The governor goes to pot

George Mitchell:

As reported Monday in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Governor Tony Evers has justified his proposal to decriminalize marijuana as follows:

Bottom line is we’re spending too much money prosecuting and incarcerating people and often people of color for non-violent crimes related to possessing small amounts of marijuana.

Don’t hold your breath, so to speak, waiting for evidence that “possessing small amounts of marijuana” has anything to do with the incarceration rate.

Last month the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) reported on the most serious offenses for which inmates were admitted to state prison. Among male inmates, 111 of 22,459 were admitted for drug possession. Among female inmates, 30 of 1,624 were admitted for drug possession.

More than twenty years ago I studied a representative random sample of state prison inmates from Milwaukee County. The most recent offense of seven percent of the inmates was drug related. As detailed in the report, none of the offenses were for possession. All involved possession with intent to deliver or actual delivery of drugs. Many offenders were armed. Some were in school zones.

Current data demonstrate that little has changed. The new LFB report shows that nearly eight percent of current inmates had convictions for possession with intent to deliver or manufacturing and delivery.

As for who really goes to prison, a 2018 LFB report states, “The predominant offenses by [male inmates] are sexual offenses, murder/homicide, robbery, assaults, and burglary. The most common by women are murder/homicide, theft, assault, operating while intoxicated, and robbery.”

Yet another 2018 report, from the nonpartisan Wisconsin Policy Forum, addresses the “logic” employed by Evers. Under the heading “Serious Crimes, Serious Time,” WPF describes “the rising share of inmates serving time for violent crimes. These numbers rose from 59.4% of inmates in 2006 to 66.0% in 2017.”

Directly addressing the assumption that “most inmates are nonviolent drug offenders who do not require incarceration,” WPF matter-of-factly observes that “corrections data do not appear to bear that out.”

(Disclosure: I am in the small minority of Americans who favor a broader policy of ending drug prohibition than offered by Evers. That’s a topic for another day.)

Anecdotal evidence from my years of covering police and courts bears this out, at least in my experience. Where I work the people who get arrested for marijuana offenses (1) aren’t small-time personal users (for instance, the 21 people who got arrested on marijuana delivery charges in Platteville in May 2012) or (2) get busted in the course of something else — for instance, a traffic stop where the officer discovers drug paraphernalia. Do those who support marijuana legalization also support allowing drivers to toke and drive?

 

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Evers vs. business, part 1

M.D. Kittle:

Gov. Tony Evers’ plan to cut middle-income taxes by raising taxes on Wisconsin’s vital manufacturing sector is making some employers nervous.

And that’s not what the doctor ordered for a resurgent sector that not that long ago seemed to be on life support.

“I have an advanced manufacturer in my district in the process of trying to expand their business. Now they are are concerned, with the rhetoric coming out of the East Wing, they’re not sure if it’s the right to expand their business,” state Sen. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point) told MacIver News Service last week on the Vicki McKenna Show on NewsTalk 1130 WISN.

The markets may hate uncertainty, and business deplores it.

“This is not the time we should send out mixed messages within the state of Wisconsin that’s going to put any new development or growth on ice,” Testin said. “We should continue to pursue policies that are going to grow our economy.”

Evers campaigned on a pledge to cut taxes 10 percent on middle-income earners, amounting to about $225 in tax relief for the average filer. The Democrat’s plan, yet to be fully defined, would be paid for in large part by hiking taxes on manufacturers that make more than $300,000 annually. Those who do exceed the income limit would no longer receive the state’s manufacturing and agricultural tax credit. Evers says the cap would generate about $518 million to pay for his proposal, leaving nearly $375 million at present unpaid for.

An Assembly Republican tax relief packagewould also target middle-income earners, delivering a $300-plus income tax cut for the median income family, according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. Republicans fund their proposal using about $340 million annually from the projected $2.4 billion in additional tax revenue over the next couple of years.

The bill, which passed last week in the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee on a party-line vote, is slated for floor debate this week in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Evers’ plan appears to be a nonstarter for Republicans.

“We are not going to raise taxes — period,” said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester). “We are not going to raise taxes, especially on our job creators, when we have a huge budget surplus.”

Capping the tax credit, critics say, could be disastrous for a rapidly expanding manufacturing sector that has helped the Badger State keep its unemployment rate at 3 percent or lower for nearly a year.

The state added 9,100 private-sector jobs in December, according to the latest preliminary data from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.Wisconsin’s unemployment rate remained at 3 percent.

Wisconsin added 44,900 private-sector jobs from December 2017 to December 2018, with weekly wages rising a robust 4.5 percent in year-over-year comparisons. Wisconsin’s private-sector wages grew on average by 5.7 percent in the first five months of 2018, according to Census Bureau data. That compared to 2.7 percent for the entire U.S.

Manufacturing has had a lot to do with the strong economy.

A big reason for manufacturing’s resurgence in Wisconsin is tax policy change over the last eight years, particularly the manufacturing and agriculture tax credit that was among Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s top first-term initiatives. A 2017 University of Wisconsin-Madison analysis of the tax credit found it had accounted for the addition of more than 20,000 manufacturing jobs and more than 42,000 total jobs over a three-year period.

Capping the tax credit would have real-world implications on businesses that have helped build Wisconsin’s economic turnaround.

The vast majority of Wisconsin businesses in the U.S. — and Wisconsin — are pass-throughs, such as S-corporations and sole proprietorships. The tax structure passes income through to the businesses owners to be taxed under the individual income tax, not at the corporate rate. It reduces the effects of double taxation faced by traditional C-corporations.

In December’s extraordinary session, the Legislature passed a bill allowing pass-throughs the ability to choose between filing under the individual tax code or the higher 7.9 percent corporate rate. In that case, the businesses aren’t capped by the $10,000 limit on individual income tax deductions.

Most pass-throughs are small businesses with $10 million or less — much less in many cases – in sales or receipts. Evers’ tax increase on small manufacturers with taxable income of more than $300,000 would more than likely stymie job creation and production expansion in Wisconsin, Testin said.

That’s why it’s critical, Testin said, that the Legislature hold the line on any attempt to raise taxes.

“That’s the wrong approach right now. We don’t need to,” the senator said. “The (Legislative) Fiscal Bureau numbers show we are in sound fiscal ground right now. To upend the apple cart and send a chilling message to the business community in the state that we have an administration that wants to be tax happy, it’s the wrong call.”

Ask Bill Smith what he thinks about the legislative battle over tax cuts and he’ll tell you lawmakers should instead focus on repealing one of the state’s most inequitable taxes: The personal property tax.

“We urge the governor and the Legislature to get rid of the personal property tax and give Main Street some real relief,” Smith, state director of NFIB Wisconsin told MacIver News Service.

Wisconsin law has long taxed businesses on their personal property. The business community got a partial victory in the last session, when the Republican-controlled Legislature passed a $75 million repeal, exempting machinery, tools and patterns from the personal property tax code.

True fairness, Smith said, will come when the entire tax is wiped out.

“Doing so would impact every business on Main Street equally, without picking winners and losers,” he said.

A response to Tony the Taxer

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce sent this news release Tuesday:

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC) defended small businesses, manufacturers and their employees by supporting Assembly Bill 4 and Senate Bill 18 on Tuesday, which would provide $340 million in tax cuts to middle class Wisconsinites.

The Assembly Committee on Ways and Means and the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Revenue and Financial Institutions held a public hearing on the bills, and WMC testified in favor saying that “allowing Wisconsinites to keep more of their own money will stimulate our state’s economy. Increasing the amount of wages workers get to take home means more disposable income, which can be spent on everything from groceries to snow blowers.”

Unfortunately, Gov. Tony Evers vowed to veto the bill that would provide much-needed tax relief, and instead offered his own plan that included a tax increase on Wisconsin’s largest industry. After Gov. Evers announced his plan to only offer a tax cut if he could also hike taxes somewhere else, WMC President & CEO Kurt Bauer released the following statement:

“Wisconsin’s economy is the best it has been in a generation. We have had year after year of budget surpluses. And because of smart budgeting, our state has the distinct opportunity to return that surplus to the hard-working taxpayers.

“While Gov. Evers claims he must raise taxes because Wisconsin has a deficit, the facts show Wisconsin will actually have $2.4 billion more in tax revenue for the next state budget. The numbers don’t lie. We do not need to raise taxes on one group to cut taxes for another.

“What is especially worrisome is that Gov. Evers is targeting the nearly 500,000 people who work in manufacturing with a tax increase. This is Wisconsin’s largest industry, and has literally been the bedrock of our state’s middle class. The irony of raising taxes on manufacturers and their workers to provide a separate middle-class tax cut should not be lost on anyone.

“This should be a bipartisan plan, and we hope both sides can come together to provide Wisconsinites with real tax relief without negatively impacting our state’s economy, our state’s job creators and our state’s workers.”

The nearly 500,000 people who work in manufacturing aren’t the only people Evers is targeting with a tax increase. Evers and his pick for secretary of transportation are hellbent on increasing gas taxes and vehicle registration fees, which as regressive taxes hit those with the least money the worst. As is always the case a Democrat wouldn’t recognize fiscal discipline if he or she was hit in the face by a budget book.

 

Foxconn’s on/off switch

The Milwaukee Business Journal:

Foxconn Technology Group on Friday said it will build an LCD screen fabrication facility in Mount Pleasant, a move that was put into question after reports earlier this week of the company reconsidering its plans.

The company said the decision came after “productive discussions between the White House and the company, and after a personal conversation between President Donald J. Trump and Chairman Terry Gou.” That Gen 6 plant will fabricate smaller, high-resolution LCD screens than the company had originally planned to make in its Mount Pleasant plant.

Reports from Reuters and Japanese news publication Nikkei Asian Review had called into question whether Foxconn would be fabricating any LCD screens in Wisconsin at all. The company earlier this week committed to building packaging plants, assembly facilities and research centers over the next 18 months in Mount Pleasant. But it fell short of committing to the Gen 6 fabrication plant to make TFT, or “thin-film-transistor” screens.

“Our decision is also based on a recent comprehensive and systematic evaluation to help determine the best fit for our Wisconsin project among TFT technologies,” Foxconn’s written statement Friday announced. “We have undertaken the evaluation while simultaneously seeking to broaden our investment across Wisconsin far beyond our original plans to ensure the company, our workforce, the local community, and the state of Wisconsin will be positioned for long-term success.”

That fabrication plant could break ground over the next 18 months, according to a Friday statement from Racine County, the village of Mount Pleasant and the Racine County Economic Development Corp. The company in April is expected to hold open houses regarding its upcoming construction plans.

Foxconn’s announcement ends a week where the firm’s Wisconsin plans attracted extreme scrutiny. A Reuters story on Tuesday raised speculation that Foxconn may not manufacture in Wisconsin at all, a point the company refuted.

Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, described it as watching “a Twitter world collide with a dynamic, global business decision.”

Foxconn’s strategy in Wisconsin has evolved over the past six months, which is in keeping with the company’s reputation of being flexible and responsive to market conditions.

Foxconn first announced last year it was backing off from plans for a Gen 10.5 facility in Wisconsin to make very large LCD screens. Instead, the Gen 6 plant will produce small to mid-sized displays that would be used in televisions and by automakers.

“Over the last year at least, the capacity for the large LCD screen manufacturing in China has grown exponentially, and the cost has been cut in half,” Sheehy said.

The actual fabrication of screens in Wisconsin is significant. The company is building Gen 10.5 plants in China, but such operations don’t exist in the United States. Fabricating the screens, versus assembling products around the finished LCD displays, was expected to attract a new supply chain of manufacturers to Foxconn’s plant.

Sheehy said there is value to Foxconn’s research and development operations planned for Wisconsin, but the fabrication plant creates “an opportunity for supply chain and a more robust capital investment.”

Contractors over the last several months have leveled an estimated 3-million-square-foot plot of land near Interstate 94 in Mount Pleasant that was intended for the fabrication facility. That facility is to be the centerpiece of a larger manufacturing and technology campus Foxconn is developing.

That campus will also include extensive research and development operations to explore new applications of Foxconn’s technology in health care and other arenas. Foxconn earlier this week also planned to build a data center and rapid prototyping center at its Mount Pleasant campus.

Foxconn gets Covingtonned

I have decided to create a new verb: “to Covington,” which means to jump to conclusions about a particular thing well before even most of the facts are in. It comes from, of course, the Covington incident.

George Mitchell explains:

The lesson I try to keep in mind recalls the immediate reaction — almost all of it wrong — regarding the March for Life incident involving students from a Catholic high school in Kentucky.

Trying to keep an open mind, it will be helpful to read factual analyses that one hopes will be forthcoming from public sources such as the Legislative Fiscal Bureau and private researchers at the Wisconsin Policy Forum.

It is entirely possible, as Democrats today gleefully proclaim, that Wisconsin was snared by a gigantic bait and switch.  The most substantive support I have seen for that position is a statement attributed to Foxconn that the market has dramatically switched in the last 18 months. Really? All of a sudden it makes no sense to manufacture here what they said they would make?

Alternatively, the structure of the state’s contract with Foxconn might mean that both the benefits to the state and its costs are proportionally lessened. This will be true if the pledges were correct that the bulk of taxpayer subsidies were/are linked to tangible results.

I would have voted for the Foxconn “deal.” I considered it a risky big bet that was worth taking. I am prepared, once more facts are available, to acknowledge an error in judgment. Or, the truth might support a view that the potential of Foxconn still is a net benefit for Wisconsin. We don’t know enough yet to decide.

Three Racine County officials felt the need to correct yesterday’s hysterical media reports:

To date, Foxconn has invested over $200 million in Wisconsin. We have seen much of this
locally – including Foxconn’s investment in more than $100 million in construction contracts
that have transformed the project site, the completion of the first 120,000 square foot
building on the campus and the entire 3 million square foot pad that will serve as the base
for the next phase of construction, which will begin in Spring 2019.

Contrary to what was reported by Reuters, Foxconn reiterated to us, today, its commitment
to building an advanced manufacturing operation in Wisconsin, in addition to its commitment
to create 13,000 jobs and invest $10 billion in Racine County. As Foxconn has previously
shared, they are evaluating exactly which type of TFT technology will be manufactured in
Wisconsin but are proceeding with construction on related manufacturing, assembly and
research facilities on the site in 2019.

We understand that Foxconn must be nimble in responding to market changes to ensure the
long-term success of their Wisconsin operations. We fully expect that Foxconn will meet its
obligations to the State, County and Village.

Both the local and state development agreements are legally binding and include strong
protections for taxpayers. The state agreement, which was largely based on job creation,
ensures that Foxconn only receives state tax credits if it meets or exceeds its targeted hiring
amounts in any given year.

The local development agreement stipulates that, if, for any reason, Foxconn’s investment
on the campus falls short, the company remains obligated to support a minimum valuation
for the project of $1.4 billion, which will more than pay for all public improvements and
development costs for the project.

The Milwaukee Business Journal, which unlike most media knows something about business, adds:

Top Foxconn Technology Group executive Louis Wooreconfirmed for Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and Milwaukee-area economic development officials Wednesday that the company is proceeding with its $10 billion project in Racine County while dismissing as inaccurate a Wednesday story from Reuters news service.

Woo made big news in Wisconsin via the Reuters report that the Taiwanese technology firm is reconsidering whether to produce LCD video screens there at all. Woo, who is special assistant to Foxconn founder and CEO Terry Gou, was quoted by Reuters as saying Foxconn may shelve plans for an assembly plant in Mount Pleasant and that “in Wisconsin, we’re not building a factory.”

Leaders of the Milwaukee 7 regional economic development group, which played an instrumental role in recruiting Foxconn, “were totally taken aback by the Reuters story,” said co-chairman Gale Klappa, who also is chairman and CEO of WEC Energy Group in Milwaukee. Klappa said he and Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, emailed Woo Wednesday morning for a response to the Reuters article.

The information in the Reuters article was “completely inconsistent” with what Foxconn representatives have been communicating to the Milwaukee 7 about the Mount Pleasant project, Klappa said. Woo’s response eliminated Klappa’s concerns, as the Foxconn executive said he was quoted out of context, Klappa told the Milwaukee Business Journal.

A spokesperson for Reuters and Woo could not immediately be reached for comment.

Klappa said Woo told him and Sheehy that the company has not changed its commitment to expand in Wisconsin and still plans to hire up to 13,000 employees.

Klappa said Woo also called Evers Wednesday morning to give Evers assurances that the Reuters story does not represent the company’s plans.

Evers’ office issued a statement at 12:10 p.m. Wednesday from Wisconsin Department of Administration Secretary-designee Joel Brennan in response to the Reuters article.

“The administration is in regular, weekly communication with senior leadership at Foxconn; however, we were surprised to learn about this development,” Brennan said.

Some of the information in the Reuters story has been previously reported, Brennan noted. Other details about the continuing evolution of this project “will require further review and evaluation by our team,” Brennan said.

“Our team has been in contact with Foxconn since learning this news and will continue to monitor the project to ensure the company delivers on its promises to the people of Wisconsin,” Brennan said.

The Evers administration will continue to commit time, resources and personnel “to ensure that the interests of Wisconsin workers and taxpayers are protected and promoted by our approach to the Foxconn project,” Brennan said.

Evers told the Milwaukee Business Journal in January that he had held discussions in person and on the phone with Woo and Foxconn executive Alan Yeung in an effort to open lines of communication. The company is eligible for billions of dollars in state tax credits, depending on its total hiring and capital expenditures.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., which administers the state’s contract with Foxconn, issued a statement Wednesday afternoon that the contract “provides the company the flexibility to make these business decisions, and at the same time, protects Wisconsin’s taxpayers.”

“Over the past 45 years, Foxconn’s success has been based on the company’s ability to foresee and adapt to technological advancements,” WEDC said. “Foxconn’s long-term success both globally and within Wisconsin is centered around the alignment of its business model with ever-changing global economic conditions, including evolving customer demands.”

Woo did reiterate his remarks from recent months that the company’s employment needs for its planned $10 billion campus in Mount Pleasant would likely require more engineers than assembly workers, which is a reversal from the company’s initial plans.

Klappa pointed out that Woo’s email said the company is rethinking what technology it will build in Wisconsin due to “the changing dynamics of the economy the past two years.”

Foxconn will proceed with six components of the Mount Pleasant project over the next 18 months, Woo said in the email, according to Klappa. They are:

• A liquid crystal module packaging plant;

• A high-precision molding factory;

• A system integration assembly facility;

• A rapid prototyping center;

• A research-and-development center;

• A high-performance data center; and

• A town center to support employees in Mount Pleasant.

The Reuters story also states that “a company source” said Foxconn would employ about 1,000 workers by 2020 rather than the initial plan to employee 5,200.

Klappa said Woo’s email did not specifically address that point. However, Klappa said he believes Woo’s assurances.

“Frankly, given Louis’ comments on the overall accuracy of the story, I’m dubious about anything” in the article, Klappa said.

The state of the state, including the truth

M.D. Kittle reports on what Tony Evers said Tuesday night:

In his first state of the state address Tuesday, Gov. Tony Evers painted a bleak picture of a Wisconsin floundering in failure, a state gripped by poverty, and hopelessness plaguing the average home.

In other words, the Democrat created an alternative universe.

He had to. The reality — record-low unemployment for the better part of a year, surgingpersonal income, more good-paying jobs than there are people to fill them — wouldn’t do for a liberal governor pushing a grow-government agenda.

Evers certainly wasn’t going to give his predecessor, Republican Gov. Scott Walker, or the Republican-controlled Legislature any credit for the state’s prosperity and manifold successes.

And while he preached cooperation and bipartisanship, he did so with a noticeable it’s-my-way-or-the-highway tone that turned off a lot of the people across the aisle he’ll have to work with if he wants to accomplish anything but saying no.

“…(T)he state of our state is that we’ve got work to do, and we’re ready for bipartisan solutions,” Evers told the joint session of the Assembly and Senate.

Missing from his progress report was the fact that the new governor has inherited an economy that has created eight straight surpluses, including the latest coming in at $588 million.

“Governor Evers takes over at one of the most prosperous times in state history. Thanks to Governor Walker and Republicans, Wisconsin is in a better place than it was the last time a Democrat controlled the Governor’s Mansion. No matter how he spins it, our economy is in great shape,” said state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) in a press release following Evers’ speech.

“Our economy doesn’t need fixing, it needs fanning,” Darling added.

Glossing over those positive facts, Evers plunged headlong into the despair narrative, lamenting a state that is among the “worst to raise a black family,” a state that spends more on corrections than “the entire UW system” (he forgets to note, however,that the higher education budget in Wisconsin from all funding sources is four times more than corrections).

He poo-pooed the surplus, and the fact that said surpluses have been created even as Republicans have cut state taxes by a combined $8.5 billion over the past eight years.

“The strength of our success is not found solely in fiscal surplus; it’s defined, too, by the number of our kids who will go to school hungry tomorrow,” Evers said, adding to his too-many-left-behind narrative.

And then he went beyond spin into fuzzy math.

“We are a state that was the birthplace of BadgerCare, and we’ve been a laboratory for democracy. But today, we are also a state where it’s become cheaper to get health care by driving across the Mississippi River,” Evers said.

It appears the governor is hanging on to the left’s blind love for all things Minnesota, and a key talking point from his campaign. It’s all part of Evers’ lambasting of Republicans for refusing to take the many-strings-attached federal money to expand Medicaid in the Badger State. Talk is cheap, but Minnesota’s Affordable Care Act bills aren’t.

The Minnesota myth, promoted by left-wing groups, fails to take into account how much taxpayer cash the Gopher State had to pump into the system to prop up Minnesota liberals’ full embrace of Obamacare and the Medicaid expansion.

Minnesota faced the fourth-highest premium spikes in 2017,expected to increase by a staggering 59 percent, as opposed to Wisconsin’s 16 percent hike. As a result, Minnesota was forced to come up with $300 million to bail out 123,000 struggling Minnesotans who did not qualify for federal Obamacare subsidies.

But Evers used the old Minnesota chestnut to make the case for a signature piece of his agenda and upcoming biennial budget proposal: Medicaid expansion.

“This would also save Wisconsin taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, allowing us to reallocate those cost savings to other critical programs,” Evers said, skipping past the mandated 10 percent the Badger State will have to kick in for all that “free money” and the connected red tape that has driven up health care costs in so many states.

Declaring that it’s time to “stop playing politics with our health care,” Evers announced he would play politics with health care, instructing liberal Attorney General Josh Kaul to withdraw Wisconsin from a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare. Former Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel helped lead the 20-state suit. Last month a federal judge declared Obamacare unconstitutional, a ruling that was immediately challenged.

While he hammered home the need for the political players in Madison to find common ground, Evers laid out an agenda long on liberal policy and payoffs to political pals.

The new governor pitched another task force to deal with Wisconsin’s “transportation funding crisis,” a “crisis” bought and paid for by the road-building lobby. Evers pointed to his Department of Transportation secretary nominee, top road lobbyist Craig Thompson,who has suggested increased gas taxes are on the table, allowing his old friends to grab a bigger share of taxpayer cash.

“I appointed Secretary-designee Craig Thompson because I know that he will work on both sides of the aisle for a solution that works for Wisconsin,” Evers said. “I fully expect that he will be approved with consent of the Senate.” A number of fiscal hawks in the Senate have concerns about the lobbyist at the helm of the state transportation budget.

There appears to be lots of spending ahead in the first Evers budget, which the governor says he’d like to roll out in early March (Republicans are giving him a deadline extension to the end of February). There’s a proposed five-fold increase in mental health programs for K-12 students; an “unprecedented $600 million” increase in special education funding; the return of two-thirds state funding committed to K-12 schools.

It’s all about connecting the dots, the Democrat said.

Darling said there’s a disconnect in the governor’s message.

“The governor talked a lot about connecting the dots, but didn’t connect his ideas to how he will pay for them. He talked a lot about bipartisanship, but so far, his only answer to the legislature has been ‘no,’” the senator said.

Evers eschewed bipartisanship again when he outright rejected an Assembly Republican middle-class tax cut plan. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) dubbed it the “Tony Evers Middle-Class Tax Cut” plan because it closely resembles a proposal the governor campaigned on. But while the Republican plan would deliver targeted tax relief to the middle class using $340 million of the state’s surplus, Evers’ proposal calls for paying for his tax cut by getting rid of the popular manufacturing and agriculture tax credit.

“So instead, we’re going to fund tax relief for hard-working families by capping a corporate tax credit, 80 percent of which goes to filers making more than $1 million a year,” Evers said, spinning the facts once again.

The tax credit led to the creation of 42,000 jobs between 2013 and 2016, according to a University of Wisconsin study. More than 88 percent of tax credit recipients in 2017 were small businesses with incomes of less than $1 million — not the kind of big corporate interests the left would lead taxpayers to believe.

“More than 10,000 employees of all different sizes took advantage of the MAC (in 2017), and that has allowed them to invest more in their businesses, their workers and their communities,” Scott Manley, senior vice president of government relations for Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, said in a statement last year.

Neither Evers’ plan nor the Assembly Republican tax relief package talks about trimming government expenses to help fund the tax cut.

After all that, the new governor said he expects legislation arriving on his desk passed with “broad support and in the spirit of bipartisanship.”

State Sen. Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) said Wisconsin is in great shape thanks to Republican reforms over the past eight years. It’s now the Legislature’s job, he said, to continue to make good fiscal decisions and remain a “watchdog.”

In other words, the battle lines are being drawn in divided government in the Badger State.

“I was hopeful Governor Evers would come to his senses and work with the legislature to return this surplus to the hardworking taxpayers,” Kapenga said in a press release. “However, after his address tonight, it’s pretty clear that he is more interested in returning to the failed tax and spend policies of the past.”

Now the reality, from Dan O’Donnell:

My fellow Wisconsinites, the state of our state is strong. Not because of anything the man delivering this year’s State of the State address did, mind you.

It’s quite the opposite, actually.

The state of our state is strong because of the man he defeated and the men and women he is now pledging to oppose. The state of our state is strong because of the policies that he is promising to undo.

In fact, my fellow Wisconsinites, the best thing Governor Tony Evers can do to keep the state of our state strong is absolutely nothing. If he wants to keep Wisconsin moving forward, he can take a backseat to a Republican State Legislature that has presided over unprecedented growth.

Naturally, he won’t, but it will behoove him to at least consider how strong Wisconsin has grown over the past eight years.

The state ended the 2017-2018 Fiscal Year with a $588.5 million budget surplus and a whopping $1.53 billion in its General Fund. By way of contrast, Wisconsin ended the final year of Democratic Governor Jim Doyle’s tenure in 2010 facing a $3.6 billion budget shortfall and ended the 2009-2010 Fiscal Year with only $71.0 million in the General Fund.

Doyle’s policies were so disastrous for Wisconsin that what had been $835.7 million in the General Fund at the end of the long tenure of Republican Governor Tommy Thompson dropped a staggering 82 percent in just ten years.

When Governor Walker and the Republican Legislature took over in 2011, though, the state’s financial picture immediately brightened. Wisconsin had a budget surplus in each of the past eight years, and after eight years of Republican rule the state now has $320.1 million in its “rainy day” fund—190 times higher than the $1.68 million with which Governor Doyle and the Democratic Legislature left it.

Negligent mismanagement of Wisconsin’s finances forced the Democrats to hike taxes by $3 billion in Governor Doyle’s final biennial budget, but after eight years of Walker and a Republican Legislature, the tax burden on Wisconsinites has declined by a staggering $8 billion.

Not coincidentally, Wisconsin’s unemployment rate rose from 5.5 percent in December of 2002 (the month before Doyle took office) to 8.2 percent in December of 2010 (his last full month in office) and then dropped to 3.0 percent in Governor Walker’s last full month in office this past December.

That was the fifth straight month of 3.0 percent unemployment after state-record lows of 2.8 percent in April and May.

At no point during Doyle’s governorship did unemployment drop below 4.3 percent.

Because so many more people are working than when Doyle left office, Wisconsin’s total general purpose revenueshit $8.48 billion in 2018, compared with $6.09 billion in 2010 (even though the tax burden on individual Wisconsinites was much higher).

In 2010, Wisconsin’s poverty rate was 13.0 percent and approximately 733,000 people lived below the state’s poverty line while an additional 983,000 lived close to it. By 2018, though, the poverty rate was down to 11.3 percent and the total number of people living in poverty dropped to 639,564.

And not only are more people out of poverty after eight years of Republican reforms, people are making more money.

New MacIver Institute research finds that “Wisconsin’s private-sector wages grew on average by 5.7 percent in the first five months of 2018, according to Census Bureau data. That compares to 2.7 percent for the entire U.S. Last year alone Wisconsin median household income rose more than $1,000 to about $59,300, according to the Census Bureau. The state averaged a 3.6 percent increase in earnings, compared to the national average of 2.8 percent.”

By literally every indicator, the state of our state is infinitely stronger today than the last time a Democratic Governor was in office. And our state can remain strong if its new Democratic Governor recognizes what has worked for the past eight years and what failed for the eight years before that.

Governor Evers is now calling for what amounts to a return to the Doyle economy as he proposes the same bloated spending that will lead to the same confiscatory tax hikes that already led Wisconsin to the brink of ruin.

Yet today, the state of our state is strong, and if Evers wants to keep it that way, the best thing he can do is simply step back and let Republican policies strengthen it even further.

Evers got bad news Wednesday, reported by The Cap Times:

A legal analysis prepared Wednesday by a legislative attorney says Gov. Tony Evers does not have the authority to order the state’s attorney general to withdraw from a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act, despite Evers’ declaration on Tuesday that he would do so.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, requested the memo from the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau after Evers announced in his State of the State address that he had sent Attorney General Josh Kaul a letter directing him to pull Wisconsin out of the multi-state lawsuit.

According to the memo, Kaul can only withdraw the state from the lawsuit with the approval of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee.

Last year, then-Gov. Scott Walker authorized then-Attorney General Brad Schimel to join a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Obama-era health care law.

Evers and Kaul both campaigned on a promise to remove the state from the lawsuit, but Evers’ power to do so without legislative approval was removed in a set of laws passed by the Republican-led Legislature after he was elected. A federal judge in Texas ruled the ACA unconstitutional in December, but it is still being enforced as the lawsuit is appealed.

Addressing the Legislature Tuesday evening, Evers said he had sent Kaul a letter instructing him to pull out of the lawsuit.

“I cannot continue to allow the use of taxpayer resources toward a lawsuit that could undermine the health security of the people of the state,” Evers wrote in a letter that was hand-delivered to Kaul on Tuesday.

In the letter, Evers said he is “immediately withdrawing the authority provided” by a section of state law that previously allowed Wisconsin to enter the case.

According to the LRB analysis provided to Fitzgerald, the statute Evers cited addresses the governor’s ability to request the attorney general join a lawsuit, but not the authority to withdraw. A separate statute — changed in the recent lame-duck session — previously allowed a governor to authorize such a withdrawal, but under the changes approved in December, the attorney general can only exit a lawsuit with the approval of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee.

Asked about the memo Wednesday afternoon, an Evers spokeswoman said she had not seen it yet.

When said spokeswoman did, the Wisconsin State Journal reported:

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers Wednesday walked back a vow he made to withdraw the state from the Affordable Care Act lawsuit less than 24 hours after making the commitment in his first State of the State address.

“The governor has not directed the attorney general to take any specific course of action, he has simply withdrawn his authority for this lawsuit,” Evers spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said in a statement.

Evers’ reversal comes after the release Wednesday of a memo from the nonpartisan Legislative Reference Bureau that splashed cold water on Evers’ plans to withdraw Wisconsin from an ongoing multi-state lawsuit seeking to invalidate the ACA.

The memo, sent to Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, states there is no legal way for the new governor to fulfill his campaign promise to withdraw the state from the suit.

“There is thus no provision … allowing the governor to request, require or approve the attorney general to compromise or discontinue an action,” LRB attorney Sarah Walkenhorst wrote. “It is only the Joint Committee on Finance that has the authority to approve any compromise or discontinuance of an action in which the attorney general’s participation was requested.” …

Under previous law, Evers would have had the authority to withdraw the state from the suit. But that all changed after Republicans in December passed their controversial lame-duck law, which eliminated the governor’s ability to remove the state from lawsuits without legislative approval. …

Kaul after the State of the State address declined to provide detail on if and how he would withdraw the state from the lawsuit, except to say that the Department of Justice would remain consistent with the law.

 

Ejecting the Axis of Evil

Two years ago, the Washington Times reported on New York and New York:

State secessionist movements are long shots at best, but New Yorkers pushing for a breakup between the Big Apple and upstate are counting on the very real possibility of a constitutional convention to boost their odds.

Voters will decide in November whether to hold a statewide constitutional convention in 2019, thanks to the New York State Constitution, which allows for such an event every 20 years.

It’s a rare opportunity that the Divide NYS Caucus hopes to seize.

“It’s time to cease fantasizing that NYS legislators have the best interests of the people in mind,” the caucus said in a statement. “If we vote YES on the NYS convention, the first step in our plan to form autonomous regions is complete.”

The caucus wants to lift upstate New York’s struggling economy by reorganizing the state into two or even three independent regions. Such a division could be accomplished at the convention without the approval of the governor or the state Legislature.

“It’s the only thing they can’t control,” said Divide NYS Caucus chairman …

A Siena College poll released May 24 found 62 percent of those polled favor the convention, while 22 percent oppose it, although two-thirds have heard “nothing at all” about it.

Even so, convention supporter Gerald Benjamin, a political science professor at State University of New York at New Paltz, described “con con” advocates as “underdogs.”

“The issue right now is whether the advocates can finance a serious campaign,” Mr. Benjamin said. “They’re getting their resources together. Right now I think we’re the underdogs on this. I think we have a chance, but we’re underdogs.”

That’s because the opposition is formidable. Organized labor and the New York State Alliance for Retired Americans already have launched campaigns urging voters to nix the convention, warning that delegates would have the power to gut public pension benefits and collective bargaining rights.

“Delegates to a possible convention can essentially blow up the way of life New Yorkers enjoy and the expectations and priorities each of us have,” said Paul Pecorale, vice president of New York State United Teachers. “Whether it’s public education, collective bargaining, our retirement security, environmental protections, spending caps in the budget or any other issue one cares about, it’s all at risk.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he supports a constitutional convention while also expressing reservations about how it might look in practice.

“I think the governor has calculated the political consequences of his ability to influence the Legislature, his ability to stay in a positive relationship with the organized labor movement and also his presidential ambitions, and he’s decided to back away,” said Mr. Benjamin. “He hasn’t denounced the idea, but he hasn’t given it the emphasis that, in the past, he has done.”

If voters approve the convention in November, a year later they would select three delegates from each of the state’s 63 senatorial districts and 15 at-large delegates. Any amendments passed at the convention would go before the voters for final approval in November 2019.

Even though the constitution allows for a regular convention, New York has not held one since 1967, when the state Legislature called it. The last one called by voters was in 1938.

For upstate advocates of a split state, the convention may come as their best chance to pull off a Brexit-style departure from New York City.

The Divide NYS Caucus several years ago hit on the idea of forming autonomous regions within the state that would be led by their own governors and legislators instead of seeking approval from the Legislature and Congress to form a new state.

“It could be a model for other states, too, to go to the regional-districts method,” said Mr. Bergener, the Divide NYS Caucus chairman. “This way you only need an amendment to your state constitution.”

The goal is to improve the economic prospects of upstaters, who complain that the state’s high taxes and onerous regulations have scared away jobs as companies flee to states with more business-friendly climates.

In December 2014, Mr. Cuomo declared a statewide ban on hydraulic fracturing, effectively halting any natural gas development stemming from the rich Marcellus Shale in the state’s southern tier and fueling secession talk, including calls for the region to split off and join Pennsylvania.

“What it amounts to now is more taxes are gained in New York City and that money is sent upstate, but they put so many strings attached to it that it hasn’t been helping,” said Mr. Bergener. “So it’s a ‘Catch-22.’ If we were run more like Pennsylvania or Vermont, we’d be a lot better off.”

Wisconsin has a constitutional convention provision that requires approval of the Legislature and then a statewide referendum. So it seems possible for Wisconsin to do what New York may do and, say, eject Milwaukee and Madison from this state.

As with New York, neither Madison or Milwaukee represents this state. Milwaukee and Madison are the reason the unqualified Tony Evers is governor and not Scott Walker. Without the Axis of Evil, Walker would have been reelected with 56 percent of the vote, which is a larger margin than Walker ever got in getting elected once and reelected twice.

Does this mean that everyone who lives in Milwaukee or the People’s Republic of Madison is an idiot liberal? No. But those people who aren’t have zero say in government in Dane County or the city of Milwaukee. They are victims of taxation without representation because their representatives don’t agree with them. And I must say that those from Madison and Milwaukee who will oppose being seceded are perfectly happy being represented by Democrats and liberals, and have zero interests in the contrary views of their few non-liberal neighbors.

The priorities of those elected by voters in Madison and Milwaukee have rarely matched the views of voters in the rest of the state, but with time those differences have done nothing but expand. Evers and his attorney general are about to embark on an unconstitutional crusade to take guns away from people without due process or the least consideration of their constitutional rights, and that’s just the start. The rest of the state may be fine with Democrats’ ruining Madison and Milwaukee as they have in Milwaukee’s case and they are doing in Madison’s case. They should not be allowed to ruin the part of the state where real Wisconsinites live.

 

A red-flag-law red flag

Dan O’Donnell:

There is perhaps no more significant power of government than its power to imprison individual citizens and deprive them of their personal property, and thus there should be no power more closely scrutinized.

It’s fitting, then, that a new proposal to seize property is termed a “red flag law” since it raises so many red flags.

Wisconsin’s new Attorney General Josh Kaul proposed such legislation in his inaugural address, calling for the passage of a bill “that will allow law enforcement or family members to go before a judge and ensure that someone who is a threat to themselves or others is temporarily disarmed.”

Governor Evers signaled support for this, as did Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who cautioned that while he is “open to the idea,” he is concerned about “the scope being too broad.”

That may be an understatement.

Red flag laws, which have been passed in six states—most recently in Florida last year—pose substantial risks to both Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights (to say nothing of Second Amendment rights), as they allow for the confiscation of firearms without the protection of due process as it has been traditionally understood.

The Fourth Amendment provides that “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause.”

Probable cause generally exists only when “there is a reasonable basis that a crime may have been committed (for an arrest) or when evidence of the crime is present in the place to be searched (for a search).”

Under a red flag law, however, a family member may request that a judge confiscate an individual’s firearm based on the mere suspicion that he is mentally unfit to own one. Even if there is no evidence that a crime has been committed or is even likely to be committed, the judge can order guns seized.

Even more troublingly, the subject of the seizure might not have an opportunity to defend himself or even know of the allegations against him until law enforcement officers show up at his door to confiscate his weapons.

This Kafkaesque nightmare isn’t just an overwrought hypothetical; it’s actually happening.

Just two months after Florida passed a red flag law in the wake of the Parkland shooting, Broward County Sheriff’s Department bailiff Frank Joseph Pinter was accused of making threatening remarks to a colleague that allegedly included “all you rats should be exterminated.”

Six months earlier, The Orlando Sun-Sentinel reported, Pinter was spotted leaning over a courthouse atrium and pretending to shoot at people below him. Another bailiff accused Pinter of saying to him, “I’m going to exterminate you.”

In May, the Sheriff’s Department had had enough from what it deemed to be a dangerous employee and sought what is known as a “risk protection order” under Florida’s new law. Without granting Pinter an opportunity to defend himself or explain his conduct in court, a judge determined that “there is reasonable cause to believe the respondent poses a significant danger of causing personal injury to himself or others in the near future” and ordered his guns to be confiscated.

That afternoon, deputies took all of Pinter’s guns, ammunition, and even his concealed carry permit. He had no idea that there had been a judgement against him (or even that an action had been filed against him) until his guns were being confiscated.

Needless to say, this is antithetical to constitutional protections against what is rather obviously an unreasonable seizure. Pinter may well have been mentally disturbed, but there was no probable cause that he had committed a crime that would warrant government repossession of his personal property.

That he was not offered a chance to defend himself against the allegations against him compounds the issue by presenting a rather clear violation of Pinter’s Fifth Amendment right to protection against deprivation “of…property, without due process of law.”

When the only standard for seizure of property is a vague determination of risk to self or others based on evidence presented only by those who are seeking to seize property, what chance does the individual possibly have of keeping said property?

And what chance does he have if he doesn’t know an adjudicative proceeding against him is taking place?

Under Florida’s red flag law, Pinter was finally afforded the opportunity to challenge the seizure of his weapons several weeks after they had been seized. Only then—weeks after punitive action was taken against him—was he allowed to defend himself against the allegations that led to that punitive action.

Now Wisconsin’s Attorney General and Governor are proposing a nearly identical law, apparently unbothered by the radical infringements on individual civil liberties. The stated end—ostensibly lowering gun deaths—is a noble one, but even it cannot justify such unconstitutional means.

Quite simply, the power of government to seize property—even potentially dangerous property like firearms—is too significant to leave citizens—even potentially unstable ones—unprotected.

Suggestions Evers will ignore

Brett Healy of the MacIver Institute:

We believe, in general, you should pursue a pro-growth agenda that will sustain Wisconsin’s momentum and keep us heading in the right direction.

Taxes are still too high in Wisconsin. Despite $8 billion in recently passed tax relief, the Badger State ranks 32nd on the Tax Foundation’s Business Tax Climate Index. Worse, we still rank a disappointing 39th in the nation for individual taxes.

If Wisconsin wants to remain competitive, if we want to keep our friends and neighbors from moving to more tax-friendly states, and if we want to attract new businesses and all the family-supporting jobs that come with those new businesses, we need to continue our move to a flatter and more fair tax structure.

Wisconsin’s tax code forces even the lowest-income earners to pay the fourth highest tax rate of any state with a progressive income tax. A 3 percent flat tax would lower the tax rate for the working poor and stop punishing success.

A systematic and meaningful tax overhaul would also be an invaluable opportunity to examine what the fundamental role of government should be, determine the critical services that our citizens deserve and reduce government spending on all unnecessary and extraneous programs. We can save Wisconsin taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars if we exercise fiscal prudence. If government can exercise some restraint and discipline, our citizens will have more money in their checkbooks and they will then have the ability to make their lives better on their own.

Gov. Evers, let’s make the 2019-2021 budget about the taxpayer, not bureaucrats or the special interests.

We agree with you that the escalating cost of health care in the Affordable Care Act era is a big concern going forward. One way to increase access to affordable care and foster innovation is to protect the nascent direct primary care movement in our state. New regulations would quickly kill direct primary care before it has an opportunity to re-establish the doctor-patient relationship and solve our health-care woes.

Direct primary care also holds promise for taxpayers. Lawmakers are attempting to introduce direct primary care into the state’s vast and expensive Medical Assistance programs. A similar reform in Michigan is projected to save taxpayers $3.4 billion—with a B—if fully implemented there.

Price transparency is also critical to keeping health-care costs in check. We hope you will work to give patients all of the information they need in real-time to make smart health-care decisions. If health-care consumers are treated with respect and allowed access to legitimate pricing information, they will make decisions on their own that will drive down the cost of health care.

In your inaugural speech, you said you want to ensure “every kid in our state has access to a quality education — no matter what their zip code.” We could not agree more.

We all know that the education system here in Wisconsin is facing some long-term challenges and immediate emergencies. We have too many kids stuck in a failing school, our achievement gap remains a crisis and the amount of money our parents spend on remedial classes in college so their kids can learn what they should have been taught in high school is embarrassing.

Instead of turning to a tired and predictable solution that gives more power to bureaucrats, we should empower parents to fix all of this. Let’s move to a Super Education Savings Account system where parents are in charge of their kids’ education funding and can “bank” any unused K-12 funding for their child’s college or technical school education. You could kill two birds with one stone — allow parents to make the K-12 system more accountable and give parents a real opportunity to save money for college.

We also believe, governor, that you should stay the course on welfare reform. With the state’s economy roaring, a rock-bottom unemployment rate, and more job openings than workers, it is more important than ever to help our fellow citizens to move their way off taxpayer assistance and find meaningful, family-supporting work. The jobs are out there, governor. Repealing training and job-search requirements will prevent welfare recipients from taking that critical but scary first step toward self-reliance and freedom.

Wisconsin is heading in the right direction, governor. Let’s work together to keep our state moving forward. Good luck.

Your taking a few minutes to read this is more than Evers will do.

Democratic cowardice with guns

Facebook Friend Michael Smith:

Democrats’ mission to ban certain guns has very little to do with the Second Amendment or public safety – the American Psychiatric Association revealed the true purpose – to eliminate masculinity in society.

If you read through the list of weapons in the Feinstein Fantasy Ban Bill, the thing that jumps to the forefront is how much these weapons appear to be masculine and of military design – her list reads like the prop inventory from a John Wick movie – even though these weapons are no more deadly than their non-military looking ones that are not banned (and the bulk of the list have non-scary looking variants).

It should be pointed out that in 2017, the greatest increase (111%) in applications for concealed carry permits came from women, not men.

Feinstein lists “Mass shootings that took place last year using military-style assault rifles” but with mistakes and omissions – along with Parkland (illegally purchased weapon due to federal and local law enforcement failures), she lists the Vegas (legally purchased weapons) and Sutherland Springs (illegally possessed weapon due to a government information sharing issue) shootings that happened in 2017, not in 2018 – and she omits other shootings like the Borderline Bar and Grill shooting in Thousand Oaks, California that involved legally purchased semi-automatic pistols.

I’m not excusing those shootings, I’m merely pointing out that Feinstein and the Democrats lack the courage of their convictions to ban all guns and choose to go after a certain style of weapon for purely political purposes.

Not that I need to tell you that.