News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin
Happy Monday to everybody, and a special Happy Passover to all those celebrating this evening. We hope that you all had a relaxing weekend, and that you were able to enjoy some of the incredible weather seen across much of the state.
We would like to take a moment to congratulate both the newest Supreme Court Justice, Neil Gorsuch on his confirmation and swearing-in, and State Superintendent Tony Evers on his election victory last Tuesday. While there was much contention surrounding both of these public officials, we are hopeful that both will serve the public to the best of their ability.
This week, we will bring you the latest news in the state budget, and in the transportation showdown. We will also share with you some great news regarding tech jobs in Wisconsin, and some interesting news regarding the famous "got milk?" campaign.
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,
By: John Jacobson
Last week was a big week for the Personal Property Tax. The Coalition, which you can learn more about by visiting www.RepealPPTWI.com, spent the week meeting with lawmakers, including leaders from both houses of the legislature.
We feel that we are making great strides in getting this unfair tax repealed.
Additionally, last week, Senator Duey Stroebel and Representative Bob Kulp introduced legislation that would repeal the tax, and replace the local revenue with state revenue. We don't want local governments to lose the $260 million outright- that would result in the taxes on your home going up. I don't think anybody wants that; especially not after recent years of reductions.
Ideally, we could begin repealing this tax by first exempting new equipment purchases for businesses. Immediately, employers across the state would see a reduction in their overall tax burden, and would be equipped with additional dollars to reinvest into their workforce, their business, and their communities.
It sounds great, doesn't it?
But here's the catch: Your elected representatives in the legislature are not going to care unless you call them.
Last year, WPT sent out several e-mails that linked you to a petition. Thousands of you signed the petition to repeal the PPT. And we brought those petitions directly to Governor Walker and lawmakers. It was enough to get them to pay attention and begin working with our coalition on finding solutions.
But now that the bill is being circulated in the Capitol, and our coalition is active in this fight, LAWMAKERS WILL NOT ACT UNLESS YOU CONTACT THEM.
If your Senator or Representative in the State Capitol know that this is a priority for you, your business, and your family, they too will make it a priority in their legislative agenda.
Here's what I'm asking; give them a quick call. A staffer will answer the phone, and all you need to do is give them your name, tell them to co-sponsor Sen. Stroebel and Rep. Kulp's bill to REPEAL THE PPT, and that's it. You can visit LEGIS.WI.GOV to find your elected officials, and will be provided with a contact phone number and e-mail.
Take a moment to do this. Please. If even a fraction of the thousands of people who signed the petitions last year would take five minutes to contact their lawmakers, we could get this thing done once and for all.
Thank you all in advance. If you have any questions or would like us to provide you with any additional details about the bill being circulated, please contact me directly at email@example.com.
Joint Finance Committee scraps entire Walker DOT proposal
Last week, the the co-chairs of the all-powerful Joint Committee on Finance took the transportation situation to an entirely new, and very unusual, level.
They threw out Governor Walker's entire DOT budget, and decided that they will begin "base" budgeting, a maneuver that will begin at the base cost of operating DOT, and work through each item, project by project, expenditure by expenditure. Normally, the Governor's proposal is the starting point for debating or amending a budget.
With reports out last week that show Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Governor Scott Walker having heated exchanges both on Twitter and through text messages, it seems as though the committee wanted to take matters into its own hands. And while Governor Walker is seemingly getting the short end of this policy stick, it would appear that this is a much-needed compromise between the Assembly and Senate. Assembly GOP leadership proposed writing the entire budget from scratch, and Senate GOP leaders wanted to begin with Governor Walker's proposal and work their way through the process.
The last time that the Joint Finance Committee scrapped an entire portion of the Governor's budget was in 1991 when Republican Governor Tommy Thompson was in office, and the legislature was controlled by Democrats.
Is starting from scratch a good move? Share your thoughts below in the WPT Member Poll.
Joint Finance Committee removes all non-fiscal policy items from budget
In perhaps an equally rare move last week, in the same memo that scrapped Governor Walker's entire DOT proposal, the Joint Committee on Finance removed all non-fiscal policy items from the state budget, upsetting many, and garnering praise from many as well.
The committee has not removed all policy items from a governor's budget since 2003, when now-Mayor of Neenah, Dean Kaufert, controlled the committee.
Among the items that were removed were some notable and controversial provisions, including:
Allowing University of Wisconsin students to opt out of paying segregated fees
Pushing UW campuses to track the hours that faculty and staff are teaching
Requiring UW campuses to adopt a "freedom of expression" policy
Requiring bachelor degree candidates to have an internship before graduating
Removing the required minimum hours of instruction in K-12 schools
Requiring private voucher schools to perform background checks on teachers
Repealing the prevailing wage
It's not entirely out of the realm of possibility that some of these policies will make their way back into the budget. Last year, we explained the importance and meaning of the round-up, all-inclusive "motion 999" in the state budget. This motion is the last to be passed by the committee, and is often full of non-fiscal policy items and contentious topics. By inserting non-fiscal policies into the budget, it removes the need for these laws to be debated on their own.
But for now, a total of 83 non-fiscal policies have been removed from the state budget bill, and it doesn't look like they will be going anywhere in the near future.
Do you support removing non-fiscal policy items in the budget? Don't forget to click below for our weekly WPT Member Poll.
About 4,000 new tech jobs added in 2016
Technology companies in Wisconsin last year added nearly 4,000 jobs according to an annual report out by Cyberstates.
With those numbers being added into the mix, that puts our state rank at 20 as far as technology industry jobs. Wisconsin's tech positions total nearly 102,000 jobs.
Why is this a big deal? As the tech industry continues to grow, so do their wages. The average annual compensation for a tech industry employee in Wisconsin is about $80,000. The average state wage is $45,600.
While this is good news for the industry, and for people trying to enter the tech field, Wisconsin did not rank so well when it came to new tech patents, tech startup companies, and new tech businesses. The state ranked 40th in the nation.
WPT Weekly Member Poll Results:
Drug testing BadgerCare recipients, disagreement in the budget, gas tax in the budget, hours of instruction, and your favorite Wisconsin destinations
Last week, we wanted your thoughts on Governor Walker's pitch to the Trump Administration for drug testing BadgerCare recipients, whether or not you disagree with any major provisions, if you think the Governor should sign the gas tax increase into law if the legislature inserts it into the budget, and if you agree or disagree with the idea of eliminating the mandated hours of instruction for K-12 schools. With spring officially having arrived and summer on the way, we also wanted to find out your favorite activities or locations around the state!
Let's get down to it!
Governor Walker will seek approval from the Trump Administration to begin drug testing those who receive Medicaid (Badgercare) coverage in Wisconsin. Do you support this proposal?
Nearly 2/3rds of respondents said they agree with the plan to drug test Medicaid/BadgerCare recipients in Wisconsin. Nearly a quarter of respondents disagree with the plan.
"I have to pass a drug test to be employed & eligible for my insurance."
"They need to get off of illegal drugs."
"You should be clean to receive benefits."
"Why should the working people have to pay taxes so that they can get a hand out. If not, I need to get on this plan or some government assistance and start getting a new phone, food stamps to buy my beer, cigarettes, and gunk food."
"I think the cost to implement it would out weigh the benefit."
"Hey, dummies. Drug testing for benefits has been done before. it costs a ton of dough and it turns out people receiving benefits test positive for drugs LESS than the general population does. It's a stupid waste of money to make taxpayers feel good."
"Yes I support it. If a person wants or needs to be on this type of insurance, they the individual should pay for the drug testing also. Makes sense to me."
"It's an overreach."
Some of Wisconsin's Republicans disagree with various provisions in Gov. Walker's budget proposal. Do you disagree with any? (You may answer more than once)
Among the issues with which respondents disagreed, the top three were increasing borrowing, implementing a sales tax holiday, and eliminating the DNR outdoors magazine.
"Let schools make this decision."
"As to the gas tax, I could support an increase in it and the registration fee IF they cut or rediced non highway/bridge uses (funding public buses for instance) of gas tax money."
"The sales tax holiday is a stupid feel-good stunt that saves people pennies yet makes retailers go through hoops to change their pricing for a few days. The Act 10 thing is yet another hit to local control, which the GOP only pretends to believe in...And borrowing is no way to fund roads: Surprise, the GOP cut taxes year after year, expecting a magic revenue fairy would solve all their problems. When will they learn?"
"Disagree with increase borrowing. Raise the darn vehicle registration only. Look at other states like Iowa."
"Please stop borrowing money."
If the legislature adds a gas tax/vehicle registration fee increase into the budget, should Governor Walker sign it into law?
Over 80 percent of respondents believe that Governor Walker should sign a gas tax/vehicle registration fee increase into law if the legislature inserts it into the budget.
"The roads need to be fixed. Don't borrow to do it. Semi's do most damage."
"See my comment above." We can't see your comment above. All responses are anonymous, therefore we have no way to know who answers which way.
"No more than a nickel."
"Gov. Walker should, but he won't because he's an ideologue who cant solve problems"
"Just raise the vehicle registration. Wait and see what the outcome is after five years. Then decide if gas tax needs to be increased."
One budget provision would eliminate the "hours of instruction" requirements for Wisconsin's K-12 schools. Do you support this move?
About 50 percent of respondents do not support eliminating the mandatory minimum hours of instruction in Wisconsin's K-12 schools.
"Doesn't make any sense."
"Need qualified people"
"This is an idiotic proposal. It's heartbreaking how far Wisconsin has fallen due to the war on education."
"NO!!! Teachers still need to teach the students. Everybody seems in a hurry now days, and want to work less."
"My farm homestead."
"Cave Point in Door County is always a great spot."
"We just stay home, and maybe visit in the southern part of the state to see our family."
"Going to Ellsworth for fresh cheese curds."
"Spending time with the family...Cutting Alfalfa...Fresly cut & curing/drying alfalfa...For me...That scent is akin to what catnip is to a cat."
"Too many great places in Wisconsin to just pick a few as favs. Get out and see our beautiful state. Mother Nature did a great job here."
"Have to work to pay taxes."
"Everything in Door County."
"Going north to our other cabin to fish after the field work is done. Maybe by the middle of June if we have good weather."
"High cliff is beautiful in the spring summer fall and winter. Great views. The mounts are very interesting. Nice hikes."
"Got Milk?" obtains license to promote products from India in United States...
You likely remember the famous "got milk?" advertising campaign that began in the 1990s. It's been so successful that those who designed the campaign claim 90% consumer recognition.
But now "got milk?" can promote products in the United States that are produced or made in India. Why?
Recently, the brand has been promoting "got milk snacks," including cereals, cookies, and other goodies. It turns out that somebody decided to take a look at the packing of one of those snacks, and guess what? "Product of India" was prominently displayed on the back of the package.
While this might not seem like a very big deal, at a time when American dairies are struggling to make ends meet with tight margins, high production, and other factors, one might ask the question; why is American dairy promoter "got milk?" promoting products from India?
The famous tagline is controlled by the California Milk Processors Board, which makes this even more startling to some. In the new round of licensing agreements, as the Milkweed reports, the CMPB wanted to cast a wider net and and made various agreements that resulted in their promoting foreign products in the US.
And when The Milkweed tried to get more information, they got a lot of disconnected lines, and the run-around from the people they were able to speak with. The Milkweed will continue to pursue the story and get some answers, and WPT will bring you updates as we are made aware.
Should an American dairy board be promoting foreign products to US consumers? Share your thoughts by taking our weekly WPT Member Poll.
Study on moving authority from DNR to DATCP removed
Another hot ticket item was scrapped from the state budget last week: the study on shifting oversight of large CAFOs from the DNR to DATCP.
Months ago, WPT brought you the news that a study was ordered that would take a deeper look into the idea of staffing, hours, and capability of moving this authority from the Department of Natural Resources to the Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection.
A state audit in 2016 unveiled that DNR employees did not have adequate time or manpower to monitor larger farms, so the Governor ordered the exploratory study. But leaders of the Joint Finance Committee removed that provision from the budget, because it identified as a non-fiscal policy.
Conservationists praised the removal, while larger farms and agribusiness disagreed with the move.