WPT Capitol Report, September 12, 2016

News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin.

Members, We hope your Monday evening is off to a relaxing start, and that your weekend was great. With a victory for both the Badgers and the Packers, it looks like football in Wisconsin is off to a great start. Last week, Republican lawmakers unveiled their agenda for the legislative session starting in January. We'll bring you that plan, along with other news from around the state, including the latest in Wisconsin's jobs climate, transportation news, and more. We'll also share the results from last week's survey on meat imports in the US. WPT would also like to take a moment to remember all of the lives lost in the attacks on September 11, 2001. We all remember where we were, who we were with, and how we felt on that horrific morning 15 years ago. We also remember the days and weeks following the attacks, and the sense of unity and the American spirit that we shared with our neighbors and those around us. As always, we hope you find the Capitol Report to be interesting and informative. If there are any topics you would like to share, or if you have any questions or comments, reach out to us directly at Have a great week, WPT, Inc.

Transportation budget expected this week

As the state's budget process gets underway, this week, state agencies will submit their spending plans and proposals for the next two years to the governor for his consideration. With a $1 billion transportation shortfall, a lot of attention will be on the proposal submitted by the Department of Transportation Secretary, Mark Gottleib. With Governor Walker opposing raising any taxes or fees, it puts him at odds with fellow Republicans, who feel all options should be on the table. In an interview with WPR last week, Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, the lawmaker said that with more electric cars and hybrids on the road, it's not realistic to rely on the gas tax as a source of revenue. Even so, others, including Democratic State Rep. JoCasta Zamarripa thinks the gas tax is the best solution, citing that her fellow Democratic colleagues introduced a bill last legislative session that would have increased the tax and brought in more revenue already. Once the transportation budget is submitted, WPT will take a closer look and bring you a break-down in next week's Capitol Report.

Wisconsin's jobs climate officially at pre-recession levels

Nearly ten years after the Great Recession in 2007, Wisconsin's job climate is back at levels that it once had prior to the economic meltdown a decade ago. With 2.94 million jobs, an all time high, and with unemployment dropping to 4.2 percent as of July, a recent report from the US-Madison Center on Wisconsin Strategy shows our numbers are back to "normal." The report also showed, however, long-term inequality in various metrics. Some examples: - Black residents of Wisconsin are three times as likely to be unemployed as white people. This is the third highest racial disparity in the country. - About a quarter of Wisconsin workers earn poverty-level wages, $11.56/hour. -44 percent of Black employees and about half of Hispanic employees are currently earning poverty wages. - The median earnings for women is $15.46 per hour, which is 19 percent less than that of men, who earn $18.98 per hour. The director of the Wisconsin Budget Project told the State Journal that these disparities have a lot to do with the policies enacted by elected officials, including freezing the minimum wage, suppressing unions, and reducing eligibility for BadgerCare. Despite the disparities, it would seem that our state is on the right track on the jobs front, and as more companies continue to hire, and the jobs numbers continue to expand in Wisconsin, more people will have greater opportunity in our state.

GOP legislative agenda unveiled

Calling it the "Forward Agenda," last week Republicans unveiled their legislative intentions for the new session, which begins in January. The lawmakers have been adjourned since March. Among the list of proposals laid out by top Republicans at the State Capitol, all high school freshmen would receive either a computer or tablet, regardless of income. The lawmakers also said they will plan to help with mobile hot spots, and making more school buses WiFi accessible. Roads was also, thankfully, a big ticket item on the agenda. While Governor Walker has pushed back on the idea of tax increases, Republicans plan to get to work on finding a long term solution that will alleviate the current $1 billion transportation hole. GOP proposals also included some smaller items including allowing driverless cars on Wisconsin roads, making sure vacation rental websites would pay the same taxes as hotels, and make some changes to Wisconsin's domestic partner law. On taxes, lawmakers are looking to make taxes more flat, and more equitable, according to their agenda. The plan is to create a task force to study this issue, along with the overall tax structure in the state. Also on taxes, Republicans are planning on introducing a sales tax holiday in Wisconsin, which would be two days in August 2017 and August of 2018, that would apply to all school supplies and computers costing less than $750, and clothing items that cost less than $75 each. According to estimates, the sales tax holiday would reduce taxes by $11 million for each of the two years that it was in place. Finally, of great interest, the agenda included worker training initiatives that are meant to help not only the workforce, but also meet the business needs of our state. These initiatives could take any number of forms, so we'll report more as the proposals are individually laid out during the legislative session. For a more comprehensive list, see the GOP Forward Agenda here.

Survey results: Brazilian beef imports, foot-and-mouth disease concerns

Last week, we brought you the latest news on the USDA's plan to open US markets to Brazilian beef imports, despite a large concern over a potentially dangerous bio-threat, Foot-and-Mouth Disease, which has been widespread throughout Brazil. As always, this is our chance to get your thoughts. Below are the responses, including comments that were submitted, unedited (except for some typos!) Let's take a look: Do you agree with the USDA decision to allow Brazilian beef in the US consumer market?

About 90 percent of respondents said they do not agree with the USDA's decision to allow the beef in US consumer markets. Let's look at some of the comments submitted by readers. "Potential for infectious diseases and outbreak in the USA." "I remember mad cow disease and foot and mouth disease. We do not need to be introducing devastating livestock diseases into the national livestock herd." "Too risky." "USDA should not allow Brazilian beef in the US." "I don't feel that we need it." "It will drive down beef prices." "Let's support OUR beef industry. They can support theirs!" "As long as they can assure safety." "Keep infectious diseases out of our country." "The US produces plenty of beef." "Protect American farmers." "We don't need beef imports." "Why import questionable products when you have great beef right here?" "Also note that Brazilian-owned JBS is the largest US beef packer. Could there be a little payola somewhere?" "What is wrong with our beef?" "Free trade." "Why not support ourselves. No brainer." Are you concerned with possible Food-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) infections from imported beef?

About 97 percent of respondents said that they are concerned. "Easily spread." "I don't want to feed my family a possible infection." "Our inspection is more thorough." "No other country in the world watches their food as closely as the US and the EU." "Security of our animals." "Really wonder about their regulations and inspections." "It can be carried by processed beef- not just by live animals. FMD would devastate our livestock industry." "I am more worried about fish from Asia." Overall, do you think the meat in our grocery stores should be from the US?

86 percent think most of our meat should be from the USA. "Give our farmers the business of raising our meat for our grocery stores." "We don't drink the water in a lot of foreign countries, so why would we want to eat their meat?" "Not only should the meat in our grocery stores be from the US, but here in Wisconsin, it should come from within 50 miles of the store, too!" "I prefer US products in general, but competition is good." "Buy local, support our local farmers." "Why not?" Do you agree with "country of origin" labeling on meats?

100% want it. "If imports are allowed, the consumer should be made aware." "I watch where my meats are coming from." "Most people have no idea where their food comes from. Other countries use all sorts of chemistry and antibiotics in their herds, and the consumer should be told where the meat comes from. It's done with trees for hardwood flooring, it's done with shellfish, it only makes sense that all foods should state where they originate from." "I do, but I don't agree with GMO labeling. Is that inconsistent?" "Need to know where our food comes from." "If it is not produced in the US, should be labeled as imported." "Consumers should know where their food is coming from." "I don't want to buy foreign meat. Their standards are not up to ours. Brazil is a mess. Evidence is recent Olympic conditions. China is worse!" "I like to know. Raised in the USA!!" What did you do for the Labor Day weekend?

It looks like 75 percent of respondents stayed home for this year's Labor Day weekend! "Annual trek to visit good friends that moved to another state." "Hosted a cookout for family." "Stayed in town to do Harley things. Listening to good bands, motorcycling around town with friends, and stimulating the economy!" "Rode the ATV trails and spent a day on Lake Nokomis." "Went to the Calumet County fair." "Tried to recuperate after several months of long, hard days." "Dabury area." "Cottage up north." "Went camping." "Boating." "Worked the farm, 24/7/365." "Lots of beer and Badgers game." "'Chilled' with family." Worked around the house, get a start on fall." "Worked the farm." "Stayed home and enjoyed the family with a chicken BBQ. Nothing better than family. They are the best."

WPT urges members to sign petition to repeal the Personal Property Tax

It's no secret, our organization supports the full repeal of the Personal Property Tax in Wisconsin. As many of you know, WPT has joined a large coalition of business and interest groups from around the state in fighting for this repeal. This tax is an unjust burden on small businesses in our state. It not only thwarts local job creators from hiring more people, but also stifles the potential for growth and reinvestment in Main Street businesses in every corner of the Badger State. If you have not taken a moment to sign the petition, we ask that you click here and sign. Your personal information will not be shared with anybody outside of WPT or elected officials, for any reason, other than to urge their support for repealing this tax. Thanks again for taking a moment of your time. If you would like more information on our position, or more information on the tax, you can click here to visit our website and view information regarding our efforts.

Governor Walker issues executive order, allowing delivery of more fuel to NE Wisconsin

Governor Walker has issued an executive order that will allow tankers to haul more fuel to Northeastern Wisconsin. This comes in light of a pipeline shutdown that could cause a potential shortage in fuel for local consumers. The West Shore Pipe Line has been closed since the beginning of the year, and carries fuel from Milwaukee to Green Bay. And while the owners of the pipeline explore potential plans to rebuild the critical fuel transportation line, the governor's executive order will help settle any concerns over a widespread shortage of fuel in the region. The Governor cited the fact that harvest season is quickly approaching, and demand for diesel fuel in the region will increase. The executive order lasts through November 5th.