Tag: budget

Wisconsin GOP state legislator Isthmuswashes Democratic state legislator

It’s another odd-numbered year, so there’s another state budget debate in Wisconsin. However, this time, the Republicans aren’t just pulling out the “Madison liberal!!!” card to attack Democratic legislators who are from the Madison area; they’re using Wisconsin’s second-largest city to attack Democrats who live far from Madison:

Wisconsin State Sen. Tom Tiffany, a Republican, accused Wisconsin State Rep. Katrina Shankland, a Democrat, of using “Madison math” in regards to her opposition to a University of Wisconsin budget measure. There’s two problems with that.

First, Shankland’s opposition to the measure is based on the fact that the GOP is trying to enact a budget measure that would leave Wisconsin’s public university system in a budget mess:

I might be a lifelong Illinoisan, but I know that Stevens Point is pretty far away from Madison. As a matter of fact, I’m going to coin a new word to describe what Tiffany did to Shankland: Isthmuswashing. Isthmuswashing is the act of claiming or implying that someone is from Madison, Wisconsin, when he or she is actually not from Madison, Wisconsin.

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Illinois needs an income tax increase

Yesterday, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner stood inside the Illinois State Capitol and falsely accused Democrats in the Illinois General Assembly of holding public education hostage for being unable to pass a state budget against Rauner’s veto threats.

The truth of the matter is that Rauner is the one holding Illinois hostage.

Bruce Rauner has repeatedly refused to support raising Illinois’s income tax in order to pay for essential and important state government services, such as transportation and public education. Instead, Rauner has repeatedly demanded so-called “reforms” designed to drive down the wages of working Illinoisans in exchange for a state budget. That is hostage politics.

The truth of the matter is that Illinois needs an income tax increase, as well as eliminating corporate tax breaks and loopholes, plus cuts in wasteful spending like corporate welfare, to put the state back on a path to fiscal responsibility. Bruce Rauner just doesn’t get it.

While Illinois lacks a state budget, Bruce Rauner holds a religious event on state property

Showing complete disrespect for the separation of church and state that is mandated by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner held a prayer breakfast at the Illinois Executive Mansion in Springfield earlier today.

It’s bad enough that Rauner chose to hold a religious event on state government property. It’s even worse that Rauner chose to do so while Illinois lacks a state budget due to Rauner’s right-wing hostage politics of demanding anti-worker policies designed to drive down the wages of working Illinoisans in exchange for a state budget.

I hope that Illinois’s next governor decides to end the unconstitutional tradition of holding a state prayer breakfast.

Bruce Rauner’s education funding hypocrisy

In yesterday’s State of the State of Illinois address, Republican Governor Bruce Rauner publicly criticized funding cuts to education and called for fully funding public education in Illinois.

There’s one problem with that…the guy who cut funding to public education in Illinois is…you guessed it, Bruce Rauner. In fact, a few months ago, Rauner gave away corporate welfare to food producing conglomerate ConAgra Foods while public education was being starved of funding:

As fate would have it, Governor Bruce Rauner revealed his plan to fork over as much as $1.26 million a year in tax credits to ConAgra Foods at roughly the same time parents were packing a Board of Education hearing room to protest the latest CPS cuts in special education.

So our dead-broke state has millions for Fortune 500 corporations but not enough money to educate our poorest, most vulnerable children. 

It’s something to keep in mind the next time the governor tells you it’s all about the kids.

Not only is Bruce Rauner dropping g’s, he’s dropping the ball when it comes to funding public education here in Illinois.

As he launches his presidential campaign, Scott Walker compares Wisconsinites to special interests

Approximately 19 seconds into Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s presidential campaign announcement video, an unnamed narrator for the Walker campaign said that Walker “beat the special interests” over a video clip of progressive protesters supporting the unsuccessful recall attempt against Walker in 2012. At around the 39-second mark of the video, Walker himself spoke in front of the camera and talked about taking “power out of the hands of big government special interests”.

In reality, Walker compared the people of his state to special interests, while allowing special interests like big business interests and the school voucher lobby to benefit from the very big government that Walker rails against.

For Walker to compare Wisconsinites to special interests is not only false, it’s also offensive. More specifically, Walker compared Wisconsin progressives to special interests, and, having followed many of them on blogs and social media for the past few years, I can certainly say that they are not special interests. They’re people who want to make their state and their country a better place to live. They care about their communities, and they support workers’ rights, women’s rights, the middle class, open government, equality, and other progressive ideals. As Meghan Blake-Horst, a co-founder and the market manager of the MadCity Bazaar flea market in Madison, Wisconsin, put it, “Yes, we have special interests in feeding, educating and providing our kids a healthy place to grow up. And running our small businesses.” Comparing people like Blake-Horst to special interests dehumanizes people.

The truth about Walker’s record is that he and his political allies in Wisconsin have given special interests, such as big business interests and the school voucher lobby, effective control over Wisconsin’s state government. Those special interests have, in turn, helped Wisconsin’s state government, among other things, hand out tax breaks to the wealthy, give out tons of corporate welfare to businesses, privatize and cut funding from public K-12 education, cut funding from higher education, strip tenure away from college professors, make it harder for Wisconsinites to vote, make it harder for Wisconsin women to get the reproductive health care they want, bust unions, drive down wages, hurt Wisconsin’s economy, run up massive state budget deficits, and destroyed Wisconsin’s reputation. Martha Laning, the Chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW), didn’t mince words one bit in her statement criticizing Walker as he launches his presidential campaign. Laning stated that Walker’s record “is one of unprecedented corruption, division, extremism and a failure to foster economic growth and opportunity”. Laning also took Walker to task over “stagnant” wages in Wisconsin, “job growth that’s dead last in the Midwest and trailing most of the nation”, a corporate welfare agency “that’s known more for scandal than economic development”, and a massive Wisconsin state budget deficit “created by his failed policies”.

While Scott Walker compares the people of his home state to special interests, the truth of the matter is that Walker is beholden to real special interests that own him and his political allies, and they’ve completely wrecked Wisconsin’s economy, reputation, and quality of life. If Walker is elected president, Walker, his political allies, and big-money special interests will turn America into a third-world country by enacting the same far-right political agenda they enacted in Wisconsin.

An open letter to America about Scott Walker from an Illinoisan who has blogged about Walker

My fellow Americans,

Sometime tomorrow, Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker will formally launch his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

As someone who has blogged about Walker on a regular basis for the past few years, I’ve come to know Walker as a horrible politician who, with the help of his political allies in the Wisconsin State Legislature, has destroyed Wisconsin’s economy, reputation, and quality of life. In a sane world, Walker’s record as Governor of Wisconsin would be an immediate disqualifier for any future campaign for public office. To give you a description of Walker’s style of politics, if one combined the worst elements of Richard Nixon, George W. Bush, Herbert Hoover, Jerry Falwell, and Grover Norquist, you’d get Walker.

Since taking office as Wisconsin’s chief executive four and a half years ago, Scott Walker has, among other things:

  • Stripped collective bargaining rights from public employee unions
  • Enacted wage theft laws allowing non-union workers at unionized workplaces to refuse to join a labor union and/or pay union dues despite receiving union-negotiated wages and benefits
  • Drastically cut the pay of public employees
  • Made it harder for Wisconsin women to seek legal recourse if they’ve been denied equal pay for the same work as their male counterparts
  • Established a corporate welfare agency in Wisconsin that is rife with corruption, cronyism, and mismanagement
  • Cut funding from public elementary, secondary, and higher education
  • Expanded Wisconsin’s school voucher programs that funnel taxpayer money to religious schools
  • Made it harder for Wisconsin women to get the reproductive health care they want
  • Given out tax breaks to big businesses and the wealthy
  • Weakened environmental protections
  • Arrested people for singing
  • Enacted discriminatory voter ID laws designed to keep Wisconsinites from voting
  • Stripped local control from counties and communities in Wisconsin that usually vote for Democratic candidates
  • Openly compared the people of Wisconsin to terrorists
  • Blatantly violated campaign finance laws
  • Given wealthy right-wingers and big business interests virtually complete control of Wisconsin’s state government

Walker’s policies and actions have, among other things:

  • Driven down the wages of Wisconsinites
  • Stifled economic growth in Wisconsin
  • Has made Wisconsin one of the most corrupt states in the entire country
  • Lowered the percentage of middle-class Wisconsin households
  • Left Wisconsin with severe budget problems
  • Made Wisconsin the laughingstock of America

However, we don’t live in a sane world. Walker has been elected Governor of Wisconsin three times in a four-year period against weak, uninspiring corporate Democrats. I believe that, if Democrats do not nominate Bernie Sanders for president, Scott Walker will become the next President of the United States, and, given how he’s wrecked Wisconsin over the past four and a half years, that is a truly scary thought. If Walker is elected president, what little remains of the American middle class and American sovereignty will be completely destroyed, big business interests will completely take over the federal government at every level, America’s federal budget deficit and national debt will grow massively, social safety net programs like Social Security and Medicare will be privatized or outright eliminated, America’s economy will crash again, and corruption will run amok in the federal government.

You can read about Scott Walker’s horrible track record here, here, here, here, and here, among many other places. Furthermore, if you ever get in touch with these people either in person or by other means, you can ask people like Lori Compas, Wendi Kent, Karen Vieth, Kati Walsh, Chris “Capper” Liebenthal, Zach Wisniewski, Kelda Roys, Chris Taylor, Melissa Sargent, Kathleen Vinehout, Rebecca Kemble, Fred Risser, Kelly Westlund, Barbara With, Randy Bryce, Sara Goldrick-Rab, Heather DuBois Bourenane, Ingrid Laas, Sachi Komai, Laura Komai, Jenni Dye, JoCasta Zamarripa, Laura Manriquez, Mandela Barnes, LaTonya Johnson, Angela Walker, Christine Sinicki, Lisa Mux, and Mike McCabe, just to name a few, about what they think about Scott Walker…they’re all Wisconsinites, and they know how horrible Scott Walker’s policies and actions have been for Wisconsin.

As a lifelong Illinoisan and proud progressive, I would walk through fire to vote for the Democratic opponent to Scott Walker if he were to be nominated by the Republican Party for the office of President of the United States if that’s what it took for me to get to the polls.

Sincerely,
Aaron Camp
Westville, Illinois

Wisconsin Republicans pass awful state budget, and how legislators should handle criticism of their legislative proposals

The Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Assembly passed the most awful state budget in American political history in a 52-46 vote, and the budget is currently on Republican Wisconsin Governor and presidential candidate Scott Walker’s desk.

When I say that the Wisconsin budget that the Republicans passed is the most awful state budget in American political history, it’s not hyperbole, it’s the cold hard truth. The Wisconsin budget, among many other things, demonizes the working poor in Wisconsin by replacing the words “living wage” with the words “minimum wage” in state statutes, fast-tracks an expansion of a tar sands oil pipeline in Wisconsin and Illinois that will be even bigger than the Keystone XL pipeline would be, cuts funding to public K-12 and higher education in Wisconsin, effectively prohibits Wisconsin wineries from hosting weddings, and gives Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele even more unchecked power to sell off public property in Wisconsin’s largest county to his political cronies. This budget does a lot to pander to far-right voters that Scott Walker is trying to win over in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination and does virtually nothing to benefit the people of Wisconsin in any way. You can read press releases from Democratic Wisconsin State Representatives Melissa Sargent of Madison, Dianne Hesselbein of Middleton, Amanda Stuck of Appleton, LaTonya Johnson of Milwaukee, and Andy Jorgensen of Milton, as well as from Minority Leader Peter Barca of Kenosha, at the links in this sentence.

However, prior to the Republicans in the Assembly passing the state budget, Katrina Shankland, the Assistant Minority Leader of the Wisconsin State Assembly from Stevens Point, tried to amend the state budget to require that future proposals of non-fiscal policy measures in future state budgets get their own separate public hearing before a standing legislative committee (the Republicans rejected Shankland’s amendment). I criticized Shankland’s proposal, because it would not outright prohibit Walker or whoever else is Wisconsin Governor once Walker leaves office from proposing public policy in state budgets. Shankland responded to my criticism of her proposal via Twitter:

Anyone who holds political office, is running for public office, or is thinking about running for public office should take note of Shankland’s response to my criticism of her. She didn’t talk down to me, she didn’t belittle me, she didn’t attack me, and she didn’t try to change the subject. Instead, she directly addressed my criticism of her proposal by saying that she thinks that policy measures don’t belong in state budgets, and she defended her proposal by saying that the Republicans voted against allowing public hearings on policy proposals.

Katrina Shankland has been very respectful to me, even when I’ve disagreed with her, which isn’t often.

Wisconsin Democrats’ bill regarding policy provisions in state budget doesn’t go far enough

Wisconsin State Rep. Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point), the assistant minority leader of the Wisconsin State Assembly, has proposed legislation that would change how policy provisions in Wisconsin state budgets are dealt with by the Wisconsin State Legislature, but the proposed legislation would not outright ban policy provisions in budgets.

Currently, all provisions in the Wisconsin budget, whether it be budget provisions or policy provisions that have little or nothing to do with the budget, are handled by the Wisconsin State Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC). If Shankland’s bill were to become law, policy provisions of the budget would be handled by standing committees of the Wisconsin State Legislature responsible for the area of policy in question.

Maybe it’s because I’m from Illinois, and I have zero tolerance for any kind of BS from politicians, but I think Shankland’s bill doesn’t go far enough. In fact, if I were a member of the Wisconsin State Legislature, I’d vote against Shankland’s bill for not going far enough to crack down on Scott Walker’s abuse of the Wisconsin state budget process.

Wisconsin Governors of recent times, most notably Jim Doyle and Scott Walker, have used the state budget to enact policy measures with little oversight. Shankland’s bill would give Walker, and any Wisconsin Governor who holds the office after Walker leaves it, explicit power to enact policy provisions that have no place in the state budget and should be considered by the Legislature as stand-alone legislation. Currently, Walker doesn’t have explicit power to propose policy in the state budget, but there’s no legal ban on the practice. The only way that the Wisconsin state budget process is going to be free of policy provisions that aren’t fiscal in nature is for the practice of the governor proposing policy provisions in the state budget to be explicitly banned. State governors shouldn’t be using the budget process to legislate from the governor’s mansion. In my home state of Illinois, the state government is currently shut down because a Republican governor is using the state budget to try to force a Democratic-controlled state legislature to support non-fiscal policy items that the governor supports. What Shankland’s bill in Wisconsin would do is effectively condone that practice in Wisconsin instead of prohibiting it there.

One can push for all of the accountability for bad ideas that one wants, but they’re still bad ideas.

Even the far-right doesn’t like the Wisconsin GOP’s attack on open records laws

Ladies and gentlemen, hell has frozen over.

For once, I’ve found myself on the same side of an issue as the MacIver Institute, a far-right political think tank with ties to the billionaire Koch Brothers, and Christian Schneider, a far-right political columnist for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the largest newspaper in Wisconsin. That’s because the Republican members of the Wisconsin State Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC) passed “Motion #999”, an omnibus committee motion to attach, among other things, a provision exempting “deliberative materials” like legislative drafts and legislative briefings from Wisconsin’s open records laws, to the Wisconsin state budget on a party-line vote. A total of 16 Wisconsin state legislators, 12 Republicans and 4 Democrats, sit on the JFC.

Here’s the full Motion #999; the provision in question is provision #28, located on pages 9 and 10 of the PDF file linked to in this sentence.

This is an actual MacIver Institute video criticizing the gutting of Wisconsin’s open records laws by the JFC:

When the MacIver Institute finds itself siding with State Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) on an issue, you know that Republican legislators in Wisconsin have done something truly heinous. Remember that the MacIver Institute once filed an open records lawsuit against Erpenbach as part of a right-wing political witchhunt against him and won their case in court.

These are actual tweets by Christian Schneider sharply criticizing the Republicans’ move to gut Wisconsin’s open records laws, citing his experience as a state legislative staffer:

Schneider is certainly no liberal. He’s one of the most conservative figures in the usually very right-wing corporate media in Wisconsin, including writing a piece for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel website that repeated the lies of Kyle Wood, a Republican campaign volunteer who falsely claimed to have been physically assaulted because he’s openly gay and refused to support Mark Pocan during his successful 2012 congressional campaign. The piece in question has long since been removed from the Journal-Sentinel website.

The move by Republican state legislators to gut open records laws in Wisconsin is so asinine, even some of the most conservative people and groups in Wisconsin are opposed to it.

The Metro-East doesn’t like Bruce Rauner’s destructive political agenda

The people of Belleville, Illinois, located in the heart of St. Clair County in the Metro-East region of Illinois (the Illinois portion of the St. Louis metropolitan area), are certainly no fans of Republican Governor Bruce Rauner’s destructive political agenda.

Rauner held a campaign event made an appearance in Belleville to promote his agenda of screwing hard-working Illinoisans over by, among other things, repealing our state’s prevailing wage law, making it harder for people to sue businesses that wronged them, and cutting funding to government services that many Illinoisans rely on. This drew many hard-working Illinoisans to Rauner’s event in Belleville, where they protested him and his destructive agenda.

Rauner has made it clear that he is willing to hold our state’s budget hostage and buy off politicians to get his way. Democrats in the Illinois General Assembly need to hold firm against Rauner’s agenda by not caving to Rauner’s demands. Illinoisans from every corner of this state are waking up and realizing how terrible the Rauner agenda would be for themselves and their fellow Illinoisans.