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Sunday, December 09, 2018

December 18: Building the People's Budget

Thanks, Pete K! (and Wisconsin Public Education Network)

Governor-elect Tony Evers' team announced today that they have created a new kind of listening session to gather public input to inform their 2019-2021 biennial budget.

They have created a series of unique events around the state that will give constituents the ability to share their budget priorities directly with our team. 

"Rather than a traditional listening session format, attendees will participate in small group sessions that focus on specific issue areas, generate group discussion, and create valuable feedback for our policy teams.

"These events are great opportunities for people to have their voices heard and their policy items prioritized."

The La Crosse session will be held on Tuesday, December 18 starting at noon at the La Crosse, American Legion Post 52. 711 6th St South, La Crosse, WI 54601. Register for the La Crosse session at this La Crosse link.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Incentivizing Energy Efficiency in Rental Properties

The question of how much something costs is often less important than the question of how payment occurs.  For example, sales tax is often complained about because it feels like a surprise at the register.  In response to increased minimum wages, some restaurants are adding a "minimum wage surcharge" on the bill "to highlight the consequences".

By putting these expenses where the customers see them, the goal is to make the customers feel like they're paying for something extra or unnecessary on top of the cost of the item they intended to purchase, which business owners hope will cause those customers to blame the government and lobby for taxes and the minimum wage to be reduced.  Businesses understand very well how to play this game.

We have done essentially nothing to reduce energy use in the past decade that global warming has been a clear danger.  One of the easiest ways to save energy is through simple heat loss management such as adding insulation, weatherstripping, and energy efficient doors and windows.  Energy Star estimates annual energy savings for a properly-insulated house in Wisconsin at 14%.

However, the homes where the greatest savings could be had in La Crosse are often the ones that are least likely to be properly insulated: rentals.  One-time large family homes which have been converted into rentals are often cold and drafty.

Part of the reason for this is the way that energy costs are paid: the tenant pays 100% of the energy bill, but the landlord would be the one who pays for energy efficiency improvements.  There is no incentive for a landlord to invest thousands of dollars in energy efficiency because they will see no return.

As is sometimes the case when a market failure occurs, government intervention may be a necessary option. In this case, shifting energy costs to landlords might be an effective way to compel them to install energy-saving upgrades.  However, shifting the entire energy bill to landlords would disincentivize tenants from saving energy, and landlords would complain that they have to foot the entire bill for tenants' irresponsible behavior.

Therefore I propose, through the passing of a new law if necessary, that landlords be required to pay half of the energy bill for their rental properties. 

It can safely be assumed that they would then raise rent by the average monthly energy bill; however, transferring the monthly cost to landlords still would change the incentive structure and finally give landlords a clear economic reason to install necessary energy efficiency improvements.

The cornfield reality

The next step in the quest to remain a democratic state is to beg the governor who once argued against much less drastic lame duck legislation to veto the lame duck legislation he probably helped to write.

Several good letters have been produced (a couple of communications are quoted below), and it's probably the next logical step in the play by the rules system we might have once inhabited.
Gov Walker, Please DO NOT sign sign any of the bills that change the current roles of the Governor and Attorney General, the makeup of committees, the dates of elections and ability to vote in an early election 
I am fearful of this attempt to restrict the will of the people. I believe that by signing these bills you are not representing the people and your signature to these bills will tarnish your adminstration. This assault on our democracy is totally against everything I have ever been taught. 
We must learn from our past. The last few years have shown that the national Republican leadership no longer represents the will of the people. I urge you to use your power and influence to protect the rights of the people.
And
This morning I called Governor Walker's office. I suggested he veto the legislation limiting Evers and Kaul. I suggested that if he is running for Ron Johnson's seat that voters I used the word they in reference to the voters) probably would not vote for him if he signs the bill.
But, as a Bush 43 advisor once told journalist Ron Suskind, "People like you are still living in what we call the reality-based community. You believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality. That's not the way the world really works anymore. We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you are studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors, and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

The new reality for Republican legislators seems to be, if we want it*, we will do it. Period. Not is it legal? Not is it bipartisan? Not does it make (scientific) sense? Not is it good for Wisconsin families or the future of our state or country (or the planet)? The recent revelation by Rex Tillerson that Donald Trump would often have a tantrum when told he couldn't get what he wanted is a perfect example. It only takes a few seconds to find many others. If they want it, they will do it.

*"It" usually involves money, usually moving as much public money as possible to crony contributors or changing or ignoring laws that protect the environment, public resources, clean air and water, or vulnerable communities if those laws reduce the amount of money crony contributors can charge or take by exploiting those protected groups and resources. Often it also includes punishing or making life more difficult for those who are of a different party, faith, color, gender, economic class, status, and/or ability, like Wisconsin Republicans' obsession with forcing people who are ill, poor, disabled or otherwise disadvantaged to "work" for basic healthcare or food assistance (no matter that a majority of the targets are already working or are children).

This is why I am skeptical about begging the Billy Mumy character from the Twilight Zone's "It's A Good Life" not to send us to the cornfield. It's a new reality.

So, I'm with Kevin. As he wrote in his letter to the editor, "This fits every definition of a coup. Therefore we should ignore these changes, and Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul should govern as though these bills were not passed."

After you write your letter to Scott Walker, contact  governor-elect Tony Evers urging him to move ahead on the things people voted for when they elected him in November.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Monday rally in Madison


MONDAY, DECEMBER 3
5:30 p.m.
STATE CAPITOL

Hosted by Indivisible-Madison in response to Republican state legislators' plans to subvert the will of the people.

Update from Wisconsin Working Families.


Legislative Republicans are furious that last month Wisconsin voters charted a new path forward for our state, and they are trying to do anything they can to undermine the will of the people.

Now is the time for us to protect our democracy against political gamesmanship and tell legislative Republicans it's time to get to work. Join voters from all over the state on Monday, Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. to get the latest updates from elected officials and our partners about what's going to happen when the lame-duck session starts on Tuesday. We'll discuss ways you can take action and stand up for our democracy in this critical moment.

And if you want to ensure that #WisconsinIsWatching is not just a slogan,sign up to host or attend a "watch party" on Tuesday. While watching the special session online on WisconsinEye, you can make calls to ensure Wisconsinites know what is happening in Madison. If you have any questions about hosting a watch party, email WisconsinIsWatching@gmail.com.

We need you because the stakes are so high. Legislative Republicans are trying to push through a five-bill, 287-page package that includes 42 different provisions aimed at changing the rules of the game to benefit themselves.

From changing the governor’s powers, to gutting the Attorney General’s office, to switching the 2020 election schedule for the benefit of a conservative candidate, to making it harder for working families to access Wisconsin’s social safety net - these actions by legislative Republicans could be devastating for our state.


Wisconsin deserves better and Speaker Vos, Majority Leader Fitzgerald, and Wisconsin's legislative Republicans need to know that #WisconsinIsWatching.