Tag Archives: Tony Evers

The Tyrant Evers Returns

Boy howdy… I step away from the computer for 36 hours or so and all hell breaks loose. Let’s hope that the legislature will reign in our banal tyrant.

Less than 24 hours after Democratic Gov. Tony Evers announced a statewide mask order for Wisconsin, Republicans in the state Senate have signaled they have the votes to begin the process of striking it down.

In a statement Friday, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Senate Republicans “stand ready to convene the body to end the Governor’s order, which includes the mask mandate.”

“The Governor has caved to the pressure of liberal groups on this,” Fitzgerald said. “How can we trust that the he won’t cave again and stop schools that choose in-person instruction this fall? There are bigger issues at play here, and my caucus members stand ready to fight back.”

[…]

Announced Thursday, the state mask order goes into effect Saturday.

Under the new order, which expires Sept. 28, everyone age 5 and older must wear a face covering when indoors or in any enclosed space open to the public including outdoor bars and restaurants, public transit and outdoor park structures. The order does not apply to people in their private residences.

State needs leadership to navigate budget shortfall

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

Gov. Tony Evers is calling on state agencies to cut $250 million from their budgets as state tax collections decline with the state’s economy. Already, various interest groups are making the case for why their piece of the pie should be excluded from budget cuts and the lobbyists are out in full force. The next several months are going to require real leadership.

When Governor Evers shut down the state’s economy with his original lockdown order, he also turned off the tax spigot for state government. Without people able to go to stores, restaurants, concerts, etc., the collections of sales taxes plummeted. Collection of the sales tax requires people to spend money in our economy. People were forbidden to shop, but many people also pulled back their personal spending as their own jobs and incomes were impacted. Even as the state opened, the job losses, reduced incomes, and uncertainty has depressed consumer spending and sales tax collections.

Like the federal government, the state of Wisconsin also delayed the income tax filing deadline to July 15. This had the practical effect that many people who were expecting refunds filed earlier than those who expected to pay, causing further strain on state tax flow. But the real impact on income taxes will not be felt until next year. 2019 was a bumper year for personal incomes and employment. 2020 is not.

The state sales and income taxes are the two largest sources of state tax revenue, but there are countless other taxes and fees that are being impacted by the government-imposed recession. The net result is that Governor Evers is anticipating at least a $2 billion shortfall in state tax collections over the next year. The governor’s estimate may be decidedly optimistic.

To put that in perspective, the state government planned to spend about $41 billion in this fiscal year. A $2 billion shortfall would represent about a 5% reduction. However, much of that spending goes to things like welfare, K-12 education, shared revenue for municipalities, the University of Wisconsin System, and things that are not under the direct control of state government officials.

Here is where the leadership comes in. Governor Evers has called on state agencies to cut $250 million from their budgets. As you may have noticed, $250 million is merely a down payment on the cuts that will be necessary to finish the fiscal year without a massive deficit. More cuts will be needed.

If there is one thing that any good manager knows, it is that small changes made now prevent much larger changes being necessary later. The governor has already waited too long. We knew that there would be huge budgetary implications when he locked down the state. Here we are at the end of July and he is just now asking agencies for their ideas? How long will that take for the agencies to submit their revised budgets, vet them, and implement them? Weeks? Months? The longer the governor sits around waiting to make changes, the more drastic those changes are going to have to be.

For example, the state of Wisconsin employs about 65,000 employees, including employees of the UW System, earning a median income of about $52,000. If Wisconsin implemented a 10% pay reduction for all state employees, it would save the taxpayers roughly $28 million per month. Private employers have been forced to implement such cuts and worse. In this case, it would be a 10% cut in pay and everyone keeps their jobs. Many private-sector employees, and taxpayers, fared much, much worse.

If Governor Evers had implemented a universal 10% cut in March, when he implemented his lockdown order, the state would have already saved over $112 million – almost half of what he is asking state agencies for not. That is $112 million that that will still have to be cut before the fiscal year is over, but because Governor Evers has failed to act, it will hurt a lot more.

Every day that state leaders sit around waiting for to make decisions, those decisions will be dictated to them by events. Wisconsin needs leadership. Now.

 

State needs leadership to navigate budget shortfall

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. I continue to be frustrated by the lack of leadership in Madison. We all KNOW there is, and will be, a huge budget shortfall, but nobody is actually doing anything about it. The result will be a big budget repair bill – probably in January – where they are making huge, painful, cuts. Those huge, painful cuts will be necessary because they are failing to make small, less painful, cuts today. Don’t get me wrong, I’d be happy to make large cuts in government, but the crying and wailing you will hear in a few months is completely avoidable.

Gov. Tony Evers is calling on state agencies to cut $250 million from their budgets as state tax collections decline with the state’s economy. Already, various interest groups are making the case for why their piece of the pie should be excluded from budget cuts and the lobbyists are out in full force. The next several months are going to require real leadership.

[…]

For example, the state of Wisconsin employs about 65,000 employees, including employees of the UW System, earning a median income of about $52,000. If Wisconsin implemented a 10% pay reduction for all state employees, it would save the taxpayers roughly $28 million per month. Private employers have been forced to implement such cuts and worse. In this case, it would be a 10% cut in pay and everyone keeps their jobs. Many private-sector employees, and taxpayers, fared much, much worse.

If Governor Evers had implemented a universal 10% cut in March, when he implemented his lockdown order, the state would have already saved over $112 million – almost half of what he is asking state agencies for not. That is $112 million that that will still have to be cut before the fiscal year is over, but because Governor Evers has failed to act, it will hurt a lot more.

Every day that state leaders sit around waiting for to make decisions, those decisions will be dictated to them by events. Wisconsin needs leadership. Now.

Governor Evers “Resists” Mask Mandate

Why is our media having such a hard time with this?

MADISON — Racine and Green Bay joined Madison and Milwaukee as Wisconsin cities that passed mandates requiring people to wear masks in certain public settings, though Gov. Tony Evers has resisted issuing a statewide order like those in place in many nearby states.

More than half of states have statewide mask mandates, including Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota, which announced its on Wednesday, July 22.

[…]

Even as more local governments enact their own mask ordinances, creating a patchwork of mask requirements across the state, Evers has not issued a statewide mandate. The first-term Democrat said earlier this month he was unlikely to enact such a mandate because the Conservative-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down his “safer at home” order in May. That did not include a mask requirement, but the court said Evers overstepped his authority by requiring most non-essential businesses to close during the start of the outbreak.

As Evers said, HE DOES NOT HAVE TO POWER TO ISSUE A MASK MANDATE. What he can do, if he chose to, is advocate for a statewide mask mandate and work with the legislature to pass a law mandating masks. That is constitutional. I would oppose it, but that is how it should happen, if at all. So what the reporters should be asking Evers, if they are so fired up to mandate masks, is “why aren’t you working with the legislature to pass a mask mandate?” Or, “would you sign a bill mandating masks if the legislature passed it?”

The reporter’s insistence that Evers can just issue a mandate from his office is either offensive or stupid – depending on whether you think the reporter actually understands how a representative republic works.

Wisconsin’s economy bounces, but has a long way to go

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

I went to a restaurant the other night and something happened that has not happened in quite a while. I had to wait for a table. It was a sign that we are on a long, slow road back to normal. Outside of Milwaukee and Madison, the summer life of sidewalk tables, brat fries, live music, and outdoor recreation have returned, if muted, for these few precious months before those northern winds return Wisconsin to its deep freeze.

My anecdotal experience is borne out in the most recent employment numbers from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. According to the preliminary data, Wisconsin added 104,600 total non-farm jobs in June and the unemployment rate dropped to 8.5% from an adjusted peak of 12.1% in May. Wisconsin’s unemployment rate remains below the national unemployment rate of 11.1%, but the state rate traditionally lags the national rate due to the state’s economic mix. People are getting back to work as Wisconsin’s economy groans back to life.

Digging deeper into the data, there are some promising signs and some worrying signs. On the positive side, almost all of the job growth came from the private sector. Leading the way, private-sector service-providing sectors added 100,000 jobs. Some 16,400 of those were retail trade jobs as stores opened; 11,300 jobs were added in health care and social assistance. A whopping 47,700 jobs were added in the leisure and hospitality sectors. Many of the sectors of the economy that were hardest hit are bouncing back.

The troubling part of the report is just how far Wisconsin still is from where we were just a few short months ago. Despite the strong growth in jobs, there are still over 200,000 fewer people working than were in June of 2019. And while an unemployment rate of 8.5% is still nothing to brag about, it is still overstated. About 44,400 people have left the labor force completely and are not counted in the unemployment rate. The cause of the economic recovery is quite simple. In his initial overreaction to the onset of coronavirus, Gov. Tony Evers forcibly shut down the state’s economy. Widespread job losses and economic contraction was inevitable with the governor standing in the restaurant door. When Evers attempted to ignore the Constitution and extend his dictatorial rule, the state Supreme Court stepped in and stopped Totalitarian Tony’s economic stranglehold.

Since then, most of the state has opened. It has done so cautiously and unevenly, but it has opened. Outside of a couple of cities being run by liberal mayors, the state’s restaurants, shops, and factories have tried to get back to work.

In order to continue the state’s economic recovery, a few things need to happen. First, government needs to step back and let people and businesses manage their own lives. The virus is here to stay. Whether or not we ever have a vaccine, we cannot live perpetually petrified. We all know a lot more about how the virus spreads, who is at greatest risk, and how to mitigate the risk of catching and spreading the virus.

Second, we need our governments at all levels to stop threatening to shut down the economy again. The uncertainty continues to retard a recovery. Whether or not the initial lockdowns, and how and when they were implemented, helped prevent the spread of the virus will be subject to studies for years. What is indisputable is that the lockdowns had countless other negative outcomes on people’s health and well-being as health care systems denied treatment for non-COVID ailments and economic stress pushed people to the brink. What is also indisputable is that our politicians have proven that they are incapable of evenly enforcing a lockdown as they crack down on some people and allow others to violate them at will.

Furthermore, it is clear that the American people are done with being locked down. Even as some states and cities try to reimpose economic restrictions and infringe on civil rights, those actions are being widely ignored. After the initial shock and awe of coronavirus, Americans are finding their spines again and remembering that liberty is in our blood.

Finally, the only way our economy can truly recover is for Americans to feel comfortable returning to their normal activities. For some people, they will never feel comfortable returning to restaurants, shops, concerts, or anything else until they feel that everyone else is taking reasonable steps to prevent the spread of disease. That means that for those of us who may not have much, if any, fear of the ’rona, we must respect the concerns of others. Keep some distance, wash your hands, and, yes, put on a mask if the situation warrants. Such measures may keep you from getting sick, but they will definitely help our economy get healthier.

 

Evers’ record(ings)

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News on Tuesday. Since I wrote this, there have been some very serious developments and it looks more and more like Evers might be covering up for a felon. I wonder… the Dane County DA and AG won’t investigate, but couldn’t the Jefferson or Racine County DAs (or wherever Vos and Fitzgerald were when they took the call)?

After the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down Governor Tony Evers’ unconstitutional lockdown order, our state government leaders needed to figure out what, if anything, the state should do in its continuing effort to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. Dutifully, Governor Evers and the two leaders of the Legislature, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, got on a phone call to discuss the path forward. What the legislative leaders did not know what that Governor Evers’ staff secretly recorded the conversation for dubious reasons and then released the recording to the media. Such a breach of trust, and his reaction to it, tells us a lot about our governor.

The rough details of the transgression are known. There were five participants in the call: Governor Evers, Speaker Vos, Majority Leader Fitzgerald, Evers’ Chief of Staff Maggie Gau, and Evers’ attorney Ryan Nilsestuen. The call was recorded and given to the media. Vos and Fitzgerald were shocked to learn that it was recorded. Evers claimed that he did not know it was being recorded, but wouldn’t say who did it. Gau and Nilsestuen have not admitted to anything.

Wisconsin law allows a call to be legally recorded if one participant of the call knows. The law does not require that all participants be notified that the call is being recorded, but it is considered both impolite and unethical to not make such a disclosure. However, if one of Evers’ other non-participant staffers recorded the call, it would be a crime. Since Evers will not disclose who recorded the call, he is either covering up for a staffer’s unethical behavior, crime, or both. What does all of this tell us about Governor Evers? Quite a bit. If we believe that Evers is telling the truth that he was ignorant of the recording, then he does not have any control over his staff. Whether a CEO, general, governor, or any other person of great responsibility, it would be unthinkable for a staff member to record the boss’ phone call with other leaders without the boss’ knowledge and consent. If Evers truly did not know, then he is not managing his staff. They are managing him.

Further, Evers’ refusal to disclose or discipline the perpetrator tells us more about him. It tells us that he is either afraid to hold his staff accountable for bad behavior, or he condones it. Recall that we do not yet know if the perpetrator committed a crime or merely violated ethical boundaries. Either way, Evers is allowing staff members to run rogue with no consequences.

Whether Evers knew or just condoned his staff’s recording of the call, it also shows that his administration is willing to use slimy tactics for political gain – even on an official call that was supposed to be about working together to respond to a pandemic. They recorded the call and released it to the media in an effort to embarrass political opponents. Despite the Evers administration’s claims of innocent motives, the results speak for themselves. Look at what they do — not what they say.

Finally, since the disclosure of the recording, Governor Evers has not seen fit to apologize to Vos and Fitzgerald for recording their conversation. He may have not known that the call was being recorded at the time, but he knows it now. His stubborn refusal to even do the simple mannerly thing and apologize for the breach of trust shows his inability, or unwillingness, to build relationships with people with whom he disagrees politically. His lifetime as a bureaucrat has not equipped him with the skills and he lacks the natural acumen to develop personal relationships outside his rigid ideological sphere.

After almost a year-and-a-half in office, Governor Evers has not made any progress in learning how to govern in a divided government. He has lurched from insults to partisan attacks to cursing to violating trusts. Is it any wonder why he resorts to unconstitutional dictatorial actions instead of working with the Legislature on behalf of the people of Wisconsin?

Evers’ record(ings)

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Governor Evers’ secret recordings and his reaction to the news tells us  lot about him as a governor and as a person. Here’s a little:

Further, Evers’ refusal to disclose or discipline the perpetrator tells us more about him. It tells us that he is either afraid to hold his staff accountable for bad behavior, or he condones it. Recall that we do not yet know if the perpetrator committed a crime or merely violated ethical boundaries. Either way, Evers is allowing staff members to run rogue with no consequences.

Whether Evers knew or just condoned his staff’s recording of the call, it also shows that his administration is willing to use slimy tactics for political gain – even on an official call that was supposed to be about working together to respond to a pandemic. They recorded the call and released it to the media in an effort to embarrass political opponents. Despite the Evers administration’s claims of innocent motives, the results speak for themselves. Look at what they do — not what they say.

Finally, since the disclosure of the recording, Governor Evers has not seen fit to apologize to Vos and Fitzgerald for recording their conversation. He may have not known that the call was being recorded at the time, but he knows it now. His stubborn refusal to even do the simple mannerly thing and apologize for the breach of trust shows his inability, or unwillingness, to build relationships with people with whom he disagrees politically. His lifetime as a bureaucrat has not equipped him with the skills and he lacks the natural acumen to develop personal relationships outside his rigid ideological sphere.

Evers Covers Up Illegal/Unethical Behavior By Staff

Accountability? Nope.

Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday sidestepped bipartisan calls for him to fire the unidentified staffer that secretly recorded his phone conversation with two top Republicans.

Evers, in a media call with reporters, repeatedly declined to identify the staffer who, without Evers’ knowledge, recorded his May 14 phone conversation with Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, that has prompted a bipartisan outcry and calls for the staffer to be fired.

Evers declined to identify the staffer responsible for authorizing the recording and didn’t say what disciplinary action, if any, is being taken against that person.

“A staffer wanted help in taking notes and that’s why that staffer did that and I will not discuss personnel issues in public but needless to say the practice has ended with this one time,” Evers said.

As others have said, Wisconsin law requires that at least one participant in the call consent to recording it. If the staffer was not a participant and was merely listening in, then he or she could not legally consent. But beyond that, the ethical breach is monumental. Assuming that Evers is telling the truth about being utterly ignorant of the actions of his own staff, the alleged staffer breached the trust of both his employer and the other people on the call. He or she would and should be fired by any leader with a modicum of integrity.
Evers’ refusal to even offer a simple apology – much less hold his staff accountable – speaks to his partisan and bilious personality.

Governor Evers Secretly Records Conversation with Legislative Leaders

Governor Evers recorded a private conversation with legislative leaders and then released it when asked. Funny how quickly he complied with that open records request when he fights all of the others. This is my favorite part.

Evers spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said the governor didn’t initially know that his staff was recording the phone conversation. She said it was never intended to be distributed to the media, but that it instead was recorded to aid Evers’ staff in incorporating what Vos and Fitzgerald wanted to see in the emergency rule to address the pandemic.

Wisconsin, like most states, is a “single-party consent” state, meaning one legally does not need to disclose that he or she is recording a conversation if they are a party to the conversation.

“The recording was intended for internal use only to inform detailed note-taking and planning next steps,” Baldauff said. “This was not intended for release to the media or anyone else. However, we were obligated to comply with the open records law to release these records once they were requested.”

Evers. Didn’t. Even. Know.

At least, that’s what they will have us believe. And I believe it. Evers is such an incompetent leader that I do believe that his staff does all sorts of things without his knowledge because they don’t consider it important enough to tell him.

In any case, I have participated in conference calls where details are shared and good notes are needed. While not required by law, people with integrity will just say, “hey, do you mind if I record this so that we capture all of the details?” Easy. Too easy for Governor Evers and his staff.

Evers is either an incompetent boob or a such a partisan that he’s doing opposition research while conducting official business. Or both.

Evers Considers Declaring Racism a Public Health Emergency

This is concerning.

Evers also said he was considering issuing a proclamation declaring racism a public health crisis, though he noted doing so “wouldn’t do anything more than” elevate the issue — a topic he noted is already getting attention in communities across the state.

Elsewhere, localities and others are pushing for such language. Democratic lawmakers in Ohio have sought to pass a resolution naming racism a public health issue, which they said would be the first of its kind nationwide, and would require legislative support to be enacted.

In Wisconsin, Evers wouldn’t be able to officially declare racism as a public health emergency like he did for COVID-19 because of stipulations in state statute.

Still, he acknowledged, “me doing a declaration of emergency would be like, ‘I get it,’” Evers said. “No matter where you’re talking about … (protests) happened all across the state and the message is pretty much the same all across the state: racism is an issue, it’s a huge issue for Wisconsin, it’s a huge issue for our country. We have to deal with that head on.”

Evers used a Public Health Emergency to strip all of us of our civil rights for two months. He would have done it for longer if the Supreme Court hadn’t stepped in. Although statute forbids him doing the same thing here, he might ignore that like other laws.

Now that the liberals have seen how easy it is to obliterate our rights when something is a “public health emergency,” they will try to use that excuse as often as possible to get around silly things like the Rule of Law, due process, and civil rights.

Evers Administration Continues to Eschew Open Government

They are consistent.

Gov. Tony Evers’ administration is refusing to say why one of the state’s top public health officials was asked to resign in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

State Health Officer Jeanne Ayers says she was asked to resign from the Department of Health Services in early May and wasn’t given a reason why.

Now, Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm through a spokeswoman won’t answer questions from the Journal Sentinel about Ayers’ departure.

The refusal by Health Services officials to explain why Ayers was asked to resign comes after the department in at least two cases didn’t release information about vital issues of public interest, like which nursing homes and meatpacking plants were experiencing outbreaks and how many residents and workers at each facility tested positive for the virus.

The department didn’t notify the public of the resignation and replacement of the state’s health officer, despite holding weekly media briefings. The Journal Sentinel learned through an automatic email response that said she was no longer with DHS.

Evers issues major budget policies that protect government spending

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. I dug into Governor Evers’ Major Budget Priorities and they are problematic. Here’s a part.

The exceptions that Governor Evers listed excludes roughly 60% of GPR spending from his “zero” increase directive. Further, by excluding debt service from the directive, Governor Evers opens the door for state agencies to continue their spending largesse by issuing debt.

The UW System gave away the game in a request from UW System President Ray Cross asking the Legislature to call a special session to allow the UW System to establish a $1 billion line of credit to support their spending. While the UW System is the first to ask to borrow more money, they will not be the last. Governor Evers has given them the green light to borrow to keep the government troughs full.

As Wisconsinites suffer job losses, declining incomes, lost businesses, bankruptcies, and foreclosures, Governor Evers knows that asking for tax increases is politically untenable – especially with a Republican Legislature. So his ploy is to pretend to push for a zero-increase budget, which a compliant media will trumpet, while he excludes the majority of spending and offers the back door or debt for government to keep spending.

Governor Evers may be oppressively mediocre, but he knows where his supporters are. As Wisconsinites suffer, he will protect government spending. And if the Wisconsinites of today can’t afford his spending, he will yoke our children by borrowing money that will take a generation to pay off.

Evers administration fails Wisconsin’s unemployed

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News on Tuesday. Evers’ incompetence handling Covid is only matched by his incompetence in handling the riots.

As hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites were forced out of work by Governor Tony Evers’ rolling shutdown edicts, he and his Department of Workforce Development utterly failed to prepare or react to the predictable onslaught of unemployment claims. The contemptible consequence is that almost three months after Governor Evers created an economic crisis, his DWD has a backlog of over 700,000 unpaid unemployment claims and the administration is telling the public that they may not get caught up until October.

One could excuse Evers and his DWD in that there were some struggles and hiccups as the waves of unemployment claims swamped the state agency. One cannot excuse, however, the fact that their lethargic response and incompetent leadership has failed to rise to the challenge.

Before issuing an order to shutter the majority of the state’s economy, a competent governor would have been able to anticipate some of the obvious consequences and plan accordingly. In this case, a steep rise in unemployment claims was the obvious and predictable result of a government shutdown order. Yet, despite such a predictable outcome, Governor Evers and his DWD failed to proactively plan for the claims. Their response was the slow, plodding, indifferent, response that underscored the caricature of a bureaucracy full of uncaring government drones. (As a side note, Evers has also failed to proactively react to the predictable massive decline in tax revenue and future deficits, but that’s a column for another day.) When Evers shut down the state, the DWD also shut down its job centers, thus eliminating in-person support for Wisconsin’s unemployed. That left Wisconsinites to either apply for unemployment online or call the state agency. As applications submitted online languished without a response, people were left with the only option of calling the DWD to get answers.

According to the MacIver Institute, the DWD unemployment call center had 57 employees when Evers shut down the state. One would note that Evers did not increase the amount of staff or capacity before shutting down the state. Such foresight is apparently beyond his capacity. The day after the lockdown with into effect, the DWD was getting 160 attempted calls per second on its 450 phone lines.

The DWD eventually transferred and hired additional staff to bring the call center up to about 150 people to try to answer the calls about over 2.1 million weekly claims that have been received. Even with the additional staff, the call center was still only open Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Now, months after Evers forced an economic crisis (whether one thinks that the economic shutdown was necessary or not), the DWD is finally beginning to contract with private companies to expand their capacity. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites wait for an unemployment

check that still might not come for another six months.

Last week, DWD Unemployment Division Administrator Mark Reihl told a legislative committee that “we have done a great job” and DWD Secretary Caleb Frostman blamed the problems on an antiquated benefits system that is unable to accept new claims while it is processing old ones. Secretary Frostman admitted that the problems with their systems have been known for decades. If such problems were known, why was nothing done about it?

What were Frostman’s priorities in this budget request? According to his agency’s request for $735 million over the biennium and 1,610 employees, updating technology was not a priority. What were the priorities?

“Full funding of continuing position salaries and fringe benefits.” “Overtime.” “Grants to the UW System, Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS), and the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.” And, of course, the positive things like worker training, economic development, and other normal operations were included. For the 2019-2021 Capital Budget agency request, the only mention of the DWD is as part of a $98.5 million new building and parking garage that would house the DWD and other agencies.

If the technology was known to be so old, why didn’t the DWD make it a priority to request money to update it? Why was the ability to support unemployed Wisconsinites not prioritized over the making sure that 1,610 bureaucrats got their full wages and fringe benefits? Why was money allocated to replace a 55-year old building and not to replace 50-year-old software? Budgets are a statement of priorities and it is clear where the priorities of Evers and his DWD lie — the comfort and financial security of government employees.

Nobody expects perfection from Governor Evers and state government, but at the very least, Wisconsinites deserve a basic level of competence.

Evers administration fails Wisconsin’s unemployed

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Believe it or not, there are other things happening outside of Rona & Riots (incidentally, Rona & Riots was a small eclectic bar on Manhattan’s upper East Side.) Here’s a part:

What were Frostman’s priorities in this budget request? According to his agency’s request for $735 million over the biennium and 1,610 employees, updating technology was not a priority. What were the priorities?

“Full funding of continuing position salaries and fringe benefits.” “Overtime.” “Grants to the UW System, Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS), and the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.” And, of course, the positive things like worker training, economic development, and other normal operations were included. For the 2019-2021 Capital Budget agency request, the only mention of the DWD is as part of a $98.5 million new building and parking garage that would house the DWD and other agencies.

If the technology was known to be so old, why didn’t the DWD make it a priority to request money to update it? Why was the ability to support unemployed Wisconsinites not prioritized over the making sure that 1,610 bureaucrats got their full wages and fringe benefits? Why was money allocated to replace a 55-year old building and not to replace 50-year-old software? Budgets are a statement of priorities and it is clear where the priorities of Evers and his DWD lie — the comfort and financial security of government employees.

Nobody expects perfection from Governor Evers and state government, but at the very least, Wisconsinites deserve a basic level of competence.

Evers Administration Fails to Follow Law with Unemployment

Another instance of incompetence by the Evers’ Administration or intentional malice? I lean toward the former.

In a Thursday letter to Evers, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said DWD has not provided its plan to abide by a new law created in April requiring that unemployment claims specifically related to the COVID-19 outbreak not be charged to an employer’s unemployment insurance account for the remainder of the year.

The state Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund is filled through payroll taxes on employers and used to provide temporary benefits for qualifying workers who lose their job. The amount an employer pays in taxes is directly tied to how much that business draws upon the fund.
Vos and Fitzgerald said in the letter the provision was meant to mitigate large tax increases on employers most impacted by COVID-19. The new law also aims to prevent employers from having to pay higher taxes as a result of pandemic-related layoffs or furloughs.
“The outrageous decision to break the law is made worse by the fact that in so doing, the department is making it even harder for the employers impacted by the health crisis to get their businesses open and bring their employees back to work,” Vos and Fitzgerald said in the letter.

Bureaucrat Brags Despite Failure

Ummm… no.

“No administration has ever faced anything like that before,” said Mark Reihl, DWD unemployment division administrator. “We have done everything possible as quickly as possible to bring as many people on as we could … Frankly, I think we have done a great job in this period of time. Is it as good as we would like? Certainly not.”

I see a lot of excuses and slow action. I see very little leadership or results. Take a look at this MacIver story that tracks their very, very, very lethargic reaction and refusal to think outside of their bureaucratic bubble.

When Safer at Home went into effect, DWD had 57 employees at its unemployment call center, and the phone system could handle 450 calls at a time. On Mar. 26th, the day after the lockdown went into effect, DWD was getting 160 attempted calls a second, over half a million an hour.

DWD reacted by transferring 75 of its 1,606 full time employees to help out at the call center, bringing the total up to 132. It also boosted its call volume capacity up to 690 calls at a time, which meant more people would be able to wait on hold.

DWD’s unemployment line got 1.5 million attempted calls during the first week of Safer at Home, but only 115,679 people successfully filed a claim. Not all of those claims were filed over the phone. DWD begged people to file online, citing a 98 percent success rate for the 19,000 who did.

With the call center completely overwhelmed by demand, Frostman added another 18 people to its staff during the second week of the shutdown. That brought the total up to 150. Even though DWD still had over 1,400 full time employees not working at the call center, it announced plans to hire 85 new employees to help process unemployment paperwork.

Frostman said out of date IT infrastructure was the problem, and it “has forced DWD’s staff to work overtime, nights, and weekends to process unemployment claims to support out-of-work Wisconsinites.”

However, they weren’t taking calls 24/7. Phone lines were only open from 7:30 – 3:30, Monday to Friday.

That doesn’t look like “everything possible as quickly as possible” to me.

Wisconsin DWD Fails Unemployed Wisconsinites

It has been two months since Governor Evers shut down the state and should have anticipated the wave of unemployment. His incompetence is showing.

Across Wisconsin, almost a third of weekly unemployment claims (675,563 out of 2,121,906 claims) made between March 15 and May 16 are still unpaid, according to the overwhelmed Department of Workforce Development. And millions of phone calls from the thousands of people still waiting for their unemployment insurance have been consistently overloading DWD’s phone lines.

The state Department of Workforce Development on Wednesday reported that Wisconsin lost 385,900 private-sector jobs from March to April, and the unemployment rate shot up from 3.1% to 14.1%. Wisconsin is still doing slightly better than the nation as a whole. The national unemployment rate is 14.7%, while its labor participation rate, 60.2%, is 6.4 percentage points lower than Wisconsin’s.

Like thousands of other out-of-work Wisconsinites, Avila has spent days calling the DWD without ever speaking to an operator. By networking through Facebook groups like “Wisconsin Unemployment support group,” which was founded on May 1 and already has more than 1,400 members, she’s been able to call some DWD employees directly.

Lawless bureaucrats must be held to account

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty disgusted how high-level bureaucrats in Washington and Madison are never held accountable when they break the law. Shouldn’t losing their job be the least thing that should happen when they abuse their power and break the law? I think so and argue the case in my latest column for the Washington County Daily News today. Here’s a taste. Go pick up a copy!

What happens now? When a normal Wisconsinite is caught breaking the law, they are fined or jailed. When Palm’s illegal order was being enforced, Wisconsinites were being ticketed and arrested for doing things as simple as eating in a restaurant or playing basketball in a park. Will Secretary-designee Palm be held accountable for breaking the law?

Will her boss, Governor Evers, take responsibility for his employee’s blatant flaunting of the Constitution and the law?

So far, neither Evers nor Palm have indicated that they will accept any responsibility for violating the law. They will continue to cash their full paychecks and direct their opulent staffs courtesy of the very citizens they sought to oppress. They have committed to continue on without a modicum of contrition for their unlawful actions.

As an elected official, the voters will have to decide if Governor Evers should be held to account at the next election or sooner. But as an unconfirmed appointed secretary, the Wisconsin state Senate should immediately move to reject Palm’s confirmation so that the people of Wisconsin will no longer be subject to her lawless proclivities. She is clearly unfit for public service.

Evers Scolds Tiffany

Palm was just found to have broken the law and abuse her power in an effort to strip Wisconsinites of their civil rights. It would be insane to let this tyrant remain in power for a moment longer. Unless, of course, Governor Evers wants to take responsibility for his administration’s unlawful behavior.

MADISON – Democratic Gov. Tony Evers chided a Republican lawmaker Thursday who called for the resignation of the state’s health secretary, saying it was an “insane statement.”

Sen. Tom Tiffany, who was elected to Congress in a special election on Tuesday, said Palm should step down as leader of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services because of how she handled the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, which Tiffany referred to as the “Wuhan virus.”

[…]

Evers stopped a news conference on the virus to speak about Tiffany’s statement about 20 minutes after he released it.

“Senator Tiffany please, you just won an election. Just relax,” Evers said. “This is an insane statement. We talk about trying to tone down the rhetoric and I’ve done everything I can do to that. To make a statement like that about someone who has dedicated her life to saving lives, please sir give us a break. You’re headed to Washington, D.C. I know you’re better than this.”

Evers’ “Wild West”

What a tyrant.

In an interview on MSNBC, Evers said the the Supreme Court has “thrown our state into chaos.”

“We are the Wild West,” the governor said when asked what happens now.

Evers said right now in the Badger State there are no orders or restrictions.

Apparently, in Evers’ fragile mind, Wisconsin was the Wild West (using that as a pejorative) until two months ago when he locked down the state and kicked 400,000+ Wisconsinites out of work. By overturning the order, all the court did was return Wisconsin to its previous level of freedom where people make decisions for themselves.

What is scary is that Evers’ statement presumes that we, the people, must be micromanaged by government to avoid chaos. Really? I need some jackass Madison bureaucrat to tell me, under penalty of jail, whether or not I can go to a restaurant? The absence of such an order is “chaos?” Really? How did we ever function up until March before Evers violated the constitution and stripped us of our civil rights?

No thank, Evers. I’m a big boy. I can make my own decisions.