Boots & Sabers

The blogging will continue until morale improves...

Tag: Column

Governor Evers maintains light schedule while destroying lives

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News earlier this week:

Actions have consequences, or so goes the adage. For some, however, they can make devastating decisions that impact millions of people without ever feeling the slightest sting from their decisions. Such is the case with Governor Evers and so many other government officials and bureaucrats.

 

Empower Wisconsin obtained Governor Evers’ official schedule through an open records request, and it is appalling. Evers’ schedule shows that the man, lifelong government apparatchik that he is, will never be accused of being a workaholic. His calendar shows that most weeks the governor is averaging a languid schedule of something between 30 and 36 hours of work. “Work” time includes time being transited to and fro in a chauffeured car or on the state plane provided by state taxpayers.

 

A normal workday for Governor Evers has been quite leisurely. He wakes from his nightly slumber in the cavernous and luxurious mansion provided to him by taxpayers overlooking Lake Mendota in the tony community of Poplar Bluff. He typically begins work in the mid-morning with perhaps a phone call or perhaps a video conference in the Executive Mansion. Usually after lunch, he will be chauffeured the 3.4 miles to his office in the state Capital building. Almost without exception, he is back at the mansion by 5 p.m. in time to catch reruns of “The Carol Burnett Show” on Decades TV.

 

It’s good to be the guv.

 

More infuriating than Evers’ semi-retired schedule is the specific schedule he kept during those whirlwind days earlier during the pandemic. In those early days when we were seeing the spread of COVID and getting false projections that it could kill millions within weeks, Governor Evers maintained his normal workload.

 

As Empower Wisconsin highlights, on March 13, 2020, Evers ordered the closing of all K-12 government and private schools. This marked the beginning of educational and psychological damage to our kids that will last for decades and caused untold upheaval in families throughout Wisconsin. On that day Evers started his workday at 9:30, made it to his office at 2 p.m., and was back in the mansion by 5 p.m.

 

On March 23, 2020, Governor Evers announced that he was going to order all “non-essential” business to close the following day. This single authoritarian act forced millions of Wisconsinites out of work, pushed many Wisconsin small businesses into bankruptcy, and brutalized families who lost their source of income with a stroke of Evers’ pen.

 

That day Evers put in a hard day of work — for him. He got up early and began working at 8:30 a.m. He made it to the office at 1:15 p.m. and was still back at the mansion by 5 p.m. He burned the midnight oil with a work call at 6 p.m. before ending his workday.

 

The point of this is not to ridicule our governor for his pathetic work ethic and disinterest in actually doing his job. The point is to highlight how easy the governor has had it while his actions have destroyed livelihoods, crippled kids’ futures, and forced families into dependency.

 

Throughout the pandemic, Governor Evers was never touched by the consequences of his decisions. He never went a single day without a paycheck or generous benefits. He never had to cut back on groceries, turn down the heat in winter, or skip paying a few bills to get by.

 

Governor Evers never felt the pain of a small-business owner who sat at her desk and made the hard decisions to drain her family’s savings to keep the business afloat for another couple of months in the hope that they might be able to make it. Evers never sat across the table from good people and had to take away their livelihoods because there was no more money. The governor was blissfully eating ice cream in his free mansion when single moms went home and had to explain to their children that they needed to save money because she had lost her job.

 

Governor Evers never had to hastily call his parents to watch the kids because schools and child care centers were suddenly closed. He never had to watch his kid, who struggled with school, sink into failure and depression because virtual learning was not working for him. Evers never had to go to work during the pandemic as so many “essential” people did, and then come home and work another four or five hours to help his kids navigate recorded lessons and homework.

 

While Wisconsinites were struggling with Evers’ idiotic and tyrannical edicts during the pandemic, the governor kept his lackadaisical schedule, ate his ice cream, played pickleball, and led his best life at taxpayers’ expense. It is offensive.

 

It is equally offensive that the governor is continuing to dole out our tax dollars in dribs and drabs as “relief” and expects people to be thankful. He behaves like an abusive husband who hands his wife a bandage after beating the snot out of her and expects gratitude. His actions deserve contempt, not appreciation.

 

The pandemic taught us a lot of things about the threadbare parts of our social fabric and the yawning divide between government and the people it is supposed to serve. More than ever, we need to elect people who do not come from government but seek to bring it to heel. We must never forget the havoc wreaked by Governor Evers.

Governor Evers maintains light schedule while destroying lives

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

The point of this is not to ridicule our governor for his pathetic work ethic and disinterest in actually doing his job. The point is to highlight how easy the governor has had it while his actions have destroyed livelihoods, crippled kids’ futures, and forced families into dependency.

 

Throughout the pandemic, Governor Evers was never touched by the consequences of his decisions. He never went a single day without a paycheck or generous benefits. He never had to cut back on groceries, turn down the heat in winter, or skip paying a few bills to get by.

 

Governor Evers never felt the pain of a small-business owner who sat at her desk and made the hard decisions to drain her family’s savings to keep the business afloat for another couple of months in the hope that they might be able to make it. Evers never sat across the table from good people and had to take away their livelihoods because there was no more money. The governor was blissfully eating ice cream in his free mansion when single moms went home and had to explain to their children that they needed to save money because she had lost her job.

 

Governor Evers never had to hastily call his parents to watch the kids because schools and child care centers were suddenly closed. He never had to watch his kid, who struggled with school, sink into failure and depression because virtual learning was not working for him. Evers never had to go to work during the pandemic as so many “essential” people did, and then come home and work another four or five hours to help his kids navigate recorded lessons and homework.

 

While Wisconsinites were struggling with Evers’ idiotic and tyrannical edicts during the pandemic, the governor kept his lackadaisical schedule, ate his ice cream, played pickleball, and led his best life at taxpayers’ expense. It is offensive.

 

It is equally offensive that the governor is continuing to dole out our tax dollars in dribs and drabs as “relief” and expects people to be thankful. He behaves like an abusive husband who hands his wife a bandage after beating the snot out of her and expects gratitude. His actions deserve contempt, not appreciation.

Terrible school performance demands real action

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

In this column last week, I lamented the abysmal performance of our government schools. At all levels, barely a third of our kids are at least proficient in language or math skills. In some cases, it is far less than a third. Such poor performance demands action. What would I do? I’m glad you asked.

 

Before we begin, we must understand a few things. We, the people, have a Constitutional and moral obligation to provide for the education of our children. An education is not only a valuable asset for an individual, but an educated citizenry is a prerequisite for sustained self-governance.

 

There is no requirement, however, that the government operate the means of delivering that education. In fact, as the data shows, the government is really terrible at delivering education. While we are compelled to pay for education with our tax dollars, we are also obligated to find the best means of delivering that education.

 

Also, kids are individuals. They are not cattle. They learn at different speeds, with different methods, and with different styles. It is unrealistic to expect any single school to cater to the individual needs of students. Our kids are better served if we encourage the development of an educational heterogeny and trust parents to choose the best option for their children. All that understood, first, we must implement universal school choice with equal funding for each child irrespective of the school they attend. In Wisconsin’s current School Choice programs, taxpayers get a bargain because they provide much less money for a kid who attends a choice school than if the kid attends a government school. We must equalize funding to equalize choice. The current rate in Wisconsin is $16,017 per child. The full funding should follow the child.

 

Next, we should implement rigorous, focused, testing of core subjects for all schools that receive funding. The taxpayers are paying for a quality education and deserve to know that their money is being well spent. The key, however, is that the testing must only test true core subjects and not impose any other strictures on the schools. If 70% of the children are proficient in reading, writing, math, and civics, then that is more than twice as good as the current government schools are delivering. We should use the power of the purse to demand very high standards in a very limited number of key subjects.

 

Once the funding and testing infrastructure is in place, Wisconsin should privatize all K-12 government schools. All of them. We should get government out of the business of delivering education.

 

When I have suggested privatization in the past, people tend to have one of two sincere reservations. Some folks worry about for-profit schools. We have been culturalized to think that profit is incongruous with education. It is not. Capitalism and the profit motive have improved the lives of more people than any other system in the history of humankind. They have lifted people out of poverty and cured diseases. Education is not immune from its benefits. From a taxpayer perspective, if a school can deliver 96% reading proficiency and make a profit, we should be delighted.

 

Some folks also worry about schools that may teach values with which they disagree. They usually ignore the fact that our government schools are already teaching values with which many disagree, thus instigating controversy. Privatization must come with getting government away from dictating values and relegate it to simply enforcing core standards.

 

With diversity of schools, we may have schools that teach values rooted in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Critical Race Theory, secularism, or any number of different value systems. We have a diverse society, and that diversity will be reflected in our schools. Families will choose and government will leave them alone to believe what they will. We should abandon the notion that we must have uniformity of beliefs in order to have uniformity in education funding. If we truly believe in diversity, then we must actually practice it.

 

In all actions, we must be obsessive about educational outcomes and unapologetic about demanding them. If we can double proficiency in reading, writing, and math, our children will be equipped to build better futures for themselves and our entire society will benefit. If we can triple proficiency (sadly, there is room to triple it), the individual and societal benefits are immeasurable.

 

That is what I would do. What would you do to improve education for our kids?

Terrible school performance demands real action

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Readers of this blog won’t be surprised by the thoughts. Here’s a bit:

Also, kids are individuals. They are not cattle. They learn at different speeds, with different methods, and with different styles. It is unrealistic to expect any single school to cater to the individual needs of students. Our kids are better served if we encourage the development of an educational heterogeny and trust parents to choose the best option for their children. All that understood, first, we must implement universal school choice with equal funding for each child irrespective of the school they attend. In Wisconsin’s current School Choice programs, taxpayers get a bargain because they provide much less money for a kid who attends a choice school than if the kid attends a government school. We must equalize funding to equalize choice. The current rate in Wisconsin is $16,017 per child. The full funding should follow the child.

 

Next, we should implement rigorous, focused, testing of core subjects for all schools that receive funding. The taxpayers are paying for a quality education and deserve to know that their money is being well spent. The key, however, is that the testing must only test true core subjects and not impose any other strictures on the schools. If 70% of the children are proficient in reading, writing, math, and civics, then that is more than twice as good as the current government schools are delivering. We should use the power of the purse to demand very high standards in a very limited number of key subjects.

 

Once the funding and testing infrastructure is in place, Wisconsin should privatize all K-12 government schools. All of them. We should get government out of the business of delivering education.

 

When I have suggested privatization in the past, people tend to have one of two sincere reservations. Some folks worry about for-profit schools. We have been culturalized to think that profit is incongruous with education. It is not. Capitalism and the profit motive have improved the lives of more people than any other system in the history of humankind. They have lifted people out of poverty and cured diseases. Education is not immune from its benefits. From a taxpayer perspective, if a school can deliver 96% reading proficiency and make a profit, we should be delighted.

Step 1: Admit that you have a problem

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News this week. It is particularly apropos in light of the state DPI releasing their budget request asking for more and more money.

The data is telling. The more we have spent on K-12 education, the worse the results have gotten. If we are to make data-driven decisions, there are only two conclusions. 1) There is no correlation between money spent and educational outcomes. The outcomes are a result of other inputs. 2) There is a negative correlation between money spent and educational outcomes. More money actually results in poorer outcomes.

Personally, I think the answer is #2. Here’s why: once basic needs are funded (we did that a long time ago), more money becomes a distraction from core education. Every administrator, department, specialist, etc. who is hired is looking for something to do. They create new curriculum, new programs, change standards, create study committees, have meetings, and on and on and on. All of that is time that is not being spent in classrooms teaching core subjects in proven ways.

This happens in corporate America too. When companies get fat, they spend a lot of time-wasting energy around the edges of their core businesses and profits erode. That’s why the market tends to love it when a company cuts fat in a deep layoff.

Anyway, here’s the column. Look at the data:

The first step in the renowned twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous is to admit that you have a problem. One cannot begin the path to recovery if one does not admit to having a problem. Well, Wisconsin has a huge problem. Our government education system is utterly failing our kids and it is getting worse every year. Our governor, Tony Evers, with a lifetime spent in government education, accepts such failure as normal and acceptable. It is not.

 

According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, every significant benchmark of student achievement is in freefall since well before the abysmal response of government schools accelerated the decline. Student proficiency on the ACT is down.

 

Between 2016-2017 and 2020-2021, the percentage of Wisconsin eleventh graders who were proficient or better on the English language arts part of the ACT, which measures understanding of English, writing, and knowledge of language, dropped from 39.5% to 33%. That is a 16.4% drop in scores in five years.

 

Math scores are even worse. Over the same time span, the percentage of Wisconsin’s eleventh graders who were proficient or better at mathematics dropped from 35.7% to 25.5%. That is a 28.6% drop in proficiency in just five years.

 

The story is the same for the ACT Aspire, which is given to ninth and tenth graders. Proficiency in English dropped from 41.2% to 32.4% between 2016-2017 and 2020-2021. In Mathematics, proficiency dropped from 37.1% to 29.8%. Those are declines of 21.4% and 19.7%, respectively.

 

Looking at the younger students between third and eight grades who take the Forward exams, the decline remains consistent and persistent. On the Forward exam over the same five years, the number of students who were proficient or better in English language arts declined 24.1% from 44.4% to 33.7%. In mathematics, their scores declined 21.5% from 42.8% to 33.6%.

 

But let us step back from the cold numbers for a moment and put them in perspective. The fact than only 33.7% of Wisconsin’s students between third and eighth grades are at least proficient in English language arts is abysmal. According to the DPI, the Forward Exam tests what, “students should know and be able to do in order to be college and career ready.” That means that barely a third of Wisconsin’s students are meeting grade-level standards to be ready to attend college or start a career. Only one in three of Wisconsin’s kids are proficient in English or math — two key skills for success as an adult.

 

What the heck are we doing? Is that really good enough? Two-thirds of our kids are falling behind and we collectively shrug and accept it? Have we been so cowed by the government education bullies that we are willing to accept that their failure is normal and satisfactory?

 

Our governor thinks it is. On his campaign website, he brags about his accomplishments on education. As proof, he noticeably fails to mention anything about student achievement. Instead, he cites the fact that the state spends more money than ever on K-12 education. If the spending is not resulting on better results for our kids, then what is the point?

 

In fact, the more we spend, the worse our student achievement is getting. According to DPI data, between the 2016-2017 and 2020-2021 school years, total state and local spending on government K-12 schools ballooned 14.8% from $11.5 billion to $13.2 billion. Over the same period, total enrollment declined 3.6% from 855,307 to 823,827 students. That is a whopping 19% increase in spending per student over just five years.

 

What are we getting for our money? Why are we continuing to pump more money into government bureaucracy who produces increasingly poor results every year? Governor Tony Evers recently announced that he wants to spend an additional $2 billion on K-12 schools. Given that a $1.7 billion increase in spending over the last five years resulted in a 24.1% drop in English scores on the Forward exam, will another $2 billion push scores down further?

 

Like any addiction, spending more money on it makes it worse because the spending obscures the real problems. In Wisconsin, we have been failing our kids and making ourselves feel better about it by spending more money on them. They do not need more money. They need a quality education and our government education establishment is increasingly unable or unwilling to give them that education.

 

It is time to stop. Stop the excessive spending. Stop the pretending that our government education system works. Stop accepting abysmal performance as normal or acceptable. Stop rewarding failure. Admit that we have a real problem and we are failing our kids at every grade level.

 

We cannot begin on the path to fixing our government education system until we admit that it has failed. As a lifelong insider of that system, Governor Tony Evers is never going to take the first step to recovery. We need a governor who will.

 

We need a governor who will focus on outcomes instead of inputs. We need a governor who will value our kids more than the system. Let me rephrase that … our kids need a governor who will value them more than government workers. Tony Evers is not that governor.

Step 1: Admit that you have a problem

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

The first step in the renowned twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous is to admit that you have a problem. One cannot begin the path to recovery if one does not admit to having a problem. Well, Wisconsin has a huge problem. Our government education system is utterly failing our kids and it is getting worse every year. Our governor, Tony Evers, with a lifetime spent in government education, accepts such failure as normal and acceptable. It is not.

 

According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, every significant benchmark of student achievement is in freefall since well before the abysmal response of government schools accelerated the decline. Student proficiency on the ACT is down.

 

Between 2016-2017 and 2020-2021, the percentage of Wisconsin eleventh graders who were proficient or better on the English language arts part of the ACT, which measures understanding of English, writing, and knowledge of language, dropped from 39.5% to 33%. That is a 16.4% drop in scores in five years.

 

Math scores are even worse…

 

[…]

 

But let us step back from the cold numbers for a moment and put them in perspective. The fact than only 33.7% of Wisconsin’s students between third and eighth grades are at least proficient in English language arts is abysmal. According to the DPI, the Forward Exam tests what, “students should know and be able to do in order to be college and career ready.” That means that barely a third of Wisconsin’s students are meeting grade-level standards to be ready to attend college or start a career. Only one in three of Wisconsin’s kids are proficient in English or math — two key skills for success as an adult.

 

What the heck are we doing? Is that really good enough? Two-thirds of our kids are falling behind and we collectively shrug and accept it? Have we been so cowed by the government education bullies that we are willing to accept that their failure is normal and satisfactory?

 

Our governor thinks it is. On his campaign website, he brags about his accomplishments on education. As proof, he noticeably fails to mention anything about student achievement. Instead, he cites the fact that the state spends more money than ever on K-12 education. If the spending is not resulting on better results for our kids, then what is the point?

 

[…]

 

Like any addiction, spending more money on it makes it worse because the spending obscures the real problems. In Wisconsin, we have been failing our kids and making ourselves feel better about it by spending more money on them. They do not need more money. They need a quality education and our government education establishment is increasingly unable or unwilling to give them that education.

 

It is time to stop. Stop the excessive spending. Stop the pretending that our government education system works. Stop accepting abysmal performance as normal or acceptable. Stop rewarding failure. Admit that we have a real problem and we are failing our kids at every grade level.

The great othering of the American right

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

There he was. The president of the United States of America. Standing in front of our Independence Hall bathed in blood-red light of Soviet imagery and flanked by two uniformed Marines. With two fists raised, Joe Biden declared that millions of Americans who disagree with him are not only wrong, but they are angry extremists who they must be suppressed.

 

Like so many authoritarians before him, Biden and his administration have launched a concerted effort to other anyone who disagrees with the regime’s political and cultural orthodoxy. Biden and his leftist supporters are going well beyond simple argument in their attempt to dehumanize and delegitimize anyone who disagrees with them. We have crossed another mile marker on the path to tyranny.

 

Biden said, “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.” He went on to say, “MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution, do not believe in the rule of law,” and, “I agree Republicans have made their choice. They embrace anger. They thrive on chaos. They live not in the light of truth but in the shadow of lies.”

 

By Biden’s rhetoric, it would be irresponsible and dangerous to let such people govern. If true, then such people should never be allowed to hold the reins of power because they lack the legitimacy to govern, right? Lest you think that Biden is only talking about a small sliver of the Republican Party, his administration has made it clear that “MAGA Republicans” is a distinction with an amorphous definition that is stretched to include anyone who disagrees with the regime.

 

Before the speech, the president’s press secretary said, “what the president said … was that when it comes to MAGA Republicans, when it comes to the extreme ultra wing of Republicans, they are attacking democracy. Right? They are attacking, taking away rights and freedoms,” and, “When you are not with where a majority of Americans are, then you know, that is extreme. That is an extreme way of thinking.’

 

By the Biden administration’s own words, anyone who supported Trump or anyone who has views that are not whatever the Biden administration declares to be the majority opinion is now “extreme.” It does not seem to occur to them that with an approval rating hovering below 40%, Biden’s own supporters would be considered “extreme” by that definition.

 

This attack from the Biden White House is no idle threat. We have seen how the Biden administration, like the Obama administration before it, has weaponized the federal bureaucracy against opponents. The FBI has now been caught interfering in multiple federal elections by colluding with Big Tech, suppressing information that would be damaging to leftists, and targeting conservatives. The IRS was forced to apologize for targeting conservative groups. If you think that the 87,000 new IRS employees that were just authorized by Biden will not be used to target conservatives even more, you are naive.

 

Days before Biden’s Blood Speech, he mocked supporters of the Second Amendment, saying, “for those brave right-wing Americans … if you want to fight against the country, you need a F15.” As commander of the Armed Forces, the cavalier suggestion that he would unleash the military on Americans is chilling.

 

This is not about Trump. The same rhetoric is happening right here in Wisconsin. The state’s largest newspaper published a scathing attack piece against Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels for donating large sums of his personal wealth to Catholic and Protestant churches. Because those churches do not agree with the leftist orthodoxy, Michels’ support was demonized, and Governor Evers has labeled Michels an extremist. If you attend a mainstream church and put a few bucks in the collection plate, are you an extremist? Biden and Evers think you are.

 

This is not about whether you supported Trump or not. This is about an America where we are allowed to have and express different viewpoints and values, and when we win elections, we are allowed to govern according to those values. Biden and the leftist regime are attempting to redefine all political opponents as extremists who lack legitimacy to have their voices heard or to govern. This othering of the American right by Biden creates a justification for Biden and other leftists to silence, suppress, and oppress political opponents with the full force of the government under the banner of “saving democracy.” It is un-American.

 

We must not let this stand. Vote. Vote as if our republic depends on it.

 

It does.

The great othering of the American right

I had to submit my column for next week early because of the long weekend and they put it in the paper today. Here’s a part of my early column in the Washington County Daily News.

There he was. The president of the United States of America. Standing in front of our Independence Hall bathed in blood-red light of Soviet imagery and flanked by two uniformed Marines. With two fists raised, Joe Biden declared that millions of Americans who disagree with him are not only wrong, but they are angry extremists who they must be suppressed.

 

Like so many authoritarians before him, Biden and his administration have launched a concerted effort to other anyone who disagrees with the regime’s political and cultural orthodoxy. Biden and his leftist supporters are going well beyond simple argument in their attempt to dehumanize and delegitimize anyone who disagrees with them. We have crossed another mile marker on the path to tyranny.

 

Biden said, “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.” He went on to say, “MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution, do not believe in the rule of law,” and, “I agree Republicans have made their choice. They embrace anger. They thrive on chaos. They live not in the light of truth but in the shadow of lies.”

 

By Biden’s rhetoric, it would be irresponsible and dangerous to let such people govern. If true, then such people should never be allowed to hold the reins of power because they lack the legitimacy to govern, right? Lest you think that Biden is only talking about a small sliver of the Republican Party, his administration has made it clear that “MAGA Republicans” is a distinction with an amorphous definition that is stretched to include anyone who disagrees with the regime.

 

[…]

 

This is not about whether you supported Trump or not. This is about an America where we are allowed to have and express different viewpoints and values, and when we win elections, we are allowed to govern according to those values. Biden and the leftist regime are attempting to redefine all political opponents as extremists who lack legitimacy to have their voices heard or to govern. This othering of the American right by Biden creates a justification for Biden and other leftists to silence, suppress, and oppress political opponents with the full force of the government under the banner of “saving democracy.” It is un-American.

Tax increases coming in conservative Washington County

Here is my full column that ran earlier this week in the Washington County Daily News:

What is going on in Washington County? The county that brags about being the most conservative county in the state is awash with proposals for massive tax increases. Several local governments and the county itself are lining up for huge tax increases during a recession when inflation is raging out of control. The numbers always tell the story. Let us dig a little into the numbers of Washington County, the city of West Bend, and the West Bend School District.

 

Washington County has put a referendum on the ballot this November asking the voters if they should increase the property tax levy by 9.9% to add positions to the Sheriff’s Department. County officials are selling the tax increase as necessary to combat an increase in crime and drug use that is spilling over the border from Milwaukee. Officials are also selling the notion that the tax levy rate will still decrease even with the increase. Free money, right?

 

Looking into the numbers, the crime and drug issues are certainly real. The portrayal of the budget is not. According to county budget information, in 2010 the county spent $118.38 million. The proposed 2023 budget is $135.37 million. That is a spending increase of 14.3% over the period. Over the same period, the county’s population increased by 4.5% according to U.S. Census data. The county has been increasing spending faster than the underlying population it serves has been growing. County officials are correct that the property tax rate has been decreasing for several years. How have they pulled off an increase in spending with a decrease in taxes? The answer is twofold. First, while the levy rate has been decreasing, the property values that it taxes have been increasing. Second, the county has been more and more reliant on the county sales tax. According to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, per-capita county sales tax collections in Washington County have increased by a whopping 63% between 2010 and 2021.

 

Washington County has been more frugal than most governments, but that is like bragging about being the smartest Bears fan.

 

The city of West Bend rejected the idea of putting a referendum on the ballot to ask for a big tax increase, but that is only because they chose to consider increasing taxes on their own authority. In West Bend’s case, they are arguing that they need to enact a huge tax increase to improve the roads. The numbers argue against giving them more money to spend.

 

In 2016, the earliest year for which city officials have chosen to publish numbers on their website, the city’s operating budget general fund spent $21.4 million. In 2022, that budget is $25.8 million. That is a 20.5% increase in spending in six years. Over the same period, the city’s population grew a negligible 0.08% from 31,702 to 31,727 according to census data. A city taxpayer might ask where all of that increased spending has been going if not to repair the roads.

 

The West Bend School District is in the beginning stages of thinking about asking the taxpayers for more money in a referendum as early as April of next year. As in previous referendum attempts, the school district will want to spend more money on facilities and will paint the scary picture of students being educated in unsafe conditions. Again, the numbers tell a story.

 

According to data from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, in fiscal year 2013, the West Bend School District spent $76.01 million. In fiscal year 2021, they spent $87.03 million. That is an increase of 14.5%. At the same time, the district saw enrollment decline 16% from 6,952 to 5,824 students according to the district’s own figures. Increasing spending in the face of declining enrollment resulted in a per-student increase in district spending of 36.7% over the last ten years. Again, a prudent district taxpayer might ask where all of that money is going if not to ensure that the students are receiving a quality education in a safe environment.

 

If there was any time when conservative elected leaders should be standing up for taxpayers, this is it. The taxpayers’ family budgets are already being squeezed from all directions. Conservative elected leaders should start from the position that the government has enough money and budget from there.

Tax increases coming in conservative Washington County

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

What is going on in Washington County? The county that brags about being the most conservative county in the state is awash with proposals for massive tax increases. Several local governments and the county itself are lining up for huge tax increases during a recession when inflation is raging out of control. The numbers always tell the story. Let us dig a little into the numbers of Washington County, the city of West Bend, and the West Bend School District.

 

Washington County has put a referendum on the ballot this November asking the voters if they should increase the property tax levy by 9.9% to add positions to the Sheriff’s Department. County officials are selling the tax increase as necessary to combat an increase in crime and drug use that is spilling over the border from Milwaukee. Officials are also selling the notion that the tax levy rate will still decrease even with the increase. Free money, right?

 

Looking into the numbers, the crime and drug issues are certainly real. The portrayal of the budget is not. According to county budget information, in 2010 the county spent $118.38 million. The proposed 2023 budget is $135.37 million. That is a spending increase of 14.3% over the period. Over the same period, the county’s population increased by 4.5% according to U.S. Census data. The county has been increasing spending faster than the underlying population it serves has been growing. County officials are correct that the property tax rate has been decreasing for several years. How have they pulled off an increase in spending with a decrease in taxes? The answer is twofold. First, while the levy rate has been decreasing, the property values that it taxes have been increasing. Second, the county has been more and more reliant on the county sales tax. According to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, per-capita county sales tax collections in Washington County have increased by a whopping 63% between 2010 and 2021.

 

Washington County has been more frugal than most governments, but that is like bragging about being the smartest Bears fan.

A Year on the Move

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

“A man who has lived in many different places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village.”– C.S. Lewis 

 

Last weekend my wife and I cruised our boat into the welcoming harbor in Port Washington. We had been gone for 379 days cruising America’s Great Loop. We traveled 6,425.9 miles through 17 states and three countries at an average speed of 9.05 miles per hour. We anchored in remote tidal creeks and behind the Statue of Liberty. We listened to the dolphins breathe as we celebrated the dawn of the new year behind Sanibel Island. We dodged the bustling tow boats in the Port of St. Louis on the Mighty Mississippi. We met thousands of people from all walks of life in hundreds of places. Along the way, I learned, or relearned, a few things.

 

Throughout our travels, we discussed politics with other people exactly zero times. It just does not come up that often in regular life. Instead, we talked about weather, family, traveling, local events, the rising price of everything, work, boats, jokes, and a hundred other things, but not politics. As someone who spends probably too much time involved with politics, it was revealing how few other people were interested. People are busy living and concerned with the things that impact their lives. Politicians would do well to remember that.

 

People are generally good. They are friendly, earnest, helpful, generous, curious, honest, and caring. In times of trouble, most people are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to help. They are tolerant and welcoming. Outside of the cities, much of the business of America is still done with a handshake. Observing America through our news and social media filters is to miss how much of real America lies beyond the horizon of those lenses. Americans work hard. Very hard. To travel the inland rivers of our nation is to see an older, more industrial side. The rivers are where great, heavy things are moved about and where the mines, quarries, and farms drain into the arteries of our economy. The knowledge economy is important, but it exists because of the muscle and sweat of hard people who do hard things.

 

Because many of the businesses we visited were generally declared “nonessential” during the national psychotic episode of COVID, we were witness to the devastating impact of those political decisions. Marina, restaurant, and shop workers gleefully welcomed us as their businesses struggled to groan back to life. We found many places closed forever, and all because some politician whose paychecks never stopped coming deemed some people’s livelihoods to be nonessential.

 

Our world is truly a diverse and beautiful place. From the Canadian fjords to the Great Dismal Swamp to the Big Muddy to the turquoise waters of the Bahamas, God created a truly wonderful place for us to live. As humans, we have a responsibility to conserve and protect our planet. From a public policy perspective, we must do so with common sense and a balance for the necessities of human progress. From an individual perspective, we must take personal responsibility to ensure that we do not unnecessarily damage our wonderful planet.

 

People throughout our great nation are delightfully unique while being manifestly the same. People love their families, celebrate their community’s history, brag about their local ice cream shop (“it’s the best you’ll find”), gripe about the weather, and chortle at a good joke. While we may speak with different accents and eat different foods, Americans are unified in their decency and common sense.

 

The wanderlust has always been strong in my bloodline. I firmly believe in the value of travel for travel’s sake. One does not have to go anywhere fancy or expensive, but one does have to go where someone is not to see and do things that one has not seen or done. Appreciate and enjoy places and people for what and who they are and not what or who they are not. There is no greater teacher than experience.

 

Finally, while travel is good for the mind and the soul, there truly is no place like home. While we have seen many wonders over this last year, Wisconsin can hold its own with any of them. The towering, tasseled corn, the smell of fish frying on a Friday night, the spirited barroom predictions about the upcoming Packers season, the stoic bluffs of Lake Michigan, and, of course, the best local ice cream make Wisconsin a cherished home.

 

By all means, go see the world, but never stop appreciating where the good Lord planted you.

A Year on the Move

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

“A man who has lived in many different places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village.” – C.S. Lewis 

 

Last weekend my wife and I cruised our boat into the welcoming harbor in Port Washington. We had been gone for 379 days cruising America’s Great Loop. We traveled 6,425.9 miles through 17 states and three countries at an average speed of 9.05 miles per hour. We anchored in remote tidal creeks and behind the Statue of Liberty. We listened to the dolphins breathe as we celebrated the dawn of the new year behind Sanibel Island. We dodged the bustling tow boats in the Port of St. Louis on the Mighty Mississippi. We met thousands of people from all walks of life in hundreds of places. Along the way, I learned, or relearned, a few things.

 

Throughout our travels, we discussed politics with other people exactly zero times. It just does not come up that often in regular life. Instead, we talked about weather, family, traveling, local events, the rising price of everything, work, boats, jokes, and a hundred other things, but not politics. As someone who spends probably too much time involved with politics, it was revealing how few other people were interested. People are busy living and concerned with the things that impact their lives. Politicians would do well to remember that.

 

People are generally good. They are friendly, earnest, helpful, generous, curious, honest, and caring. In times of trouble, most people are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to help. They are tolerant and welcoming. Outside of the cities, much of the business of America is still done with a handshake. Observing America through our news and social media filters is to miss how much of real America lies beyond the horizon of those lenses. Americans work hard. Very hard. To travel the inland rivers of our nation is to see an older, more industrial side. The rivers are where great, heavy things are moved about and where the mines, quarries, and farms drain into the arteries of our economy. The knowledge economy is important, but it exists because of the muscle and sweat of hard people who do hard things.

Attorney General Josh Kaul’s terrible tenure

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

The races for governor and U.S. Senate are sure to dominate the attention of most voters this November, and rightfully so, but there are also other important choices for the voters including that of attorney general. Josh Kaul has used the office as a platform for activism and fallen well short of his duty to Wisconsin as the state’s top law enforcement officer. Voters would do well to ensure that he is not allowed to continue his malfeasance for a second term.

 

Josh Kaul, the son of the late disgraced former Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, was narrowly elected in the blue wave election of 2018. He was elected with less than 50% of the vote and defeated his Republican opponent by a scant 0.65%. Despite his narrow plurality win, Kaul has used every tool in the attorney general’s box to advocate for his leftist causes at taxpayer expense. Meanwhile, he has failed to fulfill the basic duties of the job to fight crime.

 

Let us start with some of the things that Kaul has been spending his time on instead of prosecuting criminals. In the wake of the United States Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Kaul announced that his office — the people’s office — would not prosecute anyone who violated Wisconsin’s abortion laws. Whatever one thinks about the law, it is a constitutional law that was passed by a duly elected legislature and signed into law by a duly elected governor (a Democrat, no less). Kaul has a sworn duty to uphold the laws of the state. Kaul has gone a step further and is suing the Republican leadership in the state Senate over Wisconsin’s abortion law arguing that it is unenforceable. Instead of spending his time and the taxpayers’ resources on fighting crime, Kaul is taking it upon himself to sue to change laws with which he does not agree. Kaul is not a participant in the law-making structure of government. The attorney general is supposed to be the people’s prosecutor and enforce the people’s laws. Instead, he is trying to usurp the power of the people to pass laws with the courts.

 

This is not the only issue on which Kaul is spending his time and the people’s resources to engage in leftist activism. Kaul has been a vocal advocate for curtailing civil rights with more restrictive gun laws. He has advocated for legalizing marijuana despite the disastrous consequences we see ravaging other states that have legalized it. Kaul has used his office to defend the bureaucratic dismantling of our elections laws that leave Wisconsin open to sloppy and fraudulent elections. Kaul is a busy guy, but he is not busy doing the things that Wisconsin needs done.

 

While Kaul has been acting as the state’s top activist, he has been failing as the state’s top cop. Under his tenure, he has left dozens of state prosecutor jobs unfilled. Fewer prosecutors leads to fewer prosecutions and Kaul has been engaging in his personal “defund the police” action.

 

The State Crime Lab, which former Attorney General Brad Schimel fixed, has fallen victim to Kaul’s neglect. The turnaround time for routine lab tests has increased by over 30% since Kaul took office. His mismanagement of the State Crime Lab means that criminals are staying on the street longer as police wait anxiously for the evidence they need to arrest them.

 

The evidence of Kaul’s dereliction is in the crime data. According to FBI crime statistics, Wisconsin’s violent crime rate in 2020 was the highest it had been in 35 years. Milwaukee has already had over 500 non-fatal shootings and over 130 homicides this year. The carnage is real. While Kaul is using his office to advocate for leftist causes, his failures in running the Department of Justice are being measured in dead bodies and ruined lives.

 

Wisconsin needs an attorney general who will work tirelessly to enforce the laws of the state and put criminals in jail. Josh Kaul has proven time and time again that he will prioritize his personal political causes over that of the people of Wisconsin every time.

Attorney General Josh Kaul’s terrible tenure

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

Josh Kaul, the son of the late disgraced former Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, was narrowly elected in the blue wave election of 2018. He was elected with less than 50% of the vote and defeated his Republican opponent by a scant 0.65%. Despite his narrow plurality win, Kaul has used every tool in the attorney general’s box to advocate for his leftist causes at taxpayer expense. Meanwhile, he has failed to fulfill the basic duties of the job to fight crime.

 

[…]

 

While Kaul has been acting as the state’s top activist, he has been failing as the state’s top cop. Under his tenure, he has left dozens of state prosecutor jobs unfilled. Fewer prosecutors leads to fewer prosecutions and Kaul has been engaging in his personal “defund the police” action.

 

The State Crime Lab, which former Attorney General Brad Schimel fixed, has fallen victim to Kaul’s neglect. The turnaround time for routine lab tests has increased by over 30% since Kaul took office. His mismanagement of the State Crime Lab means that criminals are staying on the street longer as police wait anxiously for the evidence they need to arrest them.

 

The evidence of Kaul’s dereliction is in the crime data. According to FBI crime statistics, Wisconsin’s violent crime rate in 2020 was the highest it had been in 35 years. Milwaukee has already had over 500 non-fatal shootings and over 130 homicides this year. The carnage is real. While Kaul is using his office to advocate for leftist causes, his failures in running the Department of Justice are being measured in dead bodies and ruined lives.

 

Wisconsin needs an attorney general who will work tirelessly to enforce the laws of the state and put criminals in jail. Josh Kaul has proven time and time again that he will prioritize his personal political causes over that of the people of Wisconsin every time.

 

On Abortion

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

We are already seeing some states move to change their abortion laws after the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The Indiana legislature is on the cusp of making abortion illegal except in cases of rape, incest, or life of the mother. In Kansas, the citizens voted to keep language in their state Constitution that keeps abortion legal before twenty weeks. In Wisconsin, abortion is already illegal except in cases where the pregnancy endangers the mother’s life and there does not appear to be any legislative appetite to change the law.

 

When the federal Supreme Court usurped the power of the states to regulate abortion, the public debate devolved into a robotic caricature of a discussion. Now that we, the People, will need to put in the heavy effort of deciding what our abortion laws should be through the rigorous legislative process, that debate should be joined in good faith with respect for our fellow citizens’ perspective. Herein I give explanation for why I oppose abortion in almost every circumstance and believe it to be the duty of government to protect people irrespective of their size or dependency.

 

Our nation’s Declaration of Independence set forth that we are all created equal and, “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life.” Our United States Constitution went on to protect people from being deprived of life without the due process of law in the fifth and fourteenth amendments. Both documents are based on a fundamental understanding of Natural Rights.

 

Natural rights are universal and inalienable. They are not dependent on government, laws, customs, traditions, or societal norms. They are rights that are embedded in the very essence of humanity and are enjoyed by each individual irrespective of age, color, creed, nationality, gender, or station. The just duty of government is to protect those rights from being infringed upon by others and to regulate the outcome of when two rights collide.

 

The most precious Natural Right is the right to live. Life is the right from which all other Natural Rights flow. The only real question regarding abortion, then, is to determine when life begins, for once we have determined that a life has begun, it is incumbent on us to protect that life through the power of government.

 

Fortunately, here in the 22nd century, the mysteries of reproduction and gestation have been largely solved. Once an egg is fertilized, a unique DNA is created and cells begin to multiply until they form a human that we would recognize. Some would pinpoint the start of life at when the heartbeat starts, or when brain activity begins, or when the baby would be viable outside of the womb. Some would allow abortion even in the moments after birth under the argument that the baby is still woefully dependent on the mother. That is the same argument that could be made for infanticide well into the toddler years.

 

For me, the most ethical and logical point at which to mark the start of life is when that unique DNA is created. That is when there is a unique life. There is clearly nothing separate from the parents before that moment and there is someone unique after it. While one could argue that life begins at a more viable state, each of those benchmarks seem arbitrary. Our moral, ethical, and legal obligation to protect life should make us err, if we are to err, on the side of prudence. It is better to accidentally protect people’s pre-lives than it is to intentionally kill them.

 

With life beginning at fertilization, we must structure our laws to protect those lives. In the case of a mother not wanting a baby, we come into a conflict of the rights of two individuals. The baby has a right to life. The mother has a right to bodily autonomy. In such cases of conflict, we make laws to decide the best, least harmful, outcome. In no other area of law do we permit the killing of one individual to protect the bodily autonomy of another. Neither should we in this case. The consequences for the mother are significant, but the consequences for the baby are cataclysmic. In such cases, we must protect the life of the baby even though its very existence imposes obligations and consequences on the mother.

 

We must also remember that creating a new life is a joyous event — even when it is unplanned. A great many of us were not planned and we, and our mothers, went on to enjoy full, wonderful lives. If the mother does not want the baby after it is born, there are families ready to welcome a new baby and the mother can move on with her life. Any social stigmas of unplanned babies are largely extinct. Also, it must be added, that in an age of DNA, there is no excuse to not identify the father and ensure that he is equally accountable for the wellbeing of the child. Some of the best dads did not plan to be one. Both parents deserve to be treated with compassion.

 

The decision to have a child or not does not happen after conception. It happens before having sex. The decision to use birth control greatly diminishes the likelihood of creating another human, but there is still a chance. One must be willing to accept the consequences of that decision. Once another person is created, it is our moral, ethical, and legal obligation to protect that person.

 

I sincerely hope that Wisconsin leaves its current abortion law alone. It is correct. But if we are to debate changing the law, let us all engage with sincerity, respect, and reasoned positions. Wisconsin’s babies deserve as much.

On Abortion

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. I put a taste below. I realized that as the abortion debate has moved to the state houses where we, the people, will actually have to debate the issue and come to some decisions, the rhetoric of abortion politics is still frozen in the theater of inaction in which SCOTUS froze it in 1973. This is one guy’s attempt to explain his position on the issue. Hopefully those with other opinions will offer them with the same sincerity and not resort to the crutch of “you hate women” or some such nonsense and we can have a grown-up debate about public policy. Pollyannish? Probably, but a guy can hope.

Our nation’s Declaration of Independence set forth that we are all created equal and, “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life.” Our United States Constitution went on to protect people from being deprived of life without the due process of law in the fifth and fourteenth amendments. Both documents are based on a fundamental understanding of Natural Rights.

 

Natural rights are universal and inalienable. They are not dependent on government, laws, customs, traditions, or societal norms. They are rights that are embedded in the very essence of humanity and are enjoyed by each individual irrespective of age, color, creed, nationality, gender, or station. The just duty of government is to protect those rights from being infringed upon by others and to regulate the outcome of when two rights collide.

 

The most precious Natural Right is the right to live. Life is the right from which all other Natural Rights flow. The only real question regarding abortion, then, is to determine when life begins, for once we have determined that a life has begun, it is incumbent on us to protect that life through the power of government.

 

Fortunately, here in the 22nd century, the mysteries of reproduction and gestation have been largely solved. Once an egg is fertilized, a unique DNA is created and cells begin to multiply until they form a human that we would recognize. Some would pinpoint the start of life at when the heartbeat starts, or when brain activity begins, or when the baby would be viable outside of the womb. Some would allow abortion even in the moments after birth under the argument that the baby is still woefully dependent on the mother. That is the same argument that could be made for infanticide well into the toddler years.

 

For me, the most ethical and logical point at which to mark the start of life is when that unique DNA is created. That is when there is a unique life. There is clearly nothing separate from the parents before that moment and there is someone unique after it. While one could argue that life begins at a more viable state, each of those benchmarks seem arbitrary. Our moral, ethical, and legal obligation to protect life should make us err, if we are to err, on the side of prudence. It is better to accidentally protect people’s pre-lives than it is to intentionally kill them.

 

With life beginning at fertilization, we must structure our laws to protect those lives. In the case of a mother not wanting a baby, we come into a conflict of the rights of two individuals. The baby has a right to life. The mother has a right to bodily autonomy. In such cases of conflict, we make laws to decide the best, least harmful, outcome. In no other area of law do we permit the killing of one individual to protect the bodily autonomy of another. Neither should we in this case. The consequences for the mother are significant, but the consequences for the baby are cataclysmic. In such cases, we must protect the life of the baby even though its very existence imposes obligations and consequences on the mother.

Wisconsin’s opportunity for another turn of the conservative revolution

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

With the primary election a week away, most primary voters have made up their minds. Many of them have already cast their votes. In the Republican primary for governor, the voters are blessed with three great choices. Any of the three candidates would be a solid governor and far superior to Gov. Tony Evers. I continue to strongly think that Rebecca Kleefisch is the best choice both in terms of her ability to defeat Evers and her ability to move the conservative agenda as governor, but I can’t fault any Republican primary voter for making a different choice.

 

Whichever Republican makes it to the general election stands a good chance of winning in a red wave year. Should that occur and should the Republicans retain control of the Legislature (they should), it is another opportunity to move bold conservative ideas like the Republicans did in Governor Scott Walker’s first term. There are three big agenda items that the Republicans should pass in the first 100 days.

 

First, the Republicans must pass universal school choice. The pandemic taught us that when push comes to shove, too many of our government schools will abandon their duty to education. The educational destruction wrought upon Wisconsin’s children by negligent government school administrations will reverberate through the rest of their lives. Couple that with the pervasive Marxist indoctrination that is seeping into much of the curriculum, and it is time for change. Universal school choice will allow parents to find the best educational option for their children. Universal school choice is based on the premise that the taxpayers have a duty to educate kids — not sustain failing government institutions. The tax dollars that are spent to educate children should follow the children and trust parents to make the best choice for their own kids. A Universal school choice law should be very simple. Every child should get a voucher for the amount that would have been spent by state taxpayers on that child’s education and any accredited school the child attends can cash that voucher. Trust parents. Let us focus on funding education instead of government bureaucracies.

 

Second, Republicans should eliminate the state income tax. Instead of tinkering with the formulas and tweaking the exemptions, they should be bold and eliminate it outright. They can balance the elimination with a modest increase in the sales tax and aggressive spending reductions. This is a necessary step for Wisconsin to attract and retain the workforce of the future.

 

Nine states do not have a state income tax. It is no coincidence that five of them were in the top ten states with the largest net population growth in the last 12 months according to the U.S. Census. In an increasingly virtual workforce where high-income workers can live anywhere, they are choosing to live in states where they get to keep more of the money they earn. The sales tax, like other consumption taxes, is a tax that spreads the tax burden more evenly. Even highnet- worth people who do not currently earn an income have to pay the sales tax. For Wisconsin to attract the mobile, highincome earners to live and work in Wisconsin, they must be aggressive in making it financially attractive to them.

 

Third, Republicans must swiftly reform the state’s election apparatus. Hopefully everyone can agree that we want a state where it is easy to vote legitimately. When the people lose confidence in the integrity of our electoral process because it is riddled with inconsistent rule enforcement, obvious opportunities for fraud, and the outright illegal actions of government officials, the government loses the justification of having the consent of the governed. It is a republic-killing crisis.

 

For the most part, Wisconsin’s election laws are good. There may be a need for minor tweaks like uniform early voting laws, but as written, Wisconsin should have some of the fairest, easiest, and securest elections in the nation. Where it breaks down is that it is being administered by activist officials and a dysfunctional enforcement apparatus. Republicans should abolish the Wisconsin Elections Commission and replace it with a bicameral bipartisan legislative committee comprised completely of elected officials. Elections are how the citizens hold government officials accountable.

 

The transformative Walker administration reminded us what bold conservative leadership looks like. Whoever the Republican nominee is, conservatives’ expectations are rightfully high for them if they win a term in the big chair.

Wisconsin’s opportunity for another turn of the conservative revolution

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

With the primary election a week away, most primary voters have made up their minds. Many of them have already cast their votes. In the Republican primary for governor, the voters are blessed with three great choices. Any of the three candidates would be a solid governor and far superior to Gov. Tony Evers. I continue to strongly think that Rebecca Kleefisch is the best choice both in terms of her ability to defeat Evers and her ability to move the conservative agenda as governor, but I can’t fault any Republican primary voter for making a different choice.

 

Whichever Republican makes it to the general election stands a good chance of winning in a red wave year. Should that occur and should the Republicans retain control of the Legislature (they should), it is another opportunity to move bold conservative ideas like the Republicans did in Governor Scott Walker’s first term. There are three big agenda items that the Republicans should pass in the first 100 days.

 

First, the Republicans must pass universal school choice.

 

[…]

 

Second, Republicans should eliminate the state income tax

 

[…]

 

Third, Republicans must swiftly reform the state’s election apparatus.

Washington County Board should reject tax increase referendum

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

On August 10, the Washington County Board will vote on whether or not to submit to the taxpayers a referendum asking to forever raise taxes above the statutory limit to increase the size of the Sheriff’s Department. Let us hope that they come to their senses and forgo the referendum. If they do not, let us hope that the good people of Washington County have the good senses to vote it down.

 

The wording of the referendum may be tweaked by the County Board if they put it on the ballot, but the essence will be to ask the voters to increase taxes by almost 10% forevermore for the purpose of permanently increasing the staff of the Sheriff’s Department by about 15. The money would also be used to generally increase pay to attract and retain staff.

 

The increase in staffing is part of the county’s anticrime effort to combat increasing crime in the county. Is crime really increasing that much? Is the increase in crime just a reflection of the population growth? Are current resources appropriately allocated? How much of a crime reduction will the increase in staffing cause? Some of these questions were asked by supervisors on the Public Safety Committee, but answers were not forthcoming. Promising that more information would be available at the full County Board meeting, the committee unanimously approved the question to go to the full board.

 

There is no doubt that crime in this country is increasing largely thanks to intentionally lax law enforcement in our largest cities and the unending tide of illegal aliens flowing across our borders. Fighting crime is a legitimate duty of government and citizens in Washington County have always been supportive of law enforcement.

 

Budgets, however, are about priorities. Washington County spends almost $140 million per year on all functions. The Sheriff’s Department takes about $23 million, or 16.4% of the budget. If fighting crime is truly a priority, are the County Board and county executive really not able to reallocate funding from the other 83.6% of the budget? Instead, they want taxpayers to reallocate their family budgets to pay for that increase in spending?

 

County supervisors should also remember that they do not operate in a vacuum. The citizens who pay those taxes are facing a hard time financially. President Biden’s inflation economy is making prices rise faster than they have in 40 years. Unfortunately, most people’s incomes are not keeping up, so real income is dropping like a rock. Fuel prices are robbing people of mobility and everything is just getting more expensive. Families are cutting back on unnecessary expenses.

 

Meanwhile, times are good in government. After several years of money raining out of Washington from the Trump and Biden administrations to attempt to mitigate the financial impact of the pandemic, local governments have been awash in spending cash. Now they are reaping the benefits of inflation because taxes are based on percentages. As the median home price in southeast Wisconsin has risen 48% since January of 2020, according to the Wisconsin Realtors Association, property taxes have risen accordingly.

 

So, too, has the sales tax. Washington County passed a county sales tax years ago that was sold as a temporary emergency need. They have since made the tax permanent and continue to spend the proceeds. As the prices of goods and services have risen with inflation, so has the money spent on sales taxes. Washington County will likely see a record year in sales tax collections in 2022. Where will that money go? Could it be used to fund a spending increase in the Sheriff’s Department instead of asking the taxpayers to send even more money to the county?

 

Nobody questions that fighting crime is important and that Washington County deserves a properly funded Sheriff’s Department to meet the needs of the day. But using the current heightened concern about crime to call for a tax increase during a time when inflation is rampant and the economy is slipping into recession borders on the kind of cynicism we expect in Milwaukee – not Washington County.

 

The Washington County Board should decline to ask the taxpayers for more money and fund the increase in spending for the Sheriff’s Department if it is truly needed. The county has enough of our tax dollars to deliver on their obligations.

Washington County Board should reject tax increase referendum

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

County supervisors should also remember that they do not operate in a vacuum. The citizens who pay those taxes are facing a hard time financially. President Biden’s inflation economy is making prices rise faster than they have in 40 years. Unfortunately, most people’s incomes are not keeping up, so real income is dropping like a rock. Fuel prices are robbing people of mobility and everything is just getting more expensive. Families are cutting back on unnecessary expenses.

 

Meanwhile, times are good in government. After several years of money raining out of Washington from the Trump and Biden administrations to attempt to mitigate the financial impact of the pandemic, local governments have been awash in spending cash. Now they are reaping the benefits of inflation because taxes are based on percentages. As the median home price in southeast Wisconsin has risen 48% since January of 2020, according to the Wisconsin Realtors Association, property taxes have risen accordingly.

 

So, too, has the sales tax. Washington County passed a county sales tax years ago that was sold as a temporary emergency need. They have since made the tax permanent and continue to spend the proceeds. As the prices of goods and services have risen with inflation, so has the money spent on sales taxes. Washington County will likely see a record year in sales tax collections in 2022. Where will that money go? Could it be used to fund a spending increase in the Sheriff’s Department instead of asking the taxpayers to send even more money to the county?

 

Nobody questions that fighting crime is important and that Washington County deserves a properly funded Sheriff’s Department to meet the needs of the day. But using the current heightened concern about crime to call for a tax increase during a time when inflation is rampant and the economy is slipping into recession borders on the kind of cynicism we expect in Milwaukee – not Washington County.

 

The Washington County Board should decline to ask the taxpayers for more money and fund the increase in spending for the Sheriff’s Department if it is truly needed. The county has enough of our tax dollars to deliver on their obligations.

Archives

Categories

Pin It on Pinterest