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Friday, September 22, 2017

Use Janesville's $583K Earmark For Dark Store Relief

The bold-faced hypocrisy never ends.

The Janesville Gazette posted another one of their unbelievably dumb editorials (their editorials have declined intellectually if anyone thought that was possible), this time scolding residents for suggesting a $583,000 earmark from the state budget be used for tax relief on local property bills.

But, why shouldn't it be used for tax relief? Afterall, Janesville taxpayers, both property and city fee payers, have taken hit after hit since Scott Walker was elected governor, particularly more so over the last three years.

But Gazette staffers have some brass balls to scold anyone wanting tax relief after their boss, Skip Bliss, filed for some tax relief of his own and won a dark store styled settlement of about $65K along with lowered future property tax assessments. Nobody at the newspaper called Bliss a cheapskate or lectured him about being shortsighted. Not at all.

Combine the Bliss award with recent dark store refunds given to GOP donor class Farm and Fleet (327K) and Menards (403K) and we have local taxpayers unexpectedly coughing up an extra $795K. Keep in mind their artificially lowered assessments remain in place for future tax bills, but also because those settlements were paid from city, county and school district funds, Janesville taxpayers end up paying roughly two-thirds (city, school) of those three refund amounts, or about $524K.

So yeah, the $583K earmark is a nice fit to offer taxpayers some relief from those dark store transgressions and leave about $60K to spare.

The Gazette staffers also moan about other factors that have "conspired" to shortchange Janesville.

JG Excerpt:
The state “froze” the shared-revenue formula in 2001, meaning the formula churns out payments based on old data. Two factors have conspired against Janesville: its growing population and lagging equalized property value. The result has been to give Janesville state aid of only $81 per capita, while the average municipality takes in $179.

Only 16 years have passed? Just look at Janesville like its a state-based TIF District because that's exactly what TIFs do - they freeze the shared-revenue paid from rising property tax assessments within the district. Janesville's downtown TIF District is especially egregious in that manner and will continue to pay property taxes to the city's general fund based on assessments established in 2016 for the next 27 years. So, you're upset about shared-revenue payments based on "old data" from only 16 years ago?

Lastly, the Gazette brings up the large budget deficit the city administration racked up...

JG Excerpt:
Last year, the city faced a $950,000 shortfall and contemplated making painful budget cuts and considered having neighbors cut the grass at city parks. The city avoided draconian measures only after it discovered savings from the retirements of several longstanding employees. But it wouldn't take much for the city to find itself facing another shortfall—yet another argument against returning the $583,000 to taxpayers.

When dealing with a budget shortfall, municipalities have few options for balancing their budgets except spending cuts.

Except, ...the city eventually balanced last year's $950,000 shortfall NOT with noticeable budget cuts, but with 80 fee increases expected to bring in $2.3 million in new revenue. Kind of forgot that little tidbit - didn't you?

To top that off, the same Janesville Gazette editorial staff then scolded residents for NOT opposing those fee increases ...I kid you not, and now they're scolding residents asking for some crumbs in tax relief.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Video: This Dad Went Off On TrumpCare

Now This

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Friday, September 15, 2017

Picking Winners And Losers: 583K Earmark Slipped In State Budget For Janesville

This week, the Janesville Gazette wrote up the flat-lining ALEC operative, State Rep. Amy Loudenbeck (R) Clinton, as a hero for slipping an earmark in the state budget worth $583K a year for the next four years for the city of Janesville to be used for General Fund purposes.

Loudenbeck, a member of the GOP-majority ruled state assembly and Joint Finance Committee, was pressed for help on shared revenue by local officials earlier in the year, but at the time said making any changes would create "winners and losers."

JG Excerpt: (Jan. 2017)
Loudenbeck and others noted that changes to revenue formulas create winners and losers, so making Janesville more of a winner means other cities lose.

That's all changed now with the $583K earmark. Obviously, other cities didn't fare so well.

But to be fair, at least Loudenbeck's earmark for Janesville isn't on the same obnoxious scale with the party's regular pork barrel spending priorities.

Madison.Com Excerpt:
A tiny airport in central Wisconsin that’s seen an influx of private jets since a Republican donor’s world-class golf course opened nearby would get $4 million in improvements under funding slipped into the state budget this week.

The Republican-controlled Joint Finance Committee approved the funding after the developer of Sand Valley Golf Resort, Michael Keiser, donated $25,000 to the state Republican Party in February, records reviewed by The Associated Press show.

Republicans are running the state treasury wild for their pals.

Even still, Loudenbeck's earmark for Janesville coming at the discretionary snap of a finger is what happens in the absence of genuine budget reforms and leadership.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Monterey Dam Removal Lacks Economic Impact Report

Despite the city council's earlier vote in favor of removing the Monterey Dam, dozens of Janesville residents made their final arguments yesterday hoping to convince the state's Department of Natural Resources to deny the city request for the removal permit.

As the story goes, once the DNR issues the permit, the dam is as good as gone.

An attorney hired by the group to save the dam noted that the city's request to remove the dam lacks an important report on economic impacts.

JG Excerpt:
Attorney Buck Sweeney said he represents property owners who would be affected if the dam were taken out. If department officials don't do their "homework," he said, they and others could find themselves in litigation for several years. [...] Sweeney compared the situation to the years of litigation that ensued after the department and Lake Koshkonong residents disagreed on how much water the Indianford Dam should retain to control the lake's depth.

An economic impact study must be done before the department can approve the dam's removal, he said. He noted that such a study was done for Lake Koshkonong.

A lot of folks won't like to read this, but recent court rulings tended to favor economic impacts over environmental concerns. That is to say, if a local government decision or activities cause property values to decline, the courts ruled in favor of preventing those actions.

Regarding Lake Koshkonong, the Wisconsin State Supreme Court ruled that the DNR must consider economic impacts on lakefront property owners when making a decision about the lake's water level. Some have even credited the economic impact report for helping the parties reach an acceptable compromise after years of litigation.

Monterey Dam removal opponents were also skeptical about why contaminated sediment near the GM plant, after nine years since its closing, still remains in the river.

The department will accept written comments through Thursday, Sept. 21, and make its decision sometime after that. The city plans to remove the dam next summer.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Library Not Included In ARISE TIF District Surplus Funds

According to this article, the Hedberg Library in Janesville will be seeking $1 million from Janesville taxpayers to help pay for renovations.

The library however sits in the much ballyhooed Downtown ARISE TIF District (or is within a stone's throw). Yet the newspaper story contains no mention of TIF dollars being used to help pay for the project. Certainly it can be argued that if the library does not benefit the ARISE plan or nearby private businesses enough to qualify for TIF dollars, then the library is of no benefit to the rest of the city.

The Janesville City Council will consider the library's request for the $1 million from taxpayers on Monday.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Walker Uses Principled Democrats To Warn GOP Conservatives If They Cross Him On Foxconn

For two weeks now, Republican Governor Scott Walker has concerned himself deeply with state democrats and the state democratic party about their position on his Foxconn scam being rammed down taxpayers throats.

On the days just before the weekend when state legislators are scheduled to convene for important votes, Walker has lashed out on Twitter against the minority Democrats as if he needed their votes to pass the biggest transfer of wealth in Wisconsin state history. Point is of course, Walker doesn't need their votes at all.

With solid GOP majorities in both state houses, Walker is merely posting reminders aimed at the few principled free market conservatives remaining in the Wisconsin state senate of the consequences they face if they dare cross him on Foxconn.

Point is, Republican conservatives can stew over those tweets during the weekend. It's a very effective psychological tactic (attacking the straw man) through substitution that works like a charm.