The Irony Behind The Kaepernik Story in Madison

If the Republican majority in Madison had just accepted the Black History Month resolution put forward by the Legislative Black Caucus…and simply approved it in a voice vote…there would have been no story. It would essentially have gone unnoticed outside of the state.

But once again the majority leadership had to make a ‘thing’ out of the inclusion of former NFL Quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s as a black leader being recognized…and Wisconsin once again made the national news as a backwater.

The upside here is we’ve actually had something of a conversation about race in Wisconsin…not one that’s accomplished anything…but one that has opened more than a few eyes. So let’s build on this…can we push for more discussion on race in the state? Can we start a long term dialogue that will finally help accomplish the things that actually need doing in the state? Can we find ways to include everyone…urban/rural, black/white. conservative/liberal, and faith/non-faith and fix the things that Wisconsin needs to fix?

Vos and Fitzgerald Are Trolling Wisconsin With Tolling!

The Wisconsin GOP cabal that was former Governor Scott Walker plus the continuing Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald kept kicking the can down the road on funding for highway repairs and construction. In their last two budgets, hewing to their no tax increase mantras, instead of raising the gasoline tax or auto registration fees…they borrowed money to balance the state’s Department of Transportation budget. Seems like a pretty odd way to do things for fiscal conservatives…millions of dollars in borrowing.

Now long time readers will remember that I have been a proponent of raising the gasoline tax to cover the expenses of highway and roadway maintenance. Particularly as gasoline prices have hit historic lows in Wisconsin. And during his campaign, Democratic Governor Tony Evers stated that everything was on the table to solve the highway funding crisis…including raising the gas tax and possibly tolling.

And the governor has put together a task force to review highway funding and possibly make suggestions for the next biennial budget. Wouldn’t that appropriate?

Well, the GOP leadership brain trust has decided to throw their weight behind tolling. They’ve had years to solve the issue and they have come up with tolling? First of all, they essentially had all of those years of the Walker era to develop tolling options. So this rather sounds like a 2019 version of the lame duck legislation…do anything possible to poke the Democratic governor in the eye with a GOP stick.

Tolling is an incredibly stupid idea. It will take years to implement. It can’t currently be done on federal highways without changes in legislation out of Washington. We have very few state highways that are worthy of a toll. Fewer major bridges that could be tolled. It would take years of engineering (cost) followed by property acquisition (cost) and then construction of toll plazas, booths and card readers (cost) (assuming we go with a pass system) and software/network/infrastructure to make it run (cost) (and we know how well state IT projects go). And I bet we don’t even have a good handle on how much potential revenue tolling would produce (yes I know it depends how many miles we can toll and how much we think we can charge). And it probably won’t pay for anything besides itself, even if it manages to do that. Illinois is always complaining about not having enough funds to maintain their tollways just before raising the tolls.

But why can’t we raise the gas tax? Well it won’t raise enough money! And tolling will (see previous paragraph)?

At that forum (Wisconsin Counties Association), Fitzgerald said raising the gas tax by 10 cents a gallon — from 32.9 cents to 42.9 cents — wouldn’t raise enough to fix the state’s roads. An increase of that size would funnel more than $330 million a year into transportation.

Only $330 million…per year! Think of that (sarcasm) That’s about what the state borrowed in the last biennial budget for the DOT. So we would have enough to offset similar future borrowing PLUS another $300 million or so in the next budget. And why are we talking 10 cents out of hand? Maybe 12 or 15? What do we need to keep state routes from crumbling back to dust?

So what is the advantage of raising the gas tax? It doesn’t cost much to implement. We already have a gas tax. We already have a collection mechanism in place. We already have years of metrics on the revenue stream for rate changes. Pass an increase…set a date…change the rate metrics in the system(s)…and off you go.

Downsides? We still have the growing population of electric and hybrids that don’t pay gas taxes at the equivalent rate as traditional gas powered vehicles. We have the continued improvement in fuel efficiency that reduces gas tax revenues. But those are things that the governor’s task force can review and suggest workarounds for future budget periods.

There’s no time like the present to get this done. Tax could increase with the new budget. Putting it off longer just delays transportation revenue improvements and allows further deterioration of state roadways. And the longer we put off repairs and maintenance…the more expensive it gets.

(so who’s wallet is whispering in Speaker Vos and Majority Leader Fitzgerald’s ear…saying tolling is the way to go?)

Take the two minutes to read the entire article at the link above. But here are a couple of excerpts that just make you wonder:

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos of Rochester and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald of Juneau described placing tolls around the state as a way to fix the state’s highways and bridges.

“You can do it on bridges. You can do it in an awful lot of places. So I think there’s a lot more flexibility (on where tolls can be placed) and that’s why we wanted this study,” Vos said.

Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz of Oshkosh said he wants more money for roads, but considers tolling the worst way to do it.

He questioned the Republicans’ sincerity, saying it would take years to implement tolls and much of the money would go toward operating the tolls instead of building roads.

“That’s not a solution,” Hintz said. “We need money today and it’s going to have to be something like a gas tax or some additional immediate revenue to stop the hole that we’ve dug to pay for the things that we need to do.”

“Sen. Fitzgerald and Rep. Vos have been talking about tolling for six years. It seems to be one of those things they throw out there to act like they’re doing something but they never actually do something.”

Remember the Trump Tax Cuts? The Madison GOP does/doesn’t

For those of you not from Wisconsin, this might not make a lot of sense to you. But traditionally when the federal government made significant changes to their tax codes…primarily to tax deductions and credits and such…the Wisconsin legislature would emulate those changes. So once you completed your federal tax form you pretty much just plugged those numbers into your state form.

But since the Trump tax cuts went into effect…the Wisconsin legislature has been pretty quiet about aligning the state tax codes with the federal codes. So the Wisconsin tax codes will still be running along the lines of the 2017 federal codes and the 2017 Wisconsin state codes. Differences in deductions, credits, etc. A little bit more complicated this year but not insanely so.

So why do you think Madison ignored the federal changes? Because they are confident that they will bankrupt the state? While the Republicans in Washington get ready to borrow a trillion dollars for the current fiscal year…Wisconsin already struggles with their budget. Despite all their blustering along party lines and conservative talking points…even Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald are probably woke enough to avoid trickle down…

Foxconn Says Hey Wait! Governor Evers! It’s All OK!

Everything you know about Foxconn in Wisconsin is WRONG! No wait, no it isn’t…all’s good…don’t worry be happy!

Following the Reuters report that I wrote about here earlier today, Foxconn Executive Louis Woo apparently has told Governor Tony Evers that all is OK and Foxconn is committed to fulfill their original job promises.

Top Foxconn Technology Group executive Louis Woo reconfirmed 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.

So all is good in the world of Foxconn, Wisconsin and WEDC. Nothing to see here!

But then you have to wonder why Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald got their noses out of joint earlier today…

Guess Whose Fault It Is That Foxconn is being Foxcon?

Apparently the new governor who hasn’t even been in office for a month. Go Figure! The Republicans in Madison have learned the Trumpian diversion move to a T!

Come on guys…you need to sit down and shut up…if you aren’t going to own your own mistake:

Republican leaders of the state Legislature are blaming Democratic Gov. Tony Evers following a news report indicating Foxconn may drop its plans to build a manufacturing facility in Racine County.  

“We don’t blame Foxconn for altering plans in an ever-changing technology business. It’s also not surprising Foxconn would rethink building a manufacturing plant in Wisconsin under the Evers Administration,” Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said in a joint statement about the company’s plans.

The Taiwanese tech giant will likely hire mostly engineers and researchers rather than the manufacturing workforce the project originally promised in a contract that provides the company about $3 billion in taxpayer-funded subsidies in exchange for a $10 billion facility and up to 13,000 jobs, according to a report Wednesday by Reuters.

Though Foxconn official Louis Woo told Reuters the company had concerns about the steep cost of making advanced TV screens in the United States, where labor expenses are comparatively high, the Republican leaders said, “the company is reacting to the wave of economic uncertainty” brought by Evers. 

Oh wait…wasn’t there something in the laws from the Lame Duck Sessions that prevented Governor Tony Evers from interfering with the Foxconn con?