News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin
We hope that you were able to find some time to relax over the weekend. We won't go too deeply into detail about the heart-breaker on Friday night, ending the Badgers NCAA tournament run. For baseball fans, the Milwaukee Brewers' Home Opener is exactly one week away!
This week, the WPT Capitol Report will bring you an update on the budget process, where we're at, and which important dates you should mark down on your calendars. We will also bring you some interesting international news regarding Oshkosh Corporation, an interesting report regarding campaign contributions in Wisconsin last year, the governor standing at odds with the Trump Administration, and some agriculture news.
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 email@example.com.
Have a great week,
By: John Jacobson
Thanks for reading yet another one of my diatribes about boring stuff!
Last week, I took multiple calls from members regarding Department of Revenue field audits taking place at their small businesses. One member said; "I can't believe it. They just showed up and demanded that I start showing them receipts, and giving them access to my files and computers, and information. I felt like it was a real violation of my business."
Another member called with a similar story. He said that he owns a bar, and a field auditor showed up and started demanding to see receipts and wanted to calculate sales tax owed, and how he was accounting for each sale.
It really baffled me. I mean, if you were an alien and came to Earth, and watched this happening, not knowing any better, you would think that the small business owner is some kind of bad guy. You would think that they had done something wrong. And that's the problem, business owners are not the bad guy, but are often treated like criminals by tax auditors.
Do you have a story like this? I would really like to hear it. In fact, our office is working with various lawmakers on a bill that would stop this type of conduct by auditors. I would definitely ask you to take a moment and reach out to me directly. You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give me a call directly at 608-255-7473.
Last week, I also had the chance to talk at length with WPT's very own Roxanne Bouland. Many of you have met Roxanne, our hard-working, fashionable, and business-savvy Southern Wisconsin Business Representative. One thing that you might not know about Roxanne is that she is always working on your behalf, even outside of work hours. The e-mails, calls, and texts that I receive from Roxanne regarding business owners' stories, issues, ideas, and concerns are around the clock. She advocates heavily on behalf of the businesses that she represents, and believe me folks, you could not ask for a better person to have in your corner.
She told me that she was at an event last week, and had the chance to take her job a step further, and actually have a conversation with Speaker Paul Ryan, while he was back home.
Equally as interesting, Roxanne's daughter was in Washington, D.C. last week, and actually got to spend time sitting in the gallery of the House of Representatives, as they convened to debate healthcare issues on Capitol Hill.
Moving alone, our Coalition to Repeal Wisconsin's Personal Property Tax also had a great meeting, and we are continuing to make in-roads with various lawmakers in the Capitol. We will be meeting with Sen. Fitzgerald in the coming weeks, as well as members of the Joint Finance Committee.
I hope you enjoyed this week's little snippet. If there is any additional information I can ever provide, or any assistance I can ever offer, please do not hesitate to reach out to me!
Joint Finance Committee to begin agency briefings this week
The powerful Joint Finance Committee on Tuesday will begin the "agency briefings" proceedings in the Capitol, the first step in their long process towards amending, crafting, and passing Governor Walker's $76 billion plan.
Agency briefings are when representatives and staff from each of the state's departments appear before the finance committee to testify on the budget and its effect on their agencies.
The schedule for the briefings are below. If you are interested in watching or listening to the proceedings, you can visit www.wiseye.org for both video and audio.
Department of Administration
DOA Budget Provisions/Building Commission
Department of Employee Trust Funds
Department of Corrections
Department of Safety and Professional Services
Wednesday 3/29, beginning at 9AM:
Department of Veterans Affairs
Department of Health Services
Department of Children and Families
Department of Revenue
Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation
Department of Transportation
Department of Justice
Thursday 3/30, beginning at 9AM:
Public Service Commission
Department of Natural Resources
Wisconsin Technical College System
Department of Public Instruction
Department of Workforce Development
Labor and Industry Review Commission
Additionally, the committee has scheduled their statewide public hearings on the budget. This is an opportunity for members of the public to weigh into the budget. If you are in the area of one of the hearings, WPT recommends that you attend, and testify on any provisions of the budget that you feel will most impact you.
Those dates are as follows:
- Monday April 3rd- UW-Platteville, Ullsvick Hall, 10AM-5PM
- Wednesday, April 5, State Fair Park Expo Center, 10AM-6PM
- Friday, April 7th, Berlin High School Auditorium, 10AM-5PM
- Tuesday, April 18th, Spooner High School Auditorium, 10AM-6PM
- Wednesday, April 19th, Ellsworth High School Gymnasium, 10AM-5PM
- Friday, April 21st, Marinette High School Auditorium, 10AM-5PM
Trump proposes cuts to community grants, Walker says he'll lobby against the plan
Community Development Block Grants, or CDBG funds would be eliminated under the proposed budget by the Trump Administration.
CDBG funds are federal dollars that provide local and state government funding for various programs. In Wisconsin, those funds go to both levels of government, and are distributed to nonprofits for work in the community, such as meals on wheels, after school programs, and others.
Governor Walker last week said that he will lobby Congress to keep these funds in the federal budget, and told reporters that these dollars go towards important work in our state, including development initiatives in both rural and urban communities.
The budget director for President Trump said that programs aren't producing results, but Governor Walker, among many others nationwide, said that the funds are doing an effective job, particularly in Wisconsin, citing job training and other programs which use CDBG dollars.
Many other local governments around the state have also expressed concerns that cutting CDBG funding would impact many services for homeless and other at-risk communities, likely pushing those costs onto local tax rolls.
Share your thoughts on the topic in this week's member poll.
Corporations handed over $1 million to state's parties and legislative campaign committees
The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, a left-leaning group aimed at exposing money in politics, released a report last week that outlined who gave and who received large sums of money in Wisconsin politics.
Corporations donated about $1.3 million dollars to both the Democratic and Republican parties in Wisconsin, as well as the legislative campaign committees.
The state's GOP received about $61,000 from corporations, and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin received $107,000. The Senate Republican committee received $404,000, and the Republican Assembly committee received $362,500. On the other side, the Senate Democratic committee took in about $139,000, and the Assembly Democrats got $232,000.
All told, Republicans received $827,000, and Democrats, $479,000.
The money came from 200 businesses, trade groups, unions, tribes, and others. Wisconsin Progress, a far-left group, gave the most, totaling $97,000. MillerCoors was also among one of the top donors, along with Ho-Chunk Nation, and the Wisconsin Homeowners Alliance.
Iran issues sanctions on American companies, including Oshkosh Corporation
Wisconsin's very own Oshkosh Corporation was put into the international spotlight yesterday, as the Islamic Republic of Iran issued sanctions on American companies, alleging they support terrorism, repression, and Israeli occupations.
Among those American companies was Oshkosh Corp, which is one of the largest manufacturers of military vehicles worldwide. The company not only manufactures vehicles for the United States Military, but also Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan, Oman, Egypt, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.
It's unclear what provoked the measure, however the sanctions are seen as mostly symbolic. Oshkosh Corporation has no dealings with Iran, as US law does not allow for military sales from American companies to nations supporting state-sponsored terrorism.
WPT Weekly Member Poll Results:
Refusing entry to tax assessors, high capacity wells hearing, democratic legislative agenda, great lakes initiative funding, and your thoughts.
Last week, we shared a proposal in the legislature that would expand homeowners rights, as well as stories regarding the hearings for the high capacity wells proposal, the Wisconsin legislative democrats' agenda, the federal budget cutting funding to the Great Lakes initiative, and a special section for you to share your thoughts.
Let's get down to it!
Senator David Craig has introduced a bill that would expressly give homeowners the right to appeal their assessments to the Board of Review, even if they have refused entry to the assessor. Do you support this proposal?
Nearly 60 percent of respondents believe that they should not see an arbitrary increase in their property tax, for simply exercising their rights to refuse entry into their home by the government. A little over 30 percent do not support the measure, and just under 10 percent were not sure.
"Fair taxation. Let the assessor in your home what are you hiding. We all need to be transparent."
"We just recently have been through a town wide re-assessment and every property was to be visited by an assessor. I was never contacted by the assessor, but my property did have a new assessment value. This process is out dated and unfair, but life is not fair."
"Assessors should have to support their findings- anyone else has to in their jobs."
"Do these private assessors work on a percentage basis? How are they paid?"
"I deal with the issue that they do drive-by assessment. My house would assess for around $42,900. They are telling me it's worth $72,900. All i Have done is live there and do some minor maintenance due to lack of funds to do major work. Oh, and the assessor for this city comes from Hudson, and typically assesses homes in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area...and Assess OUR homes at a similar mill rate. Interesting how that works."
"This is a great bill. Please get this done."
"I am a town board member and Board of Review member. The Board of Review still would be able to leave the assessment stand if the homeowner can and will not allow inspection of the home. The town still needs to protect the other residents of the area that played by the rules in allowing the assessor entry to view the inside of their property."
Yes, this bill would simply give them the opportunity to appear. If the BOR lets the assessment stand, that is the risk the homeowner would take. However, assessors would also be barred from raising an assessment based solely on the refusal. In other words, assessors would have to provide concrete reasoning for why they are increasing value."
"Sounds to me another loop hole in the making."
"I'm on a Board of Review. Speaking for myself, I would not look unkindly at appeals who have refused proper data gathering by a site visit."
"Perfect. Assessors rob us blind half the time."
High capacity wells are a contentious issue in Wisconsin; including their use, permitting, and regulation. A bill would remove many regulatory barriers for HCW received a public hearing in the Capitol last week, spurring much debate on both sides of the issue. **In your opinion** should these wells be regulated more or less in Wisconsin?
Nearly 50 percent of respondents think there needs to be more regulation on high capacity wells. About 20 percent feel there should be less. Over 30 percent said they weren't sure, or did not want to respond.
"People need to remain open minded and learn from each other. As emotions go up intelligence goes down!"
"Under-regulation is also harmful. I am tired of being told how difficult farming has become. The farmers wanted to get bigger, buck it up man and pay for your large operations. Other small business owners do not get any special privileges. I'm tired of hearing all the whining. I see a lot of liquid manure going on highly erodible land, and bot being incorporated in a timely fashion. Some of these operations are not capable of compying with the provisions to protect the environment because they do not have the means to do so. That should not give them a pass! I'd like to start a multi-million dollar business too, and enjoy the benefits that it entails, but I am not interested in all the headaches that go along with it."
"As with so many issues- I am sure there's good arguments on either side."
"They need monitoring to ensure the quality and purity."
"Bottom line is there are SMARTER methods of farming. I think it's time that these farmers be given some incentive to improve practices and lower their water use- and yes, it's reasonable, it is possible, and it is being done all over the world."
"Good for agriculture."
"As with most issues, we need to find balance."
"If it is going to cause lakes or regular wells to dry up, then they should not be allowed."
"Less regulation is the wrong question. Access to water during droughts is."
"After a HCW receives the initial permit, I believe the repairs and replacement in the area close by should be allowed. In most of Wisconsin we have great supply of ground water."
"We live in the hills in norther Sauk City, and the wells do not effect us here."
"Certain some regulation could be streamlined...A smooth transfer of the permit/ownership during a real estate transfer makes sense. Other regulations about repairs/reconstruction should not be totally eliminated."
"Only people who think they're needed are big agribusiness. They should pay for the water they consumer as well as the roads they crush and are never held responsible for."
President Trump's discretionary spending budget cuts funding to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which has provided billions in assistance to protecting the Great Lakes, waterways, and water quality. Governor Walker and bipartisan groups of lawmakers have come out in opposition to the plan. Where do you stand on the issue?
About 65 percent of respondents don't support the idea. About 15 percent like the proposal, and about 20 percent weren't sure or did not want to respond.
"We need to protect one of the worlds largest fresh water areas."
"We have to start cutting all of the spending, its time people, business, and those who use the Great Lakes, and those who are negatively impacting the lakes to pay their fair share in doing what this initiative is supposed to do. You want to play, you pay!"
"Need to know more."
"Lake Baikal in Russia is a good example of what occurs when nobody protects the water. It's nearly gone, and it WAS the largest freshwater sea on the planet. The Great Lakes aren't just a huge recreational site- there is farm more going on in those bodies of water than people realize."
"We need to balance the budget and protect the environment. Again, that balance."
"What has been done with these billions to protect the great lakes? (I really don't know.)"
"Need to protect our water."
"With a global water shortages being a real thing, we are so lucky to be surrounded by these massive bodies of water. Better protect them now"
"Get our books in balance, then restart the spending."
"Surprise...Trump is screwing us."
Legislative Democrats unveiled their legislative agenda last week, focusing on student loan debt, funding for schools, child care, and paid leave, among other items. From what you have seen, do you support this plan?
About 40 percent of respondents like some of the plan, over 30 did not like it, and over 20 don't know or did not want to respond.
"I am somewhat bothered by some of the ideas coming from both sides of the isle as far as legislative ideas. Both parties have some "pet projects" that just scream pressures from big money to pressure a particular agenda that is not always in step with those within one's party. These issues are not something that could be seen as an issue that could have bipartisan support, they are so easily seen as the lawmaker, or governor proposing some ideas that are made to appease a narrative that is not always for the good of the people of Wisconsin. This is unsettling to me. I thought that is what was shown by the results of this past Presidential election, the average American is fed up with the status quo of the American political and media narrative on how we are all supposed to think, rather than what we know is the "right" answer to some of this country's problems. Unfortunately, we are still being told what and how to believe and not listened to when we want to make our views known, unless they are in step with said status quo. I am glad I am as old as I am, for we are continually being told how we are to live our lives, and what to believe. Our government and new media no longer allows us to think for ourselves. This country's mindset is just like the frog that starts in a pot of cool water on a stove, slowly that water is changed and this country will wake some day closer to looking like a communist country than a republic. Unfortunately, it will be too late! I pray I will not be alive to see that day!"
"I look forward to the report every week! Keep up the great work! GO BADGERS!! On Wisconsin!"
"I like what I read, keeps me updated what is happening in Wisconsin and I can reply how I feel about the issues. More sounds good."
"I like what I read."
"Less property tax, and more on user tax."
"The Capitol Report seems pretty well balanced. It gives us more information on what's happening in Madison, information those of us living in western Wisconsin are badly lacking."
"You guys seem to be trying to get it right."
"Do assessors ask for income info as stated in your article?" Yes, they have that right.
"Would like at least 1 more question on some kind of topic. Enjoy your questions like what did you do over 4th of July, NCAA basketball, travel over the holidays, etc..."
"One (of several) Fixes NEEDED: ELIMINATE (PROHIBIT & CRIMINALIZE) the Collusion, Blackmail & Extortion purveyed upon consumers. Collusion: .... Those "Networks" & "Negotiated" prices on services. Especially when the Ins. Co. IS the provider (Health Traditions IS MAYO CLINIC!) Blackmail & Extortion: Higher deductibles & out of pocket ... Even IF the out of network provider/ procedure costs LESS"
"I think we should discuss legalizing the sale of raw milk."
Gov. Walker's K-12 budget brings total state investment to $11.5 billion
Governor Walker took a tour around Wisconsin, touting his K-12 education budget plan, saying that the state's investment would total $11.5 billion, an all-time high in Wisconsin.
"Funding for K-12 education will be at an all time high under our plan, Governor Walker said. "The Reform Dividend allows us to make important investments in education which will help students achieve success in school and in their future careers. Education and worker training are top priorities for us in the state budget. Thanks to the students, faculty, and staff...for letting us stop by," he said in Michicot.
The Governor's plan includes:
- $649 million in new state aids for all Wisconsin K-12 schools
- $404 per pupil increases
- $100-$300 per pupil sparsity aid funding
Because of the additional investments in K-12, property taxpayers will see an overall reduction of approximately $340 million statewide, in addition to increases in the first dollar tax credit, the school levy tax credit, and others.
Wisconsin sees milk production uptick in February
The story starts out weird, but then gets better.
Wisconsin's dairies didn't quite hit their mark when it came to year-over-year production levels from February. Actually, they came in 2.1 percent lower than February of 2016.
But, when you factor in Leap Day, February actually saw a 1 percent increase, which would equate to 34 consecutive months of year-to-year increases in overall milk production.
On the national scale, 15.7 billion pounds of milk were produced in the 23 largest dairy states, 1 percent lower than 2016. California had the highest milk production with totals around 3.12 billion pounds. Texas, which had the greatest year-over-year increase, had 928 million pounds of milk, up 12 percent from last year.
Cows totaled 8.69 million head, 66,000 more head than February 2016. Wisconsin had 1.28 million head, which was unchanged. Production per cow averaged 1,815 pounds, down 40 from 2016.