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Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Porno Poetry

Tue, 02/28/2017 - 14:57

The Eighth grade just ain’t what it used to be.

I remember taking ILA (integrated language arts), science, math, social studies – mostly a basket of stuff like geography and economics – and of course PhyEd (gym class).

The political and ideological indoctrination didn’t really begin until around our senior year. Mostly, at my public middle school, we were just a bunch of kids learning stuff and hanging out like 13 year old kids do. Ok, some snuck off and smoked or whatever – but the school didn’t offer lessons in cigology or evading the cops.

That quaint old paradigm seems to be eroding, at least in Abigail Swetz’s alternative-universe eighth grade class at O’Keeffe Middle School in Madison. Not only does she permit the exploration of some very adult topics that many parents would prefer to keep within the realm of their home and family, but she actively encourages these kids – the ultimate captive audience – to literally talk trash. The classroom and the extracurricular off-campus events she brings the kids to seem to be bubbles of a parallel universe in which all social norms have been completely eviscerated and anything goes.

While these kids are using adult works to talk about adult topics, I wonder how many are at grade level on Algebra, or can identify a photo of John Adams or a real social justice warrior like oh, I don’t know, Harriet Tubman or Frederick Douglass.

The post Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Porno Poetry appeared first on Morning Martini.

BREAKING: Kind To Hold Office Hours!

Thu, 02/23/2017 - 20:46

The La Crosse Tribune revealed a stunning new change in Rep. Ron Kind’s strategy today after multiple stories have been surfaced about the 20-year congressman’s potential 2018 plans.

The Tribune revealed today that Kind plans to hold office hours at various locations within the district in order to connect with constituents. Reports the Tribune:

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind has announced plans to make his staff available to constituents in each of the 18 counties of Wisconsin’s Third Congressional District over the next two weeks.

No doubt, throughout the land triumphant flourishes permeated village squares and Walmart parking lots at the news that Kind’s staff plans to hold office hours on Feb. 28, March 1, March 2, March 3, March 7 – all at various locations throughout the Third congressional district.

Reports of Kind now holding office hours in his district come after questions emerged about his potential run for governor. We speculated about the possibility that he might run for governor and took a look at whether the GOP is planning to seriously target his district in 2018. Is Kind trying to build support for a run for governor, or – more likely – shore up his image as a constituent-connector?

Is holding office hours – a top-flight story in his hometown newspaper – a sign that the congressman has changed strategy in order to emit an appearance of increased constituent relations? Or perhaps it’s a complete coincidence.

The people of Kind’s district, nonetheless, are no doubt honored that their congressman has bestowed upon them an opportunity for even the briefest of hearings, even if the precious opportunity precipitated upon them from on high only upon chatter that the screws might be tightening on his comfortable position in the next election cycle.

Funny how politics works.

The post BREAKING: Kind To Hold Office Hours! appeared first on Morning Martini.

Is the GOP Serious About Targeting Ron Kind?

Wed, 02/22/2017 - 22:58

The Republican Party could be putting plans in place to give Democratic Congressman Ron Kind the sort of challenge he hasn’t faced in his 20 years in the House.

A fundraising solicitation email from Mark Morgan, executive director of the state Republican Party, pinpointed Kind’s district, the Third congressional district of Wisconsin, as being on the GOP radar. After Trump’s decisive win in rural Wisconsin, Morgan tells supporters:

“…Now we know which House seat is our best shot at a GOP pickup: Wisconsin’s Third District – one of only a handful of Democrat seats carried by Trump in the country.

Of course fundraising solicitations portraying a particular win or loss as hinging on the $20 contribution of some typist or trucker are standard business in politics, so for the state party to imply Ron Kind’s seat hangs in the balance might be tabloid trash that today passes for real reporting, but to those who have been in the game it’s not exactly a shocker.

The email does, however, cite a Journal Sentinel article probing the question of Kind’s conundrum as a flyover Democrat in a Trump congressional district. While the solicitation didn’t specify which article, it may have referred to this one where the Journal Sentinel took a look at each Wisconsin congressional district. It’s worth quoting their analysis of the Third in full:

This is one of just a dozen Democratic House seats in the country carried by Trump last fall. It had been regularly voting Democratic for president. But it saw a huge shift toward the GOP in 2016, part of the massive rural swing that delivered Wisconsin for Trump. Kind was unopposed for Congress by Wisconsin Republicans, who had no real way of knowing what a golden opportunity this blue seat would have been for them in 2016.

In a highly read analysis I posted this weekend, I threw a bit of cold water on the idea that Kind is or will ever be a golden opportunity to Wisconsin Republicans. The article notes, however, that Kind will be under pressure to oppose Trump.

Now it looks like Kind will be highly targeted by the GOP in 2018. The fact that his southwestern Wisconsin district voted for Trump may pressure Kind to look for some common ground across party lines with the president. But Trump’s edge in the district was narrow (just 4 points), and Kind will be pushed by his own party’s voters to oppose the president.

Kind’s dilemma is this: if he vociferously opposes Trump, he alienates an energetic portion of non-ideological populists among his electorate. If he demurs, he ticks off the far left that already thinks he’s squishier than a rotten banana.

If the state GOP follows through on making Kind a target, they’ll join at least one national group called the National Action Network so far that is also running ads against Kind for his support of Obamacare, but there’s no indication whether this is a token shot across the bow or the harbinger of a bigger campaign to come.

Politico also reported that Kind’s district is one of 36 on a list of target districts – districts that Trump won that are held by Democrats.

In his email, Morgan also said:

We need your help to recruit top-notch GOP challengers and give them every resource they will need to defeat DC insiders who have been in Washington too long and have lost touch with everyday Wisconsinites.

That candidate is likely Kind’s 2014 challenger Tony Kurtz. An influx of support from outside the district to match Kind’s Political Action Committee donations could level the playing field and give Kurtz a real shot.

The post Is the GOP Serious About Targeting Ron Kind? appeared first on Morning Martini.

Kind for Governor? Here We Go Again.

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 11:14

Rep. Ron Kind – whose gubernatorial ambitions, or lack thereof, Morning Martini has tracked for years – is once again stringing along his Democratic groupies when it comes to his interest in running for governor.

The congressman from La Crosse just told WPR he hasn’t ruled out running in 2018:

“I’ve been troubled, as many people have throughout the state, in regards to the direction of where we’ve gone as a state, the unnecessary division, pitting people against each other, dividing families,” Kind said. “We deserve better leadership, but no decision’s been made on my behalf.”

Like the star quarterback telling a half dozen ladies he might take them to the prom, Kind continues to tease Wisconsin Democrats desperate for a candidate strong enough to knock off Scott Walker.

Will he run? If he does, he has a lot of factors to weigh, including the increasing distance between himself and the mainstream of his own party, competing pressure to stay in his rightward-trending district, and the possibility of a damaging primary.

If he ran for governor, Kind could face a challenge from the left, a front on which he’s vulnerable for any number of reasons. For one, he’s been on the outs with labor interests in his district for some time, particularly because of his open-armed embrace of multilateral trade deals like NAFTA and the TPP. The erosion of support by the union left was also evidenced by his Bernie Sanders-inspired primary opponent in the 2016 election. At least one union actually endorsed his opponent, Myron Buchholtz. Superdelegate Kind was also hounded by a pro-Bernie gaggle at the Democratic National Convention for being too moderate on trade issues.

Still, 2016 was a hopscotch for Kind, who eventually trounced Buchholtz and strode onto a general election in which his oddly named opponent, “scattering,” barely amounted to a blip (translation from geek humor: he ran unopposed). However, the strain between Kind and labor remains. The strain between Kind and the newly empowered and proliferated far-left, for whom Kind is far too nuanced and rational, is also growing more pronounced as Sandersism takes hold within the new Democratic Party.

Ironically, Kind has long marketed himself as a leader in the “New Democrat” caucus, a group of middle-of-the-road Congressmen who, with the upheaval that’s dragged his party to the precipice of socialism, now appears to be a relic of the days of Clinton. The New Democrats should re-brand as “The Tattered Wreckage of a Dead Dream.”

As one of few remaining rural, flyover state Democrats still in Congress, he admitted to voting against Nancy Pelosi in recent House leadership elections, telling the Wisconsin State Journal that a new minority leader would be “a breath of fresh air.” In the same article, Kind was critical of Hillary Clinton. “She didn’t set foot in Wisconsin once after the primary. I knew that was going to be a problem,” he said.

After the results of the November elections hit, Kind no doubt started seeing the ground moving beneath him as his electorate’s gradual transformation became manifest – or at least the electorate is realizing how far left the Democratic Party has drifted away from New Deal populism.

Voters are changing their voting patterns accordingly.

When Kind was first elected in 1996, President Bill Clinton was reforming welfare and trumpeting that “the era of big government is over,” an apparent last gasp of the Democratic ideals of the Kennedy era. Such thinking is thoroughly in the mainstream of Republican thinking today, but it’s utterly unthinkable rhetoric from a modern Democrat – except the likes of Jim Webb, whose moderate candidacy for president went over within the post-Obama Democratic ranks like ketchup on ice cream.

How much has the electorate changed in Wisconsin’s Third? In 2012, the first presidential election after redistricting made the district even more blue by removing parts of right-leaning St. Croix and adding parts of left-leaning Portage, Barack Obama won with 54.8 percent. In 2016, the same electorate voted for Donald J. Trump by 49.3 percent; Hillary Clinton won just 44.8 percent, about the same amount as Kind’s last challenger, Tony Kurtz.

Kind endorsed Hillary and pledged his superdelegate vote for her.

In addition, the two state legislative seats in which an incumbent was defeated in 2016 (both Democrats) were in Kind’s district. Rep. Chris Danou lost to Republican Treig Pronschinske 52-48 and longtime Sen. Julie Lassa lost to Patrick Testin, who hadn’t held elected office before challenging Lassa. Lassa lost by 52.4 to 47.6 percent, losing every county in her senate district save one, Portage, the most liberal.

In the era of Trump, Kind is buoyed by a Bermuda Triangle of liberal enclaves – the City of La Crosse (the rest of La Crosse County went for Trump), Portage County, and the City of Eau Claire.

The tectonic plates have shifted on the Democratic side of the ballot since 1996, too. Sanders obliterated Clinton in the Third District – the Democratic Socialist won the district with an astounding 61.3 percent of the Democratic primary vote.

Kind’s district might be increasingly vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean Kind himself is too. Though the district’s voting patterns seem to be shifting Republican, especially in the rural areas within the Bermuda Triangle, Kind is hardly the poster child for the “new left” that pawns off responsibility for Hillary Clinton’s abysmal candidacy on conspiracy theories of Russian hacking, fake news, or a nexus of corruption in James Comey’s office. He’s not likely to be seen flipping over cars, smashing windows, or throwing rotten fruit at controversial alt-right agitators. Perhaps most scary to the coastal elite that runs his party, Ron Kind owns guns – AND USES THEM TO SHOOT ANIMALS!

No, Ron Kind is rather astutely in touch with his electorate, even though he’s become quite comfortable with accepting millions of dollars from special interests via his lofty perch as ranking members of the House Ways and Means Committee that allows him to amass war chests of millions of dollars each election cycle.

He’s at no risk of losing in the near future; the 53-year-old has a job for life in Congress if he wants.

He also seems to be quite unambitious, at least when it comes to any aspirations for higher office. He passed up running for U.S. Senate in 2012 (presumably the Democrats preferred a cleared field while the flame thrower-wielding Republican candidates formed a circular firing squad and torched their own chances of taking the seat). He passed up a run for governor against Walker in 2014, leaving the Democrats with Mary Burke and her hairdo. He deferred to Russ Feingold for U.S. Senate in 2016, who shocked the world in his failure to take down Ron Johnson.

Then, there’s the issue of the Democratic bench in Wisconsin, a topic we’ve clobbered for years on this website. It’s so thin that former state Sen. Tim Cullen, who was among those who famously took a vacation to Illinois in a failed attempt to stop Act 10, is actually considered a strong contender for 2018. Susan Happ – the failed attorney general candidate from 2014 – has been discussed. Jennifer Shilling, the Senate Minority Leader who came within 60 votes of losing her own seat in the state Senate in 2016, is still being mentioned. Add to that the usual cast of characters in the Mary Burke mold, people who can be mutated into featureless canvasses onto which any generic Democratic persona can be grafted, an approach that flopped like a wet waffle with Mary Burke.

Ron Kind For Governor would tickle the Democrats to no end. He is the Democratic bench in Wisconsin – and he’s perhaps the one Democrat with a very, very, very good shot at defeating Walker (that’s three verys more than anyone else). But there’s also the issue of time. Though he’s not old – at 53, he’s a puppy compared to 72-year-old Tim Cullen – the clock is nonetheless ticking. If he passes on 2018, he will be nearly 60 before his next shot at governor comes around, and that’s if Walker gets re-elected. (Kind will be 54 this year, 55 at the time of the 2018 election, and 59 at the 2022 election).

Any Democrat with the exception of Kind running against Walker would be an admission by that party that Walker is unstoppable – akin to their failure to put up even a token challenge to Annette Ziegler for Supreme Court.

Kind would have a unique appeal statewide to the vast sea of moderate, inconsistent, politically independent voters. Voters who lean left and those who lean right will both find something to like about his positions. He’s also extremely disciplined in his message, to the point of being the practical embodiment of the quintessential Ivy League politician. Think Cam Brady, Will Ferrell’s parody of the entrenched, self-interested politician in The Campaign.

But perhaps Kind’s greatest strength is the intangible reason why he’s so popular in the Third, anecdotally at least. (I’m qualified to peddle anecdotes about voters’ perceptions of Kind because I worked on Tony Kurtz’s 2014 campaign against him). People LIKE Ron Kind. They see him as a nice guy. Invariably, they think he’s got their interests in mind out in D.C. Were he to run for governor, he would need to translate that reputation, which he’s spent twenty years building in west-central Wisconsin, to the rest of the state.

How could the GOP attack Ron Kind as a gubernatorial candidate? Labeling him a “career politician” is a nonstarter – Walker is one, too. How about a “Washington insider?” That hasn’t hurt him in the past, despite his opponents’ best efforts. But perhaps a better strategy would be to use the populist upswell that manifested in the Sanders surge and Trump triumph against Kind. Introducing Ron Kind to both Trump and Sanders supporters as both an establishment supporter of Obamacare (right) and anti-labor trade deals (left, labor) could throw a wet blanket on enthusiasm for a Kind candidacy.

Dampening enthusiasm among Democrats, especially the new breed of rabid ones who want to see a Socialist winter descend on the country, could be the winning strategy. Wisconsin as a whole overwhelmingly voted for Sanders (see the map). Meanwhile, shoring up traditional Republican and Trump Republican support for Walker…think “Working and Winning for Wisconsin”…would keep the Walker fires stoked and drive turnout.

There’s also the matter of the Tomah VA “Candyland” scandal, which will be used against any politician with a Kevin Bacon degree of connection to the Tomah facility. Kind, in fact, has represented the area for decades. He would have to answer for that in any high-profile race he undertakes.

Kind will no doubt be facing competing pressures – pressure from within Wisconsin to run for governor, and pressure from Washington to stay in Congress. Kind’s district is already being targeted by Republicans for 2018, one of 36 Democratic-held seats that Trump carried. A group called American Action Network is already running ads hitting Kind for his support of Obamacare.

Even with a pittance of outside involvement and money, absent the influx of many, many millions of dollars, Kind is unlikely to be unseated in 2018. But, if he gives up the seat to run for governor, there’s a pretty good chance that a Republican would replace him.

Possibly the top contender would be Republican Tony Kurtz, the 50-year-old veteran, former Apache helicopter pilot, and farmer who pulled nearly 44 percent against Kind in 2014. Kurtz fits the district well, is extremely popular among the Republican base, and is a superb retail campaigner who could win over Kind’s coalition of moderates and independents in a race without Kind on the ballot. Other possibilities are former state Senator Dan Kapanke, who came within a hair of knocking Kind off in 2010, Sue Lynch of La Crosse, the former president of the National Federation of Republican Women, and any number of Republican officeholders in the Third – Sen. Howard Marklein of Spring Green comes to mind, as does freshman state Senator Patrick Testin of Stevens Point.

To be sure, there are Democrats who could vie for the seat. State Rep. Steve Doyle of Onalaska, Sen. Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse, and state Rep. Dana Wachs of Eau Claire are among them. Wisconsin Rapids’ 28-year-old mayor, Zach Vruwink, has also been mentioned anecdotally as a potential future candidate.

But it’s time to return to reality. In all likelihood, Kind won’t be giving up his well-paying job-for-life in Congress anytime prior to the time he chooses to retire to a life of fishing and hunting. It’s not likely that Kind will abandon the cushy enclaves of swanky soirees like Bullfeathers and the comfortable social circles of D.C. for a tumultuous – hellish – waltz into the Walker buzzsaw, only to take a five-figure pay cut for a job in which he’ll constantly be butting heads with an almost-certain long-term Republican majority in the state legislature.

He’d be crazy to do so. And if I’ve learned one thing about Ron Kind after being represented by him for 20 years and working on a campaign against him, he’s certainly not crazy.

The post Kind for Governor? Here We Go Again. appeared first on Morning Martini.

2018 Senate: Duffy’s Out

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 09:46

Rep. Sean Duffy has announced he will not challenge Sen. Tammy Baldwin in 2018.

His statement, published in the Journal Sentinel:

“After much prayer and deliberation, Rachel and I have decided that this is not the right time for me to run for Senate. We have eight great kids and family always comes first. Baldwin will be beat because her radically liberal Madison record and ideas are out of synch with Wisconsin. I look forward to helping our Republican nominee defeat her. I’ll continue to work my heart out for the families of the 7th district, and I’m excited about the great things we will accomplish with our united Republican government.”

We’ll update this later.

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Talking Transgender Meltdown With Vicki

Fri, 02/10/2017 - 10:19

I spoke with Vicki McKenna on Madison’s WIBA this afternoon about my Wednesday morning at the state’s Group Insurance Board meeting.

Boring, you say? Usually – but this time, a protester interrupted the meeting with a profanity-laced diatribe. She was angry that the board, in charge of taxpayer-subsidized insurance for state employees, no longer would cover gender reassignment surgery (once called a sex change operation) and attendant hormone therapy and other costs that transgender people incur.

Listen here.

Because the video was too explicit for radio, it’s included below. Profanity warning.

The post Talking Transgender Meltdown With Vicki appeared first on Morning Martini.

Fitzgerald: Duffy “Well Positioned” to Take on Baldwin

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 16:00

It looks like Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald agrees with Morning Martini that Sean Duffy is in a good position to take on Sen. Tammy Baldwin in 2018. A talked-about possible candidate for the office himself, does this mean Fitzgerald is throwing cold water on those rumors?

.@SenFitzgerald says @RepSeanDuffy is "well positioned" to run against @tammybaldwin. "He's kind of driving the train right now."

— Jessie Opoien (@jessieopie) February 9, 2017

We’ve previously written about the Duffy versus Baldwin dynamic. Because Duffy is demonstrably stronger in northern Wisconsin than other Republicans, and theoretically stronger elsewhere because of his early support for Trump (who won Wisconsin, and won big in rural areas of the state), he is uniquely positioned to be the leading contender against Baldwin.

That calculus is this: Duffy was a strong Trump supporter from the very beginning. This turned out to be genius; Duffy’s district swung heavily for Trump in both the primary and general elections, and newfound GOP voters in rural areas could prove crucial.

Broadening the scope to the prospects of the Senate GOP in 2018, I write:

If Trump’s tenure as president is a success, it’s very possible – I daresay likely – the Republicans could gain a filibuster-proof majority in 2018. Most importantly for Wisconsin, the Badger State could oust one of the farthest-left Senators currently in the Senate and replace her with a commonsense, well-liked, and steadfast conservative.

Hedge fund manager Eric Hovde, who hasn’t said whether he’ll run again, could be formidable because of the name ID he built in 2012 and because he’s (to paraphrase Trump) very, very rich. Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch would also be formidable since, in all likelihood, she would have the support of the southeastern establishment.

The biggest obstacle to the GOP toppling Baldwin in 2018? A brutal primary like the one in 2012 that left eventual nominee Tommy Thompson essentially broke, paving the way for a surprisingly astute Baldwin campaign messaging apparatus to paint the former governor as “not for you anymore.”

The post Fitzgerald: Duffy “Well Positioned” to Take on Baldwin appeared first on Morning Martini.

On WPR With Joy Cardin

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 12:21

I had the pleasure of joining Joy Cardin on Wisconsin Public Radio this morning to discuss Gov. Walker’s transportation budget.

Listen here.

The post On WPR With Joy Cardin appeared first on Morning Martini.

MacIver Summarizes Key Parts of Walker’s Budget

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 12:09

Over at the MacIver Institute, we’ve published a series of resources for Wisconsinites who just can’t scrape up the time to read Governor Walker’s entire 691-page budget proposal.

Yesterday afternoon, Walker delivered his budget address before a joint session of the legislature. Here is a video summarizing the governor’s speech.

The actual budget proposes significant new spending on K-12 education and the UW System, as well as major tax cuts. Here’s a summary of the budget overall.

Possibly the most significant element of Walker’s budget is the $649 million increase in funding for the K-12 system. However, it’s not a simple across-the-board increase. Get the details here.

Finally, the governor is going up against legislative leaders by holding the line on a gas tax or registration fee increase. Instead of lavishing DOT with more money, Walker re-prioritizes how money is spent and delays several southeast Wisconsin mega-projects. Get the rundown here.

The post MacIver Summarizes Key Parts of Walker’s Budget appeared first on Morning Martini.

Marquette Student Responds to Campus Free Speech Phoniness

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 11:08

Over at the MacIver Institute, a Marquette University student responds to the hypocrisy of his campus’s two-faced approach to free speech. After quoting a flowery email from administration that trumpets campus diversity, student Collin Cummings calls out the administration.

Don’t forget the key wrinkle: a member of the university staff was caught on Facebook trying to rig the ticket sales to an upcoming Ben Shapiro speech so that students genuinely interested in going wouldn’t be able to find a seat.

The question I pose to Marquette (and already have posed many times on various platforms, to which I have received no response) is this: where did you forget to put the “as long as you subscribe to a specific liberal ideology” disclaimer in that statement about the importance of diversity? How can the university stand behind that statement while continuing to employ someone who is actively working to marginalize conservative students on campus because she has decided that her way of thinking is right, and anyone who disagrees must be wrong?

Marquette must be forced to answer for their staff. Their response has been non-existent, and unless university administration would like to see the school continue to be highlighted as one of the most hostile to free speech institutions in America, swift action needs to be taken. It is time for Marquette University to stand behind its pledge to be a home to all backgrounds and all voices.

Whole thing here.

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Legislative Leaders Seize Opportunity to Restore Federalism

Tue, 01/31/2017 - 17:19

Over at the MacIver Institute, I write about Federalism and how Wisconsin leaders are embracing it:

The long-embattled concept of Federalism has new life after the November elections put Republicans in control of Congress and the White House. Judging by President Trump’s cabinet nominees, his team will eagerly embrace restoring a proper balance in the state-federal relationship – and Wisconsin is ready.

Federalism, especially in America, is the idea that federal powers are strictly limited by the Constitution. This seemingly forgotten concept is specifically enshrined in the United States Constitution – the Tenth Amendment states that, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

In other words, other than the narrow and specific list of powers and duties enumerated in the Constitution, all other powers of government belong to the states and the people. However, America has gradually but definitely drifted away from this model and completely ignored the Tenth Amendment in the process.

That’s why the goal of Federalism today is to restore the balance of power by shrinking the scope of the federal government to its core Constitutional duties, scaling back federal mandates imposed on the states (unfunded and otherwise), and giving states more flexibility to administer programs like Medicaid, education, and other responsibilities that the Constitution doesn’t explicitly give to Congress.

In Wisconsin, leaders in both houses of the legislature are already preparing for new responsibilities in anticipation of Washington finally remembering that the states created the federal government, not the other way around. In fact, both the Assembly and Senate now have standing committees dealing with Federalism – the Assembly Committee on Federalism and Interstate Relations, and the Senate Committee on Financial Services, Constitution and Federalism, both created in December.

Read the whole thing here, including specific ideas by the legislature for scaling back federal overreach.

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A Flat Tax: The Next Big, Bold Reform for Wisconsin

Wed, 01/25/2017 - 12:33

The MacIver Institute is out with the next generation of bold reform in Wisconsin – a plan for a glide path to a 3 percent flat income tax in Wisconsin:

Since the beginning of his tenure, Governor Scott Walker has made tax reform a priority for Wisconsin. Walker has said he hopes to lower the tax burden every year of his term. Thus far, he has stuck to his pledge, having lowered taxes by $4.76 billion in under six years.

Both the amount of taxes and the different types of taxes that Governor Walker has cut since he took office is impressive.

It should not be simply glossed over how much progress Wisconsin has made reducing taxes in recent years. In 1994, less than 25 years ago, Wisconsin ranked 3rd nationally in overall tax burden and our taxes were 16 percent above the national average.

Today, property taxes are at the smallest percentage of personal income since 1945, 3.6 percent. The average homeowner in Wisconsin, in 2016, paid $116 less in property taxes than he or she paid in 2010.3 According to the Department of Revenue, the typical family in Wisconsin has seen their income taxes cut by $1,159. Wisconsin’s state and local tax burden, as reported in December 2016 Census Bureau data, fell to 10.8 percent of personal income, the 16th highest among the states. By comparison, the year prior, Wisconsin’s tax burden ranked the 15th highest at 10.9 percent of personal income.

While Walker and the Republican Legislature should be lauded for all the taxes they have cut, these tax cuts have done little to improve Wisconsin’s overall tax ranking. Similar to the Census Bureau data mentioned above, the nonpartisan Tax Foundation’s most recent ranking of state and local tax burdens puts Wisconsin at the fourth highest in the nation and highest in the Midwest. In the same study, the Tax Foundation found that state and local taxes take up 11 percent of all personal income in Wisconsin every year. These tax cuts have also done little to stop or even contain the never-ending and seemingly inevitable growth of the state budget. The 2011-2013 state budget spent over $66 billion from all funding sources. The 2015-17 state budget spent nearly $74 billion.

Clearly, it is time to think about the next big and bold reform that will transform our state and make Wisconsin an economic powerhouse for generations to come. It is time for a flat tax in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin’s reputation as a high-tax state has a significant impact on the state’s ability not only to attract newcomers, but also to retain those who are already residents. Annually, Wisconsin loses an estimated $136 million in adjusted gross income to tax migration. The high tax burden drives individuals to leave for those states with lower tax burdens or no income tax at all, such as Florida and Texas. One study, which examined Internal Revenue Service data from 1992 through 2015, showed that Wisconsin lost $3.40 billion in wealth to Florida, $1.08 billion to Arizona, and $769 million to Texas during the 23-year period. In that time, almost 93,000 people migrated from Wisconsin – that’s more than the entire population of Racine, the state’s 5th largest city. The loss of so many individuals, their businesses, and their economic activity does not bode well for the economic future of the state. Lower, flatter income taxes are one way to help stem the tide of emigration from Wisconsin.

Low, flat state income tax rates are actually common throughout the country. Seven states levy no individual income tax at all. New Hampshire and Tennessee currently tax dividend and interest income, though recent reforms in Tennessee have set a glide path to total elimination of the income tax in 2022. Eight states have flat individual income tax structures, and 33 states, including Wisconsin, levy progressive tax rates based on income level.

In today’s mobile economy, every state must compete for new residents and new businesses or risk losing them to other states. While climate and the local job market are big factors in a person’s decision to move, a state’s tax burden plays an important role in keeping recent graduates, people looking for a better life, and retirees from moving to a state with a lower tax burden.

The personal income tax, not just the corporate tax, is also becoming a bigger factor in the financial health and growth of businesses. The number of pass-through entities has nearly tripled since 1980, making pass-through businesses the most common business form in the country. Pass-through entities are not subject to typical corporate taxation, but are instead taxed under the individual income tax. Profits are passed through to the shareholders or partners of these companies and become part of their income. More than half of Wisconsin’s workforce is now employed by pass-through businesses, giving the individual income tax even greater importance to the livelihoods of Wisconsinites and the success of their businesses. In Wisconsin, pass-through businesses pay a top marginal income tax rate of over 48 percent – the 8th highest rate in the country.

Taking nearly half of a company’s income is detrimental to success and economic growth. Many states are wising up to the fact that high income taxes hurt competitiveness by punishing success and hard work. Despite the rhetoric that progressive taxation results in a fairer outcome, evidence shows that progressive income taxes are actually associated with higher income inequality.

THE SOLUTION: A 3 PERCENT FLAT TAX

This report sets out to explain why Wisconsin should continue to ratchet down its relatively high individual income tax system and many different rates to one flat rate. Evidence from a variety of sources – economic, social, and fiscal health metrics, as well as academic studies – demonstrates the benefit of a lower and flatter income tax structure. After examining Wisconsin’s position within the Midwest and considering recent reforms around the country, this report will recommend that Wisconsin transform its progressive income tax to a flat 3 percent tax rate for all taxpayers over an eight year period. In subsequent papers, we will continue to build our case through a comparison with Indiana, a state similar in size and demographics to Wisconsin, and will recommend specific steps that Wisconsin can take to make a flat tax a reality.

A systematic glide path to a 3 percent income tax rate would give Wisconsin the most competitive income tax among Midwestern states while greatly improving the state’s attractiveness on a national level. Such a move would have a significant impact on the incomes of all Wisconsinites and most importantly, would allow working class people to keep more of their income. A 3 percent flat tax would be a tax cut for everyone in Wisconsin. Under the current “progressive” tax code, our lowest tax rate of 4 percent for those who make just $11,120 per year is the 4th highest tax rate among the 33 states with a progressive income tax system.

Spacing out the rate reductions over a number of years protects the state budget from sudden and steep revenue drops, giving sufficient time to make gradual adjustments so the transition to the new tax system is smooth.

If Wisconsin is serious about becoming a high-performing state in a 21st Century economy, it must continue its recent tax-cutting momentum to fundamentally change the fiscal trajectory of our state and to lighten the tax burden for its hard-working residents.

Our economic future depends on it.

Read the original post at the MacIver Institute here.

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Don’t let the door hit you on the way out…

Sat, 01/21/2017 - 13:02

The Washington Post’s Jenna Johnson camped out in Trempealeau after the election. Trempealeau and the surrounding western Wisconsin county by the same name went solidly for Donald Trump, and she wanted to know why.

In her story, she probes patrons of bars and diners in the small, historic river town, many of whom have been reliable Democrat voters – until Trump. The area including Trempealeau, Buffalo, and Jackson Counties, however, has been swinging more Republican for years.

The Trempealeau County line is just a few minutes from my hometown, Holmen, so I was brought up in the same culture as the folks Johnson spoke with (unless something profound changes after you cross the Black River bottoms). In fact, I’ve been to all the establishments she visited in writing her story.

The Democrat voters here aren’t the same Democrats Johnson would find in D.C. Their party affiliation is vestigial, mostly left over from the days when the Democratic Party emanated the spirit of “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” The Democratic Party was once the party of the average American, or at least it pretended to be.

This year, many of those vestigial Democrats switched sides and voted for Donald Trump and the Republican ticket.

They sensed in Trump the potential for change – the potential for the political class to start focusing less on maneuvering and manipulation and more on getting to the root of the souring fortunes of people in rural America, people who are increasingly disaffected by having their lives intruded upon by the self-anointed ruling class in a capital thousands of miles away, their paychecks raided, their economic prospects dimming, and their family-oriented way of life disrespected by coastal elites in both parties.

They’re people who are tired of being disrespected and dismissed as not smart enough to run their own lives – not smart enough to see through the smokescreens of Washington politics.

Which brings me to Chris Danou.

The former Assemblyman from Trempealeau was also a victim of the increased Republican turnout; he lost to Republican Treig Pronschinske, making Danou’s seat the one pick-up by Assembly Republicans. According to the Post article:

“It’s infuriating, and it’s sad,” said Danou, who lives in Trempealeau but will soon move to the Madison area with his family. “I was disappointed in my constituents.”

Danou, a former police officer with two graduate degrees, lost to Treig Pronschinske, a technical-college graduate who worked in construction and was a small-town mayor.

Pronschinske said accusations of racism are “a cop-out” from Democrats who are out of touch with how frustrated many in rural towns have become.

There are numerous anecdotes about Danou’s pomposity. According to one, Danou once bragged that the 92nd Assembly seat was his for life, if he chose to keep it.

The voters thought otherwise – but then, Danou is better suited for Madison, a town where haughty, self-serving superiority complexes are the norm rather than the exception.

Danou’s loss is a reminder to all politicians about the value of humility and servant leadership, and about who writes their paychecks, and who can fire them at any time.

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Previewing the State Budget

Mon, 01/09/2017 - 15:18

As Wisconsin gears up for another monumental and contentious budget debate, the MacIver Institute posted a preview of the upcoming excitement – including summarizing the budget requests of the major state agencies, new “201” budget items, and the major battles that lie ahead:

Wisconsin state agencies are requesting more than $69 billion in total funding for the 2017-2019 biennial budget, a debate that is quickly taking shape as Governor Scott Walker prepares for his State of the State address Tuesday.

While most Madison insiders and the phalanx of lobbyists hovering about believe that the transportation debate will dominate and may even hold up the passage of the 2017-2019 state budget, the Governor has signaled that he is, once again, looking to make significant long-term changes to state government and the way it operates. Might we see the next big Act 10-like reform that will fundamentally change our state for generations to come? We will soon find out.

As we begin the ’17-’19 budget debate, we take stock of where Wisconsin stands and highlight for you, the taxpayer, all the important upcoming debates – from important policy discussions to petty back-biting and everything in between. While we are not sure where Gov. Walker and the Legislature will end up on the gas tax, tax reform, welfare reform or a whole host of other important issues, we are sure that the budget debate itself and legislative deliberations as the budget moves through the process will prove to be highly entertaining and completely mesmerizing.

This year, agencies have also been required for the first time to submit budget scenarios for a zero percent increase and a 5 percent decrease – named the “201” requirement after the 2015 Act 201 law that forced agencies to submit the different scenarios. Some agencies took the requirement seriously, while some listed shock-value cuts and others barely made an effort at all.

It’s a thorough analysis. Read the whole thing here.

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