News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin
Happy Monday to everyone. We hope your week is off to a great start, and that you had time to relax over the weekend and spend time with family and friends. WPT would also like to wish a belated, but very Happy Veterans Day to all of those who have served our country.
As you are all aware, in a stunning victory last week, Donald Trump was elected to serve as the 45th President of the United States. The business mogul's path to victory included flipping traditionally Democratic "blue" states, including serving up defeat to Clinton in Wisconsin, which hadn't gone "red" since 1984. This also meant a huge re-election victory for Sen. Ron Johnson, who was seen by many, as the underdog in his race against former Senator Russ Feingold. In the current electoral college tally, Mr. Trump received 290, with Hillary Clinton receiving 228. After a long and divisive campaign season, President-Elect Trump said in a CBS/60 Minutes interview that he is looking forward to getting to work for the American people, and will take the oath of office on Friday, January 20th.
This week, we'll bring you the survey results from two weeks ago, talk about some referendums around the state, and the latest in the fight for a $60 wheel tax in Milwaukee County. We will also talk a bit about some hot topics that are likely to come up in the approaching legislative session, give you a run-down of statewide referenda on last week's ballot, and share a bit of news about Governor Walker, as he takes on a new national role.
We would also like to remind members that our Capitol Reports, Newsletters, and helpful resources are available on our website at www.WPTonline.org under the Current Members tab. Just enter the member password wpt2016 and enjoy all of the latest news and information in one easy spot.
As always, we hope you find the Capitol Report to be interesting and informative. If there are any topics you would like to share, or if you have any questions or comments, never hesitate to reach out to us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great week,
Republicans make gains in Capitol, look ahead to session
With Republicans positioned to hold 64 of 99 seats in the State Assembly, and at least 20 of 33 seats in the State Senate after some gains in both houses last Tuesday, what should people expect? Sweeping changes? Massive legislation? Probably not.
Even some GOP lawmakers concede, most of the "major controversial stuff, at this point [has] probably been done." That's at least the opinion of Representative Rob Swearingen, a Republican lawmaker from Rhinelander.
Looking ahead to the budget and rapidly-approaching legislative session, there are some definite items that will likely cause some stir. Among those are changes to the minimum markup law, school funding, tax cuts, and minimum wage law changes for construction jobs on certain projects.
The minimum markup law in Wisconsin bans retail establishments from selling their products below wholesale costs. Proponents of the law argue that the policy helps small businesses, and opponents of the law believe it would help retailers pay less at the cash register. Independent studies in the past have showed that having these laws in place, at the very least, allow smaller retailers to compete with big box stores, who can afford to sell items at the lowest possible markup. There's certainly good and bad for both sides of the argument, but until any real policies are proposed, it's all conjecture at this point.
Similarly, speculation is all anybody can predict when it comes to K12 and University funding in Wisconsin. According to Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, the Republican-controlled legislature is figuring out a way to provide more money to K-12 school and the University of Wisconsin System, but no specifics have been offered. Even Governor Walker said, "Since , we have gained seats in the Legislature in 2012, 2014, and now in 2016. Looking ahead, we will invest more to help every child succeed."
Legislative leaders also touched on tax cuts, and a likely push for a full repeal of minimum salaries for people who build roads and government buildings.
The increased numbers for Republicans in the legislature have also thrown Democratic leadership into, what seems to be, full panic mode. Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) is still deciding on whether or not to run for his leadership post again. In a statement the day after the election, a spokesperson told the media that the Rep. Barca is "taking a day or so to digest the election results," which he referred to as "gut-wrenching."
And in the other chamber, Senator Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling might have just barely held on to her seat, having narrowly defeated her Republican challenger, former State Senator Dan Kapanke, by a margin of less than 60 votes. A recount is all but certain to take place.
School funding referenda overwhelmingly pass on Tuesday
Communities in every corner of the state last Tuesday chimed in on whether or not to allow school districts to raise taxes for various projects and needs for their respective schools.
State-imposed revenue caps are designed to keep property tax down, so when a school district requires additional money, it's up to residents to say yes or no. "Yes" was the answer last week, with 55 districts allowing a tax increase, and only 12 nixing the idea.
What does that mean to you? Statewide, those communities who said yes, will see a cumulative $803 million in tax or borrowing hikes in order to meet the needs and requests from their school districts.
Some of the larger referenda were in Eau Claire, where $87.9 million will be levied on property taxes, Germantown, where an $84 million referendum passed for borrowing for building improvements, and in Oconomowoc, where voters borrowed $55 million for new facilities and maintenance.
For a complete run-down of each district referendum, and the specific details, click here.
Majority party selects legislative leadership
With the elections now over, having picked up two seats in the state legislature, Republicans have selected their leadership which will craft and decide policy in the State Capitol for the next two years, beginning in January.
Today, Rep. Robin Vos was again elected Speaker of the Assembly, which is no doubt a sign that both elected republicans and voters are pleased with the work and gains that the Rochester Republican has made in his leadership role.
Rep. Tyler August was elected to continue serving as Speaker Pro Tempore, presiding over the chamber's floor sessions, and keeping the body in line as they debate and pass legislation.
Rep. Jim Steineke will stay on as the Assembly Majority Leader.
Assistant Majority Leader: Rep. Rob Brooks
Majority Caucus Chair: Rep. Dan Knodl
Majority Caucus Vice Chair: Rep. Romaine QUinn
Caucus Sergeant-at-Arms: Rep. Samantha Kerman
Caucus Secretary: Rep. Jessie Rodriguez
In the Senate, where Republicans also control the chamber, Sen. Roger Roth was elected to serve as Senate President, and Sen. Howard Marklein will serve as President Pro Tempore.
Unchanged was Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, who will serve as Majority Leader.
Assistant Majority Leader: Sen. Leah Vukmir
Majority Caucus Chair: Sen. Sheila Harsdorf
Majority Caucus Vice Chair: Sen. Van Wanggaard
On the Democratic side of leadership, one thing is for certain: Rep. Evan Goyke of Milwaukee, who was rumored to be interested in running for Assembly Minority Leader, has opted out in tomorrow's Democratic Assembly leadership elections.
In a statement this afternoon, Rep. Goyke, of Milwaukee, said "There is difficult and immediate work that we must do as Democrats. For too long, we've allowed our agenda to consist primarily of reactive opposition to Republican legislation. We must stop chasing the GOP and show this state why Democratic policies offer the greatest economic opportunity for all."
Despite suffering losses in the Assembly over the past three elections, it's likely that Rep. Peter Barca will run for his seat as Minority Leader again. If elected, he'll preside over the smallest minority in decades for Wisconsin Democrats in the Assembly.
On the Democratic side in the Senate, those leadership posts will not be filled until the recount involving Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, and her rival, former Republican Senator Dan Kapanke.
Survey results: UW Study on Wisconsin Economy
Two weeks ago, we brought you the news that a group of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the UW-Extension said the state economy faces some challenges in the future.
Our state, according to their recent report , is generating a large number of lower-skill jobs, and very few college-educated people are moving to the Badger State. This means that the Wisconsin workforce is at a disadvantage compared to surrounding states, and the "in-migration of such adults is among the lowest in the nation."
Two of the researchers, Tessa Conroy, and Steven Deller, are also economists at the UW, and said that the from the perspective of developing an educated labor force "that supports both innovation and entrepreneurship, the metrics presented in this report are troubling."
Wisconsin does, however, have a low unemployment rate, sitting at 14th lowest in the nation.
The researchers also looked at the jobs forecasts from 2012 through 2022. They looked at the hundreds of occupations and categorized them based on three educational factors. About 2/3rds of the jobs projected for employment growth in Wisconsin was in occupations only requiring a high school diploma, or no education.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 49% of the nation's job growth will be from positions that will require education higher than a high school diploma. In Wisconsin, according to BLS, that number is 40%, and 34% of jobs here will be in occupations that won't require even a high school diploma.
As crucial parts of the Wisconsin economy, we wanted your thoughts. Let's take a look:
Do you mostly agree or disagree with the findings of this report?
Almost 90 percent agree with the findings completely or partially. 10 percent said they disagree. One thing this report does not take into consideration is which industries are doing better than others, and which parts of the state are doing better than others. We think that both of these things are major factors that should be considered before applying this data to the whole of Wisconsin's workforce outlook.
"It is starting to seem to me like a ton of reports are hunting for specific information on purpose. I'm really losing faith in our elected officials overall, and I have little faith in their ability to properly sample the population."
"Other variables that s/b factored in include tax environment, climate, population, etc."
"Cannot find workers willing to work!"
"I don't trust UW researchers to be approaching the subject with absolutely no agenda."
The researchers found that Wisconsin isn't the best for innovation or entrepreneurship. Does this fit into your community?
Over 80 percent of respondents chose "Yes, we have very few start-ups or new businesses in my community."
Keep in mind, again, this is not a sample of every community in Wisconsin. We have no way of knowing where each of our respondents live, however, we found the response to be interesting. Overall, the study in this report found that as compared to other states, we aren't seeing the same level of entrepreneurial activity in Wisconsin. It's a broad generalization, but it's telling nonetheless.
"We are in a rural community, not much new. Not an entrepreneur."
"Yes, I run two businesses, and am starting to look into a new startup."
"I'm a business owner and I do see innovation and new products in the Manitowoc area."
"The ag community is being blasted by the media. If there is a well water problem, why are all fingers pointed at farmers? The press does not tell the findings of the contamination, possible failed septic system of the property owner? When a story is in the news, the findings also need to be reported."
Wisconsin has the lowest unemployment since 2001, yet many of the current jobs and job openings are classified as "low-skill," meaning high school or no education required. Do we need to do a better job at attracting higher-paying/higher-skill jobs in our state?
A little over 60 percent of respondents think Wisconsin needs to do a better job at attracting more high-skill jobs in our state, and not just the "no education required" type of jobs.
"We need more blue collar work, and the skills needed...i.e. welding, machining."
"We need more people in the skilled trades."
"Someone has to do the low-skill jobs."
"There's many skilled trades and high paying hourly jobs right now that go unfilled."
"Wisconsin needs to do more to help businesses and new ideas for business start up."
"When you can't secure "low skill" employees, they should be referred to as "high priority" employees!"
"It all boils down to the employees work ethic, attitude."
"The low skill jobs also need to be filled for the community. Who is willing to do the jobs?"
"It seems to be that there are always several employers in my area that are seeking skilled machinists. I'm sure those jobs would be filled. Perhaps the universities should offer more relevant degrees."
If you are a small business/farm owner, would you still decide to open your business today in Wisconsin?
This is very good news. Over 80 percent of respondents said they would still open their business in Wisconsin today. The gist of the question was basically, if you were just starting your business again, would you decide to open in Wisconsin in the current "climate."
"Farm 160 acres w/ beef cattle. Family is here. I do not hire help."
"If we were younger, just retired from self-employed business."
"I was a dairy farmer that refused to hire illegal workers. Because I Was not willing to hire illegal workers, it was almost impossible to expand as I needed to in order to cash flow the operation. There is way too much regulation right down the county level all the way up to the federal level that hinders those entrepreneurs that have a desire to open a new business. I work for a small business now and the younger people do not have the "Wisconsin" work ethic that has been a long standing positive for the workforce in Wisconsin. They feel they should be making the same wage as a 20 year veteran and are entitled to skipping work once in a while because they need a mental health day. I realize this is not true of all young people, but many of them have no sense of responsibility."
"I am neither a farmer or a business owner."
"At some point, you have to not be working. Wisconsin has plentiful recreation areas, and is a beautiful state."
"Why not? Wisconsin is a great place to live. Improvements to the tax environment would go a long way in improving the business climate."
"Well, Wisc. is called America's Dairyland."
"This is a great state with great people!"
"Yes, because this has been our home for many generations. We need to make the improvements needed for Wisconsin to succeed."
"No better place than Wisconsin to start a dairy farm. The supporting infrastructure and markets already exist, and the land and weather are very conducive to farming."
Gov. Walker takes on new, national role
In Washington, D.C., one party will take the reigns of government in January. Republicans will maintain control of both the House of Representatives, US Senate, and now, the White House.
And one man will be tasked with ensuring Republicans keep power in statehouses across the nation- Governor Scott Walker.
Governor Walker will take over later this week as the Chairman of the Republican Governors Association, which seeks to elect GOP governors to capitol buildings across America. The term is for one year.
There will be two gubernatorial races in 2017, and 36 in 2018. As of this year, there are 31 Republican governors, 18 Democrats, and one Independent. After the victors in last Tuesday's election are sworn in, there will be 33 Republican governors.
"It's a formidable task. We think we're up to it," Governor Walker said, but also noted that victory for Republican governors in the midterm races would rely heavily on the success of a unified Republican federal government.
The latest on the Milwaukee Co. $60 wheel tax
Well, the good news is, the $60 wheel tax has now been whittled down to $30. The bad news is, for Milwaukee proper residents, that's still going to be a total $50 in wheel taxes between local and county fees.
The original plan was to raise $27 million via the $60 registration fees, in order to fund infrastructure, transit, and public works projects, such as the proposed Bus Rapid Transit project in Milwaukee County.
County Executive Abele said that he compromised, but still believes the full $60 is necessary for the county's budgetary needs.
The one and only budget amendment that Abele did veto, however, was to reduce his staff from eight to five positions.
In other wheel tax news, a hotly contested $20 wheel tax in the City of Wausau failed to garner support from the public last Tuesday, effectively killing the fee hike. In Wausau, all fees that affect more than 10 percent of the population are subject to voter approval. It should be noted that this, however, does not change the outcome of the decision in August to implement a $25 wheel tax to all Marathon County residents beginning in 2017.