cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner
The change in position announced yesterday by the Wisconsin Hospital Association regarding a new patient tax was lauded as a breakthrough in the tax debate.
How can we not understand that this is a tax on patients, not on hospitals. It will ultimately come from all the pockets in Wisconsin. The hospitals must collect and remit it. Then, it is added to the fees charged by the hospital. The insurance companies are billed at the higher fees. Then premiums rise accordingly...and we all pay for it. It is an endless cycle that always ends with us citizens, and our politicians know it. They also know that too few of us will even bother to complain, so they don't think twice about increasing taxes. Sometimes, they're "nice enough" to call them "fees", as if we don't use money to pay both fees and taxes.
My friend John is dying, as you know if you've read my Blogs regularly. I told him a couple of days ago that he was doing so with a grace and dignity that I admire. I hope I can emulate his grace and dignity when my time comes.
I try to spend time with John every day for I know there'll be a day when I'll not be able to do so anymore. I don't know if that will be caused by John leaving this life or by me leaving this life. We do not know when this life will end, and that is one of God's great blessings.
It appears that we may have the opportunity to vote on a referendum concerning the building of a new school on district-owned land next to Kinderberg Park. I don't doubt that this is long overdue but the mood of the taxpayers will be determined by a novel concept...a vote!
Wouldn't it be nice if we had the over-payment made over all these years to MATC in a fund from which we could draw to build the necessary school buildings? That could easily total some $15,000,000 or more over the past ten years.
Tom Petri has decided that he'll side with the Democrats in the House when the veto override vote on SCHIP is taken. He apparently thinks that the continued encroachment of the government on healthcare is proper. He seems to like the BadgerCare program that squandered 75% of the available funds carved out to protect poor children on adults instead of children.
Mr. Petri has represented his constituency under the Republican banner for many years. Apparently they and he have forgotten what Republicans are supposedly about. The acronym 'RINO' is appropriate in this instance. Mr. Petri has become a 'Republican In Name Only', and is now poised to aid and abet the Democrats who seek greater and greater government oversight for healthcare plans. He obviously either likes government-controlled healthcare, or he is naive enough to believe the Democrat's press releases. In either case, he, and others like him, frighten me.
Word is out this morning that the Milwaukee police department, with the blessing of the police chief and the mayor, will avoid asking questions about legal status of any potential immigration violators whom they've stopped for other reasons. This is apparently in response to a request from an activist group that supports the 'rights' of illegal immigrants.
I certainly hope this doesn't spread to Germantown's police and village leaders. If a person is not in this country legally, he or she is here illegally. One cannot be somewhat legal any more than one can be somewhat pregnant. You are...or you aren't...and no amount of make-believe is going to change either situation.
Based upon the CRG study, we have discussed many different aspects of the MATC issue. We are going to shift, at this point, to drawing conclusions supported by this study. This is where it gets tough.
MATC is failing to fulfill its mission as a technical college:
The Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewerage District just reported a small cost overrun "boo boo" in the amount of $14 Million for the flood control project on the Milwaukee County Grounds.
That caused me to think of the bill that has been introduced by Sen. Alberta Darling that would force all technical college boards to be elected by the taxpayers.
The Perspectives page of the October 10th Journal Sentinel contained an Op-Ed by Bob Herbert, columnist for the New York Times, titled "Gaming the system presents illusion of success". Beneath that was an Op-Ed by Elizabeth Burmaster, Wisconsin's superintendent of public instruction, titled "Accountability and flexibility are important". As you would suspect, this was a "Point/Counter-Point" approach to a topic I Blogged about under "Quick Hits" on October 4th.
Bob Herbert raised some very important issues. Among those were:
It is questionable if tests such as these are anything more than a 'shell game'
If teachers, administrators, politicians and others have a stake, they can raise test scores by any number of means
You can raise test scores the hard way, or you can figure out ways to 'game' the system
Of the six 'good studies' conducted since the 1970s as to whether the test scores could be believed, all found really substantial inflation of test scores
One big problem with the No Child Left Behind law is that it permits the states themselves to define 'proficiency' and to create the tests
That is absurd; with no guiding standard, the states' tests are without meaning
The people in charge of most school districts would rather jump from the roof of a tall building than allow an unfettered study of their test practices
By not rigorously analyzing the phenomenon of high-stakes testing, "we're creating an illusion of success that is really nice for everyone in the system except the kids"
I received one of those e-mails that are passed along to many. It described what love means to children between 4 & 8, and I just had to pass it along to you.
When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it all the time, even after his hands got arthritis, too. That's love. Rebecca, age 8
When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth. Billy, age 4
Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs. Chrissy, age 6
Love is what makes you smile when you're tired. Terri, age 4
Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure it is OK. Danny, age 7
Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen. Bobby, age 7
Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, and then he wears it everyday. Noelle, age 7
Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well. Tommy, age 6
Love is when mommy gives daddy the best piece of chicken. Elaine, age 5
Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day. Mary Ann, age 4
I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones. Lauren, age 4
You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it; but if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget. Jessica, age 8
Isn't it a shame that as we grow up...we tend to forget how simple life really is?
The CRG study published last year raised some additional points that suggest serious issues.
The composition of the board lends itself to decisions that do not reflect the circumstances of the general populace. Two members are elected officials, three members are in the public sector heavily represented by unions, another is a business manager for a union local, one is a lawyer and and another is a consultant for a firm representing special interests. The vast majority of the board at that time, seven members, came from the public sector and/or an environment tied to organized labor. Many have personal wage and benefit packages that are similar to those found at MATC. Given their perspective, it seems clear why special interests are better represented than is the average taxpayer.
The Greater Milwaukee Committee just succeeded in getting sucked in to the Democratic maelstrom! Why in the world would this group support the charade that is a tax on hospital patients...not a tax on hospitals? Are they really a Democratic-leaning group posing as a community-based organization? Are they the proverbial wolves in sheep's clothing? Is the fact that Milwaukee's hospitals share disproportionately in the largess the only thing important to them? How short-sighted can an organization become? Is 'Greater Milwaukee' going to forever 'trump' Wisconsin? And to what end?
Maybe there is more here than meets the eye. Are there 'quid pro quo' items that we'll not know about for some time, if ever? Are there deals already cut that GMC feels warrant this sell-out?
The CRG study on which these MATC Blogs have been based, drew multiple conclusions:
MATC has not engaged in improvement processes such as those employed in the private sector.
MATC has no competitive or adversarial forces that would drive it toward improvement.
MATC's board has favored special interests and the current tax rates stand in testimony to that.
IF MATC were to continue on its present path, taxes would double in ten years or less, outstripping the public's ability to pay.
CRG's recommendations were as follow:
The article in the October 15th Journal Sentinel concerning a reconsideration of a prior vote caught my eye. Apparently the board approved (5-4) a deal proposed by our village administrator, David Schornack, to issue $2.6 Million of bonds for sanitary sewer lines. This debt would be repaid by the developer of the project, Asset Development Group, over the ten-year life of the debt. This was being done because the village could borrow the money at about half the interest rate that the developer would've been forced to pay.
Several questions arise:
We've discussed the likelihood that Medical Associates would find it necessary to merge with or be acquired by ProHealth, the Waukesha-based integrated medical system, This would be caused, at least in part, by the decision of Advanced Healthcare to merge with/be sold to Aurora, the 800 lb. gorilla in the Wisconsin marketplace.
Medical Associates' doctors have been briefed on this possibility. ProHealth is quite interested in Medical Associates, and understandably so. Doctors refer patients to hospitals. Fewer referrals mean fewer patients. Fewer patients mean disaster for integrated healthcare networks. Especially for integrated healthcare networks that are facing up to the 800 lb. gorilla!
The Germantown village board re-committed on Monday to borrowing $2.6 Million on behalf of Asset Development Group for use on the sanitary sewer project west of Hwys 41-45. The vote was 5-4 with Trustee Dean Wolter changing his vote to no.
First, it sets bad precedent when a vote that has been taken is re-visited, just as we discussed in an earlier Blog on this subject. It begins the trip down a slippery slope to the ultimate point that no one knows what actions are to be taken seriously and what are not. We are not anywhere near that 'ultimate' point, but it is dangerous to even begin this kind of vacillation. If trustees are not prepared to vote knowledgeably on a subject...shame on them. They should, instead, seek to table the action to buy time to become informed, or they should abstain from voting.
Wisconsin was recently reported as having dropped from 37th to 39th in the Tax Foundation's rating of all states in terms of hospitality to business. These rankings are determined by the Foundation using weighted scales comparing property taxes, sales taxes, personal income taxes, unemployment taxes and taxes imposed on businesses.
While we still do not have a new budget, we know that either Governor Doyle's first or second budget contain significant increases in our tax burden. Some of those increases appear as fees but that all trickles down to us.
The village board, among other things done on Monday evening, chose to move funds from the very successful Germantown Industrial Park to be used to offset the very poor performance of the Germantown Business Park.
Had that not been done, we would've been assured a significant bump in our property taxes.
The village board and the school board are running on nearly parallel routes as each researches and prepares its petition to be presented to the state technical college board.
They are each in agreement that we need to leave the MATC district for a variety of reasons.
There is an old saying: Be careful what you ask for; you may get it.
I feel a bit that way today. I asked for more information on the situation involving the village board and Asset Development Group (ADG) concerning the apparent approval of a bond issue for sanitary sewers in part of Germantown.
Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), majority leader of the U.S. Senate continues to receive the help of the liberal press. This was again demonstrated in the course of his impugning Rush Limbaugh on the floor of the Senate over words that had been conveniently misconstrued as to a "phony soldier" comment. Reid and 40 of his Democrat compatriots signed a letter that was sent to the syndicator of Limbaugh's radio show seeking his redress or worse.
That letter was sent by the syndicator to Limbaugh who subsequently placed it on E-Bay as an auction item. He declared that he'd match the proceeds and that all the money raised would be sent to the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation to provide scholarships for the children of slain Marines and law enforcement officers.
Joel Dresang's article in the Saturday Journal Sentinel discussed Wisconsin's latest ranking in job growth.
We were ranked at 38th among all 50 states for 12-month job growth according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
I was twelve when Max McGee became a member of the Green Bay Packers, so I grew up listening to and watching the games in which he played. He was one of my all time favorite Packers; probably because he was Max, all the time. His escapades became legend; and they appeared to have been real escapades, not something concocted by a press agent.
He was a solid receiver; he never danced or spiked a football that I can recall. The article in today's Journal Sentinel sports section reminded me of the famous Lombardi locker room exchange. Lombardi was fed up with his team and decided that he had to go right back to the basics. Supposedly he began by saying, "gentlemen...this is a football". Also supposedly, from the end of the bench came Max McGee's voice saying, "Coach, could you slow down a little; you're going too fast for us". I have no doubt that occurred as reported. Lombardi was said to have been forced to laugh at the remark. No one else had the audacity or the nerve to pull that off; only Max McGee could've done it...and he did.
Assembly leadership has apparently reached a bargain with the Democrats over a state budget. We are still somewhat in the dark on all the subtleties, but from all reports this falls far short of what we fiscal conservatives were hoping to see.
Taxes and fees will increase over $1 Billion, closer to $1.4 Billion, with questionable new programs being included. The program guaranteeing 'B' students access to further education upon graduation from high school carries an unknown future price tag. It is possible that this could ultimately be voted down in a subsequent session, but that would seem very unlikely.
Now that it appears we'll have a budget approved for Wisconsin, I imagine that Senate Majority Leader
Robson Decker will want to move ahead with the issue of elected officials receiving sick time benefits.
She mentioned some time ago that she'd consider that issue when the budget was done. I'm sure she meant that when she said it.
MATC will, if the newly agreed compromise budget is passed today, be limited to a 4% increase in its property tax levy over the next two years.
It had already passed a 5% increase hoping that would be permissible when the state budget was finalized.
"Earmarking" is the term used to refer to a provision in legislation that directs funds to be spent on specific projects. Typically, legislators seek to insert earmarks which direct a specified amount of money to a particular organization or project in his/her home state or district.
This definition comes from one of the hundreds of websites dealing with what has become a major issue for taxpayers. Earmarks appear to have originated in 1817 at the federal level when funds were specifically dedicated to a stretch of highway in South Carolina. Now, earmarks are everywhere and used by most at the national and state levels.
The Americans for Prosperity organization went after Wisconsin Senators and Assembly members with the question: "Will you agree to sign a 'No Tax Increase' Pledge?
Those Senators who signed that pledge are: Alberta Darling, Glenn Grothman, Ted Kanavas, Alan Lasee, Mary Lazich and Joe Liebham.
Noting that the Washington county board had recently voted some funding to build a new building on the county fairgrounds, I was reminded of a really major 'peeve'.
Am I the only person in the county who can't read the scrolling messages at the bottom of the Fair Grounds sign along Hwy. 45?
The reiteration of SCHIP (state childrens' health insurance plan bill) is about to be voted on by the U.S. Senate. This is a slightly revised version of the bill that received a presidential veto a short time ago.
The Democratic majority has tweaked it a bit in hopes that enough Republicans will be moved to help override the next veto that is expected from the President.
I believe that the village board is planning to discuss the potential for advertising banners that would be stretched across Mequon and/or Pilgrim Roads.
It seems that this would fly in the face of the village effort to control signage as to height, width, and location. This was done to help maintain the ambiance of the village as well as to protect one business from another in terms of how well each sign could be seen. We didn't want obtrusive signage, or so I thought.
We see men and women in military uniforms on a regular basis as we go about our daily lives. They might be in the grocery store or driving past us. We see them, but do we take a moment to thank them? If not openly, do we at least take a moment to think of their sacrifice and their service?
I hope we do that. These are people who volunteered for this duty; they were not drafted to serve. I hope we don't look away in disgust
Can you even begin to believe this?
Governor Doyle has indicated that he is vetoing the technical college tax increase limiting them to a mere 4%. He has reneged on his promise of no tax increases in so many ways as to be almost comical...but this is not funny. It is a sad day for Wisconsin. We will continue to lose population since jobs are leaving our state; we'll ultimately be down another seat in the House with the next reapportionment
Just when we thought it was safe to go back to living and working in Wisconsin, 'Jaws' Doyle used his 'Frankenstein' veto tool to rewrite the budget deal.
The 2% property tax cap magically became a 3.86% property tax cap for next year. Doyle cobbled that together by using the current veto law to strike parts of sentences in order to find the numbers 3, 8 and 6 along with a couple of periods.
The people who run our state have little or no concern for those of us who pay to have them running the state. That is so apparent as to be a truism.
The tech colleges had already been given the ability to increase their take by 4%. That is considerably greater than the inflation that had occurred, but it still wasn't enough! The governor just had to take the cap away. He said, "If technical colleges do not have the ability to respond to the rapidly changing needs of businesses in Wisconsin, economic growth will suffer".
You'll probably recall the 'hospital tax' that was removed from the state budget during the extended negotiations between the Republican Assembly and the Democrat Senate. This was a contrivance that would've added a tax on hospital care with the ultimate result being that of receiving more than that amount in federal Medicaid funds. The state would then use these federal dollars to increase the reimbursement levels on Medicaid patients (which would've increased the taxes again,too).
The largest hospitals in Southeast Wisconsin were in favor of this contrivance since they would benefit most having the largest Medicaid populations. The Wisconsin Hospital Association (WHA) originally opposed this contrivance but later changed its position to one of favoring the tax. I suspect they were forced into that changed position since the largest hospitals, which wanted this tax, are also the largest payers of WHA association dues.
The boards of the school district and village met last night to discuss common issues. Those common issues included the construction now taking place at Blackwood Creek across from the high school, the joint intent to push secession from the MATC technical college district, and the TIF district revenue shift proposed by the village.
There were no 'fireworks' as some had suggested; there were also no final decisions taken.
The Monday evening joint meeting of school and village boards included two guests from MATC.
Among the tidbits from those two presentations are these:
The tax and fee bug must be rampant in Wisconsin. It seems to have found its way into Germantown's proposed budget.
A report in Germantown Now tells of this proposal in the words of trustee Mel Ewert. Each trip to the local recycling center would cost us $1.00. That would raise $45,000 each year according to Ewert. He also said that there seems some disagreement amongst village board members as to whether this money should be used to help balance the budget or for recycling center costs.
Senator Darling has announced that she'll hold listening sessions in the Germantown Public Library and in the Menomonee Falls Public Library on Saturday, November 17th.
The Germantown session is scheduled for 1:30 to 2:30PM and the Menomonee Falls session will be held from 3:00 to 4:00PM.
Data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that on an average day in 2006:
Nearly 50,000 adolescents used inhalants;
Nearly 27,000 adolescents used hallucinogens;
Nearly 13,000 used cocaine;
Nearly 3,800 used heroin;
Nearly 8,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17 drank alcohol for the first time;
Approximately 4,300 adolescents used an illicit drug for the first time;
Around 4,000 adolescents smoked cigarettes for the first time;
Nearly 3,600 adolescents used marijuana for the first time; and
Approximately 2,500 adolescents abused pain relievers for the first time.
The 'good news' in this study was that fewer adolescents are using illicit drugs than in 2002.