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“Scott Walker Gets Schooled By His Neighbor”: Minnesota Governor Walloping Walker’s Wisconsin In Terms Of Economic Growth

Wisconsin and Minnesota share a common cultural heritage that until recently included a healthy Midwestern strain of progressive politics. Elected in 2010, Governor Scott Walker upended a hundred years of liberal populism, charting a conservative path for Wisconsin that made him a darling of the Republican Right, but left his state with a serious budget shortfall and disappointing job growth.

Meanwhile, across the border in neighboring Minnesota, Governor Mark Dayton has relentlessly pursued liberal policies, embodying the tax-and-spend Democrat that Republicans love to caricature. The result, surprising to many, is that the Minnesota economy is going gangbusters while Wisconsin’s job growth has fallen to 44th among the 50 states.

Dayton’s success steering his state’s progressive course has been a surprise. He was a middling senator at best, serving a single term from 2001 to 2007 before returning to Minnesota disillusioned with the way Washington operated. Time named him one of America’s “Five Worst Senators” in 2006, and he was known mainly for his inherited fortune as the great-grandson of the founder of Dayton’s department store, which became Target. As senator, he donated his salary to underwrite bus trips to Canada for senior citizens buying low-cost prescription drugs.

“Minnesota’s gains are not because Mark Dayton has overpowered the state with his political acumen,” says Lawrence Jacobs, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota. He describes the low-key Dayton as the “anti-politician,” someone the voters trust because he’s not smooth enough to fool them. “His skill is he has a clear agenda, and he’s unyielding. This is not pie-in-the-sky Great Society adventurism.”

Dayton has a majority Democratic legislature just as Walker has a Republican controlled legislature, bolstering the ongoing policy experiment in their states. The two governors have pursued agendas that mirror their respective party’s core beliefs, and the results so far suggest that the starve-the-government, tax-cutting credo of conservative orthodoxy has run its course.

Dayton has raised the minimum wage, and he’s significantly increased taxes on the top 2 percent of wage earners to close a budget shortfall and to raise money for investments in infrastructure and education. In the legislative session that just ended, some Democrats joined with Republicans to block his goal of expanding universal preschool. But he did get more scholarship money to educate 4-year-olds.

“This is the largest tax increase we’ve seen in Minnesota, over $2 billion,” says Jacobs. More than three-quarters of the new spending is on education, compared to Wisconsin, where education is on the chopping block, and Walker is at odds with professors and administrators alike at his state’s flagship university system.

Minnesota has also passed the state’s version of the Affordable Care Act (MNsure), and while its implementation has been rocky, it is in place and serving tens of thousands of people.

Dayton ran for governor in 2010 on an unapologetically liberal agenda, and won narrowly after a recount. He was reelected comfortably in 2014, and his approval rating in the latest Minneapolis Star Tribune poll is 54 percent. Contrast that with Walker’s 41 percent, and you’ve got a clear picture of how each is faring in the eyes of voters.

Dayton’s idiosyncratic style is in tune with the times, and at 68, he has no ambition for national office. Walker is running for president and touting hard-right policies that play well with Iowa caucusgoers. He opposed raising the minimum wage, has significantly weakened unions, reduced spending for education, cut taxes on the wealthy, and increased taxes on the middle class in part to pay for the tax cut. According to the nonpartisan Wisconsin Budget Project, Walker gave tax breaks that disproportionally favored upper-income earners while cutting $56 million in tax credits for working families.

Faced with a budget shortfall and no way to plug it without additional revenue, Republicans in the Wisconsin legislature are rebelling against additional spending cuts. But Walker shows no sign of softening his stance against raising taxes or fees. Other Republican governors, notably Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, are in the same quandary.

“It seems like they’ve been backed into a corner and are just going forward with pure ideology and discounting any contradictory evidence,” says David Madland, author of Hollowed Out: Why the Economy Doesn’t Work without a Strong Middle Class.

As the director of the American Worker Project at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, Madland in his book takes on the premise that inequality is good in the sense that helping the rich get richer is going to help everybody else, that a rising tide lifts all boats. Trickle-down economics has gotten a bad rap and is rarely invoked as a phrase anymore, but the belief that tax cuts are the engine of economic growth remains the core of GOP ideology.

That Minnesota’s economy rallied under progressive policies while Wisconsin’s has struggled is “one more data point proving that trickle down is wrong,” says Madland. While it’s tricky to attribute the well-being of a state’s economy solely to its political leadership, Minnesota is experiencing much stronger growth than its neighbor. Dayton has also proved responsive to the business community, easing early fears that his liberalism might go unchecked.

Walker, on the other hand, has doubled down to the detriment of his state on policies that are backfiring. And if voters in his home state aren’t buying what he’s selling anymore, that doesn’t bode well for his presidential campaign.

 

By: Eleanor Clift, The Daily Beast, July 19, 2015

July 12, 2015 Posted by | Economic Growth, Mark Dayton, Scott Walker | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Products Of Today’s Republican Party”: The Only Way GOP Governors Can Run For President Is By Shafting Their Own States

Given that there are currently 31 Republican governors, it’s natural that more than a few of them would be both successful enough and ambitious enough to run for president. Two more governors are about to formally enter the race: Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal will announce his candidacy today, and New Jersey’s Chris Christie is reportedly ready to join as early as next week. There will end up being as many as four current governors in the race (those two, plus Scott Walker and John Kasich), plus four former governors (Jeb Bush, Rick Perry, Mike Huckabee, George Pataki).

Let’s put the former governors aside for the moment. There’s something curious going on with the sitting governors: three of them are extremely unpopular at home, and the fourth may be the one who provides the explanation why.

Let’s start with the new entrants. Bobby Jindal has long been regarded as a future presidential candidate, but his current profile makes you wonder why he’s bothering to run for president. It’s not just that he’s currently averaging 0.7 percent in presidential polls, putting him in 15th place. Jindal just got through a budget crisis with a ridiculous tax gimmick that made him an object of national ridicule, and nobody is arguing they need to emulate Louisiana’s record of success. One recent poll put his approval in the state at 31 percent.

Chris Christie isn’t doing any better. His approval is now at 30 percent, and it’s pretty clear his tough-guy schtick wore thin a while ago, even in New Jersey (let alone in places like Iowa).

Then there’s Scott Walker, who’s in the first tier of presidential candidates, but has the approval of only 41 percent of Wisconsinites. As the New York Times describes today, he’s in a battle with Republicans in the state legislature:

Leaders of Mr. Walker’s party, which controls the Legislature, are balking at his demands for the state’s budget. Critics say the governor’s spending blueprint is aimed more at appealing to conservatives in early-voting states like Iowa than doing what is best for Wisconsin.

Lawmakers are stymied over how to pay for road and bridge repairs without raising taxes or fees, which Mr. Walker has ruled out.

The governor’s fellow Republicans rejected his proposal to borrow $1.3 billion for the roadwork, arguing that adding to the state’s debt is irresponsible.

And therein lies part of the problem: appealing to the GOP primary electorate means, among other things, never raising taxes, even when refusing to do so initiates a budget crisis. It also means rejecting the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, which shoots your state in the foot for the purpose of ideological anti-Obama purity.

In many ways, Walker has governed from the outset like someone thinking about a presidential primary. He set out to destroy the state’s public employee unions, and now wants to slash hundreds of millions of dollars from the University of Wisconsin budget, not to mention going after tenure (take that, elitists!), which would make it much harder to recruit quality faculty to the state’s beloved university. Those kinds of moves guarantee that he’ll always be a divisive governor, cheering members of his own party and alienating those in the opposing party.

But that’s how you need to govern if you’re going to be able to mount a presidential campaign that isn’t consumed by explaining your heresies. Which brings us to Ohio governor John Kasich, who not only accepted the Medicaid expansion, he invoked a religious imperative to explain his decision to do so. “I don’t know about you, lady,” he told a GOP donor who criticized him for it, “but when I get to the pearly gates, I’m going to have an answer for what I’ve done for the poor.”

Chris Christie accepted the Medicaid expansion too, but at least he can argue that he did so under pressure from a Democratic legislature. And he has attempted to make up for his sin of allowing 400,000 low-income people to get health insurance by proposing to cut Social Security. But Kasich could find himself explaining over and over that he’s a real conservative despite his accommodation to the ACA.

Kasich might try this argument: If this was so terrible, how come I’m the only governor in this race with approval ratings at home over 50 percent?

The problem is that GOP primary voters will probably reply, Who cares? As far as they’re concerned, “success” isn’t defined by whether your constituents are happy with the job you’ve done. Practical achievements like improving the health of your state or even fostering strong job creation are all well and good, but they have to take a back seat to ideological achievements like crushing a labor union, fighting Obamacare, or resisting tax increases.

Governors who run for president are happy to tell you that being a governor is the best preparation for being president, and they have a point. While senators can get away with just making self-aggrandizing speeches without actually accomplishing anything (see Cruz, Ted), governors have no choice but to make similar kinds of decisions to the ones presidents make. They have to set priorities, formulate budgets, and work with a legislature, not to mention the fact that most governors eventually face some kind of crisis that tests their ability to act in trying circumstances. While senators can say “I sponsored some nice bills,” governors have lengthier records to run on.

But it may be no accident that most of the Republican governors currently running for president aren’t popular at home. They’re products of today’s Republican Party, where unflagging commitment to conservative doctrine is what counts as success.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, June 24, 2015

June 27, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, GOP Presidential Candidates, Governors | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Are ‘Death Panels’ Coming To Scott Walker’s Wisconsin?”: A Scheme To Make Middle-Class Workers Pay Even More For Health Care

Scott Walker could be on the verge of giving Infowars some great conspiracy theory fodder. A move by Wisconsin’s Group Insurance Board to substantially increase how much state employees pay for their health insurance is drawing unqualified and sharp opposition from labor leaders but could once have drawn criticism from Sarah Palin, as well. That’s because the proposal includes “consultations about end-of-life care, which some called ‘death panels,’” as the Wisconsin State Journal put it.

Death panels?! In the great Badger State? Putting Badger Staters to death? How could this be? One may have asked, as some on the right did during the debate over the Affordable Care Act. But here we are, with the Wisconsin state government overseeing what’s set to be the controversy-free implementation of new policies designed to save the state money through its employees’ end-of-life decisions.

Quick background: The Wisconsin state government is having some tough fiscal times, and Walker’s budget proposal suggested substantial cuts in a number of areas, including to the University of Wisconsin system and to K-12 education. The governor’s budget proposal also called for savings of $81 million on the state employees’ group health insurance program. (Remember that in 2011 the governor oversaw the passage of Act 10, which virtually ended collective bargaining for most of the state’s public sector unions.) But the budget wasn’t too specific about how to save that $81 million. Instead, Walker’s proposal directed the state’s Group Insurance Board to work with Atlanta-based Segal Consulting to figure it out.

The most buzzed-about change, the Wisconsin State Journal reported, will require public sector employees to pay twice as much out of pocket for their health care than they do now. These changes are projected to save the state $85 million over the next two years (Wisconsin passes budgets biennially), and most of the savings “will come from increasing out-of-pocket limits and introducing deductibles for the vast majority of state workers who don’t have them,” according to the paper. Individual employees will have new $250 deductibles, and family deductibles will be $500.

The Group Insurance Board voted for the changes on May 19, and unless the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee moves to require legislative approval for the changes, they will go into effect Jan. 1, 2016, according to Mark Lamkins, communications director for the state’s Department of Employee Trust Funds. The board that approved the changes has 11 members, some of whom are Walker appointees. The majority of the Walker appointees on the board voted in favor.

And the change has labor leaders irate.

“What the group insurance board did today is unconscionable,” said Wisconsin AFSCME executive Marty Beil, according to THOnline. “I’d also call it evil that they’re treating state employees at that level. It’s incredible.”

But Walker’s critics on the left aren’t just going after him for increasing public sector employees’ expenditures for their health care. They’ve also targeted him for a tiny provision the board approved that seeks to save a bit of money through end-of-life care. The memo laying out the cost-cutting health-care proposal doesn’t detail how these changes would work, and the State Journal reported that “[e]nd-of-life care consultations, also called advanced care planning or palliative care, would save $292,500.” That’s hardly a hefty sum. Lamkins said the changes would involve “keeping people out of institutions near the end of life, giving them more opportunities to manage their care-treatment plan.”

He added that the change is designed “to ensure that members facing serious illness and survival of less than six months are informed of care options and are able to make treatment decisions based on their individual values and goals of care.”

Reached for comment, Laurel Patrick, a spokeswoman for the governor, pointed out that the phrase “death panels” is nowhere to be found in any of the health care change proposals. But that hasn’t defused liberal ire about the panel’s move.

That’s because Walker has been one of the most outspoken conservative opponents of the Affordable Care Act.

“When Sarah Palin was trying to derail Obamacare over ‘death panels,’ Scott Walker didn’t say a word defending the need for people to have end-of-life counseling and instead on his first day as governor wasted taxpayer dollars suing the federal government over Obamacare,” said Scot Ross, executive director of One Wisconsin Now. “But wrapped in a scheme that would make cash-strapped middle-class workers in Wisconsin pay even more for health care, Team Walker quietly slides this into the mix. The inclusion of the palliative counseling is critical, but Scott Walker would have saved families a lot of grief if he would have stood up to the Tea Party in 2010 instead of this backdoor deal now.”

Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, voiced support for Walker’s so-called death panels but said he was frustrated the governor didn’t do more to defend the Affordable Care Act.

“The right, using Sarah Palin, shamelessly tried to call simple voluntary end-of-life consultation a ‘death panel’ early in the debate over Obamacare,” he said. “There’s obviously a great irony that the Walker administration would now come forward with an end-of-life consultation provision. I still have to say that it’s good policy, most likely, it’s just incredible hypocrisy for them to come out with that after Walker has been one of the most disingenuous critics of the ACA.”

It’s doubtful, of course, that any of this will be a problem for Walker’s 2016 ambitions. Nobody ever did poorly with Iowa Republican caucus-goers because critics on the left were too noisy. But the debate highlights one of the tricky aspects of running for president as a governor: that the tiniest provisions in uncontroversial policies can easily become flashpoints for controversy.

 

By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, May 21, 2015

May 22, 2015 Posted by | Death Panels, Public Employees, Scott Walker | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Very Bad Boy”: Will Gov. Scott Walker Ever Come Clean On Wisconsin’s Budget Deficit?

Scott Walker is running a television commercial extolling the crowning achievement of his short time in office —the balancing of the Wisconsin state budget and the wiping out of the $3.2 billion deficit he inherited. Check this out: http://youtu.be/vYFrt_jwdCk

Even the harshest critic of the Wisconsin governor would have to acknowledge that this is some pretty impressive work. For a governor to balance his state’s budget in these tough times—even if it is done by making Draconian cuts to health and education—is a noteworthy accomplishment.

Of course, such admiration would only be required if the Governor had, in truth, actually succeeded in the manner he suggests.Unfortunately, it turns out that Scott Walker is being a very bad boy…again.

In fact, we now know that the Governor is either being untruthful with the good people of Wisconsin on the whole ‘I balanced the budget and wiped out the deficit’ thing or he’s been, shall we say, stretching the truth when speaking to Uncle Sam on the same topic.

As we all know, it’s not nice to lie to your Uncle Sam.

In a letter sent by Mike Huebsch, Walker’s Administration Secretary, to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services just two months ago, Huebsch disclosed that the state of Wisconsin would have an ‘undisclosed deficit’ from January, 2012 through June, 2013.

But didn’t we all just watch the video where Walker extolls his great victory in cleaning up the state’s multibillion dollar deficit?

If you’re confused, get use to it as it only gets worse.

This latest episode in the “Adventures of Scott In Dairyland” it is the perfect expression of everything we have come to expect from Governor Walker—half-truths designed to mislead, broken campaign promises, and a predilection to sneak  through the back door when going in via the front would result in way too much unwanted exposure.

Let’s begin with why Walker would want to go on record with his letter to HHS claiming a deficit while, at the same time, campaigning on a message that tells a very different story.

Federal law allows a state to remove people from the state’s Medicaid rolls only in the circumstance where the state can show that it is suffering deficits. As Walker is planning to make even more cuts to Wisconsin’s health budgets—cuts he tells us he is attempting to accomplish without forcing people out of this critical health program—the Governor wants to keep his options open. To do that, it was necessary for the Walker Administration to tell HHS that his state is running a deficit while attempting, at the same time, to convince voters of the precise opposite—all so he can hold onto the opportunity to place more than 50,000 Wisconsinites in danger of losing their only access to health care.

Perfectly understandable, yes? After all, what’s a governor to do when he wants to take health care away from thousands while trying to convince those same people to vote for him in a recall election?

It’s not easy being Scott.

Still, we are left to wonder whether Walker is lying to the people of Wisconsin or fibbing to the federal government? It pretty much has to be one or the other.

The answer is dependent on, of all things, accounting.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel does a good job of laying it out-

In June, Walker and Republican lawmakers passed a balanced budget according to the measure that is always used for state budgets – cash accounting. That means essentially that the state will have cash left in its main account – an estimated balance of $68 million – when the budget ends on June 30, 2013.

That’s the measure that state officials use for budgets and the one Walker has repeatedly touted in statements when he says he eliminated a $3 billion budget deficit on a cash accounting basis.”

There are, essentially, two accepted methods of accounting. There is the “cash method”— the one utilized by the Wisconsin legislature and Gov. Walker in creating their balanced budget—which accounts for how much money is in the bank at the end of the fiscal year after bills have been paid. If there remains cash in the bank account, then there is no deficit.

Of course, this approach does not take into account the reality that upcoming obligations are not only going to wipe out that cash, but create a deficit when those obligations exceed what is in the bank. As a result, cash accounting rarely presents a true picture of an organization’s finances—which is precisely why every public company in America, along with most city and country units of government, are required to use the GAAP method.

GAAP (the acronym for Generally Accepted Accounting Practices) accounting takes into consideration the money expected to come in and the money committed to going out in order to work out where an organization actually stands.

If you employ the cash method being utilized by Governor Walker, were you to have $100 in the bank at the end of the year, after all the invoices that came in during December have been paid, you can credibly claim that you have no deficit. Never mind that you know full well that a credit card bill is coming in January for the $5,000 you spent Christmas shopping during the month of December and that there won’t be anywhere near enough cash in your bank account to pay that bill when it arrives. That is what we call a deficit. If you are using GAAP, you are required to account for that $5,000 obligation in the month you rack up the obligation. Thus, what is a $100 surplus if you are using cash accounting becomes a $4900 deficit if you are using the more precise GAAP accounting.

What Walker is doing here is using the cash method of accounting to form the basis of his claims as stated in his advertisement while using GAAP accounting when making his claim to the Feds.

That’s a no-no in anybody’s version of the real world—or should I say anybody but Scott Walker. While the rest of us are required to live and die by the accounting method we choose, Governor Walker, apparently, doesn’t believe that this applies to him because …well, because Governor Walker is ‘special’. He is, after all, on a first name basis with the Koch Brothers.

To be fair, politicians have long used the more favorable cash method of accounting to lay claim to better financial results, including Walker’s predecessor, Democrat Governor Jim Doyle.  However, because this is so dishonest a way of putting forth the realities of a state’s financial condition, people have long been disturbed by the practice—people like ….Scott Walker?

It seems that while Governor Walker now chooses to use cash basis accounting rather than a more honest representation of the state’s finances—at least when reporting his results to the people of Wisconsin—Candidate Walker saw it very differently. In fact, in 2010, Walker vigorously campaigned on the importance of ridding the state of this distorted method of accounting, going so far as to state on his  campaign website that he would  “Require the use of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) to balance every state budget, just as we require every local government and school district to do.”

How quickly he forgets—except when it serves his purposes to suddenly convert to GAAP when he wants something from the federal government.

There is really no logical way around the conclusion that Governor Walker has, at the very least,  (a) broken an important campaign promise within months of making that promise, and (b) lied to either the people of Wisconsin or the government of the United States.

The good news is that Governor’s Walker’s spokesman, Cullen Werwie, doesn’t see a big deal here. He tells us that this is all “…nothing more than what we’ve been saying all along.”

That’s good enough for me. I mean, it’s not like this is the Cullen Werwie who required a grant of immunity from prosecution before he would cooperate with prosecutors in the John Doe investigation into illegal electioneering that threatens to bring down the Walker Administration before we even get to the recall vote.

Oh wait….it seems that the governor’s chief spokesman is the very same Cullen Werwie who required a grant of immunity to avoid prosecution.

Say what you will about the folks running things up in Madison, Wisconsin, but you certainly can’t say they aren’t colorful.

February 15, 2012 Posted by | Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oh Really!: Gov Scott Walker Reports Net Gain Of 9,500 Jobs

Wisconsin added 9,500 jobs last month, in part because of a renewed focus on drawing tourists to the state, Gov.Scott Walker said Thursday.

The state added 12,900 jobs in the private sector but lost 3,400 government jobs in June, according to seasonally adjusted numbers released by the state Department of Workforce Development. The net gain of 9,500 jobs accounts for more than half the 18,000 net jobs created across the nation during the month.

The governor credited the state’s numbers to “a rebirth of tourism” following broad efforts to publicize Wisconsin’s state fairs, ethnic festivals and sporting events.

“Tourism is more than a $12 billion industry in the state of Wisconsin,” he told reporters in Milwaukee. “This is about putting people to work.”

He said he didn’t have details on which specific industries gained jobs. However, the Department of Workforce Development confirmed that almost half the private-sector growth was in the leisure and hospitality industry. There were 6,200 jobs created in that sector last month, and 3,300 more jobs than in June of last year.

A reporter asked whether the new jobs were seasonal and would be gone in several months. Walker replied that some were summer jobs but that an unspecified number would carry over into subsequent months.

“You certainly have a summer blitz when it comes to lakes and our other attractions, but you come back in the fall for hunting and you come back in the winter for snowmobiling and skiing,” he said.

When asked if the new jobs pay livable wages Walker said the job numbers released Thursday were sorted only by industry, not income. He added that his focus has always been to attract well-paying jobs.

Walker was joined at his news conference by Tourism Secretary Stephanie Klett. She said Walker’s budget increased the department’s funding by 20 percent, allocating an additional $2.5 million toward attracting visitors from other states.

“We ran a $3 million marketing campaign this summer,” she said, “and I think today with this announcement we are seeing the results in a big way.”

She said some of the new jobs were year-round positions at popular resorts.

Even though Wisconsin added nearly 10,000 jobs in June, the state’s unemployment rate actually nudged upward for the month to 7.6 percent, up 0.2 percentage points from the previous month. That’s because the job numbers and employment numbers come from two separate surveys, DWD spokesman John Dipko said in an email.

The jobs number comes from workplace data, while the unemployment rate is based on a survey of households, he said.

Unemployment figures encompass Wisconsin residents who are available for work and actively seeking jobs.

The state Democratic party said the preliminary job numbers look promising, but party chairman Mike Tate said it is important to know specifically what types of jobs were being created.

“Will these jobs support Wisconsin families or will they bolster the profits of corporations that benefit from the downward pressure on wages and benefits that comes at the hands of Scott Walker’s attack on collective bargaining?” he said in a statement.

The state’s unemployment rate has hovered around 7.4 percent for the first five months of the year. The state figure generally has been about 1.5 percentage points better than the national rate. That trend continued last month as the U.S. unemployment rate rose 0.1 percentage points to 9.2 percent.

 

By: Dinesh Ramde, Associated Press, July 22, 2o11

 

July 25, 2011 Posted by | Economy, Gov Scott Walker, Governors, Politics, Wisconsin | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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