One Wisconsin Now Blog

June 2011 Archives

An Oshkosh Northwestern editorial today roasted Michelle "Bachmann" Litjens for sponsoring a bill that first and foremost serves her own business interests

Litjens's bill would "prohibit municipal utilities from placing tenants" unpaid utility bills on a landlord's property tax bill at the end of each year. Fair is fair, right? Wrong. City Manager Mark Rohloff says the bill is "'patently unfair to rate-payers who pay their bills every month' since they would face higher rates to cover unpaid delinquencies and the utilities' cost to try and collect unpaid bills."

So essentially, Litjens is pushing the burden away from landlords back on to tenants who DO pay their bills on time. Typical right-wing stuff. But why does Litjens even care about such matters. The Northwestern has your answer:

Making the bill less palatable: Litjens and her husband, Tony, own and manage 24 apartment buildings in Oshkosh, according to city and Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions records. The properties total 133 units under Tony and Michelle Litjens and companies they control. Some of her buildings offer water costs included in the rent, while others have utilities charged to tenants. A search of the Litjens' properties found they owe, as of last week, $2,326 on the 15 properties where they receive a bill addressed to them. Tenants at their properties owe hundreds of additional dollars, city utility bill records show.

The Northwestern then smacks down Litjens's Michelle Bachmannesque response to the accusation that she's drafting legislation that serves her own interests over the interests of her constituents.

"The state's Ethics Board has said when you don't have a direct benefit, there is no ethical violation," Litjens said. "If my tenants all paid their water bills, it wouldn't affect me at all."

Litjens' "if" defense of her action is a shallow rationale that gives the appearance of petty, self-serving legislation.

The editorial board asked whether she was being a legislator or lobbyist, and then answered its own question: "For all practical purposes, Litjens is serving as both a legislator and a lobbyist on this issue."

[Oshkosh Northwestern]

The people of Wisconsin are past the point where they are willing to tolerate for one moment longer, the abusive and alarming conduct of Supreme Court Justice David Prosser.

Enough is enough with the abusive temper of David Prosser.

If allegations Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser recently grabbed the neck of fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley in the heat of an argument are true - he has to go.

Prosser's temper and abusive conduct has been tolerated long enough.

Prosser charging at Tim Carpenter on the Assembly floor when the two served together - footage One Wisconsin Now obtained and made public in March.

Prosser calling Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson a "bitch" and threatening to "destroy" her.

And now this.

According to media reports, the alleged latest confrontation and possible assault by Prosser took place as Prosser was concocting the majority opinion as the deciding vote allowing Gov. Scott Walker's attack on 175,000 Wisconsin workers.

Prosser has time and again dismissed his unhinged behavior. The corporate speculators and right wing special interests like Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the Koch brothers and the Republicans that bankrolled his re-election dismiss his conduct. Why? Because time and again, Prosser is the deciding vote on the court to uphoild their damanging agenda and endorse the reckless lawlessness of actions like Scott Fitzgerald's open meeting law violation to pass Walker's anti-collective bargaining scheme.

Enough is enough. Prosser must resign. And if he refuses, the State Legislature must take steps to remove him from office.

Will Walker Attend Koch Fest This Weekend?

Twice a year, the Koch brothers plan a secretive, high profile meeting between the most conservative of political actors and sympathetic non-profit organizations, and wealthy donors willing to further their cause.

This wonderful time of year is upon us again. Charles and David Koch are organizing a political "seminar" for this weekend in Vail, Colorado. The Koch brothers held their last retreat in Palm Springs in January, and it received a lot of media scrutiny at the time thanks to their financing of the Tea Party and Americans for Prosperity. This weekend's meeting has so far managed to fly stealthily under the radar. In fact, had it not been for Governor McDonnell of Virginia publishing his schedule, we might never have know what the Koch brothers had planned for this weekend.

The guest lists for their previous seminars have included people like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina. Knowing the caliber of conservative political figures that will surely be in Colorado, and knowing that when the Koch brothers' call, Gov. Scott Walker answers the phone, it begs the question as to whether he will be attending the retreat with his conservative pals in Vail over the weekend.

Gov. Walker is scheduled to sign his controversial budget bill that eviscerates the middle class by cutting funding to education and healthcare, and raises taxes on the working poor and seniors by $70 million, in Green Bay this Sunday. Walker's bill also makes taxpayers foot the bill for losses of companies that operate in Wisconsin but also have entities in other states, such as Koch, which operates the Green Bay area's Georgia Pacific.

So, it begs the question of whether Gov. Walker will join this opportunity to rub shoulders with his fellow corporate sell-outs and Koch-fiends? Let's hope not. Gov. Walker should let us know immediately of his travel plans. Wisconsin doesn't need any more of the Koch brothers' "help" where our politicians are concerned.

With his approval rating tanking after signing a series of extremely anti-middle class policies, Republican Gov. Scott Walker made the obvious decision this year to close off the budget signing ceremony to the public. Walker and the GOP majority appear to be running from the public after they voted to destroy Wisconsin's strong tradition of quality education, affordable health care, and strong worker rights in favor of carelessly handing out more tax breaks to big corporate special interests.

Walker wasn't always so shy about discussing the state budget. During the years and years and years it took him to campaign for Governor, Walker never met a TV camera he didn't like. He even rode a motorcycle across the state, conveniently stopping in each of Wisconsin's media markets, to promote himself Milwaukee County. In 2005, Walker made a stop at the Executive Residence to "protest [former Gov.] Doyle's failure to sign a property tax freeze, although Doyle had just signed one into law."

With little facts to back up his message -- and few believers in it (see photo) --Walker's stunt was easily chalked up as an attempt to get some face time on TV in Madison.

Now, after months of pushing for the most extremely anti-middle class budget in our state's history and essentially getting their way at every turn, the GOP majority is getting away with Gov. Walker closing off the budget signing ceremony to the public.

Divided They Sit

The Wisconsin Supreme Court announced on Tuesday that it would uphold Governor Walker's Collective Bargaining Legislation. The court ruled that the Republican-controlled Senate was not in violation of the Open Meetings Law, and furthermore that the Supreme Court has no jurisdiction over the procedural rules of the Judiciary.

While the court ruled on what some are calling a split Conservative-Liberal line, many people, including Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, are questioning the validity of the opinion.

Chief Justice Abrahamson voiced her concern that the majority opinion was written without accurate analysis, and that the court overlooked significant facts as well as precedence. She even goes so far as to say that "the explanations are clearly disingenuous, based on disinformation."

One of her main concerns was the failure of the court to factor precedence into the decision, especially since the recent 2009 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel v. Wisconsin Department of Administration case addressed the similar issue of the judiciary enforcing legislative procedural rules.  She says, "The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel case was based on at least three earlier cases, all concluding that a court may require the legislature to comply with a legislative procedural rule or statute if the procedural rule or statute furthers a constitutional directive."

Read the court's opinion and Chief Justice Abrahamson's opinion here: http://www.wicourts.gov/sc/opinion/DisplayDocument.html?content=html&seqNo=66078

Her partially dissenting opinion calls into question the polarity and political nature of the court at this time.

Especially following the bitter battle between Justice Prosser and Kloppenburg in the spring for the Supreme Court seat, Wisconsinites have feared that the Supreme Court has become a tool in the hands of Governor Walker's administration.

Now with this decision on collective bargaining, it seems that those fears have come true.

The Supreme Court decision, along with the budget debates, seems to have refueled recall efforts, with more Wisconsinites showing up this week to protest outside the capitol than have in the past couple of weeks. While a recall would not be able to change the composition of the Supreme Court, it would help to prevent anything similar to the collective bargaining legislation passing in the Legislature in the future.

Walker Stunt Costs Thousands

Scott Walker's Wisconsin is allegedly "Open For Business," and he wants to be absolutely sure that everyone knows it.

According to email conversations obtained by One Wisconsin Now between the Bureau of Highway Maintenance and Joe Fadness, Walker transition team member, Walker spent at least $1,725 of taxpayer money just to make those useless "Open For Business" plaques on signs greeting visitors to the state at our borders.

The contract calls for 23 of these small plaques, at $75 each, with the intention of attaching them to 22 of Wisconsin's entry point signs. The email also indicates Team Walker was willing to increase the cost in order to get the signs delivered within a week.

You can read the emails here: http://www.onewisconsinnow.org/blog/Walker%20Signs%20Email.pdf

The purpose of this stunt was to let the Governor illustrate the full extent to which he is in the hands of Big Business.

These plaques were put on display in Wisconsin before Gov. Walker attacked the rights of 175,000 workers to please the Koch Brothers, and before Walker will likely sign a total of $2.3 billion in tax breaks for corporations and the rich, to the delight of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.

And let's not forget what he's doing to the middle class to pay for these corporate tax breaks: $1.6 billion less for public education, 70,000 gone from health care coverage, as many as 1 million with higher health care costs, $250 million slashed from the University of Wisconsin and $71 million nabbed from the Wisconsin Technical College System. But he'll raise taxes on the working poor - at a cost of $70 million.

Gov. Walker's Wisconsin is not only "open for big business," but serving his corporate masters seems to have been his only aspiration from the start.

Gov. Walker is taking money out of the hands of working families and giving it to big business. The recall elections against six of Walker's allies are an indication of how some people in Wisconsin feel about Gov. Walker's attacks on Wisconsin families.

That's the real sign of the times.

"I have two teenagers and I tell them that nothing good happens after midnight. That's even more true in politics," [Walker] said in a statement. "The people of Wisconsin deserve to know what their elected leaders are voting on." [Associated Press, 4/25/2010]

That was Walker a little over a year ago when he was campaigning for Governor.

But just last night, the Assembly was yet again voting in the early hours of the morning, passing amendments without debate, that hadn't been seen by anyone outside of a small group of people who negotiated behind closed doors.

At 2am in the morning, the Assembly voted to expand student vouchers to second-class cities statewide. After deleting a voucher program expansion to the Green Bay School District because there wasn't sufficient local support, they passed an even bigger expansion that stretches statewide. Cities like Appleton, Janesville, Eau Claire, Stevens Point, Wausau, and yes, even Green Bay.

$35 million is already being pulled out of our strapped school system so that Walker's wealthy friends can use public tax dollars to send their kids to private schools in Milwaukee County. On top of the $2.3 billion in tax cuts the legislature passed that wealthy people and corporations can expect over the next decade, they get nice fat checks, sort of like a tax rebate, to pay for their kids to attend private schools.

One can only imagine the expense and devastation this will bring to schools in these cities.

 

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

But Abrahamson wrote that the order seems to open the court unnecessarily to the charge that the majority has "reached a predetermined conclusion not based on the facts and the law, which undermines the majority's ultimate decision."

The majority justices "make their own findings of fact, mischaracterize the parties' arguments, misinterpret statutes, minimize (if not eliminate) Wisconsin constitutional guarantees, and misstate case law, appearing to silently overrule case law dating back to at least 1891," Abrahamson wrote.

"Justices" Gableman, Prosser, Roggensack and Ziegler have time and again showed they are unconcerned about the law, but rather use their power to serve the interests of corporate America and the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. It is shameful. It is against the values of Wisconsin.

It is madness. 

 

Gov. Scott Walker and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), our state's largest pro-corporate lobbying group, simultaneously announced today that the CEOs and the board members of WMC gave high marks to Gov. Walker for his anti-worker, anti-middle class agenda. Surprise, surprise.

Big Payoff
It's no small secret that WMC was instrumental in getting Gov. Walker elected. The big business interest lobby had already spent nearly a million dollars supporting Walker a month before the actual election, in addition to the $200,000 its partner, anti-consumer protection group American Justice Partnership, spent in mid-2010. Meanwhile, the WMC affiliate in Milwaukee funneled $266,000 to the Republican Governor's Association, which spent $3 million in in political advertising supporting Walker's campaign. Additionally, from data collected by One Wisconsin Now from the Government Accountability Board and the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, WMC board members have personally contributed over $160,000 to Walker's gubernatorial campaigns.

So just who exactly is on the board of directors and key staff of WMC?

Well, we know who isn't. After spending millions of dollars to get Walker elected, several of WMC's board and staff have left the pro-corporate group to find new jobs in the anti-worker Walker Administration:

  • John Metcalf started working for WMC in 1988. He lobbied for WMC on issues of employee relations, with an emphasis on unemployment insurance and worker's compensation matters. In 2011, he was appointed Administrator of the Division of Worker's Compensation.
  • RJ Pirlot represented WMC on a number of issues, including energy and telecommunications. Not surprisingly, Pirlot got the job as executive assistant for the Public Service Commission in the Walker Administration.
  • Daniel Ariens, a WMC board member since 2006 and Walker campaign donor, was appointed by Gov. Walker in 2011 to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.
  • Paul Jadin was a board member of WMC since 2008 and president of the Green Bay Chamber of Commerce for seven years before being appointed by Gov. Walker to the Secretary of Commerce cabinet position.

Big Secret
This list might be more comprehensive in reality; we can't be sure anymore. Sometime after Gov. Walker launched his attack on workers in February 2011, WMC made the unprecedented move to remove the list of its board of directors and key staff from public view. Our list of board members and key staff is current up until early 2011.

Big Deal
But if there's one thing we do know for sure, it's that WMC's pro-corporate agenda has found a friend in the anti-worker Walker Administration.

It wasn't long after Walker took office that WMC loudly and proudly declared "victory" on its war on the middle class. One list WMC didn't remove from public view is this pro-corporate agenda it touted as "victories" (these are taken verbatim from WMC's website):

  • At WMC's urging, Legislature passes no-tax-hike state budget, a property tax freeze, and an $80 million corporate tax cut.
  • WMC helps overturn $94 million punitive damage claim at Wisconsin appeals court. Establishes precedent.
  • Killed a bill to increase the minimum wage beyond federal law, and index hikes in future years.
  • Killed a proposed state-employee early retirement plan that would have cost taxpayers more than $400 million and allowed some public employees to retire by age 48.
  • Killed mandatory school-activity leave for employers with 50 or more employees. Employees would have been eligible for up to 16 hours of school activity leave.
  • Defeated a bill to allow compensatory and unlimited punitive damage claims against employers in some workplace discrimination cases.
  • Defeated a bill that mandated insurers provide mental health and drug abuse treatment coverage on the same basis as other health insurance coverage.
  • Defeated a proposed constitutional amendment to the Uniformity Clause that would have shifted the property tax burden to commercial and industrial taxpayers.

But as WMC and Gov. Walker called for a "shared sacrifice", the CEOs and corporations represented on WMCs board of directors - the same one's today giving Walker high marks - were taking HUGE pay increases. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the average pay for corporate CEOs pay went up 27% last year. Among the CEOs and companies were WMC board members (as of mid-2010):

  • Nicholas Pinchuk's compensation went up 45% to over $6.2 million.
  • Todd Teske's compensation increased 161% to over $3.4 million.
  • Richard Meeusen's compensation increased 22% to over $1.3 million.
  • Glenn Tellock's compensation increased 141% to over $4.9 million, as his company's earnings were -$73 million last year.
  • J. Joel Quadracci's compensation increased 99% to over $5.5 million, while his company's were -$250 million last year.
  • M&I Bank CEO Mark Furlong's compensation increased 205% to over $5 million, although his company's earnings were -$616 million last year.
  • WMC chair Thomas Howatt took a 4% decrease last year. Now he only makes $4.5 million. Poor fella.

WMC and the Republican majority consistently defend giving huge tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy by claiming big business will create jobs. In reality, CEOs are better about creating huge paychecks for themselves and aren't creating jobs, or profits.

Today marks the 10 year anniversary of President George W. Bush singing what was the first of several tax cuts that would drive the national economy into deep amounts of debt.

Republicans describe the Bush tax cuts as a way to encourage economic growth and create jobs. However, their true aim is to give tax breaks to corporations and the super rich at the expense of working American families. The average tax cut for those making over three million dollars a year was $520,000, 450 times larger than that of the average middle income family. The bottom 20% of income distribution received only a 1% share of the tax cuts and 75% of low income families saw no reduction at all.

For his efforts, the President's record touts the worst wage and salary growth, as well as the worst total compensation growth of any postwar economic expansion. President Bush's economic expansion is the only in which population to employment ratio did not rise. It is clear that the working class received the short end of this deal as the economic benefits failed to trickle down. The nation's bottom 90% of earners were left with just 13% of total income gains, while 24% of income gains were garnered by the top .01%.

The cost of these cuts has been the number one driver of the national debt. From 2001- 2010 the Bush tax cuts added $2.6 trillion, accounting for nearly 50% of the entire debt during this period. This cost will only rise if the tax cuts are made permanent, in such a scenario a total cost of $5 trillion is projected to be added over the next decade.

Today, the focus for Republicans continues to be creating economic benefits for the richest Americans. In 2010 the tax on large estates was repealed for the first time since 1916, it was a reinstated in 2011 with a $5 million exemption and extremely low 35% rate. Failing to tax large estates allows the top 1% of income distribution to control 35% of the nation's wealth, while the bottom 80% control a mere 13%. Right now 400 individuals in America have more wealth than the sum owned by 50 percent of all Americans.

During the Bush years average incomes dropped and unemployment never saw a return to pre-recession levels. Additionally, Bush tax cuts only generate 35 cents for every dollar in forgone revenue, while tax policies like the Child Tax Credit enacted under the Obama Administration generates $1.38 in comparison.  By targeting high income individuals who are highly unlikely to spend extra income on job creation, the Bush era inhibited economic growth and pulled the rug from out under the middle class. The people of this country deserve a fair tax code that will help strengthen the working class and provide quality jobs with decent wages.

The legacy of the Bush era economic policy manifests itself today as Republicans attack investment in education, infrastructure, health and social security to pay for these cuts. The 10th anniversary of these tax cuts should be a reminder that the American people are financing corporate tax giveaways. This is especially shameful at a time when corporations boast record profits and working families struggle to make ends meet from day to day.

As the GOP and right-wing bloggers try to distract the America with non-issues, Wisconsin Republicans Paul Ryan and Sean Duffy are trying to cut hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin citizens off Medicare. In Duffy's district alone, 480,000 citizens would lose access to Medicare. Obviously, they're not happy about it:

100-plus demonstrators against and in favor of revising Medicare met Congressman Sean Duffy at the Douglas County Senior Center in Superior today. Joe Cadotte reports.

Duffy defended the plan to privatize Medicare as 100 protestors and elderly people packed the senior center cafeteria. They hoped to get their questions answered about proposed Medicare changes.

Shocked and appalled.

[Business North]

With the public so overwhelmingly against taking away workers' rights while handing out huge tax breaks to corporations, the Republican state senators in Wisconsin that voted for Scott Walker's plan to do just that are facing recall. So how does a Republican Senator overcome such huge opposition? Dirty tricks, of course:

In letters obtained by No Quarter, local Republican Party officials are encouraging their GOP colleagues to collect enough signatures to get a fake Democratic candidate on the ballot in each of two upcoming recall elections.

The spoiler Democrats, who are identified by name in the letters, would run in the Democratic primaries for the seats now held by Republican Sens. Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac and Luther Olsen of Ripon.

It was just last week we learned of a secret recording that caught the GOP in La Crosse County plotting to run a spoiler opponent in the Democratic primary to take steam out the public outrage at Dan Kapanke for voting for Scott Walker's budget despair bill.

Here's a way to get a little healthier, while helping to make our state healthier.

Run Against Walker.

Join One Wisconsin Now at Walkerville this Tuesday at 5:30p.m. for our next "Run Against Walker." We'll start at the top of State Street, trot around the Capitol, down State Street and to the Terrace to start.

Some will run longer, some will return back up State. All levels welcome and walkers should also join us.

We will have some of our 100 percent union-made, 100 percent made in the U.S.A. "Run Against Walker" t-shirt. You can also purchase online here:

Purchase your "Run Against Walker" shirt to fight against Walker's destruction of Wisconsin.

One Wisconsin Now has been hanging out with our friends at Walkerville on the State Capitol square and we will continue to do everything we can to fight against Gov. Walker and the Republican legislature's unconscionable attacks on our way of life, including massive cuts to education and health care to pay for now more than half-a-billion dollars in tax cuts for the rich and big corporations. And that includes a more than $50 billion tax hike for working Wisconsinites.

The madness of King Walker must be stopped.

See you Tuesday at 5:30p.m. and make sure you stop early in the day to participate in all of the Walkerville activities as they go on throughout the coming weeks.

The votes are in...

...from your participation in "Who Should Be Our Next U.S. Senator."

Thousands of votes came from across Wisconsin from a list of 18 potential Democratic and Republican candidates - as well as the option to write-in someone who might not have been on the list.

Former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold garnered the most votes, and here is the list of the top five finishers in order:

Russ Feingold
Tammy Baldwin
Ron Kind
Tom Barrett
Kathleen Falk

We thank you so much for your participation and for your support and enthusiasm.

Rep. David Craig (R) made no bones about it in a press release today: protecting race-based mascots, which creates no jobs, is a top priority:

[Rep. Craig] is continuing his fight against a state law passed last session, when the Democrats controlled the State Legislature, which allows the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to force school districts to change their mascots. Representative Craig along with Representatives Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) and Steve Nass (R-Town of La Grange) are introducing legislation which extends the deadline for compliance for a school district that is subject to an order from DPI to change their mascot.
“Last month, on my first day as a member of the State Assembly, I sent letters to the Speaker of the Assembly and the Committee Chairman urging them to allow a bill that will fully repeal the new state law that allows DPI to order school districts to change their mascots.”

I'm not sure what the hold-up is, the GOP has been great at passing legislation that has nothing to do with job creation -- whether its giving tax breaks for corporations, taking away the rights of workers, making it more expensive and difficult to vote, or drafting Arizona-style immigration laws.

[Rep. David Craig]

The Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee voted to raise taxes on as many as 270,000 working Wisconsinites through changes in the Earned Income Tax Credit, while handing out more than $84 million in corporate tax breaks.

So far, budget committee Republicans have voted in favor of raising taxes on as many as 500,000 Wisconsin families.

The Republican math is clear: raise taxes on 500,000 Wisconsin families and to reward as few as 400 Wisconsin companies. These 500,000 Wisconsin families are more of the victims of Gov. Scott Walker and the Republicans' unconscionable version of "shared sacrifice."

Republicans yesterday pushed through $84 million in new corporate tax cuts. At the same time, Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee unanimously increased taxes on people by $43 million by altering the Earned Income Tax Credit. Previously, Republicans voted to freeze Homestead Property Tax Credit. [Wisconsin State Journal, 3/6/11, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 5/31/11]

When fully phased in, additional capital gains tax cuts will put the total at nearly $140 million every year in total tax breaks for corporations. [Legislative Fiscal Bureau Budget Analysis]

The tax increases to 500,000 Wisconsin families come on the heels of a number of additional attacks on the middle class and those in need by Gov. Walker and the Republicans, including:

  • Reducing funds available for public schools by $1.6 billion, while expanding unaccountable private school investment by $40 million.
  • Stripping 175,000 workers of their right to collective bargaining.
  • Giving the Walker administration the ability to cut 70,000 people from accessing health care, as well as raising costs on health care for 1 million Wisconsinites.
  • Risking the end of SeniorCare prescription drug benefits, or raising the costs of prescription drugs for participating seniors.
  • Privatizing broad functions of state government services, many involving no-bid contracts.
  • Consolidating power in the hands of the Governor's office and unelected bureaucrats.


Wall Street, the nation's largest banks and speculators nearly bankrupted the economy, but Gov. Walker and the Republicans want to punish the working poor.

Once again, Republicans remind Wisconsin that their idea of 'shared sacrifice' is the middle class and poor sacrifice and the rich and big business get to share our tax dollars.