News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin
Members, We hope that you had a great weekend, and that you were able to find some time to relax. We also wanted to bring your attention to Governor Walker, who today threatened to veto the entire 2017-2019 $76 billion budget if it raises property taxes on Wisconsin families. We appreciate Governor Walker's making property tax relief for Wisconsinites a priority for his administration and in this budget. This week, our Capitol Report will bring you up to speed on Wisconsin's latest unemployment numbers, where one report ranks our state for start-up activity, the latest actions from the Joint Finance Committee, new proposals regarding child neglect and penalties for rioting, which Illinois company is relocating to Wisconsin, and Governor Walker's recent actions on autonomous vehicles. As always, we hope you find this weekly report to be interesting and informative. If there are ever any issues that you would like to see included, or if you ever have any questions or comments, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great week, WPT, Inc.
Last week, two major developments occurred in the ongoing fight to repeal the Personal Property Tax in Wisconsin. First of which, was a motion that was passed by the Joint Finance Committee along party lines, while they debated and amended the budget regarding Shared Revenue. Currently, as most of you know, computers, fax machines, cash registers, and other electronics are exempted from the Personal Property Tax, but businesses still need to keep inventory and report these items to DOR, so the state can reimburse the municipality for the "would-be" tax revenue on the items. Under the motion that was inserted into the budget, businesses will no longer need to keep inventory of these items, and instead, the state will continue to reimburse local governments at current levels, with a CPI increase each year. This is a major compliance victory for small businesses, who will now have countless extra hours to focus on their work, rather than burdensome PPT compliance hours and costs. Secondly, as most of you know, the bill that would fully repeal the personal property tax in Wisconsin has been scheduled for a public hearing. While we completely understand that traveling to Madison is an impossibility for many of you, we hope that others will take the time to appear before this committee. Many of you take the time to call me each week to talk about repealing the PPT, but the plain truth is this: if small business owners don't show up and testify, the committee will have no reason to move forward with this legislation. This is monumental for our fight, and we hope that you will consider attending.
If you cannot make it, consider taking five minutes and writing a letter/e-mail for me to deliver to the committee.
It doesn't have to be long. You can send the letter to me via e-mail, and I will personally deliver it to the committee chairman and members on Wednesday.
In the letter, focus on a few things: would you have reinvested in new equipment or your business if you didn't have to pay the tax? How much do you usually pay? How burdensome are the compliance hours and costs? Make sure to include your name, where you live (full address not needed) and your business' name. Send an e-mail to me directly at email@example.com, and I'll properly address the letter and print it off for you. Since beginning this job nearly two years ago, you have all made this issue #1 on the priority list. We have worked extremely hard to get this far, and your letters, e-mails, and testimony mean everything moving forward. If I flood your inbox with one more reminder e-mail tomorrow, please bear with me. We are trying to get as many of our members mobilized as possible! If you have any questions or want to get ahold of me directly, please reach out at (608) 255-7473 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. The hearing details are as follows:
Senate Committee on Revenue, Financial Institutions, and Rural Issues
Public Hearing on:
Senate Bill 218 by Sen. Stroebel: Eliminating the personal property tax and making an appropriation
Wednesday, May 24 in Room 411-South of the State Capitol, 9AM
WI unemployment rate lowest since February 2000, start-ups still a struggle
No matter your age, you were 17 years younger when Wisconsin had unemployment levels this low, according to the Department of Workforce Development. As of April, the seasonally adjusted rate is at 3.2 percent, which is the lowest since. February of the year 2000. To put it into some wacky context, that was the last month ever that a new Peanuts comic strip was published following the death of Charles M. Schultz, Bill Clinton was President, and Mariah Carey's Thank God I Found You was at the top of the charts. Wisconsin's unemployment came in 1.2 percent lower than the national average of 4.4 percent in April, having added 7,500 jobs. While that is some very welcomed news, according to the latest Kauffman Index of Startup Activity, both Metro Milwaukee and the entire state continue to lag nationally when it comes to start-up activity. Both ranked last. According to the index, start-up is defined as a business younger than a year old, and employs at least one person other than the owner. The bottom five cities were Philly, Twin Cities, Indy, and Milwaukee/Pittsburgh tied for last.
Labor & Industry Review commission kept, Tech College tuition freeze axed
Last week, the Joint Finance Committee nixed the idea of freezing tuition at Wisconsin's technical colleges, and voted to keep the Labor and Industry Review commission. In his budget proposal, Governor Walker proposed eliminating the commission, and freezing tech college tuition. Cutting LIRC would have also cut 26.5 positions and saved $5.2 million. The committee cut eight vacant positions, but kept the commission. The committee also changed Governor Walker's plans for tech colleges, which would have frozen tuition and increased the system's funding by $10 million. The committee instead increased funding by $5 million, and also shot down the Democrats' plan to provide free tech college for all students, to the tune of $545 million in the biennium.
Illinois manufacturer headed for Wisconsin
Prestige Metals will relocate ten miles to the north, putting them in the great State of Wisconsin, where their owner said business incentives and savings along with being a Kenosha-native made the move right for his company. While Wisconsin's 7.9 percent corporate tax rate is higher than that of Illinois, the manufacturing and agriculture tax credit is giving Wisconsin a competitive advantage, and in this case, luring manufacturers to the state. According to US Census numbers, Illinois has lost nearly 90,000 people to Wisconsin in the past decade, and over 20,000 Kenosha County people commute into Illinois daily, but call Wisconsin home. The Kenosha Area Business Alliance says that a business with an annual revenue of $100 million and 350 employees would pay half the tax in Wisconsin than in Illinois.
WPT Weekly Member Poll Results: Removing transportation from state budget, self insurance propoal, WEDC business loan program, Democrats' plan on healthcare, and Mothers' Day.
Last week's WPT Capitol Report focused on the idea of removing transportation from the state budget, the proposal to switch Wisconsin to a self-insurance model for government workers, the re-implementation of WEDC's business loan program, legislative Democrats' plan regarding Wisconsinites with preexisting conditions, and your Mothers' Day activities. Let's get down to it!
Some JFC leaders believe that transportation funding should be pulled out of the state budget and written, debated, and passed on its own. With still no agreements among leaders, at this point: Good idea or bad idea?
Nearly a split. Just over 40 percent of respondents think this is a good idea, and just under 40 percent don't like it. Around 20 percent did not respond or were not certain. "It's part of the budget, if that theory works pull out each piece separate, silly." "Difficult to segregate major funding 'accounts' and budget them accordingly without affecting the over-all budget." "Who knows if this is bad or good. Too many lines in the sand have been drawn and a sane budget is likely out of reach." "Pulling transportation out of the budget is the most short-sighted idea yet. I would classify that as a move just to stymie a conservative administration. It's more tit-for-tat BS that was rampant in the Election. Quit borrowing money. Debt is a HUGE issue in this nation. Let's not add to it!" "How can you have a budget without all of the items to be budgeted?" The idea for the state to move to a self-insurance model for government employees looks dead in committee. How do you receive your insurance?
Over 30 percent of respondents receive their insurance through their employer. A little over 10 percent receive it through the exchange. 55% have alternative means for their insurance. "What would the overhead be for going self-insured? How- who would administer it? Yikes." The state would administer it, contracting with other healthcare groups. "Health partners." "Medicare and a supplement." "A greedy insurance conglomerate." "Medicare now, but self-insured always before that." "Death panels will solve the high cost of health insurance!" "I've topped out in my area. I can't earn more. I'm forced to use BadgerCare." "AARPS" "Self employed, I pay the price." "Medicare and Medicare Supplement partially funded by pre-retirement employer." "Employer." My wife's employer...small business can't afford insurance." "Thank God my spouse can bring home the family insurance." "Retired! Buying supplement insurance!"
After addressing problems from the past, WEDC's loan program for businesses will be re-implemented. Good idea? Bad idea?
Over 50 percent of respondents think it's a good idea, and nearly 30 percent believe it's a bad idea. About 20 percent weren't sure or did not want to respond. "Need some oversight and some rules to be followed! No blank checks!" "As long as they fixed their problems." "Be sure to monitor it." "Really? We're barking up the same tree again." "WEDC gets a big fat F from me. They're doing less than they claim to help push jobs here. They also need to push wage growth. And our local EDC spokesman actually bad-mouths local businesses, even though they are top of the game! NOT a fan. Let private industry and private lenders help spur Economic Development." "Need oversight- its a loan program, not a grant program. Repayment should be required." "As long as they don't screw up again." "Unless the people/businesses receiving the loans pass a drug test." "Need to monitor these loans more closely. But still vital for economic growth." "Who is going to oversee it? I just don't trust government. Don't do it!" Wisconsin legislative Democrats have introduced a plan that would shield those with preexisting conditions from any potential changes to federal law. After reading the specifics of the bill in their plan: Good plan or bad plan?
About 55 percent of respondents like all or some of the plan. The remaining 40-some percent did not like the plan, or did not want to respond. "Four things lead to a lot of medical expenses and earlier than expected deaths- smoking, alcohol, drug abuse, and obesity. I think people should pay more for their bad habits." "Have not read the bill." "Does not go far enough in regulating Insurance Provider collusion, Insurance Company blackmail and extortion by having greater out-of-pocket despite a out of net being less expensive." "Honestly, what's the point? It'll never pass." "Preexisting conditions cannot exclude you from coverage. Not should coverage have a cap." "The better idea would be that Congress would fix the things that are not working well with the ACA and not screw around trying to jam an extremist agenda that will only give tax breaks to the wealthy while leaving the middle class lower classes out in the cold without healthcare they would no longer be able to afford." "As a group we share the risk with others having preexisting conditions."
"Family here and grilled out." "Pot-Luck dinner" "Mother hosted family cookout for many hears. We continue that. I visited the graves of my mother and mother in law, both wonderful women!" "Family get together at Devil's Lake." "Tragically, I remember my mother more for her last 8 years of life, stricken with Alzheimer's...that horror colors my view of her memory. Shouldn't but does." "My son made me breakfast. Always call mom on Mothers Day!" "I knew I had to work on Mothers Day so the week before I planted two trees for her in her yard. She was happy." "Rhubarb pie." "Mom taught us to seed in the garden. Then we learned to hoe and care for those plants." "I lost my mother in 1997 and still miss her! Met the Fam. half way in Lake Geneva. Had a wonderful day!" "Cabin and leg of lamb slow cooked on the grill! All the mom's and grandma's loved it!" "With my daughter who gave red roses."
GOP lawmakers look to increase penalties for child neglect
Sen. Rob Cowles and Rep. Cody Horlacher, two Republican lawmakers have introduced legislation that would stiffen the penalties for cases of child neglect, which is defined as failing to provide food, clothing, medical care, shelter or supervision to a child. Any person who charged with child neglect for reasons other than poverty would face penalties of up to 60 years in prison, along with penalties for contributing to negligence. Wisconsin's Attorney General Brad Schimel said that the bills would give prosecutors more tools to do their jobs, calling the legislation long overdue, and a step toward achieving justice for child victims. The bill would also create criminal charges for repeated acts of neglect of the same child.
Rioting would become felony under proposal
Two GOP lawmakers' proposal would make rioting a felony, and give a formal definition to the word "riot." Senator Van Wanggaard and Rep. John Spiros sent three bills around to their fellow lawmakers for co-sponsorship last week, defining rioting as an assembly of three or more people that present a clear danger of injury or property. The bill would also make it a misdemeanor to block roads and a felony to possess a dangerous weapon while rioting. Rep. John Spiros said that reports of riots around the country and in our state have deeply affected him, and these laws would give law enforcement additional tools while trying to maintain law and order.
Gov. Walker takes action on autonomous vehicles
With 14 other states having taken action on driverless cars, it's now Wisconsin's turn, as Governor Walker issued an executive order last week, which would create a steering committee (no pun intended) on autonomous vehicles. The committee will be made up of officials from the DOT, law enforcement officials, industry reps, lawmakers, and researchers, and will submit recommendations for policy by next summer. The committee will be tasked to determine which state laws would need revision in order to facilitate driverless car testing, and will be tasked with determining and identifying roadways that would be best for autonomous vehicles. They will also need to work with appropriate agencies to handle administrative tasks such as safety and licensing regulations.