Wisconsin Property Taxpayers, Inc.
Property Taxpayers United for Fairness and Reform Since 1985
News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin
We hope you had a chance to relax this weekend, and that you stayed cool and hydrated throughout the heat wave seen across much of the state. This week, we will share the results from last week's survey, talk a bit about the new changes to the state's hiring practices, and share the most recent news in the state's elections and ethics board that will replace the GAB. We will also share our recent interview with Senator Tim Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst), and learn a bit more about the Northern Wisconsin lawmaker, his plans for the upcoming session, and more. We hope you find this week's Capitol Report to be interesting and informative, and as always, if you have something you would like to see featured in a future edition, please reach out to us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All the best for a great week ahead,
State rolls out new employment rules
After a controversial overhaul of the state's century-old civil service system made it's way through the legislature and received the signature of Governor Walker, some of the new rules for the new system are being rolled out for a first look. Starting with a new way to discipline employees, state employees can now receive a single day suspension, and nine of the 34 offenses listed in the new rules can lead to an immediate termination, without warning first. According to the State Journal, the new system will eliminate written reprimands, but suspension letters will be kept in a personnel file. And what are the offenses that will land a state employee without a job? Harassment, intoxication or under the influence of a controlled substance, stealing or damaging state property, criminal convictions while on or off duty, misusing or abusing state property. It's hard to argue with any of these. And the offenses that could land you on the track to termination? If you violate state's work rules, disobedience, appear intoxicated at work, possess drugs, give false information, appear unkempt or dress inappropriately, try running a business on state time, or abuse days off, or inflict mental anguish on another person... Finding a private employer who would tolerate any of the violations listed above would be quite a feat. In fact, these changes seem like just cause for any type of disciplinary action in any job. The law also determined that layoffs would now be based on job performance, and not seniority, as the older civil service system operated. As you might recall, the system now allows for hiring based on work experience/resume, and not based on the civil service exams. The new law applies to the state's 35,000 employees, and does not include the National Guard, or the UW System.
Our state economy, and your thoughts...
Last week, we brought you some news on our state economy, and the jobs outlook from the Department of Workforce Development. Just to recap: Wisconsin has not seen its unemployment rate this low since March of 2001. The rate currently stands at 4.2%, coming in below the national average of 4.7%. The state also picked up nearly 10,000 jobs in May. So, according to your responses, how are we doing? We asked; how is our state economy doing compared to one year ago?
80 percent of respondents said that the state economy is doing better or about the same this year than last. It's good to see some confidence. One respondent wrote, "property values are on the increase, which will also result in additional tax revenue. We actually have a worker shortage instead of a job shortage, and new business growth has increased." That's not too far off the mark. Wisconsin does have a large "skills gap," which is the shortage of workers compared to the industry in which open positions are available. The governor and legislature have worked to narrow this gap, and fortunately, there seems to be more to come. And are you happy with the direction the state economy is headed?
Nearly 65 percent of respondents are happy with the direction of the state economy, and as some of the state's employers, we are happy to see your confidence. These numbers are quite the deviation from the Marquette University Law School poll, so we wonder just exactly they are surveying. And personally? How are you doing compared with one year ago?
A combined 72 percent of respondents said better off or about the same as this time last year. And it should not go without mentioning that those who responded "worse" are generally in the agriculture sector. "We feel the hit to the dairy producers, the hit the crop farmers are taking, and the stagnant wages. It hurts to be in business right now." The milk margins are hurting farmers around Wisconsin, and our member reps are currently traveling throughout the state informing our agriculture members on how to get in touch with their members of Congress, lawmakers on the legislature's agriculture committees, and taking in your feedback on how to address the dairy crisis. Next, we asked how you prepare your eggs...
What the heck does this questions have to do with anything?? Well, it doesn't have anything to do with anything. We realize that oftentimes, these questions and topics are pretty serious. We talk about the amount of people struggling, looking for work, how certain industries are doing, and what companies are leaving or coming to Wisconsin. So, we wanted to throw in something a bit on the fun side. And it looks like FRIED EGGS take home the gold, with the silver going to scramble. "I'm a sucker for a good 'everything' omelette," said one reader. There is nothing better than an everything omelette. Cheese, meat, veggies...extra mushroom and onion... Enough egg talk, though. If you had to guess, what's Wisconsin's biggest industry?
For those of you who guessed manufacturing, you would be correct. The manufacturing industry in Wisconsin had a payroll of about $21 billion, spent about $91 billion on materials, and spends about $ billion annually on capital expenditures. Agriculture, specifically dairy, comes in at number two, contributing about $43 billion to the state economy each year. Healthcare in Wisconsin's biggest employer, Aurora to be specific.
STOP! SURVEY! DON'T SKIP!
With the changes to the state's civil service process for hiring and firing, we want to get your thoughts. Five questions Completely anonymous Less than one minute to complete
State Senator not open to raising taxes for roads
State Senator Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) is doubling down on his opposition to raising taxes as a solution to long-term road funding in Wisconsin. Saying the state needs to be more fiscally prudent in its approach to paying for roads, the Stroebel said, "We just can't have a knee-jerk reaction to raise the taxes because once they're raised, they'll never go down." The first-term senator called for reforms instead, saying that we need to look for efficiencies and reforms that will combat the state's road funding shortfall. "Those are the things we need to do first and if we need more money, fine, let's talk about that then." Stroebel authored a bill last year that would swap out federal funds on local road projects for state funds. This would effectively eliminate federal red tape and could save millions on road costs annually. WPT supported this measure. In a radio interview, Stroebel said, "Unless we find those reforms and efficiencies now, that is when we are truly kicking the can down the road by just throwing more money at the problem and building these bigger roads and so on that we just can't always afford."
Property rights champion Sen Tom Tiffany talks to WPT
He's been an ardent supporter of property rights, having authored big policies that deal with
shoreland zoning, managed forest land, and most recently, a proposal that would create a Homeowners Bill of Rights in Wisconsin.
WPT had the chance to learn a bit more about State Senator Tom Tiffany, his plans, the 12th Senate District, and more.
"Northern Wisconsin is easily one of the most beautiful and scenic places in the state," Sen. Tiffany said when asked about what makes his district special.
It's no doubt he believes his region is among the most beautiful in the state. He and his family have immersed themselves in the picturesque landscape of the area. "I live on the Willow Flowage with my wife, three daughters, and our dog- Carmel. A little known tidbit about myself- I am the dam-tender on the Willow."
Perhaps that's an incredible insight into the veteran lawmaker's natural resources, shoreland, and property acumen.
We asked what inspired him to enter public service. "One of my inspirations was Professor Glenn Pots at UW-River Falls. He taught economics with a fee market emphasis, which I enjoyed. I have been interested in the intersection of public policy and economics since taking those classes."
"But it really clicked after being a business owner," he added. "Finding out the level of tax and regulation firsthand really motivated me to run for office."
Recently, Sen. Tiffany was at the forefront of the Managed Forest Law program reform. He advocated for changes that increase flexibility for property owners when transferring ownership and splitting acreage, and by eliminating several taxes. Additionally, the new law also requires the DNR to return closed acreage fees to towns and counties throughout the state, to the tune of $18 million over the next few years. And next, he is planning on "stirring up the discussion" on property rights alongside freshman lawmaker Rep. Adam Jarchow, who WPT featured in last week's interview. "To me, property rights have unfortunately been largely forgotten since the dust settled from the Kelo case about a decade ago." Kelo v. City of New London (Connecticut), was a Supreme Court decision that held that when a city takes private land and sells it for private development, that qualifies as a "public use" under the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment. "The [public is] surprised legislators are taking up these issues but at the same time, we see examples of property rights being infringed all the time," Tiffany said. "When people hear the stories of obvious overreach, I think it really strikes a chord with [them]." He compared property rights reforms to the recent John Doe reforms that were passed during the legislative session. They weren't very talked about, but once the public became aware of the abuse, they were glad the legislature took action. The Homeowners Bill of Rights is going to be a priority for Senator Tiffany in the upcoming session, and he is hoping for widespread collaboration from his colleagues in the State Senate. "We rolled out ten different policy initiatives that are pretty diverse, and we want to encourage our colleagues to work with us on this one." So, what's the motivation? "Homeownership is so crucial for raising a family and building strong communities. The government shouldn't be making it any harder than it already is to own a home." But it doesn't stop there, according to Tiffany. "And once you own that home, your property rights need to be respected." We certainly trust Senator Tiffany and his record of championing property rights as a legislative priority to keep up the fight in legislative sessions to come.
Wolves slaughter prize sheep in Price County
A devastating story out of Price County unfolded as wolves killed 17 prized sheep- bighorn ewes. The owners said it was terrible to see their animals laying dead, torn apart. They said that the wolves never ate anything, and it was almost like they did it just for fun. The Department of Natural Resources reports that Wisconsin's wolf population is the largest it's ever been, but since a judge's 2014 ruling, they remain on the federal endangered species list, so managing populations via lethal force is not an option. Several lawmakers, in bipartisan fashion, are working to remove the wolves from the federal endangered list. The family's top rams sell for more than $5,000 apiece, and the ewes that were slaughtered were for breeding, and will cost more than $1,000 apiece to replace. It should be noted that the USDA Wildlife Service has already provided the family with an electrified fence to keep wolves out, but the family say they're not confident this will help.
The Government Accountability Board's final week
Whether you agreed or disagreed with last year's legislation to break up the state's nonpartisan Government Accountability Board, this will be that agency's final week in operation. The GAB will be replaced with two brand new commissions- both partisan- the ethics board, and the elections board, which will oversee Wisconsin elections, campaign finances, and ethic laws. While the GAB was created with bipartisan support in the wake of the legislature's notorious caucus scandal, the proponents of replacing it now call the creation of the agency a "knee-jerk reaction," and believe having partisan appointees calling the shots will be in the best interest of the Wisconsin public. The new commissions will begin their work next week.