News from the Capitol and around Wisconsin
Happy Monday to everyone. We hope that you enjoyed the Easter holiday, and that you were able to enjoy time with family, friends, and loved ones! Also, don't forget that tomorrow is the official tax deadline in the US!
This week, we will bring you news on a bill in the legislature targeting school referenda, the latest on the repeal of the prevailing wage, a proposal to expand beekeeping in Wisconsin, agriculture news, and more.
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, I had several members call and have some discussions regarding the Joint Finance Committee scrapping the Governor's DOT proposal, and re-writing it from scratch. Moreover, most people asked for my opinion on this particular move, so I thought I would pen a few thoughts.
First; do I think this is a good idea? I think having a joint committee re-write the proposal is probably the best compromise we can ask for at this point. Remember, Governor Walker and some legislative leaders are not seeing eye-to-eye on how we approach long-term funding. The Governor's proposal relies on some additional debt, and some in the legislature would like to see the gas tax raised. I think this is true for the citizens of Wisconsin, as well. While many don't agree with borrowing more money, they also do not like the idea of a tax hike. This is also true vice versa.
Keep in mind that a "joint committee" is a committee that is comprised of both members from the Assembly and the Senate. This is a good way to hash out differences in one single committee- the same can be said for the DOT proposal.
I look at the gas tax and vehicle registration as user fees. If you drive more, it will cost more. If you drive less, it won't be as burdensome. On the flip side, it doesn't seem like any proposal will make it through without some additional borrowing.
With no agreements on long-term solutions in sight, I think having a joint committee work on solutions from scratch is probably the best approach at this point in the budget process.
I also received two calls regarding the removal of non-fiscal policy from the state budget. Both asked me why this is such a big deal.
If you look at each line in the state budget as a would-otherwise-be stand alone piece of legislation, you can imagine why this is a big deal. The budget is the law passed every year that is made up of thousands of individual pieces of policy. Spending, taxes, programs, revenues, and each department. So, it's always been practice that some other items were inserted into the budget and passed into law at the same time.
A lot of people don't like this process, and many people think it helps government move more efficiently. The argument against non-fiscal policies in the budget is that each of the provisions do not receive the proper vetting, and go through the same legnthy process as every other bill in the legislative process. The argument in favor is that each provision receives input from the public, and each receive debate from the committee, as well, during their "executive sessions," which are the points where the committee actually amends, debates, and votes on each provision.
One way or another, this is certainly a break from the norm. The last time that this happened was in the 1990s, and the democrats controlled the legislature, and a sitting republican governor occupied the executive brach. I think that's what shocked most people; a republican legislature broke from a republican governor and decided to go a different route. Is it good or bad? We'll wait for the process to unfold a bit before we make that determination, but I think having a healthy debate on important policies such as a two year budget is more good than bad.
It's also not too late for you to get involved in the budget process. We e-mailed you repeatedly to remind you of the critical public hearings that the Joint Finance Committee is holding around the state.
There are still three more hearings, and plenty of testimony to be given.
If you are interested in attending any of those hearings, get in touch with us first, and we can provide you with some helpful tips and pointers if you are new at testifying in front of a legislative committee.
I hope you all have a great week, and as always, never hesitate to reach out to me directly if you have any questions, comments or ideas. Just e-mail me at email@example.com, or give me a call directly at 608-255-7473.
Bills introduced targeting school district referenda
School districts authority to levy property tax dollars through referenda would be altered under a package of legislation introduced by several lawmakers in the State Capitol.
The bills authors believe that the legislation would provide more transparency to taxpayers in the process, and spur involvement and participation in the referenda process.
Senator Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville), alongside seven other lawmakers' package of bills would:
Get rid of recurring referenda for operating expenses, which currently raise taxes indefinitely
Cap non-recurring referenda at five years
Reduce a district's state aid by 20% of whatever amount it generates in referenda
Move all referenda to spring or fall general elections
Change when a district can decide to go to referendum
Require school districts to disclose all interest payments and costs of debt service
Give a 50 percent match for school districts in the long-term capital improvement trust fund
In 2016, school districts across Wisconsin approved about $1.4 billion for capital projects, with a total of $12 billion in property tax hikes since 1990.
What are your thoughts on these bills? Share your thoughts in this week's WPT Member Poll.
Lawmakers push for full repeal of prevailing wage
Senator Leah Vukmir (R-Wauwatosa) and Representative Rob Hutton (R-Brookfield) will push for the full repeal of the state's prevailing wage law, which mandates minimum pay for workers on public construction projects. The law was enacted during the Great Depression.
Vukmir and Hutton both believe that the repeal could help free up dollars for state road and bridge repairs, which is gaining support from Republican leadership, including Rep. Jim Steineke of Kaukauna, who serves as Assembly Majority Leader.
In the last state budget, Governor Walker and lawmakers repealed the prevailing wage laws for projects funded by local municipalities, counties, and school districts, but not for state projects. This final push would effectively end the prevailing wage altogether in Wisconsin.
The full repeal was included in this year's budget, but was removed by the Joint Finance Committee weeks ago, as part of their move to pull non-fiscal policy items from the two-year biennium.
Do you support this move? Share your thoughts in this week's WPT Member Poll.
Gov. Walker signs project labor agreement repeal
Gone are the days when local or state governments can require contractors to enter into agreements with labor unions, as Governor Walker signed Senate Bill 3 into law today at Amerilux International in De Pere.
The bills had been passed earlier in the legislative session by both houses, and proponents of the legislation applauded the move today as a means for promoting neutrality in the bidding process, thereby saving taxpayer dollars and bringing more competition to public projects.
"Accountable government means ensuring our taxpayers receive quality service," Governor Walker said. "By forbidding state and local governments from requiring contractors to enter into agreements with labor organizations, we're promoting healthy competition between contractors. At the end of the day, this means the contractor ultimately chosen for the project is the one that has demonstrated excellent service and will work at good value for Wisconsin taxpayers."
Bipartisan veterans farm bill introduced in legislature
Republican Senator Patrick Testin, with Democratic Representative Evan Goyke last week introduced the Wisconsin Veterans Farm Bill of 2017. The bill was also co-authored by veteran and farmer, Rep. Ed Brooks (R-Reedsburg).
The proposal would create a program to recruit military veterans into farming and authorize the creation for a new logo for veteran farmer products.
"This legislation is pro-veteran, pro-agriculture, and pro-workforce," said Rep. Goyke. "It makes investments in both the future of agriculture, and the futures of our veterans- it's good policy, and I'm proud to author it."
The legislators drew on other states to craft the proposal, which have similar programs. The lawmakers looked very closely at West Virginia's similar program particularly. The proposal has a number of potential benefits, one of them being the assistance with veterans transitioning back into civilian life.
Rep. Ed Brooks, who served in the US Army Reserve and worked for decades as a dairy farmer, believes that the bill will help solidify the future of Wisconsin agriculture.
"Farming has been a rewarding career for me, and I want others to have the opportunities that I've had. The average age of a farmer in Wisconsin is 58 years old. We need young people with new ideas to usher in the next generation of advancements in agriculture. This bill helps us move forward," Brooks said.
Share your thoughts on this proposal in this week's WPT Member Poll.
WPT Weekly Member Poll Results:
Contacting your lawmakers, Joint Finance Committee scraps DOT proposal and removes all nonfiscal policy from budget, Got Milk? marketing products from India in US, and your Easter plans
Last week, we wanted to know if you would commit to calling your lawmakers and urge them to support the bill to repeal Wisconsin's personal property tax (PPT). We also brought you news that the Joint Finance Committee, in an unusual move, removed all non-fiscal policy from the budget, and scrapped Governor Walker's entire DOT proposal, opting instead to re-write it from scratch. We also wanted your thoughts on news that the recognizable Got Milk? marketing team is now promoting Indian dairy products in the United States. Also, we wanted to hear about your Easter plans!
Let's get down to it!
Will you contact your lawmaker and urge them to support the bill to repeal the Personal Property Tax in Wisconsin?
About 85 percent of respondents said they would contact their lawmakers.
"It's still unclear how this revenue will be made up @ local governmental units." (The state would reimburse local governments, using GPR funding.
"Already did! Keep up the great work Adam + Sheila!"
"I will, but I am still concerned how this will shake out in the end..."
"Certainly not. The anti-Personal Property Taxers is just another special interest grtoup who don't want to pay their tax, want someone else to pay it. They may get their way, of course, and you know what that means: Less revenue, so cuts to roads, health care, and education."
"Thanks for reminding us!"
"I will email."
The Joint Finance Committee has scrapped Governor Walker's entire DOT proposal, and will re-write it from scratch. What do you think about this move?
85 percent of respondents think this was a good move.
"I don't know enough in regard to the DOT proposal."
"Stop funding public bus systems using my gas/diesel tax money."
"Scrap wrong thinking. Done. Now it remains to be seen if it will be replaced with good thinking or more wrong thinking."
"Get rid of the Joint Finance Committee! Nothing is wrong with Governor Walker's DOT proposal."
"Be like the flea powder salesman and start from scratch! It is a good idea to get rid of the old assumptions. If this were done for all government it would reduce a lot of useless spending."
"Before being elected, Walker specifically campaigned on NOT inserting policy into the biennial budgets. Ten minutes after his election, he went back on that pledge and every budget has had pages of policy that don't get regular legislative hearings. FINALLY, the JFC tossed them all out and will do their jobs for once."
The Joint Finance Committee has removed all non-fiscal policy items from the budget for the first time since the 1990s. What do you think of this move?
About 70 percent of respondents think it was a good move to toss out non-fiscal policy from the state's two year budget.
"Got Milk?" is now marketing dairy products from India to American consumers. What do you think?
Nearly 80 percent of respondents do not think that Got Milk? should be allowed to market dairy products from India to American consumers.
"American $ to advertise American products."
"But why would I want to even consider consuming a dairy product from India when I live in a state that produces the best quality dairy products in the world?"
"It is up to the consumer to purchase what they want."
"If it's a trademarked phrase they can take legal action. If not then it's on us that we did not trademark."
"The entire Milk industry has been screwed up thanks to all the government subsidies. Now there is so much milk...and the move to mega-farms is gutting our state. More, smaller farms have hundred-fold benefits over fewer mega-farms...It's time that American producers and Wisconsin producers get some protection and exclusivity."
"Watching the labels of where milk & other products are made, takes a lot of time in the grocery store. Won't be buying Got Milk products."
"Who would want to buy dairy products from India? I already do not buy food products from China- they do not have the standards of production like we do. I can't believe that India is much better. Another example is Brazilian beef. The Brazilian packers tried to mask the spoiled beef. (Brazilian beef can also bring foot & mouth disease to our country- Thanks Obama & Vilsack!)
"As the farmers that can't find a Dairy to buy their milk now that Grassland is no longer able to buy it."
"Tenderloin and ham"
"Good Friday and Easter Sunday church attendance, large family get together for Sunday dinner with minimal travel which includes turkey, ham, veggies, salads, desserts, desserts, and more desserts."
"Family, worship, ham"
"We attend church weekly plus each week, but several times during this week. For us, this is what this whole life is about, without the sacrifice Jesus made for each and everyone of us, if only accept his gift of salvation, we have a furture of eternity with him when we pass from this temporary life on earth! It is important for our family to remember what he did and is still doing in our world today! This is a gift for anyone for the taking, not because of what we do, but because of his life, mercy and grace shown to us. We are not worthy if this gift, but rejoice that he looks past our faults and just loves us and wants us to be part of his heavenly family. He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!"
"Easter meal at some & daughter-in-law's home. Easter egg hunt for the little ones."
"People who have the day off (office workers, most factory workers, etc) will go to restaurants and get gas at the convenience store where workers are expected to be on duty no matter if it's a Holiday. Farmers and safety workers (fire, policy, EMT, hospitals) also have to work on holidays. Let's all give these folks a HIGH FIVE for working when the rest of us have off!"
"CHURCH! Then family get together for ham dinner and Easter Egg hunt for the grandchildren."
"Church, then Ham dinner at home."
"We host brunch at our home along with an Easter Egg hunt for the children. Church on Friday for a drama and church on Saturday for service."
"Holy Thursday, Good Friday stations of the cross, Holy Saturday Easter Vigil, Easter mass on Sunday."
"Haven't made any plans as yet. Will probably be spending traveling to see our family."
"Church, then spending time with family."
"Always going to Sun Rise services at church. Special meal with family. Family is close by so no traveling."
"Go to church. Family comes for dinner. Very fortunate they all live close. Always have an Easter ham."
"Who goes to church these days? Any holiday that lets me eat jelly beans is ok, though."
"Attending several church services during Holy Week along with my family, then Easter Sunday dinner at my mother's home."
"Catholic holy week. Lots of church."
Nominees announced for Milk Marketing Board Election
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection (DATCP) announced today that 11 nominees are certified eligible for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board 2017 Board of Directors election.
Here are the candidates, listed by district:
District 1 (Ashland, Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, Iron, Rusk, Sawyer, and Washburn Counties): Nominee, Benjamin Peterson of Grantsburg
District 4 (Barron and Polk Counties): Nominee, Audrey Kusilek of Rice Lake
District 7 (Clark County): Nominee, David Bangart of Greenwood
District 10 (Brown, Door, and Kewaunee Counties): Nominee, Julie Veldhuis of Kewaunee
District 13 (Buffalo, Pierce, and Pepin Counties): Nominees, Lanette Harsdorf of Beldenville, and Robert Sendelbach of Cochrane
District 16 (Fond du Lac, Green Lake, and Marquette Counties): Nominees, David Schmitz of Fond du Lac, and Janet Clark of Rosendale
District 19 (Columbia and Dodge Counties): Nominee, Becky Levzow of Rio
District 22 (Grant County): Nominee, Ann Kieler of Platteville
District 25 (Green, Rock, and Walworth Counties): Nominee, Stacy Eberle of Monroe
Each candidate has been confirmed as an active dairy producer or representative of an effected producer, who sells milk into commercial channels and lives in the district up for election.
To vote, DATCP is distributing mail-in ballots to dairy producers who live in the nine districts. Producers who don't receive a ballot by May 10 should contact Debbie Gegare at 608-224-5116 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Proposal would eliminate sales tax on beekeeping equipment
Some Wisconsin lawmakers are hoping to help the state's bee population by making it a little more affordable to pay for beekeeping equipment.
Wisconsin law currently says that beekeepers who have 50 hives or more do not have to pay sales tax on their equipment, but a new law would expand that tax exemption to any beekeeper in the state.
Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, the author of the proposal, said that whether they're in the business for producing honey or wax, or for pollination purposes, these industries are just as key to our food supply chain as any other type of farming. She also said that she hopes this exemption will help beekeepers cope with increased losses in colonies, which have declined by up to 50 percent in the past few years in Wisconsin.
The bill is currently being circulated for co-sponsorship and will be formally introduced in the Senate and Assembly soon.