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Author Topic: Wisconsin
OpsanusTau
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Speaking of thousands of people protesting in public spaces - are you guys following what's going on in Wisconsin? 30,000 or more people protesting outside the Capitol.

TomD, aren't you in Wisconsin?

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TomDavidson
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Sure am.
Basically, the GOP has a political edge this year and -- thanks to timing -- is determined to use that edge to bully through some measures designed to secure a more permanent hold on the state. One of the top measures, which Walker is putting forward shamelessly as a "cost control" measure for the current budget "crisis" (a crisis caused almost entirely by his proposed tax cuts) is a complete gutting of current labor protections for state employees. It's fairly straightfoward union busting, with the intent of turning Wisconsin into a laborer's "utopia" like Florida (or other "right-to-work" states). State employees have already endured four years of pay freezes and two years of mandatory "furloughs" amounting to another 5-10% pay reduction; now Walker wants to remove their access to collective bargaining.

Walker is also, for reasons that no one can attribute to anything but a sheer, atavistic dislike of Madison, actually proposing removing the University of Wisconsin Madison campus from the state university system, which is roughly akin to proposing that the University of California - Berkeley no longer be funded as part of the University of California (only, due to Wisconsin's succinct and not completely insane constitution, legal in a way that the Berkeley thing would not be.)

More amusingly, he wanted to initially schedule the final legislative vote on his budget bill at a local animal feed warehouse, to symbolically emphasize that Wisconsin is now apparently somehow, as he likes to say, spread wide "open for business." This would also have allowed him to close the event to the public. Except that it turns out that the legislature isn't actually allowed to vote anywhere but the Capitol chambers except during emergencies, so he's just going to "announce" his budget at the feed lot instead. (The budget, despite protests, is pretty much a done deal; it's deliberately designed to secure Republican power for the next couple of decades, so they've circled the wagons and started touting "party unity" to make sure it passes.) Interestingly, he knew weeks ago that this was going to be unpopular, so he's already made it clear that he intends to call out the National Guard if public employees choose to demonstrate or go on strike for too long. (Note that the last three former heads of the National Guard of Wisconsin have sharply condemned this statement, observing that they are not intended to be used by the executive branch to make political threats; the current one has, of course, been silent on the issue.)

The Green Bay Packers have even sharply criticized Walker's budget proposals, just weeks after he basically draped himself in green and gold and declared it "Official Packers Week." I mean, they're draconian enough that football teams have an opinion.

Right now, there are widespread protests in most county seats and some huge rallies happening in Madison. Like I said, though, I seriously doubt that any of these will actually impact the passage of the bill, which contains things that the local Republicans want waaaay more than most Democrats wanted health care reform; they're willing to spend a little political capital now to get 'em. The next step for protesters is probably real, honest-to-God strikes, coupled with some lame recall efforts. (Personally, I support the former and not the latter, although I will nevertheless add my name to any recall petition for Scott Walker or Ron Johnson I come across, just on the principle that my elected representatives shouldn't be douchebags.)

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OpsanusTau
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Thanks Tom.

It's fascinating to me that this seems not to be heavily covered by national media. I mean, these are really large protests, and the government is threatening to use military force against its own citizens. In America.

Some people I've been reading online suggest that this is relevant to what's going on.

Myself, I just don't really get it, at all.

...what are the things in the bill that Wisconsin Republicans want so badly?

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JWatts
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quote:
Originally posted by OpsanusTau:
I mean, these are really large protests, and the government is threatening to use military force against its own citizens. In America.

Do you have a source for that statement?
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Pyrtolin
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He's tossed off suggestions that he's prepared to call the National Guard in it there are problems a few times. He hasn't specifically said that the'd use them to break the strike, but he's been pretty solid about making sure to keep referencing them as being ready to take care of things.
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vegimo
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Is Walker threatening to use military force against striking workers, or is he threatening to use them as replacements if prison guards, for example, go on strike?
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Pyrtolin
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http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2011/02/all_in_the_family_2.php

Looks like the Democratic Senators in Wisconsin are staging a de facto filibuster.

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OpsanusTau
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Well, like I said I'm having trouble finding great coverage of all this.

I have heard various reports of the governor having the National Guard "ready" in case of "unrest"; sometimes specifically referencing replacing prison guards in the case of strike, sometimes less specifically and more worryingly.

I've been reading more, though, and it's even more mind-boggling; apparently the budget was previously balanced, and then the governor and his cronies pushed through $140 million in new special-interest spending in January. And it's directly and entirely because of that new spending that there is a supposed budget crisis.

Viva la kleptocracy!

eta:
Surreal, Pyrtolin.
Apparently all the Democratic state Senators have left the state so that they can't be forced to make a quorum.
Creative.

edited a second time to add a different, perhaps less biased, source:
http://www.biztimes.com/daily/2011/2/17/

[ February 17, 2011, 02:12 PM: Message edited by: OpsanusTau ]

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Pyrtolin
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I don't think it was balanced, given the overall unemployment levels, but as I recall, he is pushing corporate tax cuts and the like which amount to more than the expected savings from cutting worker pay here.
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Pyrtolin
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Dems in Texas did something similar a few years back, so it's not completely creative. It's probably a better political move up on the edge of the rust belt.

I'm not entirely happy with "taking my ball and going home" attitude toward politics that it would promote, even if I do agree with their basic principles.

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Wayward Son
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Wow. First Tunisia, then Egypt, now Wisconsin.

Revolution is in the air... [Wink] [Smile]

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Mucus
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Hmm ...
I don't know if people from Wisconsin are ready for democracy. Did you know that 15% of them believe in laws from the Bible? It's time to send in the military and we should prop up their leaders until we're sure that they will elect the leaders that we approve of [Wink]

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cherrypoptart
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If what he is proposing is something similar to what Texas and Florida already enjoy, why is that so bad?

Maybe if they imitate what we're doing down here, not as many people will have to flee Wisconsin to come here in the future. Not that we mind the company, but still.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
If what he is proposing is something similar to what Texas and Florida already enjoy, why is that so bad?
When you say "enjoy," you mean "suffer," right? Because enjoyment doesn't factor into it. Texas and Florida are among some of the worst states in the country, especially when it comes to actual civic services. Some of us like having decent parks, for example.

[ February 17, 2011, 03:05 PM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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OpsanusTau
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It seems like it would be "so bad" because many of the people of Wisconsin seem to really, really not want it to happen.

And also, of course, because the governor is proposing this measure to fix a problem that he basically made himself.

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cherrypoptart
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Of course that's subjective about Texas and Florida being some of the worst states in the country, but as I remember things Texas and Florida are enjoying migrations now from other states and it's not all due to the nice weather either (especially in Texas) because I hear California is actually experiencing an exodus of Americans from that state to others even as its population increases because of immigration from other countries.

> OpsanusTau

> It seems like it would be "so bad" because many of the people of Wisconsin seem to really, really not want it to happen.

Many, but maybe not most? It could be that the people who voted for him are not the ones out protesting because they see their political will being put into action. Plus, they're busy working and stuff. Maybe they don't even have a union job that lets them take off from work to protest, and they wonder why they have to pay higher taxes than necessary to help cement the protection and retirement of government workers when they don't even have the luxury of enjoying the things they are paying to secure for others. Maybe if they paid less in taxes, they'd be able to fund their own retirements and make them more comfortable instead of working to fund the benefits for the unions and government workers.

> And also, of course, because the governor is proposing this measure to fix a problem that he basically made himself.

So he's correcting the mistakes he made.

Now I'll admit that I haven't taken the time to look at the details yet, but just based on the premise that this will make Wisconsin look more like Texas and Florida, it's pretty logical that if someone likes Texas and Florida labor laws they wouldn't object too much to Wisconsin copying them. And of course if someone hates Texas and Florida, they will object. Are any of these new proposals worse than what they have in Florida and what we have in Texas?

Maybe a protester should make a sign that reads: "If we wanted to live in Texas, we'd more there!"

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JWatts
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quote:
Originally posted by OpsanusTau:
Well, like I said I'm having trouble finding great coverage of all this.

I have heard various reports of the governor having the National Guard "ready" in case of "unrest"; sometimes specifically referencing replacing prison guards in the case of strike, sometimes less specifically and more worryingly.

There is a huge difference between having the National Guard step in to replace striking prison guards versus

quote:
and the government is threatening to use military force against its own citizens. In America.
quote:
Originally posted by OpsanusTau:
I've been reading more, though, and it's even more mind-boggling; apparently the budget was previously balanced, and then the governor and his cronies pushed through $140 million in new special-interest spending in January. And it's directly and entirely because of that new spending that there is a supposed budget crisis.

Viva la kleptocracy!

What does this earlier "kleptocratic bill" do? Does it specifically benefit the governor and/or his close associates?


Quotes from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

quote:
Walker offered the bill to help shore up the state's finances in advance of a budget to be delivered Tuesday that is expected to include major cuts in areas like aid to local schools and governments.

He first wants the budget repair bill passed to help clear up a $137 million budget shortfall for the fiscal year ending June 30 and ease solving a deficit of more than $3 billion over the next two years. The cuts to benefits would save taxpayers nearly $330 million through mid-2013.

Major elements of the budget-repair bill remain in place. It would require most public workers to pay half their pension costs - typically 5.8% of pay for state workers - and at least 12% of their health care costs. It applies to most state and local employees but does not apply to police, firefighters and state troopers, who would continue to bargain for their benefits.

Except for police, firefighters and troopers, raises would be limited to inflation unless a bigger increase was approved in a referendum. The non-law enforcement unions would lose their rights to bargain over anything but wages, would have to hold annual elections to keep their organizations intact and would lose the ability to have union dues deducted from state paychecks.

The most significant change the Joint Finance Committee approved would require local governments that don't have civil-service systems to create an employee grievance system within months. Those local civil-service systems would have to address grievances for employee termination, employee discipline and workplace safety.


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TomDavidson
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quote:
it's pretty logical that if someone likes Texas and Florida labor laws they wouldn't object too much to Wisconsin copying them
We tend to export our idiots, though, so that's not likely to be the problem.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
What does this earlier "kleptocratic bill" do? Does it specifically benefit the governor and/or his close associates?
Well, yes, actually.

---------

quote:
Is Walker threatening to use military force against striking workers, or is he threatening to use them as replacements if prison guards, for example, go on strike?
Both. To be fair, though -- and this is not something that was reported widely because at the time the coverage was rather sparse on the ground -- it was in response to a question about how he'd react to disruption caused by state employees, if such disruption were to occur. So it's not like he was issuing a pre-emptive threat, necessarily.

[ February 17, 2011, 03:35 PM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
If what he is proposing is something similar to what Texas and Florida already enjoy, why is that so bad?
Because he's trying to make it like Ohio, and repeat the spectacular failure that such policies had there.
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JWatts
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
What does this earlier "kleptocratic bill" do? Does it specifically benefit the governor and/or his close associates?
Well, yes, actually.

Could you provide a source please?
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TomDavidson
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http://host.madison.com/ct/news/opinion/editorial/article_61064e9a-27b0-5f28-b6d1-a57c8b2aaaf6.html
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cherrypoptart
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I see, so by paying off his crony supporters he caused the extra budget crisis and now the only way to solve it is to hurt his opposition, the unions?

Yeah when you put it that way it seems real suspicious, almost like the exact opposite of what's happened nationally.

Politics... /sigh.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
almost like the exact opposite of what's happened nationally
You think that, nationally, unions are causing budget crises and hurting their opposition? Where?
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OpsanusTau
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source:
The original source of the statement, as far as I can tell.

An unbiased, or less-biased at least, discussion, which comes down to discussion whether decreasing tax revenues is actually "spending". The amount of money removed from the state budget by the governor's legislation is not disputed.

Also, a comment from a blog I read, discussing why it's an icky lie to paint this as greedy, over-privileged government employees who need to have Our Tax Dollars [tm] taken back from them.
quote:
A former colleague and I each had the option to go for a job at higher pay with less job security/fewer retirement benefits in the private sector or lower pay at a public sector job for more job security and slightly better retirement options. He went for the higher pay, I opted for the lower pay in the public sector with more job security - a $13,000 difference when the job started, which after a couple of years became more like a $19,000 gap as my salary increase was frozen several years ago and I lacked any form of bonus (unlike my former colleague in the private sector who brought home $3-4000 in yearly bonuses and even an iPhone one year). This salary gap between private and public for the same job was rubbed in my face for several years, with me being constantly told how wrong my choice was and how stupid I was to be investing in the state retirement system rather than having a 401K. Then the job market went completely south and I kept my job while my former colleague lost his. Now suddenly I am the bad person for still having a job, and my salary and benefits are now considered excessive and HOW DARE I maintain my retirement in the public employees system! Over 6 years, I calculate that this former colleague made at least $92,000 more than me in the private sector doing essentially the same job that I do in the public sector (I actually have more people who report to me than he did). He made the choice to go for more money up front over job security - I opted for less money up front and more job security and better benefits. Why am I now bogeyman whose salary needs to be cut and whose benefits are now considered outrageous, when previously I was the object of scorn for my low pay? I have worked equally hard and brought home less money over the years, knowing that what I lack in salary now will be somewhat compensated for upon retirement. But now I am the enemy? Bull****. I just wasn't greedy.

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Pyrtolin
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quote:
Originally posted by cherrypoptart:
Yeah when you put it that way it seems real suspicious, almost like the exact opposite of what's happened nationally.

No, it's actually exactly what's happened nationally- Wisconsin has just managed to hold out longer before it managed to let enough crooks in to start the process.
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TomDavidson
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My wife, as a public sector employee split half-time between the state and the federal government, makes considerably less than she'd make in the private sector despite doing harder work. She does this for a variety of reasons, not least because she believes that public research is important. Her pay has been frozen and she has had to take mandatory furloughs, despite the state portion of her salary being paid entirely by research grants (which she actually had to spend time and money to send back, since that money couldn't be used for another purpose). The proposed bill would not only remove her access to collective bargaining but would tie her pay to inflation forever, force her to pay an additional 5% of her salary into her pension fund -- which is, let's face it, the equivalent of a salary reduction -- and more than double her insurance costs.

For what? What is she doing that is unnecessary, or wasteful, or improper? Or even undesired by the idiots in Wisconsin who voted for Walker? Again: the state portion of her salary is paid by grants from agribusiness. They want the state to be doing the research that she is making it possible for the state to do, enough that they are actually paying out of their own pockets on top of their existing taxes to fund her position half-time, just to buy some of her time on their pet projects. And because Walker's proposal affects all state employees, not just those state employees whose salaries are publicly funded, the same business concerns Walker claims he's serving are injuring the parties they've paid to help them.

[ February 17, 2011, 04:24 PM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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OpsanusTau
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quote:
I see, so by paying off his crony supporters he caused the extra budget crisis and now the only way to solve it is to hurt his opposition, the unions?
Well, that does look a lot like what is happening, actually.

Here is a Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo on the subject, dated January 31.

- Before Walker came into office, Wisconsin's budget was fine.

- Immediately upon coming into office, Walker pushed through some bills.

- Now there is a projected budget shortfall.

quote:
Our analysis indicates that for the three-year period, aggregate, general fund tax collections will be $202.8 million lower than those reflected in the November/December reports. More than half of the lower estimate ($117.2 million) is due to the impact of Special Session Senate Bill 2 (health savings accounts), Assembly Bill 3 (tax deductions/credits for relocated businesses), and Assembly Bill 7 (tax exclusion for new employees).

- Rather than do something about the bills he, himself, just signed and return the budget to its previous state of balance, the governor is doing something different.

- He intends to solve this "budget crisis", which he personally made, by making the lives of thousands of state employees more difficult, although these people had nothing to do with the current "crisis".

It's hard to believe that this isn't done out of spite.

And also, it's hard to know what proportion of the people of Wisconsin really hate this idea. Sure, maybe some folks really like it; I haven't seen them out protesting. It will be interesting to see what happens.

This might be difficult to accept, but elected officials are capable of doing things that the people who voted for them don't approve of. I have voted for many people who subsequently took actions I did not support. What candidates say and what elected officials do are sometimes very different things.

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JWatts
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OK, so in reality none of these Tax Law changes are cronyism at all (from Politifact, a left-leaning sight):

One Wisconsin Now says Scott Walker and the Legislature have increased spending by $140 million

Verdict: FALSE (actually they gave it he PANTS ON FIRE verdict, but that's just sensationalism)

Details:
Economic development tax credit
quote:
Signed into law Jan. 31, 2011, this bill increases the state’s economic development tax credit fund to $98.1 million, up from $73.1 million. The fund provides a tax credit for job creation, capital investment or related activity. The additional $25 million in credits is not expected to be claimed during the 2011-2013 biennium.
So this $25 million tax credit isn't expected to even have an affect for the next 2 years.

Health Savings Account deduction
quote:

Also signed into law, this measure allows people to deduct contributions they make to Health Savings Accounts from their state income taxes, as they can from their federal income taxes. Nearly every other state already allows this.

The deductions will reduce state revenue by an estimated $20.7 million in 2011-2012 and $27.3 million in 2012-2013.

Seriously? I'm surprised that you couldn't already deduct your HSA on your state taxes. This sets HSA's up under the same tax laws as normal employee provided insurance. This is in no way cronyism. It's removing a loop hole which taxed one form of Health Care Insurance at a higher rate than another.

Tax deduction for creating jobs
quote:

Under this bill, which is awaiting Walker’s signature, employers would receive a tax deduction for each job they create. They would pay an estimated $33.5 million less per year in income and franchise taxes.

In other words, the bill doesn’t result in any spending, but the state would take in less tax money.

I'm am shocked! The governor enacted a state stimulus bill. [Roll Eyes]


quote:
One Wisconsin Now says they apply to "special interests." They may be targeted for specific purposes, but they also hit a wide range of people, including small business owners and any working person who has an HSA.
Next in the News; Right Wing Site claims Obama is an Indonesia Muslim Commie Spy!
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RickyB
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"Surreal, Pyrtolin.
Apparently all the Democratic state Senators have left the state so that they can't be forced to make a quorum.
Creative."

Nothing new there. I remember some years back Dems in Texas did the same thing and hid up in New Mexico. I think the issue there was rezoning.

Ah, Pyrt got there before me. Damn you! [Big Grin]

[ February 17, 2011, 04:40 PM: Message edited by: RickyB ]

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JWatts
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quote:
Originally posted by OpsanusTau:
- Before Walker came into office, Wisconsin's budget was fine.

No apparently that's not true.

quote:
The state's yawning budget hole has swelled to $2.5 billion, underscoring the massive challenge that awaits the next governor and Legislature, a new report released Friday shows.

The projections by the Legislature's nonpartisan budget office show the expected shortfall for the 2011-'13 budget has grown by $462 million from the just over $2 billion that was expected a year ago.

It is one of the biggest projected shortfalls of the past decade, nearly as large as the $2.9 billion deficit that Gov. Jim Doyle faced in his first budget in 2003.

JSOnline

And this source seems to agree:
quote:
Leading Republican lawmakers say workers have to share the pain of shoring up the state's unsustainable financial problems -- a projected $2.9 billion biennial budget deficit for fiscal 2012 and 2013. This year's budget totals $12.7 billion.
Reuters

And here's another source:
quote:
Wisconsin faces a budget shortfall between $2.2 and $3.3 billion, depending on the assumptions used when calculating the deficit.[1]

The state will receive approximately $408 million from the federal government under H.R. 1586, a $26 billion plan to give states money for Medicaid and education that the President signed into law on August 10, 2010.[2] $194 million of that money is for Medicaid.[3]

Wisconsin has a total state debt of $17,971,519,547 when calculated by adding the total of outstanding debt, pension and OPEB UAAL’s, unemployment trust funds and the 2010 budget gap as of July 2010

Sunshine
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Pyrtolin
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No, that's flat out false. You only get those numbers by taking the $3.6 billion in additional funding requests from agencies as part of the budgeting process and assuming that they all will be authorized without any new revenue measures. That never happens in any case, never mind the pretending like they don't have control over that.
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TomDavidson
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Why do you think Politifact is left-leaning? It's run by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, which has been notoriously in Walker's pocket. (You can check some of its other Walker-based "falsehoods" if you like; its bias becomes rather rapidly obvious.)

[ February 17, 2011, 05:08 PM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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JWatts
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
Why do you think Politifact is left-leaning? It's run by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, which has been notoriously in Walker's pocket. (You can check some of its other Walker-based "falsehoods" if you like; its bias becomes rather rapidly obvious.)

Hmmm, you might be right. I was thinking it was the national Politifact, which is run by the St. Petersburg Times (a left leaning, Democratic paper). But as you indicate, this is obviously Politifact Wisconsin. (I didn't know it was now a franchise operation.)

[ February 17, 2011, 05:14 PM: Message edited by: JWatts ]

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Pyrtolin
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Tom. Your state is insane:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankenstein_veto

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TomDavidson
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The Frankenstein veto was one of the reasons I didn't vote for Doyle. Of course, I didn't vote for Walker, either, but...
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JWatts
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quote:
Originally posted by Pyrtolin:
Tom. Your state is insane:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankenstein_veto

[Big Grin] Now that's hilarious.
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TomDavidson
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Yeah, you can blame that one on Tommy Thompson. His use of it was legendarily bad, and Doyle was sharply critical of it when he ran for election. Of course, Doyle then used it himself a couple of times -- because apparently resisting the temptation to misuse power is absolutely impossible.
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G2
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
One of the top measures, which Walker is putting forward shamelessly as a "cost control" measure for the current budget "crisis" (a crisis caused almost entirely by his proposed tax cuts) is a complete gutting of current labor protections for state employees.

Almost entirely by his proposed tax cuts? That's not reality. Walker assumed office only last month. From May of last year:
quote:
State and local debt in Wisconsin grew faster than federal debt over the last 19 years. State debt rose 316%, an average of 7.8% per year, from $2.71 billion in 1990 to $11.25 billion in 2009.
Wisconsin has been going further and further into debt long before Walker proposed anything.

[ February 18, 2011, 04:49 PM: Message edited by: G2 ]

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Wisconsin has been going further and further into debt long before Walker proposed anything.
Different debt, different bin. Walker's "emergency" fix -- the justification he's putting forward for the speed at which he's trying to act -- is fixing a different problem.
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