WPT Capitol Report, October 17, 2016

News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin

Members, Happy Monday to everybody. We hope that your weekend was relaxing and that you are able to enjoy some of the warm weather in this week's forecast. It won't be long now before the frigid temperatures will return. This week, we'll bring you the latest predictions in energy prices across the state, share some news regarding local road funding, and also touch on some good housing news for the state, share a newly-unveiled veteran-owned business logo, and more. We would also like to remind members that our Capitol Reports, Newsletters, and helpful resources are available on our website at 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 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.

Remembering State Senator Rick Gudex

The sudden death of State Senator Rick Gudex last week sent a shock through both the state legislature, and the community. According to the Fond du Lac County sheriff's office and local medical examiner, the senator "died of what appears to be a single gunshot wound to the chest." He was 48. The announcement caused a flurry of press statements and social media postings from community leaders, lawmakers, and other notable individuals, as well. The thoughts and prayers were about as bipartisan as you can get. State Representative Mandela Barnes, who represents an urban/suburban district in the Milwaukee area said he had a positive relationship with Gudex, stemming from enjoying custard together while in Republican Representative Michael Schraa's office. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said he was deeply saddened, that that Senator Gudex "will be deeply missed by his Senate colleagues." Also, by his executive authority, Governor Walker ordered all flags fly at at half staff on Monday in honor of the late lawmaker. Senator Gudex was first elected in 2012, defeating democratic Senator Jessica King. He served as the Senate President Pro Tempore, and as chairman of the Economic Development and Commerce Committee. Last year, Gudex announced he would not be seeking re-election to his seat, which has caused a match-up in the 18th Senate District between Republican Dan Feyen, and Democrat Mark Harris. The fight over that seat is widely seen as the most competitive state race this election cycle. WPT would like to extend its deepest condolences to his family, friends, and loved ones, as well as his legislative staff, and constituents.

Governor Walker announces additional town road funding

Transportation funding for towns in the next state budget will see a boost, according to an announcement from Governor Walker late last week. $8.9 million in transportation aid was already included in the budget proposal released by the Department of Transportation last month, and now $14.6 million more dollars have been added on. The bump will be in general transportation aid, and the local road improvement program, which provides grants across the state for specific projects. As the State Journal reported, Governor Walker in 2012 cut municipal general transportation aid by 6 percent and cut county aids by 9.4 percent. In 2015, they both received a 4 percent bump, and that is where the levels currently sit.

Winter is coming...and bringing higher heating costs along with it

Get out your shovel, salt, and snow-throwers...oh and don't forget your checkbook. The cost of heating your home is predicted to make a jump this upcoming winter. After a significant dip last winter, which was due to mild weather and lower natural gas prices, the U.S. Department of Energy announced its grim cost forecast for energy prices last Thursday. If you own a home or rent, expect increases of about 30% to heat your home, compared with your bills from last year. And if you heat your home with oil, you should also be prepared for some higher prices. The forecast is that oil prices will rise about 38% to $1,370. The good news in all of this is that your energy bill is still expected to be below the average of the five previous winters. But, the US Energy Information Administration said that customers should look to pay about $150 more between now and the end of March, totaling about $668 for the average season cost. We Energies in Milwaukee hasn't completed its forecast just yet, but a spokesperson for the company said that increases in Milwaukee and Wisconsin should actually be smaller than those the feds are predicting. We Energies customers saw a 25% decrease last year.

Survey results: Manufacturing month

Last week we talked about manufacturing in Wisconsin. In fact, October has been proclaimed Manufacturing Month in the State of Wisconsin by Governor Walker. Whether you know it or not, and judging by the results, you do, but this industry plays a crucial role in our state's economy, and provides hundreds of thousands of jobs around the state. So, as always, we wanted to get your thoughts, and share your responses. Also, please note, we appreciate feedback and alternative perspectives. If an answer choice is not given that accurately reflects your viewpoint, or if you would like additional information, please mention it in one of the comment boxes, and we will make sure to share your thoughts. Let's get down to it. Do you work in manufacturing?

Only about 20 percent of respondents work in manufacturing. Twenty-one percent to be exact. And for those who do? "Cabinet shop." "Manufacture trusses." "Cheese!" "I am a partner in a family owned natural cheese manufacturing company." Do you agree that manufacturing plays a huge role in the Wisconsin economy?

This one was a "gimme" question. We were quite confident the response would be 100%. And who are some of the big manufacturers in your area? It seems like no matter where you go, there is a notable manufacturer just down the road. And judging by your responses, that seems quite right. "Kohler Corp, Manitowoc Company (for the moment.)" "Green Bay Nonwoven." "Kohler Company, Bemis." "John Deere, Kraft, Karavan Trailers, Arrowhead Systems." "Ashley Furniture, Golden Plump." "Monroe truck equipment, Kuhn Knight, Stoughton Trailers, Grande Cheese." "Mercury Marine." "Oshkosh Corp." "Pierce Mfg, Oshkosh Truck, K.C., Appleton Papers." "Cheese manufacturers!" "Core Products, Northwire, Polaris, Tenere." "Oshkosh Corporation."

Did you know Wisconsin ranks #2 in the nation for percentage of workforce working in manufacturing?

Just over half of respondents said they knew Wisconsin was #2 in the nation for percentage of workforce employed in manufacturing. The total is 16% of the workforce. When you really sit back and think about what that means, it really illustrates the importance of this industry to families and individuals across the state. In the entire country, of all 50 states, more of our people work in manufacturing than almost any other state- aside from Indiana. Manufacturers large and small throughout Wisconsin should be proud of that number. "Makes sense. We out-work a lot of the rest of the nation." "Makes sense, most Wisconsinites are hard workers with good work ethics." "We like to work in Wisconsin!" Take a stab at how much Wisconsin's manufactured goods exports totaled last year.

If you were one of the 58% who answered $22 billion in export totals, you were correct. Manufacturers in Wisconsin account for more than 19 percent of the total output in the state. And as for which type of manufacturing dominates the sector in Wisconsin? There was an even split among people who guessed plastics, and those who guessed machinery. Food and beverage got a handful of guesses as well. Machinery is indeed the largest, at over $7 billion per year. Food and beverage is second at about $6 billion. Surprisingly, plastics comes in second-to-last at about $2 billion. Do you clip coupons?

Our fun question of the week was nearly an even split. Just under half of respondents actually clip coupons to save a buck. "I just scan the ads to see what I may need or want." "My wife does." "Rarely." "Ice cream." "Buy one get one coupons are the best."

Wisconsin Veteran-Owned Business logos uneviled

Late last week at a conference and business symposium, the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs unveiled two new logos to be used by certified Veteran-Owned and Disabled Veteran-Owned Businesses, to promote and brand themselves in Wisconsin. The new promo tool was developed by passage earlier this year of bipartisan legislation introduced by Rep. Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) and Senator Roger Roth (R-Appleton). The bill, Senate Bill 755, was supported by the WDVA, VFW, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans, AMVETS, Military Order of the Purple Heart, and County Veteran Service Officer Association. The new logos will also make these types of businesses more identifiable to Wisconsin consumers who wish to support businesses owned by Wisconsin veterans. Rep. Goyke cited Wisconsin's strong tradition of its citizens serving our nation in uniform and returning home to be leaders in their communities. "Many of these Wisconsin veterans are now business owners and play an integral role in the economic success of our state," he said. Sen. Roth said he was proud of the new logo and its ability to promote veteran-owned businesses. "Whether in a storefront, on a website, or used in other advertising, the logos will allow the public to recognize businesses owned by those who served our country," he said.

Wisconsin housing market on pace to set record

The Wisconsin housing market could set a record this calendar year, according to the Wisconsin Realtors Association. Their latest analysis of existing home sales showed that September sales were up 6.9 percent in comparison to September 2015, and median prices have increased in the same period to $167,450. According to WRA, home sales are the highest they have been in over 10 years no matter which way you spin it- month-over-month, quarterly, or year-to-date. They did, note, however, that there is a pattern to the surge at the end of the summer. "It is important to remember that home prices do follow a regular season pattern. Prices move higher when the market volume peaks in the summer and then ease as market activity tails off in the winter, " said WRA President Michael Theo.

It's that time again: Gov. Walker asks Wisconsinites for Capitol Christmas Tree decorations

Governor Walker is requesting students, parents, and teachers across the great State of Wisconsin to help decorate the 2016 Capitol Christmas Tree. This year, the theme will be Wisconsin Wildlife. Governor Walker said, "One of the many reasons Wisconsin remains a popular tourism destination is our magnificent wildlife. With the help of our students, we want this year's State Capitol Christmas Tree to reflect the beauty of our great state." All ornaments will hang from the tree situated in the beautiful State Capitol rotunda. All submissions should be sent by November 23rd, and for more information, you're asked to call 608-267-7303.