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Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010

Stick a Fork in It: 2010 News Quiz

2010 is done. How much do you remember?

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What can we say about a year that included an earthquake in Haiti, a 500-year flood in Milwaukee and a political firestorm at all levels of government? 2010 provided plenty of drama (Gov.-elect Scott Walker’s high-stakes refusal of $810 million in high-speed rail funds) and laughter (ex-Packer Brett Favre’s alleged pics and texts). But how much of it do you remember? Take our quiz and find out:

Question:
Undoubtedly, one of the biggest stories of the year was the huge storm on July 22-23, when up to 9 inches of rain fell on the Milwaukee region in a very short amount of time. Since then, the operation of the region’s sewage infrastructure has come under scrutiny. Some—mostly conservative radio talkers, who are “supposed” to be against taxes—have called on Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) to separate sewers where they are combined and increase the capacity of the Deep Tunnel. That work would cost up to how much?

  • $800 million

  • $2.7 billion

  • $4.5 billion

  • $7.5 billion

Answer: $4.5 billion. MMSD estimates that the cost of separating sewers, upgrading the Deep Tunnel and increasing pumping capacity would be between $4.5 billion and $5.8 billion. And even then it might not be enough to prevent overflows in such an intense storm.

Question: Gov.-elect Scott Walker has claimed that as Milwaukee County executive he hadn’t introduced a budget that included a property tax increase over the previous year. So what happened to the county property tax levy during Scott Walker’s tenure as county executive?

  • The county property tax levy did not increase over Walker’s seven-year tenure

  • The county property tax levy grew by less than 5%

  • The county property tax levy rose by approximately 20%

  • The county property tax levy almost doubled

Answer:
The county property tax levy rose by approximately 20%. To be more exact, the property tax levy rose 19.94% between Walker’s first budget and his final proposed 2011 budget.

Question:
As county executive, Walker used furlough days to balance his 2010 budget. How many unpaid days off were some workers forced to take this year?

  • 4

  • 8

  • 16

  • 26

Answer:
26. As of an executive order signed by Walker on Aug. 31, some Milwaukee County employees were forced to take 26 unpaid furlough days this year, which is a 10% cut in salary.

Question:
Gov.-elect Walker refused to accept $810 million in federal funds for high-speed rail. But the money was also slated to go to other rail projects in the area, such as upgrading some freight rail lines and the Downtown Amtrak station. Since these upgrades will still need to be finished, how much of that $810 million will now have to be covered by state tax funds?

  • $14 million

  • $20 million

  • $80 million

  • $113 million

Answer:
$113 million, according to a preliminary report by the state Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

Question:
Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, who will head the House Budget Committee, claims to be a deficit hawk. So did he vote for the recent tax cut deal that provided additional tax breaks for those earning more than $250,000 a year, which is expected to add $700 billion to the federal budget deficit in the next two years?

  • Yes

  • No

Answer: Yes. Ryan—just like the rest of Wisconsin’s Republican delegation—voted for the tax package, while all Wisconsin Democrats voted against it.

Question:
Everyone complains about the high cost of health insurance, and for good reason: Over the past decade, employer-based single health insurance premiums have increased 130% nationwide, according to a new study by Citizen Action of Wisconsin. How do Wisconsin’s premiums compare to the increase across the country?

  • Better. Wisconsin’s premiums haven’t increased as much as the national average.

  • The same.

  • Worse. Wisconsin’s premiums increased more dramatically than the national average.

Answer:
Worse. The study found that Wisconsin’s health insurance premiums have increased 198% since 2000. Milwaukee-area premiums have increased 205% during that period, while Green Bay’s premiums increased a whopping 326%.

Question:
Another great source of complaint is taxes. In fact, conservative businesses complain that the corporate income tax is too high. Gov.-elect Walker has even considered abolishing it. So does corporate income tax collection dwarf other sources of taxes in the state?

  • Yes. Corporate income taxes provide more revenue for the state than other taxes.

  • No. Other sources of taxes generate far more funds for the state.

Answer:
No. According to a new study by the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future, $9.4 billion in property taxes were collected in Fiscal Year 2010, the biggest tax in the state. That tax was followed by the individual income tax, sales taxes, the motor fuels tax, the corporate income tax and the cigarette tax. Less than $1 billion in corporate income taxes were paid to the state this year. The study also found that Wisconsin individuals paid the majority of property taxes, too. The burden of the property tax falls on residential homeowners, who provide 70% of that revenue, while commercial properties account for about 20% of property tax revenues.

Question: The city of Waukesha has been working for years on its request for Lake Michigan water under the terms of the Great Lakes Water Compact, which regulates how and when communities outside of the Great Lakes basin can apply for water. The state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) sent back Waukesha’s application because:

  • It lacked a detailed explanation ruling out all water supplies within its own water basin

  • The city continued to study local sources of water while its application was being reviewed by the state

  • It didn’t include a $5,000 filing fee

  • The mayor of Waukesha doesn’t support the application, while the Common Council does, causing confusion at the state level

  • It did not state how it would return water to the Great Lakes basin for each of its three preferred scenarios

  • It failed to provide a detailed cost breakdown for all of its preferred scenarios

  • All of the above

Answer:
All of the above, according to a June 8 letter from DNR Secretary Matt Frank to Waukesha Mayor Jeff Scrima.

Question:
President Obama nominated former state Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler for a position on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin in October 2009. When did Butler receive confirmation for this position?

  • January 2010, three months after the nomination

  • Three weeks ago

  • Never

Answer:
Never. After Senate Republicans held up Butler’s nomination (and his renomination in September 2010), his nomination was withdrawn last week.

Question:
While the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s PolitiFact Wisconsin Truth-o-Meter routinely skews in favor of Republicans, the St. Petersburg Times’ original PolitiFact project is far more balanced. This year, the national PolitiFact named “a government takeover of health care” as the lie of the year. Which Republicans repeated this lie in 2010?

  • Lt. Gov.-elect Rebecca Kleefisch (with Gov.-elect Scott Walker by her side) in a campaign commercial

  • Sen.-elect Ron Johnson

  • State Sen.-elect Leah Vukmir

  • WTMJ-AM’s Charlie Sykes

  • State GOP Chair Reince Priebus

  • U.S. Rep.-elect Sean Duffy

  • All of the above

Answer:
All of the above. But only Kleefisch and Johnson were called out by the Journal Sentinel for repeating this lie.