News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin
Members, We hope your week is off to a great start, and that you were able to shovel and plow your way out of your driveway over the weekend, as much of the state saw large snowfall totals. This week, we'll share last week's survey results, bring you some information regarding DATCP's upcoming manure runoff hearings, share a lawmaker's proposal for new WEDC requirements, get you up to speed on the transportation funding debate, 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 email@example.com. Have a great week, WPT, Inc.
Transportation funding saga continues with Assembly hearing
As the transportation debate rages on, including press release and social media jabs between top lawmakers, the Assembly Committee on Transportation last week held an informational hearing, where most notably, some lawmakers grilled DOT Secretary Mark Gottleib over many provisions in his budget request. Secretary Gottleib sat patiently for about three hours while lawmakers poked and prodded, hoping to gather more information regarding how and where to make cuts that could create savings in the massive billion dollar transportation shortfall. Among many others, one of the largest topics to be raised was the massive interstate expansion of I-39/90 from the Madison down to the Illinois border. The project was estimated at just over $700 million dollars initially, but has now made an enormous jump to $1.2 billion. The transportation secretary chalked-up the change in dollars to a faulty initial estimate. Gottleib also believes that rather than expanding current infrastructure, we should instead shift attention to preserving current bridges and highways. It's a proposal that drew some harsh criticism from members of the transportation committee. While Governor Walker has remained firm in his campaign commitment not to increase taxes or fees, without an offset someplace else in the budget, Secretary Gottleib did, however, concede that a funding increase will be needed, within the decade, as he believes current infrastructure would continue to deteriorate without said increase. Without an increase, he said, over 20 percent of Wisconsin's state trunk highway system would be rated as "poor" by DOT standards, and within the next decade, that number would skyrocket to 42 percent. Republicans are currently divided on the topic, which has often been reported on recently. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, along with Joint Finance Co-Chair and transportation committee member Rep. John Nygren are pushing for an "all of the above" approach when it comes to fixing the problem. The Speaker has reaffirmed his stance that all options should be on the table, including a gas tax increase. Likewise, Rep. Nygren has also said, while they have decided the timing hasn't been right for a tax increase in the past, we could be at a point where lawmakers must act. At least two Senators, Chris Kapenga (R-Delafield) and Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) have outwardly expressed their opposition to any type of tax increase. In a press release last week, the two upper-chamber lawmakers demonstrated that a gas tax increase would need to nearly double in order to fix our transportation woes. Speaker Vos immediately fired back, accusing the two senators of fear-mongering, and debunking their claim with one of his own. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said yesterday on Mike Gousha's UPFRONT, that a gas tax increase is unlikely to make it through the Senate, as his members are split on the issue. He added that if taxes were reduced, maybe a revenue increase could be passed. Fitzgerald said he is "holding back and laying in the weeds, kind of waiting to see how things develop as we get closer to that budget discussion." Meanwhile on the Democratic side, Minority Leader Jennifer Schilling has recently said she is skeptical of toll roads as a means to increase revenues for transportation. She believes that tolls would likely require some democrat votes in the senate in order to pass, although she herself is reluctant to support the idea. Share your thoughts on the idea of a gas tax increase in the weekly survey below.
DATCP to hold hearings on new runoff rules
With farm runoff rules about to change in the state, Wisconsin's Department of Agriculture will hold a series of hearings in January. The changes, known most commonly as ATCP 50, are being implemented due to recent USDA changes in their own nutrient management standards. The changes include new restrictions that will keep manure and other nutrients away from groundwater sources, and also allow farmers to choose which practice they will use, or which conservation practice best fits their particular farm or operation. Currently, there are three sets of regulations that make up the state's "nonpoint source" pollution control program. Those three regulations plan for soil and groundwater conservation, oversee manure storage and livestock operations, and finally, train conservation professionals. To help farmers with any additional time costs needed to follow the new restrictions, the cost-share rate to help farmers develop nutrient management plans would also increase from the current $7/acre annually to $10/acre. The hearings are set for: January 9th in Eau Claire- Chippewa Valley Technical College Business Education Center January 19th in Platteville- UW-Platteville Markee Pioneer Student Center January 23rd in Appleton- Fox Valley Technical College January 26th in Madison at the State Agriculture Building Each date will have two hearings; 2-4PM, and 5:30-7:30PM, and public comments will be accepted between now and February 9th. You may submit comments by mail (DATCP c/o Sue Porter, PO Box 8911, Madison 53708), e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Polar opposite lawmakers express same concern over Milwaukee County wheel tax
With the new $30 wheel tax about to be implemented in Milwaukee County, on top of the already-$20 City of Milwaukee wheel tax, two lawmakers from opposite ends of the political spectrum both expressed the same concern over the tax at a Public Policy Forum event in Milwaukee last week. Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) and Rep. David Bowen (D-Milwaukee) both had a little bit to say about the impending $30 tax per automobile, and its impacts on working families in Milwaukee County. Kooyenga, who represents the affluent Milwaukee suburb of Brookfield, as well as a portion of the City of Wauwatosa in Milwaukee County, also serves as the Vice-Chairman of the powerful Joint Committee on Finance. He pointed out that if a husband and wife with two jobs and a teen driver in their household had three cars, they're looking at nearly $100 extra per year to register their vehicles due to this tax. "That's a big hit to a family," Kooyenga said. Though he raised concerns about the tax, Kooyenga said residents should weigh-in with their voices and votes, rather than the state government taking any type of restrictive actions against such taxes. Bowen, a liberal, and Vice Chairman of the State Democratic Party, represents parts of the City of Milwaukee, as well as the affluent Milwaukee north shore suburb of Shorewood. Among his concerns, one is that a "single mother with a rusty compact car" would be paying as much as the owner of a new luxury vehicle. He would like to see state law change so that local wheel taxes aren't so regressive. Bowen is also a former member of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors. Last month the Milwaukee County Board approved the $30 tax, which was initially proposed by County Executive Chris Abele to be $60 per car. A spokesperson for the County Executive said he would welcome any effort to tether wheel taxes to the value of the car or weight of the vehicle. Do you think wheel taxes are too regressive? Share your thoughts in the survey below.
Survey results: Prevailing wage, Wisconsin bank profits, DNR revenue sources, milk alternatives
Last week we brought you several articles relating to the prevailing wage, the DNR proposal for corporate-sponsored state parks as a mean to plug a budget hole, the rising popularity of dairy milk alternatives, and the news that Wisconsin-owned banks profits have fallen for two straight quarters. As you recall, some lawmakers would like a full repeal of the state's prevailing wage laws. This law has currently been repealed (effective January 1st) for local government projects, however it remains part of state law, where certain projects are required to pay workers a "prevailing wage" on road projects and state capital projects such as buildings. We also talked about the DNR's proposal for vacation rentals, corporate sponsorships, more merchandising, and other solutions they found to gap their parks budget hole. As always we wanted your thoughts. This week, there were many written responses, so let's get right to it. Full repeal of the prevailing wage. Good or bad?
Nearly 88 percent of respondents think this is a good idea. Less than 10 percent of respondents think it's a bad idea. "Adds unnecessary costs to projects- hire reputable contractors." "Makes the bidding process easier." "Terrible idea. Engineer and build the roads right the first top. Stop recutting and refixing the same roads over and over. Some roads are worked on yearly for ten straight years. Poor planning." "Doesn't make sense...only drives up the project costs." "State taxpayers have been cheated by this outdated mandate way too long, get some backbone Wisconsin State Gov't and get rid of this burden. Most workers in the state are paid by either competition for their products or merit pay, they should not have to be lining pockets of those who work on state projects." "HUGE savings for the taxpayers without sacrificing quality in any way. I'm a contractor- I know." "We've bid on many of those jobs...That 'prevailing wage' is outlandishly HIGH." "Too many hands getting into the prevailing union wage." "Time to get government construction competitive again." "Your 'pro' comments are right on." "Puts the competition back into projects." "The prevailing wage is no longer needed. It raises the cost of state run projects." Wisconsin-based banks' profits fell the past two quarters. Do you bank at a Wisconsin bank, another bank, or credit union?
Nearly 80 percent of respondents bank at a Wisconsin-owned establishment, just over 10 percent bank someplace else, and the remaining 11 percent bank at a credit union. We wanted to know where respondents do most of their banking. Here's the responses: "Wells Fargo" "BMO Harris (formerly M&I Bank)" "One account at a state bank, another at a national bank." "Premier, Also BMO" "Kohler Credit Union" "UW Credit Union" "Markesan State Bank, National Exchange Bank, Horicon Bank" "A great community bank." "Fox Valley Bank" "I have both a Wisconsin bank and a credit union. They are both spending millions and millions building bran new buildings. Maybe it's time they find an existing building, use it, and give their folks with some money laying around some INTEREST." "BMO Harris" "Community First Bank" "Premier Community Bank" "First National Community Bank" "People's State Bank" "State Bank of Cross Plains" "The profits fell because Wis Agriculture is hurting with low prices in all areas."
The DNR came up with some new plans for plugging a budget hole, including corporate sponsorships. What do you think of that idea?
Over 40 percent said that corporate sponsorships are a good idea with state parks. Nearly 60 percent thought it was a bad idea, or just didn't care at all. "DNR has nose in too much, back off over regulation & there won't be a budget shortfall." "I'm not opposed to 'outside the box' thinking on these matters." "Are these state parks or commercial parks (for profit?)" "I do get tired of the constant promotion, but that's the reality of our time." "Put more sites in the parks. You can not get in them the way they are now." "Separation of corporations & state." "Why not ask the people of WI if they want their tax dollars to pay for the park system. Instead of having Walker tell us he doesn't want to pay for them with tax dollars. I'd rather spend it on parks than on a corporate tax break." "Too much potential for the corporate sponsorships to go bad. NOW- make it a tax incentive to give money for those projects, but not have their name on it...That's a good idea.' "As long as sponsors can't restrict access or monopolize sites." "Why not? Great idea!" "There is too much advertising already." Do you drink dairy milk or an alternative?
Well, not shockingly, over 80 percent of respondents drink dairy milk. "Isn't 'milk' milk? The alternative should have to be called something else." "Whole milk first, then dark chocolate almond milk." "Organic whole with chocolate ovaltine when I'm not feeling cheap." "Any moo juice, it's natural, wholesome and one of the safest food products in the market place." "Kwik Trip milk." "Piggly Wiggly brand." "Organic." "There's nothing like fresh cold glass of REAL milk!" "All brands of milk are healthy and nutritious."
Finally, we wanted to know what your favorite use of milk is. Cookies? Cereal? "A glass of milk with my meal" "Cereal!' "Milk on cereal." "Can't beat milk and cookies" "Just a glass of ice cold milk on a hot summer day." "Just a glass of milk!" "Milk with any meal" "MILK ON CEREAL" "Hot chocolate in the morning or evening." "Drink it straight!" "Milk on cereal, in coffee, just a glass of milk, milk with chocolate cake, milk in pudding, chocolate milk..." "Milk on cereal or just a glass of milk cheese- however not so much anymore as price per pound is too high compared to what the farmer is paid for their milk! As a former dairy farmer, this gets me a little ticked off!" "Coffee" "Just a glass of milk" "Cereal and cooking." "all of the above" "Cheese." "Glass or two at every meal. I'm a kid in my seventies." "Glass of milk with my meal and hot chocolate in the cold weather seasons." "Glass of milk" "Just milk" "With cereal"
Banks tightening loan terms on farmers
Banks are sensing growing risk in the agriculture industry when providing loan service to farmers, according to a recent report. That sense of risk is being accompanied by a requirement to provide farm real estate as collateral, even when issuing short-term operating loans to farmers. With continued weaker profit margins and reduced cash flow being predicted for US farmers, interest rates on non-real estate loans is shifting much higher. About 85 percent of loans have a floating interest rate, making this only the second time since 1977. Additionally, in only the third time since 1997, the average maturity period for non-real estate loans is exceeding a 14 month period. While these numbers reflect the overall situation, and national averages, states like Wisconsin and Indiana might be impacted differently, due to higher averages in farmland valuation. According to the Feds, only Wisconsin and Indiana saw increases in land value in the 3rd Quarter of this year, though down about 3 percent from 2015. Other good news in the Wisconsin agriculture industry is that the Dairy State is continuing to produce more commodities than any other state in the USA. Last week's numbers from the Wisconsin Agriculture Statistics Service showed that Wisconsin's diverse farming industry continues to rank higher than any other state in the nation in at least 11 different commodities. According to the numbers, Wisconsin ranked first in total cheese production, specific types of cheeses like American and Cheddar, and we also ranked highest for dry whey and goat milk. California came in first for butter production, and for total milk production. Wisconsin also took first place in mink pelts, oats, cranberries, snap beans, and of course, ginseng. Wisconsin ranked third overall for sweet corn, green peas, maple syrup, tart cherries, and potatoes.
WEDC board to take another look at reports on outsourcing
Under discussion at tomorrow's WEDC board meeting will be stricter reporting requirements for companies that receive public assistance and then relocate jobs or cut positions. The proposal is being pushed by Assembly Minority Leader and WEDC board member Peter Barca. His proposal would expand a policy that was enacted two years ago, and backed by Governor Walker. The current policy, which passed in 2014 requires that if a company receives a jobs-related award contract from WEDC, they need to notify WEDC iwthin 30 days if any net full-time positions in Wisconsin are reduced or if any full time positions are relocated outside of the state. The proposal by Barca would require the reports to be filed during the entire length of the contract of when any of the jobs are cut, or moved outside of the state. Additionally, it would require ongoing reports to WEDC about companies that cut jobs, or notify the agency of job cuts. CEO of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp, Mark Hogan, said that his agency already has strong reporting requirements in place, and that the agency already has the ability to take back money or impose penalties for companies that do not meet the requirements. What do you think? Share your thoughts in the weekly survey above.
Expert panel says Wisconsin quality of life adds to workforce shortage
UW-Rock County hosted a panel discussion called "Changing Workforce Needs," with a diverse panel of individuals, including a republican state lawmaker, higher education professionals, business leaders, and a human resources partner with Land's End. The panel concluded that Wisconsin's quality of life contributes to the state's shrinking workforce and lack of skilled workers to replace baby boomers who have and are soon-to-be retired. In October, the Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance issued a report that showed rather alarming trends in workforce declines, and an aging demographic. The report also showed how more people have moved out of the state in the last decade than have moved into it, particularly young adults. Overall, the trends result in a net loss of income in the state economy. You can view an article here by WisContext. While the state's population has grown by over 80,000 from 2010 to 2015 in larger areas like Dane, Kenosha, and Milwaukee Counties, 40 of 72 counties actually saw a drop in population during the same time. That drop off is in part due to younger adults leaving those rural areas for larger cities. Among the issues discussed by the panel was broadband access, where Wisconsin actually ranks 49th out of all US states and Washington D.C. for internet speeds. This is absolutely a driving factor that some say diminished the "quality of life" for younger adults, who make the decision to leave communities in the dust. Other issues were those of transportation. Kevin Kaufman, a business leader, and director of UW-Whitewater's Small Business Development Center said that the further you move away from a major transportation quarter, "the harder it is to A, attract or B, even retain that cohort of high school graduates." Make sure to share your thoughts with WPT by taking the brief survey above.
Deadline nearing for Petition to Repeal the Personal Property Tax
The Coalition to Repeal the Personal Property Tax petition deadline of December 31st is nearing. This large group of advocacy and interest groups, representing a myriad of industries and people in all corners of the state is working hard to provide some relief to Wisconsin's small businesses, who are burdened by the Personal Property Tax in our state. By signing the petition, none of your personal information will be used for any type of marketing or promotional purposes. The individuals who sign the petition will be added to the list that is delivered to Governor Walker and top lawmakers. WPT is active in the fight to repeal, and can't do it without your help.
If you haven't already signed, please do so by clicking here.
If you want more information on the PPT or the statewide coalition, please visit our website here.