Walker Approval Remains Flat, Disapproval Ticks Up

By John Forester | September 22, 2016

From WisPolitics.com …

The latest Marquette University Law School Poll found Gov. Scott Walker’s job approval rating staying flat, though those who disapprove of his work ticked up.

Forty-three percent of registered voters approved of the job Walker is doing, while 52 percent disapproved. That split was 43-49 in late August.

The poll also found an improvement in President Obama’s job approval rating. Fifty-four percent approved of his job performance, while 41 percent did not. In late August, his split was 49-45.

Thirty-eight percent had a favorable rating of U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, while 32 percent had an unfavorable one and 30 percent expressed no opinion. When last asked in June, that split was 37-33 with 31 percent expressing no opinion.

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s favorable rating split was 47-32, compared to 54-33 in early August.

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Walker/Vos Transportation Funding Feud Continues

By John Forester | September 22, 2016

From WisPolitics . . .

— The feud between Gov. Scott Walker and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos over transportation funding continued yesterday, with Walker asking for “specific alternatives” to his proposal.

Walker today sent a letter to Vos asking Assembly GOP leaders to “stand with the taxpayer” and ensure their taxes and fees don’t go up. Vos and Joint Finance co-chair John Nygren have said all options, including revenue increases, need to be on the table to meet a projected $939.1 million gap in the transportation fund.

In his letter, Walker acknowledged “we have more work to do” on transportation but that the biennial budget proposal he rolled out last week is a “good start.” The proposal, he noted, would lower bonding to $500 million from the $850 million in the current budget. It also would boost local aids by $65 million and puts nearly $70 million toward maintenance and safety.

Walker said he released his proposal months early to start a discussion and is “willing to consider any specific alternatives from Assembly leadership that live within taxpayer means.”

“I am willing to consider alternatives and options that do not grow the size of government,” Walker wrote. “I believe we can agree that we did not get elected as conservatives to raise taxes or fees.”

See Walker’s letter here.

— Late yesterday afternoon, Vos and Assembly GOP leaders replied with their own letter saying Walker’s proposal “doesn’t address the long-term transportation needs” of the state.

In the letter, Assembly GOP leaders say they’re “pleased to hear that you agree more work needs to be done.” They said Assembly Transportation Committee Chair Keith Ripp, R-Lodi, will hold informational hearings so that the chamber can develop an alternative plan.

“Your office and the Department of Transportation have had months to develop a budget proposal, we would like to take the first step by holding hearings and asking experts about the future ramifications of the budget request,” they wrote.

Among the things they want studied are the impacts of Walker’s proposed project delays, which includes an expansion of I-94 north-south that goes through Vos’ district. Under Walker’s plan, they said, “the unfortunate reality is that these roads may not be done in our lifetime.”

“You have often said that we must do what’s best for the next generation and not worry about the next election,” they wrote. “We look forward to using this theme as we work together with you and our Senate colleagues to create a fiscally conservative and responsible long-term funding solution.”

See the letter here.

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State of Education Address Foreshadows Budget Priorities

By John Forester | September 15, 2016

In a passionate State of Education address today, grounded in his lifetime service to public education, State Superintendent Tony Evers foreshadowed priorities of the 2017-19 state budget request he will submit to the governor later this fall. He touched on the importance of

– providing resources to students that reflect the need to increase equity and close achievement gaps,

– building the educator workforce so every student has a teacher who is well trained and well compensated, and

– paying for schools in a way that avoids mounting inequalities.

Additional information is available in the attached news release. This release will be posted to the Department of Public Instruction newsroom website later today.

News Release

State of Education Speech

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No Time To Lose

By John Forester | September 13, 2016

I don’t often recommend an education reform study to SAA members.  But, I am today.  Last month, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) released “No Time to Lose: How to Build a World Class Education System State by State.”

Why am I recommending it?  The study is authored by a bipartisan group of state legislators from across the country including Senator Luther Olsen, Chairman of the Senate Education Committee in Wisconsin.  It has a simple approach — research the nations/provinces with the highest performing education systems and make reform recommendations based on the lessons learned.  The recommendations are evidence based and largely aligned with the SAA’s evidence-based policy agenda.  Finally, the authors recommend that each state launch an inclusive, high-level reform process without delay.

Can I get an Amen?  Check it out!!

Executive Summary

Full Report

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AEF to Release New School Funding Study

By John Forester | September 12, 2016

On Wednesday, September 14, 2016 at 2:00PM, State Representative Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) and State Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) will host a public press conference in the Assembly Parlor. The Association for Equity in Funding will release a new study, “Wisconsin School Funding and Student Outcome: Systemic Roadblock to Opportunity.” The study has important implications for Wisconsin schools and the communities they serve.

See the news release here.

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Construction Trades Coalition Spending Against GOP Senate Campaigns

By John Forester | September 8, 2016

From WisPolitics.com …

The Construction Trades Coalition is up with a new radio campaign saying it’s time to “cut our losses” with a GOP state Senate.

The group, which did not respond to messages seeking comment, reported to the state Ethics Commission it is spending $27,196 on radio targeting four GOP-held state Senate seats. It is the first filing the Ethics Commission has received indicating an independent expenditure from an outside group in a legislative race since the Aug. 9 primary.

The group has radio spots posted to a website that indicate they’re running during Wisconsin Badgers and Green Bay Packers games.  A WisPolitics.com reporter heard one of the ads over the weekend.

In one version, two announcers discuss an upcoming “tough legislative session for Team Wisconsin” like it was a football game.

One announcer says Wisconsin ranked 36th in private-sector job growth “last season.”

“We got out scored by 35 states,” the other says.

They also say Wisconsin is $1 billion short in road funding, and state veterans are prevented from getting good-paying jobs.

“Game plan: cut our losses, cut the Republican state senators, time for a new team in Madison,” one says to close the spot.

The ads do not mention any state senators by name.

The Construction Trades Coalition reported spending $5,439 each on radio ads opposing GOP Sens. Sheila Harsdorf, of River Falls; Tom Tiffany, of Hazelhurst; Luther Olsen, of Ripon; and Rick Gudex, of Fond du Lac. An equal amount was spent targeting Dan Feyen, the Republican seeking to replace Gudex in the 18th SD.

The CTC filing also shows it spent $246 on website development opposing the five Republicans.

The site that includes the radio ads also has report cards on the Republicans. Each gets an “F” for votes: on state highway funding after supporting Gov. Scott Walker’s latest budget; to pare back the state’s prevailing wage law, which the site says makes it harder for vets to find family sustaining jobs in construction; and on student loan debt for failing to “fight to reduce students’ and their families’ debt.” In regard to Feyen, it charges he “may continue the disastrous legislative policies supported by Senator Gudex.”

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Assembly GOP Announces Forward Agenda

By John Forester | September 7, 2016

From The Wheeler Report . . .

The Assembly Republicans announced their 2017-18 Forward Agenda. Rep. Steinke presented a video to the media discussing the various areas of the program.  In the transportation section the video said, “All options are on the table.” Steinke said the first action will be to realize all potential savings within transportation, but if new revenue is needed Assembly Republicans are prepared to look at all the options. Vos said there is “no magic bullet” for transportation, but the state has borrowed too much in the past, and it is not cheaper to delay projects or borrow for them.

With regards to higher education, Rep. Murphy said the Assembly Republicans agree with continuing the tuition freeze at the UW System. Murphy said the Assembly Republicans support performance metrics for the UW System which could be tied to the 4-year graduation rate, increased job placement in high demand fields, and increased job placement overall.

When asked about AB-1, Speaker Vos said the caucus had not decided what item will be AB-1 yet, but technology access, specifically getting laptops or tablets to all high school freshmen was a priority. Vos said Assembly Republicans have created a website and “We’re listening,” encouraging people to read the agenda and provide feedback to legislators. The agenda is broken down into three categories with specific items by category.

Job Growth and Government Reforms

Education and Workforce Development

Health and Public Safety

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Where Will Wisconsin Find Enough Workers?

By John Forester | September 6, 2016

In Case You Missed It . . .

This is a familiar theme from the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance . . . and it couldn’t be more on point.  The implications for and importance of our work with every student we serve is unmistakable.  I look forward to hearing from Wistax Research Director Dale Knapp on this topic and more at the WASDA Fall Superintendents Conference.

Check out the article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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State Tax Collections Fall Short of Projections

By John Forester | September 6, 2016

Check out the State Journal’s brief coverage of the Department of Revenue and Legislative Fiscal Bureau announcement yesterday that state tax collections are $85 million short of projections.  This announcement confirms our expectation that the 2017-19 state budget battle over very limited revenues will be fierce.

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Walker Approval Rating Rebounds in Latest Poll

By John Forester | September 1, 2016

From channel3000.com . . .

Gov. Scott Walker’s approval rating has rebounded to its highest point in months.

A Marquette University Law School poll released Wednesday shows Walker’s approval at 43 percent. It was 38 percent in a poll three weeks ago, the same as it was in July. It was last at 43 percent in March.

Walker’s approval rating first fell below 40 percent in August 2015 and has hovered around 40 percent ever since. It dropped to its lowest levels as Walker launched his failed presidential bid and it has not recovered since, even as Walker has emphasized traveling around Wisconsin more.

The latest Marquette Law School Poll was conducted Aug. 25 through Sunday, sampling 803 registered Wisconsin voters. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 points.

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