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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).

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.
User is currently offline
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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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.
User is currently offline
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.
User is currently offline
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.
User is currently offline
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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