Tuesday December 11, 2018

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Sen. Vinehout: What Does Foxconn Mean to Me?

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 31 October 2018
in Wisconsin

foxconn-wisconsin-plantThe commitment of millions of dollars to Foxconn will impact budget priorities and decisions going forward for many years. So much state funding Foxconn will limit funding for other priorities such as K-12 education and transportation – priorities that are vital to a strong Wisconsin economy.


MADISON - “Hard to wrap my head around,” the woman shared as she considered Foxconn. Just what do big budget decisions mean to us?

Work has begun on crafting the next state budget. Over the next few months, this work will continue in earnest. One hefty unbudgeted expense added to upcoming budget math is a large taxpayer funded payment to a foreign corporation.

Foxconn is the Taiwanese company building a manufacturing plant in southeast Wisconsin. To lure the company to our state, majority lawmakers and the governor created the largest state corporate give-away in American history.

The first big Foxconn payment, nearly $470 million, will come out of our next two-year budget. There is no pot of money set aside for this payment. Budget writers are faced with three choices: increase borrowing, increase taxes, or take money from other parts of state government.

school-bus-kidsWhen you consider the trade-offs lawmakers must make in the next budget, it is helpful to think of our tax dollars (mostly income and sales tax) like a checking account that pays for five big items. About eighty-five percent of our general fund money goes to pay for health care, K-12 education, colleges and universities, corrections and local government. Money for roads and bridges are in a separate fund.

All five areas of these areas are challenged; by chronic underfunding, growing caseloads, rising social problems (like drug addiction) and shifting demographics (for example, an aging population).

What kind of budget trade-offs must be made by budget writers to absorb the new money commitments made to Foxconn? Let’s start with the largest part of the general fund: K-12 education.

Our children’s education makes up about a third of the general fund spending. This includes the private subsidies known as vouchers. While public spending for private schools has grown dramatically, overall education revenue as a percent of our budget has steadily dropped. Over the past 15 years or so, Wisconsin moved from spending a little more than forty percent to spending less than a third of our general fund on schools.

Reviewing work by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB), one can easily see that money to public schools has still not been fully restored from the deep cuts in state aid made in the governor’s first budgets.

Looking forward to the next eight years, Wisconsin is committed to sending over two billion dollars to Foxconn. To give some context to these payments, consider this – the estimated payments to Foxconn for five of the next eight years is larger than the largest funding increase to public schools in any of the last eight years.

road-potholesRepairing roads and bridges are another priority returning lawmakers must consider. Many suggest a nickel increase (about 16%) in the gas tax to keep road funds balanced. Number crunching by the LFB put this request in context. The LFB calculated that to pay for Foxconn over the next six years, Wisconsin would need to increase the gas tax by over thirty percent.

That’s without putting another dime of the new gas tax money into roads, bridges, harbors or rail, which are vital investments to a thriving Wisconsin economy.

We cannot spend money twice. Once state leaders prioritize a project like Foxconn, they limit other priorities, such as schools and roads.

kathleen-vinehoutOnce state leaders started down the road of cash payments to corporations, they find it difficult to stop. Just a few weeks ago, our Senate Majority Leader announced a Special Senate Session to consider another large corporate subsidy to the Kimberly Clark Corporation. The decision to pass this corporate subsidy by majority Senators would further limit budget options for future leaders.

Budgets reflect our values and priorities. They set our choices and chart our state’s course well into the future.

The budget is the one bill the governor writes. Deliberations on the governor’s budget is the first significant job of any lawmaker in a new session. We don’t often think of the importance of budget actions, but it is THE most impactful legislative decision affecting our communities.

Citizens would be wise to consider how future leaders will make decisions on state priorities. Get involved. And, remember to vote!

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We Can Win this Election on Healthcare

Posted by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Robert Kraig
Robert Kraig is Executive Director, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, 221 S. 2nd St.,
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on Saturday, 27 October 2018
in Wisconsin

hcsignmattMILWAUKEE, WI - I am absolutely thrilled with the direction of this election!

At Citizen Action we made a strategic judgement years ago that if we organized to elevate the issue of pre-existing condition discrimination, health care would be a decisive election issue.

Now years of organizing is paying huge political dividends. Here we are in the home stretch of the critical 2018 election, and pre-existing condition discrimination is the driving issue in the Senate and Governor’s races.

Right Wing politicians are in panic mode. Leah Vukmir shockingly claimed in her debate with Tammy Baldwin this week that pre-existing condition discrimination is a “big lie” that never happened. Scott Walker is taking on water on this issue, despite his best efforts to mislead the public record of health care sabotage.

We have them on the run, but we need to keep the pressure on through election day!

I hope I can count on you to make an immediate donation to Citizen Action so we have the resources to tell as many voters as possible that conservative politicians will make pre-existing discrimination legal again.

As I wrote in a strategic memo almost 3 years ago about a term invented by insurance bureaucrats to obscure the truth: What is absolutely astounding about pre-existing conditions is that this seemingly innocuous term seems to be known by virtually every adult.. . . . The idea of someone being denied or thrown off health insurance because they have a medical condition strikes a deep emotional chord in American culture, and seems deeply immoral to most people.”

The new Marquette Law School poll released on Wednesday backs us up on this. It shows a stunning 93% of likely Wisconsin voters think pre-existing condition discrimination is an important issue heading into the election.

No wonder Scott Walker, Leah Vukmir, and all the right-wing Legislators who are locked in tight re-election fights, are terrified.

If you agree with me that pre-existing condition discrimination can help us bring down Scott Walker and hLeah Vukmir, and shift control of the Legislature, please chip in whatever can to support our work.

In Peace & Solidarity,

Dr. Robert Kraig

Executive Director

P.S. We are also building support or constructive solutions to the health care cost crisis. We are the driving force behind the BadgerCare Public Option bill, which Tony Evers strongly supports. The BadgerCare Public Option is a big stepping stone towards the ultimate solution, Medicare for All.

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Democratic Radio "Preparing to Vote"

Posted by Mark Miller, State Senator 16th District
Mark Miller, State Senator 16th District
Mark F. Miller (D-Monona) is serving his third term in the Wisconsin Senate. He
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on Thursday, 25 October 2018
in Wisconsin

voterid_handSen. Mark Miller gives you important information on where and how to vote in the Fall General Election on Tuesday, November 6th.


MADISON, WI – Senator Mark Miller (D-Monona) offered the weekly Democratic radio address today.

The audio file of this week’s address can be found here.

A written transcript of the address is below:

mark-miller

“Hello, this is Senator Mark Miller with this week’s Democratic Radio Address.

“The Fall General Election is less than two weeks away, on Tuesday, November 6th. With all of the changes to election law that Republicans have made in the last 7 years, it is important to be aware of how, when and what you’ll need to vote.

“First, make sure you are registered. You can check myvote.wi.gov to see if you’re currently registered, if not, you can register at your local clerk’s office during business hours or at your polling place on Election Day.

“Additionally, absentee ballots are currently available statewide and many municipalities also offer in-person absentee voting at local clerk’s offices. Online, you can search for your polling place, see what’s on the next ballot or learn more about absentee voting. Find this information at myvote.wi.gov.

“To make sure you have the proper ID needed to vote head to bringitwisconsin.com. If you need a free ID to vote, take proof of identity, proof of residency, proof of citizenship and social security card to your DMV. This information can be found online at bringitwisconsin.com.

“The polls are open from 7:00am to 8:00pm on Tuesday, November 6th, 2018. For any other questions, the Wisconsin Elections Commission can be contacted at 608-266-8005.

“Voting is your constitutional right. Make a plan to exercise that right on Tuesday, November 6th.”

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WEDC: Facts Don’t Jive with Rhetoric

Posted by Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout, State Senator 31st District
Kathleen Vinehout of Alma is an educator, business woman, and farmer who is now
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, 24 October 2018
in Wisconsin

walkerA public letter shared this week from three of Gov. Walker’s former Secretaries, including former Secretary/CEO of WEDC Paul Jadin, reports serious problems in the structure and management of WEDC, only adding to the concerns raised by other former Walker administration officials.


MADISON, WI - What happens to state money given to companies to create jobs? Do the jobs get created? How do we ensure the money is not misspent?

These questions came to mind as I recently communicated to a constituent who feared state economic development money was being misused. I encouraged, among other actions, a call to the Legislative Audit Bureau’s Fraud, Waste and Mismanagement Hotline (877-372-8317).

Hopefully, the case is now under investigation.

About the same time, former Secretary/CEO Paul Jadin came under reproach by the governor for his handling of the state’s economic development organization the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC).

Mr. Jadin recently made news by joining two other former Secretaries from the Walker Administration who shared in a public letter their disapproval of the governor’s actions.

Such public disapproval is uncommon. According to a Wisconsin Journal Sentinel story, UW Political Science Professor Barry Burden called this action “unprecedented”.

executive-moneyThe Governor’s spokesperson, quoting 2013 findings by the Legislative Audit Bureau (LAB), seemed to blame the problems on Mr. Jadin’s mismanagement. The State Journal article quoted the spokesperson saying, “WEDC has grown by leaps and bounds in success after moving on from the days of Paul Jadin’s management. … [WEDC is] the linchpin to huge wins and good paying jobs in the Wisconsin Comeback, including bringing Amazon, Haribo and Foxconn.”

The facts however don’t support this rhetoric. WEDC’s lack of compliance with state law has a legacy as long as the agency itself and continued long after Secretary/CEO Jadin left in 2012.

Just one year ago, I wrote in my column, “WEDC admits they are not following the law.”

At a public hearing of the Joint Committee on Audit, current WEDC Secretary/CEO Mark Hogan stated, “We have not been able to verify the jobs” even though state law requires WEDC to verify a company actually created jobs before the company keeps cash payments or tax credits.

Back in October 2012, I wrote, “State law is very clear. WEDC must collect information on the results of job creation or the lack thereof…. We need to know who received what money and what they are doing with the money.”

By 2017, I did not trust that WEDC followed the LAB recommendations to set up policies that would bring them into compliance with state law. This distrust was well founded.

kathleen-vinehoutAfter four nonpartisan audits over six years, we still cannot answer the questions I raised about state money used for job creation. WEDC is still under scrutiny by the LAB. A new audit is likely to be released in the spring of 2019.

WEDC was created to be the state’s lead economic development organization, however it is not a state agency. It is funded primarily with state funds and has awarded hundreds of millions in loans, grants and tax credits. WEDC is outside the normal rubric of state government which created many problems, resulted in federal penalties, and produced a lack of transparency for lawmakers and the public.

Partly because of this opaque structure, lawmakers have not gotten answers to the most basic questions about state funds used for job creation. Nonpartisan audits provide one of the few windows into what is actually happening with state money. The facts show, for many years, auditors could not corroborate job creation success in numbers used by the governor’s office and WEDC’s own publications.

The three Secretaries who disapproved of the governor’s actions shared insight gained from experience in their open letter to the public, “Governor Walker has consistently eschewed sound management practices in favor of schemes or cover-up and has routinely put his future ahead of the state. The result is micromanagement, manipulation and mischief. … It’s time to build a more open and transparent government to ensure the integrity of our public agencies and institutions.”

The Secretary’s letter did not include specific details about the problems which lead them to share their disapproval. But we do know WEDC’s top official publicly refused to follow the law after a long history of detailed, audit work showing noncompliance. This should give taxpayers no confidence that the public’s interest was followed.

The former Walker Administration officials remind us of the importance of having transparent structures and continued public scrutiny. That is how government functions in the public’s best interest.

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Laura Kiefert: End false political advertising

Posted by Laura Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Laura Kiefert, Green Bay Progressive
Laura Kiefert lives in Howard and is a Partner in the Green Bay Progressive. Mem
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on Tuesday, 23 October 2018
in Wisconsin

attack-ad-eversThe worst are funded by political action committees like Restoration PAC and Americas PAC, along with out-of-state special interest Koch brothers groups. We need to support campaign finance regulations that ensure truth.


GREEN BAY, WI - Once again, we are being bombarded with negative political ads, often filled with half-truths and outright lies. I am disgusted by the attack ads being levied this year against gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers and Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin.

laura-kiefertThe most egregious ads are funded by political action committees like Restoration PAC and Americas PAC, along with out-of-state special interest Koch brothers groups. They have spent millions on negative false advertisements designed to promote their conservative agendas. Their philosophy that "the end justifies the means" continues to threaten, and possibly destroy, our democracy.

Unfortunately, Wisconsin allows a candidate to petition donors asking them to contribute unlimited money to a third-party group that can then spend anonymously on the candidate’s behalf. This allows the candidates like Scott Walker and Leah Vukmir to trash their opponents without being held personally responsible for the content of the ad.

We need to overturn Citizens United and be smart about what we see and hear, be vigilant in researching outrageous claims in these ads and demand candidates promote themselves and their values and only compare themselves to opponents with fairness and facts.

Media outlets need to be more concerned about content and truth than their profit and apply the same rules and regulations requiring honesty and factual proof of claims to political ads that is required for brand advertising.

Finally, elected officials need to clean this mess up. Wisconsinites need to support campaign finance regulations that ensure truth, transparency and integrity in all advertising.

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