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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

WMC’s $9.8 Billion Debt to the State

Calculator totals up the business lobby’s cost to taxpayer

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Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), the state’s big business lobbying group, costs the state about $31 a second. That’s because WMC’s proposals—from slashing corporate income taxes to opposing insurance coverage of wigs for cancer patients— would have cost the state more than $9.8 billion since 2001 if all of the proposals had worked out in WMC’s favor. Those figures can be found at the WMC Watch Web site (www.wmcwatch.org), a new database set up by the Institute for One Wisconsin. The group added up the cost of the bills supported and opposed by WMC since 2001, then crunched the numbers.

It found that WMC’s agenda has cost each man, woman and child in the state $1,800. And the number is growing with each minute. The site also lists WMC’s “cheerleaders”—legislators who have sided with WMC and are responsible for this $9.8 billion bill. They include state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), Sen. Ted Kanavas (R-Brookfield), state Rep. Mark Honadel (R- South Milwaukee), Rep. Suzanne Jeskewitz (R-Menomonee Falls), Rep. Ann Nischke (R-Waukesha) and Rep. Jeff Stone (R- Greendale). Former Brookfield legislator ScottJensen also scored 100% before his felony conviction for misconduct in office.

JS Supporting Race-Baiting Gableman Ad?: It’s been tough to find balanced reporting on the campaign for the state Supreme Court in Milwaukee’s daily newspaper. The race pits incumbent Justice Louis Butler, an African-American former judge from Milwaukee, against Burnett County Judge Michael Gableman. The race has been tainted by heavy special interest ads and misleading statements about the candidates’ records and the role of the state’s highest court. So what does the Journal Sentinel do? Repeat the claims and support the notion that Supreme Court justices are crime fighters. They are not—but crime is the subject of every TV ad because it’s so inflammatory.

The Journal Sentinel had a perfect opportunity to set the record straight this week, after a race-baiting, misleading, Gableman-sponsored TV ad hit the airwaves. (“TV ad by Gableman comes out swinging” the paper trumpeted last week.)

On Monday the ad was denounced by everyone from right-wing talker Charlie Sykes to the head of the State Bar to the governor. But the JS buried the story in the Metro section, with the headline “NAACP decries campaign ad.” The article contains no mention of the legal community’s denunciation of the ad and its calls for Gableman to pull it from the airwaves. Nor did an editorial appear in Tuesday’s edition to call attention to the sleaziness of Gableman’s claims.

Instead, the state’s largest paper gave it a pass.

JusticeProsser Won’t Rule on Church Sex Abuse Cases: State Supreme Court JusticeDavidProsser has recused himself from two cases the court will hear that involve the Catholic Church and child sex abuse. Yet in 2005, Prosser wrote the majority opinion for a case that favored the church against victims, saying that the statute of limitations for cases had expired.

And back in the 1970s, when he was the district attorney of Outagamie County, he declined to prosecute a priest who was accused of child molestation. Thirty years later, the same priest was convicted of those charges. Prosser, a former Republican Assembly leader, was appointed to the bench by then-Gov. Tommy Thompson in 1998. He won election to a 10-year term in 2001.

Special Ed Settlement Scuttled: The Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) rejected a proposed settlement of a class action lawsuit regarding special education students, saying that MPS was cut out of the final negotiations. MPS had been working with the state Department of Instruction (DPI) to come to terms with the advocacy group Disability Rights Wisconsin. But MPS said that DPI negotiated a settlement favorable to its own interests and stuck MPS—and city of Milwaukee taxpayers—with the cost of implementing the plan. In a statement, MPS Board President Peter Blewett said, “We were shocked that the settlement was hatched in secret with no inclusion of MPS negotiators—especially since DPI has made it clear that Milwaukee taxpayers will be responsible for the costs.” The board has called for further negotiations.

Looking for Ace/Co. Workers: Milwaukee’s Aluminum Casting & Engineering Co., known as Ace/Co., must dispense back pay to current and former employees because it intimidated workers during a union organizing campaign in 1995. The funds, which are being distributed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), are available to people who were employees of Ace/Co. in 1995—$1,250 for each employee. Those who may be eligible for back pay should call Richard Neuman at the NLRB at 297-3819.

End the War Now: More than 600 people gathered Downtown in 34-degree weather last Saturday to protest the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Not only did they send a strong message to war supporters, but they got to hear some amazing speeches.

Father Simon Harak, of MarquetteUniversity’s Center for Peacemaking, questioned the $480 billion being spent on the war, and called for bringing the troops home while improving living conditions in the United States. “Let’s bring the spirit of America back home,” he said. Rep. Gwen Moore talked about congressional efforts to end the war and said she’ll only authorize funds that go toward diplomacy and getting the troops out. She also said she signed on to the impeachment initiative because “it’s an act of patriotism.” Will Williams, of Vets for Peace, focused on young people who are being preyed on by military recruiters. “If we want peace,” Williams told the crowd, “we have to fight for peace.” And GeorgeMartin, of Peace Action Wisconsin, got everyone fired up by declaring, “This is what America looks like.”

If you couldn’t make it to that rally, the seventh Iraq Moratorium event will be held on Friday, March 21. The 5 p.m. vigil will be held at Water Street and Wisconsin Avenue, part of nationwide protests against the war.

“Blackwater” Author to Speak: Milwaukee native Jeremy Scahill, author of the definitive book on Blackwater, the controversial private military contractors, will deliver the first Frank P. Zeidler Memorial Lecture on Tuesday, March 25, in Centennial Hall of the Milwaukee Public Library, 733 N. Eighth St. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the lecture will begin at 7:30 p.m.

What’s your take? Write: editor@shepex.com.

Photo "1st and Oregon" submitted by ellDoubleu