News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin
Members, We hope everybody's week is off to a productive start, and that you enjoy this last week of October. This week, we'll talk about the state's fiscal situation, bring you up to speed on Harley Davidson, share the latest on the plan to tackle CWD in Wisconsin, 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.
State ends fiscal year in the black
According to Governor Walker's administration, the state finished the fiscal year with $313.8 million in its main account. In a report from the Department of Administration, that number, while positive, reflects about $76.9 million less than was expected, and tax collections grew about $78 million less than expected. The state's fiscal year ended June 30th. The $313.8 million represents about 2% of the state's spending for one fiscal year. The way the Journal Sentinel explained it, the current surplus "would be enough to run the state for just over a week." In a letter to the Governor and Legislature, the Department of Administration explained that General-purpose revenue taxes totaled $15.097 billion, which was an increase of $556 million or 3.8% higher than the prior year. The top three expenditures were 1. School Aids ($5.223 billion), 2. Medical Assistance ($2.7 billion), and 3. Corrections ($1.159 billion).
Harley-Davidson forced to make cuts
With U.S. sales dropping, Harley-Davidson Inc. has made plans to cut 225 salaried employees, and 70 contractors. Harley's net income for Q3 sits at $114.1 million, down 18.7% from the same time 2015. John Olin, the company's CFO, said "As we look to become learner and more focused, we will lose some of the contingent workforce that we have working here, and unfortunately we will also lose some of our full-time employees." A Harley spokeswoman explained that the cuts would be company-wide, but she would not give specifics, or talk specifically about how their Milwaukee operations will be impacted. In the short run, it's going to cost Harley about $20-25 million to cut the employees, but the company says it forecasts a $30-35 million savings in 2017. Harley-Davidson expects that some sales abroad might help even the losses here in the United States, with the opening of 16 dealerships in the Indonesian market, bringing the total of new international dealerships this year to 36. Their goal is 150-200 new international dealerships by 2020.
Plan to tackle Chronic Wasting Disease set for review this week
Thursday will be the first meeting for a new panel designed to begin the process of reviewing Wisconsin's plan to tackle Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). The Response Plan Review Committee will take a deeper look at the state's current plan, and discuss management of the disease, and provide recommendations for the massively-growing problem over the next five years. The committee is expected to meet three times and to provide its recommendations by early next year. There will be a public input period, which is currently being coordinated by the Department of Natural Resources, Conservation Congress, and DATCP. Recently, it was uncovered that about 43 of Wisconsin's 72 counties are considered to be infected with the disease. And it's not just deer; it's also prominent in elk and other animals. The problem has sparked bipartisan collaboration in the State Legislature, as well, with several lawmakers formulating plans to thwart the growth of the problem, and reduce its current prevalence across the state. The first meeting is to be held at the Family Heritage Center (3101 Lake Farm Road, Madison) on Thursday from 9:30a to 4:00p. It is open to the public. Make sure to take our survey below on Chronic Wasting Disease, and share your thoughts and experiences.
Survey results: Energy costs
Last week, we felt like the bearers of bad news when we shared the recent predictions that the average costs of energy will go up about 30% in the United States. While Wisconsin has lower-than-average energy costs overall, this is still expected to hit the pocketbook of most residents throughout the state. The good news? It's still below the five-year average, as we said last week. 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 take a look: Have you noticed the steady decline in energy costs in the winter?
42 percent of respondents haven't seen a decline in their energy costs, while a combined 58 percent have either seen their bills go down, or stay the same. "I wouldn't call it a steady decline. Electricity is the same but propane and natural gas have dropped from a couple years ago." "$30.00 more." "Last year was considerably less (LP gas.)" "I use geothermal, and electric rates continue to climb." "Mine have gone down considerably, so this is sad news." Were you surprised to hear that an average 30% increase in costs is expected this winter?
80 percent of respondents were surprised at this forecast. "It's not surprising as the government in its infinite wisdom has virtually killed coal, fired electric generation, thus forcing the natural gas generation which drives up the cost of gas. Additionally, since natural gas is related to the drilling of oil and oil production has gone down due to low prices, it follows that natural gas production would decrease too." "This is a travesty. We live in a time of great energy abundance, and yet the end person is continually taken financial advantage of. It's a ploy to push up profits." "When government plays with the supply, cost changed." "We shouldn't have to finance WPS's budget when winters are warmer than average." "We heat a lot with a wood pellet stove. When it gets too cold, we have to run the oil furnace." "Thank you President Obama." "Seems quite drastic."
How much do you spend each month on average to heat your home?
Nearly 75 percent of respondents pay within $100-$250 per month to heat their homes. "Electric runs around $250 all year. Our natural gas bill would be over $2500 for a winter, and out firewood can be made on the cheap or purchased for about $700 for a winter's worth." "$130.00 monthly." "We burn wood. (Cost depends on amount of time and gas used." "Too much." "We heat only with home-grown wood, so that's practically free." "Total electric bill averages $180 when cooling in the summer, and $240 when heating in the winter." "About $123/month winter. Summer $75. And depends on the summer temps." Which energy source does your home use for heat?
An option for propane should have been included, however it seems based on the overwhelming percentage of those who chose gas, propane users likely used this option. "Gas and firewood." "Gas fireplace used occasionally." "No fireplace. But wood burner, electric for backup." "No fireplace here." "Can't beat pellet heat." "Geothermal." "No. Our second home does have a fireplace." "Yes, haven't used in 36 years, it loses too much heat." "Gas fireplace. Use it a lot." At what temperature do you keep your home in the winter?
It sure looks like people are quite particular about their temperatures. "77-82" "70, but the heat isn't always running. I would hope everyone sets their temp back at night." "We have 'thermostat wars.' My wife likes it around 76, and I am happy with anything about 67." "70 during the day, 68 at night." "Prefer over 70 degrees." "68" "73" "75" "72" "In the cold of winter, 80 degrees is nice." "69" "72 is optimum." "Now that I am 75 years old, I need warmer from the 63, 20 years ago."
Indiana company chooses Wisconsin for expansion
There's nothing quite like hearing that a company will bring operations to the Great State of Wisconsin. Last week, at a ceremony in Kenosha, Indiana-based Colbert Packaging Corp. took the stage alongside Governor Walker, and the Kenosha Mayor and County Executive, to celebrate its expansion into Wisconsin. Specifically, the company will move its flexographic printing and packaging operation to Wisconsin, along with all of its related warehousing needs. "The real headline here is: Teamwork brings 108 new jobs to Kenosha and the State of Wisconsin," Governor Walker said, referring to the joint effort it took to lure the out-of-state company into its Badger State expansion. While this is great news, the real number of jobs is about 40, since 60 current employees will be relocated from Illinois, and the remaining will be open for Wisconsinites. The Kenosha City Council gave $500,000 to the company for development funds to reimburse some construction costs, and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), approved $850,000 in business tax credits.
Funding for manure digester technology may get boost
Technology that turns cattle waste into electricity might get a funding boost from the Wisconsin Public Service Commission if all goes as planned. The commission, which regulates Wisconsin's utilities, is looking to spend more money on energy projects in rural parts of the state, and may fund an additional $10 million, doubling the current numbers, and totaling $20 million. The commission last week also voted to spend nearly $8 million for solar rebates, as well as wind and geothermal projects. According to PSC Chairwoman Ellen Nowak, a possible target region in the state is Kewaunee County, which has been in constant headlines over the groundwater and health impacts associated with manure spreading. Environmental groups seem to approve the plan, but also ask the commission to take note that digesters do not remove harmful substances such as phosphorus from the manure, so an additional system might need to be in place that splits the solids and liquids, allowing farmers to better manage their waste.
Ten counties in Western Wisconsin to receive federal aid
The ten western Wisconsin counties that were declared disaster areas following torrential rains in September will get federal assistance, according to Governor Walker last week. Ten of the 12 counties that he listed in his request for federal assistance were included in the disaster declaration announced by FEMA. Vernon, Richland, Monroe, La Crosse, Juneau, Jackson, Crawford, Clark, Chippewa, and Adams are the counties eligible for aid. According to FEMA, Eau Claire and Trempealeau counties did not meet the damage threshold to qualify for federal assistance. The FEMA declaration now means that projects to repair damages, submitted by certain non-profits, and municipalities can receive up to 75% of funding. Governor Walker urged people to call their county emergency management office for more information. You can see a full list of those county offices by clicking here.
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.