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Archives for Jim Doyle (page 1 / 1)

Progressively Regressive Child Care in Dane County

The Capital Times published an article on the shortage of child day care in Dane County. It's not until the 11th paragraph that they finally reveal that the state government is to blame.

The primary reason it's so hard to find care for infants is because of a state mandated caregiver-child ratio that requires one provider for every four babies or toddlers under age 2. Ratios increase according to the age of the child. For example, the ratio is 1 caregiver for every 13 children for 4- and 5-year-olds. So, the staffing costs for infants can be more than triple what they are for older children.

Most child care centers don't offer infant care, in part because of financial reasons. "Not to sound cold, but they don't make money on infants because the ratio is so small," says Jody Bartnick, the executive director of Community Coordinated Child Care, a children's advocacy organization commonly referred to as 4-C. Stricter regulations add costs, she said. Infant rooms require their own sink, their own refrigerator and other equipment.

And when those costs are passed on to consumers, they are significant for most household budgets.

4-C numbers show that the average weekly cost of infant care in Dane County as of March 2008 was $245 in a family child care center and $275 at a group center. For preschool care, the number drops to about $220 at both types of centers. At those rates, child care can cost between $11,000 and $14,000 a year -- compared with about $7,300 for in-state tuition at UW-Madison.

In the name of making day care safer, they've actually made day care nearly impossible to get. And, when you can get it, it's astronomically expensive. For an area that prides itself on its progressivism, this sounds pretty regressive to me.

Of course, they'll redeem themselves by attempting to raise my taxes so they can turn around and subsidize child care for someone else. The obvious solution -- deregulate the market -- would never occur to them.

You're doing a heckuva job, Jimmy Doyle.

GM Plant Closes: Who's to Blame?

This morning, General Motors announced that it would be closing four plants -- including the Janesville, Wisconsin plant. Everyone was talking about the news today. Most of the talk centered around who to blame. The most popular candidates were President Bush; the evil, greedy managers of GM; and even President Reagan (!).

Governor Doyle's opinion:

"Bad corporate decision kept these lines turning out gas guzzlers as fuel prices went from 2 dollars to 3 dollars and now to 4 dollars per gallon.

"Now we stand here, carrying the burden of those bad corporate decisions -- failed leadership that culminated in a calculation that left out the very heart of this company, the workers who built"

Senator Obama's opinion:

"Unlike John McCain, I'm not in this race to extend the failed Bush economic policies; I'm in this race to end them," Obama said. "I've proposed investing $150 billion over ten years in green energy and creating up to five million new green jobs. We'll finally provide domestic automakers with the funding they need to retool their factories and make fuel-efficient and alternative fuel cars. And we'll invest in efforts to make sure that the cars of the future are made where they always have been -- in the United States. Because the fight for American manufacturing is the fight for America's future -- and I believe that's a fight this country will win."

As I read through the various articles, I noticed a few hints about why American automakers might need funding to produce fuel-efficient cars.

High Labor Costs:

In the past, costs generally were too high for Detroit automakers to turn a profit on small U.S.-built cars. But [Chief Executive Rick] Wagoner said GM has lowered costs enough with new labor contracts and other measures to turn a profit.

"The direct answer is we need to," Wagoner told reporters. "We believe we can build a car there profitably."

Generous Benefits:

Fisher said some of the hardest hit residents will be those employed by suppliers and other businesses dependent on GM, noting that GM often has been called "generous motors" for its pay and benefits.

That corporate generosity -- often granted at the barrel of a UAW gun -- destroyed GM's ability to make a profit on small cars. Because of high labor costs, GM only earned a decent profit on the more expensive trucks and SUVs. With gas costing $4 gallon GM can no longer afford to keep producing gas hogs -- or keep employing a pricey workforce.

Finally, it's interesting to note that Senator Kohl believes only the government is capable of retraining GM's employees.

"With the announcement that General Motors plans to close this plant, thousands of skilled and dedicated workers face a stark future of employment and financial uncertainty," Kohl said. "Secretary Chao seems to understand the severity of the situation and assured me that the Labor Department would take immediate steps to retrain workers at the plant. Only then can these employees learn new skills necessary to finding new jobs."

Silly me. This plant has been on life support for quite a while. I thought that the employees might have taken that as a warning sign to improve their own skills and start learning a new trade.

And, yes, I do feel for these workers. I can sympathize with the fear that comes from losing a steady income and facing an uncertain future. In some measure, the future is always uncertain. I prefer to always plan for that uncertainty, as best as I possibly can. I never want to just assume that if I ignore the uncertainty -- or appeal to Washington -- that it will just go away.

No Budget? Shut 'Er Down

Governor Jim Doyle is once again threatening to shut down the Wisconsin government. He's so desperate to pass a budget, he's trying to scare us with stories of shut down prisons and canceled university classes.

"In order to fund essential services that are needed to protect the health and safety of Wisconsin residents, a partial shutdown may well be necessary. The Legislature's failure has left the state with no other option but to plan for the disaster they have caused."

For instance, the Department of Corrections and the UW System are expected to run out of money in April, he said.

Doyle said he needs to find significant cost savings in Corrections by then to keep running the prisons. That might mean canceling contracts with county jails that house some prisoners and furloughing workers, he said.

For the System's 13 four-year universities and 13 two-year colleges, the governor said it would be irresponsible to open the campuses for the second semester in January if they would have to close their doors in April.

Doyle said he doesn't have a date to put the plans in place and he would like "to put that off as long as possible."

Owen Robinson points out that the State has plenty of money to keep things running.

The state of Wisconsin is currently operating under the previous budget. Because of the natural increase in tax revenues from a growing economy, Wisconsin's government will actually take in about a billion MORE dollars even without any tax increases. Also, the budget included COL and other built in increases. So if a budget is not passed, Wisconsin can and will spend more money than it did last year.

If Doyle chooses to shut down government services even though they are getting as much or more tax dollars than last year, then he can have at it. It would show his utter weakness as an executive to manage the state. A manager from Best Buy could keep the store open without a budget increase. I would think that the governor could do at least that.

Once again, our governor is looking increasingly inept, incompetent, and powerless. Good. That's exactly how I like the executive branch to look. We don't NEED to pass a budget in order to keep the state safe and secure. Therefore, I don't think we should pass a budget until we get the right one. Right?

How Governor Doyle is Like Professor Harold Hill

In "The Music Man", con-man "Professor" Harold Hill was nearly run out of town on a rail for trying to sell the town members on a non-existent boys band. He was saved by a good singing voice, the love of a librarian, and the unexpected appearance of a real boys band -- put together by someone other than Hill.

Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle is trying to accomplish the same feat. Instead of a boys band, Governor Doyle is attempting to sell a non-existent college scholarship program. I'm not kidding about the non-existent part. The Wisconsin Covenant program exists only in Governor Doyle's fevered imagination -- it hasn't even been introduced as a bill in the state legislature. Sadly, the governor has conned nearly 10,000 high school students into signing up for this pretend program.

With just days left before the Friday sign-up deadline, nearly 10,000 ninth-graders have committed to the proposed Wisconsin Covenant, which promises a route to college if they fulfill a pledge.

A spokesman for Gov. Jim Doyle's office said the Democratic governor's new program is succeeding in getting thousands of students to start thinking early about college. But Republican lawmakers point out that thousands of students have now signed up for a supposed guarantee that hasn't been approved by, or even introduced in, the Legislature.

"Thousands of students across the state now have a clear road map for what they need to do to go to college, and in addition, the state has committed to ensure there's a place for these students in higher education," Doyle spokesman Matt Canter said of the program, which Doyle hopes will boost the number of low-income students in college.

Doyle and first lady Jessica Doyle have been crisscrossing the state in recent days touting the covenant program and urging students to participate.

Doyle first proposed a year ago that the state guarantee a place in a college and adequate financial aid to any eighth-grader who pledges to do well in school and keep out of trouble. The first class of students started making the pledge last spring. Those eighth-graders are now ninth-graders and the program would apply to their first year in college in 2011, Canter said.

It's like something out of a farce. Only, sadly, true.

More on 'Convoluted Tax Schemes'

Three months ago, I reported that Jim Doyle wanted to hike the hospital tax in order to give hospitals more money. Well, he still wants to. Only now we know that the amounts the hospitals will supposedly receive, is less than Diamond Jim hoped for:

UW Hospital had been projected to gain $23.3 million in Medicaid reimbursements over two years under the original proposal. Under the new calculations, it would receive about $11 million. Meriter, which had been projected to get almost $22 million, would receive about $14 million. The projected reimbursement for St. Mary's Hospital's increased by half a million dollars, to $4.8 million.

Oops. Of course, people not affiliated with the Doyle administration think that hospitals will actually lose money by being taxed, not gain it:

In March, the Wisconsin Hospital Association released an analysis showing hospitals would lose money in the next two years if the hospital tax is approved, not gain $283 million, as Doyle claimed. The group is still analyzing the new data, but remains skeptical.

Of course, it's not even a given that the hospitals will receive all of the money from the tax scheme:

"A large portion is diverted to other programs. ... It's difficult to say where the funds will ultimately be used," Quinn said.

Government efficiency, marching onward. Roll Wisconsin!

Convoluted Tax Schemes

Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle has a plan to give more money to hospitals. It's very simple -- in order to pay them more, he first has to tax them more. The Wisconsin State Journal gave a breakdown of the plan:

It works like this: The state imposes the tax on hospitals, leading to an increase in the cost of providing health services. The state returns the money raised by the tax to hospitals to help cover the costs of providing care to Medicaid patients. Then the state reports the increased costs of Medicaid to the federal government, which in turn increases its reimbursement to the state.

The state can then use the extra money for health care or other programs.

I'm reasonably certain that any private doctor, trying to increase Medicaid reimbursements this way, would be prosecuted for Medicaid fraud. Why are states are allowed to get away with such blatant fraud? Wisconsin isn't the only state doing this, but it might be one of the last:

"We have, as a state, been much less aggressive than other states in the use of these assessments," said Jason Helgerson, executive assistant and policy director for the Department of Health and Family Services.

Hospital executives say they understand why states are imposing such taxes. But they said the federal government is catching on to what states are doing and federal rules changes could limit Medicaid reimbursements and render the taxation strategy ineffective for states.

This whole scenario is a perfect example of government inefficiency and waste. Whatever faults private insurance might have, this kind of chicanery isn't it.

Shakeup in the Wisconsin Governor's Race

On Friday night, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker dropped out of the Republican primary race against Representative Mark Green. You can read the Wisconsin State Journal story on the event.

Owen Robinson, of Boots & Sabers, was at the 5th Congressional District Republican Caucus where Walker announced his decision. He uploaded a copy of Walker's speech. He also provided a copy of Representative Green's response (with audio) and an audio copy of Walker's speech.

This announcement makes things simpler for me. I had been leaning towards supporting Scott Walker, but hadn't made up my mind yet. Now I can focus on campaigning for one candidate and know exactly where to send my money. I back Representative Green 100% and look forward to having a governor that will require photo ID to vote, that will sign a concealed-carry bill into law, and that will work towards lowering Wisconsin's tax burden. As of this morning, I'm a member of "the Green Team".

Two side notes. Walker wins my award for best political soundbite of the month: In the end, I love this state too much to see Jim Doyle elected to another term.

Democratic Party Chairman Joe Wineke won the award for "Cutest Attempt at a Political Attack: The good news for Wisconsin voters is that Scott Walker is out of the race. The bad news is that extreme Mark Green is still in it. Wineke gets bonus points for clever use of assonance -- glad to see he was paying attention when his English teacher covered clever uses of rhyming.

This entry was tagged. Jim Doyle Wisconsin

Heating Assistance

It must be an election year. Wisconsin Republicans indicated that they would work with Governor Doyle on a heating bill. Quick recap: Republicans hold a majority in both the state Assembly and the state Senate. Governor Doyle peremptorily summoned the legislature into session after the Republicans had previously refused to increase state heating aid. I have a few questions I'd like to ask about this plan.

Doyle wants to set aside $6 million from an environmental cleanup fund to offer one-time heating assistance to people who do not currently qualify for aid. Some 30,000 families would qualify for $200 to $300 dollars apiece, Doyle's office estimates. The Republicans agreed to work with Doyle after the governor last week called for a special session of the Legislature on Tuesday to take up his plan, which would expand eligibility to a family of four with an income lower than $40,000.

How were these numbers arrived at? How many people four-member families with an income lower than $40,000 are there? How many of them desperately need this aid? How much heat does the Governor want to pay for? A passable 68 degrees or a balmy 75 degrees? One is necessary, one is simply extravagant. Does the Governor's plan take this into account? Is this a true necessity or simply a vote-buying effort by a Governor desperate for good news? Will this money really be taken from the environmental cleanup fund or will Doyle later use the environmental cleanup fund as an excuse to raise taxes further?

Families "are left to worry for another week about how to pay the bills and whether they'll have to choose between heating and eating," [Governor Doyle] said at a news conference.

This statement is extremely misleading. Wisconsin law prohibits heating companies from cutting off the heat if citizens are unable to pay their bills. People can catch up on their bills during the cheaper summer months. If paying large bills during the winter is a worry, most utility companies allow people to pay on a "budget plan" that distributes the payments evenly throughout the entire year. No citizen of Wisconsin need to choose between heating and eating. If money is tight, the state allows them to choose eating now and worry about the heating bills later.

The eligibility expansion could help people such as Deanna Topper of Mount Horeb, a single working mother who was denied heating assistance last year. Topper, a case manager for a social services agency, said her heating bill had doubled since that time and any state aid "would be a huge relief."

I am sure it would be huge relief if the state would help. I would consider it a huge relief if the state of Wisconsin would help pay for my cable bill. That doesn't mean that the state needs to pay for Ms. Topper's bills.

Actually, I wonder if Ms. Topper has cable television? I don't know if she does or not, but let's hypothesize that she does -- just as a thought experiment. If so, I would argue that the state is subsidizing her cable bills. By helping to pay for her heat, they would be allowing her to spend her own money on a cable subscription. I'm not sure what the rates in Mount Horeb are, but here in Madison I would have to spend $45 a month to get cable television. Over the course of a winter, that would be a cool $225. If Wisconsin is determined to give people another $200-300 a month, they should force people to choose between cable television and heating, to pinpoint just one luxury that 62% of all Americans enjoy.

Fitzgerald, co-chairman of the Legislature's budget committee, said he also questioned spending $6 million more because the state and federal government are already spending a record $80 million to help the poor in Wisconsin pay their heating bills this year.

This has been one of the mildest winters on record for Wisconsin. We're already spending a record amount of money to pay for heating bills. A record amount of money in a year that has been very mild. Why do we need to spend even more money on heating? Keep in mind that no one will have their heat cut off this winter. No one will freeze to death if we don't spend this money. Why is it so urgent that we spend it now? Why are Wisconsin's Republicans so eager to help the governor spend even more money?