Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The King’s Same Old Speech?

Last evening, Governor Walker continued his primetime tv appearances reiterating the same old tired refrain, including his refusal to do his job and negotiate with workers. He also refuses to talk or sit down with the Assembly Democrats.

In fact, if you listened to Walker’s “fireside” chat, it could have been taped a week ago; he totally ignored the offer from labor to accept the demands to pay more for health insurance and pensions. He knows if he talks about what he REALLY is up to - taking away workers' rights to collectively bargain for workplace and safety conditions – his polling numbers would continue to slip.

Even King Walker’s efforts to steal a page from FDR’s playbook of fireside chat aren’t working. FDR rolled out his New Deal program that provided relief and security for the poor. Walker did none of that. If you missed the King’s speech, let me paraphrase it.

Hello, lie, lie, lie, threaten, lie, lie, threaten, Wisconsin's founders are smart, lie, good night.

More lies about the bill and the process. And now threats to layoff workers if the Democrats in the Senate don't return.

Governor Walker, it's time to be a leader and negotiate. Democratic and Republican Governors have worked with the bargaining law for the last 50 years and kept labor peace in our state. It's your turn to do the right thing. This is what leaders are made of, Governor.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Near-Riots in Madison!!!?

Did that headline draw you into this blog? Fox News is hoping those words draw in viewership. Right-wing pundits from Fox News said Madison had turned into a scene of “near riots.”

A couple thousand people attended the tea party rally while approximately 70,000 plus supporters of workers surrounded them in a parade that spanned a continuous circle around the State Capitol. One of my aides followed a national Fox Business reporter and their cameraman and overheard the reporter feverishly calling into his control room.

You see, the tea party rally was getting close to ending and he wanted a live shot of the counter demonstration clashing with the tea partiers. “They are pushing in and this is going to get violent,” the man said excitedly. If only wishing made it so. Volunteers walked through the rallies with signs that read “This is a peaceful protest” and reminded people to keep their cool. Tea partiers had to exit their rally through a sea of teachers and nurses. Nobody got hurt.

But surely there were a lot of arrests, right? Nope. Zip. Zero. Nada. Sorry Fox News, your efforts to incite violence was thwarted by a bunch of public servants. Who would have thought?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Scott Walker's Top Ten Lies

It takes a lot of spin to sell a load of …., well, to sell an idea that is unpopular with most Wisconsinites. Here is a list of the top ten lies so far:

1) We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again. The need for a budget “repair” bill is manufactured so that Governor Scott Walker can bring in a “Trojan Horse” of bad conservative ideas promoted nationally by the far right. The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau said no statutory trigger was met to require a repair bill.

2) Governor Walker has said, "This is not a shock." The Republican who took office in January said "The shock would be if we didn't go forward with this.” He was referring to his claim that during his campaign he said he was going to do the things that are in his budget “repair” bill. Not so fast, Governor. This one is a make-your-own project: Google ANYTHING about getting rid of collective bargaining, allowing a single committee oversight over sweeping reductions of access to Badgercare, etc. No, really. Try it.

3) The question isn’t so much whether it’s a lie or not, but the size of the lie. Walker claimed if we didn’t pass his “repair” bill, either 1,500 or 6,000 workers would be laid off. Why its not 2,500 or 4,000, I don’t know but I do know it’s a lie. The total brought in by the changes to health care and pensions are $30 million. According to the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the average salary for a state employee is about $50,300 annually plus benefits. At that salary alone, the total would be $301,800,000 for 6,000 employees – a total cost way more than the policy changes about employees’ benefits would bring in.

4) He also stated that “close to 200,000 children who would be bumped off Medicard-related programs.” More manure. Legally, the state does not have the option to change eligibility requirements or remove kids from Medicaid according to the federal health care law until the year 2019. And by then, trust me, Walker will not be Governor.

5) Walker’s claims that states without collective bargaining having faired better in the current bad economy are wrong. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, three of the 13 non-collective bargaining states are among the eleven states facing budget shortfalls at or above 20% (Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina). Another, South Carolina, comes in at a sizable 17.4%. Nevada, where state employees have no collective bargaining rights (but local employees do) has the largest percentage shortfall in the country, at 45.2%. All in all, eight non-collective-bargaining states face larger budget shortfalls than either Wisconsin or Ohio.

6) Public employees living high off the hog? Hogwash! The truth is usually people in public service work because they want to be public servants. According to the Economic Policy Institute, wages and salaries of state and local employees are lower than those for private sector employees with comparable earnings determinants such as education and work experience. State workers typically are undercompensated by 8.2% in Wisconsin.

7) Both Governor Walker and legislative leaders said we needed a “repair” bill to address a payment owed to the State of Minnesota of nearly $60 million and money owed to the Patient’s Compensation Fund in the tune of $200-plus million. The bill as introduced addresses NEITHER.

8) After getting heat for calling the National Guard instead of the unions to sit down and negotiate, he quickly backpedaled saying he merely put them “on alert” to take over the prisons if necessary. His handlers quickly realized that he over-reacted and needed to pull back before looking completely obstructionist. We have not had to put the National Guard into action due to a piece of state legislation in, well, pretty much forever. Instead of calling the unions to sit down and negotiate, he calls the National Guard and downplays (lies) about it later.

9) Walker has said that our budget problems are largely due to employee wages. Not even close, Governor. Total salaries and compensation in the last budget were 8.5%* of the entire state budget. Even with the changes being made to paying more for health insurance and pensions, the total is less than 1/10th of one percent. Our real problem is the same as every state – revenues in sales tax and income tax are down due to unemployment. Luckily, unless Walker really blows it, he inherited a lower unemployment rate and a better tax collection rebound than most states in the nation.

10) The Governor has over and over that the “repair” bill is about making state workers pay more for their health insurance and pension. As we all know, if that is all that the bill did he’d be sitting back at his mansion right now, sipping on a nice scotch, and playing on-line chess with Grover Norquist. This bill is about so much more. We all know it takes away people’s rights to collectively bargain. But it also allows for sweeping changes and reductions in Medicaid, makes it almost impossible for unions to exist, engages in a risky ‘scoop and toss’ debt restructuring, sells off state power plants and much, much more.

That’s ten for now. I’m sure they will keep piling up. But seeing it all in one place sure is illustrative of Governor’s Walker accounting of the “repair” bill has no merit.

Governor, c’mon. You owe us better than this.

*The 8.5% figure from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau excludes two agencies: Corrections and the UW System. No one is talking about reducing critical public safety staffing at corrections (you can't) and many positions at the UW are largely if not excusively based on federal funds. If both agencies were included, LFB puts that number at 17.7% (a number that is skewed because of federally funded and other critical public safety positions). Thus, Walker 's proposed employee pension and healthcare changes remain a very small percent of total state employee salary and thus, a small portion of the state's budget and a small portion of the state's budget deficit.

UPDATE: The list of lies is growing fast. Check out this PolitiFact debunking Walker's statement that under his budget 'repair' bill, collective bargaining rights are "left in tact."

Friday, February 18, 2011

Why Walker Created His “Fiscal Crisis”

Scott Walker’s fiscal crisis is only a crisis if he decides to make good on his campaign promises.

Walker keeps talking about how the state is broke, yet he had no problem making $3.8 billion in campaign pledges to the wealthy to reduce the state’s tax collections. Furthermore, he later promised an additional $1.5 billion pledge to “repeal the corporate income tax.”

Yup, that’s right, Scott Walker says our state is in a fiscal crisis, and yet he wants to reduce state revenues by $5.3 billion.

If you are a worker who’s been hit hard by the economy, did you stop collecting income as a way to fix the problem? Nope, didn’t think so. But that’s exactly what Walker plans to do.

Up until now, Walker has been successful in spinning his fake budget crisis. However, Walker has been so careless in his pledges, that One Wisconsin Now has captured every single special-interest pledge Governor Gimmick (Walker’s new nickname) has made. You can find a citation for every single dollar of the nearly $5.3 billion in pledges here and here.

Next time Walker says we’ve got a fiscal crisis, just remember that he’s referring to completely unrealistic $3.9 billion in new spending state agencies want (that’s an increase of 6.2%), and that doesn’t even factor in $5.3 billion lost revenue Walker has promised his wealthy friends.

No wonder Walker just asked for more time before introducing his budget. He’s beginning to realize it’s unrealistic to make good on all his campaign pledges. Tic-tock Governor, the longer light shines on your fables, the less the public and the media will trust what you say.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Walker’s Trojan Horse

Governor Scott Walker’s manufactured $3.6 billion state budget deficit in the next biennium is rapidly unraveling as a bogus figure. Yesterday I pointed out that the figure is based on $3.9 billion in new agency requests (Table 1) for a spending increase of 6.2%, a figure we noted is never approved by the legislature. Those are REQUESTS, not actual dollars expended.

Well today the non-partisan legislative Fiscal Bureau released a memo showing that in the current state budget, agencies requested a 9.7% increase in GPR dollars, yet were given an actual REDUCTION of 2.6%. That’s a difference of nearly $3.5 billion!

That means this isn’t just a bunch of Democrats looking at the numbers that are being used to put a budget together and crying foul; this is hard and cold reality from a respected, unbiased resource – the non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Further, we also know that there was no statutory requirement for a “budget repair” bill from the same non-partisan source, yet Governor Walker is claiming we needed to act due to impending payments to the state of Minnesota and the money owed the Patient’s

Compensation Fund. Well, chalk up another lie. Walker’s “Repair” bill addresses NEITHER.

So just what is Governor Walker up to?

Remember the Trojan War.

The only way you can slip a bunch of bad public policy into law in Wisconsin is to disguise it as something else.

Create a crisis, claim you are the sole path to resolving that crisis needing to enact whatever measures are necessary and be a hero to the people. Right...

This week Walker is trying to be a darling of the national conservative movement by taking away workers rights, destroying collective bargaining and setting the stage for big cutbacks in Medicaid. Next week he announced a budget that is full of cuts to education, healthcare and funds for police and fire.

All of these actions are hidden in the Trojan horse called the “budget repair” bill.

Back then they warned “Beware Greeks bearing gifts.”

Today the problem is the national conservative special interests get the gifts, while we get what comes from the tail end of this Trojan horse.

(Next blog….How much of the $2 BILLION in tax breaks and loopholes Walker promised the wealthy during the election will be put into his budget causing a REAL budget crisis?)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Scott Walker’s Manufactured Crisis…aka Remember the Balloon Boy?

Do you remember the balloon boy?

The balloon boy was the young boy that was allegedly thrust into the air by a large helium balloon. The media went wild. Everyone was on alert to save the boy. However, when the balloon landed, the boy was nowhere to be found. Instead we later found out that the boy had been hiding at home, instructed by his father to lie low as the family basked in the media attention.

Fast forward to today. The Wisconsin budget is $3.6 billion in deficit according to Governor Scott Walker. We are in crisis! 200,000 children will be kicked off of Badger Care and 6,000 employees will be laid off! Call the National Guard! Dissolve the unions!

But are we really in that severe of a financial crisis?

We found out yesterday after our briefing with non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, the $3.6 billion deficit in the next budget that Governor Walker and the media has been repeating is a MANUFACTURED CRISIS. The number is based on $3.9 billion in new spending requests by agencies, a 6.2% increase. I don’t think there is a member in the legislature that would vote for that. In fact, I asked Director Lang when was the last time we gave agencies exactly what they requested and was told he couldn’t think of one and he’s been here decades.

Further, the budget forecast for the next biennium projects $1.5 billion in additional revenue something we would have loved to have last session.

And, the most recent national rating shows Wisconsin number 23 of 45 for deficits in proportion to our budgets, a far cry from last session.

The budget needs balance but there is NOT the crisis being manufactured. Yet Scott Walker is loading every radical special interest idea into a plan to “fix” the budget crisis.

Every crisis needs a hero. And that is the role Scott Walker wants. However, I think he will ultimately be cast as the balloon boy.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Wisconsin Open for Duplication?

Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. But copying Ohio? It appears that Governor Walker has turned Wisconsin’s progressive tradition into an unmistakable pattern of regurgitating hard right-wing ideas of conservative wordsmiths like Frank Luntz.
Walker's actual Tweeted ham sandwich.

First, his brown bag slogan is a rip-off of a previous Ohio gubernatorial campaign.

Then, Ohio Governor John Kasich proclaimed Ohio “Open for Business” (as usual) as well.

And, Kasich is even working on his own privatization of their commerce department with no government oversight, just like Wisconsin is now attempting.

With all this copycatting going on, doesn’t this make you wonder which Ohioan first tweeted a picture of their ham sandwich?