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Our state budget gap compared to others

State budget


When it comes to fiscal matters, the state of Wisconsin always seems to rank at the top, and usually in a negative manner. Our tax rankings, for example, always place us in the top taxed states. The same holds true for our business climate. Here is another example.

Wisconsin has one of the largest state budget gaps in the country according to a report by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). During 2010, Wisconsin is predicted to have a budget gap that will surpass 17.2 percent of its general fund budget.

G
iven our propensity the last several budget cycles to dig ourselves deeper and deeper, this news is not surprising.

Read more in stateline.org.

I asked our D.C. representatives to vote against the stimulus


I am one of several state legislators to sign a letter sent last week to Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation urging members to vote against the proposed stimulus package. The letter reads as follows:

Dear Wisconsin Congressional Representatives,

Recent comments by our Governor may indicate that members of the Wisconsin state government want you to vote for some sort of stimulus package and that the State of Wisconsin would be in dire straits if you failed to do this.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  We would like to remind you that over the last year Congress has voted for a $170 billion stimulus package that was either paid for by borrowing or printing money and has only caused a lack of confidence in the American economy.

Then Senator Obama and the Congress passed an over $700 billion bailout plan with the Dow still over 10,000.  Again, the result of printing and borrowing has only been the further decline of the American economy. 

It is not like our federal government has been parsimonious to this point.  In the seven years prior to that time, both education and healthcare spending on a national level almost doubled while transportation spending jumped over 50-percent.  We implore you stop trying to stimulate the economy with a larger government. 

Governor Doyle may have also implied that the state would face drastic cutbacks without federal money.  The past decade has not seen any cuts that we are aware of.  Instead we have seen massive expansions of state spending on healthcare with proposals for more.  The only thing we know that will be in the new budget with regard to education are proposals for greater teachers’ salaries. 

Please, this time, say No to more debt for our children and grandchildren.

The state deficit just got bigger

State budget


Less than 24 hours after Governor Doyle proclaimed in his State of the State address that that Wisconsin faces a $5.4. billion deficit, the Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) announced the shortfall is now $5.7 billion.

The LFB estimates that for the three –year period including fiscal year 2008-09 and the 2009-11 biennium, general fund tax collections (income, sales, and corporate taxes) will be $342.4 million less than the LFB reported during November 2008.

The Wisconsin Covenant could be a big tax increase

State budget


It appears there could be a call to dedicate tax money toward the Wisconsin Covenant, a program included in the last state budget to provide financial aid at a UW System school to eighth grade students that sign and keep a pledge.

According to the Wisconsin Covenant website:

Eighth graders in Wisconsin are invited to sign the Wisconsin Covenant Pledge, a promise that they will: 

  • Earn a high-school diploma.
  • Maintain at least a “B” average in high school.
  • Complete the classes they need to prepare them for higher education.
  • Demonstrate good citizenship and participate in their community.
  • Apply for state and federal financial aid in a timely manner.
  • Take the necessary steps to gain admission to a University of Wisconsin System institution, a Wisconsin Technical College, and/or a Wisconsin private collage or university.

In return for meeting these goals and keeping the pledge, a Wisconsin Covenant Student will be recognized as a Wisconsin Covenant Scholar, earn a place within our partnered systems of higher education, and receive a financial aid package, based on their family’s financial need, to help make college affordable.”

A study by The Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education, a UW-Madison think tank, is recommending the state fund the program. Currently, two private sources, the Wisconsin Covenant Foundation and the Fund for Wisconsin Scholars provide grants. But the study’s authors believe more funding will be necessary and are urging a state investment. Investment is code for tax money.

Armed with this study, it is quite feasible that when Governor Doyle presents his proposed 2009-11 state budget to the state Legislature, it will include millions of dollars for the Wisconsin Covenant, minus an explanation from the governor about how the state will pay for and afford the program.

Approximately 35,000 eighth graders have signed pledges but many unknowns remain about the Covenant including how to pay for it, income guidelines for recipients, and whether the program can actually meet its goal of reducing the gap in enrollment rates of economic and racial groups.  The first batch of Covenant students are scheduled to attend class in the fall of 2011.

The Wisconsin Covenant was one of the many reasons I voted against the last state budget. It is yet another ornament on a Christmas tree filled with goodies the state simply can’t afford. The state creates another massive program based on a promise, and then turns once again to the taxpayers to hand over the funding. That the Wisconsin Covenant has turned into one more tax increase shouldn’t come as any surprise.

Here are more details from the Associated Press.

Taxes matter when making a move

Taxes


Last month, I blogged about the national rankings of Wisconsin counties based on property taxes paid using U.S. Census Bureau data. The rankings were compiled by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation in Washington D.C. Here are the top ten counties in Wisconsin and their national ranking.

Property Tax on Owner-Occupied Housing, by County, Ranked by Property Taxes Paid, 2005-2007 Average
The county is listed, followed by Median Property Taxes Paid on Homes, then the national ranking with #1 being the highest in property taxes:


1) Dane County                  $3,977                    46

2) Ozaukee County             $3,924                    51

3) Waukesha County          $3,864                    54

4) Milwaukee County          $3,544                    76

5) Pierce County                $3,395                    87

6) Washington County        $3,372                    90

7) Kenosha County            $3,363                     93

8) St. Croix County            $3,245                    103

9) Racine County               $3,101                    114

10) Walworth County         $3,013                    126


I raise the issue again because the Pew Research Center 
conducted a national survey asking people what metropolitan area they would most like to live. Certainly weather was a factor in the responses. I believe tax climate also provided a strong consideration for the survey respondents. Let’s examine the top 10 most popular metropolitan areas people would like to live and their property tax rankings by the Tax Foundation:


Property Tax on Owner-Occupied Housing, by County, Ranked by Property Taxes Paid, 2005-2007 Average
The city and county are listed, followed by Median Property Taxes Paid on Homes, then the national ranking with #1 being the highest in property taxes:


1) Denver (Denver)              $1,233                   811

2) San Diego (SD)              $2,633                   177

3) Seattle (King County)     $3,297                    101

4) Orlando(Orange County) $1,918                    372

5) Tampa (Hillsborough)     $1,967                    352

6) San Fran.(SF County)    $3,737                     65

7) Phoenix (Maricopa)       $1,286                    760

8) Portland (Multnomah)    $2,604                    183

9) Sacramento (Sac.)         $1,980                   348

10) San Antonio (Bexar)     $2,212                   281



Here is the complete listing.

Tax changes for 2008

News you can use


Tax filing time is right around the corner. The Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance (WISTAX) has compiled a list of federal and state income tax changes for filing year 2008. You can read them here.

The state is to blame for state budget problems

State budget


Since I started writing Conservatively Speaking, I have posted many blogs that the major problem Wisconsin has putting together responsible budgets is that the state taxes and spends too much. I have consistently voted against budgets that raise taxes and fees. The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI) has released a report that while the economy has played a role in Wisconsin’s fiscal crisis, the state is primarily to blame.The WPRI writes:

“Several questionable budget practices allow Wisconsin to continually spend more than it takes in. First, the state has been filling budget holes in the general fund by pouring in one-time revenues from segregated state accounts, paid for with various user fees.  According to state government’s own financial records, from fiscal years 2001 through 2008, a total of $2.373 billion of these one time, non-routine, revenues was used to help the general fund show positive ending balances.  Much of this came from the transportation fund, which was then made whole by issuing debt to backfill the hole left by the transfer.

While the current economic recession is to blame for a good deal of state government’s fiscal troubles, the current pattern of the state spending more than it takes in has significantly exacerbated the problem.  Even worse, the Governor and Legislature have set aside virtually no budget stabilization funds to ameliorate such downturns – which makes the current recession much more damaging to the state’s finances.  While the average state holds between 5% and 10% of their general fund revenues in a ‘rainy day fund,’ Wisconsin keeps less than 1% in such a fund – allowing the state to spend that vital money on other ongoing programs, leaving the state’s finances in peril.”

One solution offered by the WPRI suggests the state should stop spending more than it takes in. 

Here is the entire WPRI report.

Congratulations, Wisconsin USO!


Late last year, I wrote two blogs about the need to preserve the Wisconsin USO office in downtown Milwaukee that was in trouble:

Save Our USO

Could the airport be the new home for the Milwaukee USO? 

I am happy to report that efforts to improve the USO Office have been successful, and the USO celebrated a Grand Re-opening this week. Here is a press release from the Wisconsin USO:

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                       Contacts:
January 27, 2009                                                                 Jessica Stice, 414.271.3133

Read more

Wisconsin trail guides available

News you can use


Guides to Wisconsin’s wonderful birding and nature trails are now available online and in hard copies at various locations.  You can get more details here. 

Wisconsin Public Television will broadcast a special documentary in March about Wisconsin trails. The above link also has information about the broadcast.

$37,000


Much like Madison, agreement is a rare commodity in Washington D.C. The great debate these days in the nation’s capital is the effectiveness of a near-trillion dollar stimulus package.  While that debate rages on, there is concurrence that a costly stimulus package will add to the already massive federal debt.

Consider these numbers reported by the Associated Press;

This year's budget deficit that doesn’t include any stimulus money is still a record $1.2 trillion.

Interest payments on the federal debt are about $450 billion. A stimulus package would add about $40 billion to the interest payments a year.

The total national debt is currently over $10.6 trillion.

Every person in the United States would each have to pay $37,000 to wipe out the national debt.

Here are the details from the AP.

The House version of the stimulus bill originally contained 647 pages, 680 pages after amendments were added and the bill was approved. The Senate version has 431 pages.

Obama nominee: Abortions bring "relief and happiness"

 

The Family Research Council (FRC) has published some very revealing quotes about abortion attributed to David Ogden, President Obama’s nominee for Deputy Attorney General.  The FRC writes:

“In a brief for the American Psychological Association in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, he wrote: ‘Abortion rarely causes or exacerbates psychological or emotional problems.  When women do experience regret, depression, or guilt, such feelings are mild and diminish rapidly without adversely affecting general functioning.  The few women who do experience negative psychological responses after abortion appear to be those with preexisting emotional problems ....’

Ogden also wrote: ‘In sum, it is grossly misleading to tell a woman that abortion imposes possible detrimental psychological effects when the risks are negligible in most cases, when the evidence shows that she is more likely to experience feelings of relief and happiness, and when child-birth and child-rearing or adoption may pose concomitant (if not greater) risks or adverse psychological effects’ ...."

Ogden’s blithe dismissal of the post traumatic impact on women having had abortions along with his suggestion that women experience “relief and happiness’’ are appalling.

During the previous legislative session I proposed legislation to prohibit coercive abortions, and I documented extensive data about the physical and emotional damage women suffer. The President’s nominee for one of the highest legal positions in the country should check his facts before making the offensive statement that a woman having an abortion “is more likely to experience feelings of relief and happiness.” The comment speaks volumes about the new administration.

Here are details from the FRC.

Another way to kill jobs

Business


John Fund of the Wall Street wrote during August 2007 that increasing regulations and licensing hinders entrepreneurs from opening new businesses and kills jobs. Wisconsin has a horrible ranking when it comes to restricting jobs and it could get worse. 

A provision contained in the 2007-09 state budget gives the Wisconsin Department of Regulation and Licensing (DRL) the authority to establish fees for the professions the DRL regulates. DRL Secretary Celia Jackson has informed the co-chairs of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee of the department’s new fees established for 2009-11. For the first time since 2001, fees are set to increase for over 100 DRL-regulated professions.

According to the Wheeler Report, “The base fee for all but a few new licenses will increase $22 to $75 from the current $53. Two-year renewals will range from $82 to a high of $170.”

The Joint Finance Committee has until Wednesday, February 18, 2009 to object to the fee increases or schedule a hearing to review the proposal.

The fee increases are business and job killers and should be rejected, especially during this time of layoffs and weakening economy.

Congratulations to the village of Greendale!

Good news from Senate District 28


The village of Greendale held its America in Bloom celebration that I attended at Greendale High School January 27, 2009.

My office prepared a state citation for the village of Greendale. It reads:

Whereas, America In Bloom is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting nationwide beautification programs and community involvement; and

Whereas,  America in Bloom conducts a national contest based on the use of flowers, plants, trees, and other environmental and lifestyle enhancements; and

Whereas, during the summer of 2008, Greendale, Wisconsin competed against communities of similar size located across the United States; and

Whereas, Greendale, Wisconsin was evaluated on eight criteria in the America in Bloom competition including floral displays, environmental awareness, landscaped areas, tidiness, urban forestry, heritage preservation, turf and groundcovers, and community involvement and

Whereas, the community-wide effort was coordinated by the Greendale Park and Recreation Department, the Greendale Community Education Council, and the Village of Greendale with participation by residents, business owners, school groups, church groups, environmental clubs, scout troops, and community organizations; and

Whereas, Greendale, Wisconsin  residents cleaned up neighborhoods, planted flowers at schools, held garlic mustard pulls, and raised funds to place trees at schools; and

Whereas, Greendale, Wisconsin is named the 2008 America in Bloom winner for the 10,001 to 15,000 population category; and

Whereas, out of 125 points in each category, Greendale, Wisconsin scored 112 in tidiness, 112 in environmental effort, 119 in community involvement, 118 in heritage preservation, 118 in urban forestry, 116 in landscaped area, 112 in floral displays, 109 in turf and groundcover areas; and

Whereas, Greendale, Wisconsin earned the National Criteria Award in the Urban Forestry Category,  a competition involving all participating communities regardless of population; and

Whereas, Greendale Wisconsin received an overall champion award in its population category; and

Whereas, Greendale, Wisconsin won the most prestigious of the competition’s awards, the 5 Bloom Award, designating that Greendale, Wisconsin  received more than 90 percent of the total points possible; and

Whereas, the community-wide effort was coordinated by the Greendale Park and Recreation Department, the Greendale Community Education Council, and the Village of Greendale with participation by residents, business owners, school groups, church groups, environmental clubs, scout troops, and community organizations; now

Therefore, the members of the Wisconsin Senate, on the motion of Senator Mary Lazich, congratulate Greendale, Wisconsin, as the 2008 America in Bloom winner for the 10,000 to 15,000 population category.  Greendale, Wisconsin, is further commended for bringing immense civic pride to its community.

State Senate calendar for Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Here is the calendar for the state Senate floor session Tuesday, February 10, 2009 at 10:00 a.m.:

First Order.               Call of Roll.

Second Order.           Chief clerk's entries.

Third Order.              Introduction, first reading and reference of proposals; reference of appointments.

Fourth Order.            Report of committees.

Fifth Order.               Petitions and communications.

Sixth Order.              Advice and consent of the Senate.

Seventh Order.          Advice and consent of the Senate.

QUESTION:        Shall the appointment be confirmed?

Boehmer, Tim, of Neenah, as a member of the Pharmacy Examining Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2012. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Bohacek, Linda, of Eau Claire, as a member of the Dentistry Examining Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2012. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Cantu, Kathleen, of Madison, as a member of the Cemetery Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2012. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Gottfredsen, Eugene, of Beloit, as a member of the Barbering and Cosmetology Examining Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2012. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Kailas, Sujatha, of Fond du Lac, as a member of the Medical Examining Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2012. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Leach, Kathi, of Junction City, as a member of the Optometry Examining Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2012. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

LeGrand, Roger, of La Crosse, as a member of the Tax Appeals Commission, to serve for the term ending March 1, 2009. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Leinenkugel, Richard, of Menomonee Falls, as Secretary of the Department of Commerce, to serve for the term ending at the pleasure of the Governor. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Commerce, Utilities, Energy, and Rail, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

McAdams, Thomas, of Greendale, as a member of the Tax Appeals Commission, to serve for the term ending March 1, 2013. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Misra, Suresh, of Milwaukee, as a member of the Medical Examining Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2011. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Nass, Steven, of Lake Mills, as a member of the Athletic Trainers Affiliated Credentialing Board to serve for the term ending July 1, 2012. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Osborn, Sandra, of Verona, as a member of the Medical Examining Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2012. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Patterson, Jeffrey, of Madison, as a member of the Barbering and Cosmetology Examining Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2012. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Porter, E. Glen, of New Berlin, as a member of the Cemetery Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2012. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Renwick, Suzette, of La Crosse, as a member of the Pharmacy Examining Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2012. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Rose, Teresa, of Hazelhurst, as a member of the Psychology Examining Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2012. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Ruiz, Laura, of Milwaukee, as a member of the Barbering and Cosmetology Examining Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2011. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Shropshire, Mark
, of Appleton, as a member of the Physical Therapists Affiliated Credentialing Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2012. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Simpson, Luann, of Racine, as a member of the Health Insurance Risk-Sharing Plan Authority, to serve for the term ending May 1, 2011. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Sweeney, Timothy, of Green Lake, as a member of the Auctioneer Board, to serve for the term ending May 1, 2012. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Labor, Elections and Urban Affairs, Ayes 5, Noes 0)

Thornton, Patricia, of Grand View, as a member of the Funeral Directors Examining Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2012. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Twait, Howard, of Wisconsin Rapids, as a member of the Barbering and Cosmetology Examining Board, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2012. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Weix, Lou Ann
, of Green Bay, as a member on the Board of Nursing, to serve for the term ending July 1, 2012. (Report confirmation recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Eighth Order.            Messages from the Assembly.

Ninth Order.              Special Orders.

QUESTION:             Shall the joint resolution be adopted?

Special Order at 10:01 A.M.

Senate Joint Resolution 8. Relating to: modifying the session schedule for the 2009-10 biennial session period and extending the deadline for the governor's budget message.  By Senator Decker; cosponsored by Representative Nelson.

Tenth Order.              Consideration of motions, resolutions, and joint resolutions not requiring a third reading.

Eleventh Order.         Second reading and amendments of senate joint resolutions and senate bills.

QUESTION:              Shall the bill be ordered to a third reading?

Senate Bill 1. Relating to: a state minimum wage, permitting the enactment of local living wage ordinances, and granting rule-making authority. (FE)  By Senators Decker, Kreitlow, Sullivan, Wirch, Taylor, Lehman, Carpenter, Coggs, Plale, Erpenbach, Miller, Hansen, and Vinehout; cosponsored by Representatives Mason, Sinicki, Milroy, Turner, Hilgenberg, Colon, Grigsby, Pope-Roberts, Pocan, Berceau, Kessler, Zepnick, Black, A. Williams, Garthwaite, Soletski, Sherman, Shilling, Benedict, Toles, Krusick, and Young. (Report adoption of Senate Substitute Amendment 1, Ayes 3, Noes 2, passage as amended recommended by committee on Labor, Elections and Urban Affairs, Ayes 3, Noes 2) Senate Substitute Amendment 1 pending

Senate Bill 2. Relating to: the filing of a wage claim or the bringing of a wage claim action by a collective bargaining representative on behalf of an employee and the priority of a wage claim lien over a prior lien of a commercial lending institution and over the rights of a purchaser of any property of the employer. (FE)  By Senators Lehman, Robson, Hansen, Wirch, Carpenter, Decker, Kreitlow, Erpenbach, Coggs, Miller, Plale, Holperin, and Taylor; cosponsored by Representatives Garthwaite, Sinicki, Mason, Black, Turner, Jorgensen, Zepnick, and Cullen. (Report passage recommended by committee on Labor, Elections and Urban Affairs, Ayes 3, Noes 2)

Senate Bill 7. Relating to: the filing of certain forms related to tax incremental financing district number ten in the city of Chippewa Falls. (FE)  By Senator Kreitlow; cosponsored by Representatives Dexter, Wood, and Suder. (Report passage recommended by committee on Health, Health Insurance, Privacy, Property Tax Relief, and Revenue, Ayes 7, Noes 0)

Twelfth Order.          Second reading and amendments of assembly joint resolutions and assembly bills.

Thirteenth Order.     Third reading of joint resolutions and bills.

Fourteenth Order.     Motions may be offered.

Fifteenth Order.        Announcements, adjournment honors, and remarks under special privilege.

Sixteenth Order.        Adjournment.

I voted against the minimum wage increase

Economy


Today on the floor of the state Senate, I voted against an increase in Wisconsin’s minimum wage. 

The timing of the proposal is horrible given our recession.  A new survey shows 25 percent of American companies are planning a salary freeze. Residents across Wisconsin are accepting pay cuts just to preserve the jobs they have. The state Senate wants to impose a salary hike on Wisconsin businesses that will kill jobs and hurt businesses.

I received several communications from a constituent very concerned about the impact on camps. The constituent correctly points out that the minimum wage increase bill contains a 24 percent increase for minor staff and an 11 percent increase for adult staff at camps.  The increases that would go into effect this June would create an immediate $10,000 shortfall at the constituent’s camp.  Camp directors do not want to see themselves put in the terrible position of contributing to increasing the unemployment numbers. 

Because this bill will create layoffs, kill jobs, and raise unemployment at the worst possible time in our state and national economies, I voted against the minimum wage increase on the floor of the state Senate today.

Federal stimulus would hurt Wisconsin

Economy


I blogged that the federal stimulus package being considered by Congress will not solve budget problems being encountered in all states, including Wisconsin.

Governor Doyle in his State of the State address said the stimulus package would not solve Wisconsin’s budget deficit. The Wisconsin State Journal writes the stimulus could make our budget problems even worse. The newspaper writes:

“The federal largesse — up to $4 billion or more for Wisconsin alone — carries the potential of leaving the state budget worse off in the future if the economy doesn't recover and lawmakers don't do a better job than they have in the past of making sure the state lives within its means.”

You can read the entire State Journal piece here.

Victories for photo ID, just not in Wisconsin

Photo ID


Requiring a photo ID to vote is a concept I strongly support, even more so after a recent court ruling and some significant findings from the November 2008 election.

Georgia’s photo ID law, one of the strictest in the country, had its constitutionality upheld by an appellate court on January 14, 2009. The court compared obtaining a photo ID to air travel, writing in its decision:

“Before an adult passenger can board an airplane for a commercial flight in the United States, the passenger must present to a federal official an identification card with a photograph of the passenger. The burden of that exercise assists the federal government in keeping passengers safe from physical harm. We conclude that the burden imposed by the requirement of photo identification is outweighed by the interests of Georgia in safeguarding the right to vote.”

The Georgia case was like many other court challenges to photo ID laws in that the plaintiffs were unable to produce evidence of individuals who either did not already possess a valid ID or could not easily obtain one. Two witnesses testified, according to the court ruling, “that they could and would obtain a free photo identification with little difficulty.”

More evidence strengthening the validity of requiring photo ID comes from the November 2008 presidential election. Hans von Spakovsky, a former commissioner on the Federal Election Commission and a former Justice Department official did some digging and uncovered some fascinating data about photo ID and voter turnout. Remember, opponents of photo ID argue that the requirement will suppress turnout, especially among minorities.

Von Spakovsky notes black turnout during the November 2008 election was an all-time high. He examined results from Indiana and Georgia, the two states with the strictest voter ID requirements.

Von Spakovsky found that numbers released by
American University indicate Georgia had the largest turnout in the state’s history. The black share of Georgia’s vote increased from 25 percent during the 2004 election while Georgia did not have a photo ID law to 30 percent during the 2008 election while a photo ID requirement was enforced. Neighboring Mississippi that does not have a photo ID law and has a black population comparable to Georgia saw an increased turnout of just 2.35 percent.

What about Indiana, with a strict photo ID law ruled constitutional during 2008 by the U.S. Supreme Court? Von Spakovsky found that during the November 2008 election, Democrat turnout increased by 8.32 percent, the largest Democrat turnout increase in the U.S.  Neighboring Illinois that does not have a photo ID law experienced just a 4.4 percent increase. 

Von Spakovsky came to the conclusion that there is overwhelming evidence photo ID laws do not suppress voter turnout. In fact, Von Spakovsky believes voter confidence in the election system is enhanced by photo ID laws.

Opposition to voter IDs has come largely from those fearing the requirement will disenfranchise voters without IDs or would find it difficult to acquire them. The evidence suggests otherwise.

I have always supported and continue to support the implementation of a photo ID requirement for voting in Wisconsin.
 

Digital TV update

News you can use


I have blogged extensively about the scheduled February nationwide conversion to all-digital television. Congress has voted to delay the conversion from February 17, 2009 to June 12, 2009.

Here are complete details from MSNBC.

Prior to the vote by the House, ZDNet.com editorialized that a delay was unnecessary and costly.

Valentine's Day in a state park?

News you can use


Despite the frigid temperatures, Wisconsinites are taking advantage of the candlelight events in Wisconsin state parks and forests. More events are scheduled in the next few weeks. The Department of Natural Resources says they can even be, “romantic.”

Here are details.

Governor Doyle gets petty


Governor Doyle is one of only a handful of governors to refuse to sign a proclamation honoring President Ronald Reagan.

Here are the details.

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