News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin
We hope your week is off to a great start and that you had time to relax over the weekend.
This week, the Capitol Report will bring you the latest on the state budget and what to expect moving forward in that process. We will also bring you the latest jobs numbers, hiring forecasts in Wisconsin, a rumor about a Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice, the latest plans to turn manure into energy, and more.
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,
WISCONSIN PROPERTY TAXPAYER OF THE WEEK
DAN SEBRING · MILWAUKEE, WI
SEBRING GARAGE, LLC.
This week's Wisconsin Property Taxpayer of the week brings us all the way into the City of Milwaukee, where he not only owns a small business, but serves as an elected official on the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors-Dan Sebring.
And though he owns a popular garage, Dan hasn't always been an auto mechanic.
"Having been employed as an assembly line worker, a janitor, turret lathe operator, school bus driver, gutter installer, truck driver, printer, painter, disc jockey, bartender, body guard, carpenter, cabinet maker, and auto owner, [I have] experienced many of the hardships the unemployed face living day to day on the brink of financial disaster," he told us.
Dan's story of struggle took him on quite the journey, too.
When the prime interest rate rose to 21.5% in the 1980s recession, Dan found himself without a job, and without a place to live. He joined the Navy, and left to serve his country.
From there, he went on to serve on the Chief of Naval Operations Intelligence Staff at the Pentagon, and later in the Navy Air Reconnaissance Control Center in Guantanamo Bay. He also graduated from the Leadership Institute in Arlington, Virginia.
We asked Dan how he started his business;
"For as long as I can remember, I was interested in cars and I can't remember when I didn't want to own my own shop. I bought an old vacant 2 bay former Sinclair gas station in 1993 and I opened the day after Christmas. Mother nature cooperated by providing a two week stretch of sub-zero temperatures. The second day I was open, a guy from AAA stopped in and said he noticed I just opened and he had already run out of places to take cars that wouldn't start due to the cold snap and would it be alright if he brought them to me. I said, yeah...sure. The next morning when I came in, the lot was full."
He told us that he started 24 years ago, and he was the only employee. Within two years, he got busy and decided to hire some help. When the economy crashed, he had a crew of three. Now it's just himself and an employee "who makes her own hours," he said. "That's right, I said 'her,' he added.
"Over the last 24 years, I have trained 4 female mechanics," Dan told us.
And having learned that Dan helped shatter the glass ceiling in his local auto mechanic industry, what are the challenges facing small business in Wisconsin?
"The biggest challenge I face is government bureaucrats who know nothing about the auto repair business, or business in general for that matter, meddling in my day to day operations. The city wanted me to plant bushes or build a privacy fence around my parking lot so passing motorists 'wouldn't have to look at the cars in my parking lot.' I asked them how the police...would be able to see thieves and vandals breaking into my customers' cars if you couldn't see them from the street. I actually had an inspector from the city tell me, the owner of an auto repair shop, that it was illegal for me to have more than one 'inoperable vehicle' on my property."
Dan referred to state government has an out of control, overbearing leviathan, prior to Republicans taking control in 2010. "Every year my real estate taxes and personal property taxes went up, and every year I'd have to decide if I wanted to continue to do business in Milwaukee, or even in Wisconsin for that matter. The personal property tax is theft," he said.
"I have to pay tax on my tools because I'm my own boss? You can't fix cars without tools! Why not tax my underwear? It makes about as much sense," he added.
Dan has run for office five times, having challenged Democrat US Congresswoman Gwen Moore from Milwaukee numerous times. He got elected on his fifth stab at running for public office, by getting elected to the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors. "During that process I became friends with the Republicans that currently control our state legislature as well as the governor and lieutenant governor, and my name is known on both sides of the aisle."
It seems Dan is a whole new kind of local elected official, or at least new to the type Milwaukee County residents are used to.
"[The] County is run by tax and spend progressives who, while paying lip services to taxpayers, actually have little regard for them," he said. "They think the pockets of businesses are a bottomless treasure trove. It's truly appalling."
We want to thank Supervisor Sebring for his ongoing commitment to be a great steward of tax dollars, and for his participation in our organization. We are grateful to have his voice on the Milwaukee County Board.
Last week, I made a point to put some additional thought and focus on WPT's agenda moving forward after this budget. Every week, members call or e-mail me about their thoughts and concerns. Not surprisingly, it's always about land or taxes- there always seems to be an issue or a dispute that's taking place in every community regarding property lines, assessments, and new regulation.
As always, last week I was calling around to a few lawmakers offices to get status updates on various pieces of legislation dealing with property rights, and it dawned on me; I remember something that Senator Duey Stroebel said while giving public testimony on the Personal Property Tax repeal bill earlier this year.
He was explaining that one of his parents used to be an assessor, and then he said, "back when assessors were elected...if you can believe that."
It really hit me. Why don't we elect our assessors any longer? After all, assessors are often times strangers, and they're usually private entities hired by your local government. Shouldn't we know who they are, how they were selected, and how much they're paid in tax dollars to assess property?
Assessors play a very critical role in local government, there is no doubt. But it seems to me that home and property owners are generally never granted the benefit of the doubt when it comes to anything dealing with their property.
If a fence appears to be even a couple of centimeters outside of the property line- the homeowner must be at fault- they need to replace it immediately. If a town-owned tree is encroaching onto private property, though...well, that can wait.
If absolutely no building or renovation permits were filed with the local government, well, that doesn't matter...the homeowner still needs to grant full access onto or into his or her property.
If there's a glaring assessment error...let's make the homeowner show up at "open book," which is held at very limited times...the homeowner is presumably wrong and on their own to make their own case.
There really is a problem when homeowners and property owners are responsible for financing nearly everything that residents enjoy in their local communities, and are still expected to deal with the minutia of an ever-intrusive bureaucracy.
Now that the budget has passed and is headed for Governor Walker's desk, I am looking forward to the remainder of this legislative session, and working on legislation and policies that continue to protect and strengthen property rights in the state of Wisconsin.
As always, if you have any thoughts or concerns, please don't hesitate to reach out to me directly at email@example.com or 608-255-7473.
BUDGET BILL TO BECOME LAW THIS WEEK
After one of the more lengthy delays seen in recent years, the 2017-2019 state budget has passed both chambers of the state legislature as of Friday evening, and is headed to Governor Walker's desk for any last minute vetoes, and then his signature.
The final vote was 19-14, with all Democrats and one Republican voting against the two-year, $76 billion spending plan.
Before even taking up the budget for a vote, several lawmakers (Sens. Kapenga, Stroebel, Nass, and Craig) publicly said they would not vote for the bill if several changes were not made. If the Senate made any changes, it would have gone back to the Assembly, where that chamber would have had to re-debate and vote again.
Instead, to avoid any further delay, Governor Walker struck a last-minute deal with the senators, offering to veto several provisions in the budget in exchange for their 'yes' votes.
The agreement, which will be signed into law this week, will make the prevailing wage repeal effective immediately, will nix plans for a $2.5 million study of toll roads in Wisconsin, retain local oversight of rock quarries, and veto a provision allowing school districts to conduct referendum votes only on regularly scheduled primary and general election days. More details are expected to be released later this week in Governor Walker's official veto message.
One Republican senator was now swayed by Governor Walker's veto pen, however. Senator David Craig (Town of Vernon) said in a statement that this budget does not limit the size and role of government in our daily lives. Craig praised several reforms in the budget such as the full repeal of the prevailing wage, but declined to vote for the overall package.
FOXCONN PACKAGE SIGNED INTO LAW
Governor Walker today signed the $3 billion Foxconn incentive package into law at Gateway Technical College in Sturtevant, tethering the state's finances to the giant Taiwanese corporation for decades, with the hopes of developing tens of thousands of jobs, and developing a new industry in Wisconsin.
The state will pay $2.85 billion in cash to the company for a decade and a half in order to help alleviate their payroll costs up to 17 percent, and the construction costs up to 15 percent. Payroll subsidies would only be paid as workers are paid, and the construction credits would be paid as the company spends cash on building themselves. As part of the deal, the state would waive $150 million in sales tax on construction material purchases for the construction of the facility.
Now, Governor Walker and his administration are tasked with designing the final terms of the contract with Foxconn in the days ahead, with an announcement on the location expected to happen soon. Groundbreaking on the massive project would likely happen in spring, according to Gov. Walker.
Last week, the City of Kenosha dropped out of the running for the plant to be built in their community, with Racine now in final negotiations with Foxconn.
BIPARTISAN BILL WOULD ENSURE UW TUITION REIMBURSEMENT FOR NATIONAL GUARD
A bipartisan proposal making its way through the state legislature would ensure that undergraduate students whop are members of the Wisconsin National Guard would get the full cost of tuition reimbursed in a timely manner.
The issue at hand is a relatively simple change. Currently, National Guard members are reimbursed for $4,368, but since engineering and business programs are more expensive, the state is inadvertently shortchanging the students by between $500-$700. There are currently under 100 students using the Wisconsin National Guard Tuition Grant.
One Republican staffer told the UW Badger Herald that nothing is changing in practice, rather making sure that 100 percent of the cost of tuition is covered, no matter which program the guard members decide to study.
MONTHLY EMPLOYMENT NUMBERS RELEASED
Late last week, the state's Department of Workforce Development released the US Bureau of Labor Statistics preliminary estimates for August for Wisconsin.
Based on preliminary data, the state added 19,000 total non-farm jobs and 20,100 private sector jobs from August 2016 to August 2017, with a significant year-over-year gain of 10,200 manufacturing jobs. This accounts for a preliminary one-month decrease of 8,800 total non-farm and 5,200 private sector jobs from July to August 2017.
Also, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was at 3.5 percent in August, up slightly from 3.2 percent in July and one full percentage point below the national unemployment rate of 4.4 percent, which increased from 4.3 percent over the month.
Wisconsin's labor force participation rate was unchanged in August at 68.8 percent, almost six percent above the national rate of 62.9.
According to the latest ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook Survey, the State's net employment outlook was among the very best in the nation, with 22 percent of Wisconsin's employers expecting to increase employment.
WPT WEEKLY MEMBER POLL RESULTS
Budget headed to Gov. Walker for possible vetoes · Peter Barca from leadership after pro-Foxconn vote · Tracking UW professors' hours back in budget · Wisconsin dips below 9,000 dairy herds
The budget will now move to the legislature, and then to Governor Walker, who has veto power with very broad authority. Are there any items in the budget that you would nix?
The 999 funding instead apply to transportation fund
I think the budget needs to be done by small business owners, not politicians. But, what do I know?
All UW funding that doesn't directly lower tuition
He should veto the personal property tax repeal. Special interests, getting their way, sticking it to the rest of us. Shame on WPT.
Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca is resigning his position following his vote in favor of the Foxconn deal. Do you think a change of leadership was needed for the Democrats?
Term Limits ASAP
Barca ran to Illinois during the Act 10 doings. That tells you enough. (Barca was not one of the Democrat elected officials who ran to Illinois. Those were the 14 state senators serving in 2011. Barca has never been a state senator.)
Yes they don't talk to rural voters
There is too much "game playing" going on in our politics right now. We need people who can SERVE the state, not be dirty, back room, under the table dealers.
He almost certainly did what he thought was best for constituency. Foxconn is slated to be built there, after all.
It makes no difference who their leader is, they will automatically be opposed to what the republicans want whether it makes sense or not and the repubs would probably be the same way if they were out of power. I'm sick of modern politics!
Oh, yeah. The Dems needs an entirely new slate of leaders. Nothing wrong with Barca, but they've done nothing but lose. Change horses or drown.
The plan to track UW professors' classroom hours was re-inserted into the budget. Good idea or bad idea?
Too many professors work too little time. They would never survive in the real world!
About time, as my grand children said they hardly ever see their professor.
Too much ado about nothing. Students need tuition decreases. UW needs to stop funding private dairies and food (cheese and pudding) production for their "friends."
They allegedly get paid to teach, but many don't do much teaching. Number of books written, articles published, research done etc. really determine what they get paid. Undergrad students are way down the list of priorities in the modern university.
58% of the GOP thinks higher education is bad for the country. Of course they want to scrutinize UW.
According to DATCP, Wisconsin's dairy herds have dropped below 9,000. Do you think state government needs to do more to help preserve this industry and boost the number of farms in the state?
Yes preserve the truly family farm(s)...those with more family members on the farm than non-relative employees.
Some quit with no place to go with their milk. Others may increase herd size.
No mega farms, more smaller operations would be better.
Not going to make much difference. Look at the numbers as far as milk output. Has it made a difference? NO! If there is a will there is a way.
Let the market decide.
Stop adding regulatory requirements that adds more cost to them.
"Dairy herd"? Don't you mean dairy farms? There's 1.28 million dairy cows. DATCP counts each farm with cows as a "herd."
Wisconsin needs more farms.
Help more family size farms to survive, not large dairies.
More smaller farms is the answer, not more mega farms. Small farms, manageable by one or two people, all over the state. It makes fiscal sense, it makes profitability sense, it makes stability sense, and it teaches young people WORK ETHIC. It also means that manufacturers of farm equipment can sell MORE...Bigger is NOT better...
What's the cow number verses a year ago?
Temporary moratorium on CAFO, new herd and her increase permits. They are killing the small family farm, the environment and a huge sector of the economy and are regularly exploiting illegal immigrants as employees at everyone else's expense.
The small producers are being squeezed out by the high cost of inputs. Take a look at what tractors etc. cost.
More should be done to help the smaller family farms and stop enabling the large farms. I am not against the large farms but the surplus milk should be slowed. For example: The 5,000 cow dairy should NOT be allowed!!!! We just sold our 100 cow dairy in January due to low prices and the poor workforce.
Let the market sort this out. Government should stay out.
The Packers kicked off their season yesterday with a 17-9 victory over the Seahawks. Did the Pack look in tip-top shape yesterday, or was there some room for improvement in the coming weeks?
Always room to improve.
Still need better running game.
Both, Offense and Defense.
None of the above choices are valid. It was a very hard fought opening game between two very talented teams.
Didn't watch the game.
HAPPY CONSTITUTION DAY!
Actually, Constitution Day was yesterday, 9/17, because on that day in 1787 the delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed this incredible document in Philadelphia. Join WPT in our efforts to put the truth of our US Constitution in the hands of family, friends, and employees. The fathers of our Constitution were ordained to author a document, the likes of none before it, that would lay the foundation of rights, laws and principles of self governance with the intent to protect citizens from cruel and unjust use of power. It is WPT's hope that the distribution of this booklet will increase awareness of its truths and help preserve all fo what distinguishes our country from so many others who are subjected to government tyranny. Thank you and God bless America! WPT's Pocket US Constitution Booklets are $1 each, 6 for $5, 13 for $10, 20 for $15, or .65 cents each if you order 50 or more. Our organization will not be profiting from sales. Visit www.WPTonline.org/pocket-constitution to order your copy, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
WALKER ADMINISTRATION GREEN LIGHTS PROGRAM TO TURN MANURE INTO ENERGY
Governor Walker's administration on Friday gave the go-ahead for a new public and private initiative aimed at helping curb concerns of pollution from animal waste. $15 million was approved by the Public Service Commission which will subsidize the project to break down cattle manure and turn it into natural gas. BC Organics, which includes WEC Energy Group, will spend around $60.3 million. The public dollars will come from the Focus on Energy program, which funds energy efficiency projects via surcharges on electric utility users. The plan is to install a digester that converts methane into a type of renewable gas. Manure will be both piped and driven by truck to the new complex. It will come from various farms and about 20,000 cattle.
WI SUPREME COURT JUSTICE MIGHT LEAVE FOR TRUMP ADMINISTRATION
According to the Milwaukee Journal and its sources, Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, who announced earlier this summer that he would not be seeking a second term, is being considered for a job within the Trump Administration. Gableman became a Wisconsin Justice in 2008, when he defeated sitting Justice Louis Butler, becoming the first challenger to unseat a sitting justice in over 40 years. Gableman wrote the majority opinion upholding Act 10, and was with the majority in upholding Wisconsin's Voter ID law, and was the lead author of the decision that ended a John Doe investigation into Governor Walker's campaign. If Gableman were to leave, it would give Governor Walker a chance to appoint his successor before that individual would then need to run for re-election next year. Many believe this gives the appointee an advantage, as they would be able to run as a sitting justice.