Journalism Accomplished: Why aren’t news organizations telling the whole truth in Wisconsin and why aren’t the state’s conservatives demanding secession?

  • In a nutshell, Walker transformed a $120M surplus into a deficit through special interest spending for his political friends and tax cuts for businesses. As The Cap Times explains:
  • To the extent that there is an imbalance — Walker claims there is a $137 million deficit — it is not because of a drop in revenues or increases in the cost of state employee contracts, benefits or pensions. It is because Walker and his allies pushed through $140 million in new spending for special-interest groups in January. If the Legislature were simply to rescind Walker’s new spending schemes — or delay their implementation until they are offset by fresh revenues — the “crisis” would not exist.
  • More specifically, TPM notes that “more than half of the new shortfall comes from three of Walker’s initiatives”:
  • $25 million for an economic development fund for job creation, which still holds $73 million because of anemic job growth.
  • $48 million for private health savings accounts — a perennial Republican favorite.
  • $67 million for a tax incentive plan that benefits employers, but at levels too low to spur hiring.
  • Not only that, Walker has chased investment out of the state to the tune of at least $810M.
  • In an e-mail exchange earlier this morning, Paul Rosenberg of Random Lengths News explained that “[a]pparently these measures don’t take effect until next fiscal year, so they actually AREN’T increasing the current year shortfall. But, as I noted, the Cap Times commentary highlights an unused cache of $73 million, more than twice what’s being sought from public sector workers.”
  • The idea of Walker and the legislature teeing up corporate tax cuts is especially remarkable, given that “the share of corporate tax revenue funding the state government has fallen by half since 1981 and, according to Wisconsin Department of Revenue, two-thirds of corporations pay no taxes.”

Rosenberg, who shares my frustrations with the state of the press, also backtracks the governor’s original press release, uncovering some important double dealing. Let me go ahead and plug in a longish section from Paul’s e-mail on this subject.

Salient points:

(1) Stated Deficit:

“The state of Wisconsin is facing an immediate deficit of $137 million for the current fiscal year which ends July 1. In addition, bill collectors are waiting to collect over $225 million for a prior raid of the Patients’ Compensation Fund.”

(2) Piddling amount gained by raiding public employee benefits:

“First, it will require state employees to pay about 5.8% toward their pension (about the private sector national average) and about 12% of their healthcare benefits (about half the private sector national average). These changes will help the state save $30 million in the last three months of the current fiscal year.”

(3) ENTIRE deficit covered by single non-controversial item:

“The budget repair will also restructure the state debt, lowering the state’s interest rate, saving the state $165 million.”

(4) Which carries with it a severe time-constraint:

“Since the state is required to make debt service payments by March 15th, the bill must be enacted by February 25th to allow time to sell the refinancing bonds. This provision will reduce debt service costs by $165 million in fiscal year 2010-11.”

There are, of course, all manner of other bells and whistles in this bill, but the whole “fiscal emergency” narrative–which is clearly questionable at best on other ground–is put to bed with this simple set of facts.

To cop a phrase from Brad DeLong, “Oh why can’t we have a better press corps?”

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