News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin
Happy Monday! We hope you had a great weekend, and that your week is off to a productive start.
This week, the Capitol Report will bring you the latest on several hunting proposals, the mining bill, recent news out of the UW-Madison School of Business, 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
JIM ZEPALTAS · EAU CLAIRE, WI
This week's Property Taxpayer of the Week brings us to the Eau Claire region of the state, where we would like to introduce our Capitol Report readers to Jim Zepaltas, owner of Indianhead Insurance Agency.
In 1984, the agency was formed when several agencies merged to provide professional protection for the needs of the businesses and people in the Indianhead area of Wisconsin. Jim didn't purchase the agency until 1997. At the time, they had four offices.
"Business and Commercial Insurance and Personal lines insurance is what we do best," Jim told WPT. "With some hiring of key agents and personnel, along and along with some acquisitions, our agency has grown to eight locations in West Central Wisconsin: Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls, Bloomer, Chetek, Menomonie, Augusta, and our west affiliate, Dowd Reliance Agency in River Falls and New Richmond."
Their growth to multiple locations, including the expansion to Augusta, and with over 40 employees makes them one of the largest independent insurance agencies in Northwestern Wisconsin. And that's not easy when you consider how often the insurance world changes.
"The insurance market is always a challenge with new coverage and new companies saturating the market, so we have to do be on top of the constant changes, by continuing education and new marketing ideas," Jim assured us.
But their savvy business acumen isn't quite what makes Indianhead Insurance a top notch agency, it's the fact that they live by their company statement; "Protecting What Matters Most."
"We are proud of the integrity of our employees and our goal of great customer satisfaction. We have developed some very long term clients who are not only customers, but have become good friends," Jim said. "We also encourage our employees to be active in their communities whether it is the schools or community organizations."
And as for Jim himself? He and his wife, Nancy, have four children and seven grandchildren, and enjoy visiting places like Bayfield, Green Bay, and the Flambeau River. "Wisconsin has so many great places to visit," he said. "We are very lucky to live and do business in the State of Wisconsin."
"Thanks to Wisconsin Property Taxpayers, Inc," he said. "The news and information provided by you, keeps us in the loop of what is going on in Wisconsin Government. And helps keep the state in check with tax breaks and benefits to [companies] that do business here."
For more information on Indianhead Insurance, their company, products, or to find a location closest to you, visit their website at www.Indianhead-Insurance.com.
It only took hundreds of millions of dollars being taken from under the noses of the state's property taxpayers in order for the state to take action on the little known tax mechanism that allows school districts to claim "energy efficiency" and borrow around their limits. Scratch that; let's not call it "little known" anymore. It's well known among local bureaucrats, and it's going to take generations to pay off what these districts have borrowed thanks to a 2009 law. The exemption was banned for (literally) a thousand years in the state budget, but that isn't stopping one school district from taking one last stab at "free money," as they see it, before the new law takes effect and they aren't able to sneak around any longer. Last week, at their Tuesday evening meeting, the School District of Beloit is considering using it one more time, and unanimously voted to take the next steps in cutting out the voices of voters in the community. The ban goes into effect on December 31st, 2017 thanks to Governor Walker's vetoes, and will last until December 3018. Yes, you read that correctly, 3018. In his veto message, or explanation of why he took such action, the Governor said that school districts should be required to use referenda to bypass the revenue limits just like everybody else, and that taxpayers should have a voice when it comes to large property tax increases. WPT couldn't agree more. In Beloit, their projects will have price tags from $350,000 to $3 million, with their most immediate need being HVAC. Let me ask a serious question. If energy efficiency and providing heating to children in the winter was really the motivation; do these local school district bureaucrats actually think voters would say no? It's insulting to imply people don't care about kids. It looks like the "free money" motivation is more likely. So, this would be a good opportunity to look at the local governments who are going about this process the way it was intended; through referendum processes, asking local residents if projects are worth the costs of increased taxes. Next week Tuesday, November 7th, there will be multiple questions on the ballot. Take a look, give it some thought, and get out and make your voice heard. Be included on making the decisions that will cost you and your neighbors money for decades.
Barneveld wants $12,900,000 in debt issued to demolish an old portion of an existing school building and construct an new elementary school, music and art rooms, and construct a new secure entrance, cafeteria, commons and kitchen, and make some upgrades to restrooms, HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems.
Barneveld is also asking for $3,400,000 in new debt to renovate and expand their gymnasium, and add an industrial arts and STEM area. This money will also give the staff a new parking lot.
Cochrane-Fountain City wants to borrow $7,000,000 so the area can pay its bills.
Florence wants $3,750,000 for "continuing operations and maintenance of the district."
Freedom would like $66,700,000 in new debt to build a new high school and make some renovations to the other schools.
Freedom would also like $3,700,000 in non-recurring debt for the new high school.
Milton wants to borrow about $70 million for a "district-wide school building and improvement program."
Princeton wants $2,375,000 to pay their bills
Three Lakes wants $15 million for "non-recurring purposes."
Union Grove wants nearly $8 million in new debt to construct an agricultural building and greenhouse and remodel the technology education department, make improvements to science classes, and build a wellness center with 3 or 4 classrooms. They also want to make some repairs, improvements, and buy fixtures and furnishings for the new construction.
Make sure to share your thoughts in this week's member poll. We hope that those of you in these areas look a bit deeper into each question on your ballot, and most importantly, whether you vote in favor or against, just get out there and vote. If I can provide you with any additional information on a referendum in your area, just reach out to me at email@example.com directly and I'd be glad to assist, or call (608) 255-7473.
WISCONSIN PRIVATE SECTOR JOBS AT RECORD HIGH
While the preliminary numbers show national jobs numbers taking a dip last month, Wisconsin came out on top in at least one category- a record number of private sector jobs, though at least one report shows that national job losses reaching over 30,000 might have been due to several major regions being pummeled by hurricanes. But the numbers show Wisconsin growing by 8,600 jobs in a report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The data comes from the CES data (Current Employment Statistics), which take a sample of employers in the state. Of those numbers, 5,900 were private sector, and 2,700 were government. All told, Wisconsin's total estimated number of private sector jobs is 2,543,200, which is the highest number in the history of the state.
MADISON DEMOCRAT INTRODUCES 'TAMPON TAX' REPEAL AGAIN
A Wisconsin State Assembly Representative, Democrat Melissa Sargent of Madison, again introduced a proposal that would require all state government-owned and operated buildings to offer free tampons and pads, and would also exempt feminine hygiene products from the sales tax.
The portion that would exempt the products from sales tax is also supported by Republican Representative Adam Neylon (R-Pewaukee) for the second time. According to the numbers from the Department of Revenue, women in Wisconsin pay nearly $3 million per year in taxes on these products.
Representative Sargent said that she has seen a change in policies and culture since she fist introduced the bills last legislative session.
Beginning this fall, even some UW campuses started providing free products to women, including UW-La Crosse. UW-Madison began a pilot program that offered the products for free in their facilities.
Share your thoughts in this week's member poll.
LEGISLATURE SET TO MAKE CHANGES TO HUNTING LAWS
The Wisconsin State Assembly is set to remove the minimum age requirement for hunting in Wisconsin, in a bill that's scheduled for a vote in their chamber this week. Currently, Wisconsinites must be at least 12 years old to get a hunting license with a gun, unless they are part of a mentoring hunt, which allows children as young as 10 into the program. Under this proposal, the bill would allow anyone of any age to participate in a mentored hunt, and would no longer require that only one gun or crossbow is used between the two hunters. In the upper chamber, the Senate is prepared to vote to remove the groundhog from Wisconsin's protected species list, and allow for the species to be hunted all year long. Supporters believe that there are plenty of groundhogs and that they cause damage to private property, including gardens and buildings alike. If the Senate votes to pass this measure, it will head to Governor Walker for his signature in the near future, as the Assembly already passed the measure earlier this year.
WPT WEEKLY MEMBER POLL RESULTS
"Fear-based" labels on food · GMO and hormone-free foods · Assembly Speaker's "terrorist" comments · Individual lawmakers holding up budget process · Sports predictions
At least one group wants to end "fear-based" labeling on certain foods. After reading the "LAST WEEK" article; good idea or bad idea?
Just need to make sure that labels are accurate. There needs to be better inspecting of organic farms to be sure they are following rules. Consumers expect food to be produced without use of any chemicals or hormones, antibiotics. Know personally of 'organic' farms that have been caught with antibiotics in their milk. Do they do soil samples to be sure that no chemicals are being used. Lets get real all plants and animals are genetically modified in some way by nature and human trying to get the best possible product.
We are scammed in so many ways. How much would you pay for my milk if I play classical music? Does this mean my milk is better than others? No!!
Labeling of foods is causing false statements & confusion
Prohibiting (accurate) information reduces consumer choice & education
Everything is geared to freak people out. Or used to simply make people confused as to what is the best item to purchase. Time to start making changes, and cutting the BS out!
Some products are truly non-gmo or whatever the "fear" is that is being advertised. Let's use some common sense.
We are way over regulated already!
Many of these labels are not based on science.
You are what you eat, therefore, you need to know what you are eating!!!
Do you specifically buy foods that are labeled as "non-GMO" or "hormone-free" products?
I never have trusted the "is it safe for you" crowd. GMO's and hormones are only to increase production. Need to get the junk out of our foods.
Have yet to hear of someone dying and use of GMO foods as cause of death. Am a dairy farmer and we have never used but do agree it should not be used.
Feel the use of round-up on items we eat is the reason for increased cases of autism and cancers. Truly feel the US consumer has been Monsanto's experiment the last 20 some years.
I buy products without the extra labeling. Why pay more money for an unproven statement?
Mostly dairy & meat...Although I do not exclude a product if it is missing the disclaimer. I like information to be available.
I feel the GMO products are safe.
Price and indifferent as far as I'm concerned.
I don't give any of the labels a second thought. I buy what looks good.
GMO's are not harmful. They eliminate some herbicides and pesticides which can be harmful.
Grains, dairy and meat for sure.
The Assembly Speaker referred to three senators as "terrorists" for essentially "holding hostage" the state budget and providing the governor with a list of "demands" before they would vote in favor. Do you believe his comments were in bad taste?
But it was not right what the senators did.
Not a good word choice.
Should kept his thoughts to himself.
Starting to sound like Trump.
Terrorists is a strong word. Doesn't fit here. Holding the state budget hostage is so fitting. How do we let three politicians do that? Hopefully these districts see what they have done and get out to vote.
I think this is a clear show of how poor some of our elected officials are. Period. Maybe it IS time to "drain the swamp??" People who talk like this need to leave their post. They are out of touch with reality. This nation is built on people figuring out how to work together- NOT name calling...
We need more civility in our society. People elected to run our government should be respectful of differing opinions. They are setting an example for the rest of Wisconsinites, especially our young people.
This is incredibly stupid, all of it.
Not a good term to be used about the state budget.
He was referring to their willingness to prevent things from getting done just like some Repubs on the national level. Politics, unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) compromise unless moral absolutes are involved. People are so "thin skinned" today. They make a federal case out of everything.
I understand it is extremely hard to speak 100% perfectly but we are responsible for what we say!
Do you believe that individual lawmakers should be able to hold up an entire state budget by refusing to vote in favor of it unless they get what they want?
From what I hear in the news most of the gov't officials act like a bunch of spoiled children or worse. The backstabbing and name calling nice example for our children NOT
At least they didn't run away to Illinois and actually break the law
It's called negotiations. Stop acting like children.
If they don't agree to the budget that's their opinion.
That's how the process works.
Yes...and No...Holding the budget hostage because of one's pet project, or because of another's pet project IS NOT good representation (of constituents)
Grow up & work together
None of us can ever get anything we want. Governing must include compromise.
Too bad the GOP has a stranglehold on all 3 entities. If we could have a budget process that appealed to more than 51% of the state, you could have an easier time in the legislature.
Any world series predictions? Dodgers or Astros? Did Aaron Rodgets' injury make you less interested in the Packers' season? Despite the loss, how do you think Brett Hundley played last weekend?
Hoping for the Astros. Think he played fine. To bad the Packers always seem to put all the hopes in the quarterback, hope this will give the defense a kick in the pants to step up to and help out. another player(s) can take over some of the leadership role that quarterback has now
The way the NFL and players have been disrespecting our country, I have had enough! Long time huge NFL fan, I have turned off football for 3 weeks now!
Pulling for the Astros, but not sure they can get a road win, so Dodgers will take it. Yes, Aaron Rodger's injury has made football not as exciting this season, it has been a less than desirable start of the season with all crazy political crap filtering into the game already, the injury just adds more bad taste for pro football. I am becoming more of a college football fan, go Badgers! and soon Badger Basketball. Personally Mike M's play calling hurt Brett Hundley the most. If he's Mike's guy, then he should prove it by allowing Brett to use all his weapons. McCarthy once again called plays trying to not loose the game, rather than putting some confidence in his team and playing to win. If Hundley could have thrown the ball after the first half turnovers by the defense, the Packers could have score or at least extended their time of possession rather than going 3 and out, what a reward for the defense trying to make something happen, why bother, the coach calls lousy plays and we punt it right back to the Saints. Packers will be lucky to win 3 more games if things go like last Sunday.
no no I am still a fan I think hundley did a good job
Still interested in the Packers. We need to support Hundley; give the guy a chance and support the team.
Astros all the way! I thought the Packers game on Sunday was one of the most exciting games of the year so far. Hundley came out and showed he can do it. Let's give him a chance.
World Series...Do Not Care!...Packers...A bit disappointed int he loss of great talent, as I am anything a team loses a star player.
Always a Packer fan. The rest of the team needs to step up and support Hundley
Dodgers will win it all. Give Hundley some time. Too many over thinkers. What else do you expect from someone that hasn't played much so far. Think about it, how was Rodgers his first years sitting on the bench?
Thankfully the Cubs nor Yankees made the World Series, so we've got that going for us...we got the lesser of 4 evils, so I'm going to go have some Arby's now.
I don't follow the Packers.
Brett Hundley will have a lot of growing pains. Hopefully he will get better with experience and Mike McCarthy's coaching. IF not, Ice Man Ted will draft a QB next year.
Hundley did a fair job. He'll get better. The defense is what needs help. They are slow and the CB's play way soft.
I have no interest in the NFL flag Saga.
IT'S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN: CHRISTMAS TREE DECORATORS REQUESTED BY GOV. WALKER
If you are a child, parent, teacher, or really anybody, you are asked to help decorate the state's famed Capitol Christmas Tree once again. Governor Walker officially requested the assistance of Wisconsinites once again, indicating that the holidays are truly upon us. Students are being asked to send homemade ornaments with the theme of the Capitol's 100th Birthday. "With the centennial celebration of our state's Capitol building occurring this year, we want this year's State Capitol Christmas Tree to honor and celebrate this milestone," Governor Walker said. Generally, the Capitol Christmas Tree is a Balsam Fir, standing about 40 feet tall, decorated with hundreds of feet of gold garland, over 2,000 lights, and 1,400 decorations. This has been a fun tradition for schools and families for years, and you are invited to call 608-266-1485 to find out how to participate.
WALKER INTRODUCES SOME COMPONENTS OF RURAL AGENDA
If he has his way, Governor Walker would increase broadband access, reduce property taxes, and help more farmers export their goods to other countries, under the rural agenda he laid out late last week. During an Economic Community and Development Summit in Trego last week, the governor laid out his plans and reiterated his commitment to increased sparsity aid for rural schools to the tune of nearly $10 million. He also stressed the need for promoting new ways to boost exports for farm products, improve rural healthcare, public safety and more. With the Wisconsin population aging, and the workforce needs growing, several lawmakers and organizations have been scrambling to find ways to harness the talent in sparsely populated regions of the state. WPT is currently working with lawmakers on rural opportunity zone legislation, which would create incentives for skilled workers to return to rural areas for employment, and for students to return to their home regions to fill vacancies. "Wisconsin's rural communities face a unique set of challenges: that's why we're undertaking a wide range of forward-thinking reforms to meet their needs," Governor Walker said. "We've listened to rural communities across the state, and we're tackling their top priorities, line increasing investments in education, expanding broadband access, improving rural healthcare, and making state resources more readily available."