IS is Executing Foreign Fighters Who Try to Leave

Good. The more of their own that IS kills, the fewer there are.

London (AFP) – The Islamic State extremist group has executed 100 of its own foreign fighters who tried to flee their headquarters in the Syrian city of Raqqa, the Financial Times newspaper said Saturday.

An activist opposed to both IS and the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is well-known to the British business broadsheet, said he had “verified 100 executions” of foreign IS fighters trying to leave the jihadist group’s de facto capital.

IS fighters in Raqqa said the group has created a military police to clamp down on foreign fighters who do not report for duty. Dozens of homes have been raided and many jihadists have been arrested, the FT reported.

Rabble-Rousers

This is a telling picture of just how small the group of protesters causing disruptions in Milwaukee are.

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What stinks is that the Hamilton family has a very legitimate beef with the DA for taking months to announce whether or not he will bring charges against the officer who shot Dontre Hamilton. The DA’s delay is unacceptable. But the fact that the protests being held in their name appear to be being hijacked and disrupting the lives of people who have nothing to do with the case is overshadowing their cause.

Also, the DA’s delay is only adding to the problem. People are going to protest not matter what the charging decision is. The longer the DA delays; the longer this is going to go on. Just announce the decision already, deal with the aftermath, and let’s move on.

Socialized Healthcare Collapses in Vermont

One of the nice things about being a conservative is that we are almost always eventually proven right. It is unfortunate that it causes so much pain to learn these lessons – and that they have to keep being relearned.

Vermont was supposed to be the beacon for a single-payer health care system in America. But now its plans are in ruins, and its onetime champion Gov. Peter Shumlin may have set back the cause.
Advocates of a “Medicare for all” approach were largely sidelined during the national Obamacare debate. The health law left a private insurance system in place and didn’t even include a weaker “public option” government plan to run alongside more traditional commercial ones.
Story Continued Below

So single-payer advocates looked instead to make a breakthrough in the states. Bills have been introduced from Hawaii to New York; former Medicare chief Don Berwick made it a key plank of his unsuccessful primary race for Massachusetts governor.
Vermont under Shumlin became the most visible trailblazer. Until Wednesday, when the governor admitted what critics had said all along: He couldn’t pay for it.

“It is not the right time for Vermont” to pass a single-payer system, Shumlin acknowledged in a public statement ending his signature initiative. He concluded the 11.5 percent payroll assessments on businesses and sliding premiums up to 9.5 percent of individuals’ income “might hurt our economy.”

Finke Spreads Misinformation

Waring Finke, the local lefty columnist for the West Bend Daily News, has penned a column opposing right to work in Wisconsin. It is perfectly acceptable for him to hold and espouse this opinion. What is not acceptable is for him to spread misinformation in his column as a means of misleading his readers on this topic.

Finke’s column includes two statements that are easily proven false. Here is the first:

Twenty-four states have enacted RTW laws in one form or another and not one has created a job or protected a current one.

This is false. In fact, states with right to work have grown jobs much faster than states without it – especially in industries dominated by unions:

Meanwhile, private employment has grown 4.9% in right-to-work states over the past three years, versus 3.9% in other states, according to an analysis of Labor Department data. This disparity is particularly stark in the factory sector: Manufacturing employment has grown 4.1% in right-to-work states over the past three years, compared with less than 3% in other states. Meanwhile, factory jobs pay 7.4% less in right-to-work states.

The economy is a dynamic thing and RTW is only a contributing component to the trend, but the data is clear that it does contribute positively to job growth.

Here is Finke’s second false statement, which is much closer to a lie:

If you do go to work in a union shop, you cannot be required to join the union as a condition of becoming employed. If you join the union and choose to pay dues…

The first sentence is true. In Wisconsin, workers can opt out of joining the union if they work for a unionized shop. What they are prohibited by law from doing is opting out of paying dues. So the operative word is in his next sentence. If you work in a union shop, you must pay dues to the union whether you join or not. Workers do not get to “choose to pay dues.” In fact, that is exactly what RTW seeks to do – give workers that choice. Finke paints the false picture that workers already have that choice. They do not.

It is a good sign that the other side of this debate knows their argument is weak if they feel the need to obfuscate the truth in an attempt to bolster their side.

Protesters Arrested in Milwaukee for Blocking Traffic

Good.

MILWAUKEE (WITI) — Protesters rallying in support of the Dontre Hamilton family temporarily blocked traffic on Interstate-43 and on city streets shortly after 4 p.m. on Friday evening, December 19th. Milwaukee police and sheriff’s deputies made dozens of arrests in relation to the protests.

The peaceful protests turned disruptive as about a hundred people headed to the interstate. Two groups broke off — blocking on-ramps and chanting with bullhorns. Those protesters were met by police and one by one, they were arrested. The Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office says 73 adults and one juvenile were arrested Friday evening.

I would have been very, very ticked to get caught in this.

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GAB Poured Tax Money Into Doe Investigation After Judge Ordered it Stopped

Wow. Just wow.

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON, Wis. – Agents for the embattled state Government Accountability Board continued a zealous campaign finance investigation into dozens of conservative groups even after judges who preside over the board voted to shut it down, according to a previously sealed brief made publicFriday.

The documents, from an updated complaint filed by conservative plaintiffs in a case against the GAB, appear to support claims that the campaign finance, ethics and election law regulator is a rogue agency. They also show that the GAB considered using the state’s John Doe law to investigate key state conservatives and even national figures, including Fox News’ Sean Hannity and WTMJ Milwaukee host Charlie Sykes.

Wisconsin Reporter also obtained some of its information from previous court documents that were supposed to have been redacted.

“What we have uncovered so far shows the Government Accountability Board, or at least its staff, being anything but ‘accountable,’” said Eddie Greim, attorney for plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the GAB. “For example, the public has learned for the first time, over GAB’s objections, that GAB set up a secret system of Gmail accounts for its staffers and the prosecutors who ran the John Doe.  We also know that GAB hoped its ‘illegal coordination’ theory could even extend to allow it to subpoena media figures like Charlie Sykes and Sean Hannity.”

[…]

The unsealed documents show GAB director and general counsel Kevin Kennedy andJonathan Becker, administrator of the agency’s ethics division, involved the accountability board in the secret probe without the approval or even knowledge of the judges. Board members were not informed of the involvement until Dec. 18, 2012, some three months after Kennedy and crew jumped on board.

And it seems Kennedy and Becker misled the board about precisely when they had “learned” of the John Doe investigation, according to a Dec. 18, 2012 memorandum.

“Since the time of the October 23, 2012 Board meeting, staff has learned that the Milwaukee District Attorney has opened another John Doe investigation,” the memo states.

Documents show GAB staff members and DAs using private Gmail accounts to talk about the investigation. Still, leadership warned of the potential that any communications could be made public.

“(T)eam members should communicate with the understanding that their communications could become public or subject to discovery at some point,” according to documents from an August 2013 meeting.

It seems that a criminal investigation may be warranted for the wanton abuse of the taxpayers’ resources in pursuit of political vendettas.

 

Walker Tells GOP Senators to Take a Pass on Right to Work

Argh.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker is telling Republican state senators he wants them focused on his agenda, not passing right-to-work legislation.

Walker spoke to senators during a caucus meeting in the Capitol on Wednesday.

Walker mentioned right-to-work briefly as he was outlining his priorities of cutting property taxes, consolidating state government and passing a school accountability bill. He says debating right-to-work early in the session would distract from what he wants the Legislature focused on.

For a governor presiding over a state that is lagging the national average in private sector growth while also signaling that he will likely deny the Kenosha casino, Walker needs to stop pushing back on right to work. Politically speaking, he will damage his presidential primary chances by pushing against agenda items that are strongly supported by the conservative base. Practically speaking, right to work will likely help improve Wisconsin’s economy and Walker’s obstructionism is hurting potential job growth.

Brown County Board Rejects Sales Tax Referendum

Good!

The County Board voted Wednesday against holding an advisory referendum on creating a new sales tax when an existing Lambeau Field tax expires.

The board’s action followed a lively debate about whether the county needs additional revenue and whether voters would tolerate a new tax precisely when an old one is going away.

“I’d rather let people keep money in their pockets,” said County Supervisor John Vander Leest, who voted with the majority to block the referendum.

Supporters of the referendum argued that county facilities and programs are cash-starved, and that rejecting a sales tax only increases the likelihood of property tax increases instead.

Those officials said voters should be given the chance to voice their feelings on the issue at the ballot box.

Could we be about to see something as rare as a unicorn? Could we be about to see a tax that was passed as a temporary tax actually expire? Perhaps…

Liberal Hypocrisy and Indoctrination at Marquette

I’m a bit late to this story, but it is outrageous. Professor McAdams, longtime member of the Wisconsin blogosphere, has been suspended for daring to criticize a Marquette TA who forbade a student from actually engaging in an open exchange of opposing viewpoints (THE HORROR!).

In November, Prof. John McAdams (Marquette political science) — who blogs at Marquette Warrior — wrote a post critical of a philosophy instructor, Cheryl Abbate. (Abbate is a graduate student but was apparentlythe sole instructor for the particular section of the Theory of Ethics class, as is not uncommon for undergraduate courses at research universities.) The post faulted Abbate for allegedly not allowing criticism of homosexuality in class discussions

[…]

The letter doesn’t specifically indicate what McAdams is being investigated for; and no passages in the documents that the dean attached were highlighted in a way that suggests specific details on this. But McAdamsbelieves that this suspension and removal from campus must have been caused by the earlier post: “Since we have done nothing particularly controversial lately besides blog about the Philosophy instructor (one Cheryl Abbate), we have to assume that’s what it is about.” And Marquette seems to support this; I wrote them last night saying, “Prof. McAdams’ Dec. 16 post suggests that the paid suspension and the exclusion from campus was triggered entirely by his Nov. 9 post.

Marquette is free to stifle debate and offer the most closed-minded liberal indoctrination it wants, but it has lost the right to claim that it is a school that promotes or even tolerates the free exchange of ideas.

Obama Abandons American Cuba Policy

This is about right.

When the Soviet Union fell, the Castro regime was in dire straits. It survived through sheer repression — until it was sustained by Venezuelan oil money sent by Hugo Chávez. Today Chávez is dead, oil is under $60 a barrel, and Venezuela is reeling. Who will bail Castro out this time? Now we have the answer: Barack Obama.

Put aside the prisoner exchange, which one can be for or against and still decry the rest of Obama’s moves today. It’s clear that Obama told the Cubans they had to let Alan Gross out before he could make the rest of his changes — and told them he would undertake those changes immediately. So the Castros not only get diplomatic recognition and a big financial lift — more trade, more tourism, more remittances to Cubans from family members in the U.S., and from which the regime can take a big cut — but they get it all for nothing. That is, the prisoner trade (whether smart or dumb) was a bargained-for exchange. They got three, we got two. All the rest in the Obama policy changes is simply a gift to the regime. The Castros made no promises at all to reduce oppression, allow freedom of speech or assembly, or make any political reforms or foreign-policy adjustments.

The Obama White House conducted these negotiations itself, with no meddling from the State Department. The centralization of all activity in the White House continues, and in this case the American negotiator was Ben Rhodes. Rhodes is a speechwriter with a graduate degree (M.F.A.) in creative writing, so one might wonder if he struck the hardest bargain possible. But of course those would not have been his instructions anyway: The president didn’t want a hard bargain. He wanted to destroy 50 years of American policy toward the Castro regime.

I’ve thought for some time that it was about time to consider a modification in our relationship with Cuba. The purpose of sanctions was to bend them toward democracy and it clearly did not work. Perhaps engagement would be more productive or perhaps some other policy to advance America’s national interests and promote representative government around the world.

Even with the opening of China, it is worth remembering that it took years of meetings and serious thinking. Mao was open to a relationship with the US and the US was open to a relationship with China because it was in their interests to do so – primarily to ward off the Soviet threat. And that relationship has evolved ever since. Agree with it or not, it was a serious change in foreign policy based on advancing national interests and large-scale geopolitical maneuvering.

In contrast, Obama’s move is an unserious farce motivated by ideological affinity for Cuba. There was no serious policy analysis from the professionals in the State Department. There was no larger plan. Obama gave the Castro brothers international recognition and oodles of financial resources with which they can continue to oppress their people. In exchange, America got to buy Cuban cigars. The prisoner exchange was a fig leaf so Obama could pretend that his gift was humanitarian. All he did today was give a tyrant more means to keep the Cuban people under his boot.

North Korea Behind Sony Hacks

As everyone suspected.

The U.S. is ready to blame North Korea for the crippling hack attack at Sony Pictures, as the studio said Wednesday it would cancel next week’s planned release of its controversial comedy “The Interview.”

U.S. investigators say an announcement pinning the blame on hackers working for the Pyongyang regime could come as soon as Thursday.

Because of the North Korean regime’s tight control of the Internet in the reclusive country, U.S. officials believe the hack was ordered directly by the country’s leadership.

North Korea experts say the country has spent its scarce resources on building up a unit called “Bureau 121″ to carry out cyber attacks.

Consider that a foreign nation managed to hack a company, threaten people, keep a movie from being released, and cost the American economy millions and millions of dollars while also exposing tens of thousands of people to identity theft and worse. This is what cyber war looks like and we aren’t doing so well at it.

Randy Koehler’s Comments

Randy Koehler, the incumbent West Bend alderman for District 4, drafted a letter to the citizens of West Bend

As your District 4 alderman I wish to explain the facts surrounding the notion that I advocate for raising taxes.

Each quarter we are given a financial update and forecast to track our current and future budget. For the past year we have been given information that shows the city tax rate increasing by $1.43 beginning with a 47-cent increase in year 2016. I only asked that the issue be placed on the table and discussed so the public is fully aware of the challenges we face.

As proven by my voting record over the past 3.5 years, I have never asked for nor voted for a tax increase, I have only asked that the issue be discussed so as to not catch our citizens by surprise if it ultimately has to happen.

I will continue to work with our city leaders to reduce expenses, increase revenues, create operating efficiencies and find creative solutions to keep our taxes flat.

Since 2012 we have seen $35.1 million in new investment in our city, 275 new jobs and the retention of 341 jobs. The total cost to operate the city in 2011 was $28.7 million, in 2015 it is $25.5 million a reduction of more than $3 million and the number of full-time employees has gone down from 260 to 213.

I have and will continue to be the person you elected by staying independent and voting as a taxpayer and citizen of this city. Proven experience and proven knowledge results in an effective leader. I look forward to serving you and ask that you vote based upon facts and not upon hearsay and misconception.

Randy Koehler West Bend

Government Costing Government Costing Taxpayers

Here’s another example of the many ways that government regulations inflate the cost for taxpayers.

Members of the Washington County Transportation Committee voted Tuesday morning against a request by the Sheboygan Snowmobile Club to run a trail through the property.

County Highway Commissioner Tom Wondra told the committee that the property in question isn’t just any property.

“When Highway H was reconstructed, we had to buy these 21 acres to meet wetland mitigation requirements,” Wondra said. “In 2011, we paid $160,188 for the land but since then, we’ve had to sink more money into it so that now we have about $500,000 invested in it.”

The additional expenses were incurred for developing the wetlands along Stony Creek that included removing debris from the stream, taking out a footbridge, controlling erosion, salvaging topsoil, tree and shrub planting, and the seeding of native plants, according to a report Wondra included in a packet of information as background for Tuesday morning’s meeting.

As part of the wetland mitigation, the county is required to control the amount of invasive nonnative plants on the property and to encourage the restoration of prairie plants native to the area.

“Controlling the invasive species has been a challenge, but we have been battling back,” Wondra told the committee. “We have had to buy a specialized prairie seed mix at a cost of $100 a pound.”

So… not only do the citizens and taxpayers not get to use this piece of property that they were forced to purchase, but they get to spend a half million dollars (so far) to make it pretty.

Supreme Doe

Finally.

MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin Supreme Court has agreed to hear three cases stemming from a John Doe investigation of fundraising and spending by Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign and conservative groups backing him.

The court on Tuesday accepted a legal challenge from two targets of the probe; a separate lawsuit from those two targets and another; and an action by special prosecutor Francis Schmitz to try to reinstate subpoenas that were quashed by the judge overseeing the investigation.

Blocking the Unemployed

That’s just flat out unacceptable.

From 2011 to 2014, jobless workers had 3.6 million calls blocked by the state and in an additional 1 million cases the unemployed hung up after being put on hold, the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau reported Tuesday. These numbers for the call centers don’t count the state’s automated phone lines for unemployment benefits, because the state doesn’t track the number of dropped calls to the automated system.

The audit confirmed reports reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that showed that the state has often been unable to handle the rush of calls from workers who were laid off because of the cold winter months and the recent deep recession.

Most workers can file for benefits online and do get their benefits quickly. But the phone problems date back at least to 2009 and got worse last winter even though overall jobless claims were falling.

Auditors found that almost 1.7 million phone calls to state centers by jobless workers were blocked last fiscal year because there was no one to answer the calls and not enough phone lines available to put the workers on hold. That left those callers no choice but to try to phone again later for help.

During most of the fiscal year ended in June, less than 10% of jobless workers’ calls were blocked by the state. But the problem spiked in December of 2013 and January of 2014. During those winter months marked by high seasonal unemployment and a large number of calls to the state, more than 80% of the unemployed workers calling for help were blocked.

Fortune hasn’t favored Wisconsin

My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here it is.

“Wisconsin is a tax hell and we are sick of it. The Legislature has made some attempts to restrain government spending … . As I watch the budget process move forward, I am all but certain that the truth will remain: Wisconsin is a tax hell.”

I wrote those words almost 10 years ago in this space while advocating for a Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights. In the past decade, Wisconsin has turned slightly more fiscally conservative, but when it comes to taxes, the state still burns hot. A recent report from Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Department of Revenue Secretary Rick Chandler serves as confirmation.

Gov. Scott Walker tasked the lieutenant governor and secretary with roaming around the state to collect feedback about tax reform. Over the course of 23 roundtable discussions all over the state to which people of varying perspectives and experiences were invited to participate, the report indicates that five familiar themes bubbled to the top as critical concerns.

The first and most common concern was Wisconsin’s incredibly onerous property tax. Wisconsin’s property taxes have consistently been more than 20 percent higher than the national average for decades and accounts for 40 percent of all taxes paid by Wisconsinites. Many property owners receiving their property tax bills this month are seeing a rare decrease in their property taxes thanks mainly to an infusion of $178 million in state taxes into the technical college system and Act 10, but Wisconsin still has higher property taxes than 45 other states and is the worst in the Midwest.

Income taxes were next on the list of concerns. The Republicans have made some small gains in reforming Wisconsin’s income taxes by reducing the number of brackets and the rates, but the income tax remains a big reason why many high-earners seek employment in states without one. Wisconsin ranks in the top 10 states when it comes to the burden of income taxes.

The issue ranking third from participants in the roundtables was the complexity of the tax code. By a margin of 23:1, participants said that they would prefer lower, flatter rates in lieu of a patchwork of incentives, exemptions, credits, deductions and other devices used by politicians to manipulate behavior through the tax code.

Fourth on the list was how Wisconsin’s tax and regulatory burden adversely impacts small businesses. Small businesses are vital for job growth and entrepreneurship in any state. They can also least afford the expensive taxes and regulations that drastically increase the cost of doing business.

The fifth item on the report’s list finally gets to the root of all of the other problems with taxes in Wisconsin: spending. The roundtables’ participants voiced concerns about the efficiency and cost of government. According to the report, they acknowledged that government costs money, but want to ensure that the taxpayers are getting a good value for every dollar spent.

The report that took a year to build certainly confirmed what most Wisconsinites already knew. We live in a state that taxes, regulates and spends too much. What the report failed to do is make any recommendations as to what to do about it. Perhaps that is because the answer is obvious.

Wisconsin should tax less, regulate less and spend less. But if the Republicans really want to move the needle on these initiatives and make Wisconsin truly a leader, they need to advance some fundamental and seismic reforms.

There has already been some talk of eliminating the state income tax completely. The Republicans should do it.

The state should:

freeze property taxes and take a chainsaw to the regulatory structure that shackles Wisconsinites;

match massive tax cuts with massive spending cuts;

abolish shared revenue as Gov. Scott McCallum wisely advocated years ago;

cut funding for transportation;

reform the criminal code and cut prison funding;

cut the lavish funding for the University of Wisconsin;

and continue to reform and cut spending on K-12 education.

One of the reasons that Wisconsin’s government has become so bloated and expensive is because it has enough sacred cows to constitute a herd. If the Republicans hunt the entire herd at once, a few of the weaker ones will be separated.

For those who think it can’t be done — that we can’t cut that much spending — hogwash. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Wisconsin has the highest per capita state spending in the Midwest and the 11th highest in the nation. Wisconsin’s state spending is 38 percent higher than the national average.

Somehow the vast majority of other states manage to fund their needs while spending and taxing less than Wisconsin. Many of them do it without a state income tax; without shared revenue; with lower property taxes; and with great schools, better roads and a much stronger state economy.

Walker and the Republican leadership have made a lot of consequential changes to the benefit of Wisconsin and its taxpayers. The voters rewarded them with firm control of the Legislature and the executive. Now is the time to truly transform Wisconsin into a national leader, if only they have the courage to act. Audentis fortuna iuvat (fortune favors the bold).

(Owen Robinson’s column runs Tuesdays in the Daily News.)

Vos Weighs in on Right to Work Legislation

There’s good and bad here.

Vos expressed reservations about attempting to rush right-to-work legislation during the next session. He did say, however, that people need to show how it would benefit the state before any proposals move forward.

“If the business community wants it, if activists want it, if employers want it, they need to make the case why having right-to-work in Wisconsin is good for growing jobs, bringing more companies here, having our economy grow and thrive,” Vos said.

Vos went on to say that he would not support an exemption for trade unions as a component of right-to-work legislation.

“Either you say people have the right to join the union or you don’t. Is it worth it or not?” he said.

The good is that Vos is making it clear that Right to Work is an all or nothing proposition. It sounds like he won’t stand for carve outs and exclusions.

The bad is that Vos is laying out a framework in which the only justification for passing Right to Work is is it will demonstrably improve the economy. If evidence from other states is any guide, it might – depending on what you are measuring. Right to Work tend to have a more dynamic economy and add jobs more quickly, but it is one piece in a much larger economic puzzle. Bearing in mind that only 12% of Wisconsin’s private workforce are members of unions, Right to Work will likely have a relatively small impact on the economy. But, as I said, judging from other states, it certainly won’t hurt.

As a conservative, which Vos generally is, he should also know that the more pressing reason for Right to Work is a moral one – not an economic one. No person should be forced to pay dues to a third party group as a condition of their employment. Period. It is immoral and unnecessarily restrains the liberty of the individual. There are rare times when there is a compelling state interest to restrict individual liberty, but this is not one of them. The only beneficiaries of a closed shop state are the unions who gain more dues. The state has no compelling interest to force people to give their hard-earned money to unions any more than to any other private organization.

Let us hope that Speaker Vos chooses to accept arguments outside of the rigid framework he expressed here.

Expensive Child Care in Wisconsin

Like so many other things, it is more expensive in Wisconsin.

Parents in the Badger State pay an average $9,300 per year to keep their pre-kindergartner in group child care, ranking the state among the least affordable in the country, according a new report.

And further down in the story, we see why.

Costs typically are higher in Wisconsin because the state has more licensing requirements and regulations than other states, she said.

“Quality costs money,” Breese said.

That’s true, but it is also true that high prices will lead to some families choosing to leave their kids alone or with unreliable family members. I also haven’t seen any studies that show that Wisconsin’s pre-K child care is any better than any other state’s – despite the extra expense and regulations.

 

What To Do With Transgender Kids in Sports

They are trying to figure it out in Baraboo.

The policy allows transgender students who identify as male to participate on male sports teams only if they have begun testosterone therapy, and transgender students who identify as female to participate on female sports teams only if they have been medically documented as having undergone testosterone suppression therapy for one year.

Baraboo School Board vice president and policy committee chairman Doug Mering said that while there are no transgender students attending Baraboo schools to his knowledge, the board wanted to have a policy in place.

It makes sense for the school board to try to figure this out. It’s better to think about it and come up with a policy before they actually have a kid waiting to join a team. Julaine Appling has a good point, though.

Appling said the policy also can’t stand on its own because it doesn’t include policies for use of restrooms or locker rooms.

It seems that any policy should include what should happen with restrooms and locker rooms. It will be the issue that comes up on the very first day of practice.

Overall, schools will have transgender kids in them and they deserve the same educational and extracurricular opportunities as any other kid. The trick is to figure out a way to extend those opportunities while still ensuring the safety and propriety of every other kid too. Easier said than done.

Property Tax Bill Arrived

Did yours? How does it look?

Ours arrived this week. It looks better.

– State property tax is up 0.6%.

– County property tax is down 5.5%.

– City property tax is flat.

– School district property tax is down 6.6%.

– Technical college property tax is down a whopping 56.8%.

– This leads to a total property tax bill decrease of 7.4%.

A few thoughts…

I would have expected for the state to manage a property tax freeze. The county and city property tax decreases are a result of some good decisions and better budgeting. This is the city’s 4th or 5th year of solid budgeting, spending discipline, and a frozen tax levy. Nice job. The election in April will be, in part, a discussion on whether that trend should continue or not.

This is the first year of a substantial change in county taxes in the first year of having a county manager. There’s some good work going on at the county, but they have a lot more work to do. At least it is finally moving in the right direction.

School district property taxes are also a result of some spending discipline and the first year we are seeing some real savings from Act 10. Like the county, it is moving in the right direction but has a long way to go.

The decrease from the tech college is a bit of a fiction. The massive decrease is thanks to a massive injection of state spending into the tech colleges ($178 million, if memory serves). The decrease in property taxes is not because of spending discipline or reform. It’s because of a one-time pile of cash that also came from the taxpayers. It’s a wash. Without the state cash next year, it will likely return to its previous level, which would be a 131% increase for next year. That’ll be fun.

If I assume a flat property tax from the tech college because its decrease is an anomaly, it is an overall decrease in property taxes of 3.22%. Not bad. Thank you to Governor Walker and the Republican majority for moving property taxes in the right direction. They are still way too high, however. For those of you from other states who don’t have a full appreciation of how high property taxes are in Wisconsin, our middle-class home carries a property tax burden of almost $5,000 per year. Ouch.