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
I attended a breakfast this morning with a group of men, otherwise reasonable business people, and we ended up talking about where our country seemed headed under its new leadership. There was a series of thoughts from different quarters and it finally dawned on us all.
We are being inundated with a series of disparate political moves that are coming at us from all directions; we're being overwhelmed as the result and are, therefore, standing like deer in the headlights as this change approaches us headlong.
Wisconsin has had the reputation, deserved or not, of being a "progressive" state so far as taxation. The generally understood definition of progressive taxation is that those who earn more are taxed more. Conversely, regressive taxation suggests that the less one earns, the more one pays.
Is Wisconsin really a progressive tax state?
Governor Doyle has again brought forward his proposal for health care benefits to be provided to the same sex partners of state employees. This is included in his budget and, since the Democrats control both the senate and the assembly, it is very likely to become law.
This is wrong on several levels.
Mayor Tom Barrett has whined sufficiently to get the stimulus money for road and bridge improvements in Germantown removed and given, instead, to Milwaukee. This fiat was accomplished by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (SEWRPC). The $7.5 million that had been allocated to River Hills and Germantown is now back in Barrett's pocket and those of us in Republican-represented districts are out in the cold.
Think politics had nothing to do with this? Think again. Think we're all not being reminded just how much it costs us when we persist in the folly of electing those whom we want as our representatives even though they may not be solid Democrats? Think again. Think we are not being treated as political pawns by our esteemed Governor Jim Doyle? Think again. Think you'll become a Democrat so you can get some stimulus money to help repair our roads? Only if you are willing to roll over and play dead as too many citizens already have.
Remember to vote tomorrow, Tuesday, for the several offices that are found on the ballot depending upon where you live in the village. Those races appear as follow:
District 1 Trustee:
Polling Places Open...
Remember to cast your votes today for those whom you think will do the job for us. There are important spots to be filled both within the village and within the state.
Some Changes Voted...
The voters have spoken and it appears that many wanted change. New faces coming to the Village Board include Terri Kaminski in District 1 and Daniel Wing in District 2. Al Vanderheiden held his seat in District 3 and Art Zabel was unopposed.
The Congressional Budget Office has completed and released its study on the effects of ethanol. The outcome was predictable.
Ethanol mandates raise food prices. Ethanol mandates barely touch greenhouse-gas emissions (about a 1/3 of 1% reduction). The study didn't even get into the efficacy of ethanol-laced gasoline, although we know that mileage is decreased by at least 10% when ethanol is added to gasoline.
There are some obvious choices for the title "hometown hero". Our police officers and our firefighters and our health care professionals and those who serve in various capacities in local and county government. Our teachers and school administrators; our elected officials who spend their time in the pursuit of the public good, and all those who toil in the shadows helping the less fortunate among us are also some of my hometown heroes.
I see more hometown heroes most every day, though. I see the neighbor who keeps a watchful eye on his or her elderly neighbors. I see the youngster who helps a senior carry out his or her garbage. I see those who pick up litter to help keep our village beautiful. I see the person who spends his or her time helping care for a person who is living out the last days on our earth. I see friends who show up to help other friends move to a new home.
Our household income has been lower over the past few years than it was at one time. Our budget was adjusted, of necessity, to reflect that fact. There were three choices. We could find a way to earn more money or we could curtail spending or we could combine those two solutions for a hybrid approach.
This is the classic approach used by most people I know in their personal lives. If people ignore their income and expense realities, they go bankrupt. There are no panaceas. We can't very well expect that our neighbors will all chip in to help keep us afloat. We can't realistically expect that our employers will give us raises simply because we want to spend more money than we have available. If we spend our savings to the point that there are no more savings, we can't expect that some knight in shining armor will miraculously appear with a solution to the problems we've created for ourselves.
The Journal Sentinel contained an article by Dan Benson that discusses the budget bill item included by Governor Doyle that would require any municipal project that costs more than $2,000 to pay prevailing wages to volunteers.
The Port Washington City Administrator was quoted in a memorandum he wrote to aldermen as saying, "No civic projects will ever get done since you would have to pay volunteers for a municipal project that costs more than $2,000." He was discussing the recently constructed Possibility Playground that was built by volunteers in Port Washington.
Flags Flying At Half-Staff...
In response to my question earlier today, Dave Schornack advised that Governor Doyle had requested that governmental units fly flags at half-staff today in honor of the DNR pilot who was killed in a plane crash on April 8th. The pilot of the Cessna 337 belonging to the DNR was Heath Van Handel who was 36 years old. He left a wife and two young sons.
National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week...
Chief Pete Hoell reminded me that we are in the midst of the one week each year when we give the communications officer members of the Germantown Police Department a pat on the back.
The Journal Sentinel staff has assembled its overview of some of the key issues that will be decided by the Joint Finance Committee in Madison as the "budget" process goes forward over the next days and weeks. One of the things that should jump out at us all is just how much of the budget deals with things that aren't budget items, but instead with things that the Governor chooses to hide where they'll not be subject to debate on a free-standing basis.
Another of the things that should be top of mind is that the Joint Finance Committee, comprised today of 12 Democrats and 4 Republicans, makes decisions that are then given an up or down vote, in almost every instance, by the Assembly and the Senate. This passes for democracy in action in Wisconsin. We need to be ever-mindful that elections have consequences.
The QEO, qualified economic offer, is virtually dead since the language inserted into the state budget by Governor Doyle to reward WEAC has survived Joint Finance Committee review. Given that the Democrats control both the Assembly and the Senate, anything in the budget bill after the committee finishes its review will pass.
This will almost assure that the next Germantown School District negotiation with the teachers will see a settlement of something beyond 3.8%. The actual amount remains to be seen but the era before QEO saw increases in the range of 6% and 7% depending upon the arbitrators' view of the levels paid to teachers by area districts. Once one area district provides a higher level of pay, there will tend to be more and more districts with similar increases. Once the surrounding districts have become "equalized" to the new higher levels of compensation, the cycle will begin again.
We will see voting district boundaries being redrawn in 2010. Why is this so important? It could assure that Democrats have absolute control of the state for another decade with the Republicans virtually helpless to do anything about it. There will be no real "loyal opposition" since the Republicans will be a toothless tiger just as they are today.
The changes will be crafted to assure that the Democrats have more voters in the new districts than they may've had in the old districts. This goes on every ten years coincident with our national census counts. The result is that the party in power has the ability to redraw the boundaries to assure they will have a better chance of victory in even more districts thus giving them the ability to maintain majority control of both the Assembly and the Senate.
This old term suggests the picture in our mind's eye of a person, mouth open, thirsting for a drink, and unable to get any water to drink due to the extreme force of the stream. Instead, the person risks being swept off his or her feet, still thirsting, soaked to the skin and lying in a puddle.
I feel much the same and have almost since President Obama took the oath of office. I hadn't voted for the man but he was now my president and I wanted him to succeed in our behalf.
The EPA has declared "greenhouse gases", including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), are major hazards to our health. Their conclusion was that these gases warrant action under federal air pollution laws.
Now we are faced with either Congress creating legislation to control these gases or with the EPA creating rules to control them. It is generally believed that Congress will move in this direction very quickly.
Governor Doyle has given an indication that he is open to discussing an alternative to the Oil Company Assessment that you and me recognize as simply another reach into our pockets. So far as taxes are concerned, we are at the bottom of the food chain and that has gotten to be an increasingly expensive place.
Doyle, of course, has postured that he has found a way to assure that "big oil" will be forced to help keep Wisconsin's roads in a state of good repair. This has already been defeated in courts elsewhere. He is the person, if you'll recall, who has engineered the raiding of our road building funds on at least two occasions when he was looking about for more money to satisfy his spending drive.
Wisconsin's attorney general, J.B. Van Hollen, has issued a memorandum to law enforcement officers, district attorneys, sheriffs and deputies saying that open carry of a weapon is legal under Wisconsin's Constitution. He has gone on to further indicate that people can certainly expect to be stopped and questioned by law enforcement officers but that these occurrences should be minimal in terms of time.
Are we now likely to see people walking down the streets of Germantown carrying a gun strapped to their waist? I doubt that we'll see much of this kind of activity, if any, even though it has now been established by the top law enforcement agent in the state that it can be done. Up to now, police departments in some jurisdictions have made charges of disturbing the peace against people who have openly carried guns. The most recent such charging happened in West Allis. That person was found innocent in a court of law.
Police Department Issues Recently Raised...
I have been in contact with Chief Pete Hoell concerning two issues that will likely require some changes for our police officers.
Governor Doyle has concealed so many different things in the bowels of the budget bill that one has to wonder why. The latest to find the light of day is a provision that would permit judges to expunge certain felony convictions from the records of the person having been convicted.
This was passed by the Joint Finance Committee on a 9-6 vote. It is likely that it will be passed when the Assembly and the Senate take up the budget.
Governor Doyle is using the money that had been designated for Real ID for other purposes. That is nothing new for our governor, of course, but it seems particularly inappropriate since Real ID was to create tamper-proof driver's licenses and identification cards that would be used to obtain passage onboard aircraft in the domestic U.S.
Now we have the new Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, openly admitting that she is doing everything possible to get this law repealed. That seems, to me at least, to be more than a bit incongruent with her function of protecting us from terrorists in the homeland.
Rep. Dan Knodl's Legislative Update was in my in-box yesterday and he made me think about "temporary" taxes.
He reminded that we all were saddled with a "temporary" E911 surcharge. Since it was a mere surcharge, it probably, technically, doesn't qualify as a "tax". Yet, as with ducks, if it looks like a tax, walks like a tax and acts like a tax, it IS a tax. This particular tax was placed upon us so that all counties in Wisconsin could have efficient 911 capabilities for such calls placed from cell phones. We were protected, however, since there were rules included that stated this tax would go away when all county's needs had been satisfied. Further, we were promised that any remaining surplus would be returned to us cell phone customers. There is, or was, a $20 million surplus.
My wife sent this to me, and I thought I just had to share it with you. I trust she wasn't subtly telling me something, but I probably should be careful with my assumptions.
There seems a pell mell rush by the ruling party (spelled D-E-M-O-C-R-A-T-S) in Wisconsin to continue to heap abuse upon abuse on the employers of the state.
There is a bill coursing through the legislature that will increase the exposure of employers to suits based on perceived discrimination by terminated employees. There are already rules in place that are costing tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and /or settlements, but that isn't enough.
This is, admittedly, a morbid subject for a blog, however it strikes me that, since we rely so heavily on taxes from smokers, we ought look at the full spectrum of their impact.
We generally accept that smokers, as a class, die earlier than do non-smokers. We generally accept that smokers, as a class, consume more health care during their lifetimes. Smokers, as a class, generally roll over and permit themselves to be hammered by local and state governments with excessive taxation, restrictions of their freedoms, and the scorn and contempt of some of their fellow citizens.