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Scott Walker News | Wisconsin Politics
Updated: 8 hours 40 min ago

Obamacare Premiums to Explode 36 Percent in 2018 as 75,000 Wisconsinites Lose Coverage

Fri, 10/13/2017 - 13:15

The following report first appeared at the MacIver Institute.

Consumers shopping for health insurance on Wisconsin’s Obamacare exchange for 2018 can expect an eye-popping 36 percent premium increase, far surpassing last year’s 16 percent hike.

Customers in the individual insurance market will be hit with the sticker shock on Nov. 1, when Obamacare’s open enrollment period begins, and 75,000 Wisconsinites who had coverage in 2017 will be shopping for new coverage whether they want to or not.

State officials announced the massive increase on Thursday, adding that 75,000 people will lose their coverage at the end of the year, mostly the result of several major insurers exiting Wisconsin’s Obamacare market in 2017. That’s a considerable chunk of the overall individual market, where about 215,000 Wisconsinites buy their coverage.

“Obamacare is collapsing, and these huge premium increases show the law failed on its promise to deliver affordable healthcare,” Gov. Scott Walker said in a statement. “While our state remains one of the best in the nation for health insurance coverage and quality, Obamacare is disrupting healthcare markets in our state and across the country.”

The finalized 36 percent average premium increase is three times larger than the preliminary 12 percent increase announced by the state Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) in August. The increase reflects the greater risk that a smaller number of insurers will have to take on by offering plans in a shaky, risk-riddled market, said J.P. Wieske, deputy commissioner of insurance.

The size of the price spike could indicate Wisconsin’s individual insurance market is in the “death spiral” that has gripped Obamacare markets across the nation.

“I think we’re sitting in a market where there is some concern that we’re in a death spiral, and the individual market’s experience is deteriorating,” Wieske said, adding the individual insurance market in Wisconsin has lost $400 million over the last three years. “That’s a very significant amount of money to have lost in just the individual market.”

“The fact that nobody wants to compete for this market despite the subsidies that are available to consumers, I think that’s sort of troubling,” Wieske said.

He contrasted Obamacare’s individual market increases with non-Obamacare group insurance plans, which increased just 4.89 percent for 2018 – less than one-seventh the rate of Obamacare plans. “That indicates some concern that the individual market under this regulatory scheme of Obamacare is just not sustainable,” Wieske said.

#Obamacare premium increases (36% in 2018) far outpace non-Obamacare small group plans (4.89%), where most Wisconsinites get coverage. pic.twitter.com/96RXmCXepY

— MacIver Institute (@MacIverWisc) October 12, 2017

A double-digit increase was widely expected after preliminary rate requests released in August topped 12 percent. Insurers have also continued dropping out of Wisconsin’s Obamacare market, citing massive losses as a result of more expensive enrollees, fewer younger and healthier enrollees, and more people deciding to pay the penalty rather than buying increasingly expensive insurance plans.

In 2017, Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield joined several other major insurers in dropping out of Wisconsin’s individual insurance market. They were followed by Molina Healthcare, the largest remaining insurer, which dropped out after proposing a rate hike of more than 40 percent. Health Tradition Health Plan, offered by Mayo Clinic Health System of La Crosse, also fled Obamacare this summer.

Anthem, Aetna, UnitedHealth, and Humana – four of the five largest health insurers in the country – all left Wisconsin’s market in the past two years.

BREAKING: #Obamacare premiums in WI to increase an eye-popping 36 percent in 2018, according to @wisconsinoci. Story to follow. #wiright pic.twitter.com/2qr0gJfzFA

— MacIver Institute (@MacIverWisc) October 12, 2017

OCI reviewed the preliminary increase requests over the last several months and approved the final rate changes requested by Wisconsin insurance companies that will continue offering plans on the state’s Obamacare exchange. OCI instructed insurers to assume federal Cost Sharing Reduction payments (CSRs), taxpayer money paid to insurance companies, would terminate in 2018. CSRs make up about 15 percent of the total premiums.

Last year, premiums for Obamacare-compliant plans in Wisconsin increased 15.88 percent, the MacIver Institute reported in November. In addition, that analysis found the average statewide deductible for the benchmark bronze plan in 2017 was $12,414.46 for a family and $6,207.23 for an individual.

The price increases are the result of an older and less healthy group of enrollees, factors that have caused many of the nation’s largest insurers to stop offering plans on Obamacare exchanges altogether. Rate increases for 2018 will likely make the problem of attracting younger, healthier people to the individual market worse.

On average, 21-year-olds shopping for a Silver Plan, the second-lowest-cost Obamacare plan, will see an average premium increase of 51 percent, according to data provided by the OCI. Individuals that age can expect to see a 105 percent increase in Marinette and Oconto counties and a 77.27 percent increase in Outagamie, Sheboygan, and Winnebago counties.

In a statement, Commissioner of Insurance Ted Nickel said the OCI would explore options at the federal level to mitigate the price spike. “The ACA destabilized the Wisconsin individual health insurance market and federal health care reform efforts continue to face significant challenges…As a result, we are exploring our options available under the ACA Section 1332 Waiver for State Innovation.”

Wieske said other states, including Iowa and Minnesota, have used similar waivers to mitigate massive price spikes. Minnesota’s attempt to hold premium increases for those not receiving federal subsidies has cost the state $800 million.

“We stand committed to continuing our efforts in ensuring a stable and competitive market and affordable coverage for Wisconsin consumers,” Nickel said.

The decline in competitive markets has also played out nationally. While no counties are currently projected to have zero insurers, vast swaths of the country will have just one option on the individual market. According to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), 1,524 counties will have just one insurer offering a plan – nearly 50 percent of all counties.

CMS: half of all U.S. counties are expected to have just one #Obamacare provider in 2018. Yellow=one choice, really no choice at all. pic.twitter.com/Wzaqrrcqf5

— MacIver Institute (@MacIverWisc) October 12, 2017

Obamacare requires insurance plans to provide a wide range of coverage in order to qualify for subsidies, reducing the variety of plans that insurers can offer and limiting choice for consumers. But on Thursday, President Trump signed an executive order relaxing those mandates.

Trump’s action, which comes a month after the collapse of congressional Republicans’ efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare, is intended to allow insurers to offer lower-cost plans, a key to increasing competition and choice in the individual market and attracting younger and healthier people into the marketplace.

MacIver News Service will continue to analyze premium, deductible and other pricing information as it becomes available and publish our findings as soon as possible.

Image: ZeroHedge

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Protesters Wave Sex Toys In Response To Tale of Campus Rape

Wed, 10/11/2017 - 16:10

The following video was captured by the MacIver Institute and first appeared on their website.

In response to a fellow student who said a campus rape could have been prevented by concealed carry, protesters wielding penis-shaped sex toys refused to answer her, and then shouted her down at Tuesday’s speech by Townhall editor Katie Pavlich on the UW-Madison campus.

The student told protesters that she has a friend who was raped, a crime that would have been prevented if her friend was able to carry her concealed weapon. After a brief silence, protesters responded by waving dildos in the air and shouting “this is what Democracy looks like” and “Cocks not Glocks.”

Inside, Pavlich told a polite, standing-room-only audience that allowing concealed carry on campus would allow young women to defend themselves in dangerous situations.

A group calling itself “Cocks Not Glocks” arranged the protest, the “Bonerfide Penis Arts Festival” in response to Pavlich’s pro-Second Amendment message.

The post Protesters Wave Sex Toys In Response To Tale of Campus Rape appeared first on Morning Martini.

Trump EPA Scuttles Costly Obama-era “Clean Power Plan”

Tue, 10/10/2017 - 16:33

Embattled big government overreach finally meets its demise

MacIver News Service | October 9, 2017

The following first appeared at the MacIver Institute.

The Trump administration on Tuesday will officially put an end to a draconian slate of Obama-era environmental regulations known as the “Clean Power Plan.”

The EPA’s decision comes as little surprise after President Trump in March issued an executive order instructing the agency to begin a review of the controversial, economically devastating rules. Repealing the CPP was a cornerstone of Trump’s campaign platform.

“That rule really was about picking winners and losers,” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told Fox News on Monday. “The past administration was unapologetic, they were using every bit of power, authority to use the EPA to pick winners and losers on how we pick electricity in this country. That is wrong.”

“Repealing the Clean Power Plan is the right move for the economy and for the rule of law. The Obama administration’s signature climate rule was a vast, unlawful expansion of government authority into the energy sector with wide-reaching consequences for our economy,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) in a statement.

The Clean Power Plan, a series of devastating regulations developed by Obama’s EPA, would limit carbon emissions from coal-fired electricity power plants, cutting the allowable amount of emissions by more than half. Despite the high economic cost, the CPP would only change global temperature by under two-hundredths of a degree Celsius by the end of the century, according to researchers at the CATO Institute.

Volumes of research clearly show the economic damage the rules would have inflicted across the nation. The CPP would have hit Wisconsin particularly hard, since its electricity supply is more reliant on coal power than most states.

A joint study by the MacIver Institute and The Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University in 2015 found that the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan would cost Wisconsin $920 million in 2030, and reduce disposable income in the state by nearly $2 billion.

The study also found that the CPP would have cost Wisconsin 21,000 jobs and increased the average household electric bill by $225 per year and the average commercial business electric bill by $1,530 per year. The average Wisconsin factory would be hit with an extra $105,094 per year in higher energy costs if the CPP were implemented.

Recognizing the regulations’ devastating costs, Wisconsin joined 26 other states in suing the Obama EPA over the rules, a lawsuit that eventually resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court halting the rules’ implementation in early 2016 for further review. Delaying regulations and overturning a lower court is a rare move for the high court, indicating the justices saw compelling evidence that the burdensome rules presented the risk of immediate harm to the economy.

The MacIver Institute joined Gov. Scott Walker, Attorney General Brad Schimel, and Speaker Paul Ryan in celebratingthe court’s decision. “The Supreme Court recognizes the significant damage this rule will have on our economy and our way of life,” said Brett Healy, president of the MacIver Institute.

In their lawsuit, Wisconsin and other states argued that the Clean Power Plan, which relied on the authority given to the EPA under the Clean Air Act, was an unlawful power grab by federal bureaucrats that exceeded the law’s authority.

By scrapping the Clean Power Plan, the Trump EPA also repudiates the federal overreach and recognizes, like the Supreme Court, the imminent harm the new regulations posed to the nation’s economy.

After he signs an order on Tuesday formally rolling back the Clean Power Plan, Pruitt intends to begin work on a new rule that falls within the bounds of the Clean Air Act.

The post Trump EPA Scuttles Costly Obama-era “Clean Power Plan” appeared first on Morning Martini.

What’s In The New State Budget?

Thu, 09/28/2017 - 13:58

I joined Bob Schmidt on his morning show on Today’s Talk 1490 WLFN in La Crosse to talk about the newly passed 2017-19 state budget and why prevailing wage repeal and school choice expansion are important aspects of the new spending plan.

Read MacIver’s budget analysis here: bit.ly/2xv2Bel

The post What’s In The New State Budget? appeared first on Morning Martini.

Candidates, Wisconsin Statewide and Federal Elections

Mon, 09/11/2017 - 07:51

Updated

The race for Wisconsin governor is getting more crowded on the Democratic side. So far, five have officially entered the Democratic primary, and two other possible contenders have set up campaign committees.

Here’s an updated list of announced candidates for statewide and federal elections in Wisconsin in 2018. While formal announcements by incumbents from governor to Congress are so far few and far between, it’s generally expected that most incumbents will run for re-election. We will update this list as formal announcements start rolling in.

Governor

  • Bob Harlow (D) – 25-year-old Stanford graduate who last ran for Congress in California in 2016 formally announced in May
  • Andy Gronik (D) – Milwaukee businessman told the AP he will be running in June
  • Rep. Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire) announced he’s running on Aug. 7
  • State Superintendent of Schools Tony Evers (D) announced he’s running on Aug. 23
  • State Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D) announced she’s running on Sept. 25
  • Former DPW chairman Matt Flynn (D), a 70-year-old former attorney, announced he’s running on Oct. 10
  • Mike McCabe, a progressive operative who runs Blue Jeans Nation, has announced.
  • Governor Scott Walker (R) has not yet formally announced he’ll run for re-election, but is widely expected to announce upon completion of the state budget.
  • Former state Sen. Tim Cullen, Rep. Ron Kind, state Sen. Jennifer Shilling, Dane County exec Joe Parisi, and Milwaukee County exec Chris Abele have all declined to run.
  • Other possible Democrat contenders are Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, former Rep. Brett Hulsey, and firefighters union president Mahlon Mitchell. Hulsey has set up a gubernatorial campaign committee.
  • In all, there are 18 active campaign committees for the 2018 gubernatorial race.

Lt. Governor

  • No formal announcements yet
  • Lt Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch (R), incumbent

Attorney General

  • Josh Kaul (D) – A 36-year-old Madison lawyer and son of former Wisconsin AG Peg Lautenschlager, who recently resigned as head of the state Ethics Commission.
  • AG Brad Schimel (R), incumbent

U.S. Senate

  • Marine Corps veteran and businessman Kevin Nicholson (R) formally announced in late July
  • Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D), incumbent
  • State Sen. Leah Vukmir (R) formally announced her candidacy on Sept. 7
  • Hedge fund manager Eric Hovde is a possible candidate, but talk of his running has dimmed
  • Nicole Schneider of the Schneider Trucking family decided against running
  • Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald won’t run; he’s endorsing Vukmir

Wisconsin Supreme Court

  • Incumbent Justice Michael Gableman announced he won’t seek re-election
  • Michael Skrenock, conservative Sauk County Circuit Court judge
  • Liberal Madison attorney Tim Burns
  • Liberal Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet

Congress, 1st District

  • Rep. Paul Ryan (R), incumbent
  • Paul Nehlen (R), reprising his failed primary challenge of 2016 against Ryan
  • Randy Bryce (D), union activist who bills himself as an iron worker
  • Cathy Myers (D), teacher and Janesville School Board member
  • David Yankovich (D), Ohio resident who moved to the district this spring
  • Ryan Solen (D) has an active campaign committee

Congress, 2nd District

  • *Rep. Mark Pocan (D), incumbent
  • Dan Theron (R) has an active campaign committee

Congress, 3rd District

  • *Rep. Ron Kind (D), incumbent
  • Retired Army Colonel Steve Toft is rumored to be a potential Republican challenger

Congress, 4th District

  • *Rep. Gwen Moore (D), incumbent
  • Milwaukee County Circuit Judge David Borowski, a moderate Democrat, is considering challenging Moore in the Dem primary

Congress, 5th District

  • *Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R), incumbent

Congress, 6th District

  • *Rep. Glenn Grothmann (R), incumbent
  • Dan Kohl (D), nephew of former Senator Herb Kohl and Bucks executive has announced
  • Scott Olmer (D), a marketing consultant, has also announced
  • Jeffrey Dahlke (I) has an active campaign committee
  • Sarah Lloyd (D) also has an active campaign committee

Congress, 7th District

  • *Rep. Sean Duffy (R), incumbent

Congress, 8th District

  • *Rep. Mike Gallagher (R), incumbent
  • Tom Nelson (D) maintains an active committee

State Races

By throwing her hat in the ring for U.S. Senate, Sen. Leah Vukmir will give up her seat representing the 5th Senate District. Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) has announced his candidate to replace Vukmir. Barring a surprisingly strong primary challenger, the good money is on Kooyenga taking the 5th S.D.

That leaves Kooyenga’s 14th Assembly District seat up for grabs. No one has announced their candidacy for it yet, but possible candidates are current state Treasurer Matt Adamczyk, whose family owns property in the district; Johnny Koremenos, who runs communications for the Attorney General’s office; and Luis O. Cardona, who served in the U.S. Army with Kooyenga and currently works for Rep. Shannon Zimmerman.

On the other side of the state, Mel Pittman has officially reprised his 2014 bid for the 31st Senate District. His announcement came days before Vinehout’s announcement in Black River Falls that she’d run for governor. It’s worth noting that Vinehout only defeated Pittman in 2014 with 52.4 percent of the vote, the 31st went heavily for Donald Trump in 2016, and the only incumbent Democrat to lose their seat in 2016 was Chris Danou, whose district is within the S.D. 31.

With Pittman the heir apparent in S.D. 31, it’s unclear who the Democrats could put up in Vinehout’s stead. The notoriously party-blind region of the state could go either way despite its lurch toward Trump, but the highest-profile elected Democrat in the district with Danou out is Rep. Dana Wachs (D-Eau Claire), who is also running for governor.

Rumors are also circulating that Sen. Sheila Harsdorf might be under consideration to run the state’s Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). If that happens, her senate district (S.D. 10) would be an open seat. An early potential contender is Rep. Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake), but freshman Rep. Shannon Zimmerman – a successful businessman who could potentially finance a senate race in that expensive media market – is another possibility. Rep. Rob Stafsholt (R-New Richmond) rounds out representatives in S.D. 10.

Some in the media may try and portray Harsdorf’s district as a possible pick-up for Democrats, but that’s unlikely. In her last election in 2016, Harsdorf annihilated her Democratic opponent, Diane Odeen, with 63.22 percent of the vote.

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Minimum Markup Makes Back-To-School Shoppers Pay More For Markers, Crayons And Other Supplies

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 12:00

The following first appeared at the MacIver Institute.

Back-to-school shopping in Wisconsin is once again more expensive than in neighboring states thanks to the state’s minimum markup law, which outlaws sale prices that are too low.

The minimum markup law, formally known as the Unfair Sales Act, bans retailers from selling merchandise below cost. The law, originally passed back in 1939, also requires a 9 percent price markup on specific items like alcohol, tobacco and gasoline.

Unfortunately, Wisconsinites are forced to pay for this archaic law that’s still on the books despite ongoing efforts to repeal it.

According to advertisements obtained by the MacIver Institute from late August, Walmart stores in Milwaukee charged higher prices for a number of back-to-school items compared with other Walmart stores in Minnesota, Iowa, and Michigan.

Families in Milwaukee buying basic items like composition books, markers, and crayons can expect to pay anywhere from 12 to 146 percent more than shoppers in St. Paul, Minn., Dubuque, Iowa, and Kalamazoo, Mich.

Some common school items cost on average 90 percent more in Milwaukee. Crayola Crayons posted the single biggest price variance, costing almost 150 percent more in Milwaukee than in cities in neighboring states.

Parents picking up a Composition book in St. Paul, for example, only paid 50 cents. That same Composition book cost 56 cents in Milwaukee. Crayola markers cost 97 cents in St. Paul, but thanks to the archaic minimum markup law, those same markers cost $1.97 in Milwaukee, a 103 percent difference.

Walmart’s circulars boast that their great sale prices mean “$10 goes far,” but it goes a lot farther if you’re not shopping in Wisconsin. A basic shopping list would cost 90 percent more for a Milwaukee back-to-school shopper than in nearby states.

Shoppers in Illinois have previously enjoyed the same lower prices as other Midwestern states, as pointed out by the MacIver Institute last year. But this year, possibly thanks to the state’s recent draconian tax increases, families from Rockford to Chicago are joining Wisconsinites in paying inflated prices.

Efforts to repeal the antiquated minimum markup law stretch back several years.

In 2015, Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) and Rep. Jim Ott (R-Mequon) introduced a bill that would have eliminated the Unfair Sales Act. Unfortunately, the repeal bill did not receive even a public hearing in either house.

Another effort earlier this year by Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) to reduce the minimum markup as part of a transportation funding package also fell flat, so the law remains on the books.

Vukmir, Ott, and other legislators haven’t given up. Earlier this year, they were joined by Sen. Dave Craig (R-Town of Vernon) and Rep. Dave Murphy (R-Greenville) in introducing a modified repeal bill.

This latest effort to relieve Wisconsinites from the burden of higher prices, however, has received the same silent treatment as previous repeal efforts.

Even though minimum markup repeal has hit a wall in the Legislature, a 2015 poll found that Wisconsinites are tired of paying higher prices and want the law taken off the books. The poll was conducted by reputable research firm Public Opinion Strategies and found that 80 percent of respondents had an unfavorable view of the minimum markup law when told “Wisconsin residents are required to pay more for many on-sale items than residents in neighboring states simply because of this 75-year-old law.”

Wisconsinites were just as angry when told that “the law forbids retailers from selling to consumers below cost and also requires that gasoline retailers sell gas to consumers with a minimum 9 percent markup, meaning Wisconsin drivers have to pay more for gas here than drivers do in other states.”

Some retailers have used the law to file complaints with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) against competitors who were offering items for too low of a price. In 2015, MacIver first reported on numerous complaints filed against Meijer, a privately owned Michigan-based grocery and supercenter chain of stores with more than 200 locations nationwide, as it made its first foray into the Wisconsin market.

The minimum markup law also makes illegal in Wisconsin many of the discounts received on popular national bargain hunting days like “Black Friday” or “Amazon Prime Day,” which in Wisconsin could better be called “Amazon Crime Day.”

With repeal efforts on the rocks once again, bargain hunters should beware: Wisconsin’s Price Police remain on the prowl.

The post Minimum Markup Makes Back-To-School Shoppers Pay More For Markers, Crayons And Other Supplies appeared first on Morning Martini.

News And Views: Foxconn Working Its Way Through Legislature

Wed, 08/23/2017 - 17:49

I joined Oliver Burrows on WXCO in Wausau to update listeners on the Foxconn deal, which went through its second public hearing at a Joint Finance meeting Tuesday in Sturtevant.

Visit WXCO here: www.1230wxco.com

The post News And Views: Foxconn Working Its Way Through Legislature appeared first on Morning Martini.

Wisconsin’s Quest to Land Foxconn

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 12:01

I joined Bob Schmidt on Today’s Talk 1490 WLFN in La Crosse Wednesday morning to give a high-level overview of the Foxconn deal, where it’s at on the road to approval, and what to expect next.

Visit Today’s Talk 1490 WLFN here: www.1490wlfn.com/index.html

The post Wisconsin’s Quest to Land Foxconn appeared first on Morning Martini.

Dispatches From the Capitol: Live from Committee Vote on Foxconn Package

Tue, 08/15/2017 - 09:45

I joined Matt Kittle from the state Capitol as the Assembly Committee on Jobs and the Economy debated and votes on the historic $3 billion Foxconn incentives package. Kittle is filling in for Vicki McKenna on News/Talk 1310 WIBA.

 

The post Dispatches From the Capitol: Live from Committee Vote on Foxconn Package appeared first on Morning Martini.

Talking Astroturf Gas Tax Groundswell on Vicki

Tue, 07/25/2017 - 16:58

I joined Vicki McKenna on Monday on her show on WIBA to talk about my column at the MacIver Institute exposing what appears to be a campaign to plant phony letters to the editor in papers around the state to manufacture a “grassroots” groundswell in favor of a gas tax increase.

The post Talking Astroturf Gas Tax Groundswell on Vicki appeared first on Morning Martini.

Reality Check: Do Wisconsinites Really Want to Pay More for Roads?

Tue, 07/18/2017 - 10:47

The following column first appeared at the MacIver Institute.

The ground should’ve shifted beneath Madison recently when the latest Marquette University Law Poll found most Wisconsinites aren’t nearly as concerned as many have long claimed about the issue of transportation, the debate that’s plagued the state Capitol and budget process for months.

Marquette’s poll, conducted at the end of June, found that a mere 23 percent of respondents identified transportation as their top priority. More Wisconsinites identified healthcare (25 percent) and K-12 education (37 percent) as their number one concerns.

Even more tellingly, the Marquette poll found that a slim majority – 51 percent – of those who said transportation is their highest priority would not be willing to pay higher taxes for transportation, while just 46 percent said they would pay more. By contrast, 75 percent of respondents who said K-12 education is their top concern would be willing to pay higher taxes for that priority.

When given the chance to list their top two priorities, just 42 percent of respondents in the Marquette Poll included transportation, again trailing K-12 education (63 percent) and healthcare (52 percent).

In other words, transportation isn’t that hot a topic outside the beltline, and even those who say it’s their most important issue are squishy when asked to put their money where their mouth is.

Proponents of increased revenue point to a different, privately-financed poll conducted in late May to early June by Public Opinion Strategies as evidence they’re on the right side of public opinion. That poll found that 76 percent would pay $4 more a month “if it meant creating an immediate solution to fix Wisconsin’s roads,” according to a Transportation Development Association press release, which commissioned the poll.

The poll leads respondents to a desired answer by implying a measly $4 a month in higher taxes would instantly result in every single road in the state being transformed into pristine condition. It’s very easy to respond yes to that question, but fixing state’s transportation morass isn’t nearly that simplistic.

The TDA poll also found that voters oppose increased borrowing for transportation. But Governor Walker’s budget actually decreases road bonding to $500 million, down from $850 million in the last budget and the lowest level of bonding since the 2001-03 budget. Walker also recently offered to cut bonding to $300 million – an offer rejected by Assembly leadership.

The “revenue enhancement” crowd loves to compare transportation bonding to putting road work on the credit card, but a better comparison is buying a home. While it would be ideal to buy a house with cash, only a select few can cut a check that big.

It’s simply not reasonable to think the state can or should pay for a billion-dollar interchange project in cash.

Speaking of billion-dollar road projects, respondents to the TDA poll also oppose delaying southeast mega projects. That’s not surprising – reasonable people oppose delays in roadwork because every motorist has sat in a traffic jam surrounded by construction barrels. No one likes delays – but the fact is, the vast majority of projects throughout Wisconsin would proceed without delay under Walker’s proposal.

So while the TDA poll found large majorities generally support a small revenue increase if it would fill every pothole, seal every crack, and finish every project on time without borrowing, the Marquette poll revealed that Wisconsinites aren’t that passionate about the issue and are much more hesitant to pay more when not presented with a low-cost magic fix.

The Marquette poll contradicts claims by the “revenue enhancement” crowd that there’s an angry mob of motorists clamoring for a price hike at the pump. Proponents of a gas tax increase also like to point to spontaneous and supposedly uncoached letters that have been appearing in various newspapers around the state demanding action on road funding.

Nearly the same letter appears in newspapers around the state, all written under the same two names – Megan Delaney and Shannon O’Connell. In the Janesville Gazette, Delaney claims to be from Janesville. In the La Crosse Tribune, she says she’s from Onalaska. In the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune and Stevens Point Journal, O’Connell claims to be from Wisconsin Rapids, but in papers serving Baraboo, Beaver Dam, and Portage, she says she’s from Fall Creek. In the Rice Lake Chronotype, she says she’s from nearby Barron.

Even if there are two Megan Delaneys, one living in Janesville and one living in Eau Claire, and three Shannon O’Connells, each very concerned about our transportation infrastructure and the need for higher gas taxes, the similar language used in papers from Janesville to Rice Lake suggests something else may be afoot.

This is an astroturf campaign, the tactic of special interests that want to make it look like the rest of the state cares about their cause and sides with them.

Transportation funding has been the bull in the budget china shop for months here in Madison, but the Marquette poll and the copy-paste-repeat letter campaign suggests a different reality: Wisconsinites are not clamoring for a tax increase like some in the media are trying to portray. Real Wisconsinites are not obsessed with finding ways to increase transportation funding. Remember, according to the Marquette poll, even among those who are concerned about transportation, a MAJORITY of those transportation-concerned individuals DO NOT favor a higher gas tax or registration fee.

Legislative leaders have come up with a cavalcade of ideas for raising taxes and fees to achieve their transportation goals. They and others have floated the idea of applying the sales tax to gasoline, adding toll roads, taxing farm equipment, tacking on a new heavy truck fee, and increasing the sales tax by $1 billion – among other ideas.

The “just tax it” crowd has it backwards. Instead of using manufactured public outcry to justify wringing more money out of Wisconsin motorists, farmers, and truckers, they should support a commonsense budget that focuses on the real concerns of the majority of the taxpaying public.

To paraphrase a famous quip by Governor Lee Dreyfus, Madison is 77 square miles surrounded by reality. The heated and protracted debate over transportation funding taking place in the state Capitol is a perfect case-in-point.

The post Reality Check: Do Wisconsinites Really Want to Pay More for Roads? appeared first on Morning Martini.

Gronik’s Quixotic Candidacy Aims to Transform Wisconsin into Illinois

Tue, 07/11/2017 - 19:00

When Andy Gronik first started polling to gauge a campaign for governor back in April, the Journal Sentinel’s Dan Bice described the Milwaukee businessman as “Mary Burke 2.0 but with less public service experience.”

Gronik funded the poll himself, but in an inauspicious turn, the out-of-state polling firm he commissioned referred to Wisconsinites as “Wisconsinians” – like “Illinoisans.” The latest example that Gronik’s isn’t ready for prime time is his declaration that he while he was willing to put up the cash for a poll, he told the AP he won’t self-fund his campaign.

That comes at the same time as Walker campaign manager Joe Fadness announced Walker’s campaign had raised $3.5 million in the first half of 2017 and has $2.4 million cash-on-hand. Gronik’s advertisement that he won’t put his own money into the campaign indicates he won’t be able to compete with a well-funded and well-oiled Walker re-election machine.

If the Democrats are going to nominate a rich guy from Milwaukee with no statewide name ID, pinching pennies won’t be a winning recipe.

Walker is also still extremely popular with the conservative grassroots, who were mobilized by the recall and remain motivated to support the governor. Walker is also capturing the political center. In his 2017-19 state budget, Walker proposes an historic increase in funding for K-12 education, far and away the most popular priority identified in the recent Marquette University Law poll.

The poll also found Walker’s approval rating improving, up three from the last poll to an even 48-48 split. Since 2015 the governor’s poll numbers have consistently improved.

Any Democrat who hopes to challenge Walker in a serious way will have to hope that conservatives are napping on election day. They’ll also have to win over the progressive base – and on that count, Gronik appears to be taking his hackneyed attempt at polling to heart.

The AP reports that Gronik, who describes himself as a “progressive businessman,” plans to run on a left-wing utopia platform:

Gronik, 60, told AP in an exclusive interview that as governor he would fight to restore collective bargaining rights to public workers lost under Walker. He also said he would reinstitute the nonpartisan elections board Walker dissolved, stop further expansion of the private school voucher program and accept federal money Walker rejected to help pay for health insurance for more poor people.

In other words, as governor Gronik would spend all his time tilting at windmills in order to “make Wisconsin Illinois again.” If he’s to be taken at his poll-tested word, he’d try to get rid of Act 10 and Right-to-Work, returning Wisconsin to a time when employees could be forced into unions and compelled to pay dues, most of which end up in the Democratic Party’s coffers.

That’s a good deal for the flailing Democratic Party, whose “compelling vision” for Wisconsin literally hinged on compelling Wisconsin workers to contribute to their election machinery. But it’s a raw deal for the many workers public and private who have rejected union membership since the workplace freedoms have been enacted. It’s also a raw deal for taxpayers, who have saved more than $5 billion as a result of Act 10 over the years.

He would also attempt to revive the Government Accountability Board, the partisan-stacked panel that tried squashing the free speech rights of conservatives in the 2014 elections and aided a rogue prosecutor in illegally raiding the homes of conservative donors and activists. The GAB demonstrated that non-partisan panels are a fantasy. Instead, it was replaced by a bipartisan pair of commissions that have functioned well thus far.

Gronik’s plan would restore a system that led to the intimidation of his party’s political opponents during a crucial election season. Perhaps Gronik could bring in Rahm Emanuel to head the new agency.

Gronik would also try to freeze the growth of school choice in Wisconsin. The ultimate goal of The Left is to kill the program altogether, meaning Wisconsin parents who want to send their kids to schools other than public schools – but aren’t as rich as Gronik – would be out of luck.

That’s good news for teachers unions and public school bureaucrats who can’t get enough taxpayer money, but bad news for anyone who opposes government-monopolized education.

He also says he’ll take federal money for an expansion of BadgerCare. Democrats have long claimed that taking the federal money would mean a windfall of hundreds of millions of dollars in “free” money, but in reality the scheme would needlessly add more Wisconsinites to the dole and contribute to the deterioration of the individual insurance market caused by Obamacare.

Gronik and other leftists conveniently ignore the fact that any “free federal money” is just borrowed money that adds to the federal deficit and debt, now at about $20 TRILLION. Walker made a prudent choice by rejecting the Medicaid expansion, believing that the federal government can’t be trusted to keep its funding promise and understanding that all “free” federal money comes with countless strings attached. Under the plan Walker adopted instead, 94.3 percent of Wisconsinites have health insurance coverage.

Asked if he trusts the feds to keep their promise to cover 90 percent of the Medicaid expansion’s costs, Gronik essentially answers “yes.” That, or he doesn’t care if future costs fall on Wisconsin taxpayers.

It’s all an academic exercise, anyway. If past trends hold true – Gov. Walker’s three election wins, the GOP gaining increasing majorities in both houses of the Legislature, Senator Johnson’s re-election, Feingold’s re-rejection, and Trump’s carrying Wisconsin in November – then the Democrats are going to have to do a lot better than an unknown “progressive businessman” from Milwaukee who botched his first poll and plans to run on creating a left-wing utopia that Wisconsin voters have learned materializes as taxpayer hell.

If Gronik wants to find a state that rejects pro-growth reforms and is forced to deal with constant budget calamities and tax hikes, he should hop in his car and drive due south to Illinois – and stay there.

Photo: Andy Gronik (AP)

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Federal Transportation Cash Windfall An Iffy Prospect

Tue, 07/11/2017 - 17:34

The following first appeared at the MacIver Institute.

[Madison, Wis…] House Speaker Paul Ryan threw some cold water on the idea that the federal government would swoop in with more federal dollars to fund some of the state’s largest projects at a MacIver Institute event on Friday.

“Our goal is not to maximize federal spending,” Ryan said when asked about the possibility of a major spending package aimed at infrastructure. Instead, the Janesville Republican said he hopes to use fewer federal dollars with more private money to match it.

“We need to take the federal fiscal footprint and make it smaller to leverage more of the private sector dollars,” Ryan said.

That’s bad news for Wisconsin infrastructure hawks who may have seen a ray of hope in Gov. Walker’s compromise proposal to cut transportation bonding by $200 million and link more spending on the state’s Southeast Freeway Mega Projects to a windfall of federal money.

The Department of Transportation reportedly plans to request $341 million in federal transportation money, significantly more than the state’s typical request of the feds.

Walker offered the revised plan in an attempt to break an ongoing budget impasse centering on the transportation budget. In addition to reducing bonding by $200 million, the compromise plan asked the Legislature to approve contingency bonding for the Southeast Freeway Mega Project program, projects receiving federal financial assistance and carrying a price tag of $500 million or more.

“Interstate 94 North/South, the Zoo Interchange and Interstate 94 East/West are high profile projects in southeastern Wisconsin. We propose contingency bonding that would be linked to additional federal funding for mega projects,” Walker wrote. “Wisconsin is well positioned to qualify for additional federal funding to help support mega projects.”

Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) is also hopeful more money from D.C. is in the offing. “The federal government budget comes out in August. We’re hoping there is opportunity for us to get a big investment out of the federal government,” said Darling, co-chair of the Legislature’s budget committee.

Ryan’s comments hint that a substantial boost in federal funding is unlikely to materialize.

Walker’s offer – which does not increase the gas tax or vehicle registration fee, one of the governor’s core promises in the budget – doesn’t seem to have persuaded Assembly leadership, which is insisting on additional revenue for the troubled DOT.

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke called Walker’s proposal a “good step in the right direction” in an interview with the MacIver News Service on News/Talk 1130 WISN, but reiterated that he still believes new revenue is needed. “We need to keep some of these projects on track…and without new revenue, that’s going to be impossible to do.”

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