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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).

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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Walker's State of the State 2015 Is Lacking

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, 16 January 2015
in Wisconsin

scottwalker-dreamMADISON – On Tuesday night, Governor Scott Walker had a chance to be a leader and bring our state together. Instead, he chose to give a self promoting campaign style State of the State speech that sounded more like a kickoff to a national run for President.

Like all Governors before him, Scott Walker claimed "The state of the state is strong." Walker clearly wants to campaign for president on his claim that he turned a $3.6 billion budget deficit into a surplus, but the state’s actual financial situation is grim.

The current budget has a $132 million deficit and the next biennium looks even worse, with a staggering $2.2 billion deficit that’s only expected to get larger. As other states enjoy surpluses thanks to the nationwide economic recovery that has come after the Great Recession, Wisconsin is slated to be one of the few with a deficit headed into the next budget.

On the education of our next generation, Walker said "I have a vested interest in high standards." But in fact, public education has been public enemy number 1 for Scott Walker. In his first budget, Walker made a $800 million cut to direct state spending on public education and mandated new limits on local school districts that left many schools scrambling just to fund their operations for the next school year. At the same time, he has funneled approximately $124 million into unaccountable voucher schools.

Clearly wishing to launch his national aspirations as a "tax cutter", Walker claimed that "My pledge to you is that property taxes 4 years from now will be lower than they were in 2014." But the record is different. Contrary to his tax-cutting rhetoric, Walker’s first budget raised taxes on nearly 140,000 seniors and working class families to the tune of $69.8 million, while dishing out $610 million in tax breaks to businesses.

Scott Walker’s tax policy has been fiscally irresponsible and prioritized those at the very top instead of working Wisconsin families. In an election year stunt, Walker made the rash and misguided decision to spend a projected surplus on a lopsided income tax cut that puts individuals making $21,760 a year in the same tax bracket as those making $239,600. As a result, the state is faced with a staggering $2.2 billion budget deficit.

peter_barcaAssembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) reacted to Walker’s State of the State Address by saying:

“Governor Walker had a solid ending on standing against terrorism but could have been more candid and acknowledged the unfortunate reality – that the State of our State is falling behind our neighbors on nearly every key economic issue. Wisconsin workers and middle-class families must be put first in order for our economy to thrive."

Barca goes on “On every major issue, Wisconsin is in a weaker position than we would expect given the national recovery and the success of our surrounding states. Because of Republican policy failures, Wisconsin faces a staggering budget deficit, lagging job and wage growth and an educational system that is clearly underfunded."

An Audio of Rep. Barca's full response can be found here.

dave-hansenIn reaction to Governor Walker’s State of the State Address, our local leader Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) said in a statement issued Wednesday:

“Preparing his presidential run, Governor Walker tried to make a case that his plan is working but while the rich keep getting richer the average family is taking a beating losing ground to their neighbors in Minnesota due to stagnating wages, struggling under the weight of skyrocketing student loan debt, and finding it harder and harder to find a good paying job.

"Meanwhile the state is facing a $2.2 billion deficit and a $751 million shortfall in the transportation fund because of his irresponsible policies. And while his wealthy friends and donors get rich the middle class continues to shrink because under this administration the wealthy are allowed to take our money right out of our pockets instead of having to work for their money like everyone else.

"Instead of giving even more handouts to the wealthy and corporate special interests at the expense of average families we should be focusing on those policies that promote greater economic freedom and security for all Wisconsin families and that provides each person the ability and opportunity to succeed and achieve their version of the American Dream.”

eric-genrichFinally, State Representative Eric Genrich (D-Green Bay) said “This evening, Governor Walker delivered his fifth State of the State speech outlining his goals for the upcoming year. This edition was notably light on new plans for Wisconsin and heavy on attempts to put a positive spin on the real and troubling issues facing working people in our state for a national audience.”

Genrich ends by saying “Wisconsin deserves a new vision focused on preserving our hard working middle class roots and ensuring that the next generation has the opportunity to learn, grow, and compete on a global scale. Now is not the time for small thoughts or plans, and certainly not the time for a lack of focus. Wisconsin needs to be bold and to embrace policies that have helped neighboring states outpace us in economic growth and recovery.”

We understand that Walker is looking to the national stage for his future, but what about ours here in Wisconsin?

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Public Questions GOP Bill That Could Lead to Takeover of Eleven Schools in Green Bay

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, 14 January 2015
in Wisconsin

school-studentsA public hearing in Madison Wednesday makes clear that this most recent GOP effort to take over public schools and further privatize public education is fatally flawed, casting doubt on the bill’s future.


MADISON - A controversial bill that, if enacted, could lead to the takeover of eleven schools in Green Bay met with broad-based opposition at a public hearing today, casting doubt on the bill’s future.

Among the schools that could be turned over to private operators under the bill are: Danz, Doty, Eisenhower, Fort Howard, Howe, Lincoln, Nicolet, and Sullivan Elementary Schools, Washington Middle School, and East and West High Schools.

Current law directs the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to annually publish a school and school district accountability report to set performance standards and gives the state superintendent of public instruction authority to withhold state aid from a school district that fails to comply.

The GOP sponsored Assembly Bill 1 (AB 1) replaces the school accountability system with an academic review system, to be created by an appointed Academic Review Board (ARB) and also gives the ARB the authority to establish an independent charter school or initiate a contract with an individual or group to operate an independent charter school without approval from the DPI.

eric-genrichAssembly Education Committee member Rep. Eric Genrich (D-Green Bay) said, “Today’s hearing has made clear that this most recent effort to take over certain public schools and further privatize public education is hastily and poorly crafted. This legislation is being rammed through the legislative process without giving deference to or seeking real input from the educational professionals and local school boards who serve our school kids every day.”

Signs of the bill’s trouble began to emerge as critics from across the political spectrum began pointing out the bills flaws and as a conflicting senate bill was introduced. Additionally, at the start of today’s hearing, the bill’s author informed the committee and the public that a significant portion of Assembly Bill 1 (AB 1) would be discarded. However, those changes were not made available at the time of the hearing.

dave_hansen“This is what happens when legislators try to solve complicated and controversial issues on their own without talking to all the stakeholders,” said Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay). “Some of the special interests in the Capitol might not like that fact, but a lot of the problems we’re seeing with AB 1 could have been avoided if a more inclusive effort had been made by the author.”

With many tough questions about AB 1 still unanswered, it is unclear what the contents of the legislation will be when it goes before the full Assembly, as expected, later this month.

“I am opposed to this effort to punish and stigmatize public schools and remain committed to supporting public policies that put Wisconsin children in a position to succeed inside and outside of our schools,” continued Genrich.

“With a $2.2 billion deficit, taxpayers cannot afford to pay for an expansion of separate private school system. And they shouldn’t be asked to,” said Hansen. “Trying to force them into paying for the voucher system by privatizing our local public schools through the backdoor like Rep. Thiesfeldt wants to do is not only dishonest but goes against the very tradition of educational freedom that is the foundation of our state.”

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Senate Democrats Push for Real Accountability for Voucher Schools

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, 07 January 2015
in Wisconsin

teaching-studentsMADISON - Senate Democrats announced today introduction of legislation to protect voucher schools students, and their parents as well as taxpayers by requiring real accountability measures for schools that participate in the taxpayer funded private voucher school program.

The legislation being introduced by Senators Nikiya Harris-Dodd and Chris Larson would require voucher schools to hire licensed teachers, conduct criminal background checks on their teachers and administrators, meet basic graduation standards and be based in Wisconsin.

dave-hansen“For too long we have seen how the lack of strong accountability standards for voucher schools has cost students, families and taxpayers,” said Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay). “We can no longer afford to keep investing tax dollars into a private school program that is unaccountable to taxpayers and that has produced so many expensive failures.”

Taxpayers gave over $139 million dollars to fifty voucher schools that ultimately were barred from receiving taxpayer support after they failed to meet minimal existing requirements. Still others have closed costing state taxpayers millions and leaving families who put their trust in them out in the cold.

Just last month, the Travis Technology High School closed after failing to meet existing minimal state requirements In 2013, the LifeSkills Academy in Milwaukee closed in the dead of night leaving behind 66 students who were not proficient in math or reading.

Hansen concluded: “We shouldn’t be taking money from our public schools and giving it to private schools at a time when we are forcing our public schools to make difficult and painful cuts. But if the Governor and Republicans are going to force taxpayers to fund a separate, private school system then the taxpayers have a right to expect that that their teachers will be able to teach, the students able to learn and that the schools will be safe.”

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Audit Shows Walker Jobs Agency "Too Busy" to Talk to Unemployed

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, 16 December 2014
in Wisconsin

joblessWalker’s DWD blocked the calls from almost 1.7 million Wisconsin workers seeking unemployment assistance. As a result thousands of unemployed workers appear to have been forced to wait for or did not receive much-needed benefits.


MADISON - A new state report released today says the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) call centers were too busy to answer almost 1.7 million calls from people looking to claim unemployment benefits in the year that ended June 30. The Legislative Audit Bureau issued findings showing that DWD placed people in a hold queue when call center staff were busy.

Despite being last in the Midwest for job growth, Governor Walker’s DWD blocked the calls from Wisconsin workers seeking unemployment assistance. As a result thousands of unemployed workers appear to have been forced to wait for or did not receive much-needed benefits they paid for.

dave-hansen“At a time when families are at their most vulnerable the state should not be forcing them through an endless frustrating loop of delays and dead-end phone calls simply for trying to get the benefits they earned and paid for,” said Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay).

In response to an increasing number of calls received from constituents who were having trouble getting through to the DWD last February, Senator Hansen and several Democratic senators wrote to Governor Walker urging him to take action to fix the problem.

“We wrote to the Governor after hearing from constituents, many of whom had been calling dozens of times per day and others spending entire days trying to get through so they could access the benefits they paid for. The audit conducted by the non-partisan Legislative Audit Bureau shows just how badly the department failed so many Wisconsin families when they needed help the most.”

According to the audit since 2011 over 3.6 million calls were blocked and another million callers hung up out of frustration after being put on hold. Although the number of people filing claims declined last year the problem got worse leading to 1.7 million calls being blocked.

“This was not an unknown problem. They had years to fix it. Combined with the Governor’s failure to create the jobs he promised, the fact that they didn’t bother to fix the problem suggests an appalling lack of concern for the average family.”

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