Tag: giveaway

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.

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My thoughts about Bruce Rauner’s plan to sell the Thompson Center

Republican Governor Bruce Rauner of Illinois has announced that he wants to sell off the Thompson Center, a large state government office building in Chicago.

As a downstater and an advocate for good government, I have mixed thoughts about this idea.

First off, I don’t think that any state government agencies should be headquartered in Chicago, as Chicago is not the Illinois state capital. Springfield, located in Sangamon County in the central part of the state, is the state capital, and all state government agencies should be headquartered there. Unless one can justify having numerous Chicago branch offices of state government agencies in one building, a building like the Thompson Center serves no valid purpose, in my opinion.

Secondly, I fear that Rauner will screw over Chicago, Cook County, and/or Illinois taxpayers by selling the Thompson Center to a political crony of his for considerably less than market value. Remember that Rauner received tons of campaign contributions from wealthy businesspeople, and they want their payoffs from the Rauner. Ideally, there should be a citizens’ buildings and grounds commission consisting of 4-6 members without any connections to elected officials and/or the business community in Illinois, which would be responsible for selling state property and approving any redevelopment of state property for public and/or private use. However, we currently don’t have anything like that in Illinois, which is a damn shame.

Wisconsin State Assembly votes to gives taxpayer money to millionaire NBA team owners

The Republican-controlled Wisconsin State Assembly voted to give millions of dollars taxpayer money from ordinary Wisconsinites the owners of professional basketball’s Milwaukee Bucks in order for them to build a new arena by a 52-34 vote, with 5 members not voting at all, 4 members casting paired votes in favor, and 4 members casting paired votes in opposition.

Here’s the Wisconsin State Assembly members who voted for the Milwaukee Bucks corporate welfare giveaway:

  • Scott Allen (R)
  • Joan Ballweg (R)
  • Peter Barca (D Minority Leader)
  • Mandela Barnes (D)
  • Janel Brandtjen (R)
  • Robert Brooks (R)
  • Bob Gannon (R)
  • Evan Goyke (D)
  • Gordon Hintz (D)
  • Rob Hutton (R)
  • John Jagler (R)
  • Adam Jarchow (R)
  • La Tonya Johnson (D)
  • Andy Jorgensen (D)
  • Robb Kahl (D)
  • Terry Katsma (R)
  • Samantha Kerkman (R)
  • Frederick Kessler (D)
  • Joel Kleefisch (R)
  • Dan Knodl (R)
  • Dale Kooyenga (R)
  • Jesse Kremer (R)
  • Mike Kuglitsch (R)
  • Tom Larson (R)
  • Amy Loudenbeck (R)
  • Cory Mason (D)
  • Jeffrey Mursau (R)
  • John Murtha (R)
  • John Nygren (R)
  • Alvin Ott (R)
  • Jim Ott (R)
  • Kevin David Petersen (R)
  • Warren Petryk (R)
  • Jessie Rodriguez (R)
  • Dana Rohrkaste (R)
  • Joe Sanfelippo (R)
  • Michael Schraa (R)
  • Christine Sinicki (D)
  • Ed Skowronski (R)
  • John Spiros (R)
  • Mark Spreitzer (D)
  • Jim Steineke (R)
  • Lisa Subeck (D)
  • Rob Swearingen (R)
  • Paul Tittl (R)
  • Tyler Vorpagel (R)
  • Robin Vos (R Speaker)
  • Dana Wachs (D)
  • Leon Young (D)
  • JoCasta Zamarippa (D)
  • Josh Zepnick (D)

In addition to those, Mark Born (R), Dianne Hesselbein (D), Bob Kulp (R), and Tom Weatherston (R) cast paired votes in favor of the Milwaukee Bucks corporate welfare deal. However, under Wisconsin Assembly rules, paired votes, which can only be recorded if members casting the paired votes have an excused absence, do not officially count as votes in favor or in opposition to legislation, but are officially recorded as paired votes in the official vote tally. Personally, I think the paired votes rule should be repealed in any jurisdiction that allows paired votes, since it seems  like a relic of the pre-automobile era, when it was very difficult for a state legislator who lived a long distance from the capital city of a particular state to get to the state capitol building.

This deal is a terrible deal for Wisconsin taxpayers from every corner of Wisconsin, and it would have been cheaper for the State of Wisconsin to let the Milwaukee Bucks leave for another state than to keep the team by way of corporate welfare for a new arena.

While proponents of the deal have claimed that the deal will pay for itself over time, the fact of the matter is that the deal would certainly not pay for itself. Over a 20-year period, the State of Wisconsin will pay $3.5 million annually to the Bucks, which will play 41 games per year (not counting any preseason or postseason games) in the new arena, starting with the 2017-2018 NBA season. It would require the Bucks to have an average home game attendance of 170,732 or greater to make up for the money that the state gave the Bucks owners to build the arena through the 50¢ cut of a $2/ticket surtax that the state receives. Since the maximum spectator capacity of the arena is going to be roughly somewhere between one-tenth and one-eighth of the break-even attendance figure of 170,732, it’s absolutely unrealistic to expect the state portion of deal to pay for itself over time.

By the way, here’s how I calculated the 170,732 figure for determining break-even attendance for the state portion of the deal:

  • State portion of expenditures to the Bucks is $3,500,000/year
  • There are 41 home regular season games for each of the 30 NBA teams, including the Bucks
  • The portion of the Bucks ticket surtax that the state receives is 50¢/ticket
  • 3,500,000/41/0.5=170,732, rounded up to nearest whole number

In fact, if one were to factor in every revenue and expenditure factor of the deal, such as any tax revenue created or saved by the Bucks deal and the costs that taxpayers in Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee are on the hook for, the break-even attendance figure for the entire Bucks deal would probably still be more than any reasonable estimate of the maximum spectator capacity of the new arena. This is for two reasons. First, the portion of the money going to the Bucks owners that Milwaukee County and City of Milwaukee taxpayers are going to be on the hook for is in the low nine-figures. Second, there isn’t a ton of tax revenue that will be created or saved by the deal due to a large number of tax exemptions associated with the deal. To put all of that another way, the deal isn’t going to pay for itself. Even if the state portion of the deal repays itself and them some, it would still short Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee a large amount of taxpayer money that could have been better used for local government services that serve a public purpose and that Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee are legally responsible for.

If you live in the 20th Assembly District of Wisconsin, you’ll have an opportunity to tell Christine Sinicki to oppose Scott Walker’s NBA corporate welfare giveway

If you live in the 20th Assembly District of Wisconsin, which is entirely within Milwaukee County and includes the southern-most part of the City of Milwaukee and all of St. Francis and Cudahy, you’ll have a rare opportunity in Wisconsin. You’ll have the opportunity to tell Wisconsin State Rep. Christine Sinicki (D-Milwaukee) to oppose a corporate welfare giveaway for the proposed Milwaukee Bucks arena. The event is scheduled for Saturday, July 25, 2015 at 9 A.M., and the event will be held at 3558 E. Sivyer Ave. in St. Francis, Wisconsin.

There are a number of reasons why this deal is bad for Milwaukee and Wisconsin:

  • The deal would send hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Wisconsinites’ taxpayer money to the owners of the the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, including Jon Hammes, who is a co-chairman for Scott Walker’s presidential campaign.
  • The arena’s estimated lifespan is 30 years, after which, the Bucks owners would be demanding more taxpayer money for yet another new arena once again if they get the deal for the arena they intend to build over the next couple of years.
  • The deal includes a ton of tax exemptions that would severely restrict the amount of tax revenue that could be generated by the deal, resulting in less tax revenue being available for roads, schools, and other things that serve a public purpose.
  • Marquette University’s basketball team would likely be a regular tenant of the arena, in possible violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
  • The deal includes the creation of a special “entertainment district”, which would likely consist of mostly of national chain bars and restaurants, that is unsustainable and would likely drive local businesses in Milwaukee out of operation.
  • The new arena would be managed by a board consisting partially of elected officials who aren’t from the Milwaukee area and aren’t elected by Milwaukeeans, such as Jennifer Shilling (who is from La Crosse, located over 170 miles from Milwaukee), while completely shutting out the Milwaukee County Board from making any appointments to the board.
  • The deal would not restore one penny of funding that was taken from public schools, state parks, and other things that received budget cuts from Scott Walker’s state budget.
  • Given that the NBA has mandated that the Bucks either build a new arena in Milwaukee or move elsewhere before the start of the 2017-2018 NBA season, that would leave a roughly two-year window for the Bucks to build the arena, and any significant construction delays would result in the arena not being built on time, the Bucks being forced to move, and Milwaukee being stuck with an unfinished arena.

If a lot of opponents of the Milwaukee Bucks corporate welfare giveaway show up, you may be able to help sway Christine Sinicki to do the right thing and vote against the Bucks corporate welfare giveaway. Letting the Milwaukee Bucks move to Las Vegas (or some other city) would be, by far, the lesser of two evils compared to wasting more of Wisconsinites’ taxpayer money that would probably see little or no return on investment for taxpayers.

Milwaukee is why Wisconsin progressives can’t have nice things

After the Wisconsin State Senate voted overwhelmingly to give a quarter of a billion dollars in corporate welfare to the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks so that they can build the new arena that the NBA is forcing them to do, I’ve come to the conclusion that Milwaukee is why Wisconsin progressives can’t have nice things.

Over the past quarter of a century or so, Milwaukee has become a cesspool for Wisconsinites’ taxpayer money being wasted on state government policies, supported by both Republicans and Democrats, that have little or no actual benefit to the vast majority of Wisconsinites. First, it was school vouchers, which was first implemented in Wisconsin in 1990, but the Wisconsin school voucher program originally only covered Milwaukee (it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that vouchers were expanded statewide in Wisconsin). Next came the corporate welfare package for Major League Baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers, which gave them taxpayer money to build a new baseball park, which became Miller Park after naming rights for the park were sold and opened in 2001. Now, the National Basketball Association’s Milwaukee Bucks are about to get their own corporate welfare package for their new arena in Milwaukee. In all three of these cases, both Republicans and Democrats supported these policies, which have little or no benefit to the vast majority of Wisconsinites.

How the Bucks got such broad support for corporate welfare for a new arena in the Wisconsin State Senate looks to be, at first, shocking, since scientific polling has shown nearly 80% of Wisconsinites are opposed to corporate welfare for the Bucks. However, the Bucks had two advantages to overcome public opinion being against them: support from the political elite in Wisconsin and a well-organized campaign by a vocal minority of Wisconsinites to give the Bucks taxpayer money for a new arena. Unlike the National Football League’s Green Bay Packers, which have a very large national following, and baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers, which have a large following in Wisconsin, the Bucks have a relatively small fan base.

However, from an electoral standpoint, the Democrats who support the Bucks corporate welfare deal are in big trouble…if anti-corporate welfare progressives can organize effective political campaigns against those Democratic elected officials who sided with the Bucks owners. There is growing opposition to corporate welfare, both in Wisconsin and nationally, so there’s a golden opportunity for anti-corporate welfare progressives to get organized and replace corporate Democrats with progressive Democrats through the electoral process. In fact, in regards to the 2018 gubernatorial election in Wisconsin, if there’s a contested Democratic primary, the battle lines have pretty much been drawn. For all intents and purposes, a competitive Democratic primary for Governor of Wisconsin in 2018 is effectively going to be between a pro-corporate welfare Democrat supported by the Milwaukee-area political elite and an anti-corporate welfare Democrat supported by the activist progressive base of the party, if such candidates run. The anti-corporate welfare Democrat should ideally run against Milwaukee, but not in the same way that a Republican would. The anti-corporate welfare Democrat should talk about a bipartisan political elite giving Milwaukee taxpayer money for corporate welfare for wealthy sports team owners, religious welfare for private schools, and other policies that are of little or no benefit to the general public. At the same time, the anti-corporate welfare Democrat should advocate for progressive policies that benefit the vast majority of Wisconsinites. This message would resonate heavily in both Dane County, the progressive stronghold of Wisconsin, and the rural western and northern parts of Wisconsin, which are the areas with most of what few persuadable voters there are in a statewide general election in Wisconsin. Also, there would be extremely little political risk in running against Milwaukee for a Democratic statewide candidate. This is because quite a few people in the Milwaukee area are strongly opposed to the kind of policies that the anti-corporate welfare candidate is opposing, and roughly 99% or so of the voters in the Milwaukee area have a group grievance with one of the two major parties and vote for candidates in the other major party all the way down the ballot. This kind of campaign would be even more effective for state legislative races outside of the Milwaukee area, but anti-corporate welfare progressives would have to drop the Milwaukee-bashing for state legislative races in the Milwaukee area.

Scott Walker wants to cut funding to higher education in Wisconsin and give most of it to the owners of an NBA team

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This will probably be my final blog post on The Progressive Midwestern until early March, as I’ll be finishing a book that I’ve been writing.

On the same day that Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker announced that he intends to cut a whopping $300 million from the University of Wisconsin System (UW System), Wisconsin’s network of two-year and four-year public colleges and universities, Walker also announced that he wants to give most of that money to the owners of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks so that they can have a new arena built in the Milwaukee area:

This is a continuation of Walker’s massive expansion of the corporate welfare state in Wisconsin, in which corporations and other types of businesses get tax breaks and other government benefits, often at the expense of education, social services, and other government programs. Mark Lasry, one of the owners of the Milwaukee Bucks, probably could pay for a new arena by himself, as his net worth was listed at $1.7 billion last year, and Lasry isn’t the sole owner of the Bucks. Yet, the Bucks owners are whining about wanting Wisconsinites’ taxpayer money to be used to fund their new arena, and it looks like Walker is going to cut funding from higher education in Wisconsin and give it to the Bucks owners.

Scott Walker’s priorities are completely screwed up. What is even worse about this is that Walker wants to run for president so that he can hand out federal taxpayer money to corporations.