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Walker and Republicans are Lying About the Budget Crisis

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, 22 October 2014
in Wisconsin

scott_walkerNon-partisan Politifact exposes political cover-up.


MADISON - Today’s analysis by the non-partisan Politifact shows that Governor Walker and Republican leaders have been caught lying about the state’s financial condition rather than acknowledge that the policies they have pursued have created a $1.8 billion budget crisis.

We reached a trusted local source, State Senator Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) for comment.

dave-hansen“Over and over Governor Walker and Republican leaders have tried to convince people that we do not have a budget crisis despite data from the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau that shows the state is facing a $1.8 billion deficit heading into the next budget cycle” said Hansen. “If they had said it once or twice and acknowledged their mistake it would be one thing. But despite being called out on their fiction they continue to tell the people something they know is not true. They’re lying plain and simple.”

Using a long-established method that has been accepted and used by governors and members of both political parties Politifact concluded that Wisconsin is in fact facing a $1.8 billion structural deficit going into the next budget cycle.

Hansen went on: “Giving away billions in tax breaks to their rich and corporate friends at the expense of our kids’ education, wasting millions in tax dollars on failed and suspect private voucher schools and steering millions in tax dollars to their campaign contributors under the guise of economic development has created not just a budget crisis but also a jobs crisis and income crisis for Wisconsin families. It is shameful behavior and lying about it only makes it worse.”

Under Governor Walker Wisconsin is facing a $1.8 billion deficit, is dead last for job growth in the Midwest since he took office, Wisconsin families have seen their yearly incomes fall by over $2,700 and Wisconsin workers are now earning $5,000 less per year than their counterparts in Minnesota.

Finally, Hansen said: “Instead of cherry-picking statistics, using false numbers and trying to spin the facts, Governor Walker and the Republicans owe the people of this state an apology—both for the economic disaster they’ve created and for not being honest about it.”

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A Constitutional Amendment Will Not Solve Wisconsin's Transportation Problems

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 Monday, 20 October 2014
in Wisconsin

roads_i94Should money collected in gas tax and motor vehicle registration fees be kept in the Transportation Fund and used only for transportation purposes? Senator Kathleen Vinehout shares her concerns about the proposed constitutional amendment appearing on the Nov. 4th ballot.


EAU CLAIRE - “Tell us about the Transportation Constitutional Amendment,” the Eau Claire man asked.

On November 4th people have the opportunity to vote on an amendment to the Wisconsin Constitution. The question, paraphrased, is: should money collected in gas tax and motor vehicle registration fees be kept in the Transportation Fund and used only for transportation purposes?

Proponents argue ‘Yes’. Money set aside for roads should be kept in the Transportation Fund. But nothing in state government is simple. And even if the amendment passes, problems funding roads are not solved.

People drive less and drive more efficient vehicles. Gas tax and motor vehicle registration funds aren’t keeping up with state spending on roads. Increasing debt payments for past spending takes a bigger bite every year.

At the same Eau Claire neighborhood conversation I was asked “Why are we voting on something that won’t solve the problem?

Good question!

Recent history helps explain why the amendment is before voters. Changing the Constitution is a slow process – and for good reason – so this citizen vote has been in the works for some time.

The state budget contains many funds. Two funds are very large pots of money: the Transportation Fund and the General Fund. Money from the General Fund pays for schools, health care, UW, local government, and prisons.

Moving money from Transportation to the General Fund began in earnest in 2003, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB). Governor Doyle faced a Republican-controlled legislature and a structural deficit greater than the one inherited by Governor Walker. Not surprisingly priorities between the Governor and lawmakers differed.

The most dramatic action came when Governor Doyle used veto powers to prevent a deep cut in education by moving road funds to the General Fund. Road builders and many Republicans cried ‘foul’. Thus was the genesis of this November’s vote.

In Governor Walker’s budgets, money moved in the opposite direction – schools and the UW were shorted while General Fund dollars moved to roads.

Both governors borrowed to pay for roads with General Fund money: a cumulative $1.3 billion over 12 years. This shorts money available for health and schools well into the future. In addition, borrowing increased in the Transportation Fund as spending outpaced revenue. Money paid to debt service will hit nearly 20% of all transportation spending by the 2015-16 budget.

Misinformation about the amendment abounds. For example, in recent legislative forums, listeners heard the Transportation Fund is not keeping up with the cost of roads because money was taken from the fund and never paid back.

Yes, money was taken from the fund but it was paid back and more.

Opponents of the constitutional amendment argue lawmakers should not be bound by “budgeting in the constitution”. Future legislatures should be free to move money from one fund to another as needs dictate. As a woman said, “What if there’s a huge surplus in the Transportation Fund and disaster strikes Wisconsin? Do we leave dying residents because there is a ‘lockbox’ on road money?”

Others argue the amendment is “political payback” for assistance by the road builders – one of the most powerful lobbying interests.

In 2013 the Transportation Finance and Policy Commission issued a key report on transportation problems - Keep Wisconsin Moving. The new Commission, established in the 2011-13 budget, was entirely composed of political appointees - a majority of Governor Walker’s appointees.

Their report focused mostly on the need for increased spending. Not surprisingly as a majority of commission members had present or past ties to the road building industry. The report paid very little attention to getting more for current road spending. But herein lies part of the answer.

A recent editorial in the Wausau Daily Herald reminds us: One important part of dealing with the state's transportation gap will be to reduce spending on transportation. Maintaining good roads is vital, but taxpayers should be able to expect that every project is conducted efficiently; every proposal is scrutinized to determine if it really needs to be done.

Evaluating the effectiveness of existing spending should be the first step before ordering new spending. A constitutional amendment is no substitute for careful, deliberative and transparent governing.

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Scott Walker Eliminated Funding for ShotSpotter Program

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, 20 October 2014
in Wisconsin

policeMILWAUKEE - Sometimes, when you are a career politician like Scott Walker, you just claim credit for a sexy sounding program whether you supported it or not. That's apparently what Walker did when pressed on his Public Safety record in last Friday's debate with Mary Burke.

Scott Walker cited the Milwaukee Police Department's ShotSpotter program as one of his major accomplishments. The technology, in use in high-crime areas in the city, uses sensors to detect gunshots. According to Milwaukee's Democratic mayor Tom Barrett, "This is a very effective law enforcement tool".

Unfortunately, when Barrett asked for state money to run the program back in 2013, Walker was not that supportive. Scott Walker eliminated funding for the ShotSpotter program in Milwaukee - $445,400 in the 2013-2015 budget.

Walker defended his cut by lauding his signature of the bill with reduced funding for the program. The governor called Mary Burke’s comments denouncing his cuts as “hogwash.”

Only after intense pressure from the public and law enforcement officials did Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled legislature partially restored funding by $175,000.

That's the real story.

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Large Health Insurer Getting Over $12 Million from Walker BadgerCare Decision

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.,
User is currently offline
on Friday, 17 October 2014
in Wisconsin

anthem-blue-cross-wiSTATEWIDE - According to an analysis by Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Wellpoint Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wisconsin, part of the nation’s largest for-profit health insurance company, will make an estimated $12,785,484 in additional revenue each year because Governor Walker rejected enhanced federal funds for BadgerCare.

On a media call earlier this week Citizen Action of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Democracy Campaign released evidence of a relationship between large insurance industry campaign donations to Scott Walker and the rejection of federal funds for BadgerCare. The data shows that the insurance industry was the biggest beneficiary of the decision to reject the funds for BadgerCare and has made major large campaign contributions to Governor Walker and leading Legislators.

scott-walkerThe estimate of additional revenue for Wellpoint Anthem Blue Cross is based on their market share in the new federal marketplace in Wisconsin, enrollment numbers for former BadgerCare recipients, and the average tax subsidy that each new enrollee will receive from the federal government. It does not include additional premiums paid by individual health insurance consumers.

Lobbying records from the Government Accountability Board show that Wellpoint Anthem Blue Cross lobbied for 159 hours on the part of the state budget related to BadgerCare funding. It also lobbied for 238 hours on implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which could have included expanded BadgerCare eligibility. According to records compiled by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, executives from the company and its subsidiaries donated at least $42,850 to Governor Walker.

“The evidence is clear that the nation’s largest for-profit insurance company benefited substantially from Scott Walker’s disastrous decision to reject federal funds for BadgerCare,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “It disturbing to believe that tens of thousands of Wisconsin families may be either without vital health coverage or paying too much for coverage just so Governor Walker’s campaign contributors can pad their profits.”

Lobbying records released Thursday by Citizen Action of Wisconsin from the Government Accountability Board (GAB) call into question Governor Scott Walker’s blanket denial that the insurance industry lobbied his administration to reject enhanced federal funds for BadgerCare.

Television journalist Greg Neumann of WKOW TV 27 in Madison captured Scott Walker on video stumbling to respond to Citizen Action of Wisconsin’s revelation that insurance industry donations may have swayed his decisions to reject hundreds of millions of federal dollars for BadgerCare.  In the news story, Walker says on camera that “to my knowledge they [the insurance industry] haven’t lobbied me personally or anyone in my administration on this.”

However, lobbying records from GAB show that three powerful insurance industry trade associations and Wellpoint Anthem Blue Cross spend 363 hours lobbying on the part of the state budget related to BadgerCare funding. Wellpoint Anthem Blue Cross spent an additional 238 hours lobbying on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The expansion of BadgerCare is a key part of the health care law.

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State Records Show Insurance Industry Lobbied on BadgerCare

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.,
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 16 October 2014
in Wisconsin

scott_walkerContrary to Scott Walker's campaign denial that the insurance industry lobbied his administration to reject federal funds for BadgerCare, records show that the Alliance of Health Insurers, Wisconsin Association of Health Plans, America’s Health Insurance Plans, and Wellpoint/Anthem Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Wisconsin spent at least 363 hours lobbying.


STATEWIDE - Lobbying records from the Government Accountability Board (GAB) call into question Governor Scott Walker’s blanket denial that the insurance industry lobbied his administration to reject enhanced federal funds for BadgerCare.

On a media call earlier this week Citizen Action of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Democracy Campaign released evidence of a relationship between large insurance industry campaign donations to Scott Walker and the rejection of federal funds for BadgerCare. The data shows that the insurance industry was the biggest beneficiary of the decision to reject the funds for BadgerCare and has made major large campaign contributions to Governor Walker and leading Legislators.

Television journalist Greg Neumann of WKOW TV 27 in Madison captured Scott Walker on video stumbling to respond to Citizen Action of Wisconsin’s revelation that insurance industry donations may have swayed his decisions to reject hundreds of millions of federal dollars for BadgerCare.

In the news story, Walker says on camera that “to my knowledge they [the insurance industry] haven’t lobbied me personally or anyone in my administration on this.”

However, lobbying records from GAB show that three powerful insurance industry trade associations and one large national for-profit insurance company lobbied substantially on the part of the state budget related to BadgerCare funding.

The records show that Alliance of Health Insurers, Wisconsin Association of Health Plans, America’s Health Insurance Plans, and Wellpoint/Anthem Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Wisconsin spent at least 363 hours lobbying on the section of the state budget that includes BadgerCare funding.

Unlike GAB reporting requirements on individual bills, reporting rules on subjects in the state budget do not require specific disclosure of what position was taken, only what areas of the budget were lobbied.

“Lobbying records certainly cast doubt on Governor Walker’s blanket denial that his administration was lobbied by large insurance interests to reject federal funds for BadgerCare,” said Robert Kraig, Executive Director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “We are very concerned that over 26,000 Wisconsin parents may be going without vital health coverage because of more pay-to-play corruption in the Walker Administration.”

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