News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin
We hope that you had a chance to relax over the weekend, and that your work week is off to a productive start. This week's report will focus on a push to increase funding to rural schools, a new program aimed at boosting productivity in manufacturing, the latest on insurance premiums in Wisconsin, a bill to legalize the growing of industrial hemp, a judge's ruling on well permits, 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,
Last week, I wrote a bit of a rant about local property taxpayers having to pay for nearly everything on the local level. I don't need to repeat it to you, because you get the bill every year and you know what I'm talking about.
But I don't always want to use this platform as a means to get people riled up or angry about where their tax dollars go, particularly when it comes to investing in jobs. Last week, we found out that Amazon, who opened a massive distribution facility in Kenosha a few years ago, has been an incredible success stories for local taxpayers.
Originally, Amazon promised to create a relatively large 1,250 jobs, and was provided local and state packages to build that distribution center. But the actual number of jobs they have created is much more impressive.
To date, Amazon has created 4,188 jobs, and last year alone paid a combined $93.2 million in taxable wages. The current workforce includes more than 3,000 along I-94 in Keosha.
Historically, as Governor Walker has pointed out, Kenosha had about half of its residents commute outside of the county for their employment. But with the building of the Amazon fulfillment center, that trend is now reversing, and 14,000 people are commuting into Kenosha County for work every day.
These are the types of numbers and impacts we can hope to see with the Foxconn deal. And obviously, nothing is guaranteed, and a lot of things could happen between now and the fully operational facility is realized.
Last week, in another burst of good news, the Oscar Meyer plant in Madison, that had closed earlier this summer after nearly 100 years in operation, has a new owner, who is planning to spruce up the property and get some type of industry operational as soon as possible. That's just one step in a lengthy two-step process, but it's a sign of hope for a physical location with a lot capacity for jobs.
Finally, last week, DATCP announced its Week 3 series for Cyber Month, and tips on how to protect yourself and your business from cyber threats, which are more prevalent and real life- now more than ever before. I urge you to click on this link and take a look at their tips.
As always, if you have any questions, comments, ideas, or concerns, feel free to reach out to me at any point directly at email@example.com. Thank you, and I hope you all have a wonderful week.
BILL WOULD BOOST RURAL SCHOOL FUNDING
Even after the budget has been signed into law, the debate over school funding continues. This time, rural school funding is at the center of a piece of legislation that would boost the aid amount to rural schools. Rural schools are defined currently as districts with 745 students and less than 10 students per square mile. The bill would increased those districts' aid from $300 per pupil per year to $400. It would also create a second tier of rural schools; districts with 746 to 1000 students. The new tier schools would receive an additional $100 per student.The bill was introduced by Republican lawmakers Senator Howard Marklein (Spring Green) and Representative Jeff Mursau (Crivitz). Governor Walker in February originally had included large increases for rural schools when he proposed his budget, however after contention and deal-making in the committee and legislative process, those increases were axed to the tune of $18 million. So, this legislation would actually only provide just over half of what was originally proposed by Governor Walker. Tony Evers, the state's Superintendent of Public Instruction who is also seeking the Democratic nominee in the hopes of challenging Governor Walker's reelection next year, supports the measure. Governor Walker has also given a nod of approval to the plan. Walker has been touting the plan in schools around the state, but the fate of the bill is still unclear, as the Joint Finance Committee has not signaled whether or not it would offer its support, given they just removed the original increases. In a statement, JFC Co-Chair John Nygren said he looks forward to tackling this issue with Governor Walker and the administration.
NEW INITIATIVE AIMED AT BOOSTING PRODUCTIVITY IN WISCONSIN FACTORIES
Three of the largest business organizations in the state have come up with a plan aimed at boosting productivity in Wisconsin's factories, aimed at small and mid-sized manufacturers specifically.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), Milwaukee 7, and Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership are calling the new program Transformational Productivity Initiative, and the goal is to identify the specific challenges and causes that inhibit growth and productivity in small and mid-sized manufacturing companies. After the factors have been identified, the new group will work with the businesses to help formulate solutions.
WEDC will provide Milwaukee 7 with $190,000 matching grant to help get the program off of the ground, and to assist in identifying up to ten companies to take part in an initial trial period, expected to last up to two years.
As MJS points out, average growth of productivity in the United States has dropped to 1.7% in recent years, which is far below the long-term average of 3.2%. The groups hope to also design diagnostics and assessment tools for Wisconsin businesses with 500 or less employees facing productivity issues.
According to WEDC, manufacturing accounts for around 19% of GDP in Wisconsin, employing upwards of 465,0000 people.
Applications and more information about the new initiative is available here.
CITING HARM TO PUBLIC WATERS, JUDGE THROWS OUT INDUSTRIAL WELL PERMITS
A judge in Dane County tast week thew out eight high-capacity well permits that were granted to businesses by the state's DNR, ruling that these particular permits violate constitutional protections that require the state to protect the public's water.
The ruling did not come as much of a surprise to some, as scientists had previously warned the businesses that the proposed wells and massive amounts of water that would be drawn from them would inevitably harm various bodies of water, including drinking supplies.
The original lawsuit was brought by a state conservation group Clean Wisconsin, and was filed a year ago after examining permits that were issued by the DNR after the implementation of policy changes that narrowed the review process and barred the DNR from considering cumulative impacts of multiple high capacity wells when determining whether or not to allow new wells to be built.
According to scientists and the judge, the wells would have impacted or could have lowered water levels in Pleasant Lake, Round Lake, Lake Emily, Rice Lake, and Radley Creek.
It was not immediately clear whether or not the decision would be appealed.
UW SYSTEM TO MERGE TWO-YEAR CAMPUSES WITH FOUR-YEAR SCHOOLS
In an effort to cut costs and raise graduation number statewide, the UW System President, Ray Cross, announced last week that it was his intention to seek the approval of the Board of Regents next month to implement his vision to merge UW Colleges, the two-year campuses often located in smaller communities, with the University of Wisconsin's four-year campuses.
It is a sweeping change, but one seen as necessary with a 32% enrollment drop in the two-year campuses since 2010. The plan has also been designed as a way to increase college access, reduce the barriers for transferring credits throughout the system, and to stop the decline in two-year college enrollment.
Students in the two-year colleges would continue to pay their lower tuition, about half, and then be able to transfer into the four-year campus affiliated with their two-year school, or elsewhere. According to university data, about 26% of Wisconsinites have a college degree, which is lower than the national average of 28%. Additionally, between 700,000 and 1 million Wisconsinites have college credits but have not earned a degree.
As of now, the plan looks something like this.
UW-Extension and UW System Administration would become part of UW-Madison.
UW-Waukesha and UW-Washington County would become part of UW-Milwaukee.
UW-Fox Valley and UW-Fond du Lac would become part of UW-Oshkosh.
UW-Manitowoc, UW-Sheboygan, and UW-Marinette would become part of UW-Green Bay.
UW-Rock County would become part of UW-Whitewater.
UW-Barron County would become part of UW-Eau Claire.
UW-Marathon County and UW-Marshfield would become part of UW-Stevens Point.
UW-Richland and UW-Baraboo/Sauk County would become part of UW-Platteville.
LEGISLATION WOULD LEGALIZE INDUSTRIAL HEMP
With federal laws having reclassified hemp so it is not the legal equivalent to marijuana, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Minnesota have already legalized industrial hemp on the state level. With farmers struggling nationwide with dairy margins, commodity prices, and some land values, it was seen as a huge move for the agriculture industry that could increase profitability and usher in a new era. In Wisconsin, a bill that would legalize industrial hemp, which can make paper, textiles, types of foods, and thousands of subsequent products, received a public hearing in the state senate last week. The bill is expected to receive a vote in committee as soon as this week. Before 1937, Wisconsin was one of the country's top hemp producers. However, it has been banned for decades due to its federal classification as a form of cannabis, the same type of plant as marijuana, but without the psychoactive properties, and an impairing substance known as THC. Under the plan, the Department of Trade, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (DATCP) would issue permits to farms wishing to partake in the production of the plant. No known individuals with drug-related convictions could receive a permit. The bill also directs DATCP or a state college or university to launch a pilot program to grow and study industrial hemp. A bipartisan coalition of Wisconsin's elected federal lawmakers are fighting to remove industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana on the federal level. Those lawmakers are US Representatives Glenn Grothman, Ron Kind, Gwen Moore, Mark Pocan, and Mike Gallagher.
WPT WEEKLY MEMBER POLL RESULTS
Foxconn costs to local property taxpayers · Plans for I-94 East/West reconstruction abandoned · Prohibiting credit bureaus from charging fees to freeze · Bipartisan proposal for Green Alert to locate missing vets · Back in the swing of fall TV, and your favorite shows.
With the Foxconn development expected to cost property taxpayers anywhere between $100 and $400 million in local incentives, would you think it's worth it if this was in your community?
Corporate welfare! If that TIF Dist. is not "repaid" before the "term" ends...(All other) Property Taxpayers ARE responsible for paying it off.
It's a lot of money over a long period of time.
With the hopes of a creation of more jobs and building up the economy. Do need to find better ways of supporting projects than with just property taxes always. Just because you own a property doesn't mean you are wealthy to always pay for all gov'mt needs! OOps WANTS big difference.
I don't think it will work out in Wisconsin's favor
We did this for Mercury Marine to stay in Fond du Lac. Not saying it was a bad thing, but I believe it was forced on every citizen whether they liked it or not. Half percent sales tax will go on and on and on...
Too many unknowns to evaluate.
I believe that jobs, wages, and other businesses that it will bring will ultimately outweigh the "incentives"
Depends if they make good on their promises of jobs and join the tax base
The local economy is bound to thrive with the millions that will be invested in the area
Get this OUT of the southern half of Wisconsin. Rusk County is the WORST county, economically, in the state. Put it there. They have the workers, just need jobs!
? If this is such a great idea, why is everyone complaining, or is that just the left?
Those property owners should be, and will be OUTRAGED.
With a federal lawsuit already taking place, and no money to pay for the construction, the Governor is walking away from the I-94 East-West reconstruction in Milwaukee in the immediate future. Some are happy with the move, and others say it will be very bad for business. Good idea or bad idea?
Never driven there...However...Some expansion/additional lanes are necessary as traffic increases.
That freeway is obsolete. How would anyone want to have to drive it 5 days a week.
If you don't have the funding, you can't have the reconstruction. There has to be some solution to the funding the transportation infrastructure.
If it is true that we already invested 20 million what were we thinking?
First off, no never drive that stretch and do not fequent Milwaukee to begin with, but if a bunch of lawyers are trying to pad their pockets with a bunch of lawsuits, its time to drop it and let the entire improvement just go away, and no I am not a racist, that would further from the truth! Those preying on those less fortunate by making them promises to score political points are the true racists.
If there is this much controversy, it sounds like it needs to get tossed and a better, smarter, more sensible plan brought forth.
WE have to keep our roads up to date
As a small town kid, I avoid Milwaukee at all costs.
We have way too many lawsuits. Need to limit lawsuits.
This is outrageous. It's amazing how people don't (or don't want to) connect the dots: Republicans only want to cut taxes, but governing actually requires expenses like fixing the f***ing roads. Republicans then say, oh no, we don't have the revenue to do basic stuff like fixing the roads properly. GOP voters drive down these crappy roads, packed with commuters and don't think: Man, my representative is doing a crappy job. It's dumbfounding and sad.
Think it's time we work on the small road like Hwy 23 instead of the I-94 East & West. I ahven't driven between the Zoo and Marquette.
A proposal in the legislature would prohibit credit bureaus from charging a fee anytime a consumer freezes or unfreezes their credit line. Good idea or bad idea?
Imagine the windfall to the Credit Bureaus.... ~100,000,000 people pay ~$10.00 (times 3) to Freeze their info.... THAT = some Three Billion Dollars. .... YES our family PAID to restrict the sharing of OUR Information. ..... Consumers are a "Commodity" to be "SOLD"
A small fee seems reasonable
Equifax got us into this mess. They should pay for fixing the problem they created.
I think the credit should always be frozen, then make consumers unfreeze it when access to credit needed. Would limit all junk credit card solicitations, maybe reduce number of credit cards people have and maybe reduce credit card debt.
These days, freezes are becoming more frequent.
This fee was obviously a pay off to special interests if I ever saw one, get rid of it!
These "credit bureaus" have too much say on us. I mean, you can't open a CHECKING account without a credit score? Come on. I say shut those down... Look at the mess they are creating. I think that outlawing credit cards and 0% financing is the best idea.
With the largest credit bureau leaking consumer information I think ti is their obligation to allow us to protect ourselves at no charge.
But there should be one charge, remember they messed up.
I've been informed of breaches by four different places that I deal with in the past year. It's starting to seem impossible to protect data these days.
More fees again.
The future is known: All credit files will be locked and opened only by request from the consumer. it is inevitable.
I don't think a fee needs to be charged.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers are pushing for a "Green Alert" system, which would alert authorities and the public if an at-risk veteran goes missing. Good idea or bad idea?
They served our country. Need to do a better job of helping them in every possible way.
I think any way we can help each other is a good idea.
These at-risk veterans don't need a system to get people to hunt for them. That could cause troubles.
Anyone missing should be able to be put into the system.
We should support our veterans.
Dumb idea. Just more silly rules because everyone loves veterans. It'll pass, of course, but it's nonsense.
Haven't had any person from our area missing, but I do think this is a good idea.
Rarely watch the GARBAGE on network TV prime time...We prefer viewing science & humanity based programs.
Don't really watch any regular shows at this time but some football and baseball games when I have time. But Gunsmoke from years ago was one of my favorites on Saturday night in black and white.
CBS Monday night is best. Big Bang Theory, the new Me, Myself and I is good and Scorpion.
Too much sick stuff on TV. Why does someone always have to get killed to have a story.
ER, Boston Legal, Grey's Anatomy
Grey's Anatomy, This Is Us, Nashville, Shark Tank
Seems to be the new one This is Us! Absolutely love it.
Watch more sports than anything
Hannity. Can't miss Hannity
I am happier since I cut the cord.
I like Blue Bloods, and Special Victims. For what it's worth, PLEASE DEFUND THE NFL. No one gives me tax money, just want mine, and the NFL is now anti USA.
I rarely watch network television. M*A*S*H is still the best show of all time.
Other than the Packers, I haven't watched TV in 4 or 5 years. Don't miss it at all. Favorite show of all time would still have to be The Andy Griffith Show.
Dr. Phil, I watch every week day and don't like when the news takes over his show. I even tape it when I am gone, so I don't miss his show. Am I addicted..yes I am.
THE LATEST ON OBAMACARE
If you take part in the Affordable Care Act exchanges, also known as Obamacare, you will see an average increase of 36 percent on your premiums next year, according to the latest data from the state's Commissioner of Insurance. It was speculated that the government subsidies would offset the increases to the premiums, however, so most Wisconsinites would not feel the impacts. However, in a move last week, President Trump said he would scrap subsidies to insurers, which is a key component to the signature health plan of former President Obama. Trump called on Democrat leaders to help come up with a better deal for the American public. Eighteen US States sued the President on Friday to stop him from removing the subsidies while a replacement plan is still in the works. The subsidies would cost $7 billion this year, and as much as $10 million next year, according to congressional numbers. President Trump said he does not want to make the insurance companies rich, because they would be "making a fortune by getting thatkind of money." If the subsides are removed, it is expected that those who use the federal ACA exchanges would absorb the full cost of their premium increases, most of whom are low-income Americans, or who fall into a gap where they make too much money to qualify for government assistance (BadgerCare in Wisconsin) but too little to afford reasonable healthcare plans. About 10 million Americans are currently enrolled through the online marketplace, and most receive subsidies. The Trump Administration will not make the next payment to insurers, which is scheduled for this week Wednesday, according to Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
PROTESTORS DESCEND ON STATE CAPITOL TO PROTEST SANCTUARY CITIES BILL
Senate Bill 275 received a hearing last week in the State Capitol before the Senate Committee on Labor and Regulatory Reform. The legislation would require that police hold people in jail for up to 48 hours if they have been charged with a crime and they are suspected of being in the United States illegally. The bill would also prohibit local governments from having or implementing policies that block enforcing laws that determine an individual's immigration status. If a local government does not comply, they would see their state aids cut by up to $5,000 per day. Hundreds of protestors flocked to the State Capitol on Thursday to protest the bill, and threatened legal action if the bill were signed into law. The opponents of the measure argue that it violates the constitution and would make Wisconsin less safe. Proponents of the bill said they want to ensure that local governments are compliant with federal authorities when they are asked to hold suspected illegal immigrants. They argue that doing so would only impact those who are accused of crimes, but not those who might make routine contact with law enforcement, for example, over a parking ticket or traffic violation. A similar policy passed the Assembly last session along party lines, but did not make it to the Senate. It is not clear whether this bill has broad support from Republicans, who control both chambers of the legislature.
REMOVE "AMERICA'S DAIRYLAND" FROM WISCONSIN LICENSE PLATES?
The head of Wisconsin Manufactures & Commerce, the state's largest lobbying group and the state's official chamber of commerce, Kurt Bauer, told a group today that Wisconsin should consider removing "America's Dairyland" from license plates. He said that the move would help change perceptions of Wisconsin by outsiders, and help modernize that perception, which is often focused solely on the state's agriculture industry. According to Bauer, many other exciting things are taking place around the Badger State, including the introduction of Foxconn, and many other opportunities. Bauer made his comments to a group of business leaders at a speech and luncheon sponsored by WMC in Madison, moments before US House Speaker Paul Ryan was set to address the crowd regarding a tax overhaul.