Category Archives: Politics

“Taxes are for little people,” says Lt. Governor Barnes

Well, with his actions.

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes is delinquent on property taxes for Milwaukee condo
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Daniel Bice
June 14, 2019

Even as Gov. Tony Evers is proposing to raise taxes in his state budget plan, records show his top deputy isn’t even paying the taxes he already owes.

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes is listed as failing to pay at least $2,225 in property taxes, interest and penalties on his Milwaukee condo.

“There is no installment plan, and the taxes are delinquent,” Jesicca Zwaga of the city Treasurer’s Office said Friday.

Barnes disputed the information earlier this week, sending the Journal Sentinel a screenshot of a portion of a 2018 tax bill that he said was proof that he was paying his property taxes in installments.

But Zwaga said the record from Barnes was just the original tax bill that included the monthly amounts he would owe if he opted to pay in installments instead of a lump sum. She said he failed to make the first payment in the agreement by Jan. 31.

“It is delinquent,” Zwaga said.

Newburg Can’t Pay the Bills

Emphasis mine.

NEWBURG — Government leaders here this week said the village still hasn’t been able to pay some of its bills after a pair of administrative employees abruptly resigned nearly a month ago.

The village has been able to fill out payroll checks for Newburg employees, Trustee Dave De Luka told fellow Village Board members Thursday evening. But nobody at Village Hall can run the accounting software needed to process and code the checks Newburg writes to pay other costs, including bills from vendors that provide phone and utilities services.

“We’re just like everybody else. We have WisconsinElectric, we have the phone company, we have just our normal vendors that we do business with every month,” De Luka told a reporter Thursday.

Those bills are coming due, De Luka told board members Thursday night. “We, at this point,” he said, “are unable to pay them.”

The problem hasn’t affected all of Newburg’s payments. Besides completing payroll, De Luka told other trustees Thursday that village loan payments were being automatically deducted. Still, he said, “We have not paid a bill since the middle of May.”

JFC Passes Budget

This is a dog of a budget and yet another missed opportunity by Republicans.

Republicans on the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee voted along party lines Thursday to pass a two-year state budget that rejected many of Gov. Tony Evers’ top priorities, saying their plan lives within the state’s means while increasing funds for schools and roads.

Republicans also voted Thursday for plans that would cut taxes on the average taxpayer by about $75 in the 2019 tax year and $136 in 2020, which would amount to a $457.6 million income tax cut overall.

[…]

Speaking shortly after the vote, Sen. Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Senate Republicans would meet to discuss the budget on Tuesday. Some GOP senators, like Sen. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, have said they’re unhappy with how much the bill would borrow and spend, not to mention increased fees on vehicle titles and registration.

The news outlets are horrible about reporting the budget. They spend a lot of time comparing it to Evers’ budget and talking about the politics of it without actually telling us what’s in the blasted budget. You can go to the JFC website to get details, but you have to dig.

In the last budget, the Republicans missed the opportunity to pass a real conservative budget and it was a substantial reason why a lot of Republicans sat home last year. Here they go again. I get that we have a liberal governor with a powerful veto pen, but the Republicans barely even phoned in a fight over spending. The budget just passed by the JFC increases spending by $4 billion dollars, lavishly rewards money pits like Transportation and UW without even a hint of reform, and jacks up fees. The legislative Republicans on the JFC and in leadership gave in to the pressures of Madison and ignored the people who elected them.

Then, perhaps realizing that this budget is bad, they throw in a tax cut as a separate bill to distract us from how awful the budget is – knowing full well that as a separate bill, Governor Evers will veto it. Imagine what kind of tax cut we could have if they actually cut spending and put the tax cut into the budget. Imagine if Republicans fought for their constituents like Democrats do.

Speaker Vos, Senate Majority Leader Fitzgerald, and the Republicans on JFC should be ashamed of themselves.

Washington County Will Not Have an Executive

That’s a shame. I suspect that parochial interests prevailed here.

WEST BEND — Elected leaders here on Wednesday shot down a proposed government reform effort that would have replaced an appointed administrator with an executive leader who would have been elected from across Washington County.

But the decision was close.

Thirteen of the county’s 26 board members voted against a measure they said felt rushed and ill-timed — and that they worried would have had monumental impacts on the county’s government.

The board’s remaining 13 members supported a move they’d argued would have enabled Washington County to absorb expected population and commercial growth.

But the measure required a majority, and the 13-to-13 tie defeated the resolution.

It’s Still the Spending, Stupid

At the federal level too.

(CNSNews.com) – For the first time in the history of the United States, the federal government has spent more than $3 trillion in the first eight months of the fiscal year, according to the Monthly Treasury Statement released today.

The record $3,013,541,000,000 that the federal government spent in October through May of fiscal 2019 was $181,157,920,000 more than the previous record of $2,832,383,080,000 (in constant May 2019 dollars) that the federal government spent in October through May of fiscal 2009.

It’s the Spending, Stupid

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here you go:

Wisconsin has long been a tax hell where it is more expensive to live, work, and play than in most other states. Gov. Scott Walker and the legislative Republicans made some progress over the last eight years in making the state more affordable, but now many of those same legislative Republicans are allowing the state to slide back.

One of the myths perpetuated by Wisconsin’s liberals is that Governor Walker and the Republicans cut spending and starved government when Walker was in office. We have all heard the claims of cutting “to the bone” and draconian austerity measures. All of those claims are wrong. The truth is that every state budget that Walker signed spent more than the previous one.

What Walker and his Republican partners in the Legislature did was keep the spending increases smaller than normal while cutting taxes, deregulating, and aggressively working to improve the business climate. The result was a sustained period of improving in the national tax burden rankings (primarily because other states were jacking up taxes while Wisconsin held steady), higher employment, private-sector growth, and increasing tax revenues that resulted in budget surpluses.

It is a formula that works for a while, but it does not fix the root cause of the issue. Wisconsin is a tax hell because the government spends too much. Politicians can feed the spending beast without tax increases for a while by borrowing, juicing the economy with tax cuts and deregulation, and financial gimmickry, but eventually the bill must be paid. State government does not have the ability to print money like the federal government.

Now that Governor Walker has been replaced by a doctrinaire, tax-and-spend Gov. Tony Evers, the legislative Republicans who worked so well with Walker are regressing.

The state budget is being crafted by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee. Once the JFC is finished with the budget, it will be sent for votes and possible amendments in the Assembly and the Senate. Since the Republicans still command sizable majorities in both houses of the Legislature, the Republicans are in complete control of what goes into, and what gets left out of, the budget.

Over the past few weeks, the Republicans on the JFC have been on a spending spree. They decided to spend an additional $500 million on K-12 education despite no correlation between spending and educational

outcomes. The Republicans increased spending on UW by $58 million even though the UW System has refused to consolidate and economize in the face of declining enrollment.

Last week, the JFC cranked up spending on transportation to the tune of $484 million. Perhaps remembering the 2017 audit completed by the Legislative Audit Bureau that found billions of dollars of waste and overruns in the Department of Transportation, Republican leaders have promised a series of reform bills are in the works, but it is worth noting that they are willing to spend the money before any reforms are even introduced — much less in place.

On those three items alone, Republican leaders in the Legislature are already committing increasing spending by over a billion dollars — and there are dozens of state departments to go.

Republicans are also already acknowledging that the days of increasing spending without tax increases are over. Their desire to spend more is outstripping their ability to keep taxes in check. In order to support the spending increases for transportation, the Republicans voted to increase vehicle title fees by $95 and annual registration fees by $10. They expect these to extract an additional $393 million from hardworking Wisconsinites to support their gross spending habit.

Even during the Walker era, Wisconsin’s Republicans have never been able to shake their spending addiction. They spend a little less than Democrats, but never actually cut spending. And if we never cut spending, we can never sustain cutting taxes. Now that Governor Evers has moved the spending goal even higher, the Republicans in the Legislature seem to be reveling in exploding spending without any pressure from the governor’s office to restrain themselves.

The Republicans lost every statewide election in Wisconsin last year largely because they gave up on the conservative revolution and failed to give the Republican grass roots anything to be excited about. Their behavior in this budget is evidence that they have not learned the lesson.

Bakery Wins Libel Suit

It’s nice to see a win over the hate mob. Hopefully this will be a lesson to others, but I doubt it.

(CNN)An Ohio jury has ordered Oberlin College to pay $11 million to a bakery which said it was libeled and wrongfully accused of racially profiling students.

The case stems from the November 2016 arrests of three black Oberlin students at Gibson’s Bakery and market near the college’s campus in Oberlin, Ohio.
One student, Jonathan Aladin, was accused of attempted robbery for allegedly trying to “steal wine or otherwise illegally obtain wine” from the bakery, according to a defamation lawsuit. He would eventually confess in a written statement to buying alcohol illegally.
Two other suspects, Cecelia Whettston and Endia J. Lawrence, were arrested and accused of misdemeanor assault, court documents state.
After that, Oberlin staff members tried to discredit the family-owned bakery, the lawsuit says.
Oberlin College staff — including deans and professors — and students engaged in demonstrations in front of Gibson’s Bakery following the arrests of the three students, the lawsuit stated.
The suit also said Oberlin Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo and other college staff members “handed out hundreds of copies” of a flier to the community and the media stating that Gibson’s Bakery and its owners racially profiled and discriminated against the three students.
The court documents include a copy of the flier, which included the words “DON’T BUY.”
“This is a RACIST establishment with a LONG ACCOUNT of RACIAL PROFILING and DISCRIMINATION,” the flier read, according to the lawsuit.
The flier also listed 10 of the bakery’s competitors and urged customers to shop there instead.

Newburg Hires Milwaukee County Board Member Deanna Alexander

Interesting.

NEWBURG — Village Board members agreed this week to hire an interim clerk after a pair of high-profile resignations last month temporarily hobbled Newburg’s administration.

Deanna Alexander will fill the key local government role for at least a few months after her predecessor, Rick Goeckner, abruptly stepped down in mid-May.

The Milwaukee County Board member with other past government finance experience beat out Chris Jenkins for a job that’s expected to include helping Newburg begin writing its next budget.

Board members met for about two hours in closed session Thursday night to interview both candidates. Discussions in open session to fill the position were brief.

Alexander said one of her first tasks will involve familiarizing herself with what’s gone on in Newburg the past few months.

[…]

Goeckner had been Newburg’s clerk and administrator for several years before resigning on May 16 — the same day that Chrissie Brynwood, Newburg’s deputy clerk and treasurer, also handed in her own resignation.

The resignations followed shortly after a local ethics commission in April agreed to censure Rena Chesak, who was then Newburg’s newly elected president, after a former village trustee accused her of violating an ethics policy when she’d served as a board member in 2018.

The ethics accusations, which centered around board discussions last year to renew a service contract with the local fire department where Chesak’s husband is chief, led to some occasionally tense exchanges at meetings this year. A former village president verbally confronted Chesak’s husband during a meeting in May, and a former police official publicly urged board members to sanction the new president as much as the law allowed. The board later declined to levy sanctions against Chesak.

West Bend School Board Evaluates Facilities Priorities

Wait… what?

Decorah, roofing projects top maintenance list

WEST BEND — The West Bend School Board recently toured district facilities to determine maintenance priorities following the failed April referendum, and for some members, it was the first time in a particular building.

[…]

Since the money that would have been allocated by the referendum is not available, funding is the big question attached to each of these district projects.

One item at the top of the long list is Decorah Elementary School.

“A front office remodel project will start as soon as school gets out for a new secure office entrance at Decorah Elementary,” Ongert said.

Another focuses on structural integrity of multiple buildings.

“Although not glamorous work, several buildings around the district will have sections of roofs replaced this summer,” he said. “Of our $1.4M annual capital budget, nearly $800,000 of that is spent on replacing roofs each and every year.”

Some of you might remember that we just went through a referendum process in West Bend. The District was asking to borrow $48 million ($84 million payback with interest) to build a new Jackson Elementary and do some major remodeling of the High School. The argument was made that these projects were absolutely critical for the safety and education of the kids. Presumably, these were projects that were so imperative that they required getting more money from the taxpayers – way above the already existing tax burden – to pay for it now. These projects were imperative… so we were told.

Fast forward a few weeks. The referendum was rejected. Some members of the school board (not all of them) toured all of the buildings in the district for the first time. And now we hear that Decorah Elementary and roofing projects are the highest priority? Setting aside the obvious point that the board members should have actually toured the buildings and determined priorities before going to referendum, why wouldn’t repairs on Jackson Elementary be a higher priority? Or refurbishing some of the allegedly ancient classrooms in the High School? So now the priority is remodeling the front office of Decorah Elementary?

I guess the issues at Jackson Elementary and the High School weren’t as critical, after all.

GOP Votes to Increase Spending

Argh.

Republicans on the Legislature’s budget committee voted Thursday night to increase vehicle title fees by $95 and registration fees by $10 to generate hundreds of millions for Wisconsin road projects in the next state budget.

Altogether, the moves would generate $393 million in new revenue for transportation, a total about $200 million less than Gov. Tony Evers wanted, but more than in any budget signed by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Republicans would also use another $90 million from the state’s general fund to pay for road projects, bringing the total new funding to $484 million.

What are we up to now? $1 billion in additional spending? $2 billion? I lost count.

The Walker years were great for a lot of reasons, but one of the areas where he failed was to restrain government spending. Despite the wails to the contrary, government spending went up in every budget in Walker’s terms. Now that we have a Democrat governor, the spending is going to go up even further. The difference is that now the tax and fee increases are going with the spending.

Wisconsin is a tax hell because it’s government spends too much dang money. And nobody plans to change that.

Washington County Board Chairman Advocates for County Executive

Don Kriefall takes on the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” argument. Here’s a part:

We are in a good situation, both fiscally and operationally. The fact of the matter is that we are in the middle of an economic boom, and our geographic location makes us part of metro Milwaukee and like it or not, the economic development has already begun.

There is good reason that people have decided to live in Washington County, the No. 1 county in Wisconsin for quality of life. We want to preserve the values and unique characteristics that make Washington County so special. We want to be in a position to manage growth and thereby maintain and continue to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Washington County. In order to effectively manage the growth, all stakeholders, countywide, need to be brought to the table. An appropriate plan of action, beyond our current smart growth plans, must be developed and agreed upon by all the municipalities in Washington County in order for each community to benefit from those opportunities. One voice, one leader with the mandate of the citizens, should lead Washington County into the bright future that awaits us.

We need a leader that can leverage our industry and technical schools to train the workers needed to provide the goods and services necessary for our citizens and beyond. We need a leader that can create partnerships outside of Washington County to recruit the workers necessary to fill employment opportunities currently open and those that will be created in the future. We need a leader that can work with developers to construct housing for that workforce that is appropriate to the communities in which they will be built. We need a leader that can work with other counties to explore avenues of cooperation in shared services, equipment and infrastructure.

A system with 26 diverse supervisors cannot negotiate as one voice. A system with a part-time county chairperson is inadequate to lead as the CEO of Washington County. Yes, our current system “ain’t broke,” but it is insufficient to accomplish the ever evolving tasks necessary to manage growth now and into the future. That one voice needs to be a county executive that is accountable to the electorate and the time to elect that leader is now.

Mexico Makes Show of Stopping Migrants

Progress

Chaos erupted along a highway in southern Mexico when a caravan with some 1,000 Central American migrants on their way north was intercepted by a special law enforcement unit as the Mexican government escalates efforts to block asylum seekers from reaching the US in response to President Donald Trump’s tariff threats.

The group of migrants from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, including many women and children, departed from Ciudad Hidalgo at the Mexico-Guatemala border early Wednesday morning and was bound for Tapachula, the principal city in the region.

The special unit of 200 military police, immigration agents and federal officers formed a blockade about 11 miles outside of Tapachula near the town of Metapa to confront the caravan, which was accompanied by state and local police.

While the vast majority of the migrants complied with law enforcement directives and boarded buses and immigration agency vehicles, some resisted and were wrestled to the ground by unarmed agents.

Public Records Must Be Provided in their Original Digital Format

Hurrah, hurrah.

A Wisconsin appeals court has affirmed that officials must provide copies of electronic records in their original format.

The decision, released Wednesday, upholds a lower court’s order requiring state Rep. Scott Krug, R-Wisconsin Rapids, to turn over electronic copies of emails requested by The Progressive magazine editor Bill Lueders.

Lueders, who is president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, said the decision represents “a major win for requesters in Wisconsin.”

You might remember that I have been pushing for this for years. I file open records requests from time to time and it frustrates the heck out of me when governments insist on printing emails to give to me. It’s wasteful and imposes undue expenses on the requester for no good reason. I’m glad to see the courts insisting that government abide by the state’s Open Record Laws.

Hintz Goes All Hintz on a Former Friend

Stay classy, Oshkosh.

“You are a (expletive) loser,” Hintz wrote in a May 28 private message to Carver Siewert, a conservative business owner and onetime friend from Oshkosh. Hintz finished by calling Siewert an “(expletive).”

Siewert responded by dropping his own f-bombs and ordering Hintz to call his cell phone. Siewert wrote that he had already been in touch with an attorney about the incident.

[…]

Unfortunately, the Facebook thread that sparked the exchange has apparently been deleted by Hintz, who has declined to discuss the matter.

According to Siewert, the whole thing started when Hintz posted an item about the impact of not expanding Medicaid funding in the state. Siewert, a frequent Hintz critic, blasted the post, prompting someone else to call Siewert “sleazy.”

Siewert then pointed the finger at Hintz, saying he was the sleazy one for being ticketed for sexual misconduct at Heavenly Touch Massage Parlor in Appleton in 2011. Siewert also called out Hintz for shouting at a fellow legislator, “You’re (expletive) dead,” during the Act 10 controversy years ago.

That appeared to set off Hintz, who attacked Siewert, owner of Siewert Painting & Specialty Finishes, on Facebook and in private.

“He was just trying to smear my name,” Siewert said.

And there’s plenty of material there. Siewert has a spotty police record, including a misdemeanor bail-jumping and three drunken-driving convictions. He said he and Hintz used to be friends but now are simply acquaintances. The two went to high school together.

Pro-Child Bills Pass Legislature

My State Senator was on the right side of history.

Madison, WI – Today, the Wisconsin Senate passed a package of bills aimed at protecting human life and ensuring that taxpayer dollars do not subsidize abortion clinics. Senator Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) authored Assembly Bill 183, which directs the state Department of Health Services to exclude abortion clinics from the state’s Medicaid program, better known as BadgerCare.

State and federal law prohibit taxpayer funds from directly paying for abortions, but under Medicaid, abortion clinics may be reimbursed for non-abortion services provided to consumers.

After the vote, Stroebel made the following statement:

“This bill ensures that taxpayer funds do not subsidize the operations of any abortion clinic, it does not reduce funding for women’s care by a single penny. The killing of unborn children is wrong, and no taxpayer dollars should go to clinics that engage in this practice. Unfortunately, Wisconsin taxpayers gave the state’s largest abortion provider $94 million between 2011 and 2018. This bill ends that subsidy while preserving the funds for use by other women’s care providers.

“Pro-life legislative majorities have previously redirected state and federal family planning dollars away from abortion clinics, and this bill continues that theme. Additionally, a number of other states, including Iowa, Texas, South Carolina, Tennessee and Missouri have enacted legislation to this effect.

“It is important to note that there are more federally qualified health centers in Wisconsin than there are abortion clinics, and the $94 million previously sent to abortion clinics will now be able to flow to these other providers to provide true women’s healthcare.”

Stroebel also voted in favor of legislation requiring physicians to provide care to children who survive an abortion attempt, prohibit abortions based on the sex or genetic condition of a child, and enhance informed consent and reporting requirements related to abortion procedures.

Yes, Evers will veto these bills in his quest to kill more babies, but at least he will have to act on it.

Mexico’s Porous Southern Border

This is a big part of the problem. If Mexico wants to let them in, then fine. Keep them there.

CIUDAD HIDALGO, Mexico (AP) — About 400 Central American migrants crossed into Mexico on Tuesday with the aim of reaching the U.S. border to request asylum.

Mexican police looked on as about half the migrants crossed the Suchiate River on inner-tube rafts. The mainly Honduran migrants then walked into the border city of Ciudad Hidalgo to rest in the main plaza.

“The federal police asked us where we were from, or if we had any ties to gangs,” said one Honduran, who didn’t want to give his name for fear of reprisals.

The other half of the migrants walked over the bridge that connects Mexico and Guatemala and waited to register at a Mexican immigration office. They included many women and children.

No Smoking Pot in Public

Wait. What? Isn’t smoking marijuana illegal anywhere?

In 2009, the state assembly passed a law that made smoking tobacco products illegal in public places, at work or in any enclosed space with two or more “substantial” walls. A bipartisan group of state lawmakers introduced legislation last week to add vapor products and marijuana to that ban.

Don and Don Jr. Are Not the Same Person

I love how the media jumps on things like this to try to create controversy. Don and Don Jr. are not the same person. Nor are they required to agree on every issue just because one sired the other.

As he departed for England, President Trump was asked if he favored restricting silencers such as the one  reportedly used by the killer in the mass shooting in Virginia Beach that left 12 dead.

“I don’t like them at all,” Trump responded.

Trump was perhaps unaware that both his elder son and the NRA have in the recent past opposed any regulation of silencers, also called suppressors.

Wisconsin Dems Seek to Lure FIBs to Vote

Remember my column last week about rights and responsibilities? Having to prove that you are eligible to vote is not an unreasonable burden. Be responsible for your vote.

Dem delegates on Sunday narrowly approved a resolution 39-36 that “no ‘proof of physical address’ other than spoken or written” should be “required for any voter registration or voting.”

The resolution was among several passed at the at the Democratic Party of Wisconsin state convention held this past weekend at the Potawatomi Hotel and Casino in Milwaukee.

The resolution also would allow voters to complete a change of address online or by phone.

Not Enough Scientists?

Sooo… riddle me this

Skepticism about climate change-related research led the Legislature’s budget committee last week to water down Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ plan to restore a Department of Natural Resources science bureau, according to a top Republican senator.

The Republican majority on the Legislature’s budget committee agreed to restore two of the 18 researchers cut in 2015 by then-Gov. Scott Walker and his GOP allies in the state Assembly and Senate.

Evers administration officials said the two positions won’t be enough to research new ways to reduce damage done to lakes, streams and drinking water by climate change, invasive species and contaminated sewage.

Climate change is being studied by thousands and thousands of people all over the world. Why does Wisconsin need even more people to study it? Is one more DNR scientist going to figure out a better way to prevent lakeshore erosion (or whatever) that nobody else in the world could figure out? Let’s save the money and piggyback on other people’s work.