State Government and Political News (UPDATE): GAB approves the fake DemocratsWisconsin News
-- The Wisconsin elections panel voted 6-to-0 today to let six Republicans run as Democrats in the upcoming recall elections.
The Wisconsin elections panel voted 6-to-0 today to let six Republicans run as Democrats in the upcoming recall elections. The Government Accountability Board rejected a complaint from Democrats who said the fake candidates broke the law, by falsely declaring that they represent the ideals of the party they’re running under. But the state G-O-P said voters should be the ones to decide that. And Board staff members said the law does not permit the panel to “inquire into the motivations for an individual’s candidacy for office.” The G-O-P planted candidates in the Democratic primaries for governor, lieutenant governor, and four Senate seats, to make sure that all six general elections will be held at the same time on June fifth. Republicans were most concerned that their Senate candidates don’t have general elections on the same day that hundreds of thousands of Democrats pick their finalist to run against Walker. But it goes the other way, too. The Board allowed a veteran Capitol protestor to run as a Republican in the governor’s recall primary. Arthur Kohl-Riggs said he was only running to make sure that Republicans vote for Walker in the May eighth primary – so they won’t cross over and try to pick a weak Democratic finalist to run against the governor.
The two leading Democrats in the governor’s recall election are criticizing the tight limits on local property tax increases that Republicans imposed a year ago. Kathleen Falk said she would repeal those caps, while Tom Barrett stopped short of making that promise. Because of those limits, Republican Governor Scott Walker and the state Revenue Department said yesterday that the average local taxes went down last year for the first time since 1999. Revenue officials said the total property tax levy rose by two-tenths of one-percent, to almost nine-point-four billion dollars. But that was less than the percentage of new construction which increased the tax base. So the average property tax went down by four-tenths-of-one-percent, to $2,951 dollars on a median home valued at 157,600 dollars. Walker and legislative Republicans imposed the tight limits on property tax hikes so local and school officials couldn’t raise those taxes by large amounts to make up for losses in state aid. But Phil Walzak of the Barrett campaign said the caps are quote, “absolute and draconian” – and they don’t account for adjustments in inflation or economic growth.
A new poll shows that Governor Scott Walker continues to lead his Democratic challengers in his June fifth recall election. But Walker’s lead over Tom Barrett is within the poll’s margin-of-error, which makes it a statistical dead heat. The Public Policy Polling firm interviewed over 11-hundred likely voters last Friday through Sunday. And in head-to-head matchups, the Republican Walker led Barrett 50-45 percent – the only one within the poll’s two-point-nine percent error margin. Walker led Kathleen Falk 50-43-percent, Douglas La Follette 51-40, and Kathleen Vinehout 50-38. Over 800 of those polled were planning to vote in the Democratic primary three weeks from today. Barrett was the leader with 38-percent to 24 for Falk, nine-percent for La Follette, and six-percent for Vinehout. Twenty-two percent were still undecided. The Public Policy poll also showed that Republican Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch led Democrat Mahlon Mitchell, the head of the state fire-fighters’ union, 46-40 percent.
Kathleen Falk wants her fellow Democratic candidates to debate each other four times before the May eighth recall primary for governor. But Tom Barrett’s camp says they’ll only have time for two debates which are being planned for next Monday and May fourth. The other two Democrats who are running – state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout of Alma and Secretary of State Douglas La Follette – have not commented. Phil Walzak of the Barrett campaign says two debates are enough, considering the accelerated campaign schedule – and considering that Barrett has already been in at least three forums with the candidates since April fifth. The primary winner will try to unseat Republican Governor Scott Walker in the general recall election on June 5.
Governor Scott Walker has cited Illinois’ tax increases and budget deficits, in helping defend how he handled Wisconsin’s fiscal problems. And tomorrow, the Republican Walker will face supporters and critics in that state, when he speaks to a Business Day Conference in Springfield. It’s put on by the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business. Walker faces a recall election for the way he eliminated a three-point-six billion dollar budget deficit – mostly with spending cuts and the near-elimination of public union bargaining. The Springfield State Journal-Register says about two-thousand labor protestors could gather outside the event, while 250 business people hear Walker’s message inside. Terry Reed of the Springfield-and-Central Illinois Trades-and-Labor Council said his group is concerned that the state chamber would bring somebody like Walker in – and it won’t help the group’s relationship with the chamber if it quote, “drives a wedge.” But on the chamber’s Web site, president Doug Whitley said that by giving Walker a forum, quote, “It allows us to bring more attention and dialog to the discussion of how Illinois can restore its fiscal integrity.” Walker has criticized Illinois for adopting a temporary income tax increase, noting that it has still left an eight-billion-dollar deficit in the Prairie State. Whitley says Illinois needs quote, “big solutions.” He said the chamber is not advocating Wisconsin-style changes – but he said it’s appropriate to examine what other states have done.
The nation’s longest-serving state legislator wants four more years. Senate Democrat Fred Risser of Madison says he’ll seek re-election this fall. The 84-year-old Risser was first elected in 1956 to the state Assembly. He won a special election for the Senate in 1962, and has been re-elected ever since. Risser has spent almost a decade as the state Senate’s president, serving three stints from 1997-to-mid-98, 1999-through-2002, and 2007-through-2010. He has also been a long-time member of the State Building Commission.
The disciplinary case against State Supreme Court Justice David Prosser has hit a legal snag. Referee Franklyn Gimbel has asked an appeals court to create a three-judge panel to hear the matter. But Chief Appellate Judge Richard Brown says he’ll need an order from the Supreme Court first. And Prosser’s attorney, Kevin Reak, has told the justices in a letter that they cannot act until they decide individually whether to withdraw due to a possible conflict. But Gimbel said the transfer to the appeals court is an administrative matter, and the justices will not need to decide whether to recuse themselves first. The State Judicial Commission has charged Prosser with three ethics violations connected with his physical altercation with fellow Justice Ann Walsh Bradley last June. Prosser has formally asked Bradley and Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson to recuse themselves, and he expects to make the same requests of other justices. Prosser says the law prohibits judges from ruling on cases in which they were witnesses – and he has said that all the justices except Pat Crooks saw the altercation.