Category Archives: Wisconsin News

Scott Walker tops four potential Democratic rivals in new poll

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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – September 17, 2013

Gov. Scott Walker runs ahead of four potential Democrat rivals for governor but tops out at 48% support in those 2014 matchups, says a new survey by Public Policy Polling.

In the poll conducted Sept. 13-16, Walker led Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca 47%-43%, former Commerce Secretary Mary Burke 48%-42%, Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson 47%-40%, and State Senator Kathleen Vinehout 47%-41%.

Evidence of how little-known the potential Democratic field is at this point came in the poll’s favorability ratings: At least 60% of respondents has not formed an opinion of the Democrats.

Walker’s job approval rating again was split: 49% disapprove, 48% approve. President Barack Obama scored similarly: 49% negative, 47% positive.

The survey by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning firm, had a margin of error of 2.9%.

PPP called the poll “mixed news” for Walker, saying his job-performance rating was unchanged from February.

But, the polling firm noted, Walker leads by 5-10 points with independents in all four matchups, and takes an average of 12% of the Democratic vote while losing only 7% of Republicans.

The lack of name recognition for the Democrats tested in the poll means the eventual nominee “should have more room to grow” support, the firm said.

In the poll, PPP noted, an average of 14% of Democrats are undecided, compared to just 4% of Republicans.

An abortion question generated the poll’s clearest result: 47% said they opposed “the abortion law passed by the legislature” in 2013, while 20% said they supported it, with the rest undecided. The law, pushed by GOP lawmakers and signed by Walker, requires women seeking abortions to get ultrasounds, and seeks to require doctors who perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges.

The poll asked if protesters at the Solidarity Sing Alongs in the Capitol rotunda should have to get a permit. Respondents were split: 45% said no, 41% said yes. A judge recently ruled that groups of more than 20 protesters need a permit, but that smaller groups do not.

Of the poll’s 1,180 voters, 32% self-identified as Democrats, 28% as Republicans and 41% as independents or something else.

The poll drew this response from the state Democratic Party: ”History bears out that sitting below 50 percent traditionally spells bad news for incumbents. Outside special interests wouldn’t be spending half-a-million dollars with no announced challenger 14 months out from the election if they didn’t know Scott Walker was in trouble. But even with the support of that dishonest ad campaign, Scott Walker is crumbling under the weight of his own failure and is incredibly vulnerable.”

Walker’s campaign had this to say: “Governor Walker’s focus is on helping Wisconsin move forward. He has balanced a $3.6 billion deficit, cut income taxes, and Wisconsin has seen its best two year job growth in a decade under any governor.  We’re confident that voters want to continue moving forward, and have no desire to return to the failed policies of the past.”

Two Stale Cities

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Plunging into Bankruptcy - Financial SpeedometerPerhaps the oppressed “Solidarity Singers” would feel better if Governor Walker and the Republican legislative majorities were to dedicate themselves as energetically as more “progressive” governments in Chicago and Detroit, to impoverishing taxpayers and extinguishing enterprise.

The contrast could hardly be sharper.  Following the Detroit bankruptcy, last Friday brought news of yet another great city in decay, and for some of the same reasons.

Chicago’s credit rating last week saw an unprecedented downgrade, thanks partly to its Detroit-like practice of going in hock to pay public employee benefits.

Meanwhile, Detroit looks to cut its costs by dumping city retirees onto Obamacare rather than pay the unsustainable costs of city benefits.  After destroying their own tax base and draining its remnants,  Detroit progressives would now fob the problem off on other taxpayers. Wish those retirees luck when Obamacare deservedly implodes.

The difference between the cities imperiled by progressivism and Wisconsin—which three years ago was on course to follow them over the brink—are not lost on Charles Krauthammer, who last Thursday condensed the Detroit catastrophe into a brilliant must-read column that includes a bow to Wisconsin’s self-engineered fiscal rescue.

If we may permit ourselves one small quibble with Mr. Krauthammer: In his final paragraph, beginning, “It doesn’t take a genius to see what happens when the entitlement state outgrows the economy upon which it rests,”  strike “rests.” Insert “feeds.”

Imagine you’re a hero…

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heroLast week’s arrests of a couple dozen “Solidarity Singers” who have staged a public nuisance in the State Capitol every day since early 2011, was reported on Madison’s WIBA radio as a “crackdown on opponents of Governor Scott Walker’s administration.”

The left compared the arrests to Tiananmen Square, Nazi Germany and Communist Russian. State Senator Robert Jauch (D-Poplar) was even quoted saying, “I’ve been to Moscow and felt safer than in my own state capitol.”

Chalk it up to their self-absorbed yearning to imagine their dreary lives as the heroic struggle against a murderous tyranny that never mounts a more gruesome reprisal than civil citations, which in Dane County, they’ll likely feel free to ignore.

Much of the main stream media like to ignore the fact that the Capitol Police are merely enforcing public permit rules that have always existed.  Rules that exit in state capitols across the country to ensure that everyone who works in and visits the Capitol can do so safely.  In the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C., groups are not allowed to demonstrate inside the building at all, permit or no permit.

Hats off to the Wisconsin State Journal for telling the singers to move on, even it costs them a couple dozen subscribers.

Police arrest 30 singers inside Capitol in Madison

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July 31, 2013 Green Bay Gazette

MADISON — Police have arrested 30 people for singing without a permit inside the Wisconsin Capitol.

Tuesday marks the fourth week day out of the past five that people have been ticketed for gathering without the required permit in the Capitol.

There were no arrests Monday, as the usual people who sing songs lambasting Republicans and Gov. Scott Walker performed outside. Another group of conservatives obtained a permit to sing in the rotunda.

About 100 anti-Walker singers returned Tuesday and about 50 others observed.

Police have issued more than 120 tickets since last week to the singers, mostly for not having a permit.

The singers argue they don’t need a permit to exercise their free speech rights. But a federal judge says a permit can be required for groups larger than 20.

Property Trax: Walker signs bill allowing lower interest rates on thousands of WHEDA mortgages

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July 17, 2013 10:45 am  •  KAREN RIVEDAL | Wisconsin State Journal | | 608-252-6106

Gov. Scott Walker on Wednesday signed into law a measure that could help thousands of first-time homeowners in Wisconsin get lower rates on their WHEDA mortgages.

“This bill…provides those homeowners an economic option that can lower their monthly payments, give them extra disposable income, help them build equity faster, achieve better credit scores and pay off their mortgages sooner,” Walker said in a statement.

Under the new law, the program to accomplish the refinancings will be called the WHEDA Refi Advantange. Details are available here.

Important note: not all WHEDA borrowers will be eligible for the lower rates. They’ll need to have earned at least 3 percent equity in their homes and meet some other program criteria.

Often working with community banks, the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority helps qualified borrowers get  low-cost, fixed-rate mortgages on their first homes. People who haven’t owned a home for at least three years also are eligible, if they have good jobs and decent credit ratings.

But state law — not anticipating the record and near-record lows that mortgage rates would fall to following the housing crash — had prevented most WHEDA loans from being refinanced, basically to preserve agency funds for more new mortgages.

(You can read more details about the issue in this earlier Property Trax post I wrote after the measure passed the Legislature.)

WHEDA and community banks and their legislative allies argued it was time to loosen that restriction, noting some WHEDA borrowers were still locked into rates as high as 7 percent.

The bill’s chief Assembly sponsor, state Rep. Travis Tranel, R-Cuba City, said more than 16,000 current WHEDA mortgage holders now pay rates of 4 percent or higher.

WHEDA data also suggests there is demand for a remedy — nearly 80 percent of its legislative contacts in recent years were about the refinancing restriction, WHEDA spokesman Kevin Fischer said.

The measure to allow WHEDA refinancings to lower rates was approved by both the Senate and the Assembly on voice votes in mid-May. Its Senate sponsor was Paul Farrow, R-Pewaukee.

“In a bipartisan fashion, the Legislature recognized the tremendous benefit this bill provides for homeowners across Wisconsin,” WHEDA Executive Director Wyman Winston said Wednesday. “Every legislator has my sincere gratitude. WHEDA is excited to get this program rolling.”

Walker signed the bill at Mound City Bank in Platteville.

Walker: Mining company had obligation to hire security

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July 12 2013 08:09:22 AM CDT

Gov. Scott Walker said a mining company had an obligation to hire security after a video posted to the Internet showed activists confronting workers at a mining site in northwestern Wisconsin.

The video shows the activists approaching a Gogebic Taconite work site, yelling at the workers and telling them to leave the land. The activists also take video of the equipment and activities at the site.

The mining company is currently conducting tests at the Penokee Hills site for a possible mining operation.

“The angst seems to be focused on the company (for hiring the guards) and not the people who came in masked like ninjas on personal property, violating the law,” Walker said.

Walker said local law enforcement should handle situations at the mining site, but did not rule out state assistance because of concerns that local agencies were too small to handle larger protests.

Frank Koehn with the Penokee Hills Education Project, a group opposed to the mine, told News 3 he believes the incident occurred June 11. The video appears to show the incident that led to criminal charges against a demonstrator, Katie Kloth, 26, of Stevens Point. Mining equipment was damaged and a cellphone and camera were taken.

A criminal complaint related to the June 11 incident states Kloth was charged with robbery with the use of force, criminal damage to property, and party to a crime of theft and criminal damage to property.

According to the complaint, the workers told police people came to the work site from all directions at once and threw full soda cans and water jugs at workers. The activists also screamed obscenities and threats and remained at the site for more than an hour, according to the workers.

The workers also described to police how activists took a camera and phone from one of the workers.

The video surfaced after the mining company said Wednesday that it had suspended its use of Bulletproof Securities because the security firm is not licensed in Wisconsin.

A spokeswoman for Scottsdale, Ariz.,-based Bulletproof Securities said the guards were ready to immediately redeploy once the company obtained the necessary state permit.

The guards are prepared to prevent eco-terrorism and economic sabotage, said the spokeswoman, Stacy Pearson.

“Their sole goal is to discourage folks from giving it a shot, trying something, getting crazy,” Pearson said. ” No one is concerned about the peaceful protests from the neighboring town or county.”

The security firm has contracted to patrol dams, bridges, power plants, and farms where genetically modified crops are grown, Pearson said.

Koehn, of the anti-mine group, said he does not condone the behavior that went on in the video and said he believes it was an isolated incident.

“I would not have allowed that to go on,” Koehn said. “I think some people went out and one thing led to another, and there was a confrontation.”

A worker at the Penokee Hills education and gathering camp, Andrea Ladenthin, told News 3 she obtained the video, but that she was not part of the group that visited the work site. She said she found the video in her camping gear. She said she felt it was her duty to share it.

Ladenthin said she doesn’t condone what’s shown in the video.

“I would not go that far. I think it’s a group of young individuals who think they know everything,” she said.

Iron County Sheriff Tony Furyk told News 3 they’re reviewing the video to determine the identity of the other people involved in the incident. The district attorney also has the video.

The video surfaced after the mining company announced Wednesday that it would suspend its use of armed guards at the mining site. The company said it suspended its use of Arizona-based Bulletproof Securities because it is not licensed in Wisconsin.

Furyk said another security team arrived Thursday.

The use of Bulletproof Securities was criticized by Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, who said he was appalled and horrified by the images of the guards and angry over the fact that they’ve been in the state illegally.

Bill Williams, Gogebic Taconite president, said the security company applied for the appropriate Wisconsin license but had not yet had its application approved.

To view videos,

Board of Regents approves expanding tuition freeze

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7/12/2013 – Wispolitics

The UW Board of Regents has approved the UW System’s operating budget for the upcoming academic year, including expanded tuition freezes.

The measure, which passed the now guv-dominated board on a voice vote, freezes in-state undergraduate tuition as set in the state budget and extends that freeze to graduate students and non-resident undergraduates. It’s the first meeting of the board with two new Scott Walker appointees, which give him a majority on the board.

Regent President Michael Falbo also noted a proposed UW-Madison tuition increase in four professional programs has been tabled but will be brought back for consideration in next year’s budget.

UW officials had indicated the additional freezes sought to increase revenue by attracting more out-of-state and international students. But Regent John Drew questioned whether UW-Madison should have been included in light of continued high demand from those students.

UW-Madison Chancellor David Ward, who’s stepping aside later this month as Rebecca Blank takes over the system’s flagship campus, said he wanted to avoid increasing tuition on those students as the budget process continued into the summer.

But he said Blank would likely take up increases in the future.

“We’re embarrassing ourselves by having bargain-basement prices,” Ward said.

Regents and UW officials also discussed the need for a long-term approach to tuition policy in the wake of large cash reserves disclosed earlier this year.

The in-state tuition freeze and other changes to the UW’s allocations in the state budget largely stemmed from the $1 billion overall surplus disclosed in April — more than $400 million of which was attributed to tuition alone.

UW System Senior Vice President David Miller told the board that several factors likely attributed to the growth in reserves even as the UW System took a $250 million cut in the previous state budget.

“Business managers do what they should — facing cuts, they are conservative … and they reduce spending,” Miller said.

He also said campuses were likely wary of potential cuts and lapses leading up to the introduction of Walker’s budget.

“I think institutions were budgeting very conservatively for that,” Miller said.

News – Press Releases regarding 2013-2015 Budget

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Opinion: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel June 30, 2013

Rep. Vos: Speaker Vos statement on signing of new state budget

Wausau Herald: Governor signs Budget

Rep. Barca: Statement on signing of Gov. Walker’s extreme, anti-middle class budget

AG Van Hollen: Issues statement on 2013-2015 state budget signed by Governor Walker

Sen. Darling, Rep. Nygren: Taxpayers to see $665 million tax reduction

Rep. Jorgensen: Walker needed sense of Wisconsin values, along with veto pen, to fix anti-middle class budget

Green Bay Gazette Editorial Board discussion with Governor Walker

Governor Scott Walker Signs State Budget

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Wisconsin State Journal July1,  2013

Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed a $70 billion, two-year state budget on Sunday that he said would invest in state education, residents and infrastructure, but that Democrats complained would mostly help the wealthy.

The budget approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature includes all of Walker’s priorities, including a $650 million income tax cut, expansion of private school vouchers and changes to the state’s Medicaid and food stamp programs.

Walker signed the budget in Pleasant Prairie, on the border with Illinois, and compared Wisconsin favorably to its neighbor in terms of cutting taxes and controlling spending.

Walker and Republican leaders who attended the signing made much of its nearly $1 billion in income and other tax cuts. Rep. John Nygren, a Marinette Republican and co-chair of the Legislature’s budget committee, said seeing the tax cuts signed into law took some of the sting out of Walker’s vetoes.

Walker made 57 changes to the budget using a veto power that allows him to cut words from sentences to change their meaning and remove individual digits to create new numbers. His two most significant vetoes eliminated provisions creating a bounty hunter program and kicking an investigative journalism center off the UW-Madison campus.

Nygren and Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, who also attended the ceremony, described the vetoes as unsurprising. Walker vetoed similar bounty hunter legislation last year, and Fitzgerald said many lawmakers had questions about the journalism center provision after the budget committee added it at the last minute.

Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen praised Walker for vetoing the bounty hunter program, which had strong opposition from those in law enforcement.

Andy Hall, executive director of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, thanked Walker for the veto and said in a statement the center was using the occasion to kick off a fundraising drive to support its work. The center hopes to raise more than $100,000 a year to pay for student internships, he said.

The budget rejects the federal Medicaid expansion, as Walker wanted, and reduces income eligibility for the program in Wisconsin to the federal poverty level. But, it also removes caps on enrollment.

“Going forward, everyone living in poverty in this state will have access to health care,” Walker said.

He went on to say, however, that the “biggest, boldest reform” in the budget was new work requirements for people on food stamps. Able-bodied adults must spend at least 20 hours a week working or getting trained for a job, or they will be limited to three months of benefits over three years. Walker described this as a kindness.

“We say it’s time to get the training, and the access to training so that when a job becomes available, you are ready to get in the game,” he said.

Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, of Kenosha, described the budget as one that “fails the middle class” and “includes what may be the worst decision made in our state in a generation — a health care plan that covers 85,000 fewer people and costs taxpayers an additional $120 million.”

School voucher opponents wondered whether Walker would cut out caps to the statewide expansion, but the governor didn’t. He did veto a budget amendment that would have allowed existing voucher schools in Milwaukee and Racine to accept students eligible for the statewide expansion without having them count toward the cap.

Walker said he wanted to show “my word was good” after agreeing to limit the expansion to 500 students next year and 1,000 the year after that.

Republican Sen. Dale Schultz, who voted against the budget, said he was glad to see Walker honor the caps, but he believed the voucher expansion coupled with too-big tax cuts would lay “a foundation of instability for Wisconsin which will resound across the country and around the world.”

The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau predicted the budget will create a $505 million shortfall going into the 2015-17 biennium, assuming state tax revenues and expenditures don’t change. Such a shortfall is commonly referred to as the state’s structural deficit.
Governor’s Veto Overview

GOP leaders predict budget will help reverse sagging job numbers

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June 26, 2013 Wisconsin State Journal

Cutting income taxes and freezing property taxes will reverse Wisconsin’s flagging job creation numbers, the Republican leaders of the Legislature and its powerful budget committee predicted Tuesday.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Joint Finance Committee co-chairs Alberta Darling and John Nygren told the State Journal editorial board Tuesday that the $1 billion in proposed tax cuts over the next two years sends a message to businesses to create more jobs. Wisconsin currently ranks 44th in the nation in job creation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“We spent the first two years trying to get our budget in order,” said Vos, R-Rochester. “Next, we are at this budget, where I am proud of the fact that we had a very large tax cut that will impact almost every single taxpayer in Wisconsin who pays income taxes. In essence, we have a property tax freeze, with less than

1 percent (increase) statewide.”

At the same time, K-12 education funding is proposed to increase $100 per student in the first year of the 2013-15 budget and $150 per student in the second year. Gov. Scott Walker had proposed

keeping education funding flat.

The leaders also defended the insertion of policy items, such as reinstituting bail bonding in Wisconsin, in the two-year spending plan. That measure — tucked into the budget by the Joint Finance Committee during an all-night session — would let private companies post bail for defendants and arrest them if they skip court.

The system has been illegal in Wisconsin for 35 years — following kickbacks and bribery scandals — and the state’s law enforcement community — from Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen on down — opposes it.

“This is about, do you want to take a chance in returning corruption to our judicial system?” asked Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha.

Vos defended the measure, saying 46 other states have such a system and it would be “100 percent voluntary — no judges in Wisconsin have to use it.”

The top Assembly leader said he was proudest of the tax cuts in the budget awaiting Walker’s signature. State taxpayers earning $50,000 or less a year would get an average break of $45 a year while those earning between $100,000 and $150,000 would see a cut of $272 a year.

Darling, R-River Hills, said she has heard from business owners that “whether the tax cut is big enough or too small, it sends the right signal to job creators that Wisconsin is changing and you’re here to do more.”

But Barca said the measure would give poor people just a few extra dollars a month compared to an average $140-a-month cut for those earning $300,000 or more.

“Economists say all the time — if you want to stimulate the economy, give money to the middle class and those struggling to get into the middle class,” he said.

Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said he also sees economic strengths that the job numbers don’t show. Both sales tax and income tax revenues are projected to increase by hundreds of millions of dollars over three years. “That really tells me … the economy of Wisconsin is expanding,” he said.

The four also defended tax cuts for parents sending children to private K-12 schools. Fitzgerald said the deduction — a maximum $600 on a $10,000-a-year private high school tuition — would boost the private school system in Wisconsin. He said such schools lift a “huge tax burden on the state” by educating thousands of students.

Barca responded: “A lot of public schools are on the bubble as to whether they’ll stay open. And you want to subsidize the private schools?”