I Don’t Want My CIA Doing This:

From the West Wing Reads version of the daily White House email newsletter:

I do not want the CIA wasting their time on what should be in the realm of traditional law enforcement. The CIA has other duties related to the protection and safety of Americans world wide without the added burden of tracking drugs. This certainly isn’t their area of expertise. I would prefer they just stick to international intelligence gathering…and this seems to be too ‘close to home’ for typical CIA operations.

And no, I am not belittling the opioid epidemic in the United States. It certainly is a major issue but it requires the proper attention from skilled professions. And we have a half dozen other federal agencies to handle it…on top of the various state and local law enforcement and health professionals who are already tasked with it. And maybe we could throw some comprehensive universal health care at the problem instead!

Medicare Should Be Allowed To Negotiate Drug Prices

and no this isn’t going to break the backs of the drug companies. As I stated in my rant last week about the recommendations to flush unused drugs down the toilet…I had outpatient surgery.

Besides an opioid for pain relief, I was also prescribed a generic antibiotic as a prophylactic measure against a post-op infection. My doctor called this prescription into my pharmacy of choice.

When I got there to pick it up I was told I could pay $5 for the three day supply if I used Medicare or $3 if I used the pharmacy’s discount card. That was kinda a no brainer. But why can’t Medicare be $3? So somehow the pharmacy was able to negotiate a better price!

And I realize $2 isn’t a big deal but I think there are like 55.5 million Medicare enrollees as of 2015…but if they all got one prescription each year at the higher price it starts to add up.

More GOP Budget Insanity In Wisconsin: Dept of Corrections Edition

There have been competing articles in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about the issues surrounding the various Wisconsin Department Of Correction facilities. Much of it relates to budget issues and employment issues. Apparently the DOC can’t hire enough guards and security personnel to keep the facilities safe and running correctly.

And on Tuesday, MJS ran an article front page just below the masthead: A Wisconsin worker nearly tripled his pay last year by working 95 hours a week and others cashed in, as well. Apparently one employee worked enough overtime to out earn his bosses and the governor and then retired! I don’t begrudge the officer making his move…the system let him and he gamed the system.

But 95 hours a week? Can anyone effectively do their job working 95 hours a week, no matter what it is? Doesn’t this put the guard at risk? Doesn’t this put the other guards at risk? Doesn’t this put the other staff at risk? Doesn’t this put those incarcerated at risk?

So we are short handed and can’t staff the facilities that we have. And these facilities are full to capacity. So what does Attorney General Brad Schimel think we should do? Well this is pulled from an article where the AG is criticizing the prison plans of the Democratic gubernatorial candidates…but it certainly exhibits the total disconnect in Madison around law enforcement and incarceration:

Schimel said the state’s current approach on addressing recidivism is appropriate, and he supports building a new prison to reduce crowding in existing facilities to ensure safety for correctional officers and that rehabilitation programs are effective.

So how do we staff new facilities if we can’t staff current facilities?

And just this morning, the good old MJS featured this story on the front page: Pay raises not on table despite prison staffing shortage!

Facing ballooning overtime costs amid a stubborn staffing shortage in Wisconsin prisons, lawmakers in control of state government are not yet putting forward a pay bump to entice new correctional officers.

Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislative leaders acknowledge that having too few workers in state prisons is a long-standing challenge, but none are voicing support for putting more money into salaries or benefits following a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report showing staffing shortages opened the door for more than 500 state workers —most of them at the Department of Corrections — to make more than $20,000 in overtime last year.

But Republican leaders say prison officials have offered current and prospective employees significant financial incentives to cure the staffing problems, and that the strong economy exacerbates the challenge in hiring new workers.

“With a record low 2.8% unemployment rate and more people working in Wisconsin than ever before, we can’t afford to have anyone on the sidelines,” Walker spokeswoman Amy Hasenberg said. “The worker shortage is a nationwide challenge, and we will continue our historic investments in worker training and education moving forward to help get more people into the workforce.”

Hey! The word out of Washington is lower unemployment yields higher wages. It’s all part of the master plan. If you want quality employees in quantity…you need to pay up!

By the way, according to the linked article, officers have gotten a number of pay increases over the past few years…and in January the starting wage will be $16.55 per hour. Think about that. The national push is $15.00 minimum wage for…you know…minimum wage jobs…do you want fries with that? And we are asking men and women to take jobs that put their personal safety at risk for $16.55? Really?

New hires are getting $2,000 signing bonuses though.

From our quotable GOP leader in Madison, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald:

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said state officials could try increasing wages and benefits, but the nature of the job of a correctional officer will always be a hurdle if there are less-stressful alternatives.

“You can always look at wages and benefits and try to pump those up but I think in the environment that we’re operating in, it’s gonna be tough,” Fitzgerald said. “I don’t know that that’s the solution right now.”

Shrug!

Oh and then there is the issue of finding the money in the state budget. Well obviously if you hire more people some of the money will come from the overtime no longer being paid…but guess what…we had a budget surplus working that could have been reassigned…but no…the governor had to do his election year gimmick give back and sales tax holiday instead.

Shrug!

Why Am I Paying For This? Or You For That Matter?

Wisconsin taxpayers to pay $30,000 to settle lawsuit after Rep. Dale Kooyenga took a protester’s sign

Wisconsin taxpayers will spend $30,000 to settle a lawsuit brought against state Rep. Dale Kooyenga after he removed a protest sign critical of Republicans from a public area of the Capitol.

Kooyenga, a Brookfield Republican now running for the state Senate, said in a statement he signed off on the settlement because he did not want to “incur the costs of a prolonged legal battle, or further divert time or energy from the actual public policy priorities facing our state.”

Doesn’t want to incur the costs of a prolonged legal battle? Look you self centered son of a bitch. Cough up the $30,000 for the settlement out of your own pocket. There is no reason the taxpayers should be footing the bill for your illegal activities. You aren’t a traditional government employee where the government might be liable…particularly since this was a partisan action. Pay up you little prick!

The Absurdities Of The Walker Tax Credit Proposals

The state anticipates a budget surplus of $385 million in June of 2019. In anticipation of that surplus, Governor Scott Walker is proposing a tax rebate, a tax credit, and a sales tax holiday. The governor is intent on returning the surplus to the tax payers…in a very roundabout way. Of course the Democrats are seeing this as a election year gimmick and considering the timing and the method of credits it certainly is.

First is a child tax credit of $100 for each child under 18 years of age. There would be $100 returned to families for each eligible child in each of the tax years in the state biennial budget period. The first $100 would be a child tax rebate before the 2018/2019 school year in the form of a check to every eligible family. Quite conveniently scheduled to precede the August primary elections. Besides the partisan scheming involved, rebates are expensive means to return money to taxpayers. That requires assembling the requisite data, creating checks, stuffing envelopes, affixing postage or indicia, and then mailing them to tax payers. I don’t know what that would cost per item but I am guessing it would run into the several millions of dollars {about 671,000 families with 1.22 million children are expected to qualify}. Not exactly the best use of tax payer money…unless you are running for re-election.

The second year (when the governor isn’t running for re-election), families would receive the money as a tax credit. If the state is really intent on returning funds this way, tax credits in both years would be the most efficient and cost effective methods.

But I still have an issue with this…I don’t have any children under 18…but I pay sales and income taxes to the state every year…where’s my cut?

The second mechanism for returning surplus tax dollars is a sales tax holiday. This is always an absurd enterprise but Governor Walker makes it even more extreme. Just look:

The deal would provide a one-time $50 million sales tax holiday for the first weekend in August that would cover all goods under $100, not just back to school purchases as Walker and some other Republicans had previously sought.

This tax holiday would also occur just before the August primary. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. But ignoring the partisan tendency here, as a former retailer, and a computer programmer that worked on a sales tax system for a national retailer back in the day, coding sales tax calculations in point of sale devices isn’t a trivial undertaking. National retailers probably all have robust systems now a days that can handle short term events like this {particularly with spending limits or item caps, etc}. But smaller retailers who rely on purchased software or other services may have to pay to load the short term changes into their systems and then pay again to revert to the current tax codes. Something that should be looked into.

And then there is the unspoken loss of revenue to the counties and stadium taxing authorities…if they state isn’t collecting taxes…they probably aren’t either. And we know that there are very few counties that have the half cent sales tax that aren’t relying on that income in their own very strapped budgets. And I doubt the state is willing to make them whole!

But what to do with the $385 million surplus…well I have four quick ideas that I hope make some sense to many of you.

First: just reduce income taxes in the 2019 – 2021 budget. Chances are most of the current tax payers would benefit.

Second: deposit the monies in a rainy day fund. It wasn’t that long ago that state had revenue shortfalls and budgets were cut or monies moved around. There’s no reason Wisconsin couldn’t have a rainy day fund for future economic downturns.

Third: the firewall between the general budget and the transportation budget has been fairly porous over the past decade…maybe some of those on hold or deferred road projects could get kicked off.

Fourth: the day Madison needs to start cutting tax credit checks to Foxconn isn’t that far down the road…maybe we should set this money aside in anticipation of that day.

What do you think?

Previous takes on sales tax holidays in Wisconsin:

Scott Walker’s hare-brained scheme

Scott Walker proposes sales tax “holiday” gimmick

Sales Tax Holiday? Funny You Should Have Asked!