Sunday, October 4, 2015

Destruction of civil service allows for destruction of public interest

With Tuesday's public hearing on the civil service eradication "reform" bill looming, and with Friday's passing of AFSCME president Marty Beil, let me take you back to something I wrote less than one month after the failure to remove Scott Walker in the recall election of 2012. In that post, I criticized Beil and then-WEAC president Mary Bell for falling into the GOP trap of making the debate on public sector unions one that revolved around money and power, instead of reiterating the fact that unionism is a necessary check on political corruption, which allows public workers to be servants of the people, and not partisan hacks.
...look at the stories that have come out in the last few days regarding new school-board imposed handbooks for teachers in Madison-area districts, to the mass desertions in New Berlin the year after the new handbook took effect. What Act 10 and the daily rantings from hate radio have done is to devalue public service and is encouraging well-qualified individuals from staying in (or considering) public sector jobs.

This devaluing of public service was something Tom Barrett effectively pointed out in his stump speeches, but the DPW and the unions failed to drive this point home during the recall campaign, leaving the Fitzwalkerstanis to be the ones allowed to define the issue, and portray teachers, road workers, fire fighters, and police officers as "takers" instead of the people who stabilize our communities and improve the quality of life for all of us.

And it plays right into the hands of GOP puppet-masters, who want public service to be just another extension of the elected hacks in the Legislature and the Governor's Office, and not to have accountability to anyone but the corrupt bosses who call the shots. I've hit on this before, with the Walker Administration's hiring of the Brian Deschanes, Val Casses and Tim Russells of the world, and [Isthmus's Marc] Eisen's article accurately points out how independent whistle-blowers at the DNR stopped high-level Walker appointees and corrupt legislators from the 262 area code [from] putting hundreds of homes near Oconomowoc from being at further risk due to negligence from GOP donators at Herr Environmental.
Eisen's June 2012 article also looked backward by 80 years to point a way forward for public sector unions after Walker was retained in the recall, and ironically, it was due to concerns that a Democrat would be the one to install hacks over civil servants.
[Albert] Schmedeman came into office in 1932 as the first Democratic governor in 38 years. He was hell-bent on firing state employees and hiring his friends. Fearful of the Democrats' plan to destroy civil service, the nascent state employees association began organizing. Their objectives included a forthright pledge "to extend and uphold the principle of merit and fitness in public employment." There was also the promise to advance the welfare of state employees.

But organizers took it a step further. They also pledged "to promote efficiency in public services" and to reduce to a minimum "overlapping and duplication of services." In other words, they focused not just on their own needs, but also on looking out for the taxpayers. They were outlining a mission - a cause - that reached beyond their own enrichment.
And now Gov Walker and the WisGOP legislators want to end that mission, and turn over state service to the politically connected and the subservient who won't ask questions or tell inconvenient truths to their superiors. And sadly, the revolving door of executives at WEDC and the numerous taxpayer-funded handouts at that slush fund to Walker cronies are clear examples of how things are getting worse in state government since 2012, as the Age of Fitzwalkerstan continues and the influence of Walkerism pervades more areas of state government.

Just today, we saw another example of this crooked WisGOP mentality, as the Wisconsin State Journal has a long report illustrating how Walker Administration officials and WisGOP legislators have decreased and/or buried analysis by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources regarding the possible environmental harm of certain projects, and have frequently acceded to the wishes of big business donors and lobbyists in instituting DNR policy. Here's a passage that should chill anyone who gives a crap about the great natural beauty and resources that this state has to offer.
In July, DNR officials reorganized internal management and began a yearlong study that will result "in staffing and system changes over the next year as we assess our core priorities," said Deputy Secretary Kurt Thiede.

Agency spokesman Jim Dick said the review of employee "core work functions" was unrelated to this summer's budget cuts, which raised questions about the DNR's direction when Walker said the 18 senior scientists - all funded by federal dollars and program revenue - were cut because they weren't needed for the department's "core mission." Lawmakers complained about "controversial" DNR research on wildlife, mining, and climate change...

Walker's DNR Secretary is Cathy Stepp, a former Republican state senator and critic of the agency. Pat Stevens, former environmental director for [Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce], was placed in charge of air and waste regulation. Water quality protection was added to his division in the reorganization.
Gee, you think that crew will tell their buddies at WMC that they can't pollute the countryside and have to improve the way they do business due to the public's needs? Riiiight. Having this bunch of hacks in charge also makes it less likely that red flags will be raised when a department is needlessly overspending in a certain area, especially if they stand to profit from the wasteful contracting or incompetence at a later point in their careers. Destroying civil service also diminishes the desire of those with knowledge, credentials and career options to pursue employment with the state, driving the quality of services down- just the way these Koch/ALEC tools want it.

In light of these developments, it is obvious that the idea of the proposed changes in the bill is to take away the ability of civil servants to tell their superiors "No," and to help ensure that the people hired in these high-knowledge areas are ones who are less likely to want (or know enough) to say "No."

So I'll end this post with the same thing I said on July 1, 2012, and I want to see this message reiterated as this bill is debated in the coming weeks.
Public employees must have the freedom to say "NO" without fear of retribution when they see policies and laws being broken, or when they feel the public is being endangered by politicians and corporations who do not care about the consequences of their actions.... [T]he public is aware that government is letting them down, but they often don't think about why this is so, and they choose to take out their frustration on "faceless bureaucrats" and their local teachers instead of the people who are really screwing things up.

So the bottom line I see here is that public unionism is needed more than ever in an age of Citizens United and corporate-politician alliances. And we need to speak up and present this truth now, or else the public's last line of defense from the public sector will be obliterated, and we'll all be badly hurt if that occurs.

September jobs disappoint, are things slowing down?

There was little good to report out of Friday’s shockingly bad jobs numbers. Not only is the increase of 142,000 well below the average monthly gain of nearly 240,000 that we had been having, but August and July were also revised down by a combined 59,000 jobs, meaning it’s also the worst 3-month stretch for job growth since Dec 2013- February 2014. The unemployment rate staying at its low level of 5.1% (technically, it dropped to 5.05%) also isn’t necessarily great news, as it is a result of 350,000 people dropping out of the work force instead of a reflection of job growth.

Even more concerning is that the stalling of overall job growth comes at a time when government employment is bouncing back, with more than 115,000 jobs added in that sector over the last four months. What this means is that private sector job growth is at its lowest levels in more than 3 years, and a look inside the sectors shows that much of the weakness is a result of the oil bust and the strong dollar hampering heavy industry.

Job losses, June-Sept 2015
Mining and Logging -30,000
Manufacturing -16,000

And if Friday's events in Wisconsin are any indication, that downtrend isn't likely to change in October, as a cheese plant in Plymouth announced plans to lay off 300 workers, and in Lake Mills, Hamlin Inc is closing their plant, which will cause 175 workers to lose their jobs.
The struggles in those industries are also reflected in overall manufacturing output growth flatlining to its lowest level in 2 ½ years, along with stagnating wages that we’ve seen in the last year in both of those industries, as well as the higher-wage construction industry. I’ll remind you that these numbers are before inflation.

Change in avg. weekly wage, Sept 2014- Sept 2015
Durable Goods Manufacturing +0.4%
Mining/logging +0.5%
Construction +0.6%
All Manufacturing +1.5%

And the news wasn’t any better in September, as weekly wages in both Manufacturing and Construction fell, as did the private sector as a whole, with average weekly earnings sinking by 0.3% (they are up 2.2% for the year).

Now combine that with the S&P 500 index declining another 2.6% after August’s drop of 6.3% (oddly, it had a major reversal after mid-morning on Friday and closed up 1.4% after the bad news came out). This was a pretty lousy way to end the 3rd Quarter of 2015, and it’s noteworthy that the Atlanta Fed cut its estimates of GDP growth in half this week, predicting an increase of less than 1% when we those numbers are released at the end of this month.

Let’s not panic too much, but this subpar September report adds to the concern I had with August's U.S. job numbers disappointed, and I’m starting to wonder if after 5 years, the Obama Recovery is starting to slow down if not stall out.

Friday, October 2, 2015

J-S Politi-"fact" is working for Walker

If you thought the implosion of Scott Walker’s presidential campaign would lead more critical analysis of this dishonest fool by his former fans at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Politi-“fact”, I think you’re going to be disappointed.

Why do I say you shouldn’t get your hopes up? Read this piece of bilge today by Politi-"fact"’s Tom Kertscher, where he tries to paint State Sen. Jon Erpenbach as a liar (and Walker as being truthful) for Erpenbach saying that Walker reversed himself when Scotty supported proposed changes in the state’s civil service rules. Here’s the start of Kertscher’s “analysis.”
On a number of occasions in February 2011, as if to reassure state workers outraged by Act 10, Walker said union contracts weren't needed because the civil service law would protect public employees from political favoritism or retribution. And he made a point to say that Act 10 would not change civil service protections.

Two examples:

· On "Fox News Sunday," Walker said: "There is no state that has a better civil service system in terms of protections. That does not change in this. Worker rights will be maintained even after our bill passes."

· In a televised address that has become known as his "fireside chat," the governor said: "It’s important to remember that many of the rights we’re talking about don’t come directly from collective bargaining. They come from the civil service system here in Wisconsin. That law was passed in 1905, long before collective bargaining, and it will continue long after our plan is approved."

But saying that Act 10 would not change the civil service system is not the same as pledging not to make any changes to the system. And Erpenbach did not cite any such statements from Walker to us.
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? So because Walker didn’t explicitly say he wouldn’t change the civil service system, that makes Erpenbach’s statement that Walker wouldn’t change things false? Bullshit.

Then check out the basis Kertscher gives for saying Erpenbach “ignores critical facts” regarding Walker’s position on civil service, leading Kertscher to give the “mostly false” rating. After admitting that then-DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch said no changes were in the works in June 2014, and that a DOA spokesperson says Walker was not planning any changes, Kertscher throws this copout in there.
But the Journal Sentinel also reported that records it had obtained showed there had been early-stage discussions about removing red tape that slows hiring for state jobs.

And the next month, Walker didn’t directly respond to a request from the Journal Sentinel when asked if he favored changing current civil service protections.
Yes, the J-S has proof that the Walker Administration officials were lying about not having thought about changes, BUT WHERE DID WALKER STATE ANY CHANGE OF POSITION FROM 2011? There isn’t any, so the last statements on the record before last week was that Walker was still backing the civil service, and now he is not. How is that not a flip-flop (if not a flat-out lie), and how is Erpenbach wrong for calling it out?

This is exactly the type of pro-Walker parsing and false equivalency that allowed Walker to slip by in the November 2014 election with 52% of the vote. And it is disgraceful favoritism that would lead to the firing of anyone that tried to pull it at any newspaper worth a damn. Then again, this is the MMAC/Bradley Foundation’s Rag Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel we’re talking about, isn’t it?

It’s the type of “lying by omission” and flip-flopping BS that Walker couldn’t get away with when he tried it against a national media whose bosses weren’t giving orders to cover up for him. Bruce Murphy at Urban Milwaukee has an excellent summary titled “8 Reasons Why Walker’s Campaign Failed,” and one theme that comes up over and over again is how Walker was insulated in Wisconsin from having to know something beyond talking points, and give legitimate answers on questions (something I and many others reiterate in the comments of this article). Here are a couple of examples.
2. A lack of preparation for the national media: In Wisconsin, Walker could count on fawning coverage from talk radio and could generally control when and what kind of interviews he did with the far-from-robust print and TV media in this state. But Walker couldn’t control the national media and seemed unprepared by the sheer onslaught of probing questions he received, even from conservative reporters at Fox. His steely discipline — a key asset — melted away because he too often was unprepared for questions, leading to evasions, slip-ups and contradictions that increasingly made him seem not ready for prime time…

5. Candidate Walker was anything but “unintimidated”: His core message was that he was the politician who won’t back down on tough issues, but Walker’s constant flip-flops undermined this image and he increasingly looked like he was pandering. “This is a candidate who built his presidential campaign on the premise that he was a fighter — yet he seemed uncomfortable confronting people face to face, especially fellow Republicans,” [the Washington Post’s Jenna] Johnson writes. “Ahead of the first Republican debate, I watched hours of video footage from Walker’s previous debates in Wisconsin. In a few of these, Walker had the opportunity to ask his opponent a question and passed. Instead, he stuck to his talking points and avoided confrontation… On the early campaign trail, Walker ignored protesters, maneuvered out of conversations that turned testy, rarely held town halls and avoided follow-up questions from reporters whenever possible.”
But in spite of the unmaksing that happened to Walker on a national level as a dishonest, empty fraud, here’s Tom Kertscher and the Journal-Sentinel’s Politi-“fact”, still letting Scotty off the hook for what is an obvious flip-flop from earlier statements, and trying to knock down Dems for pointing out this reality.

The Wisconsin corporate media suck-ups apparently haven’t been shamed enough from allowing the charade of Scott Walker’s political career to advance to where it has, and for allowing the state of Wisconsin such strife and damage for not calling out Walker’s lies and true intentions. So they must pay every bit the price that Walker and his WisGOP enablers should- by direct action and removal as soon as possible. THIS HAS TO END.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

How can the Lottery cut my taxes? Glad you asked!

There were a couple of lottery-related items in the news today. The one you may have heard of was the $310 million Powerball jackpot that was won last night by someone who bought their ticket in Michigan (and of course, I forgot to buy one).

The one you may not have heard of is a bit closer to home. It was a document sent by the Walker Administration to the Leigslature’s Joint Finance Committee estimating an amount for the Lottery Tax Credit that’ll appear on property tax bills this Fall. This estimate comes out every year around this time, and I wanted to explain a little bit about how it works before I tell you how your bill might change next year.

This Lottery credit is based on proceeds from the many games the Wisconsin Lottery is part of. This amount has gone up in recent years, largely due to more spending by people on the lottery, which meant more money was left over after winnings and costs to be sent back to Wisconsinites for property tax relief.

This tax break was boosted further in the 2013-2015 by the WisGOP Legislature and Governor Walker, when they added $14.85 million a year in taxpayer funding to the school levy credit, instead of having the Lottery Fund chip in to that credit (items 1 and 2 under “Property Tax Credits” in this paper). This didn’t change the amount of the School Levy Credit, but allowed the Lottery Fund to get bigger, which increased the amounts that got taken off on tax bills. Smooth trick, eh?

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s informational paper on the lottery credit and related property tax breaks explains that this credit is a flat amount regardless of the value of your property.
Since most properties have a value in excess of the credit base [$11,000 for tax year 2014(15)], most taxpayers' lottery and gaming credits equal the school tax on the credit base. Because of this, most taxpayers in the same school district receive identical credits, and taxpayers with lower-valued properties receive lottery and gaming credits that are a larger percentage of their gross school tax levies than taxpayers with higher-valued properties.

For example, 2014(15) tax credits of $113 would be extended to all properties with values over $11,000 that are located in a school district with a tax rate of 10.25 mills. For a property with a value of $150,000, the credit would reduce school taxes of $1,538 by 7.3%. A reduction of 4.4% would occur for a $250,000 property with a school tax bill of $2,563.
If your school district has a higher mill rate, you get a bigger lottery credit write-off (I live in Madison, and our credit was a little over $131 last year).

The bottom line is that this credit has reduced property taxes on the average Wisconsin home by $28 a year compared to what it did when Gov Walker was elected in 2010.

Average Wisconsin lottery property tax credit
2010(11) $85
2011(12) $89
2012(13) $94
2013(14) $113
2014(15) $113

This $28 increased credit has contributed to a common Walker talking point of “I cut property taxes”, and the LFB indicates that this is the rare Walker claim that has some truth to it, as the tax on a median-valued home in Wisconsin went from $2,963 in 2010 (11) (page 15 of this paper) to $2,831 in 2014(15) (page 3 of this paper).

Of course, what is not usually mentioned by Walker is that the median home value in Wisconsin dropped by nearly $17,500 in that same time period, and he also usually doesn’t mention that the shift away from the Lottery Fund for the School Levy Credit and an increased property tax break for tech colleges added over $840 million to the last budget, crowding out any increases for other needs like roads or public education.

With that background in mind, these updated numbers are intriguing because they indicate a slight slowdown in sales growth, which means a reduction in the Lottery Credit is due to come. I compared the Walker Administration’s report with the projected Lottery Fund numbers in the most recent budget, and you’ll see that taxpayers aren’t slated to get as much of a break as it originally looked like over the next 2 years.

Projected Lottery and gaming Credit, 2015-17

Budget $162.782 million
New projection $161.429 million (-$1.353 million)

Budget $161.531 million
New projection $158.197 million (-$3.334 million)

Granted, if you assume the Lottery Credit on the average home is reduced by the same amount that is made available, it only accounts for a lower credit of 0.8% in year 1 and 2.1% in year 2. That only translates into $1 extra on your next bill and around $2.50 on the one after that, but hilariously, that’s the same amount of property tax “savings” on the median Wisconsin home that Walker was trying to sell as such a great thing in the 2015-17 budget.

And those figures were calculated before bubble-icious home price increases took hold in Wisconsin this Spring, which will be reflected in future property tax assessments and bills. In other words, I hope you haven’t blown all of the projected $3 in upcoming savings in one place, because it seems more likely not to happen.

See, you learned something today, didn’t you? Can’t say it made your life better, but you might score some brownie points at your next social gathering with your new knowledge on the Wisconsin Lottery Fund. You don’t even have to thank me!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Marquette Poll shows Wisconsinites ain't buying the GOP

My real life has interfered with going too far into detail on today's Marquette Law School poll, but here are a few quick thoughts.

Obviously, a major headline is Scott Walker's approval rating staying in the toilet, with only 37% approval (and perhaps even worse, 59% disapproval). But take a look at other Walker-related poll questions, and if anything, it looks even worse for him.

Walker favorability
Favorable 36.5%
Unfavorable 56.5%

Scott Walker cares about people like me
Yes 35.3%
No 60.5%

Would you personally want to see Scott Walker seek a third term?
Yes 34.9%
No 62.0%

This is why I don't see Walker recovering, regardless of how the Wisconsin media still tries to throw him softball questions and prop him up. People flat-out don't like him any more, and want him to go away. This feels very much like George Dubya Bush's 2nd-term approval trajectory- once it got upside down, it never came back.

It's bad news in general for Republicans in this poll. The party ID skews slightly more Dem than usual (30 D, 25 R, 43 Ind.), but not much different than you'd see in a pro-Dem year. And the head-to-head matchups in the Marquette Poll indicates it would definitely be a Dem year if the election were held today. Stating with Russ Feingold's boat-racing of (mo)Ron Johnson.

Feingold 50.0, Johnson 36.2

Feingold favorability
Favorable 41.6%
Unfavorable 31.6%
Haven't heard enough 24.3%

Johnson favorability
Favorable 26.8%
Unfavorable 35.5%
Haven't heard enough 33.4%

More people find Johnson unfavorable AND more people don't know enough to have an opinion about him than they do with Russ. And given that Johnson is so far down, all he and his dark-money backers can do is go negative, which will likely drive even more people to dislike (mo)Ron. Plus, it's hard to make better-known person like Russ unfavorable when more people already like him.

And (mo)Ron Johnson wouldn't be the only GOP losing in a statewide race in 2016. Take a look at these presidential head-to-heads.

Clinton 50.5%
Bush 38.1%

Sanders 48.8%
Bush 38.5%

Clinton 48.1%
Rubio 40.3%

Sanders 48.5%
Rubio 36.3%

Clinton 49.8%
Trump 36.4%

Sanders 53.1%
Trump 34.5%

Note that Bernie Sanders does better against Rubio and Trump than Clinton does, and both lead Jeb Bush by double-digits. Marco Rubio does the best in any head-to-head matchup (within 8 points of Clinton), but that seems to be related to Rubio having the highest "unknown" rating out of the three GOPs asked. That's not a good sign for how the GOP brand is being thought of in the state, when the least-known guy is the one who does best.

Sure, it's merely one poll and we're 13 months out, but it sure seems like the typical Wisconsinite isn't buying what the GOP is selling, either on the state or national level. Which makes me wonder why the GOPs think doubling down on their arrogance and bad ideas is a winning strategy (maybe they just don't care at this point and want to grab whatever they can before they lose).

Regardless, this is not the time for Dems to be lame and try to coast in. This is where they need to be standing up stronger and louder and pointing out that they don't stand for the crap the GOP wants to pull, and that if Dems are put in power, THE CRAP WILL END. This is not the time to play nice let these guys off the mat, no matter what the consultant class tries to say is "political reality."

It's Sept. 30, and you know what that means!

Ain't nothing like being on a number of political lists and being hit up for money in email after email. Sorry folks, I've given what I want to give for the time being, and I ain't putting anything else your way.

And no DNC, you didn't get a dime from me, nor will you ever as long as that clown Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is in charge and keeping Americans from tuning in to hear Dem ideas. If I give anything (and it's not like I have a ton lying around to give), it's to individual candidates and causes I believe in. Why deal with the middlemen/women that might screw up what I support and want to see done?

But I definitely want to see what Scott Walker's presidential and governor's campaign funds look like on this next report. Partially to see how broke they truly were, partially to see which suckers threw money down the drain to that dimwit. And I especially want to see if Walker cronies like Jim Villa were pulling in some extra dimes on the Walker '16 payroll, and if so, we have to ask UW President Ray Cross if little Jimmy had permission to do so.

Sit tight, more to come in the 4thQ in these parts.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Civil service "reform" = another WisGOP power grab

As Republicans try to fast track this civil service “reform” bill through the State Legislature, let’s take a look at the actual proposal, and put some details behind all the hype.

The headline proposals to remove civil service exams as part of the application for many state jobs and making it much easier to fire employees are concerning enough, and an obvious invitation to arbitrary hackery in the one area where we shouldn’t have any. But let me point at a couple of other measures that underlie what Gov Walker and the WisGOP Legislature are really up to. The first of which is a provision in the proposed bill that centralizes HR functions throughout state government.
By January 1, 2017, the department of administration shall consult with each agency and develop a plan for assuming responsibility for services relating to human resources. By January 1, 2017, the department of administration shall also consult with the board of commissioners of public lands, the educational communications board, the department of financial institutions, the government accountability board, the higher educational aids board, the state historical society, the public service commission, the department of safety and professional services, the state fair park board, and the department of tourism and develop a plan for assuming responsibility for services related to payroll, finance, budgeting, procurement, and information technology for any agency these agencies. The department of administration shall include in the each plan which services would be provided to each agency, which positions would be deleted or transferred, and the number and type of positions and associated funding that would be provided to the department of administration.
In other words, all hiring goes through the DOA (basically an outgrowth of the Governor’s office), and even relatively independent agencies will have their back office duties slid over under the DOA umbrella. That’s a huge consolidation of power, but par for the course with this crew, in keeping with their goal of diminishing (if not outright eliminating) independence in public service.

These two sections also haven’t gotten as much play (yet), but they will likely cause major problems in trying to get qualified candidates to fill positions.
1. This bill changes the standard probationary period for all original and promotional appointments to permanent and seasonal positions in the classified service from six months to two years with a potential waiver after one year. The bill also changes the probationary period for employees in supervisory or management positions from one year with a potential waiver after six months to two years with a potential waiver after one year.

2. This bill limits reinstatement privileges to permanent employees in the classified service who are on layoff status and reduces the eligibility period for reinstatement privileges to three years following the date of the layoff. Under current law, permanent classified service employees who leave the classified service without any delinquency or misconduct have reinstatement privileges for a five−year period from the date the employee leaves the classified service. The bill eliminates reinstatement privileges for permanent classified service employees who leave the classified service without any delinquency or misconduct for reasons other than layoff. This bill also eliminates reinstatement privileges for an employee who leaves the classified service to fill an elective position. Under the bill, the changes to reinstatement privileges do not apply to classified employees who leave the classified service before the effective date of the bill.
So you could work at a job for two years and still get canned for no good reason? In addition, if you leave a job and realize after a few weeks that your new position isn’t working out (or your boss doesn’t like you), you don’t have the ability to go back to your old job, even if it hasn’t been filled? These are deterrents to any worker who’s not a hack without pride, and this spoils system discourages excellence in these positions. Which is kinda the point, now isn’t it?

Provisions like the ones I have named give away the real game with this proposal, along with the fact that the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity immediately sent out a press release approving of the WisGOP “reforms.” If these moves were merely about modernizing the civil service to make it easier to get people through the pipeline for hiring, and making it easier to fire people for egregious behavior, and that’s all the bill would be limited to? Then it would likely have support from a lot of people throughout the state, and a not-significant amount of members from both parties in the Legislature.

But all of this other crap that limits the few rights that state employees have remaining, combined with the consolidation of hiring at DOA? That tells you that this is yet another Walker/WisGOP power-grab intended to squelch any opposing viewpoints that might go against the party line, and to allow for even more right-wing hacks to be the ones controlling the flow of information and decisions in all levels of state government.

Senate Dem leader Jennifer Shilling accurately summed up the WisGOP mentality today, as part of a press event asking that Gov Walker and WisGOP legislators take the expanded Medicaid in Obamacare.
Sen. Jennifer Shilling, the Democratic minority leader, said Republican priorities are misplaced. She cited the Republican push to overhaul the state elections board to make it more partisan, gut the John Doe law so that such secret investigations can't be used against politicians, ban research on aborted fetal tissue and make the nonpartisan state superintendent a partisan appointee of the governor.

"They have this insatiable appetite for power and they're overreaching," Shilling said. "It seems like they don't get it, like they're taking their eye off the ball about what really matters in this state."
Well Sen. Shilling, that’s because WisGOPs only care about taking control of as much as they can and cashing in as much as they can while they are in control. They do not care about economic growth, fiscal stability, quality of life, what Wisconsin institutions they wreck, or the mess they leave behind after they’re booted out of power.

And that is why this civil service “reform” must be opposed vociferously - to prevent another mess that’ll have to be cleaned up after this group of GOPs are long gone. You can start with a (not-so) public hearing that'll be held at the Capitol on Tuesday, Oct. 6.