Evers’ budget listening session

Gov. Evers and Lt. Gov. Barnes are having listening sessions for the state’s 2021-2022 budget.

The session tomorrow — Dec. 2nd, starting at 6pm — is on the “Environment, Infrastructure, and the Economy.” As unemployment benefits are part of the economy, those of you still waiting on benefit claims or have had their entirely merited claims denied for illegitimate and illegal reasons should make your concerns about the unemployment system known.

Click here to register for this meeting. The meeting can be watched on WisEye.

If you are looking for something to say, look at this poster that used to appear in the state’s unemployment offices.

unemployment poster

As I wrote on July 9th:

A weekly benefit for food and shelter does not exist when the state agency actively takes every opportunity to deny unemployment benefits for weeks and now months at a time.

Furthermore, Wis. Stat. § 108.01 (emphasis provided) declares the following public policy:

(1) Unemployment in Wisconsin is recognized as an urgent public problem, gravely affecting the health, morals and welfare of the people of this state. The burdens resulting from irregular employment and reduced annual earnings fall directly on the unemployed worker and his or her family. The decreased and irregular purchasing power of wage earners in turn vitally affects the livelihood of farmers, merchants and manufacturers, results in a decreased demand for their products, and thus tends partially to paralyze the economic life of the entire state. In good times and in bad times unemployment is a heavy social cost, directly affecting many thousands of wage earners. Each employing unit in Wisconsin should pay at least a part of this social cost, connected with its own irregular operations, by financing benefits for its own unemployed workers. Each employer’s contribution rate should vary in accordance with its own unemployment costs, as shown by experience under this chapter. Whether or not a given employing unit can provide steadier work and wages for its own employees, it can reasonably be required to build up a limited reserve for unemployment, out of which benefits shall be paid to its eligible unemployed workers, as a matter of right, based on their respective wages and lengths of service.

(2) The economic burdens resulting from unemployment should not only be shared more fairly, but should also be decreased and prevented as far as possible. A sound system of unemployment reserves, contributions and benefits should induce and reward steady operations by each employer, since the employer is in a better position than any other agency to share in and to reduce the social costs of its own irregular employment. Employers and employees throughout the state should cooperate, in advisory committees under government supervision, to promote and encourage the steadiest possible employment. A more adequate system of free public employment offices should be provided, at the expense of employers, to place workers more efficiently and to shorten the periods between jobs. Education and retraining of workers during their unemployment should be encouraged. Governmental construction providing emergency relief through work and wages should be stimulated.

(3) A gradual and constructive solution of the unemployment problem along these lines has become an imperative public need.

Maybe the state should start paying attention to some of these objectives.

Budget hits against LIRC going forward

UPDATE (14 July 2015): The final bill, 2015 Wis Act 55, has been published, and the JFC changes to LIRC’s budget are back in: see § 146m for the provision transferring the Commission from DWD to DOA and the governor appointing the Commission’s general counsel and p.133 of the PDF of the budget act for the budgetary changes.

UPDATE (12 July 2015): The enrolled bill removed the three changes made by the JFC described below.  While I had searched through all the amendments passed on the final days of the budget debate, I apparently missed the amendment that rolled back the JFC changes. So, the Commission’s original budget remains unchanged from what was originally proposed.

As reported earlier, the Joint Finance Committee made three surprising changes to the Labor and Industry Review Commission: (1) transferring the administrative location of the Commission from the Department of Workforce Development to the Department of Administration, (2) transferring $434,900 from the Commission to DWD for program integrity (i.e., claimant auditing), and (3) making the Commission’s general counsel a political appointee of the governor.

The amended budget passed by the Senate yesterday includes all of these changes. In particular, Section 146m of Senate Substitute Amendment 1 (see p.28) has this new language:

The governor shall appoint an individual to serve at the pleasure of the governor as general counsel for the commission.

And, the unemployment funds provided the Commission are now $1,953,300, see pp.187-8, down from $2,388,200 contained in the original version of the budget bill (see p.332).

The general counsel switch raises some ethical considerations that could be problematic. The Commission members, after all, are independent and appointed for set terms by the governor. This new language makes the general counsel someone who reports directly to the governor and NOT the Commissioners, however. So, for the Commissioners to retain their independence, they probably cannot turn to their general counsel who now reports to someone outside the Commission for advice. That is, whoever the new general counsel will be, that person will have nothing to do since that attorney cannot provide legal advice to Commission members when working on behalf of and reporting to someone outside the agency. And, the Commissioners cannot disclose their confidential consideration of decisions to someone who works on behalf of another.

The Commission staff attorneys losing their jobs is a more straight forward problem. Perhaps they can find positions in vacant attorney jobs elsewhere available in the state. If they do not, I doubt they will file for unemployment given recent changes being developed for the definition of concealment. At least, good luck to them on their new endeavors.