/ Letters / Basta! Enough is enough

Basta! Enough is enough

May 08, 2020

To the Editor:

Received Tiffany’s recent self promotional mailing of AB 1038 hi-lighting eight pages of COVID-19 insertions consisting of double spaced word and phrase changes to an 87 page pending bill first brought to the floor in 2019. Items of note: Contrary to the impression left by Tiffany’s promo mailing he was not listed as a sponsor nor was he instrumental in the passing of this bill. This bill was passed by a bi-partisan 97-2 vote. Also, one provision “Prohibiting co-pays for COVID-19 testing” would have had more impact if the testing was free (tests run about $130). And in reading the rest of the 79 pages of the bill you get the feeling this was a GOP wish list fulfilled. As one politician said “AB 1038 is a pig with lipstick, and it doesn’t deserve to win any beauty contests.”

Likewise, listening to Tiffany’s political commercial listing his attributes — “I stand with Pres. Trump,” “have three daughters,” “proven legislature,” “small businessman,” “farmer from rural Wisconsin” is suggestive of Trump’s “word salad” jargon which is also usually short on specifics and long on generalities.

No, Tom, you stand with and for the people in your constituency. Here is a novel concept  — you are expected to represent the people in your district that elected you. What you don’t do is become another lick spittle, sycophant, yes-man. Exactly what does Tom stand with Trump on? The two-hour briefings which have turned into a thinly disguised political rally. Or Trump’s incompetent handling of the pandemic, (10 weeks after Trump declared a national emergency, he still hasn’t issued a comprehensive plan for containing the virus nor has he established a systematic program outlining exact conditions for people to go back to work). Maybe Tom stands with him on his irresponsible medical claims (hydroxychloroquine use as a preventative) and statements of unsubstantiated treatments (injection of bleach and/or disinfectant). Whereupon the president then asked Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, if she’d ever heard of the injection technique. “Not as a treatment,” Birx replied. Tom will indeed have difficult time trying to stand with Trump because the man waffles back and forth faster then a tuning fork — I was misquoted, I was taken out of context, I was being sarcastic/joking or I never said that (forgetting everything now-a-days is recorded).

Tom’s other credentials come into question. His claim to three daughters only proves his fecundity; farmer from rural Wisconsin, well in reality he grew up on a dairy farm, small businessman, actually he and his wife ran an excursion boat business on the Willow Flowage for 20 years, however he didn’t pay any state income taxes on them for 15 years. (Willow, Inc. or Wisconsin River Cruises, Inc. avoided paying any state income taxes since 2001 and 2008 respectively). He then sold the business in 2013 because he had the good fortune of being elected to public office (Assembly District 35 from 2011 to 2013 and Senate District 12 in 2012, both safely GOP gerrymandered districts). He now felt he was bullet-proof and couldn’t lose an election, so Tiffany got out of Cruise business so he could legislate (lobby for special interests) full-time.

Since his election to the state Legislature in 2011 his streak of not paying state income taxes was snapped. Tiffany paid no personal state income taxes for five years in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010, but did pay in 2011 — the year in which he received $49,943 in state taxpayer funded legislative salary, comprehensive health insurance and pension benefits.

As for “proven legislature” well that depends on your definition of “proven.” Tom opposed local governments’ use of eminent domain, but supported eminent domain when it comes to businesses being able to take private property. Case in point he backed giving Enbridge Energy, a Canadian oil pipeline company, the power to condemn private property for oil pipeline operations and projects. This authority was previously granted only to private corporations licensed to do business in Wisconsin.

In chairing the Senate’s mining committee, Tom helped pass a new law aimed at helping Gogebic Taconite open a controversial iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties. An interesting aspect is that even Canadian Taconite mining concerns said Taconite mining was a losing proposition. And losing it was, Gogebic ditched the project and created no jobs. But, what really mattered was the “foot-in-the-door” law which established precedent and wrested regulation from local control. Sen. Tiffany took the legislation that had been written by Gogebic Taconite and its lawyers and submitted it on the Senate floor. I’m sure the $74,000 Gogebic Taconite gave for his campaign had no influence.

Then after the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision to support a local town government’s right to regulate nonmetallic mining, Sen. Tiffany drafted legislation limiting local governments voice in deciding how nonmetallic mining works in their own jurisdictions. The legislation limited and/or prohibited their ability to pass laws on how nonmetallic mining should take place in their own jurisdictions. Local towns could do nothing about the silica dust in the air drifting to schools which put their children at long term risk for lung disease. Local towns were left without a voice in reclamation standards. Subsequently, sand frack company’s have proliferated closer to oil fields that use this sand with a resultant drop in price charged by frack sand providers. Cost per ton has since plummeted from $90 per ton to roughly $15-$20. Accordingly a number of Wisconsin sand frack companies have cut production, idled operations or even filed for bankruptcy leaving towns to clean up their mess.

Tiffany’s latest and greatest was to support the largest state subsidy (read give-away) for a foreign corporation in history with his vote for the abject Foxconn legislation. Instead of investing in schools, roads and Main Street businesses in Northern Wisconsin, Tiffany was willing to potentially fork over billions of Wisconsin tax dollars to Foxconn, a manufacturer with a dubious worldwide track record of not delivering on its contracts.

This boondoggle has now been going on since July of 2017 with no end in sight. Initially Foxconn was offered more than a $3 billion state subsidy with local governments sweetening the deal with almost $1 billion in tax incentives in return for Foxconn’s $10 billion investment in a Generation 10.5 LCD manufacturing plant that would create 13,000 jobs. Then instead of the promised Generation 10.5 plant, Foxconn said it was going to build a much smaller Gen 6 plant. Then the originally promised 22 million square foot advanced manufacturing plant was reduced to a 1 million square foot plant. As of July 2019 Foxconn was 1,500 jobs short of the 1,800 jobs required for Foxconn to get the next set of tax credits. Foxconn already missed its first jobs target under that contract, hiring only 156 employees instead of the required 260 the previous year. Then came the announcement that they will be making automated coffee kiosks for airports. But, wait then another announcement that Foxconn will produce ventilators at it’s controversial plant.

Even if the factory eventually increases its employment to 13,000 the cost per job created would be about $346,000. If the number of jobs turns out to be lower, the cost per job will be higher. And “If Foxconn moves on to some other place once the subsidies dry up, then local governments could be saddled with repaying the cost of public investments that are not worthwhile anymore.” With the pandemic and its resultant economic outlook the future looks dim for Foxconn.

Lastly, the most egregious action on Tom’s part as a legislator was what The Lakeland Times graciously called “some glitches,” but what was actually a flagrant betrayal of the public trust. This was Tom’s disgraceful attempt to gut the states’ Open Records Law by sneaking it through as a legislation proposal hidden in the budget bill over a 4th of July, 2015 weekend. Regardless of which specific lawmaker proposed the measure, 12 lawmakers — all Republicans — voted for it including Tom Tiffany. The proposal was inserted into “Motion #99” a budget addition misused as a vehicle for wish-list items for legislators and special interests often passed in the middle of the night or early morning. When caught, Tom and his 11 cohorts who voted for the legislation expressed half-hearted regret, which did not even come close to a full and abject apology. And nobody’s saying who was responsible for it.

Will voters ever get angry enough that they turn against self-serving candidates. Tom Tiffany parleyed a Tea Party chance event and a gerrymandered district into a ten year term in public office. Now he wants to be given a chance to repeat his legislative political partisanship bungling to the Federal level. I don’t think so —BASTA.

John Kocovsky




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