Mining Engineer Debunks Liberals' Study - MacIverInstitute
Was This the First Hearing on Mining?
Wisconsin Democrat Finally Releases Mining Bill -MacIverInstitute
2/7/13 Governor Walker Addresses 2013 Conference on Economic Development
On February 7, 2013, Governor Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) addressed the Governor's Conference on Economic Development at the Monona Terrace in Madison, WI.
SIS - Additional Resources, Information and Commentary
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Majority Leader Scott Suder said Thursday they will propose changes to their controversial mining bill next week to address some of the concerns of Democratic lawmakers that a shortened permitting time frame will put the state at odds with federal agencies.
The top Assembly leaders met Wednesday with key Democrats including Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, to hear their concerns.
The GOP bill sets a 420-day deadline for the state Department of Natural Resources to act on a mine permit application and allows one 60-day extension. Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have testified that the federal agency's permitting process takes a minimum of two years with action on some permits taking four years or longer. According to Democrats and other critics, that could lead to two separate permitting processes, which would be more expensive and actually end up lengthening the time it takes for a mine to get permitted.
Suder said one amendment to the GOP bill would resolve such potential conflicts. In addition, language has been added to the bill that would require that the company meet with the Army Corps both before and during the permit process.
Backers of the GOP bill maintain that the legislation does not make changes to current environmental standards. But critics charge the legislation gives the DNR much broader authority to exempt a mining company from environmental rules.
Last week, a joint committee held a 12-hour hearing at the Capitol on the twin Senate and Assembly mining bills, with about 100 speakers unable to testify after time ran out.
The bills are aimed at paving the way for a $1.5 billion 4 1/2-mile-long iron ore mine near Ashland being proposed by Gogebic Taconite, which helped write the Republican legislation. An economic analysis paid for by the company projects the mine would employ at least 700 people at an average salary and benefits of $83,000 a year.
The Republican-backed bills will be up for committee votes Wednesday in the Assembly and Senate. Meanwhile on Thursday, Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, and Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, introduced their own mining proposal which does not include any changes to environmental laws. It sets a two-year deadline for DNR action and allows extensions if needed. A meeting on that bill is scheduled for Feb. 9 in Ashland.
According to the Farm Bureau Federation, the amount of farmland converted to other uses continues to decline in Wisconsin. Thanks to the state’s use value assessment law, Wisconsin farmers continue to save millions on the property taxes they pay to own a piece of America’s Dairyland.
The number of acres of farmland diverted to other uses has fallen steadily since 2000 according to the Wisconsin Agricultural Statistics Service.
In 2011, just 3,764 acres of farmland (with and without buildings and improvements) were diverted to other uses. This stands in stark contrast to 1993 when 90,971 acres of farmland (with and without buildings and improvements) were sold and diverted to other uses.
That statistic remained over 60,000 acres per year
throughout the rest of the 1990s. With full implementation of Wisconsin’s use value assessment law in 2000, the rapid loss of farmland has fallen consistently, from 44,403 acres in 2004 to 3,764 acres in 2011.
“The use value law remains the best tool we have to keep farmland in production rather than being sold off to recreational or developmental pressure,” said Jim Holte, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation President. “Wisconsin farm families have seen savings of over $400 million annually and $4 billion in total since the use value assessment law was enacted in 2000.”
“Farmers must not take for granted that we now have fairness in the way farmland assessments are determined,” said Holte, a beef, corn and soybean farmer from Dunn County. “For decades farm families suffered as property taxes were shifted to farmland under an antiquated market value system that based assessed values on speculative development. Farm Bureau always maintained that farmers needed assessments based on the realities of farming. Use value’s equitable tax structure helps the viability of Wisconsin’s $59 billion agricultural economy, which is good news for the job market and our state’s overall economy.”
An independent state nonprofit that addresses tax- and budget-related issues released figures Wednesday showing taxes among lower, middle and upper class families are unequally distributed in Wisconsin.
The report from the Wisconsin Budget Project referenced the findings in the Washington-based Institution on Taxation and Economic Policy’s “Who Pays?” a distributional analysis of tax systems in all 50 states.
After considering all taxes citizens must pay, the tax rates boil down to 9.6 percent for the bottom fifth of Wisconsinites, 10.7 percent for the middle fifth and 5.6 percent for the top one percent, the report said. According to the report, Wisconsin’s system, similar to most state tax systems, tends to take more
Income Tax Distribution Favors High Earners
Rep. Daniel Riemer
from middle- and low-income families rather than wealthy families.
ITEP’s report noted two changes made this past session affecting lower-class Wisconsinites: cuts in the Earned Income Tax Credit, which provides relief to families with children, and the Homestead Tax Credit, which provides relief for renters and homeowners.
Kelly David, ITEP’s Midwest policy director, suggested the cause for unevenness in tax rates stems from Wisconsin’s reliance on regressive taxes, a tax system in which citizens achieve lower tax rates as they make more money. She advised a greater focus on income tax.
Rep. Daniel Riemer, D-Milwaukee, wants to see tax cuts for honest and hardworking individuals who are unable to comfortably sit in the middle class. He thinks this will be a good way to encourage work and discourage welfare.
With such a policy, members in different income brackets will have different tax rates, with those making less money in turn having smaller rates, Riemer said.
However, despite speculation, it remains unclear how Walker’s budget proposal will affect these tax rate figures across classes.
Governor Announces Economic Development Plan
*Add $75 million to an existing tax credit designed to encourage existing Wisconsin businesses to expand and invest in job training.
*Lift the maximum $47.5 million cap on a tax credit program designed to encourage startup companies.
*Spend an additional $11 million to market Wisconsin as a place to do business.
*Spend $6 million on programs that support “high-potential entrepreneurs and businesses.”
*Spend $500,000 to assist military veterans in starting their own businesses.
*Spend $100,000 to attract international visitors to Wisconsin.
*Spend $75,000 to attract meetings, conventions and sporting events.
Democrats support much of this agenda, particularly the venture capital provision. But as always, the devil will be in the details to be unveiled in the Governor’s budget bill.
Wisconsin Republicans moved closer Wednesday to passing a sweeping overhaul of the state’s mining regulations, pushing the proposal through a pair of committees and setting up a vote before the Legislature’s budget panel.
Republicans on the Senate and Assembly mining committees made identical revisions to the bill Wednesday they said were designed to allay fears about pollution. Democrats lamented the changes as insubstantial, but it
February 8, 2013
Senate, Assembly Committees Approve Mining Bill
didn’t matter. The GOP controls both the Senate and the Assembly, which means the party controls every committee. The Senate panel passed it on a 3-2 party line vote; the Assembly committee followed suit on a 10-6 party line vote.
The bill goes next to the Joint Finance Committee. That likely will be the measure’s last stop before it comes to the Senate and Assembly floors. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, has said he wants to vote on the measure by early next month.
Republicans have been trying to persuade Gogebic Taconite to open the mine in the Penokee Hills just south of Lake Superior for more than a year. The company has pledged the project would create hundreds of jobs in the economically depressed region and hundreds more for heavy equipment makers throughout the state. But company officials want the Legislature to streamline the state’s mining regulations before they move forward.
The Wisconsin State Journal reports that Gov. Scott Walker's executive budget will include about $500 million more for transportation projects ranging from rebuilding a badly congested Milwaukee interchange to filling State Patrol vacancies, his office said Friday.
Walker's two-year spending plan will devote about $6.4 billion to transportation work, up from about $5.9 billion in the 2011-2013 budget, according to his office. The governor spent Friday traveling to news conferences in Pewaukee, Green Bay
Governor Calls For More Transportation Dollars
and Baraboo to announce the plan.
The governor plans to generate the additional money in part by pulling $129 million form the state's general fund. The state's $419 million surplus will enable Walker to make that move, said Jocelyn Webster, Walker's spokeswoman in Madison.
Another $32 million will come from the petroleum fund and $662 million will come from bonding.
Walker's statement said the budget will devote $550 million toward rebuilding the Zoo Interchange in Milwaukee, the spot where interstates 94 and 894 intersect with U.S. Highway 45.
Other commitments include $236 million for work on Milwaukee's Hoan Bridge; $10.7 million for grants to improve commercial harbors; $60 million for preserving railroad tracks; $55 million more for road maintenance; an additional $800,000 in disaster aid; and $2.7 million to train State Patrol recruits.
Walker is scheduled to release his full budget on Wednesday. The Legislature's finance committee will revise the plan and send it on to the full state Senate and Assembly for approval. From there it will go back to Walker for his signature. The whole process is expected to take most of the spring.
If a contract for the creation of a statewide student information system stands, school districts across Wisconsin will all operate under the same platform within the next few years. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers says that’s the right way to approach the issue. He says it will “make sure that we have the most efficient system possible.”
State officials recently announced the winning bid for the statewide package would go to Minnesota-based Infinite Campus. Steven Point-based Skyward is appealing that
DPI Chief Defends Award to Minnesota Firm
Tony Evers State Superintendent
of Public Instruction
decision, arguing a review of the bids determined the company would have been able to provide the same services at a lower cost.
Evers says he looks forward to reviewing Skyward’s appeal and ensuring “that we have a process that’s fair to them, that they’re adequately heard about what their grievances are around this process, and we’ll make a decision going forward from there.”
Skyward currently operates student information systems in about 50 percent of Wisconsin school districts, which the company argues will end up costing districts more money when they have to switch over in a few years. Evers maintains that there will be adequate funding to help school districts deal with the costs of converting their systems, but financial officers in Eau Claire and Stevens Point contend that it will cost substantially more - $250,000 to $440,000 – to replace their perfectly functional Skyward systems with new Minnesota-devised SIS systems.
When asked how they would prefer the projected state surplus to be allocated, 40% of those surveyed by the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee would prioritize educational funding, 33% would prioritize funding for Medicaid, while only 16%
Poll: Income Tax Relief Low, School Aid High on Residents’ Priorities
would prioritize income relief and 10% would prioritize transportation funding.
According to the survey, Wisconsin residents are evenly divided on the Governor’s plan to divert much of the current budget cycle’s surplus to reduce income taxes; 45% approve the income tax cuts, while 45% oppose the plan.
Other surveys have consistently shown that if asked, the overwhelming majority of state residents would chose to reduce property taxes instead of income taxes. WPT has asked and will continue to press the Legislature to use the surplus to increase school aid and reduce school property taxes.
Wisconsin Property Taxpayers, Inc. strongly endorsed a bill introduced yesterday that would protect Wisconsin jobs, allow Wisconsin firm Skyward to continue serving Wisconsin schools and save school districts and property taxpayers millions in unnecessary expense and property tax dollars in the next five years.
The bill would create a multi-vendor system for the state’s Student Information System (SIS), a move that would allow Stevens Point-based Skyward to continue to sell its product and serve half the state’s school districts.
The bill’s bi-partisan sponsors Senator Julie Lassa and Representatives Katrina Shankland, Amy Sue Vruwink and John Spiros said it would prevent hundreds of school districts from the added expense and confusion of switching to a new SIS system, and prevent the loss of hundreds of Wisconsin jobs which are likely to occur under the current single vendor
Legislators, WPT Fight Unnecessary School Spending
The measure comes in the wake of the Feb. 1 announcement that the Department of Administration (DOA) will give the statewide SIS contract to a Minnesota company instead of Skyward.
According to Sen. Lassa, Skyward currently provides half of Wisconsin’s schools with satisfactory SIS software and services. “If the single vendor decision stands, hundreds of school districts will have to scrap perfectly good SIS systems and pay to replace them with one created out of state,” Lassa said.
The Stevens Point school district estimates that it would cost more than $447,000 - mostly property tax dollars - to convert from Skyward to the Minnesota SIS system. Multiplied by the number of districts currently served by Skyward, the total cost of conversion would cost state and local property taxpayers millions of dollars.
“ Because it would save hundreds of good paying Wisconsin jobs, save millions in unnecessary property taxpayer dollars, and encourage competition among vendors , we strongly urge the Legislature to replace the current single vendor approach to a system that would allow districts to choose between multiple state-approved SIS program vendors,” Birkley said.
Gov. Scott Walker announced that he won’t propose expanding Medicaid services in Wisconsin, breaking with other Republican governors who decided to accept federal money for an expansion as offered under the health care overhaul law.
Instead, Walker outlined a hybrid approach that involves tightening income eligibility for Medicaid, lifting a cap on a program that covers childless adults and forcing more people to buy insurance through a government-run marketplace known as an exchange.
February 15, 2013
Governor Rejects Federal Funding, Tightens Medicaid Eligibility
Walker said the net result would drop the state’s share of uninsured non-elderly adults from 14 percent to just 7 percent — about the level seen as likely under the Medicaid expansion.
The decision is a blow to Democrats, health care advocacy groups and others, including Wisconsin hospitals, who had urged Walker to take the expansion and the billions of dollars in federal money that would come with it. Walker said he would be spending $644 million more on state Medicaid programs over the next two years under his plan.
Walker is proposing tightening the threshold for Medicaid eligibility for adults to $11,490 for individuals and $15,510 for couples. That is 100 percent of the federal poverty level. Under the federal law, Medicaid coverage would be available for an individual earning up to $15,414 and $20,628 for a couple.
The Governor’s proposal will be included in the state budget where Legislators are likely to amend it. Assembly Speaker, Robin Vos (R-Burlington) has indicated that his house is likely to adopt the proposal as introduced by the Governor.
Credit - IRS
Earned Income Credit - IRS
2nd Quarter 2013
3rd Quarter 2013
4th Quarter 2013