WPT Capitol Report, June 6, 2017

News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin



We hope your week is off to a great start, and that you're enjoying the warm and sunny streak across much of Wisconsin. 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 Have a great week, WPT, Inc.

Last week

Last week, we saw another great week for property taxpayers in Wisconsin.

First, the Joint Committee on Finance signaled its support for Governor Walker's proposal that would eliminate the state property tax. Now, let's clarify a couple of things first! I had a call from a member who thought this meant that there would no longer be property taxes in Wisconsin. That's definitely not the case.

Property taxes in Wisconsin are actually pretty unique when it comes to other states, and not just because it's high. One of the things that makes it unique is that multiple entities are allowed to levy the tax on homeowners. Tech Colleges, counties, municipalities, sewage districts, school districts, etc. This makes for a giant mess when it comes to "who gets what."

If you have a moment, take out your property tax bill from last year. You'll see a line that says "State of Wisconsin," with a relatively small amount. That is the state government imposing a tax on you as a homeowner. That is the tax that will be eliminated.

Those dollars go toward funding state forestry programs. Yes, some groups have come out and said they have concerns with this proposal because they would like to see dedicated funding to making sure these programs remain intact. Some of them have been around as early as the 1920s, when the state's forest dealt with some pretty big depletion issues.

But those concerns are easily put to rest when you look at what the Governor is proposing. No programs will be shut down, but the *who* changes when it comes to paying for the tax. The state's general fund will be paying. The general fund is made up of corporate, income, sales, and a multitude of excise taxes. So yes, you will still be paying for it, but so will other people. The burden won't fall solely on those who own property.

Also, last week was a hearing on the personal property tax in the Assembly. I can't thank enough those of you who wrote testimony and submitted your comments online. It was a great hearing, and there was not one single registration in opposition to the elimination of the PPT. The work now continues with the Joint Finance Committee, with multiple lawmakers and leaders signaling that this is a priority. There is also interest in inserting the entire repeal or some variance into the budget. I would also like to put a quick plug in this article about Mike Marsch, the President of WPT, and offer some much-deserved thanks for his willingness to travel several hours each way to Madison and back in order to be present for each of the hearings to repeal PPT. It's that kind of dedication and extra effort that WPT is proud to offer our members on a daily basis when it comes to issues that matter to and most impact you.

Only time will tell, though a relatively short period of time, since the state's fiscal year ends at midnight on June 30th.

As always, if I can ever answer any questions or if you ever want to share or discuss any topics with me, please reach out directly at

Deal struck on DNR magazine, state property tax to be eliminated

While the official vote did not take place last week, the Joint Finance Committee signaled that they would go along with Governor Walker's plan to fully eliminate the state's levied property tax, which would reduce property taxes for homeowners statewide by $180 million. The money paid by property owners goes towards state forestry programs. The programs would not lose their funding under this plan, but rather the state would pay through its general revenues, rather than having property taxpayers foot the bill. The committee is holding out on voting on the measure until they take up other tax policies in the state budget, but this was a huge legislative victory for the Governor, who two weeks ago threatened to veto the entire state budget if it raised property tax. The date has not yet been determined for the final vote. The committee on Wednesday also voted to keep the DNR magazine, which Governor Walker had proposed eliminating in his budget proposal. The committee went along with a plan that would reduce the number of annual publications from six to four. The magazine has over 80,000 subscribers and saw a massive push back from both sides of the aisle, outdoors enthusiasts and others.

More contention on budget, as leaders divided on school funding

Governor Walker's budget proposal that would increase K-12 funding by $649 million is dealing with some uncertainty at this point in the process, as Assembly members are mulling over a plan that would reduce that number by $91 million. With transportation, self-insurance, and other issues already dividing legislative leaders, this adds another point of division in an already hotly-debated two-year spending plan. The Joint Finance Committee would reduce Walker's per-pupil numbers and give more money to public school districts that spend less. The plan would also add $92.2 million more in revenue limit authority for school districts that spend less, and adds $30 million more for the state's general funding formula for schools. On the Senate side of the equation, JFC members disagree, calling the plan non-negotiable. Joint Finance Co-Chair Rep. John Nygren said that the Assembly Republicans' plan is about equity, telling the State Journal, "the way the Governor proposed it (the per-student increase) went to everybody, so I guess the difference comes down to if you believe there has been an inequity in the state over the last 24 years that the formula has been in place. At some point you have to fix it." He's referring to spending levels imposed in the 90s, which is a limit that is based on many factors, including district revenues and enrollments, among other numbers. Meanwhile, Governor Walker continues to travel the state, promoting his plan, which seems to be widely accepted around the state, and by the state's education chief, State Superintendent Tony Evers. This could be another large showdown in the already-time-sensitive countdown to the fiscal year ending in just over three weeks.

Assembly votes on constitutional convention measure

Earlier this year, WPT polled members on the possibility of Wisconsin joining 29 other states in demanding a constitutional convention that would, among a wide range of possibilities, amend the US Constitution to include a balanced budget amendment. About 60 percent of respondents said they would favor Wisconsin joining the other states, and amending the constitution to reflect such a measure. About 15 percent said they did not support it, and about 25 percent said they did not know where they stood. Last week, an Assembly committee voted to advance the measure authored by Senator Chris Kapenga to a full vote in the lower chamber. If it passed, Wisconsin would be the 30th state, and a total of 34 states are needed to call a constitutional convention. It has never happened before. Critics of the balanced budget amendment proposal say that it is dangerous to edit the document, while proponents believe that increasing spending and skyrocketing debt is justification for making the move. The proposal has already passed the Wisconsin Senate committee process, with the Senate Majority Leader, Scott Fitzgerald, saying he would like more information before allowing a full vote. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he supports the measure.

WPT Weekly Member Poll Results: Slow job growth, budget clock ticking down, Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership, concealed carry with no permit, and your Memorial Day

Last week's Capitol Report focused on the recent numbers outlining Wisconsin's slowed job growth, time running out in the state's fiscal calendar with no transportation budget deals in sight, a new center at the UW-Madison created by GOP lawmakers, a proposal that would allow Wisconsinites to carry concealed weapons without any permits, and your Memorial Day! Let's get down to it!

Last year, Wisconsin saw its slowest job growth since 2010. Generally speaking, in your community, are there more or less jobs available than in 2010?

About 2/3rds of respondents said there are more jobs in their community in general. Less than ten percent said there were less jobs, and just under 20 percent said they weren't sure. "Good, if a teenager can't find a summer job, they don't want to work." "There may be more jobs, but most pay nearly nothing." "Help wanted signs in every business." "Lots of jobs." "Lots of help wanted ads." "Jobs are available if you are willing to work." "'Help Wanted' and 'Now Hiring' signs in many businesses. Anybody that's not working in this area, it's because they don't want to work." "There are 'Now Hiring' signs all over our area- Have never seen so many- Don't know what wage rate though." "It is extremely difficult to find good workers in the service industry. We have two companies in our town that are very successful and always looking for more employees. We are south of Madison." "Urban centers like Milwaukee and Madison generate jobs. Rural areas are slowing dying out. Not rocket science." "Our paper has tons of jobs available as I am sure other small towns have. Unfortunately it is too easy for people to get State and or Federal aid and not work. As a business owner it is hard to get good people and I pay very well. Unfortunately it is too cozy of a program to be on welfare. I can remember as a child growing up and my mom would whisper to my Dad and us kids that a particular family was on welfare. Years ago it was a negative stigma to be on welfare. Today it is a very comfortable excuse for people not to work and provide for themselves or their families. The bottom line is people are given Monday and goods they do not put a value on them but just expect them to continue. This is and will break this Great Country!" The transportation debate continues. If you had to guess, do you think legislative leaders and Governor Walker will strike a deal by the time the fiscal calendar ends on June 30th?

About 45 percent of respondents are confident that the legislature will strike a deal in time. Over 30 percent of respondents don't think it's going to happen. Over 20 percent aren't sure. "Let's make a deal." "I think you have to both Just Get It Done and Let's Make A Deal. These people need to stop playing partisan politics and start figuring out a budget that works. And yes, oru roads stink. So FIGURE IT OUT by MAKING A DEAL." "More gas tax." "Just get it done." "Get it done." "Make a deal and get it done!" "Just get it done!" "Make a deal, raise vehicle registration fees." "Make a deal, less borrowed money." "Remember "it's the economy stupid?" The transportation debate is "raise the gas tax, stupid!"

Lawmakers have created the Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership at UW-Madison. Proponents believe this center ensures that both sides of debates are heard, while opponents are calling the new center nothing more than a "conservative think tank." What do you think? Good or bad?

About 40 percent said they like the idea. About 35 percent said they weren't sure or didn't want to respond. About 25 percent didn't feel there was a need for this new center. "IF it's run properly, it'll be a great benefit." "Presently liberals rule the university." "People spend thousands of dollars to have their kids brainwashed by wacko professors and these "wonderful" institutions do not allow both sides to be heard.' "This is a great plan and much needed addition and balance. The Tommy Thompson Center is a deserving name for center and great Wisconsinite." "Where is the money coming from?" "While I am a conservative through and through, we do not need any more taxpayer dollars going to education. I was on our local school board for a number of years and we are spending more than enough money on education. Look at private schools that are providing higher test scores for much less money per pupil." "There's truth, and there's ideology. Stick to truth and Wisconsin will be fine." Two lawmakers have introduced a bill that would allow people to carry concealed firearms without any permit. Good idea or bad idea?

Over 60 percent think this is a bad idea. About 30 percent think it's good. "Untrained people carrying weapons are dangerous." "People should have training to carry guns- too many untrained people cause a lot of injuries, or worse." "I believe in the 2nd amendment, but I get nervous about all of the wackos out there that might cause problems. On the other hand the criminals will always have access to guns." "Nobody should be able to carry concealed weapons, if you carry a concealed weapon it should be in the open where everybody can it and have permit for it also." "It will create controversy and divide us even more. No, I don't." "Do criminals have a permit?" "More people are going to get shot. I don't own a gun." "Horrible idea. We don't need more yahoos walking around with weapons." "How many of the shooters that make the news have permits? Let's make it fair for all."

"Worked." "Worked, we are dairy farmers." "Sat around, played games. Couldn't afford to do anything else!" "Relaxed and grilled outside" "Harvest 1st crop hay & planed corn between the rains." "Attended an alumni event and enjoyed good company with friends at their annual rib fest." "Visited a WWII veteran." "Camped." "Went to cottage with family and enjoyed the weather." "Boating and motorcycling." "Planted some garden stuff and had the whole family out here. Also watched Tom Brokaw's program on "the greatest generation." "Fried out and watched the Brewers lose." "Had the kids and grandkids over for a cookout. Great time!" "Enjoyed the Indy 500 at Indy!" "Worked at our business but also remembered and honored those that have served so that we can live our lives as free people." "Stayed home, got the garden ready for planing." "Visited family." "I went to a Memorial Day remembrance ceremony, attended by 500+ others from my village." "Ate Wisconsin foods and drank at home as not to get any tickets (being responsible.)"

Speaker Vos circulates bakery bill

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos last week circulated a bill that would not require any bakery in Wisconsin to obtain a license to sell their products. A similar bill in the State Senate would eliminate licensure requirements for home bakers who sell less than $7,500 annually of products such as cakes, muffins, pies and other items. Last week, a judge struck down a state law that requires home bakers to get licenses. The court determined that the law unfairly benefits businesses over people. The Assembly Speaker said he wants to level the playing field and remove different regulatory barriers for all bakers.

Wisconsin Supreme Court rejects fracking permit

Iowa-based AllEnergy Corporation was given a giant "no" by the Wisconsin Supreme Court last week, which upheld a decision that denied that company's permit to build a new hydraulic frac sand mine in Western Wisconsin. The company sought to open a 265 acre mine as part of a larger project site near Arcadia, but the Trempealeau County land use committee denied the permit in 2013, citing health concerns and negative effects on landscape and wildlife that could impact their local tourism economy and residents alike. Voting to uphold the decision were justices Shirley Abrahamson, Anne Walsh Bradley, Patience Roggensack, and Annette Ziegler, who believed that Trempealeau County was within its jurisdiction, and that substantial evidence existed to support their decision.