Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Last Call For The Great Hole Of Bevinstan

Voters handed the entire state of Kentucky over to Gov. Matt Bevin and the GOP in 2015 and 2016, now they'll have to come up with a way to deal with the state's massive pension crisis and the multi-billion dollar shortfall expected for the next pair of fiscal years.

Kentucky’s General Assembly will need to find an estimated $5.4 billion to fund the pension systems for state workers and school teachers in the next two-year state budget, officials told the Public Pension Oversight Board on Monday. 
That amount would be a hefty funding increase and a painful squeeze for a state General Fund that — at about $20 billion over two years — also is expected to pay for education, prisons, social services and other state programs. 
There are two reasons for the dramatic increase. 
First, Gov. Matt Bevin and the legislature committed two years ago to paying the state’s full annual recommended contribution, or ARC, to the long-underfunded Kentucky Retirement Systems, which provides pension benefits for state and local government retirees. 
Second, KRS recently adopted more realistic financial assumptionsabout its investment returns and the state’s payroll growth. Those new assumptions made KRS’ numbers look far worse literally overnight.

The legislature will pass the next state budget during its 2018 law-making session this winter. 
“We realize this challenge is in front of us. That’s obviously part of the need for us to address pension reform,” said state Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, co-chairman of the oversight board. 
“In the short-term, yeah, we’re obligated to find this money,” Bowen said. “And everybody is committed to do that. We have revealed this great challenge. We have embraced this great challenge, as opposed to previous members of the legislature, perhaps.” 

The only question is how bad the austerity budget is going to be here in Kentucky, and it's almost certainly going to start with massive cuts to Medicaid and other state health programs in what's already one of the least healthy states in the nation, one that's at the epicenter of the country's opioid crisis.

Expect more steep cuts to education and infrastructure too as Kentucky remains near the bottom of test scores and replacement of one of the busiest bridges in the Midwest, the Brent Spence bridge leading into Cincinnati, is delayed yet again.

I foresee massive state employee layoffs and pay cuts on top of the 17% across-the-board cuts Bevin ordered this year.  Finally, don't be surprised if Bevin decides that Kentucky needs to pull a Brownback and destroy the state's tax base in order to make it "more competitive to business" as we go down the road to fiscal destruction like Kansas as lack of good schools, crumbling infrastructure, and lack of health care options have driven skilled workers away from the state and may take businesses with them.

Kentucky Republicans are putting us on a path to be in ten years the disaster Kansas is now, and Matt Bevin is ready to run the ship of state into an iceberg just to prove a point.

The Island Of Misfit Americans, Con't

Something definitely slimy is going down in Puerto Rico with the Trump regime's "recovery efforts" as now lawmakers are being denied permission to fly to the island by the White House.

The Trump administration is restricting lawmakers in both parties from visiting storm-ravaged Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands aboard military aircraft this weekend in order to keep focused on recovery missions there, according to multiple congressional aides. 
The decision comes as the Pentagon is intensifying its relief efforts on the islands as the U.S. government struggles to respond to devastation caused last week by Hurricane Maria and earlier by Hurricane Irma. 
Multiple attempts have been underway in recent days for members of both parties to travel to Puerto Rico aboard military aircraft. Once there, they would have met with officials with the military and Federal Emergency Management Agency responsible for ongoing missions on the ground. 
At least 10 members of the House and Senate were hoping to go this Friday, according to two aides. Another trip of senators and House lawmakers would have gone on Sunday, said the aides, who were not authorized to speak publicly about the planning. 
But since Monday evening, permission to use military aircraft to make the trips has been denied by the White House and Pentagon, the aides said. One Republican aide familiar with the back-and-forth said that the administration and military officials had indicated that they need “resources for rescue and recovery, thus member travel will be restricted.” 
Trump said at a news conference on Monday that he would be traveling to Puerto Rico next Tuesday and may also visit the U.S. Virgin Islands, adding that he was told that is the earliest day he could do so without hampering ongoing relief missions.

So no Congressional oversight to see what's going on, and the Pentagon, which, you know, just got a $700 billion paycheck for the year, doesn't have the resources to spare for members of either party in Congress to inspect the island's recovery effort.

It's almost like they don't want any oversight.

Now, why would that be?

Some Stinky Wisconsin Cheese

As I long suspected, successful Republican voter suppression efforts from Wisconsin's strict "Voter ID" law was actually did cost Hillary Clinton the state of Wisconsin in 2016.

A comprehensive study released today suggests how many missing votes can be attributed to the new law. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison surveyed registered voters who didn’t cast a 2016 ballot in the state’s two biggest counties—Milwaukee and Dane, which is home to Madison. More than 1 out of 10 nonvoters (11.2 percent) said they lacked acceptable voter ID and cited the law as a reason why they didn’t vote; 6.4 percent of respondents said the voter ID law was the “main reason” they didn’t vote. 
The study’s lead author, University of Wisconsin political scientist Kenneth Mayer, says between roughly 9,000 and 23,000 registered voters in the reliably Democratic counties were deterred from voting by the ID law. Extrapolating statewide, he says the data suggests as many as 45,000 voters sat out the election, though he cautioned that it was difficult to produce an estimate from just two counties.* 
“We have hard evidence there were tens of thousands of people who were unable to vote because of the voter ID law,” Mayer told me.

Trump won Wisconsin by fewer than 23,000 votes. 

The study, which was funded by Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell, provides some of the firmest evidence yet that new restrictions on voting lead to voter disenfranchisement. It’s a strong rebuke to supporters of voter ID laws like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has claimed that the notion the voter ID law reduced participation is a “load of crap.” (Wisconsin saw its lowest turnout since 2000, and there were 41,000 fewer voters in Milwaukee compared with 2012.
After the study’s release, McDonell and Milwaukee County Clerk George Christenson joined together in calling for an immediate suspension of the law. “It is completely unacceptable that thousands of voters were deterred from exercising their sacred right to vote due to this law. Citizens’ basic belief in their democracy is seriously eroded when those in power target some for exclusion from self-government,” said McDonell. 
Mayer and Michael DeCrescenzo, the University of Wisconsin Ph.D. candidate who co-authored the report, didn’t ask those surveyed who they would’ve voted for, so it’s impossible to know if these thousands of lost voters might’ve tipped the election, but other studies—like a 2014 one by the Government Accountability Office—have found that voter ID laws disproportionately reduced turnout among voters of color, young voters, and newly registered voters, who were more likely to support Democrats. “If you were to re-run the election over without the voter ID requirement, would the outcome have been different? Possibly,” Mayer said. 
The study also found socioeconomic and racial disparities among those impacted by the new law. “The burdens of voter ID fell disproportionately on low-income and minority populations,” writes Mayer. More than 20 percent of registrants coming from homes with incomes less than $25,000 say they were kept from voting by the law; 8.3 percent of white voters surveyed were deterred, compared with 27.5 percent of African Americans.

Voter ID laws are the new Jim Crow.  They are designed specifically to keep black people, especially poor black people, from ever being allowed to vote, period.  Wisconsin's law was no exception and it almost certainly cost Hillary Clinton the state.  Michigan and Pennsylvania also had Voter ID laws, Pennsylvania's law was struck down by the courts but there was still confusion and mess in 2016.

Without these laws, Hillary would have won.  There was little doubt in my mind before, but there's none now.


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