WPT Capitol Report, May 31, 2016

News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin

May 31, 2016

Members, Good evening to everybody. We hope you had a relaxing weekend with family and friends, and that you took a moment to reflect on the sacrifice that countless Americans have made to secure the freedoms and liberties that we so enjoy as citizens of the United States. This week, we are going to bring you the latest news on WEDC, including some federal-level solutions for small business, and talk a bit about education in Wisconsin based on your survey responses. *Note* Due to a scheduling conflict and the holiday weekend, a new weekly lawmaker interview will be brought to you next week instead. We hope you'll take a moment to read about State Representative Cindi Duchow (R-Delafield), who WPT had the pleasure of speaking with last month. As always, we hope you find the Capitol Report to be interesting and informative. If there are any issues or topics that you would like to see us cover in the coming weeks, please don't hesitate to reach out to us at All the best for a great week ahead,


Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation back in the news

Well, another week and another news headline about WEDC, the private-public state agency charged with job creation and economic development in Wisconsin. A review of WEDC's state jobs programs unveiled that the agency awarded businesses at least $400,000 in tax credits that should not have been awarded. This is just the early reviewing stage. As the examination continue, even more mistakes could pop up. Right now, only 22 contracts under review have accounted for the $400,000. There are 222 contracts currently being overlooked. This means that the probability of more over-payments in tax credits could prove to be much higher, as the agency has doled out about $65 million in incentives. The CEO of the agency told reporters that they have yet to reach out to any of the businesses involved, and that those companies have to earn these credits based on how many jobs they created. WPT earlier this month surveyed Capitol Report readers and asked about WEDC and possible solutions. A majority of members who responded agreed that a change needs to be made, and that small businesses should receive some of the attention of WEDC, after numerous reports have been released, citing small businesses being responsible for a large majority of all new jobs created in the State of Wisconsin. Just one example; new efforts on the federal level are aimed at helping entrepreneurs and small businesses through crowed-funding. Starting on May 16th, small companies can now raise up to $1 million from ordinary investors through crowdfunding portals such as Kickstarter and SeedInvest. As one report stated, "instead of getting a t-shirt by investing, you get an actual equity stake in a small company that's looking to raise money and grow." This was made possible as Congress passed, and President Obama signed, the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act in 2012. Congress decided there should be a way that every day Americans could invest in companies and small businesses, and that there should be rules that protect those investors, as well. If you own a small business or startup and interested in crowdfunding, you will have to go through a registered broker dealer or funding portal that has been approved by regulators. Other states have been looking to digital models to help businesses and startups grow, as well, as meas for economic development and job creation. This is where WEDC could get creative, and help Wisconsinites invest in Wisconsinites.


Wisconsin's schools and your responses

From Evansville Class of '63, Oconomowoc High Class of '59, and Randolph High Class of '80, to New Richmond Class of '80, Plymouth High Class of '66, and Osceola Class of '79...tons of people took the time to share their class pride from around the state in last week's survey. Also some honorable mentions...Assumption High School '83, and Wisconsin Lutheran High...which is right across the creek from WPT's Legislative Director, John Jacobson's high school, Pius XI Catholic High in Milwaukee. We wanted to get a good reading on how many of our members went to public schools, and we got quit a few responses. Let's take a look.

Well, as it turns out, about 55% of you said that both you and your kids attended public schools! That's a big number, and we know that schools can be the pride of a community when it comes to sports, the arts, and academics. Communities all across Wisconsin pay close attention to their area schools. And why shouldn't you? After all, you pay for them. We asked: should the state assume its commitment to paying for 66% of public school funding in Wisconsin? About 90% of you said yes. Right now, the state's portion of public school funding has slipped, thus leaving the remaining balance on property taxpayers. In 1992, the State of Wisconsin committed to picking up 66% of the overall costs of the schools. That number has shifted to about 58%. It's no coincidence that, while we have made strides, we continue to rank as one of the highest property-taxed states in America. That 8% that the state has put on our annual bills makes a huge difference. Take a look at your property tax bill, and the portion of that bill that went to your K12 schools. Now subtract 8%. What would you do with that money? In the comments, a couple of people basically said, "either way, we're paying for it." That makes a lot of sense, but not so fast! Let's break it down a bit. Right now, the state's portion of school funding comes from General Purpose Revenue (GPR), which is made up of sales tax, corporate tax, income tax, and the like. With some tweaks in budgeting, we could relieve some of the burden on property taxpayers without raising tax elsewhere. So in short, yes, we are all paying for it, but property owners don't necessarily have pay as much as they are now. Next, we asked about the voucher school program in Wisconsin. For those of you who aren't familiar, vouchers are tax dollars that private schools receive for enrolling students whose families fall into a certain income bracket. People in favor of this program cite that it gives parents a greater choice in where to educate their children, especially in districts where test scores and student performance are not making the grade. Opponents of the program claim that it takes money away from public schools, which are governed by publicly elected school boards, and provide standards and accountability measures that private schools are not required to meet under state law. Here's how you responded: About 70% of you said to fully fund our public schools first, and many others responded that only public schools should receive tax dollars. One respondent said he favors vouchers, as his wife was a teacher at a Christian school, and the program makes public schools more competitive. Another respondent wrote, "some form of a limited voucher system is fine." Additionally, many others wrote that "vouchers enhance education, and that the private schools do it cheaper, and often better." But, let's get back to public schools, since property taxpayers directly fund these pipelines into the workforce and Wisconsin's future! If you had to guess, how much does Wisconsin spend on average per pupil? This was just a curve ball question for fun. We didn't actually anticipate that anybody knew the per pupil funding figure off the tops of their heads. Well, we were wrong. 64% of you guessed correctly. The average student in Wisconsin receives about $11,000 per year in funding to their schools. So, if we spend $11,000 per pupil, where does that put us on the national rank? It puts Wisconsin at the #9 spot! Only about 30% of you guessed correctly. The number one state for per pupil funding in public schools is Massachusetts, and the worst state was Mississippi. Thanks to everybody who took the time to answer each question, and to share their thoughts with WPT. We work each week to bring you interesting material based on your responses, and we hope you'll continue to interact!



Yesterday was Memorial Day, and across the country, Americans honored those who gave the greatest sacrifice in serving our nation and protecting us from enemies both foreign and domestic. And although this day is in honor of those who have died, we often shift our focus to veterans issues, efforts, and achievements. Take this short, anonymous survey, and share your thoughts with WPT. Even we can't see who takes the quiz. It's five questions, multiple choice, and only takes about one minute.



Consumer spending spikes in US

It's the best we've seen in six years, and that's very good news. U.S. consumer spending spiked to its biggest record since August of 2009, as Americans went out and bought a lot of new cars. Along with this spike comes the likelihood of the Federal Reserve raising interest rates very soon. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said that a hike in the interest rate would be appropriate in the coming months if the US economy continued to pick up and if labor markets added jobs. Consumer spending accounts for over two-thirds of economic activity in the United States, and surged by 1% last month, outpacing economists projections by a long shot. The 1% growth was boosted by the more than 2% jump in purchases of long-lasting goods, such as automobiles.


Rep. Duchow hit the ground running in first term

She may have been elected a little later than her peers, but that definitely doesn't mean she did less work. WPT sat down with State Representative Cindi Duchow (R-Town of Delafield) to talk about her first term as a state lawmaker, representing Wisconsin's 99th Assembly District. Rep. Duchow was elected to the legislature last year in a special election to fill the seat held by now-Senator Chris Kapenga. I asked Rep. Duchow to share a bit about herself with WPT's members. She talked about her husband Craig, and their two sons, and their life in Wisconsin's beautiful Lake Country area in Waukesha County. She and her husband have enjoyed watching their sons compete in sports over the years. Their oldest son is wrapping up his first year in college, and their youngest will be a senior at Kettle Moraine High. Duchow said she doesn't know what she'll do as an empty-nester, but she and her husband love to sail. As far as work goes, she ran for office because she saw the need to improve the business climate in Wisconsin, and to lower taxes, "plain and simple," she said. Inviting new businesses, big and small, and decreasing taxes on Wisconsin's families will ensure that our children will want to raise their children here. Could anything be closer to the truth? Rep. Duchow finds her time in the Capitol to be quite rewarding, and notes how friendly and supportive the atmosphere can be. She doesn't shy away from putting in the work that goes along with making big decisions. "When I see these changes helping people out in real life, or when someone stops me on the street to thank me for a vote I took, there is no better feeling. It is very humbling. After all, that's what I came here to do." And WPT took notice of those votes, as well. The first-term lawmaker worked tirelessly to pass a shoreland zoning bill (AB 603), that ensured property owners' rights would be respected by local and state zoning laws. This was only one of her efforts in strengthening the rights of homeowners in Wisconsin. And as for the next legislative session? She's got big plans, and WPT is very interested. Rep. Duchow said, "I am very much looking forward to working with WPT and anyone else who wants to get rid of the personal property tax." We worked closely with Rep. Duchow in 2015 and 2016 in trying to modify the PPT law in our state. "I think it is crucial that all opponents of this tax commit to doing all we can to repeal it in the next budget." One thing is certain, if Rep. Duchow keeps up the fight, we'll see some positive changes in the very near future.


More measures OK'd to prevent gas and diesel shortages

Coming on the heels of the West Shore Pipeline's temporary closure, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation and Department of Administration have authorized increased measures to prevent any type of shortage of diesel and gas products in Wisconsin. Earlier this month, Governor Walker declared an Energy Emergency, and allowed for petroleum transporters to be on the road outside of operating hours. The new measures will authorize these carriers to transport overweight loads of petro products effective now through June 4th. WisDOR granted authorization that waived the divisible load limitation ad the operation of overweight vehicles with a registered gross weight of 50,000 pounds or more.


Good news: unemployment dropped in Wisconsin's cities and counties

Unemployment rates fell in April in all of Wisconsin's largest cities, and in most of the state's 72 counties.

The state Department of Workforce Development announced last week that in all 32 of the state's largest cities, the unemployment numbers went down. The same could be said for 69 counties.

Increases in unemployment occurred in Forest, Iron, and Menominee Counties. Menominee County had a 10.2% unemployment, Iron County had 10.8%. Dane County registered the lowest at 2.9%, and Racine had the highest unemployment of any city with 6.8% unemployment. Fitchburg came in as the most employed, with a 2.9% unemployment rate.

Keep in mind, these numbers are not seasonably adjusted, and cannot be compared to the overall state unemployment rate, which was at 4.4% in April.