News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin
Members, Happy Halloween to everyone! We hope your weekend was relaxing, and that your work week is off to a productive start. Beware of the ghosts and goblins that will be making their way through your communities tonight for their annual candy collection! This week, we'll talk about a recent report from local economists regarding the Wisconsin economy, share the latest numbers on voucher schools in the state, bring you the news on some new jobs coming to Wisconsin, an expanding Wisconsin company, the latest local unemployment numbers, 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 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 at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great week, WPT, Inc.
Another day, another wheel tax proposal
If you live in Portage, you are likely to be the latest community to see your annual vehicle registration fees take a bump. The City of Portage Finance Committee last week voted 4-0 to send the wheel tax plan to the city's Common Council, where members will decide whether or not to implement the tax. The proposal is a $20 wheel tax on vehicles registered within the city, bringing total fees up to $95. The additional $200,000 raised from the new tax would be used for transportation projects, according to the city. City leaders would like to use that amount to off-set future borrowing on small projects, road maintenance, and to add some padding to the city budget. According to at least one council member, the money would be used for "crack-filling and resurfacing, but it is not going to allow us to reconstruct more miles of street." The work that would be completed would be used for improving the longevity of already-existing roads. Many communities throughout the state have adopted similar taxes to alleviate troubled local transportation budgets, in a time where state aid has become smaller and smaller. The City of Milwaukee, for example, already imposes a $20 wheel tax, bringing the total for vehicle registration to $95. Now, add a recently-proposed $60 wheel tax by Milwaukee County, and that total skyrockets for City of Milwaukee residents to $155 annually. That reality might shift, however, after the upcoming state budget passes in mid-2017. The Wisconsin DOT has proposed a large increase in local transportation aids in their budget proposal. The Portage Common Council is set to vote on the wheel tax next month.
Vouchers see uptick in 2015-2016
Increases in enrollment in the state's school voucher program are projected to drive the total cost of the program to about $245 million in the next school year. Nearly 34,000 Wisconsin students receive vouchers within the Milwaukee, Racine, and statewide programs, across 209 schools. That number is up 5% from the previous year. Of those 34,000, about 28,000 come from Milwaukee alone, and roughly 3,000 students in Racine, and 3,000 students in the statewide program. Payments for the voucher program are deducted from the public school districts where the students' residences are located. The currently voucher cost for kindergarten through 8th grade is $7,323, and for high school students, $7.969. State funding for K-12 public education rose $122 million this year. Since revenue caps did not increase, that amount will by-and-large go to property tax relief.
Local researchers chime in on Wisconsin's economic outlook
A group of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the UW-Extension say the state economy faces some challenges in the future. Our state, according to their recent report, is generating a large number of lower-skill jobs, and very few college-educated people are moving to the Badger State. This means that the Wisconsin workforce is at a disadvantage compared to surrounding states, and the "in-migration of such adults is among the lowest in the nation." Two of the researchers, Tessa Conroy, and Steven Deller, are also economists at the UW, and said that the from the perspective of developing an educated labor force "that supports both innovation and entrepreneurship, the metrics presented in this report are troubling." Wisconsin does, however, have a low unemployment rate, sitting at 14th lowest in the nation. The researchers also looked at the jobs forecasts from 2012 through 2022. They looked at the hundreds of occupations and categorized them based on three educational factors. About 2/3rds of the jobs projected for employment growth in Wisconsin was in occupations only requiring a high school diploma, or no education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 49% of the nation's job growth will be from positions that will require education higher than a high school diploma. In Wisconsin, according to BLS, that number is 40%, and 34% of jobs here will be in occupations that won't require even a high school diploma.
Survey results: CWD
Last week, we brought you the news that the Response Plan Review Committee would be meeting in Madison for the first time to begin a lengthy review process regarding Chronic Wasting Disease, its impacts, how to stop it, and monitor the problem throughout the state. The committee met for the first time on Thursday, and heard expert testimony from various groups. Those experts called Chronic Wasting Disease in Wisconsin "a wildfire burning across Wisconsin that will soon cause localized population declines in white-tailed deer." According to the DNR experts reporting to the panel, the prevalence of the disease is approaching 50% in bucks and 30% in does. While the disease has not been shown to cause illness in humans or livestock, World Health Organization experts recommend that venison from CWD-positive animals not be consumed. The disease has now been identified in 43 Wisconsin counties, and the Response Plan, in theory, should be to minimize the area of affected animals. It should also be noted that the panel mentioned that funding limitations and social/political factors influence the ability for the DNR to fully implement the plan and effectively respond to the disease. We wanted to get your thoughts on Chronic Wasting Disease, and if its impacted your community. Let's take a look: Were you aware that Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has become more widespread in Wisconsin?
Nearly three-quarters of respondents said they were aware that Chronic Wasting Disease has become more prevalent throughout the state. "It's not widespread, but has shown up now in Jackson Co." "Not many cases in Rock County yet." "Not that I am aware of, but it is in our county." Do you deer hunt?
Only about 40 percent of those who responded to this week's survey said they deer hunt. And what exactly is their method for the hunt? "Gun" "Bow" "Bow and Gun. We are meat eaters and enjoy the saving, (money-wise) from eating beef or porn and chicken." "I try to get out as much as I can for both bow and gun." "I hunt pheasant also. The food is great." "Mainly gun." "Just bought a new rifle."
Are you confident the Response Plan Review Committee in Madison will be effective in reducing CWD in Wisconsin?
Like many things headed-up by the government, it looks like most of of last week's respondents did not feel too confident in the ability of this Review Committee to actually stop the problem. "We've allowed the Gov. to gut the DNR that would most help, Scientist and Biologist." "You have to do more than talk about it." "I hope so, but do not know." "Very little faith in anything government-related these days." "If they increase the harvest rate, it still will not reduce the CWD." If you're a hunter, do you have your deer tested for CWD?
An overwhelming number of people who hunt do not get their deer tested for CWD. Those numbers are reflected in last week's responses. Nearly 80 percent said they do not get the deer tested. As we said above, health experts warn against eating the meet if it's CWD-infected, however, the disease has not been known to cause illness in humans. "DNA" "Only if it shows signs." "I have never had nay deer tested."
"I prefer my beef. Not a wild game fan except for fish, which I do fish." "Cooked." "Grill the whole thing up- Burger, Sausage, Brats" "Grilled medium rare with minimal seasoning." "Sausage & hot sticks" "Fried on the grill or ground and made into chili." "Canned in a pressure cooker. Or do it grilled also. Yummy. Eat at least three times a week." "Grilled over Kingsford Charcoal!! Mmm, good!"
Uline adding 500 jobs next year
Uline, is packaging materials distributor is planning to add 500 new employees by the middle of next year. This is no new trend for the Pleasant Prairie company, because they have been expanding rapidly, and hiring hundreds of new employees at a time. Since 2011, the company has gone from about 2,800 employees to about 5,700 employees as soon as the latest round of hiring ends. 200 of the new positions will be in Pleasant Prairie, and the other 300 will be scattered across the company's other 10 locations, throughout North America. In addition to the new positions being created by Uline, 600 jobs will be moving from Waukegan, Illinois to Kenosha next spring and summer, as soon as their new 800,000 sq. foot facility opens its doors.
Illinois company relocating to Wisconsin
More good news on the jobs and economic front in Wisconsin- Vonco Products has announced it will be relocating from Northern Illinois to Kenosha County. Vonco, a leading manufacturer of flexible packaging and promotional products announced the move last week, and will be moving to an 80,500 sq. foot facility in the Town of Salem. The company said it plans to invest about $4 million in equipment at the new facility in the Salem Business Park, and create 86 new jobs over the next few years. Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch was on hand to welcome the company to Wisconsin. "I would like to personally welcome Vonco to Wisconsin and thank the company for making this commitment to the state," she said. "The fact that Vonco and other companies have decided to relocate to Wisconsin in the last six years demonstrates that our efforts to create a positive business climate and strengthen our workforce are making a real impact." Keith Smith, the company's president, said he was impressed with what WEDC and its partners put together, along with the Kenosha Area Business Alliance. Smith said that moving to Wisconsin signifies an opportunity to expand the company's capacity and capabilities.
Unemployment down across Wisconsin
In every single Wisconsin county, and all of the state's 32 largest cities, unemployment rates dropped in September. According to the Department of Workforce Development, Dane, Green, Iowa, and Lafayette counties all share the lowest rate of unemployment at 2.6 percent. Menominee County came in highest at 6.6 percent. The City of Fitchburg scored the lowest unemployment at 2.4 percent, with Racine having the highest at 5.6 percent. Keep in mind, local rates are not seasonally adjusted, so cannot be compared to the state unemployment rate of 4.1 percent- the lowest Wisconsin unemployment rate since 2001.
Nine lawsuits filed over high capacity well permits
Nine suits were filed on Friday by a state environmental group, Clean Wisconsin, challenging the DNR's approval of nine high capacity wells. The group believes the DNR should be much stricter when it comes to environmental standards. Clean Wisconsin is seeking that the permits issued last month for the nine wells in Central Wisconsin be rescinded, and also wants the court to rule that the DNR has the authority to study and address the overall effects of the wells on the state's lakes, rivers, and streams. Earlier this year, Attorney General Brad Schimel, at the request of lawmakers, issued an opinion that clarified a 2011 state law which rolled back DNR authority on high capacity wells, barred state agencies for enforcing any environmental regulation that isn't explicitly written in state statutes. The DNR then said it would no longer consider the cumulative impact of wells on aquifers or surface water when deciding to approve permits. Now that the suits have been filed, they have been assigned to eight different Dane County judges. It is expected the cases eventually will be consolidated and heard by one judge.