Sunday, July 25, 2010

PS 427: Wisconsin: Land of Beer, Cheese, and…Startups

After more pessimistic posts on Wisconsin's economic climate, here is a visible positive post on the startup culture in Madison and vicinity.

Wisconsin: Land of Beer, Cheese, and…Startups

Can Wisconsin really compete with the Twin Cities, Chicago or Silicon Valley?

If you were recruiting talent to a startup here, how would you do it?

What aspects of the state would you promote? Which would you try to ignore?

How can state government make Wisconsin more attractive to your employees?

Monday, July 12, 2010

PS427: Technology Council pushes for 'bold action'

All the candidates for Governor are talking about creating jobs. The Wisconsin Technology Council has just released a report on policy changes needed to address the problem of encouraging the growth of high-tech jobs in the state.

The Journal Sentinel has the story:

Technology Council pushes for 'bold action' - JSOnline

And here is the link to the Council's full report:

Based on the report, what do you think is possible for the next governor to accomplish on this front? What problems might arise in adopting those policies?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

PS427: Wisconsin Budget Outlook

Two good sources for analysis of the Wisconsin state budget.

On the right, Wisconsin Policy Research Institute:

Wisconsin's State Budget Outlook: The Worst is Yet to Come

On the left, Wisconsin Council on Children and Families:

Wisconsin Budget Basics Guide.

For NEXT week, July 18, base your weekly memo on these two pieces.

Are there broad points of agreement, or do the analyses take fundamentally different assumptions?

Are there prescriptions here, and if so do they agree or differ?

PS427: How facts backfire

From the Boston Globe.

How facts backfire - The Boston Globe

Perhaps this helps explain why sensible debate about policy is so difficult, including issues of budgets.

Is there any chance the solution proposed at the end of the article could actually work?

This Week on ABC has been doing fact checking of guests in recent months. Any indication it has an effect? Can you think of any change that might make the fact checking more consequential?

PS427: Wisconsin candidates' cost-cutting plans don't add up

Journal Sentinel does a little checking up on savings claims.

Wisconsin candidates' cost-cutting plans don't add up - JSOnline

Why is it so hard to produce credible savings, growth, tax claims? This applies equally to both parties.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

PS427: State budget deficit swells to $2.5 billion

From the Journal Sentinel:

State budget deficit swells to $2.5 billion - JSOnline

Review the actual memo here.

Prepare a quick briefing based on the memo. What elements of the budget stand out as most consequential?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

PS427: New Jersey Budget, Christie vs Dems

The New Jersey budget faced an $11 billion shortfall. Newly elected governor Chris Christie drew attention by taking on state employee unions, especially teachers, and pushed throw a budget with major cuts, numerous fee increases, and elimination of tax-rebates. Republicans are looking at Christie as a model for budget cutting while maintaining popular support. Dems are concerned.

This is a striking contrast with the situation in Illinois where little progress seems to be at hand in dealing with state bills that can't be paid. Or in California which as of today (July 4) still lacks a state budget.

Here are a series of excellent articles covering the NJ budget process and the current "near-deal" on limiting property tax increases, which may or may not be a done deal (see reservations by the assembly speaker.)

This is a GREAT overview of the entire budget process and negotiations. Bravo to reporters Claire Heininger and Josh Margolin for an article that covers the complexity so well.

Here is the article on the budget passing. Note the chart on where the money comes from and where it goes. I wish it were a little more detailed, especially on what state agencies spend what but otherwise useful information.

This is a piece that puts Christie's budget in the perspective of what previous governors did to bring the state to its current situation.

And here is where the property tax issue stands today, with an agreement in the senate and some uncertainty in the assembly.

Not all are happy, and here is a piece on groups opposing the budget deal.

Some earlier coverage in the run-up to the budget include:

State worker protests. (Note the likely cuts to state worker benefits in Wisconsin as well. Pensions and benefits are inviting targets. (Why?)  And not just for Reps. Gov. Doyle recommended more or less the same increase in state worker contributions to retirement funds last year that GOPer Scott Walker now supports.)

Universities and colleges take $173M in cuts, plan tuition hikes.  In what ways is that a good thing and a bad thing? Discuss.

Christie fighting with teachers unions.

Oh my! Christie urges towns to reject school budgets without a wage freeze!

Subsequently, 53% of such budgets are rejected. Quite an impressive show of support for the Governor's position. Quite a lack of success for the teachers unions.

Here is a comical attempt to spin the results in favor of the teachers unions.

And here is a good non-partisan overview of Christie's conflict with the teachers and the subsequent votes.

Wow. I could go on and on. The Newark Star Ledger deserves huge praise for their detailed coverage and for a page offering the entire chronology. I wish Wisconsin papers would follow their lead in coverage and organization of that coverage on their web pages. This is a model of good work.

Here is the Star-Ledger's overview page.

Read JUST THE HEADLINES on the overview page. Read from bottom to top so you see it in chronological order. Make note of the issues, areas of cuts and revenue increases, and ESPECIALLY how each interest group howls in protest when their ox is gored. Note also in the budget article above how Republican legislators are very troubled about voting for cuts to THEIR suburban school districts. Concern for YOUR ox is bi-partisan indeed.

This is textbook stuff about budget making. The most amazing part is how Christie marshaled the political skill to get the budget through the legislature, where Democrats control both houses, and how he had to struggle to maintain GOP unanimity of support for his plan.

I don't have a dog in this fight. There are good arguments on both sides of budget debates. But as just plain fascinating politics, this case in New Jersey deserves to be widely studied.

Friday, July 2, 2010

PS427: Illinois Has Stopped Paying Bills

Is this Wisconsin's future?

Payback Time - Budget in the Red, Illinois Has Stopped Paying Bills -

How bad can state finances get without elected officials actually solving problems?

PS427: A big day for economic analysis

The latest employment data are out this morning, prompting a binge of analysis.

The NYT's Economix blog is particularly active with some excellent analysis and graphics. Here are the links:

Is job growth being underestimated? Maybe.  This from the day before the new data arrived.

Is the recovery losing steam? Gloom.  Note the focus on employment. There is much more to the economy than just jobs, so this is a rather narrow view. Looking more broadly might be worse or better, but at least look.

Comparing the recession with the previous ones since 1970.  This includes one of the most elegant and clear graphics showing the depth of the current recession in terms of jobs lost.

Long-term unemployment is the distinctive mark of the current recession. Is this due to structural change in the economy, or as some argue the continuing extension of unemployment insurance? Would more have found a (probably lower paying) job if they didn't have continuing unemployment benefits to fall back on? Will the current GOP blockage of yet another extension of unemployment benefits ultimately force some to take a job less good than they would wish? And for bonus points, as a political matter, can GOP candidates successfully campaign on having "stood against more deficit spending" if it means they did so by blocking extended unemployment benefits? Can Dems campaign for extending benefits even if they must therefore take the blame for more deficit spending?

The 1981-82 recession was the worst post-war recession until this one. Is this one worse, even though unemployment rates hit higher peaks in 1982?  And here is the full report that was the basis of the NYT Economix report.

PS427: Two Budget Analysis Sites

Here are two sites that do interesting budget analysis work.

Leaning left is the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.  We took a look at some of their work earlier.

And leaning right/libertarian is the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

Both have a variety of interesting analyses, and it is useful to compare how and why their conclusions sometimes differ (and where they agree.)