Category Archives: Politics

Senator Stroebel Leads on Referendum Reform

It’s hard to argue with any of these reforms… but I’m sure liberals will fins a way.

I have advocated, and will continue to advocate, for reforms to provide greater transparency in the referendum process and to remove policies that incentivize overspending. Among these reforms are:

  • requiring ballot questions to show the total actual cost of referendums with projected debt service
  • requiring borrowed money to be spent on what is listed on the ballot
  • making referendum costs non-shareable, so that one school district’s taxpayers do not subsidize another’s referendum
  • requiring public bidding of school district projects
  • and clarifying what communications are allowable information to voters and what is illegal electioneering with public money.

The size and importance of these expenditures demands no less from our public officials.

First Debate Between Evers and Walker

Since nobody actually watched the debate live because it was on a Friday night during a Brewers playoff game and a Bucks game, here’s a recording of the debate.

Migrant Mob Breaks into Mexico

The United States is under no moral obligation to allow this mob into our country.

Tapachula, Mexico (CNN)A chaotic scene unfolded as a massive caravan of Honduran migrants reached the Guatemala-Mexico border Friday.

A surge of migrants broke through a steel fence that had been padlocked shut. Mexican police in riot gear pushed them back, setting off smoke canisters.
Hundreds of Mexican Federal Police sealed the border as drones and helicopters hovered above the crowd, which waited on a bridge in sweltering heat.
Thousands of migrants are waiting to cross, according to CNN teams at the scene.

Tony Evers Heavily Plagiarized in Official Budget Request

Way to set an example for the school kids, Tony.

MADISON – State schools Superintendent Tony Evers submitted a budget request as his bid for governor heated up in September that included sections plagiarized from Wikipedia, a blog by an intern at a think tank and two other sources.


Evers’ budget request includes a 15-paragraph section on the benefits of summer school programs that is nearly verbatim to a blog post written by a Thomas B. Fordham Institute intern.

A section on the benefits of having students work matches nearly word for word a publication by the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability. That section includes two paragraphs and a list of four benefits of having students work.

Two other paragraphs appear to be taken verbatim from other sources — one from the Afterschool Alliance and one from Wikipedia.

And this is telling…

A spokesman for Evers’ Department of Public Instruction acknowledged that “proper citation use was missed in certain places” of the budget request. Staff will be retrained but Evers does not plan to discipline anyone, according to the department.

Clearly there isn’t a culture of accountability in Evers’ DPI.

Getting Better Educational Outcomes

Maybe it’s not all about “finding yourself” and class size.

Today Singapore’s education system is considered the best in the world. The country consistently ranks at the top of the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a triennial test of 15-year-olds in dozens of countries, in the main three categories of maths, reading and science. Singaporean pupils are roughly three years ahead of their American peers in maths. Singapore does similarly well in exams of younger children, and the graduates of its best schools can be found scattered around the world’s finest universities.

The island-state has much to teach the world. But other countries are reluctant pupils. One reason is that Singapore favours traditional pedagogy, with teachers leading the class. That contrasts with many reformers’ preference for looser, more “progressive” teaching intended to encourage children to learn for themselves. Although international studies suggest that direct instruction is indeed a good way of conveying knowledge, critics contend that Singapore has a “drill and kill” model that produces uncreative, miserable maths whizzes. Parents worry about the stress the system puts on their children (and on them, even as they ferry kids to extra classes).

Yet Singapore shows that academic brilliance need not come at the expense of personal skills. In 2015 Singaporean students also came first in a new PISA ranking designed to look at collaborative problem-solving, scoring even better than they did in reading and science. They also reported themselves to be happy—more so than children in Finland, for instance, a country that educationalists regard as an example of how to achieve exceptional results with cuddlier methods of teaching. Not content with its achievements, Singapore is now introducing reforms to improve creativity and reduce stress (see article). This is not a sign of failure, but rather of a gradual, evidence-led approach to education reform—the first of three lessons that Singapore offers the rest of the world.


The third and most important lesson is to focus on developing excellent teachers. In Singapore, they get 100 hours of training a year to keep up to date with the latest techniques. The government pays them well, too. It accepts the need for larger classes (the average is 36 pupils, compared with 24 across the OECD). Better, so the thinking goes, to have big classes taught by excellent teachers than smaller ones taught by mediocre ones.

I’d like to hear more ideas like this out of Evers and Walker instead of “we’re going to spend more on the same thing.”

I’d note that Singapore spends about $10k/year for high schoolers and about $7,700 per kid for elementary schoolers. Wisconsin spends about $11,500 per student. So Singapore is spending a good amount, but less than Wisconsin on education and getting far better results for their kids. Could it be that the answer to better education in Wisconsin isn’t about spending more money? The answer is changing the way we educate kids.

Cedarburg’s Pro-Referendum Propaganda at Taxpayers’ Expense

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about the sham referendum process in Cedarburg. Part of that process was the survey sent out by School Perceptions that was designed as propaganda – not an honest query of the community. MacIver took a closer look and has revealed just how shady that survey was.

Staff and parents of CSD students were emailed links to an online version of the survey, and then emailed multiple reminders to complete it.

Meanwhile, most local residents got a paper version via the U.S. Postal Service. The district mailed out 8,400 of the surveys—which many discarded as junk mail, according to the local newspaper.

While staff and parents got multiple emails linking directly to the survey and were encouraged to give their paper copy to another adult, everyone else had to go out of their way to request copies using snail mail.

To some, the heads-up to stakeholders more likely to support the ballot question feels more like a statistics trick than an unbiased effort to gauge public opinion. A MacIver News Service investigation in August raised concerns about bias in the district’s information-gathering effort.

“If there is a strategy behind the survey, then it isn’t really a survey and we shouldn’t call it one,” Cedarburg School Board member David Krier wrote in an April 22 email to Superintendent Todd Bugnacki.

Despite Krier’s protest, in two email blasts in the closing weeks of the survey, CSD officials urged parents and staff to fill out the survey online.

The May 22 and 29 emails signed by Bugnacki and the Cedarburg School Board encouraged staff to complete the survey electronically—and give their paper copies to another adult and have them complete that.

“If you reside in the District, you will receive a mailed survey as well and should encourage another adult (eligible to vote) in your home to take the Mail survey,” the email states.

“The involvement of our staff is critical in this process.”

Krier was concerned staff and parents, more likely to green light the referendum, would be able to skew the survey’s findings. Sending them links to the survey would boost their response rate compared with others in the community, like senior citizens.

But that was always the plan, Bugnacki said in a reply to Krier.

“The plan all along was to email the survey to parents, teachers, and staff. All residents within our school district boundaries have or will receive the survey via the mail. Additional surveys are available for families if needed,” Bugnacki wrote in a May 9 email.

Remember that the West Bend School District also used School Perceptions for their propaganda survey.

School Districts Fight to Avoid Tax Cut

From MacIver

[Madison, Wisc…] Homeowners in 148 school districts across Wisconsin will be getting an unexpected tax cut next year, but many of those districts would prefer to keep that a secret – and backfill those savings with new spending.

The reason for the tax cut is the termination of the Energy Efficiency Exemption (EEE). This loophole allowed school districts to raise taxes for supposed energy efficiency projects without going to referendum.

The energy savings on many of these projects is negligible. It will be decades before the savings justify the expense – which was considerable. Last year alone, districts collected an additional $92.3 million through the EEE. With the program eliminated, property taxes in those 148 school districts will automatically drop $92.3 million.

However, 21 of those districts see this as an opportunity to downplay the true tax impact of their referendums on next month’s ballot. For example, the Hartford J1 School District has a referendum for $5.5 million. According to the district’s website, “If the referendum is approved, there would be no impact on current school tax rates over the life of the 15-year borrowing term.”

Southern Door County Schools has a $6,270,000 building referendum that “would not increase your taxes over current levels.”

The Edgerton School District has been more transparent about this tactic than most. It’s trying to convince local residents that a $40.6 million building referendum plus a $1.25 million recurring annual operating referendum will only raise their tax rate by less than a dollar. The finance director, Todd Wehner, openly describes this tactic as a “levy opportunity or a levy shelf.”

Treasury Official Arrested for Leaking Confidential Documents

Deep state.

Edwards was found with a flash drive containing the confidential reports when she was arrested Tuesday, the Justice Department said, along with a cellphone containing messages to the reporter.

Investigators say that on a single day in August she ‘exchanged approximately 541 messages’ with the reporter via an encrypted app, and that she used the same app to send the documents during the past year.

Suspicious Activity Reports are documents that banks file with the government when they spot potentially illegal transactions.

They ‘are not public documents, and it is an independent federal crime to disclose them outside of one’s official duties,’ U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said.

Edwards is charged with one count of ‘unauthorized disclosures of suspicious activity reports’ and one count of ‘conspiracy to make unauthorized disclosures of suspicious activity reports.’

Wisconsin Politician Invited Folks to “Vicky’s Secret Party” with Prizes for “girl goin’ the hardest”

Oh wait… it’s Mandela Barnes? Never mind. The Democrats are making it clear this election that power is more important than respect for women *cough Keith Ellison*

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Mandela Barnes was tagged as the co-host of a lingerie party in 2009 when he was 22, extending an online invitation that joked about “stimulus packages” and used derogatory slang to refer to people who would be turned away.

Barnes, now 31, is Tony Evers’ running mate after winning his primary in August. He served in the state Assembly from 2013 to 2017.


But the 2009 invitation to the “Pretty in Pink a Vicky Secret Affair” took a different tone. The invitation is unsigned, but Barnes is listed at the top as one of nine hosts. He also commented on the invitation, which was still publicly available on Facebook as of Tuesday afternoon but was deleted after the AP inquired about it.

The invitation refers to past parties, promising that the one scheduled for Sept. 11, 2009, in Whitewater would be “even bigger and better than the last time!!!” The invitation said that 203 people went to the party and 381 were interested.

Cash prizes and a Victoria’s Secret gift basket were being offered “for the girl goin’ the hardest in her Vicky’s!!!” The post also said, “Somebody said its a recession, so if you the baddest, it may be a stimulus package for you!!!”

Referencing men who planned to attend, the invitation told men that security would be there “handin’ out free choke slams and sleeper holds!!!” But it goes on to say, “Its a Vicky’s Secret party, why would you wanna roll on the ground wit a dud anyway???”

Democrats Accuse Republican of Being Drunk

Is this a door they really want to open?

Shilling’s comments coincide with campaign literature being mailed to voters in Kooyenga’s suburban Milwaukee district by a Democratic group that highlights a $30,000 settlement Kooyenga paid after taking a protester’s sign in the Capitol.

The mailer also accuses Kooyenga of being “drunk at work,” referring to floor speeches Kooyenga made in July 2015 after a bomb threat at the Capitol prompted some lawmakers to have beers across the street before the threat was cleared.

The Wisconsin Leadership Committee is behind the postcard.

The group recently reported to Wisconsin election officials it was spending $84,000 in online ads against Kooyenga and three other Republicans running for the state Senate. For contact information, the group listed an address and phone number belonging to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee in Washington, D.C.

I don’t know if Kooyenga was a bit tipsy or not. But Wisconsin legislators of both parties have been taking to the floor after drinking for decades – especially when they are doing those 30-hour budget sessions. I imagine a drunk Kooyenga still makes more sense than half the Democrats when they are sober!

Close the dark store loophole

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News yesterday.

If you are voting in West Bend, be sure to turn over your ballot. Like many municipalities in Wisconsin, West Bend’s voters are being asked to weigh in on whether or not the state Legislature should close the so-called “dark store loophole” in the property tax laws. The question is: “Should the state Legislature enact proposed legislation that closes the Dark Store loopholes, which currently allow commercial retail properties to significantly reduce the assessed valuation and property tax of such properties, resulting in a substantial shift in taxes levied against other tax paying entities, such as residential home owners, and/or cuts in essential services provided by an affected municipality?”

At issue is how commercial properties are valued for the purposes of property taxes. In a pure sense, the value of anything is the price that a willing buyer is willing to pay to a willing seller. For tax purposes, the government must assess what that price might be.

Residential properties are relatively easy to assess. Based on the condition, size and location of a house, the assessor can compare it to similar houses that have recently sold and come up with a reasonable price. Assessing the value of commercial properties is far more difficult and much more subjective than residential properties. There are at least five common, but different, ways to calculate the value of commercial property for tax and accounting purposes.

In Wisconsin, government assessors have generally set the value of commercial real estate based on how much the property is worth based on the property being occupied and generating revenue for the owners. For example, a retail store in a great location that generates millions of dollars for the owners is worth quite a bit to the owner — even if the property would not be worth as much to a different owner.

In recent years, several of Wisconsin’s largest commercial property owners like Walmart, Menards, Walgreens, etc. have been suing municipalities to have the value of their properties lowered based on the “dark store” method of valuation. Under this method, the value of the property is calculated based on what it would be if the store were empty. In other words, the companies want the value of the property to be set at what that they think they could sell it for if they closed up shop and left. Commercial property owners have been winning appeals of their property assessments under this theory across Wisconsin and drastically lowering their property tax bills.

Both valuation methods are equally valid, in an economic sense, but have vastly different outcomes for Wisconsin. As more commercial properties are valued under the dark store valuation method, they are paying far less in property taxes. The result is that local governments must either reduce spending to account for the reduction in taxes being collected, or shift the property tax burden to residential propertyowners.

Let’s look at one small example. In West Bend, Walgreens’ two stores were once valued at $14 million. Last year, Walgreens appealed under the dark store theory and won, thus reducing the combined assessed value of the two properties to $4.8 million. That change in value reduced Walgreens property tax obligation by a whopping $180,000 per year. Each of the local governments that rely on property taxes for funding now have to find a way to fill that hole. Multiply this equation by dozens or hundreds of commercial properties in each municipality in Wisconsin and the hole becomes impossible to fill.

While there are several perfectly rational and valid ways to determine the value of commercial properties, Wisconsin needs to determine a uniform and fair way that will be used for the purpose of property taxes. Closing the dark store loophole is a good step toward that goal.

Big Fitz Backs Walker on Pre-Existing Conditions

Unpopular opinion: the government mandating that private companies cover pre-existing conditions is still horrible public policy that inflates prices, distorts the market, hurts consumers, and undermines the entire concept of insurance. The whole point of insurance is to cover something that might happen… not something that already has happened. It’s a shame that Republicans have adopted this as part of their platform. Obama moved the line closer to socialism with Obamacare and the Republicans followed.

Speaking with reporters after a Q&A luncheon, Fitzgerald raised doubts about whether there would be enough votes in the Senate’s Republican majority to pass legislation requiring insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. But several hours later, after media reports on his comments, he released a statement saying the Senate would, in fact, pass such a bill if needed.

“Pre-existing conditions are covered right now, and I support that policy. If it becomes necessary to cover them in the future, the senate would pass a bill to do so,” Fitzgerald said in a statement released early Tuesday evening.

Walker has promised throughout his re-election campaign that he will preserve insurance coverage for Wisconsinites with pre-existing conditions, even if the federal requirement to do so under the Affordable Care Act is struck down. With Walker’s approval, Wisconsin is part of a multi-state lawsuit seeking to overturn the Obama-era health care law.

Close the dark store loophole

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Here’s a taste:

At issue is how commercial properties are valued for the purposes of property taxes. In a pure sense, the value of anything is the price that a willing buyer is willing to pay to a willing seller. For tax purposes, the government must assess what that price might be.

Curry’s Bait and Switch


The foundation representing basketball player Stephen Curry and his wife, author and television personality Ayesha Curry, recently donated between $10,000 to $100,000 to the Obama Foundation, the updated contributors report reveals.


The Curry family’s donation was the result of auctioning off customized, hand-painted Under Armour sneakers to benefit the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance.

Here’s the story from when Curry held the auction.

WASHINGTON (AP) — You can own a pair of shoes worn in a game by Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry — and support a cause, to boot.

Curry posted on Instagram that he’ll be auctioning off the sneakers he wore in Golden State’s game at the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night to raise money for My Brother’s Keeper Alliance.

He says the effort “was created to reduce barriers and expand opportunity” in support of “young men and boys of color in their pursuit of achievement and higher success in life.”

So Curry auctioned off the shoes saying that the proceeds would go to benefit “young men and boys of color” and instead gives the money to Obama. Cool.

Walker Proposes Increased Spending on Roads

Again… sigh… Walker is vowing to spend more money. I already voted for Walker and he is a far better choice than Evers, but it’s hard to get excited about his platform of trying to outspend the Democrats. Perhaps he should focus on energizing his Republican base instead of trying to appeal to the 3% of undecideds. How about eliminating the income tax or something… bold.

STEVENS POINT— State support for town roads would jump from 42 percent to 58 percent in the next state budget, Governor Walker announced this morning at the Wisconsin Towns Association Annual Convention in Stevens Point.

“We provided the largest amount in state history for town road aids in this state budget, and our proposal for the next budget adds even more support for Wisconsin’s towns,” said Governor Walker. “Maintaining our transportation system is a top priority, and our plan will help ensure we have a safe and reliable system for families and businesses across the state.”

General Transportation Aids (GTAs) are largely disbursed on a per mile basis for towns. The proposed increase would amount to more than $900 per mile in state funding for a total per mile disbursement of more than $3,300. This represents a 58 percent state funding level for town roads. If approved, this investment would represent the largest level of funding for town GTAs in state history. Governor Walker set the previous state record for GTAs disbursed to towns last year with the state covering $2,389 per mile which represents 42 percent of covered costs.

Walker Vows to Return to Two-Thirds Funding of K-12

Sigh… once again, a Republican plays into the Democrat paradigm. It’s not about hitting some arbitrary funding amount or percentage. That is not accomplishing anything. It’s about improving educational outcomes for our kids. Unless Walker can articulate how this will improve outcomes, it’s just wasting more of the taxpayers’ money to get the same results.

[Madison, Wis.] – On Monday, Scott Walker announced that he is restoring the two-thirds funding of education by the state of Wisconsin that was instituted under Governor Tommy Thompson – and discarded by Democrats – while continuing to cut taxes for hard-working Wisconsin families. The governor released the following statement:

“We will fund two-thirds of school costs in our next state budget. Our good fiscal management and positive reforms, plus a strong economy, allowed us to make the largest actual-dollar investment in schools in our state budget while still lowering property taxes. Looking ahead, we will fully restore the two-thirds commitment made by former Governor Tommy Thompson. Tony Evers wants to undo our reforms. That would take money out of the classroom and away from students and he would allow property taxes to go up to pay for it.”

Progressive Income Taxes

Oh, so progressive.

Americans who earned in the top 1 per cent paid more individual income tax than the bottom 90 per cent combined in 2016, according to new figures released by the Internal Revenue Service.

That year, the United States government collected a total of $1.44trillion from 140.9 million income taxpayers, according to the IRS.

These filers reported a total of $10.2trillion in adjusted gross income.

The statistics show that the top 50 per cent of all taxpayers paid 97 per cent of total individual income taxes.

The bottom 50 per cent paid the same amount of income tax as the top 0.001 per cent, according to the IRS figures compiled by Bloomberg.

That means approximately 1,400 taxpayers – who make up the top .001 per cent – paid 3.25 per cent of all income taxes.

Interestingly, the tax reform last year that was supposed to be, according to the lefties, be a giveaway to the rich, actually resulted in the rich paying a higher percentage.

In 2018, the top 20 per cent of income earners – those earning at least $150,000 a year – will pay 87 percent of income tax, according to the Tax Policy Center.

That is an increase from about 84 per cent of income tax that the top 20 per cent paid in 2017.

The figures show that 1,400 taxpayers paid about the same amount of taxes as 70 million taxpayers who earn incomes that are in the bottom 50 per cent

The highest earners – those making $3.2million a year – who account for the top 0.1 per cent will pay 22 per cent of all income tax in 2018.

That is an increase from 18.9 per cent in 2017.

UWO Staff Frets about Cuts Despite Decline in Enrollment

This is funny. A professor whines about staff cuts.

OSHKOSH (WLUK) –Concerns among UW-Oshkosh faculty are rising as the school plans to reduce positions.

“The impact is going to be on the students, and that’s unfortunate,” said political science professor, David Siemers.

Siemers said faculty work load would go up; he blames the significant reduction in state support.

“This is an intentional financial crisis of the states choosing, we didn’t create that problem,” said Siemers.

Siemers said more classes for each faculty member means less attention for each student, and a less quality education.


“We’re down about 1,800 students undergraduate students in the last five years. So as a result we simply cannot support the same size faculty and staff,” said Leavitt.

Looking at the 6 fall semesters prior to the current one, there was a 15% decline in enrollment. The university said that’s essentially a loss of nearly $10 million.

It seems to me that the UWO staff has been enjoying a reduced workload for years without nary a peep. Now that the school is finally (way too slow) taking a tiny bit of action to rightsize the staffing level to the number of students, Professor Siemers is fretting. Whatever.

Jared Kushner Obeyed the Law

This is really trashy journalism.

Over the past decade, Jared Kushner’s family company has spent billions of dollars buying real estate. His personal stock investments have soared. His net worth has quintupled to almost $324 million.

And yet, for several years running, Mr. Kushner — President Trump’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser — appears to have paid almost no federal income taxes, according to confidential financial documents reviewed by The New York Times.

His low tax bills are the result of a common tax-minimizing maneuver that, year after year, generated millions of dollars in losses for Mr. Kushner, according to the documents. But the losses were only on paper — Mr. Kushner and his company did not appear to actually lose any money. The losses were driven by depreciation, a tax benefit that lets real estate investors deduct a portion of the cost of their buildings from their taxable income every year.


Nothing in the documents suggests Mr. Kushner or his company broke the law. A spokesman for Mr. Kushner’s lawyer said that Mr. Kushner “paid all taxes due.”

So the story is that Jared Kushner followed the law to grow his business and pay his taxes. That’s it.

So why did the New York Times feel the need to write the story? Why did they write the headline as, “Kushner Paid No Federal Income Tax for Years, Documents Suggest”? Because they are intentionally stoking one of the basest emotions – jealousy. This isn’t journalism. It’s voyeurism. 

Jared Kushner is a man who followed the law to minimize his taxes. Don’t we all do that?


Woke School Cancels Education


When Shorewood High School chose “To Kill a Mockingbird” as this year’s annual fall play, it seemed a relevant commentary on the times.

Based on the Harper Lee classic about a white southern lawyer defending an innocent black man in the 1930s, it is a story about segregation and racism, a broken criminal justice system and the sacrifices of those who would stand up for what is right.

But Lee’s book, which has been banned by many schools across the country, remains as controversial today as it did when she wrote it. On Thursday, just hours before the curtain was to go up, Shorewood canceled the production in response to a planned protest over the use of the ‘N’ word in some scenes.

News of a protest had circulated on social media early in the day.  And by mid-afternoon, Superintendent Bryan Davis pulled the plug, saying the district should have done a better job engaging the community “about the sensitivity of this performance.”

“We’ve concluded that the safest option is to cancel the play,” Davis said in a statement.