News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin
We hope your week is off to a great start, and that you enjoyed your weekend, even as a massive weather system dragged across the state for much of yesterday, leaving up to five inches of snow in its wake. We would also like to take a moment to remember all of those who lost their lives by the attacks on Pearl Harbor, HI on December 7, 1941. We remember the 2,403 people killed, and the 1,178 wounded on that "day that will live in infamy." This week, we'll go through last week's survey results, and bring you the latest on the prevailing wage repeal, a proposal for a new teen prison in Wisconsin, some news on Wisconsin's banks, 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.
GOP lawmaker wants full repeal of prevailing wage
At least one GOP lawmaker will push for the full repeal of the state's prevailing wage law, which requires a minimum wage paid to workers on state road and building projects. Rep. Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield) announced late last week that he will author the legislation, and has been a vocal proponent of the move in the past. Though he pushed for the full repeal in the last legislative session, the proposal was whittled to only impacting local projects due to a lack of votes in the legislature. While prevailing wage repeal on local projects will take effect on January 1st. Meanwhile, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has signaled that the full repeal could come in the form of a budgetary compromise on transportation, raising additional money for DOT projects across the state. Vos has also been overtly open to the idea of raising the gas tax or registration fees, often putting him at odds with Governor Walker, who has promised to veto any budgetary provisions that does not counter revenue increases with corresponding tax cuts. According to Hutton's release, "Eliminating the prevailing wage requirement on all state funded projects will help accomplish [effectively funding infrastructure] by removing archaic government formulas that artificially raise the cost of construction. This would open up projects to more competition, allowing for different designs and techniques that can be considered at lower costs." Should the state fully eliminate the prevailing wage? Make sure to share your thoughts with WPT in the survey below.
Gov. Walker considering new juvenile prison in Milwaukee County
Milwaukee County officials have been trying to figure out a way to keep juvenile offenders closer to home, cut costs, and reduce the amount of teens sent to state-run facilities. Governor Walker in response is now exploring the option of the state assisting with the construction of a new juvenile detention facility in Milwaukee County, partially funded by the state. The day-to-day operation costs would fall solely on Milwaukee County, however. Currently, counties who send teens to either Copper Lake, or embattled Lincoln Hills are on the hook for about $300 per day, per inmate. County Executive Chris Abele of Milwaukee has said one of the ultimate goals of the new facility would be that his county would send no inmates to the state-run facilities. Abele has also signaled that Governor Walker and his team have been open to the idea of helping Milwaukee County with their juvenile corrections needs, which would also mean that families and loved ones of the detained would not have to travel upwards of 200 miles from Milwaukee County to visit an inmate. No official costs estimates have been released at this point in the process, but would ultimately need GOP support in the legislature.
Wisconsin banks' profits fall for second straight quarter
Wisconsin banks saw their combined profits fall for a second consecutive quarter, as the profits of the 277 Wisconsin financial institutions insured by the FDIC declined from $297 million to $293 million for the quarter ending in September. Nationally, banks insured by the FDIC saw a $5.2 billion uptick, up 12.9 percent year-over-year. At least one banking executive, David Locke of McFarland State Bank, says profits are down due to Wisconsin banks writing bad loans. According to the State Journal, Wisconsin banks have written off $171 million in loans not expected to be paid, which is a massive $65 bump from this time in 2015. Green Bay's Associated Bank had the highest earnings for Q3, netting $59.7 million. First National Bank of Waupaca had the largest net loss at around $4 million, however investigations are being conducted in misuse of bank funds. Through September, Wisconsin's banks had total earnings of $811 million, an 11 percent drop from $911 million last year. Do you do your banking at a Wisconsin establishment, or elsewhere? Share your thoughts in this week's survey.
Survey results: Recount, legislative maps, budget deficit, and more.
Last week, our Capitol Report talked about the ongoing statewide recount of the presidential
election results, a federal panel of judges' ruling of Wisconsin's legislative maps, a projected $693 million deficit by the Department of Administration, and Black Friday shopping. As always we wanted your thoughts. This week, there were many written responses, so let's get right to it.
The statewide recount. Good or bad?
About 70 percent of respondents chose "Bad idea. The election is over. Move on." as their choice. A combined 30 percent of respondents thought the it was a good idea, or they didn't care. "Why spend all that money?" "Accept the original outcome." "I agree move on and lets see what our president elect is going to do." "Interesting that Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by 22,177 votes in 2016 and that is roughly four times the margin of the closest president election in Wisconsin history. That was in 2000, when Al Gore defeated George W. Bush in WI by 5,708 votes. Strange that nobody called for a recount then." "If this Green Candidate had to pay for this recount on her own money like Trump did, I am sure this recount would not happen!" "More proof that our election needs some guidelines. No public running until 14 months before election or you're disqualified forever for that post. Get the lines drawn, and quit the gerrymandering, it causes too much confusion. This is the 4th mess of election I can remember, and it's getting WORSE each time. I think it's proving that our existing people should be voted out, and a complete crop of fresh people voted in!" "Jill is trying to fill her pockets at our time and money." "All seems to agree it will not change the outcome. I agree it is a scam to raise money. At least the money it costs will be spent here." "Dems scream 'you better accept the results', then when election doesn't go the way they expect, they riot in the streets and call for recounts. It's B.S.!" "Just a money grab." "Its funny how so often when a progressive party candidate looses an election they are calling for a recount, there have been times when a republican does not win and there are reports of voter fraud, and we are supposed to move on." "I'm an accountant. We always double check everything, it just makes sense." "If it makes people feel better and the taxpayers aren't having to foot the bill...go for it."
A panel of federal judges ruled Wisconsin's legislative map unconstitutional. What do you think?
About 46% believe that the maps were drawn legally, and that the judges' ruling was bad. The rest of respondents either believe the maps were skewed, or don't care at all. "Milwaukee and Madison are liberals always vote Democratic. They are hotbeds of government employment and welfare. They will always vote for bigger government and more welfare." "Keep what has been done." "More dirty politics." "Democrats and Republicans have both had the opportunity to change the system in recent years and haven't." "If the GOP did this, the Demos would do the same thing. The party in power usually does some of this." "Once again, hypocrites." "Competitive districts breed better, more accountable politicians. We've lost that in Wisconsin." "We want real democracy and not legislative maps drawn by hacks who wish only to promote their narrow political views. It doesn't help anyone in the long term and just promotes extremists on both sides."
After the last redistricting, did you get moved into a new legislative district?
Only about 20 percent said they were moved into new districts. We hear often from our members that they feel like they are always being moved into new districts. Oddly enough, nearly 50 percent say they weren't moved, and over 30 percent don't recall if their districts changed or not. "We get re-drawn so often I Have to check before I even see who my representative is." "I don't care whose district I am in. It's not like they do anything for me or my family." "I would like my district to be more competitive, even more competitive in the primary process." There's a projected $693 million budget deficit. Surprised?
About 77 percent of respondents weren't surprised, not even a little, that the state is projected to have a near-700 million dollar deficit in the current budget. "The more we hand out money the more hands are outstretched for more money. The DPI is a money pit with no accountability." "Our government needs to take a financial 101 course." "Spend less." "Better than the pea-and-shell gave under Doyle." "Look who this problem is brought on by. Schools (probably the University---not enough money in the budget to hire the Clinton's to speak) and Medicare (hospitals are raising their prices AGAIN). I say we fix the problems where they are starting. All schools use their money unwisely (they should restudy their economics courses) and hospitals charge way too much ($3000.000 a night for a room) When will it all stop!!!!!!!" "At some point with all the tax CUTS, you'd figure it would happen sooner or later. And there's too much waste in Government spending. They need to tighten their purse strings like the rest of the state's population has to do." "Schools and welfare, just like always." "There is no deficit until the budget is approved." "Nothing that can't be cured by a better economic growth rate which increases tax collections." "Of course not. The GOP has set up a revenue stream to starve all governmental services."
Did you do any Black Friday shopping?
Almost all of you stayed home! 95 percent! "Started in early November, finished." "Not sure sure about the 'great deals.'" "I don't much shopping anymore and I go when its less crowded." "My wife has all the christmas shopping done. I work on Black Friday, and we had a handful of customers in our store. They all drive to the local big cities 40-60 minutes away, and leave the small town businesses out in the cold." "Wait until the last minute." "I'm a buyer, not a shopper." "I wait. I like to see what I am buying up close & in person!" "Online." Don't know...the wife does the shopping."
Gov. Walker pushing $35 million rural broadband expansion
Governor Walker is urging the state legislature to pass a sizeable $35 million broadband expansion
bill in the coming legislative session, aiming to provide faster and more internet service to Wisconsin's rural areas. Governor Walker late last week said one of the recurring themes that he heard around the state during his listening sessions was the need for access to high speed broadband internet. "As Wisconsin continues to compete in the global economy, it is crucial for our small businesses, schools, and households to have access to the internet," Governor Walker said in a statement. "This legislation helps expand broadband access for areas in need as we work towards building an infrastructure where every community is able to connect to fast and reliable internet." The funds would go toward broadband expansion efforts, as well as TEACH grants, which provides money to primarily schools and libraries to upgrade their technology and train teachers in rural areas. The $35 million is from a surplus in the state's Universal Service Fund, and would be administered by the Public Service Commission. The TEACH funds would be administered through the Department of Administration.
DNR looks to plug $1.4 million hole in state park budget
Higher fees for more popular campsites? Cabin rentals? Merchandise? Corporate sponsors? Individual passes? The DNR is getting creative in how they're planning on filling a nearly million and a half dollar hole in the state park budget. The above mentioned are just a few of the proposals under their plan, submitted to the Joint Committee on Finance last week. According to their estimates, these proposals could raise $10.5 million in the long run, and $2.9 million more immediately. This comes as the current budget shows a $4.9 million draw down of state park reserves. In the report, some parks were deemed "high-demand," including Devil's Lake, Governor Dodge, High Cliff, Kohler-Andrae, Peninsula, and Willow River State Parks. The proposal would raise prices $5 per day, and add $10 to the annual vehicle sticker. And perhaps most controversial of all, corporate sponsors is another proposal. The report by the DNR recommends patents, and trademarks on state park names for the purposes of merchandising, and securing sponsorship, donations, and advertisements. Governor Walker's office said he is looking further into the report.
Popularity for milk alternatives continues to grow
With Wisconsin dairy farmers continuing to struggle, alternatives to Milk continue to gain popularity nationwide.
Those alternatives, such as soy, almond, hemp, and rice milk continue to grow because of dairy allergies and other health issues, according to WPR. According to researchers at Nielsen, the market for almond milk has grown by about 8 percent, and the total alternative milk market in the global economy has reached nearly $6 billion. According to the report, however, dairy milk is still the dominant beverage of choice in the market, even with the steady increase in alternatives.