Current news from the Capitol and around Wisconsin
Members, We hope you had a great weekend, and that the work week is off to a great start. This week, we're going to discuss the long-awaited budget proposal from the Department of Transportation, talk a bit about the Wolf Summit held by Sen. Tom Tiffany and Rep. Adam Jarchow, share a transportation proposal from Sen. Janet Bewley, and more. We would also like to remind members that our Capitol Reports, Newsletters, and helpful resources are available on our website at www.WPTonline.org under the Current Members tab. Just enter the member password wpt2016 and enjoy all of the latest news and information in one easy spot. As we continue to make improvements to our website, and add useful information and resources for our members, we would like to get your thoughts on what type of information you feel would be most helpful. Share your thoughts by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. 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, never hesitate to reach out to us directly. Have a great week, WPT, Inc.
Transportation budget proposed
The Department of Transportation introduced the long-awaited budget proposal last week, putting to rest any further speculation on which route the Walker Administration would take to gap a nearly $1 billion shortfall, and provide long-term funding for Wisconsin roads. Putting him at odds with Republican leadership in the State Legislature, Governor Walker has long promised that he would not propose any increases in tax and fees, though many in the legislature, on both sides of the aisle have been calling for an increase in the state gas tax, which has gone unchanged for about a decade. Under the DOT budget proposal, state highway spending is set at about $2.4 billion, which represents a $447.3 million decrease from the current budget. According to the proposal, this includes $1.7 billion for the state highway rehabilitation program, which is the largest amount ever budgeted for that program. $292 million of the decrease is from delaying "mega-projects" in Southeastern Wisconsin, including the state's heaviest traveled interchange, the Zoo Interchange in western Milwaukee County. Also delayed would be the I-94 corridor project that runs through Racine and Kenosha Counties to the Illinois border- also one of the most traveled pieces of road in the entire state. Part of the transportation budget also increases borrowing during the new biennium, to the tune of $500 million, but also representing the lowest level of transportation bonding since the biennium of 2001-2003. The increase to local aids are an 8.1 percent increase to counties, and a 4.7 percent increase to municipalities, putting to rest many local concerns over road funding, as communities throughout the state turn to wheel taxes and referendums on property taxes to maintain local roads. Also included in the budget is nearly $22 million for local bridge projects. In the weeks and months leading up to the entire state budget proposal expected from the Governor likely sometime in February, many opinions are perspectives are sure to unravel. Keep in mind that after the budget is proposed by the governor, it needs to be debated and approved by the legislature. We won't know what the final numbers will look like until the Committee on Joint Finance makes its changes and sends the bill to the legislature. This should be seen as a good starting point for the debate on transportation funding. While we have rightful concerns over the proposed $500 million in new debt, and do support a gas tax increase as a long term solution, our worst fears have been put to rest for now. This transportation budget does not call for an increase in property taxes, and provides a local aid increase large enough to calm any worries regarding future referenda. We will continue to keep you updated as any new proposals are introduced, and hope you will share your thoughts in this week's survey below.
Senator Bewley introduces bill to increase local aids by repealing manufacturers & agriculture tax credit
Senator Janet Bewley (D-Delta) introduced a bill last week that would repeal the manufacturing and agriculture tax credit and return $104.5 million to Wisconsin counties for their transportation needs. A recent article from the Wisconsin State Journal showed that only 11 individuals, who make more than $35 million annually, are receiving $21 million alone in tax cuts from the manufacturing and agriculture tax credit. A recent memo from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau also showed that Wisconsin gained 65 percent fewer manufacturing jobs in the three years after the tax credit took full effect in 2013. Bewley said that her plan provides a realistic alternative to borrowing, and said "Aren't the roads and bridges we rely on to get to work, school, and church more important than enriching the 11 people who will pocket over $20 million in taxpayer dollars next year alone?" But other groups warn that this bill could hurt job creation in the manufacturing sector. Wisconsin Manufacturing and Commerce (WMC) in a statement said that Wisconsin has gained 34,000 new manufacturing jobs since this tax credit was passed. The organization said they will vigorously oppose the legislation. Manufacturing is the state's largest sector of the economy, accounting for nearly twenty percent of Wisconsin's economic output. The badger state has the second-most manufacturing jobs per capita in the United States. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, the average compensation for manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin is $67,833, which is forty-five percent higher than the state average. You can share your thoughts on this proposal in our weekly survey below.
Wolf Summit takes place in Northern Wisconsin
According to speakers at a wolf summit in Northern Wisconsin, our wolf population is out of control, and action must be taken from Washington, D.C. to protect livestock, dogs, and residents. Organized by Senator Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) and Rep. Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake), the Great Lakes Wolf Summit enjoyed an array of speakers including leaders from the DNR, USDA, and others. The action needed by Congress is to overturn a federal judge's 2014 ruling that placed the gray wolves in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota on the endangered list, although it had already been removed in 2012. Voicing a myriad of concerns, one of the most common was that wolf packs are now able to run freely, unchecked, and pose a major risk to life, limb, and property. The keynote speaker said that farmers have no options anymore. "If my neighbor's dog comes over and starts chasing my cattle, state law allows me to shoot the dog, yet I could have a wolf attacking my calves [and] I can't even confront it in a manner that would even make a problem for it. I can't shoot it, I can't harass it, and that is unacceptable." Wisconsin saw more than 16,000 hunters apply for wolf tags in the wolf hunting season running from 2012-2014. 374 wolves were killed during that period of time.
Survey results: GOP Forward Agenda
Last week, we shared the upcoming legislative session's GOP agenda, entitled "Forward," which was rolled out by the Assembly Republican leadership at the Capitol. Their proposal contained a lot, including roads funding, worker training, sales tax holidays, and more. 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:
Which part of the GOP agenda were you most pleased to see?
Nearly 70 percent of all responses went to roads. Not a surprise at all, as this is a major issue facing our state and taxpayers right now. Let's look at some of the comments submitted by readers. "We need to maintain the infrastructure others had the foresight to build." "Most of our roads need repair." "Local roads need work." "My business needs more skilled workers." "Properly implemented additional support for worker training is important." "High school freshmen getting tablets or computers? NO. Our kids rely too much on technology. Vacation rental websites? They are NOT government responsibility. Worker training? Really? Private sector should do that." "I am not happy with the racial inequalities in employment in Wisconsin. Wisconsin is better than this and its time we help minorities that want to make a better life for themselves have the tools to do so." "Our roads are in sad shape." "Good roads promote commerce and tourism." "Our roads are the worst in the USA." "Get people off welfare." "Some school districts already do this. I just wish they wouldn't refer to these computers as "free." Are they taxpayer funded or has a computer manufacturer donated them? Things are rarely free." "Highway 23 needs to be made into 4 lanes!!!"
Overall, do you think this agenda will help solve problems in the state?
Over 60 percent think this is a good plan. "Gotta start somewhere, so get cracking!" "Not all problems are easily "solvable" by government, thus this question is a bit deceiving." "Eliminate partisan bickering- grow up and DO YOUR JOBS!" "There are some good ideas that are outside the box that are interesting and if not weighed down by partisan rhetoric could make a difference." "The fact that taxes will have to go up to pay for those "free" computers, and with their roads plan as well." "Only if they address roads." "Flat tax." "A real plan to fund roads and education." Sales tax holiday...good idea or bad?
Nearly half don't like the idea. "Sales tax is fairer than property tax. That's where the holiday should be." "Should be for the month of August, not just 2 specific days." "Unequally pics "winners and losers." "It really doesn't matter whether you buy school supplies or not, you can still shop sales tax free! It would be a nice bump for retailers after a possible sluggish summer." "It would effect me- but how much does it cost us to do this for two days on a management, accounting, and IT level?" "Sales tax is the most fair tax we have. If people only spend what they can afford, they pay taxes accordingly." "The state's IT workers will spend 5x more than $11m fixing their systems to skip two days of sales tax on a tiny sliver of merchandise. Net loss for the state." High school students receiving a free computer or tablet...good idea or bad?
Over 60 percent don't like the idea. While the comment section was inadvertently closed for this section, many comments above addressed concerns regarding this proposal. One comment from above also read: "(For the next question.) A free computer, kids will not take care of it. They will have no sense of ownership." Fall/autumn means a lot of things. It also means that new seasons of TV shows will be starting. Do you have a favorite show? Multiple? What are they?
About 63 percent said they don't follow any TV shows regularly. But what are the rest watching?? "Badgers, Packers, Modern Family." "Modern Family!" "It's hunting season, there is no time for TV except for football." "My husband likes black/white reruns. They have more family friendly shows." "Chicago PD, Chicago Fire, Law & Order SVU" "Modern Family, Nashville, Grey's Anatomy!" "I shut off the TV. Who has time for that anymore? Besides, most of what's on is not worth watching." "Blacklist" "NCIS, and O'Reilly" "NCIS and Madam Secretary" "The Voice" "Dr. Phil and Wheel of Fortune."
State agencies submit budget requests to governor for 2017-2019 biennium
Last week was the deadline for state agencies to submit their budget proposals to Governor Walker for the upcoming budget. Now that the budget has been submitted, the Governor and his staff will spend the coming months formulating an official budget proposal to present to the State Legislature. From there, the Joint Committee on Finance will go through, line by line, make changes, remove, add, and reform the budget before sending it to the whole legislature for debate and a vote. Once both houses pass the bill, it will be sent back to Governor Walker, who will make various vetoes to the bill, and sign it into law. That process should be wrapped up by July 1, 2017. While agencies have now made their requests, this is just the beginning of the months-long project. Here's quick snapshot of some of the departments and their requests. Note: the items listed below are merely highlights from each agency submission, and are not their entire budget request. To view the entirety of each agency's budget request, click here. Department of Children and Families (DCF) DCF is requesting a General Purpose Revenue (GPR) increase of 1.54 percent in 2018, and 1.9 percent in 2019. The department request also includes about $12 million for funding for victims of sex trafficking. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) DNR is requesting a 2.1 percent decrease from their current budget. In their proposal, any increase in budget would be paid for by the Conservation Fund, and will be used for park and forest maintenance. The request also cuts 9.5 full time employees, and reallocates some staff positions to increase their CAFO staff. Department of Corrections (DOC) DOC requests an 80-cent per hour increase in wages for security staff, and $600,000 for additional staff for mental health at the prisons in Green Bay, Waupun, and Columbia. There is also a $2.4 million request to fund treatment alternative and diversion (TAD) units for inmates will serious mental illness at the Oshkosh facility. Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake youth operations would also be given more front line security staff, and also provide more mental health staff, and nurses, totally about $3.3 million. University of Wisconsin (UW) UW is requesting $42.5 million in GPR to fund its 2020FWD intiatives, including the FOcus on the Education Pipeline initiative which is designed to get more kids into college. Department of Public Instruction (DPI) DPI is requesting $33.4 million to fund public library system aid programs, $588,000 to fund grants for teachers who are nationally board certificed or who have a state master educator's license, and opt to teach in high-poverty school districts. Department of Health Services (DHS) DHS is requesting an additional $452 million in GPR for Medicaid. The department head also noted that the increases have been much higher in the past, but that DHS currently has a $260 million surplus that will lapse into the general fund.
Manpower survey shows bullish U.S. employers
ManpowerGroup, the massive global staffing agency headquartered in Milwaukee, showed that nationwide, employers are more optimistic than they have been since the recession ended. And while that is good news, Wisconsin's employers didn't meet the same level of optimism. Of the employers surveyed in the Badger State, 23% expected to increase staff in the final months of 2016, down from 29%. The survey also found that 8% of Wisconsin employers expect to decrease jobs in the upcoming quarter. That's up from 6% in the last survey. The Net Employment Outlook, the official name of the Manpower survey, gives Wisconsin a 15% outlook. That number is calculated by taking the percent of employers expecting to add jobs, and subtracting the percent of employers who say they're likely to decrease jobs. 68% of Wisconsin's employers say they will maintain current staffing levels.