drove hundreds of miles and waited hours to testify – against this destructive legislation.

“‘Right to Work’ is a distraction from Governor Walker’s harmful budget and it will keep pushing Wisconsin’s economy in the wrong direction. Even the governor himself has said private-sector unions are important partners in economic development efforts that put people to work – efforts the governor and Republican legislators are undermining with this bill.

“We as elected officials must be doing everything we can to restore economic opportunity for our citizens, not tear it down. As Professor Chowdhury from Marquette testified today, this bill would take $3.89 billion a year out of the Wisconsin economy.

“Democrats stand ready to debate this harmful legislation on the Assembly floor and continuing to work toward a stronger economy for Wisconsin.”

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Walker Says Wisconsin Workers are Like ISIS at CPAC

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, 27 February 2015
in Wisconsin

scott-walker-cpac15"If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world," he said. Walker has been trying to exaggerate the 2011 peaceful protests and subsequent recall election into some kind of noble stand against "union thugs" for years.


WASHINGTON - Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is trying to give himself some chops in foreign affairs at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington this week. Speaking on Thursday, Walker criticized President Barack Obama's handling of the threat of "radical Islamic terrorism", but gave little substance on how he'd address the challenge himself.

But then, the Presidential hopeful Walker got carried away with himself.

"We need a president, a leader, who will stand up and say, we will take the fight to them and not wait until they bring the fight to America's soil, to our children and our grandchildren," Walker said.

Later, when asked by an audience member about how he'd deal with the threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Walker responded that he gets FBI threat briefings from his adjutant general and that "without divulging confidential information," he's been concerned about the group for years.

But he didn't offer a specific answer to how he'd take on the group, instead pivoting back to his experience in Wisconsin.

"If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world," he said.

It was a reference to Walker's attack on labor unions in Wisconsin, where his move to strip public employees' collective bargaining rights caused months of protests in 2011, and turned him into a rock star on the right. His Republican supporters in the state legislature are continuing his agenda with a so-called "right-to-work" bill this week.

Reporters were quick to jump on the Wisconsin Governor with no foreign policy experience. Did he really mean having some protesters with picket signs outside his office was similar to an attack by terrorists? Walker is still trying to clarify his statement.

Walker has been trying to exaggerate the 2011 peaceful protests and subsequent recall election into some kind of noble stand against "union thugs" for years. But, ISIS?

Will the national press and conservative voters let this one stand? Only time will tell.

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Republican "Right to Work" Public Hearing Turns into Mockery

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 Wednesday, 25 February 2015
in Wisconsin

rtw-walkoutThe three Republican members showed little interest and asked few questions. The public hearing turned into a complete mockery when chairman Nass said he was cutting off the meeting because of what he called a "credible threat" that turned out to be a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report saying union demonstrators were planning to peacefully disrupt the committee vote.


MADISON - Nothing usually gets decided at public hearings. They are mostly an exercise to make the public feel heard. But the GOP majority failed Tuesday to even do that at the Senate Labor Committee public hearing they had hurriedly staged for the so-called “Right to Work” Bill.

About 2,000 demonstrators showed up outside the Capitol earlier in the day to keep the politicians honest and the “hearing” had proceeded peacefully for about six hours. Committee chairman Sen. Steve Nass (R-Whitewater)introduced several witnesses from Bradley Foundation and Koch Brothers funded Republican think tanks to support the legislation and a long parade of small businessmen and labor union representatives, mostly from the Building Trades, to oppose it. Other private citizens, almost all opposed, then gave their testimony.

The three Republican members on the committee showed little interest and asked few questions, leaving that work up to the Democratic Senators Bob Wirch of Kenosha and Chris Larson of Milwaukee.

The public hearing turned into a complete mockery shortly before 6:30 p.m. when committee chairman Nass said he was cutting off the meeting abruptly because of what he called a "credible threat". What Nass called a "credible threat" turned out to be a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report that said union demonstrators were planning to peacefully disrupt the committee vote by raising their voices if Republicans didn't let everyone from the public testify.

Nass called for a quick vote on the measure and the fearful Republicans exited the room. The vote was 3-1, with all three Republicans voting for the bill to prohibit requiring workers to pay union dues and one Democrat, Sen. Wirch, voting against. The other Democrat on the committee, Sen. Chris Larson, did not cast a vote as he and people in the room argued unsuccessfully for Republicans not to take the vote at that moment.

Afterwards, hundreds of business owners, union members, veterans, and just plain concerned citizens sat in stunned silence in the room waiting to speak. Many have been waiting since eight in the morning.

"There was no threat," Bruce Colburn of the Service Employees International Union state council said. "We wanted to ensure that people had a right to speak."

"They used it as a straw man to get out of a very uncomfortable position," AFSCME Council 48 Executive Director Boyd McCamish added. "It's an act of political cowardice."

The so-called “Right to Work” Bill now moves on the Republican controlled Senate and Assembly where quick passage is expected.

The bill has also spotlighted Governor Scott Walker's stance on the measure. In May 2012, the governor said he would do "everything in my power" to keep the legislation from getting to his desk. But Walker, who is now eyeing a run for the presidency, has said in recent days he would sign the bill.

dave_hansenIn a statement released earlier today, Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) commented on the events in Madison saying:

“Senate Republicans once again have shown their disdain for those who disagree with them by shutting down the public hearing this evening on legislation that will cost Wisconsin families over $5,000 a year in lost wages, increase child poverty and create more dangerous working conditions.

“As Wisconsin business owners, workers and veterans waited to testify Senate Republicans chose to shut the hearing down early rather than continue listening to the overwhelming testimony against the bill.

“Senate Republicans talk about less government intrusion but the fact is Senate Bill 44 is one of the most intrusive bills of all because it denies Wisconsin employers the right and freedom to run their businesses as they see fit.

“It is unfortunate that at a time when our state needs to work together to move our economy forward governor Walker and Senate Republicans have chosen to continue their attempts to “divide and conquer” Wisconsin families.”

peter_barcaAssembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) released the following statement after Republicans shut down a committee public hearing on their so-called "Right to Work" bill:

"I am deeply disappointed that Senator Nass and Republicans did not at least live up to their promise of holding the public hearing until 7:00 tonight. Slamming the door on public testimony and silencing the hundreds of people who have come all day to testify is just another abuse of power by Republicans and an affront to our Wisconsin values of open, honest and transparent government.”

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State GOP Rush to Pass “Right to Work” Legislation Distracts from Bad 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.
User is currently offline
on Friday, 20 February 2015
in Wisconsin

scott-walkerMADISON - Today Republican leaders in the state legislature announced plans for an extraordinary session of the legislature next week to pass so-called "Right to Work"  legislation.

Is this rushed discussion of such a controversial subject necessary? Many in the Assembly and Senate, especially Democrats, do not appear to think so. The move is seen as a distraction by many in Madison, an attempt to talk about anything but Scott Walker’s proposed budget.

Walker’s Budget has stirred up a hornet’s nest all over Wisconsin. As we get into the budget’s details, we have learned it mean a tough road ahead for local schools, the UW and our children who will inherit increased state debt.

"Right to Work"  legislation will do little to solve any of these problems. It does not even have anything to do with the right to work. It is merely a political argument between Republicans and the unions over the collection of union dues.

Scott Walker’s first term has left Wisconsin with a lagging economy and a $2.2 billion deficit. His administration has drained needed funds from public education and state agencies and given it to the wealthy few in the form of a huge tax cut. And now, with Scott Walker a part time governor gone much of the week to campaign for President, the bill to pay for all of this has fallen on the legislature.

Is it any surprise the Republicans would rather talk about “Right to Work” ?

peter_barcaWhen asked for his response on the Extraordinary Session, Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said in a prepared statement:

"Governor Walker has called so-called `Right to Work' legislation a distraction and apparently that's exactly what he wants. By rushing to pass Right to Work in less than a week, clearly the governor and Republican legislators want to distract from how destructive their budget is for Wisconsin's workers, students and middle-class families.

"Wisconsin is already lagging behind most of the nation in jobs and wage growth and `Right to Work' would only make things worse. In fact, the average worker in Right to Work states makes between $5,000 and $6,000 less than the average worker in other states. And calling an extraordinary session will make the budget disaster Republicans have created worse since we're already scheduled to be in session the following week anyway. What's the emergency?

"There is broad agreement among workers, businesses and everyday citizens that Right to Work is wrong for Wisconsin. Yet the governor and Republican lawmakers have proven they will do anything to change the subject from their mismanagement of Wisconsin's economy, including driving down wages for our workers and further dividing our state."

dave-hansen-gbOur local Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) went on to say:

"How unpopular is the Governor's budget? Apparently so unpopular that Republican leaders feel the need to hide their members behind RTW to help them avoid having to answer to the voters about their $2.2 billion deficit, their plan to eliminate SeniorCare and assistance for the elderly and disabled, their continued cuts to our public schools and their attack on our UW campuses.

"This is bait and switch politics at its worst that will cost the average Wisconsin family $5,000 - $6,000 per year in lost wages and that will limit the freedom of employers to run their businesses as they see fit.

"Rather than owning up to their failed policies, they are desperately trying to change the subject rather than defend what is proving to be an indefensible budget that puts the Governor's presidential ambitions before the people of Wisconsin."

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Walker Wants $300 Million Cut Out of UW 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.
User is currently offline
on Tuesday, 27 January 2015
in Wisconsin

uwgbGovernor Scott Walker proposes drastic cuts in state funding for The University of Wisconsin System in return for "more independence" to allow the university to raise tuition as much as it wants starting in 2017. Students and parents left holding the bag.


MADISON - The University of Wisconsin System will have its state funding slashed by $300 Million or about 13 percent over the next two years, under the budget Gov. Scott Walker will submit to the Legislature next week, the governor told The Associated Press on Monday.

Walker released details of his budget plan as it affects the UW System to the AP ahead of a public announcement on Tuesday.

UW had asked for an increase in funding of $95 million over the next two years — money that it argued was needed given that Walker was calling for another two-year tuition freeze. Walker is going forward with the tuition freeze, but is calling for the additional $300 million cut as well.

All the cuts and freezes would be balanced by "more independence" for the UW according to Walker. Walker is proposing turning the 13 four-year campuses and 13 two-year colleges that comprise the UW System into a public authority, a structure that would cut the university loose from a wide array of issues that are currently mandated by state law. More advantageous to the UW, the Legislature would have no ability to stop the university from raising tuition as much as it wants starting in 2017.

UW President Ray Cross said he supported the structural changes, but he would work to reduce the budget cut.

peter_barcaReaction to the Governor's proposals from Democratic legislators was swift.

Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) released a statement today rejecting Governor Walker's plan to slash the additional $300 million in state funding from the University of Wisconsin System. According to Barca, budgets "are about priorities and once again dramatically slashing higher education in the 21st Century global economy will drastically take Wisconsin in the wrong direction".

dave-hansenIn a statement also released today, Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) said:

“This is unfortunate news for students, their parents and anyone who cares about keeping higher education affordable for all Wisconsin families. Students who are going to be attending a UW campus and their parents should hold onto their wallets. Starting in 2017 under the Governor’s proposal, UW campuses will be allowed to raise tuition as much as they want. Many students will find themselves priced out of attending a UW campus or being forced to take on even more student loans to pay their tuition."

"The UW System is one of the best publicly owned systems in the nation. It is a driver of our economy and new business creation all across our state. Thanks to the Governor and Republicans handing out tax breaks to corporations and special interests like candy we have a $2.2 billion deficit and talk of cutting another $300 million from our UW campuses. Instead of talking about the Governor’s plan to abandon our universities we could and should be talking about how we can invest in them”, Hansen said.

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State’s Budget Crisis Continues

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, 23 January 2015
in Wisconsin

scott-walkerMADISON - Based on new estimates released Friday by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the State of Wisconsin faces a $283 million budget shortfall by the end of June, and a two-year deficit that could be as large as $2.2 billion.

Co-chairs of the Legislature's budget committee also issued today a joint statement attributing the current budget woes to the $2 billion in tax cuts passed during Governor Scott Walker's first term, which they supported.

Democrats have criticized Walker and Republicans on their management of the budget, and today's numbers support their claims. The governor and GOP lawmakers have said it was right to return the money to taxpayers when the state was running a surplus. The state now has a $283 million revenue shortfall.

The budget numbers also pose a problem for Walker as he begins his second term and positions himself for a potential 2016 presidential bid. Walker claims he balanced a similar budget shortfall four years ago when he speaks to conservatives around the country, and now he faces roughly the same large deficit as when he started.

dave_hansenAccording to a statement issued today by Green Bay area Senator Dave Hansen: “Today we received more news confirming what we’ve known all along. Under Governor Walker and the Republican leadership our state is mired in a budget crisis thanks in large part to spending by the GOP to provide tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations."

"Instead of investing in those things that would bring in more revenue by creating jobs and boosting stagnant wages, the governor and Republicans have turned their backs on everyday Wisconsinites choosing instead to enact policies that have only made the problem worse", Hansen said.

He concludes, "The governor’s presidential ambitions serve only to suggest that these issues will go largely ignored as he devotes more of his time to his campaign in other states rather than taking the steps necessary to improve the lives of Wisconsin residents. As a result the state’s budget crisis continues with a $283 million shortfall and a $2.2 billion budget deficit.”

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