Posts Tagged: Wisconsin

EPA troubled by Wisconsin’s clean water regs

In 1974, Wisconsin became the sixth state in the country to administer its own water pollution regulations under a clause in the federal Clean Water Act. Lee Bergquist of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that this arrangement has proven problematic: the U.S. EPA wrote a letter to the Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources two weeks ago that cites 75 apparent omissions and deviations from federal law.

The important issue here is whether Wisconsin is keeping its water clean. Judging from Bergquist’s piece, though, the EPA might be more upset with Wisconsin’s processes and protocols than the effect of regulating in a different way.

Study doesn’t vouch for vouchers

School voucher programs — which assign taxpayer money for students to attend area schools of their choice, including some private schools — have “no clear academic benefit for their users.” This is according to a Center on Education Policy report that looked at 27 studies of voucher programs since 2000. Erin Richards writes up the study for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as Milwaukee was one of the first cities to implement vouchers. (more…)

Beach (clean-up) reading

This blog has looked a lot at the federal money available, and unavailable, to clean the Great Lakes. Laura Fosmire of Wisconsin’s Ashland Current has an in-depth look at the issue of money for monitoring beach contamination, clearly an unavoidable issue, especially with the atrocious heat wave that has hit the Great Lakes region in the last week.

Naturally, there’s a major funding issue here: Ohio gets almost as much money as Michigan, even though Michigan has three times as many beaches. The funding formula used by the EPA doesn’t sufficiently take into account the fact that Michigan and Wisconsin have a lot of beaches — many which become very popular when it gets up to 95 degrees each day.

Scott Walker’s high-speed blunder

When Scott Walker used a balanced budget bill to strip the collective bargaining rights of public employees, it was defensible if you believed — as the Wisconsin governor did — that unionized public employees had destroyed Wisconsin’s finances. Walker’s rejection last November of U.S. Dept. of Transportation money for a high-speed train between Milwaukee and Madison, however, cannot be defended. Not after the governor pushed — and the state legislature will soon approve — an upgrade of the Chicago-to-Milwaukee “Hiawatha” rail line.

As Jason Stein and Patrick Marley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel make clear, the $31.6 million upgrade could have been covered by the $810 million offered by the Obama administration to build the Madison-to-Milwaukee line.


Public employees win in Illinois

Pat Quinn

An arbitrator ruled that Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn must pay raises promised to the state’s public employees under their collective bargaining agreement, Reuters reports. The 2.2 percent pay raises were not included in the 2012 fiscal budget that Quinn signed into law.  The Democratic governor’s standoff with public employees (unfairly) brought comparisons to Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

House Republicans have their cake, eat it too

Sean Duffy

Ron Nixon of the New York Times looks at several U.S. House Republicans who were elected on a platform of spending cuts but who are also pushing for spending projects of questionable merit in their districts. This is a timely report as House Republicans have taken a “No, more cuts!” position during deficit-reduction negotiations. These Republicans are hypocritical, effective, or both.


Clean energy jobs growing

Thomas Content of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel looks at a new report from the Brookings Institution on the clean energy economy. This blog often bemoans the fact that the federal government has been so slow to push clean energy projects. But what the report conveys is that in Wisconsin and nationally, clean energy projects are increasingly a realistic — if still not humongous — part of today’s economy.  In other words, they’re not not just a fanciful vision of the future. About 2.7 million people were employed by the clean energy economy last year, 77,000 in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin taps into fed unemployment money

The Wisconsin Republican state legislature will lend a helping hand to about 4,000 residents who have been unemployed for at least a year and seen all their federal and state benefits exhausted. Erin Toner of Milwaukee Public Radio reports that the fiscally conservative legislature is OK with helping the unemployed in large part because the money will come from the federal government. The money comes from the grand compromise Barack Obama made with the GOP last December: let the Bush tax cuts continue in exchange for extended unemployment benefits.

Eventually, Wisconsin, like many other states, must repay past money it has borrowed from the federal government for unemployment benefits. The state now owes the U.S. Dept. of Labor $1.3 billion.

Cost-benefit analysis of new EPA air rule

Lee Bergquist and Thomas Content of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel analyze the local impact of the new EPA rule to fight ozone and particle pollution from power plants. The authors focus on the higher electric bills that may result from the regulation. But the more important issue seems to be whether EPA’s claim is true that the “rule will save up to 34,000 lives a year.” That seems well worth a slight increase in fees to Wisconsin electricity users.

Government waste is a federal, not state, problem

A “Waste, Fraud and Abuse” commission created by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has identified $267 million in wasteful state government spending, reports Jason Stein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The news here is partly that the Wisconsin government can take specific steps to modestly reduce spending. But the bigger story is that $267 million is not that much for a state that has a $66 billion spending plan over the next two years — especially when much of that $267 million comes from federal taxpayers. Wisconsin, like most other state governments, does not have the significant instances of waste, fraud and abuse that can be identified at the federal level. (more…)