- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Capital Times, Feb. 14

Crooked Scott Walker aims to bribe voters with sales tax ‘holiday’

Sales taxes are inherently unfair. They place a greater burden on working families than on the rich.

The fairer calculus would place the greater burden on the rich, with the sort of progressive taxation that Wisconsin Democrats and Republicans favored in the days before wealthy campaign donors exploited a corrupt campaign finance system to buy themselves compliant politicians.

And there is no more compliant politician than Scott Walker.

Wisconsin’s governor is never going to do right by working families because he doesn’t serve them; he serves his campaign donors. The Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson and other out-of-state millionaires have paid for his political viability since he emerged as a statewide political figure. The only flexibility that Walker’s masters permit him is at election time, when the career politician is allowed to tinker with sales taxes in order to try to win a few votes.

That is what Walker is doing with his proposal for a weekend sales tax holiday just before the Aug. 14 primary, in which the governor is expected to be nominated for a third term. The scam, organized by Walker with his Republican allies in the state Assembly, is designed to provide a one-time sales tax holiday on items that cost under $100 and are purchased during the Aug. 4-5 weekend.

Combined with a one-time $100 per child tax rebate to parents, the scheme would empty roughly $172 million out of state coffers for what Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, calls “an election-year bribe.”

“The governor might as well save money on postage and just hand these checks out at polling places in November,” said Hintz. “For seven years, Governor Walker has handed out favors to his donors and corporations to stay in power. Now, he’s trying to do the same with voters, but they’re not going to fall for it.”

Working Wisconsinites shouldn’t fall for it.

But that does not mean they should not take advantage of the tax holiday. They can take advantage of a brief break from the unfair sale tax, recognize this “holiday” as the ham-handed attempt to bribe them that it is, and still vote against Scott Walker in November.

___

Wisconsin State Journal, Feb. 16

$1.6B deficit is more reason for Wisconsin leaders to sock money away

State leaders are having fun this election year proposing popular ways to spend most of a projected $385 million budget surplus.

Gov. Scott Walker has called for $100 rebate checks, a sales tax holiday, and more funding for rural schools and business grants.

But a new report by the state controller should temper talk of a spending spree - and encourage lawmakers to set more money aside instead.

The state’s Comprehensive Annual Fiscal Report, released this week, shows state government ended its past fiscal year with a $1.6 billion deficit. That’s a big difference from the $385 million surplus announced last month. So what’s going on?

The surplus was calculated using cash accounting, which lets state leaders ignore liabilities. Cash accounting is similar to balancing your checkbook without factoring in what you owe on your credit cards.

But when generally accepted accounting principles are applied to the state’s financial statements - unmasking accounting tricks and every obligation - a large hole appears.

To be fair, Gov. Walker inherited a much larger deficit when he took office in 2011. When strict accounting rules were applied to state finances back then, the state was running a $3 billion deficit. Under the Republican governor’s leadership, that fell by more than half to $1.4 billion by 2014. But then it jumped back up to $1.8 billion in 2015, and eased to $1.7 billion in 2016 and $1.6 billion as of June 30, 2017.

“We made huge progress for a couple of years, then regressed in 2015, and we’ve sort of been stuck there since,” said Dale Knapp, research director of the Wisconsin Policy Forum (formerly the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance).

“You get the sense other priorities have taken over, so it’s kind of on the back burner,” he said Thursday.

Wisconsin is lucky to have a nearly $400 million budget surplus. But instead of using that money to pay down some of the loans the state has t.

Indeed. And the top priority appears to be re-election. The governor and his fellow Republicans have been moderating their message and policies, hoping to retain control of state government after this fall’s elections.

But backtracking on fiscal discipline - including sending gimmicky checks to voters just before they vote - isn’t responsible or convincing. Instead, majority Republicans should sock away more money to protect our state and its priorities should the economy turn.

The last time Knapp’s group compared state deficits based on generally accepted accounting principles in 2016, Wisconsin’s deficit was second worst only to fiscal basket case Illinois.

That’s not encouraging.

Gov. Walker and his fellow Republicans have made progress on a better budget but should finish - rather than abandon - the job.

___

The Journal Times of Racine, Feb. 15

Nehlen should withdraw from 1st District race

Frankly, we’re embarrassed that he is even on the ballot here in southeastern Wisconsin.

Paul Nehlen, a challenger to U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan in the 1st Congressional District, added to his “credentials” as a bigoted anti-Semite and a racist over the weekend by insulting the mixed-race fiancée of Great Britain’s Prince Harry.

In a tweet on Friday, Nehlen posted an image of the royal couple in which a dark-skinned prehistoric Briton known as “Cheddar Man” is superimposed over the features of actress Meghan Markle standing beside her fiancé.

Nehlen tweeted along with the image the caption, “Honey, does this tie make my face look pale.”

Predictably, the racist tweet drew immediate international condemnation. The British newspaper The Mirror quoted Patrick Adams, a co-star with Markle, as saying, “You’re a sad sick man with no sense of shame or class. Get a life and don’t go anywhere near MM - she’s got more power, strength, honor and compassion in her fingernail than you’ll ever know in this lifetime.”

Twitter responded by suspending Nehlen’s account on Sunday.

If only it were that easy to suspend him from the ballot.

The racist tweet comes only days after Nehlen posted a list of his critics and wrote, “Of those 81 people, 74 are Jews, while only 7 are non-Jews” and added their phone numbers, emails and Twitter handles - which, according to news reports, resulted in a flood of harsh messages to them.

“This is not political discourse. This is hatefulness,” responded Elana Kahn, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council for the Milwaukee Jewish Federation.

Indeed, it is.

Nehlen, who was once the darling of the alt-right and whose candidacy was pushed by the Breitbart website in his 2016 run against Ryan was roundly repudiated by Wisconsin voters in that primary and got only 16 percent of the vote compared to Ryan’s 84 percent.

It saddens us that he even polled 16 percent. But Wisconsin - like other states - has its share of racists and anti-Semites. It was not too long ago that Alabama Gov. George Wallace - fresh from standing in the schoolhouse door to block integration of schools in his state - peddled his segregationist message here in Wisconsin and took a third of the vote in the Democratic presidential primary in 1964.

We expect Nehlen’s campaign will go down in flames as it did last time. We hope it is by an even wider margin. He would do the voters of the 1st Congressional District a favor by withdrawing now and stop spewing his message of bigotry and hate.


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