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The Free Market Voice for Wisconsin
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The MacIver Report: Wisconsin This Week – Episode 1

Tue, 11/14/2017 - 10:28
In the inaugural MacIver Report, the new weekly podcast of the MacIver Institute, the MacIver team talks about the shadowy Public Finance Authority, reforming the state tax code in 2018, the IRS paying for its targeting of conservative groups, and much more insight you won't find anywhere else. Also, find out who the team thinks had a good week, and who had a bad week. Don't miss the MacIver Report, new every Tuesday!

Sanfelippo Introduces Free Market-Led Health Care Reform

Mon, 11/13/2017 - 08:49
By M.D. Kittle - State Rep. Joe Sanfelippo believes the free-market can lead the nation out of the health care mess wrought by liberals over the past several years. 

Foxconn Deal Inked, Governor’s Race Begins In Earnest

Sun, 11/12/2017 - 23:00
By M.D. Kittle - The newly signed Foxconn development deal will be a key issue in next year’s election. It might just be the biggest issue in next year’s election. 

Wisconsin This Week

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 16:35
Fall might've abruptly given way to a winter chill in Wisconsin, but things heated up again this week as the Legislature held its last floor session and Gov. Scott Walker finally sealed the deal with Foxconn.

LISTEN: Madison Taxpayers On The Hook For Costly Broadband-For-All Vision

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 16:00
City leaders in Madison think free taxpayer-funded internet is a human right - and they've spent at least $841,000 on this vision of life, liberty and the pursuit of broadband. MacIver's Matt Kittle discusses his latest report while guest hosting for Dan Conry on News/Talk 1310 WIBA in Madison.

IRS, SEC Looking Into Bonds Issued By Shadowy Public Finance Authority

Fri, 11/10/2017 - 00:37
By M.D. Kittle - The Internal Revenue Service is investigating the bonds issued by a shadowy Wisconsin bonding house that sought greater authority through legislation during the last days of this year’s budget debate.

Hutton Apprecticeship Bill Helps Expand Skilled Trades Workforce

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 15:56
Rep. Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield) explains his legislation that allows more skilled trades workers into the workforce by reducing an apprentice-to-journeyman ratio to 1-to-1 unless negotiated otherwise.

Madison Taxpayers On The Hook For Costly Broadband-For-All Vision

Thu, 11/09/2017 - 11:37
By M.D. Kittle - While there is nothing in the Declaration or the U.S. Constitution about the pursuit of taxpayer-funded access to Facebook and kitty videos on YouTube, the city of Madison’s unchecked liberal common council members believe there ought to be.

Vindication, Cash Coming to Conservative Groups Targeted By IRS

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 05:00

MacIver News Service | Nov. 6, 2017

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON, Wis. - Marve Munyon and the Rock River Patriots were pushed around by the Internal Revenue Service for more than two years.

Now they're about to be paid for the IRS' bureaucratic transgressions.

In late 2014, the southern Wisconsin group of liberty-minded citizens with the tea party-sounding name gave up its odyssey of attempting to obtain 501(c)(4), tax-exempt status. This after being scrutinized and bled by a thousand bureaucratic paper cuts.

The Rock River Patriots continued to operate as a for-profit entity - if you call the scant proceeds taken in from a donation box at its monthly meetings a profitable concern.

"It was an ongoing battle and we finally just gave up," Munyon told MacIver News Service this week. "We deduced we couldn't fight the IRS, but we decided to go ahead with what we were trying to do."

"We are a hand-to-mouth operation. We don't make a lot of money," Munyon added. "We give away about everything we can ... that's how we operate. None of us are salaried or anything like that. We're just a group trying to inform the public."

The Patriots joined more than 400 conservative groups nationwide in a class-action lawsuit alleging the IRS illegally targeted them based on their ideological beliefs.

Last week, after more than four years of legal battles, word came down that the federal government had settled the suit.

Munyon was pleased, but in a validated-if-not-compensated kind of way.

"I don't know what the settlement means, whether it's going to do anything or not," he said. "If they remunerate us with anything it will be a miracle. We're not going to spend any money until we get the check."

Compensation is on the way, according to an attorney for the plaintiffs.

While the IRS admits no wrongdoing, the federal government has agreed to a "generous settlement."

Edward Greim, attorney for Graves Garrett LLC, the Kansas City, Mo. firm that led the class-action lawsuit against the government, told MacIver News Service that the settlement is in the "seven figures," but he could not provide specific numbers.

"Uncle Sam has agreed to pay out to every single one of the targeted groups that stayed in the lawsuit what would come out to be several thousand dollars (each) as damages for what they did to the groups," Greim told MacIver News this week on the Vicki McKenna Show.

Greim said the lawsuit appears to be the first class-action that has ever been certified against the government for such a case and "certainly the first time the government has come out with substantial money for each of the targeted class members."

The lawsuit's findings counter initial IRS claims that just a few rogue agents in a Cincinnati were involved in excessively scrutinizing and delaying applications by conservative groups.

"In fact we learned that the IRS has all kinds of detailed policies about how they treat applicants," Greim said. "Those policies are so detailed that you can simply choose one particular element of one policy and use it to your advantage to target someone. So the very mechanisms put in place to control the way groups are treated can be very easily twisted and turned against those groups to break off a section and handle them sort of in another room all by themselves."

There are at least six Wisconsin-based organization on the list of 426 plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit, according to a case spreadsheet obtained by MacIver News. The members include:

There were two main lawsuits against the IRS. The mainstream media has focused exclusively on litigation by the American Center for Law & Justice. ACLJ, just hours before the class-action settlement was released, announced that it had "just obtained a resounding victory in our legal challenge to the IRS's political targeting of conservative organizations."

That settlement included no monetary damages, but the IRS did admit in federal court that it wrongfully targeted tea party and conservative groups during the Obama administration.

"For such treatment, the IRS expresses its sincere apology," the court documents state.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also apologized on behalf of the federal government.

"The IRS' use ... of heightened scrutiny was wrong and should never have occurred," he said in a statement. "It is improper for the IRS to single out groups for different treatment based on their names or ideological positions."

The class-action lawsuit pursued by Graves Garrett includes several liberal organizations as members. That's not the attorneys' doing and it's not because left-wing groups were targeted, Greim said.

Obama's Department of Justice in creating the list used the four criteria the IRS established in illegally identifying the nonprofit applicants for enhanced scrutiny.

"So the judge went into the record, pulled those four criteria out, and said everybody who was separated out between 2010 and 2013 using at least one of these four criteria will go into the files," Greim said. "The list we have today is really the DOJ's own admission about who was targeted using the four criteria."

But the addition of the left-wing organizations were either a mistake or the result of something more sinister, Greim said.

"Another explanation is the government itself realized what was happening and late in the process decided they needed a couple liberal groups in there," the attorney said. "But if that's what they did, that's just as wrong as targeting conservative groups. They would have been chosen based on their ideology to cover up the earlier targeting of conservative groups."

Greim said the settlement is just the beginning. He said the class-action lawsuit generated a good deal of information not made public.

"There are transcripts and depositions we want to release but we can't release yet," Greim said. "At the end of the day, that's the real resolution, is for people to understand what truly happened ... I think the emails and the testimony say it all and we are really looking forward to rolling that out in the coming months."

Munyon and the Rock River Patriots just want the government out of their business.

"We've been accused of being everything under the sun. We've been accused of being Democrats and Republicans. We're not any of those things. We're definitely not communists. We're just trying to inform the public about what good government should be about. We want to get back to the constitution."

John Kasich Was For Partisan Redistricting Before He Was Against It

Fri, 11/03/2017 - 10:23

MacIver News Service | Nov. 3 2017

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON, Wis - Ohio Gov. John Kasich has been making the rounds bashing partisan redistricting and calling for reform.

"We need to eliminate gerrymandering. We've got to figure out a way to do it," he told the Columbus Dispatch.

What much of the media have disregarded, however, is that election-reform crusader Kasich was silently for redistricting before he was against it.

Wisconsin media this week picked up on a New York Magazine interview with Kasich in which the Ohio governor claimed Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) berated him for betraying his party.

Vos, during a press event Thursday, acknowledged he expressed his disappointment in a private conversation with Kasich about the Ohio governor signing onto a U.S. Supreme Court brief opposing the GOP's redistricting plan in Wisconsin.

.@SpeakerVos says he's disappointed with @JohnKasich b/c the OH gov signed a brief opposing WI's redistricting case at #SCOTUS. #wipolitics pic.twitter.com/8WglGPIEnD

— MacIver Institute (@MacIverWisc) November 2, 2017

Kasich, who has been questioned by Ohio Republicans for his shrinking conservative values, has been lauded by the left for his outspoken criticism of the political nature of electoral map-making. He joined his pal Arnold Schwarzenegger in the battle to overhaul partisan political redistricting.

But the outspoken Kasich was quiet when in 2011, as Ohio's freshly elected governor, he voted for a legislative district map the left described as one of the most gerrymandered in the nation.

His Road to Damascus moment didn't come until after he and his fellow Republicans benefitted from what has long been described as to-the-victor-go-the-spoils redistricting system. Perhaps it came as he began moderating his positions for his failed presidential run in 2016.

He hasn't said yes to 2020, but he certainly hasn't said no.

"I don't know what I'm going to do tomorrow," Kasich told NBC's "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd last month. "I will tell you this, the other day my wife said to me one morning, 'You know, John, I wish you were president.' That's how I knew the country was in trouble."

Kasich was one of five members of Ohio's apportionment board, the panel ultimately responsible for redistricting, the electoral map-making process constitutionally required after each 10-year census. The board was composed of the governor, secretary of state, state auditor, and two members tapped by legislative leaders of the two major parties.

Republicans controlled the statewide elected positions, so four of the board's five members were GOP members.

Guess what happened to the maps? Just like when Democrats control the process, Republicans built the maps to their political advantage. The U.S. Supreme Court has been loathe to weigh in on that process, by the way, although justice watchers say the high court could finally do so in Wisconsin's redistricting case.

Kasich wasn't standing on his redistricting reform soapbox when the apportionment board rolled out its decision six years ago. But now, looking to remain relevant in 2020 as he leaves the governor's mansion in a little over a year, Kasich has made gerrymandering one of his political causes.

His commitment has been tempered, however. Last year, the governor said he would put congressional redistricting reforms into his budget. He didn't.

Ohio voters in 2015 approved changes to the process of drawing state legislative maps.

Catherine Turcer, executive director for the liberal group Common Cause Ohio, told WKSU in the Buckeye State that she's glad Kasich has had an apparent change of heart.

"We are never going to get to fair districts unless we are open to people seeing the light after they did us dirty," Turcer said.

The Republicans who would like to replace Kasich as governor took aim at Kasich's conservative credentials at a recent Ohio forum.

U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, one of four Republican candidates for Ohio governor, said Kasich "diverted" to running for president very early on, according to Cleveland.com.

"He lost some of those (conservative) values. And six years later, he's clearly lost these values where he may not even be a Republican anymore. That's not me talking. That's him talking ... This is problematic," Renacci said. "We cannot have a governor who comes in with Republican values and goes out with Democrat values or Independent values and think that the state is going in the right direction."

Vos seemingly was just as direct with Kasich's stand against Wisconsin's GOP-led electoral maps. He said the Ohio governor "stepped into an issue that he frankly doesn't know much about."

The speaker said he didn't exactly tell Kasich that he had betrayed the Republican Party, but he did tell him, "If you're going to do something that has an impact on one side of the aisle that you happen to be associated with, it would be nice if you talked to the people who were actually involved in the process."

One Ohio political observer described Kasich's pursuit of the national spotlight as "basic Kasich."

Media Is Deeply Confused Over Why Obamacare Is Collapsing

Fri, 11/03/2017 - 08:35

Despite latest media narrative, Americans know exactly why Obamacare is a mess...and who is at fault

A MacIver Perspective | November 3, 2017

By Chris Rochester

Instead of reporting on Obamacare's fundamental flaws, illegal subsidies to insurance companies, and catastrophic premium increases, some in the media are pointing the finger at potential "confusion" among customers as the reason why former President Obama's signature law continues to crater.

In reality, it's these reporters who are confused about why Obamacare is unraveling. The American people, who have to deal with the law's disastrous reality, understand why Obamacare is a failure and who is at fault. According to a recent Morning Consult poll, 67 percent of Americans say that Obama and the Democrats are to blame for the ongoing train wreck, including 61 percent of Democrat voters. Only 36 percent think the law is "excellent" or "good" and just 20 percent think President Trump is to blame for the law's failures.

Still, some media reports are channeling Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber, who famously commented that the "stupidity of the American voter" was critical to enacting Obamacare in the first place. In that spirit, one Associated Press article opens by declaring, "The Trump administration's efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act have health care advocates and insurers concerned that the open enrollment period will be one of chaos and confusion." The reporter apparently forgot about the years of Obamacare's failures and lies that have been unfolding since long before Trump took office.

The failed system has deprived people of their coverage and saddled Americans with skyrocketing premiums and deductibles. It's these Americans who are angry - not confused - that they were lied to. They are the ones who helped sweep Trump into office.

The AP article goes on to lament that Trump cut marketing budgets intended to advertise Obamacare plans. It cites exchange officials who complain they don't have as much money to convince Americans to buy Obamacare plans that they can't afford or can't actually use thanks to outrageous out-of-pocket costs.

The condescension and shifting of blame is typical of the big government mindset. What people are really angry about is the fact that the "Affordable Care Act" is anything but affordable, despite the snake oil salesmanship Obama and allies used to sell the scheme.

After years of lies, including the crown jewel 2013 PolitiFact Lie of the Year, "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan," Americans have had enough Obamacare "marketing."

Obama also promised that Obamacare would "bend the cost curve down," but earlier in October we found out that Americans with Obamacare will endure yet another astronomical premium increase. Prices will jump an average of 34 percent nationwide - 36 percent in Wisconsin - in 2018. Worse, tens of thousands of Wisconsinites will lose their coverage at the end of the year.

The latest bad news comes on top of a 16 percent premium increase in 2017.

The largest insurers in the state have abandoned the rickety Obamacare scheme in Wisconsin, including four of the five biggest health insurance companies in the country. Their withdrawal means 75,000 people are now shopping for new coverage, whether they want to or not.

Obamacare is failing because it's attracting older, less healthy, and more expensive patients. Meanwhile, younger and healthier people are opting out of what is becoming increasingly unaffordable insurance, creating a toxic risk pool shouldered by fewer and fewer insurers.

But that's not the story being pushed in many corners of the media.

Joining the AP, the Wisconsin Radio Network predicted mass "confusion" as Obamacare open enrollment gets underway, in part because the Trump administration is ending Obama-era payments directly to insurance companies.

Once again, the media is missing the point. These Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) payments compose about 15 percent of premiums, according to JP Wieske, Wisconsin's deputy insurance commissioner. Even if the payments continued, Wisconsin's rate increase would be north of 20 percent, Wieske said.

Moreover, the payments are illegal because they were never approved by congress. Obama simply ignored that pesky old constitution, which gives congress the exclusive power of the purse. How would the media react if the Republicans staked their names to a law that required regular corporate bailouts without congressional approval?

Trump rightly called the unconstitutional payments an illegal corporate bailout and decided to end them.

The AP article is headlined, "A tale of two countries." In one "country," states that run their own Obamacare exchanges have the flexibility to spend more on advertising Obamacare plans, hire bureaucrats to guide people through the law's bureaucratic morass, and extend open enrollment periods beyond the federally run exchanges' six week window.

More bureaucrat hand-holders and advertising dollars aren't the cure to the disastrous health care law, they're a symptom of the mess it has created.

Minnesota is one state that bought into Obamacare early on and runs its own exchange. While Minnesota has more flexibility to hire more bureaucrats and spend more on advertising the unaffordable insurance, Obamacare has cost the state's taxpayers dearly.

Lawmakers in Minnesota were forced to scramble last year to paper over astronomical premium increases in the state, which ranged from 50 to 67 percent in 2017. While lower-income Minnesotans could rely on federal Advance Premium Tax Credits to help cover the rate hikes, middle class individuals who earn too much to qualify for help were set to be steamrolled. More than 100,000 middle class Minnesotans who don't receive federal subsidies had to be bailed out by the state - at a cost to state taxpayers now at nearly $800 million.

Unfortunately, Minnesota and many other examples of Obamacare's repeated failures interfere with the media's "confusion" narrative and must be ignored for the sake of portraying the law's troubles as something new so the blame for future failures can be shifted to Trump.

The media's efforts to drag a red herring through the Obamacare debate - distracting Americans from the actual cause of the law's death spiral - will only serve to prop up a fundamentally flawed system and stand in the way of real reform that could actually lower costs.

Fewer bureaucrats, marketing dollars, and corporate subsides are not to blame for Obamacare's downward spiral, and more of those things are not a solution. The only solution to Obamacare's failures is to get rid of the law and replace it with reforms that increase choices for customers and minimize the federal government's role in the health care and health insurance business.

House Republicans Present Tax Reform Bill

Fri, 11/03/2017 - 06:00

The plan flattens and lowers personal income taxes, the corporate tax, and cleans up almost every other corner of the tax code

MacIver News Service | November 3, 2017

For years, Republicans have argued that federal taxes and spending levels are too high. Now, with a Republican president and majorities in the House and Senate, it's time to back those words with action. On Thursday, Congress released its plan for the first major tax code overhaul since 1986.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs plan would reduce the number of federal tax brackets from seven to four, and cut tax rates in almost every bracket. It would nearly double the standard deduction and eliminate most other deductions, including the personal exemption. Individuals earning up to $90,000 annually would now be taxed at a rate of 12 percent - down from 25 percent today.

The average American would see a considerable tax cut, even with the elimination of many popular deductions. A family of four earning $59,000 - the average household income in the United States - would see a $1,182 tax cut, according to House Republicans.

The corporate tax rate would drop from 35 percent - the world's highest - to 20 percent.

Besides the significant tax rate reductions, the plan would eliminate many itemized deductions.

The authors estimate that the number of taxpayers itemizing their deductions would fall to fewer than 10 percent, from about one-third today. That'll add up to significant savings from simplification alone. Perhaps most significantly, federal taxes will be so simple that Americans can file them on a form the size of a postcard.

The first step towards implementing this plan is done. Congress passed the budget on Oct. 26. It includes a long-range revenue plan that allows Congress to cut tax revenue by $1.5 trillion and spending by $5 trillion over the next ten years. This is the starting point for the Republican tax reform plan. The budget also includes rules that will allow the Senate to pass tax reform on a simple majority vote.

The details of the plan released on Thursday are simple in concept, but pulling it off will require considerable political skill. Debate will, no doubt, be fierce.

Speaker Paul Ryan met with small businesses in Wisconsin on Monday, saying, "I tell our members, we've been having class three rapids, which are pretty simple. We're going into class five rapids now. We're going through real choppy waters, and why is that? Because in simplifying the tax code, special loopholes and carve-outs, they're not there."

All told, the proposal would amount to a $1.51 trillion net tax cut over ten years. If passed, the major changes would generally be effective for tax years beginning after 2017.

Income Taxes
The big plan for the individual income tax is to reduce rates, double the standard deduction, and reduce itemizations. Speaker Ryan says the average person saves more from the reduced rates and higher standard deduction than they ever could through itemization.

Holding up a proposed postcard-sized tax return, Ryan explained, "By doubling the standard deduction, you make it so people don't have to itemize their deductions and fill out these very complicated forms. You dramatically streamline and simplify the tax system. And the theory in all of this is: it's your money. Keep your money and do what you want with your money. Instead of sending it to Washington and if you do something that Washington or a special interest group with a carve-out or a loophole approves of, you can have some of it back."

The standard deduction for individuals would go from $6,350 to $12,000. For married couples, it would go from $12,700 to $24,000. Individuals with one qualifying child could receive a standard deduction of up to $18,000.

The seven tax brackets would be consolidated into four. The lowest bracket is 12% and goes up to $90,000 in income. The next bracket is 25% and goes to $260,000. The third bracket is 35% and goes up to $1 million in income. The last bracket is everything above that and is set at 39.6%, which is the current tax rate.

The child tax credit would remain and go from $1,000 to $1,600. For all of the eliminations and simplifications, the plan does create one new tax credit - the family credit - which would be $300 for each parent and non-child dependent. That new credit is meant to expire after several years.

The biggest compromise right out of the gate involved the state and local tax deduction (SALT). Originally, the Republicans' plan was expected to eliminate that deduction altogether, but when it was officially released on Thursday, Republicans simply capped the deduction at $10,000. That was part of an important compromise with blue state Republicans.

Another compromise involves the mortgage interest deduction. That benefit will stay in place for current mortgages but will be capped at $500,000 for new homes, down from the current cap of $1 million.

The plan maintains tax incentives for 401(k)s and Individual Retirement Accounts. It also preserves the earned income tax credit and the deduction for charitable donations.

The estate tax, also known as the death tax, would be repealed in six years. For now, the size of the exemption would double.

The plan would eliminate the federal alternative minimum tax, also known as the AMT. Most other deductions, including those for medical expenses, student loan interest, and state or local income or sales tax, would be eliminated.

Corporate Taxes
The plan proposes lowering the corporate rate from 35% to 20%. That would be the largest reduction in the US corporate tax rate in the country's history.

It also creates a new special tax rate for S-corps, sole proprietorships, and pass-throughs at 25%. That's meant to protect small businesses from paying the higher individual income tax rates. Pass-through entities are now the most common business form in the country, and more than half of Wisconsin's workforce is employed by a pass-through business.

Under current law, the earnings of businesses organized as pass-throughs are taxed under the individual income tax code, rather than the corporate code. As a result, many individuals see their business earnings taxed under the highest-possible 39.6 percent rate.

"There are those who just would like to see taxes go up and up and up, and have government do more and more and more, and sit in Washington and micromanage our economy," Ryan said. "You know, pick winners and losers. And that is not what grows the economy. That's not the American free enterprise system."

The changes to taxation for pass-through businesses would also establish some new regulations to ensure individuals don't take advantage of the changes. MNS will further analyze these details in future pieces.

The plan would also scrap a border adjustment tax proposal initially championed by Speaker Ryan. Instead, foreign earnings held by corporations overseas would face a one-time tax on those profits.

Other provisions in the tax reform bill include:

  • Allowing businesses to write off the full cost of new equipment

  • Allowing businesses to write off the interest on certain loans

  • Maintaining the low-income housing tax credit

  • Maintaining the research and development tax credit, encouraging production in America

  • Strengthening accountability rules for tax-exempt organizations

  • No longer taxing foreign earnings already taxed overseas, but keeping a minimum tax that would apply in certain situations

Steineke: Mining Bill Needs To Get Done Now

Thu, 11/02/2017 - 06:00

MacIver News Service | Nov. 1, 2017

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON, Wis. - Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke says the time is now to get a mining bill passed.

That's why the Assembly is taking the lead on the Mining for America Act.

The legislation, authored by Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) and Rep. Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield) would lift a moratorium on nonferrous mining in northern Wisconsin.

The Senate was supposed to take the lead, but as MacIver News Service first reported this week, four reluctant Republican senators have put the bill's fate in doubt.

"Once it became clear they were having some issues in their caucus, we found that it was necessary, especially on a big issue like this ... that we needed to take it up first and hopefully provide the impetus behind the bill it needs to clear the Senate yet this fall," Steineke told MacIver News Service Tuesday on the Vicki McKenna Show.

The Kaukauna Republican said if the Assembly had waited for the Senate to act, it would likely have meant the lower house couldn't take action until January, something Assembly leadership found "unacceptable."

Tiffany told MacIver News on Friday that he had 16 votes, not the 17 he'll need to pass the bill. The legislation aims to end a 20-year ban on copper, gold, silver, and zinc mining.

Capitol sources confirmed Tuesday that the holdouts continue to hold out. They include: Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay), a no vote; Sen. Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon) who is looking for amendments to address his concerns with the bill; Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls), reluctant, as is Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon).

"I know I have 16 votes. I have to assume at this point that if they're not yes, they are a no," Tiffany said, adding that he wants his colleagues to let him know what they find objectionable about the legislation.

"We have time, but we have a very short amount of time to get to the majority in the state Senate," Tiffany said, applauding the Assembly for "recognizing the great opportunity" the bill offers to bring much-needed economic development to northern Wisconsin.

Steineke praised the bill's authors for putting together broad support, including buy-in from organizations that have opposed reopening sulfide mining.

"I'm not sure exactly what the hesitation is with some of the senators in the Senate, but hopefully, given a little more time and with the Assembly taking action first, that will give them the necessary push for them to get over the finish line," he said.

Environmentalists and tribal officials are against the legislation, as are their allies on the left side of the aisle.

"Passing this bill would amount to nothing more than a corporate handout at the cultural, financial, environmental expense of Wisconsin residents and counties," Gary Besaw, chairman of the Menominee Nation, said at a recent hearing.

Supporters say reopening mining would be a huge boon to northern Wisconsin, a region of the state often left out of economic opportunities.

"It's unfortunate they couldn't find a way to support it, especially because people in the northern part of Wisconsin, they're struggling still. The economy hasn't caught up to them up there," Steineke said. "We need to do as a state whatever we can to create the kind of opportunities they deserve to make their lives better as well."

Other Bills

The Assembly also plans to take up a bill that would clearly prohibit state tax dollars going to abortion providers in Wisconsin.

Another proposal would end the 120-hour education requirement for certified nursing assistants. Steineke said most states have a 75-hour training mandate. With a severe CNA shortage in the Badger State, the lawmaker said it's time to lift "this bigger hurdle in place for no real reason."

"Federal requirements are suitable for CNAs. We're just going to federalize it so we can get more certified nursing assistants in place," Steineke said.

Mended Fences?

After some harsh exchanges between the Republican-controlled Assembly and the Republican-controlled Senate, Steineke insists all is fine in the family.

"We're all kind of like brothers and sisters on the same kind of things. We're going to have our disagreements, we're going to have our fights, and we're going to say some things at the end of the day that we're going to regret," he said. "But we all come together around a common goal, and that's to make Wisconsin a better place to live, work and raise a family. This calendar on Thursday is living proof of that."

The Obamacare Nightmare Continues in 2018

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 11:35

Premiums skyrocket again, tens of thousands lose coverage as "death spiral" comes to Wisconsin

November 1, 2017

[Madison, Wis...] Today is the first day of Obamacare's 2018 open enrollment period, a time when the horrors of Halloween will continue for hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites who are slapped with sticker shock as they shop for health insurance through Obamacare.

Last month, the state's Office of the Commissioner of Insurance announced that Obamacare premiums would skyrocket by 36 percent in Wisconsin, higher than the national average of 34 percent. Worse, 75,000 Wisconsinites are losing their coverage because insurers are abandoning Wisconsin's Obamacare market.

In 2017 alone, Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Molina Healthcare, and Health Tradition Health Plan announced they would stop offering plans on Wisconsin's Obamacare exchange in 2018. Humana, UnitedHealth, Aetna, and Arise had already left the market.


That means less competition, fewer choices for consumers, and a death spiral for the individual insurance market in Wisconsin.

Responding to the breakdown of Wisconsin's Obamacare market, MacIver Institute President Brett Healy on Wednesday issued the following statement:

"Now that open enrollment has begun for 2018, Wisconsinites will once again face the stark reality that President Obama's signature achievement has been an unmitigated failure that's trapping middle- and low-income Americans in its death spiral.


"The evidence is all around us that Obamacare is in freefall. As insurers continue abandoning Obamacare in Wisconsin and around the country, premiums will keep skyrocketing and more and more people will lose their coverage. Any attempt to shift the blame for the law's failure to President Trump ignores the fundamental flaws that doomed Obamacare from the start.

"After years of lies by President Obama that his signature law would 'bend the cost curve down' and that 'if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor,' you can't blame people for being confused that the so-called Affordable Care Act is actually an unaffordable boondoggle. It's time for lawmakers to repeal and replace this fundamentally broken system."

Image: ZeroHedge

Obamacare "Death Spiral" Hits Wisconsin Insurance Market

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 10:26

MacIver News Service | November 1, 2017

By Chris Rochester

[Madison, Wis...] Wednesday marked the first day of the six-week open enrollment season for 2018 Obamacare plans, a time when many Wisconsinites shopping for health insurance will be hit with yet another year of sticker shock.

Officials announced early in October that Obamacare premiums in Wisconsin would jump by an eye-popping 36 percent in 2018. That's triple the preliminary increase revealed in August and more than double last year's final rate increase of 16 percent.

Now that open enrollment is underway, 75,000 Wisconsinites who will lose their coverage at the end of the year are shopping for a new plan, whether they want to or not - more bad news delivered by government officials in October. That's approximately one in three of the 215,000 Wisconsinites who buy their coverage on the individual market.

Most of the 75,000 canceled plans are the result of insurers continuing to drop out of Wisconsin's Obamacare market. The massive losses causing them to withdraw are the 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.

"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," said deputy insurance commissioner JP Wieske in early October, 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."

In 2017, Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield joined several other major insurers in dropping out of Wisconsin's increasingly toxic Obamacare market. They were followed by Molina Healthcare, the largest remaining insurer, which dropped out after proposing a preliminary 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 stopped serving Wisconsin through the Obamacare exchanges in the past two years.

On average, Wisconsin counties are losing one insurer per county from 2017 to 2018. Eleven Wisconsin counties will have just one insurer offering plans on the federally facilitated marketplace (FFM) next year: Brown, Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Marinette, Menominee, Octonto, Rusk, Sheboygan, Waupaca, and Waushara, according to OCI data.

The decline of the individual insurance market is even more stark when compared with 2016. Wisconsin counties have lost an average of five insurers on the individual market per county between 2016 and 2018. Plans offered on the Obamacare market - a significant subset of insurance plans on the individual market - have declined by an average of 2.44 plans per county over that time.

The county hit hardest by the deterioration of the individual market has been Outagamie County. In 2016, 11 insurers offered plans in that county - eight on the Obamacare market. In 2018, there are just three plans to choose from, two of them through Obamacare.

The trend of individual plans in decline, whether they're offered through the Obamacare exchanges or not, is repeated across the state as the entire individual insurance market falls victim to the dreaded "death spiral," a consequence of Obamacare's many fatal flaws.

Only five counties have added insurers between 2016 and 2018. Burnett, Dunn, Pierce, Polk, and St. Croix counties all gained one insurer.

The decline in competition among insurers means less incentive to hold costs down. As Wieske said, fewer and fewer insurers are being forced to take on the risk of an increasingly unstable, risk-riddled market.

The finalized 36 percent increase is a reflection of the instability that's been growing in Wisconsin's market for years.

Four Wisconsin health insurance plans are increasing their premiums by more than 50 percent in 2018, according to new final rate increases available on the federal HealthCare.Gov website:


  • Dean Health Plan's final rate increase for its Individual EPO plan is 50.47 percent.

  • Common Ground, the nonprofit set up in the wake of Obamacare using taxpayer-backed loans, is increasing premiums for its individual EPO plan by 62.67 percent.

  • Network Health Plan's individual HMO plan will jump by 66.94 percent.

  • Molina Healthcare of Wisconsin is increasing its individual health plan by a staggering 106 percent, but it will not offer the plan on the Obamacare exchange.


Wieske 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. Those are the plans employers typically offer and where most Wisconsinites get their coverage.

Since Obamacare took effect, its premium increases have far outpaced non-Obamacare plan increases. Those group plans have steadily increased by around 5 percent per year, while Obamacare rate hikes have consistently doubled the previous year's increase.

The sharp contrast in premium increases between individual and group plans "indicates some concern that the individual market under this regulatory scheme of Obamacare is just not sustainable," Wieske said.

Rate increases for 2018 will likely make the problem of attracting younger, healthier people to the individual market, and the death spiral, even 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.

With finalized federal insurance data now available and open enrollment underway, check in often as MacIver continues to analyze the unfolding Obamacare disaster.

Paul Ryan Talks Tax Reform In Darien

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 05:00

MacIver News Service | October 31, 2017

[Darien, Wisc...] House Speaker Paul Ryan met with small business owners in Darien, Wisconsin on Monday to promote Republican Tax Reform efforts in Washington. He says the plan will mean a simpler, cleaner tax code with fewer carve-outs for special interests. Of course, that also means a tough fight ahead. Still, with a Republican president and majorities in Congress, Ryan hopes to have the reforms in place by Jan. 1, 2018. MNS' Bill Osmulski has more.

Paul Ryan Talks Tax Reform In Darien

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 18:38

MacIver News Service | October 31, 2017

[Darien, Wisc...] House Speaker Paul Ryan met with small business owners in Darien, Wisconsin on Monday to promote Republican Tax Reform efforts in Washington. He says the plan will mean a simpler, cleaner tax code with fewer carve-outs for special interests. Of course, that also means a tough fight ahead. Still, with a Republican president and majorities in Congress, Ryan hopes to have the reforms in place by Jan. 1, 2018. MNS' Bill Osmulski has more.

Senate Stalls, Assembly Takes Lead This Week On Mining Bill Debate

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 06:10

MacIver News Service | Oct. 30, 2017

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON, Wis. - The Senate doesn't have the votes, so the Republican-controlled Assembly is stepping up to take on a mining bill that proponents say would be a huge boon to northern Wisconsin.

The Senate is scheduled to take the floor on Tuesday, but the amended mining is not on the calendar.

Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, co-author of the "Mining for America" act, told MacIver News Service on Friday that he had 16 votes, not the 17 he'll need to pass the bill. The legislation aims to end a 20-year ban on copper, gold, silver, and zinc mining.

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke (R-Kaukauna) said the Assembly will take up the bill on Thursday, the first day the lower house will be in.

"I certainly hope the Senate can secure the necessary votes to pass this important bill. The authors have done a great job working through some of the concerns with the initial bill and have developed a final product we can all be proud of," Steineke told MacIver News Service on Sunday. "The economy of northern Wisconsin needs the hope for family sustaining jobs that passing this bill will give them."

Sources say four Republican senators either oppose the bill or are leaning against. Sen. Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay) is a no vote; Sen. Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon) is looking for amendments to address his concerns with the bill; Sen. Sheila Harsdorf (R-River Falls) is reluctant, as is Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon).

"I know I have 16 votes. I have to assume at this point that if they're not yes, they are a no," Tiffany said, adding that he wants his colleagues to let him know what they find objectionable about the legislation.

"We have time, but we have a very short amount of time to get to the majority in the state Senate," Tiffany said, applauding the Assembly for "recognizing the great opportunity" the bill offers to bring much-needed economic development to northern Wisconsin.

Key amendments supported by some of the bigger critics of nonferrous mining in Wisconsin seemed to lift the bill's prospects.

That's why Tiffany says he's so disappointed that the amended legislation remains in question by some Republican members of the Senate. "In particular because we really did our work on this bill. It is ready to go. When we have the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation saying this is an environmentally safe and sound bill, I'm not sure what else we can do to get this through the Legislature," Tiffany said.

"I'm sure a lot of people don't fully understand why I'm passionate about this issue. We have nothing else I know of that would create a multi-billion dollar industry for the far north," the senator added. "This directly affects my district, a district that is older and poorer than other regions of the state. Not voting for this bill is sentencing people in northern Wisconsin to continue to live in an older and poorer region of the state."

Despite the amendments, environmental groups and Native American tribes stand opposed to the bill.

The legislation, co-authored by Rep. Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield), would end the nearly 20-year moratorium on nonferrous metallic mining. Opponents want to maintain the "prove-it-first" core of the 1998 bill; supporters say Wisconsin has all the proof it needs in Rusk County. The Flambeau Mine near Ladysmith is the only example of a metallic mine permitted, constructed, operated and reclaimed under the state's existing regulations.

Despite the evidence, opponents remain skeptical.

"Passing this bill would amount to nothing more than a corporate handout at the cultural, financial, environmental expense of Wisconsin residents and counties," Gary Besaw, chairman of the Menominee Nation, said at a recent hearing.

But supporters of the bill say sulfide mining can be done in an environmentally manner while bringing a huge economic benefit. Mining in northern Wisconsin has been described as the "Foxconn of the north," a nod to Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn Technology Group's $10 billion plan to build a manufacturing campus in southeast Wisconsin. Foxconn proposes creating 13,000 jobs. Unlike Foxconn, however, there are no taxpayer incentives on the hook in the mining legislation.

"We just want to get government out of the way. We can do all of that with mining," said Lucas Vebber, general counsel and Director of Environmental & Energy Policy for Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. "Unfortunately, right now we don't quite have the votes."

Tiffany said he finds it ironic that one of the most liberal governors in the country, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, now supports PolyMet's plan to mine copper, nickel and other precious metals in northeastern Minnesota. Dayton told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that his support is guided by sound environmental and economic policy, and not politics.

"We have the same deposit, it's here in northern Wisconsin," Tiffany said. "It's time for us to embrace mining, especially in an era when we are going to need these minerals for all these (technological) things we consume."

Making Of A Mad Man: Florida Netflix Watcher Pledges To Kill Officials If Steven Avery Doesn't Get Fair Trial

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 06:00

MacIver News Service | Oct. 30, 2017

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON, Wis - Netflix's hit docuseries "Making a Murderer" made a lot of people mad.

Alexander Leo Arledge was so angry he threatened to "execute" Manitowoc County law enforcement officials, according to documents obtained by MacIver News Service.

Arledge, 20, of Brandon, Fla., is set to be sentenced on Jan. 17 in Manitowoc County Court, almost two years to the day that he made multiple death threats against members of the sheriff's department and the district attorney.

Arledge, contacted by an investigator from the Wisconsin Department of Justice, eventually admitted to making the harassing phone calls, one in which he threatened to "execute the DA and execute the Sheriff's Department" if Steven Avery did not receive a fair trial.

Avery, the Manitowoc County man convicted and sentenced to life in prison alongside his nephew Brendan Dassey in the 2005 murder of 25-year-old Teresa Halbach, is the star of the Netflix series - a series that presented Avery as a victim of a corrupt legal system. Avery had previously been wrongfully convicted in a rape case and served 18 years.

Dassey turned 28 earlier this month at the Columbia Correctional Institution in Portage where he awaits his fate in an appeals process that has questioned the validity of his original confession.

Arledge was originally charged with a felony count of threatening a law enforcement officer, which carries with it up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine. He also was charged with two counts of threatening a prosecutor, which comes with up to dozen years in prison.

He pleaded guilty late last month to the first count. The charges involving threats made to the prosecutor were dismissed but read into the record, meaning the judge may consider the underlying facts in charges when sentencing Arledge in the first felony count.

Brown County Assistant District Attorney Wendy Wiggins Lemkuil was tapped as special prosecutor in the case. She did not return calls seeking comment. Nor did Manitowoc County Prosector Jacalyn LaBre.

Special Agent Dennis Carroll of the Wisconsin DOJ's Division of Criminal Justice was assigned to the case on Jan. 28, 2016. The Manitowoc Sheriff's Department received "numerous threats and harassing telephone calls, emails and mail as a result of a television series, 'Making a Murderer,' which criticized the actions of this law enforcement agency and its officers," according to the criminal complaint.

"They also received calls reporting a bomb being placed at the Joint Dispatch Center and planned to detonate. On another occasion, a glitter bomb was sent to the agency but not detonated," the complaint states.

Manitowoc law enforcement officials received several threats in the weeks and months following the December 2015 release of the Netflix series, according to media reports at the time.

A transcript of Arledge's 29-second call to the sheriff's department is included in the complaint. The dispatcher sounds amazingly calm and collected under the circumstances.

DISPATCH: Manitowoc County Sheriff's Department.


CALLER: Ah hello, yes. I just wanted to say January 31st 2016 will be a terrible day for Manitowoc County because every single sheriff will be executed inside of their own home.

DISPATCH: Okay. You do know that this is a recorded phone line sir.

CALLER: Yes.

DISPATCH: Okay.

CALLER: Every single sheriff will be executed.

DISPATCH: Okay, well ah, is there anything else I can do for you then sir.

CALL ENDED.

The same day, Arledge made two threatening calls to the District Attorney's Office, according to the complaint. A receptionist in the office took both calls from the same male, who told her that "if they did not give Avery a fair trial he would personally execute the DA and execute all of the Sheriff's Department," the complaint states. Green then hung up.

"Green noted that the man's voice sounded like he was in his mid-twenties and had a slight southern accent," the complaint states.

Carroll used tools of the investigative trade to track down Arledge. He called the Florida man's number. At first his call went to voicemail. The investigator then changed the caller identification from his phone to read that the call was coming from Arledge's fiancee. It worked. The suspect picked up.

The investigator identified himself and the nature of his call. Arledge asked Carroll how he was calling from his fiancee's phone number.

In a subsequent call, Carroll advised Arledge that call records showed the cell tower and sector used to make the threatening call, and that there were recordings of the calls, according to the complaint. The investigator identified Arledge's voice as the same on the threatening calls.

Arledge then admitted to making the calls, the complaint states. He told Carroll that he had watched the "Steven Avery documentary and was upset over what he learned."

"The Defendant admitted that he had anger management issues and didn't intend to follow up on what he threatened. The Defendant stated it would not happen again. The Defendant stated he initially denied making the phone calls because his wife was present and he 'didn't want her to know how stupid I was,'" the complaint states.

MacIver News attempted to contact Arledge at the number listed in the complaint. A voicemail message was not returned.

Arledge was subsequently interviewed in person by a Florida police officer. Arledge again explained that he had watched the Netflix series and became "upset at the alleged corruption committed by law enforcement..." He told the officer that he declared to the Manitowoc County officials that he was "going to kill a bunch of people."

"He indicated that he later visited the Internet website 'Reddit.com' and saw a 'subreddit discussing the Steven Avery case," according to the complaint. "He saw there was more evidence against Avery than shown in the 'Making a Murderer' series. The information changed the way that the Defendant felt about the actions of law enforcement in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. He now believes that law enforcement acted properly after being made aware of the evidence against Steven Avery."

Arledge went on to tell the investigator that he believes he suffers from attention deficit/hyperactive disorder, and was forced to drop out of high school and college because of it.

"Arledge advised making the threats to law enforcement in Manitowoc County was 'stupid and dumb' and that he would 'never hurt anyone,'" the complaint says. "He states he has never made a threat like this before or since making the threatening calls to Manitowoc County."

Arledge was arrested in January of this year on charges of battery domestic violence, domestic battery by strangulation, child abuse, and one count of being a fugitive, according to online records. He pleaded guilty to lesser offenses.

Attorney: Baldwin's Political Fixer's Reputation For Veracity Shot

Fri, 10/27/2017 - 06:00

MacIver News Service | Oct. 27, 2017

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON, Wis. - If Marc Elias could lie to the New York Times, could he have lied to Dan Bice and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel?

The hotshot attorney known in the swamp as one of the left's major "political fixers" finds himself in a whole lot of mess these days.

Elias and his law firm have been exposed, along with the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, as the funders and pushers of the discredited "Russian dossier."

And now New York Times reporters are calling out Elias as a liar for long denying his and the Democrats' role in the dossier, containing unsavory - and false- allegations about President Trump and allegations of coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

Maggie Haberman of the New York Times, coincidentally a purveyor of the Russian dossier story, tweeted out this week, "Folks involved in funding this lied about it, and with sanctimony for a year."

In early 2015, no one in the traditional media seemed to question the credentials or the veracity of "the fixer" when he was tapped by U.S Sen. Tammy Baldwin to fix the mess she had made of the Tomah VA scandal.

In the wake of this week's Washington Post piece outing Elias and friends, the founder of the firm that represented a Baldwin aide smeared by Elias said the current scandal should raise questions about the fixer's past.

"His reputation for veracity is shredded," said Todd Graves of the Kansas City, Mo.-based Graves Garrett LLC. "Anyone should view the representations he made about Marquette Baylor as not only wrong, because they were wrong, but wrong because he uttered them."

Baylor could not be reached for comment. Graves Garrett no longer represents her.

Baldwin fired Baylor in the wake of investigative reports in January 2015 that found the liberal senator and her office failed to do anything with an inspector general's report detailing the overprescribing of painkillers and other abuses at the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center. She sat on the report for months and only called for a federal investigation into the VA facility after the investigative piece hit. And Baldwin failed to take seriously whistleblower allegations about the medical facility known as "Candy Land" because of the patient drugging policies that subsequent investigations confirmed.

Baylor fought back, filing a complaint in April 2015 with the Senate Select Committee on Ethics. She claimed Baldwin orchestrated a cover-up. Baldwin attempted to buy Baylor's silence with a severance package and accompanying confidentiality agreement, Baylor claimed. The fired aide wouldn't take the "hush money."

"After the pubic outcry, Senator Baldwin immediately sought to place the blame squarely on me," Baylor stated in her complaint. "(Baldwin) instructed her Chief of Staff, Bill Murat, to fly to Milwaukee, fire me, and offer me a severance package that required me to stay quiet. Murat then moved into damage control, meeting with individuals in Wisconsin and telling them that the inaction was my fault."

The Ethics committee eventually dismissed the complaints.

Elias served as point man in the campaign to discredit the witness.

"Marquette Baylor was terminated because her long-term performance on a range of issues did not meet with the senator's expectations for effective constituent service," Elias told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Dan Bice in February 2015. "As deputy state director for constituent services her handling of the problems at the Tomah VA was only one of those issues."

Baldwin's campaign paid the fixer and his firm, Perkins Coie, more than $80,000 in two big payments in March and May of 2015, according to campaign finance records filed with the Federal Election Commission.

"It's winning at all costs, including the cost of the reputation of good people," Garrett said of Elias' efforts to discredit Baylor on behalf of his client.

Sound familiar?

Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, are notorious for their smear campaigns against opponents - particularly those who have alleged sexual misconduct by Bill Clinton.

Now the focus shifts to Clinton and her lawyer again and their involvement in the discredited dossier they paid for to discredit President Trump.

"The irony here is truly that what they aggressively accused President Trump of doing, and were able to easily move into the mainstream media, now appears to be what they (Elias and the Clinton campaign) were doing," Garrett said. "It's bad enough to smear people for political advantage, but it is a whole other level of political absurdity when you smear someone for the very thing you are doing. It is beyond description how bad that is."

Bill Osmulski contributed.

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