Boots & Sabers

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Category: Politics – Wisconsin

Renting Castles

Speaking of fat in university budgets… this blurb caught my attention while looking up stuff from a show I’m watching.

Dalkeith Palace has not been lived in by the Buccleuch family since 1914 and has been leased to the University of Wisconsin system for a study abroad program since 1985. Approximately 60-80 students a semester live in the palace, where they also take classes from U.S. and U.K. faculty members.

 

Johnson Stalls Massive Spending Bill

Kudos to Senator Johnson. It’s nice to see a teensy bit of fiscal hawkishness return to the Republican rhetoric.

Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson on Friday blocked an effort to deliver $1,200 checks to Americans as a response to the ongoing economic of the coronavirus pandemic – citing deficit concerns in the final weeks of the Trump presidency.

He was able to block an effort by Missouri Republican Sen. John Hawley, who teamed with Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders and sought ‘unanimous consent’ to attach the plan to a must-pass bill to keep the government open, with funding set to expire at midnight.

‘I completely support some kind of program targeted for small businesses,’ Johnson said on the Senate floor. ‘So what I fear we’re going to do with this bipartisan package and what the senator from Missouri is talking about is the same thing, is a shotgun approach,’ he said.

He raised deficit concerns and said the checks would be ‘mortgaging our children’s future.’ Congress enacted numerous relief packages totaling trillions before the election, but unemployment and economic pain has persisted amid a continued spike in infections and mandated distancing measures.

The Senator from Missouri asked for unanimous consent and there wasn’t. Good.

Wisconsin COVID19 Cases Are Down 50% Since Recent Peak

Huh… no Thanksgiving spike? Just like no election spike… no Independence Day spike… no Labor Day spike… it’s almost as if the virus doesn’t really give a crap what we do.

New daily COVID-19 cases are down 50% from their peak a month ago in Wisconsin, according to state Department of Health Services data.

And contact tracers can again handle their daily caseloads after being overwhelmed in October and November, DHS Secretary-designee Andrea Palm said in a news conference.

Parents Are Voting with their Feet

As expected.

A new study shows school districts that began the year with virtual education lost more students than districts that began the year with in-person education.

The study, “Opting Out: Enrollment Trends in Response to Continued Public School Shutdowns” by Will Flanders with the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL), said, “Districts with exclusively virtual education saw a 3% decline in enrollment on average relative to other districts in the state.”

School enrollment is down overall as parents deal with difficult choices during the Covid-19 pandemic. On average, according to the study, school districts saw a 2.67% decline in enrollment this year. In previous years the drop was 0.3%.

“Everyone has had to make adjustments due to the pandemic. But the decision of many teachers’ unions to oppose any attempt at in-person learning appears to have consequences,” Flanders said about the study. “Many Wisconsin families have opted out of schools that are not even trying to accommodate in-person learning.”

There were schools that did see an increase in enrollment, virtual charter schools and parental choice schools.

Declining University Funding

Meh.

Wisconsin ranks 41st in the nation for total revenues going to higher education, according to a new report from the non-partisan Wisconsin Policy Forum. It shows the state ranks last in the Midwest.

The study shows that between 2000 and 2019, adjusted state and local tax appropriations per college student dropped from $10,333 to $6,846, which was 16.5 percent below last year’s national average of $8,196.

Between 2011 and 2019, the report shows state and local revenues dropped at the sixth-highest rate in the nation.

[…]

For the UW System, full-time enrollments have dropped by an average of 8.4 percent since a peak of 142,907 in 2010. Enrollments at the state’s two-year colleges fell by more than 47 percent between 2011 and 2019. Last year, two-year UW campuses in Baraboo, Barron County, Manitowoc, Marinette, Marshfield, Richland Center and Sheboygan each enrolled fewer than 300 students.

The report also noted enrollment at the state’s technical colleges has fallen by 22.5 percent since peaking in 2011.

The balance between funding sources is a policy decision. What has happened here is that the UW System has driven up spending despite declining enrollment. State and local lawmakers resisted maintaining the taxpayers’ commitment to the spending and the percentage share declined. For some numbers:

In the 2010-11 operating budget, the UW System spent $5.591 billion to educate 178,909 students. That’s $31,251 per student.

In the 2018-19 operating budget, the UW System spent $6.349 billion to educate 164,494 students. That’s $38,597 per student.

If you want to claim inflation… nope. $31,251 in 2010 inflation-adjusts to $35,988 in 2018. UW is still spending $2,609 more per student for no rational reason at all.

The problem here is just that the UW System spends far too much. They can increase the percentage of public support by just lowering their overall spending. But they won’t… because it’s not about the share of public support. It’s simply about the fact that they want even more money to waste.

 

“Indefinitely Confined” Democratic Elector Experiences Christmas Miracle

Halleluiah.

Democratic State Senator Patricia Schachtner, one of Wisconsin’s ten electors who cast the state’s electoral votes for Joe Biden Monday, claimed that she was “indefinitely confined” to her home ahead of the November election, but pictures posted on her Facebook page show her out and about campaigning and enjoying leisure time away from home.

Schachtner and her husband Joseph appear on the Wisconsin Elections Commission list of nearly 250,000 voters who signed a statement on their mail-in ballots that they were indefinitely confined to their homes because of “because of age, physical illness or infirmity” or if they are “disabled for an indefinite period.”

DWD Still Failing Wisconsin

It’s been nine months and they still aren’t close to handling the workload.

The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development says it’s shrinking the backlog of unpaid unemployment claims, however a second backlog of denied applicants appealing the decision is starting to swell.

In an interview last month, DWD Transition Director Amy Pechacek told the I-Team there were approximately 12,000 claimants waiting on an appeal.

The I-Team received more than a dozen emails from unemployed residents who felt their claim was unfairly denied. Some of them said their hearings are being set months out. Others are still waiting just to get a date, including Dan Cacciotti of Racine.

Make Wisconsin a destination state

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. I continue to charge the windmill of Wisconsin government’s spending problem. Here’s a part:

Wisconsin cannot reduce the cost of government and, subsequently, the cost of living if it does not reduce government spending.

One wonders where all of that spending is going. Both states have world-class public universities, but Texas state taxpayers spend less than 50% per capita on them. Both states have a good transportation infrastructure, but Wisconsin state taxpayers spend 13.8% more per capita. Wisconsin is spending almost 28% more on K-12 education for marginally better results, but the student demographics are drastically different.

Generally, as one goes through the state budget, Wisconsin spends much more on almost everything than other states. It is difficult to see any additional value for all of that additional spending. “Value” should be the word that dominates the upcoming state budget debate. If taxpayers are going to spend 10%, 25%, or 50% more on something than other states, then state politicians should be able to articulate how taxpayers are getting 10%, 25%, or 50% more value for the dollars spent. If they can’t, then the spending is just being wasted.

The upcoming budget session is another opportunity for Wisconsin policy-makers to make the choices that will determine if Wisconsin will ever be a destination state for businesses and workers. If they choose to keep increasing spending because it is the path of least resistance, then businesses and people will continue to relocate into other states and Wisconsin will miss this historic opportunity when businesses are going to be moving more than ever.

Evers Opposes Representative Government

Just consider how authoritarian this perspective is.

Gov. Tony Evers said he’s “concerned” about a GOP proposal to give the Republican-led Legislature oversight of future COVID-19-related spending and the state’s vaccine deployment.

[…]

“Clearly, if you think about over 100 people in the Capitol figuring out who gets the vaccine first or second and so on, that doesn’t even pass the smell test,” Evers said on a media call with reporters Thursday.

So having the legislature weigh in on public policy and how we spend hundreds of millions of dollars “doesn’t even pass the smell test?” These decisions should be made by one man sitting in a mansion on Lake Mendota?

This is a man who doesn’t actually believe in our system of government.

Wisconsinites See Second Highest Tax Hike in Decade from K-12 Schools

And in a year where far too many schools chose not to educate. Unconscionable

Statewide, residents of Wisconsin will see a 3.3% increase in property taxes going towards K-12 schools on their December bills to nearly $5.4 billion. Though this represents a slowdown from the 4.5% growth in 2019, it is still greater than any other year over the past decade. The increase likely reflects the high rate of passage for recent district referenda and – for certain districts at least – increases in state revenue limits for schools.

Evers Hands Out More Cash

It is such bad policy to have a single politician arbitrarily handing out millions and millions of dollars at his sole discretion. It’s a recipe for corruption. It’s not Evers’ fault. It’s how the CARES Act was idiotically structured, but I sure home someone is combing through the campaign and private finances for governors all over the country.

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers today announced that Wisconsin will be making up to $3.25 million of federal Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding available to Wisconsin’s nine ethanol producers. The support aims to help offset some of the significant losses experienced by the industry earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I appreciate the efforts of Wisconsin’s ethanol industry to pivot and respond to the challenges presented by COVID-19,” said Gov. Evers. “Ethanol production is extremely important to a number of supply chains in our state and will be especially critical as we finalize and implement our vaccine distribution plans. I’m proud to support our state’s ethanol producers and continue our commitment to innovation in biofuels.”

Shawano to Return to In-Person Classes

Good!

Multiple parents told Local Five they pulled their children from the Shawano schools so they can attend in person school elsewhere.

Ginger Huntington, another concerned parent and member of Shawano S.O.S. said, “I transferred my daughter to a parochial school. As a ten-year-old, a fifth grader, she was in tears that she could not attend class.”

During the meeting another parent said, “This is not fair to any of these students. You go into this profession to make differences in these children and you are failing them. You are failing them.”

After the community feed back the board discussed the gating criteria used to shut down schools and the board voted on a reopening plan.

Bruce Milavitz a Shawano School Board Member made the motion that said, “All buildings, except the high school, on the 4th [of January], would be five days a week and then on the 19th [of January], when it’s able to start a fresh semester for the high school, we would go in person learning five days a week at the high school”

The school board passed the motion to open the schools in January tonight with plans to revisit the topic during the January 4th school board meeting should things need to change.

Liberty trumps longevity

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Yep… I got the ‘Rona. Here’s a part of my story:

COVID-19 is a nasty disease that is severe or deadly for some people. We need to be careful about spreading it — particularly to people in higher risk categories. But for every story you read about someone who was severely ill or died from COVID-19, there are more than 40 people whose story is more like mine. It was a rough few days and I am fine. That does not include all of the people who have had COVID-19 and did not get tested or never had any symptoms.

The point of the story is not that COVID-19 isn’t serious. It is very serious for a small percentage of people. For most people, however, the risk is a few days of unpleasantness. For most people, a few days of unpleasantness is not worth throwing away our livelihoods, our children’s education, our mental health, our life’s savings, our liberty, or our enjoyment of life. For most people, we have already sacrificed too much of life for so small a risk of death.

Fear is a powerful emotion. Fear is also the emotion most often used to subjugate people. Fear of war. Fear of enemies. Fear of natural disasters. Fear of global warming. Fear of disease. All of these fears have been, and are, used to convince free people to accept more regulation, more restrictions, more government, and less freedom. “It is for your own good,” they coax in soothing tones. “Think of grandma,” they say to stoke your familial loyalties. “You don’t want to get the dreaded virus,” they warn as if the politician has exclusive magic to protect you from disease. Meanwhile, they strip away one more liberty and stick their hand further in your pocket.

2020 election paves road for Wisconsin’s next Republican governor

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

The recounts in Wisconsin have wrapped up and, pending ongoing legal action, the election results will likely be certified soon confirming that Joe Biden has won the state by about 20,000 votes or 0.4% of the voters. The results tell us a lot about the current makeup of the Wisconsin electorate and what the Republicans will need to do to win the governorship in 2022.

The biggest message of the 2020 election is that the Wisconsin electorate is almost perfectly evenly divided. In 2016, Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by about 23,000 votes. In 2020, with about 200,000 more ballots cast, Biden defeated Trump by about 20,000 votes. At the top of the ballot, the state is evenly split.

The state legislative results were less evenly split. The Republicans lost a couple of seats in the state Assembly, but still retain a substantial majority. The Republicans actually gained a couple of seats in the state Senate to give them their largest majority in that house in more than thirty years.

While Democrats will bemoan gerrymandering, those kinds of legislative majorities cannot be drawn by wily cartographers. Those majorities are a reflection of the fact that liberal Democrats have heavily segregated themselves into a few areas of the state and have become far more liberal. In doing so, the Democrats have moved away from middle-class and working- class Wisconsin and become the party of socialists, activists, and white-collar chauvinists who can afford to indulge bad ideas.

The 2020 election also showed that Republicans have made gains in most of the state. Trump increased his margins in the Fox Valley, central Wisconsin, northern Wisconsin, east-central Wisconsin, and in the rapidly growing Racine and Kenosha counties. The Democrats churned out huge vote totals in Dane and Milwaukee counties to win the state for Biden, but lost ground in almost every other area of the state.

In order to win in 2022, the Republican candidate for governor will need to appeal to those same Trump voters with the kitchen table issues that matter. First, a strong economy is good for all Wisconsinites and a strong economy is a diverse economy. Republicans must focus on championing the industries that matter to people who do not live in Madison and who do not have a college degree. Manufacturing, tourism, hospitality, construction, mining, milling, etc. are businesses that have provided family-supporting livelihoods for generations of Wisconsinites.

In particular, Governor Evers has spent the better part of a year ignoring the plight of small businesses with his dictatorial orders. Republicans must fight for the tavern owner in Fifield and the ski hill operator in Wild Rose. Fighting for them does not mean offering them a handout. It means getting government out of the way so that they can make a living.

Many Wisconsinites have seen the indifference of government throughout the ’Rona Recession. While government forced businesses to close and people out of work, many government employees continued to receive their full pay while not having to work. Schools closed, but teachers were paid. University of Wisconsin campuses sent kids home but kept the tuition and housing fees. Wisconsinites do not want to see their fellow citizens suffer, but they do want to see the suffering shared equally by government.

Republicans must work to make government accountable to the people it serves. Many of the people who voted for Trump did so because they felt that their government no longer served them. Republicans must champion government service in the humblest sense of the phrase. Republicans must champion a government that works for the people.

Specifically, too many of the public schools in Wisconsin have shown that their priority is not serving the kids or the community. Their priority is serving the employees and unions. Against the best scientific guidance, too many public schools have whipsawed between models and left parents struggling to educate their own kids while juggling their jobs. Too many public schools have made it clear that education is not really that important and that when there is a health concern, every kid can be left behind.

Republicans should focus on providing educational choices for families when their public school abandons its obligations. School choice, charter schools, virtual academies, homeschool support, etc. are all viable options for families that deserve public funding. Billions of dollars for education. Not one cent for empty schools.

Wisconsinites deserve a pragmatic, frugal, hardworking governor who works for the issues that impact their daily lives. Most Wisconsinites just want to earn a living, provide their kids a good education, enjoy a good fish fry, root for the Packers, and be left alone. The next Republican governor must work for them.

Racine Politicians Infantilize Their Constituents

How about… it’s not the job of a flippin’ alderman to tell his neighbors how, and with whom, to live?

He explained that people have been gathering in groups, especially on holidays, which has led to large spikes in COVID-19 cases.

As a result, Tate said, the city has no alternative but to try to limit the spread in whatever capacity is available.

“Nobody wants to shrink business capacity,” Tate said. “But because people aren’t doing what’s necessary to stop the spread, the only option is where we can’t have them gathering — that’s all that’s left.”

“We talk about people having personal responsibility,” Tate said. “We’re here because people aren’t being personally responsible.”

The arrogance of these people…

According to Bowersox, the real problem is that people are ignoring the guidance of public health officials.

Teachers Unions Really Don’t Want to Educate Kids

They are pretty adamant that their union members are non-essential workers.

“Members of the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association have passed away from complications from COVID-19,” Mizialko said.

She says the union does not intend to comply with the Republican legislation that would put teachers back in classrooms.

“This will not go on on our watch. We will not have our students and families shoved into buildings that are unsafe.”

The bill would require school boards to ensure “all hours of direct pupil instruction are provided by a teacher who is physically located in a school building.”

The Racine Unified School District (RUSD) says they think they can comply with a teacher in the room, but students learning virtually at home, which they were doing earlier in the year.

“They were teaching from their classrooms at their schools in a safe environment while students were safe at home,” said Stacey Tapp of RUSD. “So moving them back to their classrooms wouldn’t be a big switch.”

Bug virtual learning would be a big cost. The bill would require school boards to pay each parent $371 for a semester that is at least 50% virtual.

The Milwaukee School Board estimates that would cost $30 million.

“We would not be able to pay that. We don’t have $30 million. Where would we — where would we get it?”

$371 for a semester is a pittance. When schools decide to close, they are imposing thousands of dollars in costs and lost wages on families who are also paying for the closed schools. Frankly, I don’t thing the GOP bill goes far enough. The purpose of public education is to provide education. If the government schools won’t do it, then shift all of the money to schools that will.

Open Everything and Let People Live Their Lives

I completely agree with Mark Belling.

Those of us who have had it with COVID hijacking our lives (and American life) have weighed the risks and want us to return to “normal.” But the other half thinks we are nuts for “ignoring the science” and risking our lives and doing our part to keep spreading the virus.

So, we have a country, and a state, at odds with one another because we are on different timetables with different perspectives and different priorities. There is only one way to resolve these differences and that is for government to butt out and let people make decisions for themselves. One size fits all never works but it especially doesn’t work when you have a country of two sizes. Businesses that want to open at full capacity ought to be allowed to do so. Those that want to close, or limit their clientele, should be free to do that as well. If public schools want to close because of a virus that doesn’t make kids sick, that’s the prerogative of their school boards. But if private schools in the same community want to stay open because they understand the downside of not educating children is worse than the risks of COVID, they ought to be able to do that as well. That’s why the Racine case headed to the state Supreme Court is so critical. The Racine health department has issued an order closing all schools in the city (and some adjacent to the city) whether they are public or private. Wisconsin Institute For Law And Liberty (WILL) is suing. The right of the leaders of private schools to make their own decisions has to trump the rights of bureaucrats to take away those basic rights. Parents silly enough to send their kids to the mediocre (I am being generous) Racine Unified district have opted to exile them to another year of “virtual learning” in which they are going to fall even farther behind their peers. But the moms and dads who have opted to send their children to private schools shouldn’t be stuck with the decision made by leftist government officials afraid of their COVID shadows.

We all know the risks and ways to mitigate the spread of the virus. If you need to stay home, then do so. You are not harmed if I go to a restaurant with other people who are willing to accept the risk.

Senator Stroebel Replaces Senator Darling on JFC

This is very good news.

Madison, WI – State Sen. Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) released the following statement today after being appointed Senate Vice-Chairman of the Joint Finance Committee:

“I am honored to be appointed to this position and grateful to Majority Leader-elect LeMahieu for this opportunity. Since being appointed to the Joint Finance Committee in 2017, I have advocated for common sense budgeting and fiscal responsibility.

“To taxpayers, I pledge to continue fighting for your interests and the wise stewardship of your hard-earned tax dollars. Decision-makers in Madison need to stay grounded in the realities faced every day by Wisconsin’s workers, farmers, and employers. Those realities will continue to guide my work on the Finance Committee.

“To my colleagues, I will work diligently to represent the interests of our chamber during the budget process. Senate Republicans have a great track record of pushing for more efficient, more effective, and smaller government that spends only what it needs and returns savings to the taxpayers. I look forward to working with each of you to craft the next state budget.

Senator Darling had been drifting more purple as her district has (she was even running ads bragging about how she was responsible for the most spending on government schools in the history of Wisconsin). Stroebel is a smart conservative and we couldn’t ask for a better Senator to help craft the budget.

CORRECTION: I mistook “vice”chair for “co”chair. Stroebel moved up in the leadership, but Senator Marklein actually took Darling’s position. Still… good moves that are good for Wisconsin.

Senator Nygren Steps Down

Wow. Hope everything is OK in the Nygren family. He served Wisconsin well.

MARINETTE – A longtime Republican lawmaker in northeastern Wisconsin will resign from the state Assembly weeks after winning his reelection bid.

State Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, will step down from his seat in the 89th Assembly District effective Wednesday, according to a news release. Nygren has represented the district — which includes portions of Marinette, Oconto and Brown counties — since 2006 and served four terms as co-chair on the powerful Joint Committee on Finance.

2020 election paves road for Wisconsin’s next Republican governor

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

The state legislative results were less evenly split. The Republicans lost a couple of seats in the state Assembly, but still retain a substantial majority. The Republicans actually gained a couple of seats in the state Senate to give them their largest majority in that house in more than thirty years.

While Democrats will bemoan gerrymandering, those kinds of legislative majorities cannot be drawn by wily cartographers. Those majorities are a reflection of the fact that liberal Democrats have heavily segregated themselves into a few areas of the state and have become far more liberal. In doing so, the Democrats have moved away from middle-class and working- class Wisconsin and become the party of socialists, activists, and white-collar chauvinists who can afford to indulge bad ideas.

The 2020 election also showed that Republicans have made gains in most of the state. Trump increased his margins in the Fox Valley, central Wisconsin, northern Wisconsin, east-central Wisconsin, and in the rapidly growing Racine and Kenosha counties. The Democrats churned out huge vote totals in Dane and Milwaukee counties to win the state for Biden, but lost ground in almost every other area of the state.

In order to win in 2022, the Republican candidate for governor will need to appeal to those same Trump voters with the kitchen table issues that matter. First, a strong economy is good for all Wisconsinites and a strong economy is a diverse economy. Republicans must focus on championing the industries that matter to people who do not live in Madison and who do not have a college degree. Manufacturing, tourism, hospitality, construction, mining, milling, etc. are businesses that have provided family-supporting livelihoods for generations of Wisconsinites.

In particular, Governor Evers has spent the better part of a year ignoring the plight of small businesses with his dictatorial orders. Republicans must fight for the tavern owner in Fifield and the ski hill operator in Wild Rose. Fighting for them does not mean offering them a handout. It means getting government out of the way so that they can make a living.

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