Category Archives: Politics – Wisconsin

Randy Bryce Runs to Mommy Because His Brother Was Mean to Him

How funny. The Randy Bryce campaign felt a need to pull his mommy into the race because his brother isn’t supporting him. These are grown ass men. It undermines Randy’s “tough iron worker” persona.

The race for House Speaker Paul Ryan’s seat turned personal this week when the Democratic candidate’s mother denounced an attack ad against her son — featuring his own brother.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a PAC closely aligned with Ryan, announced earlier this week it was launching a $1.5 million television ad campaign against Randy Bryce, the Democrat running for the seat Ryan has held for 10 terms. (Ryan is retiring at the end of the year.) One of those ads features Bryce’s brother, James, a Milwaukee police officer, attacking the candidate for not supporting law enforcement and endorsing his bother’s Republican opponent, Bryan Steil.

On Wednesday morning, the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal published excerpts from a letter from Nancy Bryce, Randy and James’s mother, that was given to them by the Bryce campaign. Yahoo News has obtained a copy of the letter.

“I’m used to my sons getting into disagreements with each other — every mom is. And I understand that my boys see the world differently when it comes to politics,” Nancy Bryce wrote. “There is now a group of people from Washington who consider it a good idea to pit my boys against each other for their own political gain. But they didn’t consider a mother’s pain at seeing her children used as tools in a political fight, splashed with millions of dollars of ads across the airwaves.”

On Jay Weber’s show this morning, James Bryce called in and said that he spoke to his mother. James Bryce said that the Randy Bryce campaign likely wrote the letter and took advantage of his mom. I don’t know how old she is, but as I said… Randy and James are both grown ass men.

Hartford School District Plans Another Tax Decrease

What a refreshing story.

A small crowd turned out for the meeting, but they approved the school district’s proposed 2018-19 budget that calls for a small decrease in the taxes district property owners will pay per thousand. The budget, which still needs the Board of Education’s final approval after they receive more financial information from the state calls for a drop from about $5.99 per thousand in 2017-18 to about $5.98 per thousand for the 2018-19 budget year.

According to information provided by the school district, the owner of a $200,000 home paid $1,198 in taxes to the district for 2017-18 and will pay slightly less for 2018-19 of about $1,196 — a decrease of about $2.

“The district total levy for the 2018-19 school year will be $9,997,988 compared with the levy of $9,788,739 for 2017-18,” said District Director of Business Services John Stellmacher. “But we are anticipating a larger drop after a significant increase in fair market values and new construction in the city of Hartford over the past year.”

Stellmacher said the balanced budget being proposed includes a 0 percent base wage increase for teaching staff but nearly $283,000 in merit pay increases for teaching staff. These increases were approved in March.

He said the district continues to use the Act 10 Tools effectively.

“Our average health insurance renewal the past 7 years has been under 2 percent. We have a rate guarantee for an under 2 percent maximum increase for 2019-20,” Stellmacher said. “The district has been able to accomplish this through purchasing power in the Waukesha County Area Schools Health Cooperative and through competitive bidding. We also have a highly engaged staff and robust wellness program that emphasizes healthy lifestyles and consumerism. Our teaching staff has a base employee contribution rate of 21 percent toward their health insurance as we’ve worked to model benefits closer to the private sector.”

Stellmacher said stability in health insurance rates has allowed the district to invest in merit pay, small elementary class sizes, facility maintenance, and high quality professional development.

Meanwhile, in West Bend, we are looking at another levy that increases the property tax levy to the maximum allowed by law, a $900k pay increase for teachers, no merit pay, and starving facility maintenance in a run-up to a massive referendum.

More money has not, and will not, improve education for our children

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

With school back in full swing, the MacIver Institute’s Ola Lisowski completed a comprehensive review of the state of education in Wisconsin. The data gives some insight into how well our education system is serving our kids and raises some questions. One is left wondering, however, why Wisconsin’s politicians insist that throwing more money into education is the only answer.

Overall, ACT achievement scores have remained flat. In 2017, the average ACT score for graduating students was 20.5. That was the exact same as in 2016. Prior to 2016, the average ACT score remained flat at 22.0 or 22.1, but there was a change in participation requirements in 2016.

Until 2016, students only took the ACT if they were intending to go to college or just wanted to take the test. Starting in 2016, Wisconsin began requiring all enrolled students to take the ACT and taxpayers pay for the exams. Although students can still opt-out, the new rules pushed the participation rate for taking the ACT from the 63.5 percent in 2015 to 92.1 percent in 2016 and 2017. The fact that a much larger number of kids are taking the ACT — including many who do not have any intention of attending college — necessarily lowers the average.

Compared to the other 16 states that require all students to take the ACT, Wisconsin’s average is third best. Only Colorado and Minnesota do better.

Another metric for which longitudinal data is available is Advanced Placement course participation and results. Average scores for AP tests have been trending slightly down since 2010. In 2011, 68 percent of students scored a 3 or better on AP exams and 65.9 percent scored that well last year. But the good news is that more and more kids are taking AP exams. Last year, 57 percent more AP exams were taken as compared to the 2010-2011 school year. Much like with the ACT, broader participation usually pushes the average down, so it is good to see so little decline with the surge in participation.

Graduation rates have increased slightly since 2011 from 87 percent to 88.6 percent in 2017. That beats the national average of 84 percent. The real news in the much better graduation rates for some minority groups. The Hispanic and Latino graduation rate jumped from 72 percent in 2011 to 79.9 percent in 2016. The graduation rate for Native American kids grew from 71.7 percent in 2011 to 77.8 percent in 2016. Asian and black graduation rates increased by 0.5 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively. More kids are graduating and that is good news.

Unfortunately, we must temper the good news about the graduation rate with the data about remedial education. For many years, colleges have offered remedial education classes for incoming students.

They are classes for kids who are accepted and enrolled into the college, but need to shore up their core math or English skills.

Wisconsin began requiring in 2016 that UW System schools track which students need remedial education and the high schools that graduated those kids. The results are not good. Roughly 20 percent of all incoming students in the UW System require some form of remedial classes. These students graduated from 184 high schools. That means that almost 36 percent of Wisconsin high schools are sending kids to college who are not proficient in math or English. Not only is that indictment of those high schools, but it is a tremendous added expense to those kids who have to pay for remedial education they should have already received.

There is a lot more data on school performance. I invite you to read the overview at the MacIver Institute or dig through the Department of Public Instruction data yourself. A couple of insights bubble to the top after wading through the data. First, Wisconsin’s schools are fairly decent, for the most part, but there is a lot of room for improvement. Second, the performance has remained fairly consistent for the years despite taxpayers spending more and more every year.

This makes the politicians’ response all too disappointing. Tony Evers, the Democratic candidate for governor, has one answer to every question about education: Spend more money. This is despite the fact that spending more has no measurable impact on educational outcomes. Gov. Scott Walker has had a strong record of actual education reform, but has fallen into the same spending paradigm. This election, he is hanging his hat on the fact that Wisconsin increased spending on education and is spending more than ever.

The reason that politicians conflate more government spending with improving educational outcomes is as lazy as it is stupid. It is an easy way for them to demonstrate that they are “doing something.” In fact, they are doing nothing but wasting more money. The outcomes matter — not the spending.

More money has not, and will not, improve education for our children

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online now. Go pick up a paper, but here’s a snippet:

A couple of insights bubble to the top after wading through the data. First, Wisconsin’s schools are fairly decent, for the most part, but there is a lot of room for improvement. Second, the performance has remained fairly consistent for the years despite taxpayers spending more and more every year.

This makes the politicians’ response all too disappointing. Tony Evers, the Democratic candidate for governor, has one answer to every question about education: Spend more money. This is despite the fact that spending more has no measurable impact on educational outcomes. Gov. Scott Walker has had a strong record of actual education reform, but has fallen into the same spending paradigm. This election, he is hanging his hat on the fact that Wisconsin increased spending on education and is spending more than ever.

The reason that politicians conflate more government spending with improving educational outcomes is as lazy as it is stupid. It is an easy way for them to demonstrate that they are “doing something.” In fact, they are doing nothing but wasting more money. The outcomes matter — not the spending.

Union Thug Cyber-Stalks Wigderson’s Kid

That’s just creepy and unstable behavior. What kind of “teacher” goes after someone’s kid just because she doesn’t like his opinions?

Just when you thought the Left couldn’t get any lower, they can. A self-described “union thug” reached out to RightWisconsin Editor James Wigderson’s minor daughter to criticize him and her school on social media.

Angela Schissler Goodwin, a Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) school teacher who also describes herself as a “MKE liberal,” tracked down Wigderson’s daughter on Facebook and sent her a unsolicited message about her father.

“We are offended by what was said about MPS. We are an MPS family and those insults are reckless generalizations,” Goodwin wrote to James Wigderson’s daughter. “I can’t imagine why he has such mean ideas about a group of people.”

The pronoun “he” makes it clear that Goodwin knew she was contacting James Wigderson’s daughter, not James Wigderson himself. Goodwin is not a Facebook friend of James Wigderson’s daughter and would have had to specifically search her out online.

James Wigderson’s contact information is also available online.

In Goodwin’s Facebook intro, she describes herself: “Wifey, mom, daughter, sister, union thug public school teacher, recovering Catholic, MKE 414 Liberal.”

West Bend Annual Meeting, Budget, and Tax Levy

This post is going to be a little long, so strap yourself in. If you live in the West Bend School District, you’ll want to read it. The rest of y’all should find a good college football game to watch.

On Monday, the voters of the West Bend School District are invited to attend the Annual Meeting of Electors. This is an annual meeting where, theoretically, the voters approve some of the big ticket items like the tax levy and budget. In reality, all of the votes are non-binding, so the School Board can still do whatever they want. Still, it is an opportunity for voters to show up and have their voices heard.

On the agenda this year is:

7. Consideration of Proposed Resolutions

a. Resolution No. 1 – Tax Levy

b. Resolution No. 2 – Disposal of District Property

c. Resolution No. 3 – Board Member Compensation

d. Resolution No. 4 – 2019-20 Annual Meeting Date

The only thing we have any information on is the proposed budget and tax levy, so the voters will be walking in blind to whatever the resolutions are about board member compensation and the disposal of district property. We’re going to take a deeper look at the budget and tax levy, but first, let’s discuss the process a little.

In years past, the West Bend School Board began its budget process in the spring. If I remember correctly (I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong), we usually got a preliminary budget in the April/May time frame. That high-level preliminary budget was posted on the district web site and the people had some time with it.

This year, the first appearance of a preliminary budget from the school district that I saw was last Tuesday morning – after the Monday night board meeting.  Perhaps it was posted Monday night. But now the Electors are being asked to vote on it a week later. One. Week. That’s all the voters get to read it and understand it. There hasn’t been any time for the media or interested parties to ask questions. There hasn’t even been another board meeting where citizens could voice their opinions on it. There is really no excuse for this kind of opaqueness from the West Bend School Board. They have had this information for months, but failed to be transparent about it. Their lack of transparency is not incompetence. It is willful.


That being said, let’s look at the budget. As we get into it, we must remember the context of this budget. The West Bend School Board just postponed action on a $85 million referendum. Budgets are where we define our priorities. There is always an unlimited list of needs/wants (the distinction between the two often being in the eye of the beholder) and a limited amount of money to pay for it. The budget is where you have to prioritize that list.

 

There are two versions of the West Bend School District’s Preliminary Budget. Here is the summary document that is being provided for the meeting on Monday. Here is a slightly more detailed version that was presented at the School Board meeting last week. Neither version is nearly as detailed as what other districts, like Slinger, provides. Again… transparency…

Let’s start with the revenue side of the budget. There are two primary sources of revenue for a Wisconsin school district – the local property tax levy and state aid. The West Bend School District is facing a demographic and societal shift that is causing a decline in enrollment for the foreseeable future. The estimates range between a 10% and 20% decline in enrollment in the next 10 years. This is a significant impact on the state aid that the district receives because it is based on enrollment. Also, enrollment affects the property tax levy limit for the district. In short, the West Bend School District is facing a sustained period of declining revenue. In the preliminary budget (focusing on the operating budget and not the special parts), we see this manifest in a projected $233,405 decrease in revenue.

That decrease in overall revenue is despite a property tax hike. The School District wants to increase the property tax levy by $928,249 – the maximum amount allowed by law. Most of this is offset by a decrease in the levy due to some debt service coming off the books, so the impact will be minimal. But taxpayers could be enjoying a rare tax decrease if not for the School Board’s desire to tax to the max.

In light of that fact, let’s take a closer look at the spending side of the budget. Overall, the preliminary budget proposes a $1.3 million spending increase. You’re reading that right. The preliminary budget has a structural $1.4 million deficit.

The School District must have a balanced budget, so they are raiding their reserve fund to fill the gap. Superintendent Don Kirkegard acknowledges that this is not sustainable and he will be working to bend the district’s cost into the revenue number next year. I cut him some slack because he has only been on the job since July and was handed this budget. Also, he comes from another state and it takes a little time to learn the Wisconsin Way of school budgeting. This budget is the product of the interim Superintendent, staff, and most of all, the School Board.

What is driving the spending increase? Almost all of it is due to a planned compensation increase for the teaching staff. Although salary negotiations are still underway, this budget includes a 2.1% base salary increase. That is the maximum that the School Board would have to give under Act 10. That amounts to a $929,853 compensation increase. That umber is a little misleading because the budget number includes benefits, salary, and headcount fluctuations. But based on the commentary at the school board meeting last week, that number is about right. They are planning roughly a $900k salary increase.

The other increases are scattered around the budget. It is a little hard to tease them out because the district is also reallocating a lot of expenses. According to the Superintendent, they are working on reallocating expenses to the building level so that they can have better visibility to where the expenses are actually being spent. That’s a good thing, but it makes year-to-year trending data difficult.


The story of this budget is not really what it does, but what it doesn’t do. The West Bend School Board is facing declining enrollment and, consequently, declining revenue. Next year they are planning to ask the taxpayers to dig deeper into their family budgets and pay more for bigger, newer facilities. This budget is the School Board’s statement of priorities before asking the taxpayers for more money and they chose to kick the can down the road another year. They are choosing to not make any hard decisions nor demonstrate that they will be good stewards if the taxpayers give them almost the equivalent of an entire year’s budget to spend all at once.

Here are just a couple things this budget does not do:

Maintenance. Many of the facilities needs that are driving the perceived need for a referendum are due to years of poor maintenance. Jackson Elementary is old and falling apart, they tell us. The High School building needs serious renovations and repairs, we’re told. I defy anyone to look at the preliminary budget and determine what the school district spends to maintain their facilities. There isn’t a line item for it. According to the Superintendent, the large, capital projects like roof replacements and such are covered by the Capital Projects Fund and is about $2.3 million. More routing maintenance like carpet replacements, door repairs, fixture replacements, light bulbs, etc. are kind of tucked into the “other support services” or “central services” budget items. But those line items blend a lot of “catch all” expenses.

It is safe to say, however, that despite these pressing needs that are fueling a referendum discussion, the budget makes no serious effort to spend more on maintenance.

I tried to find some good benchmarks for what schools should spend on maintenance, but they are hard to come by. This data from the Building Owners and Managers Association says that for office space (roughly equivalent), people spend about $8.07 per square foot for annual operating expenses. That number includes some things like security, administration, etc. that are not really pertinent in a school setting. If we just include repairs, maintenance, cleaning, etc., it’s about $4 per square foot per year. The West Bend School District has 1,141,656 sq. feet of building space – not including grounds, sports fields, parking lots, etc. It is reasonable to expect that the district needs to spend $4 to $4.5 million per year just to keep their facilities reasonable cleaned and maintained. I don’t see anything near that much in the budget even as I add up the line items.

This points to a trend of School Districts intentionally under-funding maintenance, allowing facilities to decline into disrepair, and then pushing for a referendum to make up for their neglect. This budget looks like it will continue that trend.

Labor Costs. Without a doubt, labor costs are the largest expense in any school district budget. If the School Board is ever going to control costs and bring them in line with revenue projections, they have to control the cost of labor. There are only a few ways to do that. They can cut overall compensation – salaries and benefits. They can reduce the number of employees. Or they can force employee churn to create a younger, cheaper workforce.

At some point, the district needs to reduce the number of employees. There are fewer and fewer kids to teach. Therefore, there will need to be fewer and fewer teachers, administrators, and support staff to serve those kids. This needs to be done intelligently and carefully, but it needs to be done.

The School Board and this budget fail to take advantage of Act 10 to control the overall compensation costs for the employees. Employees still have a sweetheart deal on benefits. The School Board is assuming a maximum base salary increase. The School Board has not implemented merit pay or other performance-driven compensation models. They haven’t done much of anything. The compensation package for West Bend School District employees looks much like it could have in 1999 or 2005.

Once again, this budget just kicks the can down the road and fails to do anything about rising labor costs in the face of declining revenue.


The preliminary budget for the West Bend School District sends a very clear message to the citizens of the district. Despite virulent protestations about needing tens of millions of dollars in a referendum to pay for critical facilities, the School Board intends to just keep doing the same thing as if there isn’t any need at all. They are not making any hard choices or shifting any additional spending to address those needs. They are also not addressing the structural funding issues that are already impacting the district’s revenue. The School Board is planning to ask the taxpayers to dig deeper into their family budgets and give up their own priorities, but the School Board is refusing to dig deeper into their own budget. Instead, they are doing what far too many school boards do: tax to the max; give employees as much of an increase as possible; starve facilities; refuse to innovate; keep doing everything the same way and wondering why you keep getting the same results.

I will believe that there is a crisis in the West Bend School District when they begin acting like it. This budget sends the message that the School Board thinks everything is fine the way it is.

Walker Calls for Senate to Vote on KC Incentive

I don’t think they should pass it, but I do think they should call it for a vote. Kimberly-Clark deserves an answer either way.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wants members of the state Senate to convene this month to approve a $100 million tax incentive package designed to keep hundreds of paper company jobs in Wisconsin, but it’s not clear whether the proposal has enough support to pass.

“We need support from both Democrats and Republicans in the Senate to save these good-paying Wisconsin jobs,” Walker tweeted on Thursday.

He told reporters in Milwaukee he’s working to secure the 17 votes needed to approve the bill in the Senate, which would need to return in an extraordinary session in order to give it a vote.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitgerald, R-Juneau, said he’s working to find Republican votes to support the bill, which aims to prevent paper company Kimberly-Clark from closing two plants located in Neenah and Fox Crossing at a loss of 610 jobs.

DOJ Employees Sign Non-Disclosure

Here we go again with the liberal Milwaukee paper trying to make something out of nothing.

What goes on at the state Department of Justice stays in the state Department of Justice.

So says Attorney General Brad Schimel.

On Aug. 10, staffers at his agency were sent an email instructing them to sign a nondisclosure agreement barring them from revealing any confidential information about their work — not just during their time in office but even after they leave the state.

The email then included a spreadsheet with the names of 129 employees who had yet to sign the one-page statement.

“If your name is on the attached list, please print and sign the attached Agreement,” the email says.

According to a copy of the agreement, it applies not just to current full-time employees but also “limited term employees, contractors, interns, externs and law enforcement partners.”

The DOJ deals with some of the most sensitive and confidential information in government. As long as they are equally vigilant about providing public information subject to the open records law, we citizens want DOJ employees to keep the rest confidential.

Keep the Walker economy going

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

Labor Day, the unofficial end of summer in Wisconsin, has come and gone. The kids are back in school. Even some of the more eager leaves have begun to turn as a reminder that winter is looming on the horizon. Also looming is the November election, when Wisconsin’s voters will decide whether to change the direction of our state or stay the course.

Gov. Scott Walker has a great case to make for his re-election, but many voters have become complacent after so many years of success. Too often, politics is about “what have you done for me lately.” Walker and the legislative Republicans have made tremendous improvements in preserving and expanding civil rights, protecting life, education reform and many other areas of government. But with the limited space available in this column, let us look deeper at Wisconsin’s economy under Walker.

In 2010, the year that Scott Walker was elected as governor, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate stood at 8.7 percent. Over a quarter-million Wisconsinites were looking for work and could not find it. Per capita income had fallen to $38,598. Businesses were fleeing Wisconsin due to the inflexible regulatory climate, a hostile government and oppressive taxes. The state budget was running yet another massive deficit and voters were facing another round of tax increases.

Fast forward to July 2018 — after almost two full terms of Walker. Wisconsin’s unemployment rate stands at 3.1 percent — a rate below what many economists consider full employment. There are more than 300,000 more Wisconsinites working now than there were in 2010, and they are earning more. Per capita income in 2016, the most recent year for which figures are available, is up to $46,762 — an increase of more than $8,000 per person and the most recent economic data coming from federal number crunchers indicates that income growth is accelerating with sustained high employment.

One might be tempted to dismiss these economic comparisons as unfair given the entire nation’s economy is booming. That is true and a reason that voters should also return Republican majorities to the Congress, but Wisconsin is even doing better under Walker than most other states.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Wisconsin’s percent growth in privatesector jobs in July ranked seventh nationally and first in the Midwest. Our state’s July unemployment rate tied for the seventh lowest in the nation. In the manufacturing industry, Wisconsin ranked fifth nationally in percent growth in jobs over the last year and gained the second-most manufacturing jobs in the last six months.

The evidence is clear that while the nation’s economy is enjoying fabulous growth in jobs and wages, Wisconsin is one of the states leading the pack.

The vast majority of Wisconsin’s economic success is due to the millions of Wisconsinites who work hard, build businesses and create value in the global market. State government’s policies can either retard the innate economic prowess of Wisconsin’s people or help create an environment where that prowess can be let loose. The policies that Walker enacted during his first two terms have enabled Wisconsinites to flex their economic muscles.

For example, Walker set about immediately cutting state regulations and reining in the fearsome Department of Natural Resources. He signed the law making Wisconsin a right-to-work state, thus freeing the people from forced unionization. Walker cut taxes and improved Wisconsin’s transportation infrastructure.

Perhaps most importantly, Walker’s pro-business attitude has permeated state government. During the Jim Doyle era, Wisconsin had a well-earned reputation for being hostile to business. Companies that dared to open in the state were threatened with costly regulations, a DNR that would deny permits and slam them with fines for the most inconsequential infraction and politicians who would cluck their tongues if they were not the “right kind” of jobs.

Under Walker, the state has struck a better regulatory balance that protects the interests of all Wisconsinites — including those who want to work. State agencies still enforce all of the laws and regulations, but do so by helping businesses comply instead of crushing them with fines. When businesses run into some problem with state government, a state regulator is more likely to pick up the phone and ask, “How can I help?” That matters to business owners who are just trying to grow their businesses the best they know how.

Finally, unlike the previous governor, Walker actively recruits businesses to move to Wisconsin. There is no doubt that had it not been for Walker aggressively recruiting Foxconn, that multibillion-dollar investment would have gone to another state. Walker not only asked for the business, he closed the deal. A lesser governor would not have succeeded.

Wisconsin’s economy has made a complete turnaround under Walker and is heading in the right direction. It is a mistake to think that the state’s economy will continue in that direction under Tony Evers. Leadership matters and Wisconsin’s economy needs Walker to remain at the helm.

Keep the Walker economy going

My column for the Washington County Daily News is in the paper today. Go buy a copy, but here’s a snippet:

Finally, unlike the previous governor, Walker actively recruits businesses to move to Wisconsin. There is no doubt that had it not been for Walker aggressively recruiting Foxconn, that multibillion-dollar investment would have gone to another state. Walker not only asked for the business, he closed the deal. A lesser governor would not have succeeded.

Wisconsin’s economy has made a complete turnaround under Walker and is heading in the right direction. It is a mistake to think that the state’s economy will continue in that direction under Tony Evers. Leadership matters and Wisconsin’s economy needs Walker to remain at the helm.

Town of Trenton Presents Road Referendum

From the Washington County Insider.

In the Spring Town Crier, it was mentioned that the Town Board may be asking residents to approve an increase in the levy in the near future. Because of the increased road repair needs, as well as the comments and questions received regarding road repair and maintenance, the Town Board has resolved to place a referendum question on the November 6 ballot.

The question will state: “Under state law, the increase in the levy of the Town of Trenton for the tax to be imposed for the next fiscal year, 2018, is limited to 1%, which results in a levy of $942,366. Shall the Town of Trenton be allowed to exceed this limit and increase the levy for the next fiscal year, 2019, and going forward permanently, for the purpose of improving and maintaining Town of Trenton roadways, by a total of $500,000, equating to 53.5885%, which results in a levy of $1,433,036?“

Voting “yes” means you approve the Town increasing the annual levy by $500,000 to be used for Town road repair and maintenance. Voting “no” means you do not approve the Town increasing the annual levy by $500,000 and therefore the Town will be limited to the state-imposed levy limit increase.

The levy increase referendum must be presented at a General (November) election, or at a Special Election. The Town Board decided it would be better to present it this year, rather than wait until the 2020 General Election, or spending money on a Special Election in 2019.

Walker Facing Tough Race

Interesting that The Guardian is covering the Wisconsin election – and that they sought out Charlie Sykes as their primary local political analyst.

Sykes pointed to another potential problem. Walker’s base lies in the suburban counties that surround Milwaukee, areas that have typically given him more than 70% of the vote. But in those counties in 2016, Trump ran far behind other Republican candidates.

Sykes also said, however, that despite the fact Walker is behind, the Republican’s campaign is “comfortable being exactly where they are right now”. He looked back to 2014, when “everybody really thought [Walker] was in trouble and he did just fine”.

Sykes noted that Walker’s campaign is staffed with veterans of electoral dogfights. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a state Republican strategist echoed such thinking, saying the governor was “sailing into a pretty big storm but he’s built a pretty good ship”.

Walker, Sykes concluded, has “been through all of this before and Tony Evers has not”.

Democratic Candidate for Attorney General Supports Unconstitutional Obamacare

What a simplistic argument.

Oral arguments on a lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act took place Wednesday in Texas. The democratic candidate for Wisconsin Attorney General said the state would not be a part of it if he is elected.

Josh Kaul called the lawsuit led by current attorney general Brad Schimel wrong and not in the best interest of Wisconsinites. Obamacare prohibited insurers from denying coverage to someone with a pre-existing condition.

Kaul says over two million residents in the state has one of these conditions.

“We just shouldn’t have people who are unable to have access to health insurance coverage because of a pre-existing condition. We certainly shouldn’t have our attorney general using our tax dollars to fight to take protections away from Wisconsinites,” Kaul said.

Obamacare was SO MUCH BIGGER than just the provision regarding pre-existing conditions. But he focuses on that because that’s one of the few parts of it that was popular. And the media let’s it stand unchallenged. What does Kaul think about the other parts of Obamacare? Is he cool with the individual mandate? How about the ballooning costs? Does he like the drastically reduced options through the Obamacare exchanges – with some counties having only one option? Does Kaul love him some higher taxes? Obamacare is full of those. What about the fact that it is utterly unconstitutional (and yes, Roberts was wrong)?

I guess if you really like Obamacare that you should vote for Josh Kaul. Duly noted.

Wisconsinites Still Paying More Because of Minimum Markup

The sales tax holiday was nice, but Wisconsin Republicans could have helped consumers so much more by repealing the Minimum Markup laws and letting the invisible hand work. Their failure is not inexplicable, but very disappointing. MacIver runs some numbers.

Like in past years, families in Milwaukee buying basic items like notebooks, markers, and crayons can expect to pay anywhere from 14 to 146 percent more than Walmart shoppers in Dubuque, Iowa, and Kalamazoo, Mich.

A 24-pack of Crayola Crayons posted the largest price difference, costing 146 percent more in Milwaukee than in cities in the neighboring states. The same was true for similar basic school supplies.

Parents picking up a one-subject notebook at Walmart in Dubuque, for example, only paid 25 cents. That same notebook cost 40 cents in Milwaukee – a 60 percent gap. Crayola markers cost 97 cents in Kalamazoo, but thanks to the archaic minimum markup law, those same markers cost $1.97 in Milwaukee, a whopping 103 percent difference.

A Texas Instruments graphing calculator cost $100 in Milwaukee, but just $88 in both Iowa and Michigan.

The added costs stack up. A basic shopping list would cost 17 percent more for a Milwaukee back-to-school shopper than in nearby states – 85 percent more not including the calculator.

Tony Evers’ Old-School Pro-Abortion Stance

Wow.

TWS: One story I’m interested in is the role of pro-life Democrats: Do they have a place in the party? There’ve been fewer and fewer in Congress. What is your message to them? Do you want to see Medicaid funding of abortion generally? I know that’s restricted in Wisconsin.

EVERS: Yeah, we have a big tent here in Wisconsin. We have to in order to win elections. And yes pro-life Democrats are welcome in the party, and I respect their decisions on this issue. But we need to have the Medicaid money be available for all people and restricting it because of a certain procedure, whether it’s a tonsillectomy or any other procedure, seems to me a foolhardy thing to do. So, yes, we have to respect people’s people’s pro-life beliefs, and certainly they’re welcome in the Democratic party. Absolutely.

Two point… first, according to Evers, pro-life Democrats are welcome as long as they still support a radical pro-abortion agenda. Second, also according to Evers, killing an unborn child has the same moral equivalence as a tonsillectomy.

Again. Wow.

Street Car Menace in Milwaukee

I realize that this is coming from a law firm looking to cash in, but the injuries are real. This street car looks like it’s a menace.

Three motorcycle riders have crashed on the same section of tracks for the Milwaukee Streetcar, according to a Milwaukee law firm representing the injured riders.

Attorneys with Hupy and Abraham say they are now concerned about the safety of the thousands of riders in town for Harley Davidson’s 115th Anniversary.

The area of concern is on St. Paul Avenue just west of Water Street. One victim said he tried to cross the tracks to get into the left turn lane when his tire got stuck.

Marquette poll indicates Wisconsin’s political fundamentals remain unchanged

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

With a level of excitement akin to Christmas morning, political junkies tore open the latest Marquette Law School Poll to find the treasures within. With its history of being one of the most accurate polls in recent years, the Marquette Law School Poll has become the gold standard for political prognosticators. The most recent poll was taken after the August primary election and gives the first snapshot for the general election.

In the race for governor, the Marquette poll indicates that Republican Gov. Scott Walker is in a dead heat with Democratic candidate Tony Evers. Both candidates are receiving support of 46 percent of likely voters with Libertarian candidate Phil Anderson polling at 6 percent.

The race for U.S. Senate is also a virtual tie, according to the poll, with 49 percent supporting incumbent Democrat Tammy Baldwin and 47 percent supporting Republican Leah Vukmir. With a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4.5 percent, the race is a statistical tie.

What is remarkable about the poll’s results is that so few people are undecided. Only 2 percent of the respondents for governor, and 3 percent for Senate, are undecided with more than two months until the election. This is despite the fact the two challengers, Evers and Vukmir, are not nearly as well known as the incumbents. Thirty-five percent of the respondents do not have any opinion of Evers and 41 percent do not have an opinion about Vukmir.

These results tell us a couple of things. First, Wisconsin remains politically divided with the left and right remaining firmly entrenched. It would be too far to suggest that the candidates do not matter, but the poll clearly indicates that there is a sizable contingent of the electorate who will vote Republican or Democrat irrespective of who the candidate is.

The second thing the results tell us is that the next two months of campaigning are going to be brutal. Neither side is going to spend much time or money trying to lure voters from the other side, nor there are many people undecided. Instead, the campaigns are going to focus on motivating their bases to get out and vote.

Whichever side turns out more of their base will win the election.

This means the campaigns will focus largely on emotional appeals, both positive and negative. While gratitude and hope are strong emotions, hate and fear are more powerful when it comes to motivating people to vote. Until the election, the voters are going to be under a rolling barrage of negative ads that will escalate as Election Day nears.

This will be especially true in the Senate election because of the national implications. The Marquette poll shows that Baldwin is vulnerable in a year when the Democrats are anticipating a blue wave. National interest groups will be pumping money into Wisconsin’s Senate race and it is going to get very, very muddy.

Many other polls around the country indicate that there is an enthusiasm gap with Democrats being much more excited about voting this November than Republicans. The same is not true in Wisconsin. According to the Marquette poll, 69 percent of Republicans are very enthusiastic to vote, while 67 percent of Democrats are very enthusiastic. That is a change from the same poll in July when 62 percent of Republicans and 69 percent of Democrats were very enthusiastic. That is a significant upward swing in enthusiasm for Republicans in only a month. There may be a blue wave in the rest of the nation in November, but it does not appear that it will wash over Wisconsin.

According to the Marquette poll, the dynamics in this election are shaping up to look very much the same as it has in the past few years. That bodes well for Wisconsin’s Republicans if national forces can be kept at the state border.

Marquette poll indicates Wisconsin’s political fundamentals remain unchanged

You know that when the Marquette poll come out, every political junkie worth his salt must comment on it. I do just that in my column for the Washington County Daily News today. Pick up a paper and check it out. Here’s a little peek:

This means the campaigns will focus largely on emotional appeals, both positive and negative. While gratitude and hope are strong emotions, hate and fear are more powerful when it comes to motivating people to vote. Until the election, the voters are going to be under a rolling barrage of negative ads that will escalate as Election Day nears.

 

Wedding Barns Face Regulation

James Wigderson has the story. I thought Wisconsin was open for business?

Wisconsin’s event barn owners and operators are unhappy about the direction of a legislative study committee on the state’s alcohol distribution laws so far. These “wedding barn operators,” as they’re commonly known, have good reason to be concerned.

The chairman of the 2018 Legislative Council Study Committee on Alcohol Beverages Enforcement, Rep. Rob Swearingen (R-Rhinelander), is a former president of the Wisconsin Tavern League, and he’s determined to crack down on the competition. The committee is largely stacked in the Tavern League’s favor and not one event barn owner is a member of the committee.

At stake is a provision in the state law which allows these rural wedding venues to have alcohol on the premises for guests without having a liquor license. Wedding barns can allow alcohol to be served as long as the event is a private event and the wedding barn operators do not sell the alcohol – it must be purchased by the hosts of the private event.

The Legislative Council Study Committee will be meeting again on Wednesday. When the committee reconvenes, it will be hearing from the WATA for the first time. However, Swearingen has stacked the testimony by also adding three agricultural venue operators that are not working farms who also have liquor licenses for their venues.

West Bend Referendum Fight is Not Over

The citizens of West Bend received a reprieve last night when the West Bend School Board decided to suspend the referendum effort. “Suspend” is the key word. At the meeting, School Board President Joel Ongert made it clear that he wants to put a referendum on the April or possibly next November ballot. It is worth noting that those elections also historically have much lower turnout. That makes it easier for the referendum to pass (if you’d like me to explain this, I will, but I think y’all get it).

Ongert also made a comment that he thought that the needs at the high schools warranted $60 million! In the current referendum proposal, they are asking for $31 million for the high schools. Ongert wants to spend so. much. more.

Over the next few months as the citizens of the West Bend School District and their School Board consider the prospect of a referendum, we should keep some hard numbers in mind.

$215 million. That is how much the taxpayers will be obligated to pay back if the referendum being considered is approved. The district already owes about $130 million due to the passage of previous referenda. If the referendum passes, it will bring that total to about $215 million in owed interest and principal.

$2,125. There are about 40,000 adults who live in the West Bend School District. If the $50 million referendum being considered passes, the share for each adult is $2,125. Each adult’s share of the total $215 million debt would be about $5,200.

$5.3 million. The taxpayers currently spend about $5.3 million per year on paying down debt. That is $5.3 million that is not spent on educating kids. It is being spent on paying off buildings. That number will increase substantially if the referendum being considered passes.

20. Under the proposal outlined by Baird for the School Board, it will take 20 years to pay off new referendum debt. On the payment schedule presented by Baird at the August 13th school board meeting, the taxpayers will paying only the interest payments for the first nine years. The taxpayers will not pay down a single dollar of the principal until the tenth year.

2.7%. Despite having the authority under Act 10 to control labor expenses, employees of the West Bend School District can still get a family health insurance plan for as little as $49 per month. That is 2.7% of the total cost of the plan. The taxpayers pay the remaining 97.3%.

307. Using the Kindergarten Trend Projection Model, which extrapolates kindergarten enrollment trends to forecast future enrollment, there will be 307 kids in Jackson Elementary in nine years. That compares to the 371 kids who were in the school last year and the 535 kids in the same building at the most recent peak in 2010. That is a 43% decline in student population in the Jackson Elementary building, but also includes the reconfiguration of grades that occurred in 2014.

5,289. Using the same projection model, the entire West Bend School District will have an enrollment of 5,289 kids in the 2027-2028 school year. That compares to the 6,634 kids in the last school year and 6,843 kids in the district in the most recent peak year of 2009. That is a 20% decline in enrollment over the next decade.

Different project models give slightly different numbers, but the declining enrollment matches the trend that the school district has seen in recent years. Due to generally lower birth rates, open enrollment, the Wisconsin Parental Choice Program, and demographic shifts, the West Bend School District is seeing the same declining enrollment as many other Wisconsin school districts.

21%. In the most recent open enrollment figures, 21% of the kids who open enrolled out of the West Bend School District left to attend a virtual school. While the West Bend School Board wants to invest in buildings, families are seeking out modern ways to get a quality education.

20. The world of education is not immune from the societal and technological transformations taking place around us. Educational delivery methods now include online and hybrid learning, collaboration with industries, augmented reality, and so much more. The West Bend School Board is asking to spend $85 million on a 20th century education model.

Zero. If the voters approve allowing the West Bend School Board to dump tens of millions of dollars into buildings, they can expect zero improvements in educational outcomes. It has been proven time and time again that once the basic safety and space needs for school buildings are met, spending more on buildings does not result in better education.

For recent evidence, look at the test scores and graduation rates in the West Bend School District since the other school building referendums were passed. According to DPI data, all of the results are flat or declining. The new Badger and renovated Silverbrook schools look fantastic, but they did not make any kids smarter. That is why the school board has wisely not even attempted to claim that it will improve education in the district.

There are a lot of things that the West Bend School Board could do to try to improve education for the children under their care. Dumping money into fancy buildings is not one of them.