WPT Capitol Report, June 13, 2016

Wisconsin Property Taxpayers, Inc.

Property Taxpayers United for Fairness and Reform Since 1985

News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin


Good evening! We hope that your weekend was relaxing, and that the work week is off to a productive start. WPT would like to take a moment to to remember the 50 Americans who were murdered early yesterday morning in Orlando, and to offer our deepest and heart-felt condolences to the families and friends of the victims of this senseless tragedy. This week's Capitol Report will touch on a variety of topics, including the current status of changes to the IRIS program in Wisconsin, as well as a proposed Homeowners Bill of Rights in the legislature. We will also share our recent interview with Rep. Dave Heaton (R-Wausau), in our ongoing series of bipartisan interviews with your lawmakers. As always, we hope you find the WPT Capitol Report to be interesting and informative. If there are any topics you would like to see included, don't hesitate to contact us directly at

All the best for a great week ahead!

A homeowners bill of rights? About time!

Last week at a press conference, State Senator Tim Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) and Representative Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake) unveiled their latest initiative called the "Homeowners Bill of Rights." The two lawmakers held their press conference at the home of a Wisconsin resident whose property is at risk of being taken in the name of eminent domain under state law. So what would the homeowners bill of rights look like? Let's go through it. Calling home ownership the "foundation of the American Dream," the lawmakers cited that homeowners enjoy a significantly higher net worth than non-homeowners. The two lawmakers believe more should be done to protect current owners and encourage more families to become a homeowner. There's usually just one, albeit large, problem, according to them: overbearing government. The Homeowners Bill of Rights has ten prominent pieces. 1) Controlling property taxes, which the lawmakers were quick to point out, have gone down over the past five years. Looking for ways to keep property taxes in check will be a priority in this bill of rights. 2) Increasing broadband access, as fast and reliable access is imperative to economic growth. Their proposal would implement a simple, affordable, streamlined, and consistent permit structure. 3) Energy security and affordability, which would work to increase the availability of energy while lowering the costs. The lawmakers propose doing this through reexamining transportation systems to ensure efficient and reliable supply and delivery. 4) Reform of taking property through eminent domain. Both the senator and the representative believe that taking a closer look and reforming the means by which government can take land through this process is dismaying, and plan to introduce additional protections for homeowners. 5) Reform of taking property by regulation, they said, is unreasonable at all levels of government, and too common. Their proposal calls for compensation to homeowners when significant regulatory takings occur. 6) Reducing regulatory barriers to home buyers. The elected officials do concede that some regulations are necessary or the public good, however some are not necessary and need to be changed. 7) The right to the the flag is also part of this proposal, as many homeowners associations have banned residents from flying the American or Wisconsin flags on their homes. This proposal would stop the ability of any entity from imposing such a rule. 8) Privacy. The lawmakers wrote, "a man's home is his castle," and cited the 4th Amendment as being a protection for innocent homeowners and property owners. Except in extraordinary circumstances, this bill would bar any search of an individual's property or home unless with a warrant based on probable cause. 9) Grandfathering rules would be expanded so property owners do not lose property rights due to rule changes regarding use of property. "If a use was legal when you purchased the property, it should be respected," they wrote. 10) Smart Growth reform. The authors propose that Smart Growth laws should be amended to strengthen property owner protections to make sure the law is being used to facilitate and encourage economic development. WPT is encouraged by this proposal, and is looking forward to bringing your thoughts, as property taxpayers, to these lawmakers for their consideration while they craft the legislation in the next session.

Financial literacy: Your responses

Last week, we brought you the latest report showing that the Untied States doesn't do such a good job at providing or mandating financial literacy education to students around the country. We went over the importance of this type of education, and how kids who are required to pass a test actually end up with better credit, better financial acumen, and better financial stability. So, we asked a few questions in our weekly survey, starting with did you learn about financial literacy in school... Here' what you said.

A 55%-45% split. A majority of you learned about the importance of this topic in school. Some of you said you didn't remember. We even had one respondent who taught economics and included financial literacy in their curriculum. Thanks for doing your part. Next, we wanted to know if you believed Wisconsin should mandate this education in our schools.

That's right, 100 percent of you think this should be mandated on Wisconsin students. And why not? It's clear that this gives our students an advantage as their progress into the workforce and into adulthood. So, did your kids learn about it?

It looks like a majority of you (who have kids) believe your children have learned about financial literacy in school already. That's good news. And if they didn't learn about it, did you sit down and discuss?

A whopping 91% of you have sat down and discussed some of the importance of financial literacy and responsibility with your kids. I recall my father sitting down with me when I over-drafted my first checking account in high school. I asked him for some cash to cover the balance. He said, "great, I was going to ask your brother to help me pull shingles off of the garage, but as fate would have it, you just asked me for money." We sat down after and he said, "John, it's really simple. How about you don't spend more money than you earn?" Novel idea. So which topic is most important for out students to learn?

Turns out, all of them. They're really all linked to one another, but sometimes, given a circumstance, one might be more important for a kid to learn than another. Let's look at some of your comments. "How to live below or at least within your means." "All of the above plus how our economy works." "TAXES! Understand how much earnings are taxed!" (And property, right?) "There needs to be more, whole picture education on this topic. And it needs to come from proven sources- people who actually live it. Teachers of economics need to be students and practitioners of what they teach." And finally, my favorite, "the myriad of unexpected expenses and ways to deal with them." We have all been there, and a few weeks ago WPT brought you a recent study that surveyed Americans on if they would be able to cover the cost of an unexpected $1,000 emergency. Most would not be able to do so, and the sad reality is that we have all been in situations where large expenses pop up. It's just part of life. In our opinion, much like WPT and our members would like our government to live within its means, its crucial that younger generations are instilled with this important, and often urgent, skill-set. It's like riding a bicycle. Once you have learned, you'll likely not forget.

What do you think?

Two Wisconsin lawmakers have introduced a Homeowners Bill of Rights. In the coming months, and the upcoming legislative session, this package of legislative proposals will be rolled out and crafted. We want your thoughts! Click on the link to take a brief, five questions, multiple choice survey and fact quiz, and we'll share the results next week in our Capitol Report. All responses are completely anonymous- even WPT can't see who responds.


Walker administration withdraws proposed changes to IRIS

IRIS is a program administered by the state's Department of Health Services. The program is a Medicaid Home & Community-Based Services waiver for self-directed long-term support for adults with long-term care needs. IRIS stands for "Include, Respect, I Self-Direct." As the Department of Health Services lays out, INCLUDE is for Wisconsin's frail elders, adults with physical disabilities, and adults with developmental disabilities. RESPECT is for participants who choose their living setting, their work, and their participation in the community. I SELF-DIRECT means the program is a self-directed long term care option, and the participant manages an Individual Services and Support Plan with their own budget and guidelines. Recently, some changes were proposed to this program. The Department of Health Services would contract with private insurance companies to replace the managed care organizations that currently oversee long-term care for the 40,000 elderly and 12,000 self-directed long term care participants. Those who proposed the changes said that this plan would make the programs more sustainable by saving money and adding more efficiency to the operating costs. Opponents argued that there would be a loss of flexibility for participants and a loss of quality of care. On Friday, in a letter to the Joint Committee on Finance, DHS Secretary Kitty Rhodes said that her department was withdrawing the proposed changes after receiving feedback from providers, advocates, lawmakers, and "most importantly consumers." Democrats were quick to praise the withdrawal, saying the changes should not have been proposed and that elderly were put through unwarranted panic over something that wasn't broken and didn't need to be fixed. Republicans said that this was a missed opportunity to make changes that foster sustainability of the program. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said people were playing politics with the future care of our most vulnerable citizens.

Not seeking re-election, Rep. Dave Heaton shares accomplishments, plans moving forward

With one term under his belt, Rep. Dave Heaton (R-Wausau) is going to be happy to live under the laws he has helped craft over the past two years. In an interview with WPT, the one term lawmaker shared his motivations for entering public office, his successes, and plans moving forward.

A husband, father of three, devout Catholic, attorney, businessman, and many other roles, Rep. Dave Heaton decided to put a little more on his plate back in 2014 when he successfully challenged then-incumbent State Representative Mandy Wright in the general election. "I ran for office because I wanted to promote policies that advance economic, religious, and individual liberty and improve the quality of life for the families in my community," he said. "Also, having never run for any public office before and having no plans to make politics a career, I was confident I could contribute a different perspective and common sense-based philosophy to the legislative and political process."

Over his career, Heaton has practiced litigation, and provided advice and consulting services to companies primarily in the insurance and financial services industry. "Most of my career I have worked in the private sector. Although, I began my career as an assistant state's attorney in one of the largest prosecuting offices in the country."

While his time has been a bit too occupied for hobbies since his election, he said, "I enjoy hunting, skiing, hiking, biking, vegetable growing, and writing." And even though he might not get to enjoy too much leisurely activity as of late, Heaton wasted no time boasting about his district and all it has to offer.

"Marathon County is home to some of the most beautiful natural settings anywhere, whether it's the prize fishing waters, the countless acres of state and county forests, trails, or Granite Peak skiing resort. However, Wausau also has a touch of urban attractions like the Grand Theatre and the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, both of which attract national and world-wide talent."

In a mere two years' time, Rep. Heaton has achieved a record of which he is proud. "I am proud to have been part of a majority team that, with the support of Governor Walker, crafted and passed legislation that made huge strides toward protecting individual liberty." He cited multiple bills, including Right to Work, and the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act that "protects babies from being terminated after five months in the womb, a point in human development when the overwhelming body of scientific evidence tells us that the baby can feel pain," he explained.

Heaton cherishes the opportunity to serve on the Judiciary Committee, which played an important role in advancing the successful constitutional amendment initiative that allows the State Supreme Court to choose its own Chief Justice, rather than have that position determined based solely on seniority.

Heaton also discussed five bills for which he was the primary author. All were passed through the legislature and signed into law by Governor Walker; a feat that many lawmakers rarely achieve in their first years in office. Among those were a bill that put the state in a position to continue to receive federal funds critical to child support enforcement, a bill that streamlined the administrative code for the Department of Children and Families, a bill that streamlined the licensing rules for the propane industry, and the Repeated Acts of Physical Abuse Against Children law. "I have worked tirelessly throughout my term to craft good public policy, and I am grateful that I was able to make a positive impact on the direction Wisconsin is heading."

WPT also asked the Central Wisconsin lawmaker to share his thoughts on the Personal Property Tax in Wisconsin. "One focus of mine as a legislator was to peel back the red tape that impedes small business growth," he said. "The [PPT] is an unnecessary relic in Wisconsin's tax policy [that] does not make much sense for a state trying to attract new business, compete in the region and the world, and create a level playing field for commerce." He went on, "The PPT falls disproportionately on a limited number of businesses and contains so many exemptions that it is extremely burdensome to manage especially for small businesses that are already disproportionately burdened by an overbearing regulatory scheme in this country."

Heaton says he hopes the legislature continues to work on removing the PPT in conjunction with an overall review of the tax laws in Wisconsin. "The legislature should consult all stakeholders including local governments who would likely see their revenues decrease initially if a comprehensive solution is not achieved. One part of the conversation should include options for phasing the PPT out so local governments and other stakeholders have an opportunity to adjust and prepare for any such change."

The repeal of the Personal Property Tax is a priority for WPT, and though we are disappointed to lose the business acumen of Rep. Heaton, we appreciate his role in red tape reform in Wisconsin.

And as for his plans moving forward?

"Aside from marrying my beautiful wife and the birth of my children, serving the people of Wisconsin in the legislature has been my greatest honor. However, I am looking forward to transitioning back to some role in the private sector on a full-time basis and living under the laws I helped shape. I am sure whatever opportunity presents itself, my experience in the legislature has provided invaluable insights and a unique world view that will be very useful in the private sector. I will miss working with the myriad of individuals and groups whom I might never have encountered outside the legislature. I will miss working on the Judiciary Committee, one of the busiest committees in the Assembly. Membership on the Judiciary Committee provided an incredible opportunity for me as a lawyer to enhance my knowledge of the law and play a pivotal role in crafting policy affecting the legal practice and judiciary in Wisconsin. The committee handled some of the most challenging and monumental pieces of legislation to move forward, such as amending the Constitution to permit the justices of the Supreme Court to choose their own Chief Justice rather than having the critical position chosen by seniority. I will especially miss working with my legislative colleagues and the excellent staff."

WPT thanks Representative Heaton for sharing a bit about himself and his accomplishments in the legislature, and for his service to the people of Wisconsin. We sincerely wish him and his family a blessed and prosperous future in all of their endeavors.

Rep. Scott Krug promises to re-introduce high capacity well bill

In a recent interview with WPT, State Representative Scott Krug said he was planning on re-introducing a bill that would regulate where and when high capacity wells would be used throughout the state. We assumed he meant in the next legislative session, but he's serious about getting this done for his district, so he's getting to work much faster.

Doubling down on his word, the lawmaker again said he is planning to reintroduce the bill, but this time, before this fall's general election, highlighting the importance of the issue in his district. In last month's interview, the lawmaker stressed the importance of striking a balance between industry and tourism in his central Wisconsin region. His actions certainly indicate that he is not giving up the fight to find that balance.

"This legislation should not only address quantity and quality issues but must also focus on the DNR's authority to meet their statutory requirements in groundwater monitoring and enforcement."

WPT reached out to Rep. Krug's office today. The plan to reintroduce the legislation in the coming months was confirmed by his staff.

Mount Pleasant erosion getting some big attention from governor

Governor Walker has requested federal aid and assistance for the Village of Mount Pleasant to help curb severe erosion of bluffs along Lake Michigan. The Governor sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, requesting funding under Section 14 of the Flood Control Act of 1946, which grants emergency authority to the corps in situations such as the one impacting this southeastern Wisconsin community. In a statement on Friday, Governor Walker said that the shoreline is threatening residential housing and the infrastructure of the village. He assured residents that the State of Wisconsin is pursuing all options to help homeowners and local governments. The Army Corps said that it is determining which options are available, but warned that they cannot likely provide immediate assistance to the village.