Falk Raised Taxes By Millions As County Exec

Politifact has rated that claim by Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch as true.

“In a national economic downturn, Wisconsin families cannot afford to have a leader with an addiction to taxing and spending,” Kleefisch wrote in an opinion piece published by Madison’s Capital Times on Feb. 3, 2012. “The failed policies Falk has consistently stood for throughout her career are exactly the same policies that led Wisconsin down an irresponsible path to a $3.6 billion budget deficit.”

Kleefisch went on to cite chapter and verse:

“As Dane County executive, Falk raised taxes by millions of dollars every year, most notably in 2010, when she increased taxes by 8 percent, the second highest increase across the entire state of Wisconsin.”

The op-ed piece contrasts these claims with Walker’s state budget, which Kleefisch says was balanced “without raising taxes on Wisconsin families.”

The proof behind this truth?

Asked to back up the claim about Falk, the Walker campaign — speaking for Kleefisch — pointed us to property tax figures compiled by Dane County and the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance, a nonpartisan research group.

Falk’s approach as executive from 1997 to 2011 was to limit increases in the property tax levy to inflation with a factor built in for population growth. It was an effort to tie increases to service demand, said Scott McDonell, chairman of the Dane County Board, which largely approved of Falk’s approach.

Did Falk’s budget raise property taxes by 8 percent in 2010, “the second highest” in the state? Yes.

In 2010, Falk busted past her self-imposed levy limit of 1.19 percent for that year. She blamed lagging sales tax and other revenue due to the Great Recession, and said higher property taxes, a 3 percent wage cut negotiated with county unions and efficiency moves would preserve needed services.

Head to the source to see Politifact’s full assessment.

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Madison Schools Facing $12.4 Million Deficit

Stark reality for the Madison School District for next school year.

Superintendent Dan Nerad won’t make his preliminary budget recommendations until April 1, but in its first look at the 2012-13 school budget, the district is projecting a $12.4 million deficit based on current budget trends.

Factoring in rising insurance and fuel costs, the district projects general fund spending of $319.7 million, up from $310.9 million this year. Revenues are projected to be $307.3 million.

The district is looking at several options to close the gap, such as eliminating its most expensive health insurance option, renegotiating nonunion employee contracts, energy efficiency projects, refinancing debt and raising property taxes, said Erik Kass, assistant superintendent for business services.

But the district doesn’t want to do what other districts around the state have done – have employees contribute more to their health insurance premiums.

One way Madison expects to close its $12.4 million deficit this year is to eliminate Wisconsin Physicians Service as an insurance provider, which would save about $5 million. Madison Teachers Inc. agreed to that option as part of the current contract.

The union also agreed to pay up to 15 percent of the premium for the other three insurance options, Group Health Cooperative, Dean and Physicians Plus. But Madison didn’t exercise that option last year and might not have to this year, Kass said.

The 15 percent contribution would generate up to $7.5 million in savings, but would cost teachers up to about $900 for a single plan and $2,700 for a family plan. Most other districts around the state had employees pay more toward premiums last year.

MTI executive director John Matthews said an average teacher is already losing about $2,600 in take-home pay because of the pension contribution. Not having to contribute to health insurance premiums would be “a huge relief.”

“Many employees were forced to reduce their standard of living, many are having financial problems, some unable to afford college tuition and some are unable to qualify for mortgage to enable home purchase,” Matthews wrote in an email.

School Board President James Howard said asking employees to contribute more than what they do now would be a “double whammy” because they also are affected by property tax increases. But the board may look at ways to spread out the budget’s impact.

Why can’t employees in the Madison school district do what private sector employees have been doing during the current economic downturn?  Why should they not have to make adjustments in their standard of living and pay more?

Instead the Madison Metropolitan School District thinks it is better to raise taxes to cover the shortfall.  To not exercise options that the union agreed to is absurd.  But then again it was also absurd to agree to new contracts with the unions last year before Act 10 became law.

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Court Rules GAB Must Do It’s Job

A win for Governor Scott Walker.

A Waukesha County judge ruled Thursday that the Government Accountability Board has to verify signatures on recall petitions against the governor.

Judge Mac Davis ordered state election officials to “take affirmative steps” to remove fake or duplicate names from recall petitions.

The GAB now has to look for bogus names, duplicate names and check if a signature is from a valid voter on recall petitions.

GAB Director Kevin Kennedy says they have some reorganzing to do.

“We’ll go back and look at the procedures to instruct the staff to do what’s in line with the court order,” said Kennedy.

Joe Olson of “Friends of Scott Walker” told TODAY’S TMJ4, “I think the court made a very firm statement.  The integrity of this process matters and the gab has to take affirmative steps in assuring that valid signatures are the only signatures counted.”

What’s disappointing is that it took a court order to make the GAB do it’s job.

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Green Bay possible host for WIAA state basketball tournaments

Potential good news for the Green Bay area.

Madison’s place as host to the WIAA state basketball tournaments has outlasted The Great Depression, World War II and the disco era, but it might not survive growing pressure to reserve the Kohl Center for University of Wisconsin sports during March.

WIAA executive director Dave Anderson said Friday the state’s governing body for high school sports is actively seeking a new home for its state boys and girls basketball tournaments, as early as 2012-13.

After holding the boys tournament in Madison for 91 of the past 92 years, that might mean taking both tournaments to Green Bay or Milwaukee.

Anderson told the WIAA Board of Control that PMI Entertainment Group, which represents the Resch Center in Green Bay, has made an official offer to host the tournaments beginning in 2014. He said the WIAA also has inquired about the availability of the U.S. Cellular Arena in Milwaukee to host the state tournaments for the two sports that are the WIAA’s biggest moneymakers.

It’s all but a given that beginning in 2014 both tournaments will need a new home.

“We have reached out to other venues, knowing that we’re certainly going to need a home for our tournaments by 2014,” said Anderson, whose association is under contract with UW to hold the state basketball tournaments on the Madison campus through 2013 but has been told that conflicts could force both tournaments to be moved from the Kohl Center.

“It’s a given. Whether that home is a facility in Madison, a facility in Milwaukee or a facility in Green Bay. We’re limited.”

So just what are the conflicts that are causing the WIAA to look at alternative sites?  One is the new Big Ten Hockey conference.

The long-term conflicts include the dynamics of the Big Ten men’s hockey conference, which debuts during the 2013-14 season.

The conference announced in June it will use a two-week postseason format that begins with the four lowest seeds meeting in a best-of-three series at the home of the highest seed. The winners will advance to face the top two seeds at the home of the No. 1 seed the next week.

The economic benefits in Green Bay could be huge if the tournaments were hosted here.

The 12 WIAA state tournaments held on the UW campus have an estimated economic impact of $10 million on the city of Madison and Dane County, according to Greater Madison Visitor and Convention Bureau figures. Boys and girls basketball, which bring in more than $3 million of the WIAA’s $6 million in annual revenue, account for most of that.

Were you disappointed when the WIAA moved the boys sectional tournaments from Green Bay?  If so start letting them know that you want the state tournaments to be held here.

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