No Runny Eggs

The repository of one hard-boiled egg from the south suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (and the occassional guest-blogger). The ramblings within may or may not offend, shock and awe you, but they are what I (or my guest-bloggers) think.

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Archive for July, 2007

July 31, 2007

Pimp the vote

by @ 16:32. Filed under The Blog.

Even though I think “Team Trousermouse” was a weak quote for MRQ compared to a few others I unleashed last week, Phel and Uncle Fred didn’t think so. Seems it’s up for MRQ of the week (the poll’s on the right side of every RDW page, including the one I linked to).

Go, vote before Monday, August 6. Prove my prognostication wrong. I will deny it if you attempt to stuff the ballot box, so please don’t.

NRE Poll – When will Midwest Airlines be absorbed by AirTran?

by @ 15:21. Filed under Miscellaneous.

Given that, after a disappointing 2nd quarter for Midwest and a gangbusters 2nd quarter for AirTran, Midwest announced that it will open negotiations with AirTran, the sale is now imminent.

When will Midwest Airlines be sold to AirTran?

Up to 1 answer(s) was/were allowed

  • Between Labor Day, 2007 and the day before Thanksgiving, 2007 (27%, 4 Vote(s))
  • They won't be sold to AirTran, but will be sold to somebody else (27%, 4 Vote(s))
  • Prior to Labor Day, 2007 (13%, 2 Vote(s))
  • Between January 1, 2008 and June 30, 2008 (13%, 2 Vote(s))
  • They'll remain independent (13%, 2 Vote(s))
  • Between Thanksgiving Day, 2007 and December 31, 2007 (7%, 1 Vote(s))
  • A date after June 30, 2008 (0%, 0 Vote(s))

Total Voters: 15

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New blog term – WisOpalanche

by @ 8:44. Filed under The Blog.

This is humbling:

- 60 people rolled in here off of WisOpinion’s mention of my initial missive on the latest Milwaukee County pension scam.
- StatCounter recorded 220-some page loads from 174 “unique” visitors, with 47 of them coming back after 6 hours.

Needless to say, yesterday was by far the busiest day of the blog, and I didn’t even have a live thread. Now I’ve got some pressure.

July 30, 2007

Contest time

by @ 19:27. Filed under Politics - Wisconsin.

There is a minor benefit of rolling through some of the more-coherent lefty blogs. Sometimes they do have some news. Case in point – Jay Bullock brings news of a contest being run by WisPolitics:

Enter the WisPolitics Budget Pool and win a WisPolitics ADD-ON or SILVER Subscription!

When will the Legislature formally pass a budget compromise? Provide the date and time of the final vote that sends the budget bill to Gov. Jim Doyle and win!

For example: August 20, 8:45 p.m.

Send your entry to webmaster@wispolitics.com. Please include your guess, your name and your phone number.

The deadline for entries is July 31, 2007 at 5 p.m.

WisPolitics will announce the winner after the budget is passed to Doyle. In the event of a tie, WisPolitics will award the person who made the prediction first.

If you’re a current WisPolitics.com subscriber, you will be awarded a free add-on subscription for a colleague. If you aren’t a current subscriber, you will be awarded a Silver level subscription.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY.

My only question is whether they cleared it with the Indians and Craps first.

Sen. Ted Stevens’ house raided – where’s Reid?

by @ 19:13. Filed under Politics - National.

(H/T – Bryan I really need to remember to check the author; sorry about that)

Fox News is reporting that the FBI and the IRS searched the Alaska home of Sen. Ted Stevens (“R”-AK), presumably as part of an investigation for exchanging federal contracts for bribes from VECO Corp, Alaska’s largest oil-field engineering firm. They also note that the remainder of Alaska’s Congressional delegation, Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young (also “Pubbies”), are entangled in this mess.

Given that then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert decided that congeniality was the better part of either the law or partisanship and condemned the investigation into corruption on the part of William “The Freezer” Jefferson (D-LA), I expect nothing less from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. </sarcasm> Of course; he won’t do it, but not because of a sense of respect for the law; he’ll see it as a way to get another seat or two for his party. Neither would current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should Young get further emeshed in this, and for the same reason.

Great fucking job, RINOs, from Stevens to Hastert. </sarcasm_dripping>

One time Charlie is definitely in the minority

by @ 18:34. Filed under Miscellaneous.

At least he is and should be on the last idea from Sheldon Lubar he excerpted from the Journal Sentinel’s latest roundtable -

“Something that I do believe is a solution, and I’m bringing this out for the first time . . . a Milwaukee metropolitan fiscal control board. A board that would have as its purpose the final approval of annual budgets of these entities: No. 1, the Milwaukee Public Schools. No. 2, MATC, or if this board didn’t govern it, you could at least delegate it to the board of regents. They already make 30% or 35% more than the people at the University of Wisconsin who do have higher degrees.

“The Milwaukee sewerage commission. The Wisconsin Center. The Miller Park stadium authority. . . . We’ve got to revise this whole governance system, and I don’t think you’ll find an elected person that will disagree.”

I believe I covered that before. To wit, while it (probably) would be elected, it would suffer the same fatal flaw that the state Legislature suffers with shared revenue; namely, it makes funding decisions for others, as well as the fatal flaw that MATC and MMSD already suffer – a dominance by the city of Milwaukee.

To be fair to both Charlie and Sheldon, much of the rest of the ideas Charlie cherry-picked, from education being the key to boosting people out of poverty, to taking MEA out of the reins of MPS, is good.

The 5 stages of state budget delay

by @ 17:49. Filed under Miscellaneous.

Steve Baas, the government affairs director for MMAC and former spokesman for former Assembly Speakers Scott Jensen and John Gard, has a great piece of what to expect in the next weeks of the budget impasse over at WisOpinion. They are:

Stage 1 – Denial
Stage 2 – Anger
Stage 3 – Bargaining
Stage 4 – Depression
Stage 5 – Acceptance

The language of “bargaining” is invariably applied only to the Republican/conservative half of the “impasse”. Don’t believe me? I know it’s not the budget, but take a look at the attempted hammering of Scott Walker on the $93.5 million in “new” transportation funds the Journtinel and the Milk Carton want spent on choo-choos.

Now, go read the rest of the piece.

How to tell you REALLY need a vacation

by @ 15:52. Filed under Miscellaneous.

You really need one when you forget what days you’re going on vacation. Unfortunately for you (and very unfortunately for those at Holloway’s House of Hacks), I’m here until the 8th.

Pension Grab II redux/reax/questions for all

by @ 15:36. Filed under Politics - Milwaukee County.

First things first; though the Journal Sentinel was late to the reporting party, they’ve done a bang-up job in outlining just how egregious the scam was. From news that some, like former supervisor Tom Bailey, received multiple invites into the “buy back” scheme (in Bailey’s case, he knew he could buy back when he got elected; he chose to blow the 2-year window and later got in under the scam by lying about his prior knowledge and refusal to buy back in), to more-than-incidential knowledge among seasonal employees that they could have entered the county pension system as seasonal employees (that same story notes that; the change to allow those that had never been in the pension system to buy in as though they had was one of the key killers in this scam), to a listing of some teat-suckers who were to a person unrepentant for participating in the scam, Dave Umhoefer has done yeoman’s work.

I see that I got picked up by WisOpinion. Thanks, guys. Beyond those I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I noticed that Capper (filling in at Jay Bullock’s place), James Rowen, and Dan Cody have noticed. I have to thank Capper for linking to me (and Technorati for finding the link), and WisOpinion for finding James’ and Dan’s words.

Speaking of reactions, this morning’s paper has a few from various county pols. Supervisor Mark Borowski asked, “What bothers me is how does the county in essence shaft the IRS? Doesn’t somebody, somewhere say something?” He ought to know the answer to the second, especially since he voted for the Big Grab of 2000; hell no. As for the first, I’m not a lawyer, but based on what the paper reported, the county enabled its employees to shaft the IRS. If there’s more than that, I’m presuming that Umhoefer’s holding that to prevent any tainting of the potential jury pool. Paging the shark. Paging Mr. Rick Esenberg. What beyond enabling employees to bust the 25%-of-salary limit on “buy backs” is a violation of federal law?

County Executive Scott Walker asked (once again) for an independent review of the pension situation. I could’ve swore we had one after the Scam of 2000; how did that miss this? As for the pension board’s suggestion that most of the grabbers be “grandfathered” by the Board and Walker, he said, “There’s no way we’re doing down that path. That certainly won’t be our approach,….” Even money says that it will be county board chair Lee Holloway’s.

Supervisor Jim “Luigi” Schmitt gasped out, “How do two wrongs make a right? I’m not going to be party to that.” Oh, really? You were a party to one hell of a wrong with your vote for the Big Grab of 2000.

Guess I’ve already started with the questions, so let them roll:

- How did this miss EVERYBODY’S attention, especially in the wake of the Big Grab of 2000? That particular grab came to light in January, 2002. The pension board quietly put in a sunset provision for this grab in question in 2005, and it finally sunsetted in January 2007.

- How did the Journtinel twig onto this? If one winds the calendar back the 6 months they’ve been digging into this, that would be the month that this abomination was shut down. I rather suspect that it was a teat-sucker who was a bit late to the grab party and was hoping that the paper would be sympathetic to him/her.

- Prior to yesterday, where was the paper’s reporting? The pension board may have been spurred to self-report to the IRS by questioning by a reporter, but unless I missed the story, they sure weren’t spurred to do so by anything that actually appeared in the paper.

- This one’s a special to the lefties (though righties are welcome to chime in as well); just how are we going to pull this back for those that already “bought back”, especially considering that your kind of politicians made it all-but-impossible to pull back anything related to pensions, even those that were improperly and/or illegally granted?

- Related to that, other than a risky pull-back attempt and the end of the program by the pension board once the teat-suckers were booted (which already happened), what more can be done? Other than Michael Mayo, there is nobody in an elected office that had a hand in implementing this.

- For those that would say criminal charges, what’s the statute of limitations on that? It’s been 9 years since federal laws were likely violated.

- Is there an exemption to the end of the “buy back” scheme for existing unionized employees, like there is for the end of the pension “enhancements” that was the Big Grab of 2000?

Revisions/extensions (6:47 pm 7/30/2007) – Add Mike Nichols to the list of reax, and he points out that Sue Baldwin resumed her suit to get even more money than she and her husband, former sheriff Lev, ran out the door with.

Revisions/extensions part 2 (7:44 pm 7/30/2007) – Cleaned up who appeared to know what when a bit. After a re-reading and a comment from “Concerned reader”, the original made it appear that this might have came to light outside the pension board before it did.

More playing with food

by @ 11:36. Filed under Business, Corn-a-hole.

I picked this one up on the tail end of The Wall Street Journal This Morning (good bumper music on that radio show, even if it is a bit early for most). The Wall Street Journal reports (subscription required for the full story) reports on a company called LS9 that claims that it can turn sugar into “bio-crude” by using engineered microbes. The big benefit over turning that sugar into ethanol is that the “bio-crude” does not contain oxygen and thus can enter the existing petroleum infrastructure. Of course, given that there is still a fascination with oxygenated fuels despite mounting evidence that they do no net enviromental good, and that while the infrastructure for corn-a-hole is growing, the overtaxed infrastructure for petroleum is at best stagnant, that’s not exactly as big a positive as one can hope for.

LS9 also claims in a Technology Review (by MIT, yes THAT MIT) article that they’ll soon be able to customize said “bio-crude” into any number of specific hydrocarbons, thus potentially cutting out refineries entirely.

A couple of quick questions:

- Given that they’re still playing with food, how is that going to stem the looming worldwide food crisis as we keep on diverting more and more food to fuel?
- How efficient is it, really?
- Even if it is efficient in the lab, can it be scaled up to production (with or without regard to the first question)?
- Why the focus on food, when we’ve got proven, if not exactly efficient, technology to turn coal into crude and plenty of coal that the envirowhackos don’t want burned?

He’ll always be “Breck Girl”

by @ 7:03. Filed under Politics - National.

I just can’t keep up with Zombie Reagan/see-dubya. First, he mandates that we retire Silky Pony as John Edwards’ nickname, then retire Pink Sapphire. Now, after Sweaty Pretzel disappeared without any fanfare, Zombie Reagan has issued another retire Pink Sapphire memo, this time to be replaced with Chamois Butt’r. Seeing that despite biking about a dozen miles with a brain bucket, he didn’t have helmet hair, I’m sticking with Breck Girl.

However, we’ve got a new name for the rest of his team – Team Trousermouse.

July 29, 2007

Once again, MJS says “cooperation” really means “suburbs feed Milwaukee’s bottomless pits”

Revisions/extensions (6:16 pm 7/30/2007) – I was a bit harsh on Jason Fields. The editorial didn’t have the extended quote from Fields, which provides a reason for his lack of ideas, and I failed to pick it up in the extended excerpt linked to below. Here it is:

Here’s what bothers me whenever we talk about these issues, because I respect and admire everyone in this room. We all agree that it should be about valuing kids, it should be about the child’s education. But once we leave here, we get into these political battles between opponents, but everybody’s saying it’s about the kids, it’s about the kids.

But if I go back and say, “Listen, we need to break up MPS; we need to make it smaller,” I’ll get raked over the coals for saying something like that, even though we all know at this table that’s probably the best idea. . . .

Of course, that brings up a couple of other issues, namely the stranglehold the teachers’ unions have on the ‘Rats, and the lack of courage on the part of Fields to buck that stranglehold.

(H/T – Reaganite)

While everybody’s favorite croc merely focuses on the “metropolitan fiscal control board” portion of this morning’s editorial on the latest round table of community leaders. Let’s expand the focus some and do some fisking (since it’s been, what, 2 weeks since I took a machete to one of their editorials):

The amazing thing was how fast the conversation turned to education. In a discussion last week among key area leaders on regional cooperation, education quickly became the topic of discussion.

The importance of an educated work force, of good schools and of a regional community that places a high value on education was stressed again and again by the nine speakers in a round-table discussion hosted by the Editorial Board. What became immediately clear is that education is not just an issue faced by one school district – Milwaukee Public Schools – or one community.

So why the focus on MPS?

Failure at MPS or any other district affects communities and businesses throughout the region. Everyone in southeastern Wisconsin has a stake in what happens in MPS, in Racine Unified, in the Waukesha School District and in all of the other school districts in the area.

AHHROOOOOGAH! AHHROOOOOOGAH! The BOHICA siren is going off; I hope you’re listening out in Brookfield, Mequon, Germantown, and other assorted out-of-Milwaukee-County locations.

What’s needed is a regional response, which should include more involvement of businesses outside Milwaukee County in MPS and other school districts’ programs, more collaborative efforts such as the Kern Family Foundation and the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Lead the Way program and a debate on what fundamental changes need to be made at MPS and other troubled districts, including whether to change their governing structure. Such a debate should be considered for other local governments, the idea being to make them more manageable, more accountable and more in control of their own affairs and budgets.

After all, it is all the gubmint’s money, and there’s no bigger gubmint outside of Madistan than in Milwaukee, so they need EVERYBODY’S cash.

Businessman Sheldon Lubar of the Greater Milwaukee Committee put his finger on the problem early in the discussion: “You cannot reach the levels that I think all of you want to see us reach if you have a dropout rate of 50% of your high school students.”

I’ll point out that the problem isn’t the lack of money. If money is what solves education problems, MPS, RUSD, and the like would be the best districts in the state.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said one of his biggest surprises after taking office was the need to improve work force development. “If there’s one issue where I would love to take this community and shake it by the shoulders, it is how important education is in this world economy now,” he said.

How could he be surprised? Before taking the job of milk-carton photographee, he had spent a bunch of years in perhaps the only city with worse schools than Milwaukee.

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker talked about breaking up MPS into several districts; Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas argued for the need to reduce health care costs, the single biggest driver of government and school district costs; state Rep. Jason Fields (D-Milwaukee) talked about the politics of changing the educational system.

“This issue has been occurring for the last 20 years, but nothing’s been done about it,” Fields said. “If I sit at this table and we all agree that we need to do something, when we leave this room not a damn thing will change, and those black kids, kids in my neighborhood and my community, will still be in the same position.”

Irony, thy name is Jason Fields. Walker suggested something potentially constructive. Vrakas, who doesn’t really have a dog in the MPS fight, suggested something that would free up money. Fields blathered on without any suggestions. Guess who got the extended quote?

That needs to change for the sake of giving those kids a reasonable chance at a better life but also for the sake of southeastern Wisconsin’s ability to compete in the global marketplace.

Again, mo’ money is not the solution.

Other things need to change, too, as the discussion made clear:

Transportation: Barrett and Walker need to come to terms on transportation issues and how to spend $91.5 million in federal funds that has been sitting unused for 16 years. Bringing in a mediator or transportation experts to resolve the dispute, as suggested by Lubar, makes sense. The onus for compromise lies more on Walker, who supports some rail components such as KRM and a regional approach but who needs to push harder for his ideas and who still remains stubbornly opposed to other rail components. Rosemary Potter of Transit NOW was right when she argued that the area needs a truly regional transit system governed by a regional authority and funded in a way that takes the burden off property taxpayers. But judging by the discussion, compromise on transportation issues is a ways off.

No, the onus is on the free-spending choo-choo fans because rail, whether it’s the Milk Carton’s light-rail-lite or the KRM, is not an answer. I’ve previously gone on the record as saying that $91.5 million would be better spent retiring some of the bonds held by Red China, and I’m sticking with it.

Did I not sound the BOHICA alarm? That “truly regional transit system” governed by a “regional authority” is code for Milwaukee dominating everything while the burbs feed the bottomless pit. Morever, we do not need a RTA, especially one which spent all of its money trying to get more.

Water: Compromise needs to be reached on water quality and supply issues; the region can start with the request of New Berlin to obtain Lake Michigan water. Water, as state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) pointed out, is “our oil” and critical for economic health. There is a good model for agreement – worked out by William Mielke of the Waukesha engineering firm Ruekert & Mielke Inc. – in Racine County for supplying services and sharing the benefits of growth. To his credit, Barrett said such an agreement was possible involving Milwaukee and New Berlin.

Before I comment, I need to find out more about that. Considering the Journtinel supports it, it sounds like BOHICA. Fred? Unreal? Peter? Another of the Racine readers? Could you provide some missing info on this?

Governance: Lubar’s insistence on the need to change the state’s governance structure brought to light a critical issue. Wisconsin’s system of governance is out of date and out of touch. Too many decisions that affect taxes are made by bodies with little or no accountability to the public. Elected officials often have too little say over their costs and revenue. He suggested creating a metropolitan fiscal control board that would have budgetary control over certain entities, such as Milwaukee Public Schools, Miller Park, Milwaukee Area Technical College and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District. Margaret Farrow, former lieutenant governor and president of the Waukesha County Action Network, pointed out that a review of the state constitution and of how government works and is paid for in Wisconsin is long overdue.

STOP THE TAPE! There’s so much to hammer here, and Reaganite only hammered one small part. I don’t have time to deliver a lengthy beatdown, so I’ll be brief. The problem is shared revenue, and a metropolitan fiscal control board, dominated by the city of Milwaukee, doling out the cash to “everybody” (I note that only Milwaukee-specific entities are listed) would only make it worse.

Specifically with regard to MPS, I refer you to the title of this piece. All that state aid those of you in Glendale, River Hills, Oak Creek, Brookfield, Thiensville, New Berlin, Union Grove, West Bend, and Oconomowoc (among others) send to MPS isn’t enough for the monster.

Oh, and those of you in Mequon and Germantown can forget about getting out of MATC. Not only aren’t you getting out, everybody else is getting sucked in.

Maybe if we stick Racine, western Waukesha, and northern Ozaukee and Washington Counties in MMSD’s taxing reach, they’ll finally build a deep-enough tunnel. NAH!

Economic development and basic cooperation: Asked what he’d like to point to as an achievement a year from now, attorney and former state Commerce Secretary Cory Nettles suggested creating a “regional top 10 collaborative list, and to make the list, you would have to very clearly demonstrate your impact in creating jobs within the region and reducing the cost of government.”

Allow me to start – lower spending. Oh, that’s right; we’re talking about PIGs in gubmint.

A good idea. What’s needed, as several speakers pointed out, are fewer words and more action. Certainly, the work of the Milwaukee 7 on regional economic development has been groundbreaking, but regional leaders have to build on those efforts to keep that momentum going.

Oh, it’s been groundbreaking all right. Everybody out of state is breaking ground…

Bickering among ourselves in southeastern Wisconsin does nothing to help us compete against Southeast Asia or the rest of the world. We must get our act together.

…especially in Southeast Asia. Part of that’s federal because they’ve listened to the likes of the Journtinel idiotorial board for many moons. Do we want to listen to that kind of advice and turn southeast WisTAXsin into so much a tax hell, the rest of the state looks attractive by comparison?

Almost on the road again roll change

by @ 12:40. Filed under The Blog.

Dan and Nicole, late of “The Early Spin” on WISN, are staying active in the Cheddarsphere, and are Still Spinnin’.

Seeing I’m headed up to Canoe Country for a week and a half on Wednesday, your merry band of guest-bloggers are on deck. Aaron’s already promised video mayhem. Wonder what Fred and Patrick are bringing in.

Here we go again – Yet another illegal Milwaukee County pension grab

by @ 9:30. Filed under Politics - Milwaukee County.

Revisions/extensions part 4 (3:40 pm 7/30/2007) – I usually don’t put these on top, but I do have to thank WisOpinion for including this missive in their editorial links of today. Since some of you just pop into this post without checking out the main page, I do want to point you to today’s missive, where I have a few questions.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel does us all a major service by exposing on the top of the front page of the most-circulated paper of the week yet another pension grab by a certain class of seasonal county employees, including the now-retired retirement system director Jac Amerell, who orchestrated the biggest part of the grab, former county executive Dave Schultz, who used the grab to become pension-eligible, former parks director Susan Baldwin, who was granted a grab despite no record of prior seasonal county employment that would have made her eligible, and current county board member and former county pension board member Michael Mayo, who used this grab to help him make the Big Grab of 2001 (which if I remember, he also voted for). The opening slug on the $50+ million grab starts it off right -

Ignoring county law and federal tax rules, Milwaukee County let employees change history by ‘buying back’ pension time from summer jobs in their youth.

The scam came in multiple parts:

- Prior to 1990, those that had a previous stint both on the county payroll and in the county pension system, and pulled their money out of the pension system when they left the first time had 2 years upon returning to the county payroll to “buy back” into the pension with the amount they pulled out plus 5% annual interest. The kicker of the “buy back” program is that it allows employees to claim the date they first worked for the county as their start date in the pension fund (I’ll get back to this in a bit).

- In 1990, the pension board, under pressure from a “small group” of ineligible teat-suckers who missed the 2-year cut-off and without authorization from the county board, eliminated the 2-year rule. This change was not codified by the pension board. The pension board attempted to change the interest to the amount that the pension fund had earned, but the teat-suckers got a judge to block it for them. Also in 1990, Robert Nehls, the city of Milwaukee’s pension chief, applied for and got a “buy back” despite not even being on the county payroll at the time or participating in the pension fund when he was with the county.

- In 1991, Amerell, who had just become the county’s retirement chief, decided to get in on the act by making this grab despite the fact that he did not participate in the pension fund his first time around. He then proceeded to “legitimize” it by using a pension board directive to notify eligible employees of a pending interest rate increase at the end of 1991 to extend the “buy back” offer to virtually everybody who ever worked for the county, whether or not they participated in the pension fund or were currently working for the county. Again, this change was not codified by the pension board. The pending rate increase, combined with the opening of the flood-gates, helped lead over 100 county “workers” to violate the federal tax code, which states that no more than 25% of one’s salary can be used in this “buy back” scheme in any one year.

- Remember what I said about the start date in the pension fund? Those that had not participated in the fund their first go-around with the county also got their start date reset to the date of their first go-around with the county. Those who have “start dates” with the county pension system prior to 1982 get more money, partly thanks to the Big Grab of 2001. Also, those who have “start dates” with the county pension system prior to 1994 get lifetime free health insurance.

- In 1996, the pension board finally put the new policies in writing after an outside legal adviser raised concerns. They had put in a 5-year sunset provision.

- In 1998, the county board finally realized that those not currently working for the county could get in on the “buy back” program and shut them out.

- Possibly in response to that (I do not know whether this happened prior to or after the county board action), the pension board took out the sunset provision, and in a move designed to help out folks like Michael Mayo, who was a member of the pension board at that time and who had a “buy back” request pending, allowed a 4-year payment plan instead of a 1-year lump-sum. Mayo voted for this.

- In 2005, after control of the pension board was wrested away from county employees, the board voted to sunset this abomination, and that finally took effect at the beginning of this year.

- Former pension board lawyer Robert G. Ott, who was ousted for his role in the Big Grab of 2001, had several conflicts of interest, including cementing the backdating of the “start date” the day after he started making payments for his son and allowing Susan Baldwin, a family friend, to get in despite no records of her claims of previous seasonal employment and eventual records of employment that made her inelgible for even the enhanced grabs.

The pension board has proposed taking away the grabs of 10 people, including Baldwin (though apparently, not Mayo’s grab). They claim that without retroactive changes authorized by the county board (who is busy killing taxpayers with raises and tax-hike bills), they’ll have to take away another 160 grabs. That still leaves something north of 340 grabs untouched.

I say, take away all the grabs, then toss Mayo out on his ass.

Revisions/extensions (12:47 pm 7/29/2007) – Bruce, who has a blogging “guest house” at Badger Blogger, proves my memory is not yet shot on Mayo, as he dug up The Journal Sentinel endorsement of his opponent in 2004.

Also weighing in (so far) – Peter, Reaganite, Patrick and Dad29. The rest of youse mugs must be out enjoying the Sunday weather after church services.

Revisions/extensions part 2 (3:35 pm 7/29/2007) – Brian at GOP3 weighs in with a focus on the squealers.

Revisions/extensions part 3 (7:39 am 7/30/2007) – Owen came back from enjoying the weekend to this. Also, Jay Weber wondered why it took so long to catch THIS one. Damn good question

July 26, 2007

Craps gas tax – a legal perspective

by @ 8:25. Filed under Politics - Wisconsin, Taxes.

One of the nice things about taking those (almost) twice-monthly trips to Madistan for the Center Right Coalition meetings is I find out some very interesting stuff. Case in point; on my desk is the executive summary of Michael Best & Friedrich LLP’s analysis of the Gross Receipts Tax proposal. Lest you think that just because the firm is Pubbie-friendly, it is fatally-tainted, Peg Lautenschlager came to the same conclusion.

In any case, on with a very brief summary-of-a-summary from someone who does not have legal training. There are three Constitutional faults that Michael Best & Friedrich found:

  • It violates the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution because the anti-pass through provision impermissibly insulates Wisconsin and only Wisconsin consumers from the effects of the tax. Indeed, the only federal case made under the Commerce Clause against an anti-pass through tax was ruled in favor of the taxed industry.
  • It likely violates the Commerce Clause and the Equal Protection Clauses of both the state and US Constitutions because it exempts Wisconsin-produced corn-a-hole and biodiesel. Morever, by basing it on profits, there is no basis for not including other industries with “high” profit margins.
  • Given that even the Department of Revenue has conceded that it can’t tell what price fluctuations would be “legal” versus “illegal”, it likely violates the Due Process Clauses of both the state and US Constitutions.

So, what happens when the US Supreme Court strikes this down in 6 or so years? First, let me explain why it would be SCOTUS, and why it would be about 6 years. Because it involves state tax law, it must go through the state appeals process first, which in this case is the DOR, the Wisconsin Tax Appeals Commission, the Circuit Court, the Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court. Given that Doyle controls the first two and the last 3 are all elected, it is rather unlikely that members of those 6 organizations will risk the wrath of Doyle or the public.

Now, let’s go forward those 6 years. Every penny of that tax collected would need to be repaid in full and immediately. Doyle’s office estimated that would be $912 million, and they also estimated that gasoline would be roughly $2.50/gallon into perpetuity. Given that gasoline hasn’t been $2.50/gallon for several months, and shows no sign of ever returning to that level, a fairer estimate would be somewhere north of $1 billion.

But wait, it gets worse. State law provides that there is a 9% annual interest paid on a refunded tax. Using that $912 million as a base, Michael Best & Friedrich estimated that penalty would be $330 million. As if that weren’t enough, the state would be liable for 6 years’ worth of legal fees.

Where would all that money go? It wouldn’t be going back to the individual taxpayers of the state. Remember; according to Craps and the ‘Rats, we wouldn’t be “paying” this. Rather, the refund and the interest would be going into the pockets of “Big Oil”, while the lawyers would be taking their cut.

Where would that money come from? Knowing Doyle’s penchant for spending every penny twice, not one cent of that collected tax would be in the coffers when the refund bill comes due, much less the money for the interest and lawyers’ fees. Yipee; </sarcasm> another massive tax increase to pay for one that backfired.

One more roll change

by @ 7:07. Filed under Miscellaneous.

Blogs4Bauer has FINALLY abandoned Blogger. We may or may not be able to rescue Season 7, but at least we won’t have Blogger coughing up a lung as Jack and the chick President wind their way through Africa.

July 24, 2007

Wednesday road trip

by @ 14:34. Filed under Miscellaneous.

It’s a bit of a short notice, but the Center Right Coalition has another meeting at the beautiful Madison Club (5 E Wilson St in Madison) tomorrow morning at 9 am. On tomorrow’s card:

- Eric O’Keefe, President & CEO, Sam Adams Alliance
- James Troupis of Michael Best and Friedrich on the legal ramifications of the Doyle oil tax

We had a very nice crowd last time. I’ll make sure I get out of here before 7:30 this time, not only to try to avoid the 894 crush, but to make the pre-meet coffee and conversation. If you’re worried about spending all day in Madison, Mark Block and company run a tight ship, and do keep the meetings at an hour.

If you can make it, or if you want to be on the mailing list for future meetings, let Mark know at markb – at – afphq – dot – org.

July 23, 2007

Should the DailyKos be Subject to the Federal Election Commission?

by @ 22:23. Filed under Politics - National.

That is the question posed by one John Bambenek, who filed a complaint with the FEC asking them to regulate the Daily Kos as a political committee. I cannot answer it better than Jim Robinson, the founder of Free Republic, did in the Free Republic thread on it:

Not only no, but hell no! The first amendment protects our God-given unalienable rights to free speech, free press, freedom to dissent and freedom of association. All of the campaign laws enacted by congress in violation of the first amendment should be repealed as unconstitutional and the FEC disbanded.

Meet the new DA. Same as the old DA. – Check last; it’s the city attorney

Revisions/extensions (4:33 pm 7/23/2007) – My apologies, for the moment at least, to John Chisholm. However, 4+ months is a long time to still be investigating, and given that the city issued and, in most cases, dismissed the disorderly-conduct tickets, it’s not encouraging.

Do you remember the 21 protesters thugs that smashed up the UWM-area Army recruitment center? Rebecca does, and she has some bad news. DA E. Michael McCan…er, John Chisholm Milwaukee City Attorney Grant Langley is set to drop all the charges against the thugs. Rebecca also dug up the history of the 12 “adults” who were given municipal tickets for disorderly conduct – 3 who pled no contest were found guilty, 6 who either pled not gulity or didn’t plea at all had their cases dismissed without prejudice, and 3 who pled not guilty are waiting final disposition.

Paging Mr. Biskupic.

Unleash the Photoshoppers on the enemies of John Doe

Head on down to Michelle’s blog and take in the brilliance that is the army of Photoshoppers as we take on the DhimmiRATs’ elimination of protections for John Doe. Since this will in all likelyhood trigger a pingback, I don’t want to be empty-handed, and created a rotating sign.

report-sign.gif

July 20, 2007

No feed? No problem

by @ 20:35. Filed under The Blog.

I really have to thank Mike Schramm, the editor for WisOpinion, for finding Feed43. They’re able to turn just about any page into an RSS 2.0 feed, including the CNI blogs. Now I can read Kevin Fischer, Matt Thomas, Brian Fraley’s Tosa-specific stuff, and everybody else through my feed reader.

How screwed up are elections in Milwaukee?

by @ 12:53. Filed under Politics - Wisconsin.

John Washburn has been doing yeoman’s work in trying to figure that out. After 2 years of lies from the Milwaukee Election Commission on the legal status of the records of the November 2004 election, some of those records have been released, others destroyed, and those that have been released are quite disturbing:

- In Ward 1, there were a pair of major problems. None of the three measures of the number of ballots cast (the machine total, the poll book certification page, and the cover page for the inspectors’ report) match, with the machine total and thus, presumably, the ballot bag, stuffed with 148 balllots not recorded in the poll book and 238 ballots not accounted for in the inspectors’ report. The inspectors’ report (filled out in duplicate) was “certified” by “three” individuals using false names, and signing with the same handwriting, handwriting that appears nowhere in the poll book.

- A further review of wards 1-100 revealed a rather lengthy list of irregularities including:

  • Over 1,300 more ballots recorded as processed by the voting machines on the machine tapes than recorded in the poll books
  • 12 wards that had no numbers recorded in the poll book
  • 68 wards that had no inspectors’ report at all
  • 12 wards that had no numbers recorded in the inspectors’ report
  • 13 wards that did not have a discrepancy between the machine tape and the poll book, including only 1 ward that also had the identical number on the inspectors’ report

State law requires that the number of ballots cast be recorded in the poll book, and that number matches the machine tape total.

- John has a written assurance that, unlike 2004, the city properly recorded the 2006 elections. They might be interested in the video he took of the post-voting canvass of Wards 259, 260 and 265 in the fall 2006 primary election. Doesn’t exactly look like proper recording of the election to me.

Paging Mr. Van Hollen. Paging Wisconsin Attorney General JB Van Hollen. Seeing everybody else, from former Milwaukee County DA E. Michael McCann to US Attorney Steve Biskupic to current Milwaukee County DA John Chisholm (who was one of McCann’s top deputies until last year), dropped the ball, it’s up to you to clean up Milwaukee’s elections.

Suggestion for whoever the Pubbie nominee for President is next year; demand a recount in Wisconsin.

Smackdown Friday (not to be confused with the DWE’s product)

by @ 12:14. Filed under Miscellaneous.

While I wait for the Friday videos to roll in, let’s do some print smackdowns:

- Smack #1: Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman tells Her Thighness in response to her demand to plan for a complete and almost-immediate retreat and defeat from Iraq, “Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia…. (S)uch talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are asking to assume enormous personal risks.”

- Smack #2: Uncle Jimbo runs with it and delivers studded metal glove backhands to Murtha, Queen Plastic and Dingy Harry. Go, read. Uncle J has a way with words. (R/E 7:12 pm 7/21/2007) Now you can watch and listen as well, though he inexplicably left out Pelosi.

- Smack #3 (via Allahpundit) – Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who usually is as RINO as they come, delivers a righteous right uppercut to the DhimmiRATs that defeated his John Doe amendment, with the help of ED Hill. Oh well, that last one was a video, but who’s counting?

Now that’s a compromise I can live with

by @ 11:14. Filed under Politics - Wisconsin, Taxes.

Jessica McBride runs with a crAP dispatch that lambastes the Pubbies for passing a budget that the Legislative Fiscal Bureau says raises fees by $256 million and features a heap of ‘Rats piling on (while ignoring the billions-upon-billions the ‘Rats are increasing taxes and fees) and offers a grand compromise – “… how about if they agree to a budget that strips out the tax increases AND fee hikes?”

“Healthy” (And Depopulated Due to Excessive Taxation) Wisconsin

by @ 10:49. Filed under Politics - Wisconsin, Taxes.

There are a lot of bloggers taking whacks at the pinata of a plan the Senate ‘Rats spewed forth into the budget (too many to link to here; just search the Cheddarsphere). With a big tip of the hat to the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance and their presentation at the July 11th Center-Right Coalition, here’s a couple more whacks:

- First, the alleged $15.2 billion cost for FY2009 is a willful underestimation. “Healthy” (ADDtET) Wisconsin (henceforth refered to as CubaCare Wisconsin because it is shorter) uses the existing health plan as its base (with certain additions and no deletions). The state currently spends somewhere north of $7,000 per participant; yet CubaCare Wisconsin assumes that it would pay just over $4,000 per participant. I know there’s such a thing as volume discounts; however, the state is pretty close to maxed out on that benefit.

Oh, and I didn’t touch on the fact that those teachers insured through WEA Health will keep their level of coverage while “paying” the same amount as everybody else. Guess I just did, and the reason why I put “paying” in quotes is because they and other public employees, and only that group can have their employer (specifically government) pay the 4% that is supposed to be the employees’ contribution without either a decrease in take-home pay or an increase in gross pay (and thus an increase in income taxes). Guess CubaCare Wisconsin isn’t going to come in under budget.

- Second, this is a time bomb waiting to happen. Do note that, as of the end of June, there had not been any analysis by the Legislative Fiscal Bureau, which is required of any item that spends state money. The AARP-funded study by the Lewin Group, which assumed that $15.2 billion initial cost would hold, estimated that health-care costs would go up by 6.5% annually, which is actually less than the 8% annual increase of the cost of the state employee plan. Meanwhile, according to the Department of Revenue, wages, and thus the increase in revenues from the taxes intended to pay for this monster, are expected to go up only by 4.6% annually.

Let’s run the numbers, and remember that, while the rate on employees is a total of 14% (10% from the private employers, 4% from the employee except for government employees and 14% from government-paid wages), since the rate on the self-employed is 10%, and that income not subject to the Social Security tax is captured to the tune of 10%, the revenue is “just” a ballpark number (probably a bit high based on the likelyhood that the ‘Rats wouldn’t be bright enough to create a temporary surplus and the certainty that the bipartisan P-I-G wouldn’t have enough self-restraint to keep their mitts off said temporary surplus):

(Numbers in $billion)
                 Taxes    Cost   Cost
Year  SS Wages    @14%   +6.5%  +8.0%
----  --------  -------  -----  -----
2009    115.0    16.1    15.2   15.2
2010    120.8    16.8    16.2   16.4
2011    126.1    17.6    17.2   17.7
2012    131.8    18.4    18.4   19.1
2013    137.9    19.2    19.6   20.7
2014    144.2    20.1    20.8   22.3
2015    150.8    21.0    22.2   24.1
2016    157.6    22.0    23.6   26.1
2017    164.8    23.0    25.2   28.1

Assuming the “lower” 6.5% increase in health care costs, and assuming that the “ballpark” revenue isn’t high, the program flips into a yearly deficit by 2013 and an overall deficit by 2015. Bump up the increase to the recent history of the state employee health care, and the yearly deficits begin in 2011 and the overall deficit happens in 2012. Since the ‘Rats are starting to take heat for robbing bus systems across the state to pay for the Kenosha-to-Milwaukee choo-choo, I doubt they’ll take the lower-spending route to balance the budget.

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